Tuesday, July 4, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #21: FREEDOM

For those of you that don't know what a "M-80" is, it's like a firecracker that was put on steroids and then fed cocaine (or so I imagine, haha). Bigger, louder, and far more powerful!

When I think back to the 4th of July as a kid... the predominant memory is the M-80 fights my brother and I used to have. Yes, we would light the fuse and then throw them at each other hoping the explosion would happen as close as possible to the other person. It's amazing that I can still hear and see.



I survived those days and, thankfully, I've come to appreciate the 4th of July holiday much more as I've gotten older. Today, we celebrate the birth of our great nation and the incredible sacrifice that so many paid for us to have freedom. What's amazing in this day and age - some 241 years later - is that our freedom as a country and citizens is under attack. But that's another conversation for another day.

Today, so many people are in bondage even though they live in the United States of America. Free people everywhere are living enslaved and imprisoned in their hearts, minds and souls. Some of these people even seem to have all the world at the their beck and call... rich by the world's standards, but bankrupt and poor by God's. With this slavery comes fear, worry, doubt, lust, hatred, stress, loss, death, defeat, and so much more.

Even though there are many being held captive to every sin you can imagine, there is good news!

The good news has a name. JESUS.

The Gospel of Luke records an event when Jesus stood in the synagogue reading from the Prophet Isaiah. He read, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)

With everyone's "eyes... fixed on him," Jesus said, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (v.21)

Jesus offers us freedom. He frees slaves. He give sight to the blind, He raises the dead back to life. 


If you want to be free, cry out to Jesus for He is your only hope!

If you've been set free, don't grow complacent and go running back to the old slave master!

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
~ Galatians 5:1

Today, remember the sacrifice of those who have come before us. Remember the freedom you enjoy in the greatest nation on earth. But also remember the Savior and the One who truly makes you free!

Happy Independence Day everyone!




P.S. I started 2017 and had 52 words of devotion to share weekly. The busyness of June and other commitments took priority. Here are the words I missed: PATIENCE, SUFFERING, (HEAVENLY) FATHER, and CREATION. So if any of you care, forgive me. I'll share more this year as I have time.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #20: MINISTRY

I grew up on the Southeastern coast of Florida. As a teenager, my favorite thing to do was spend time at the beach. Here was a normal weekend conversation at my house...

Me: "Hey dad, can I go to the beach?"
Dad: "Sure, once you do your chores. You need to mow and trim the grass and don't forget to weed all the front beds!" 
Me: (out loud) "Ok, no problem." (in my head) "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!"


I spent a lot of time growing up on my knees picking weeds out of our flower beds. I think my parents planting weeds in there just to torment me. To this day, I still hate pulling weeds from the ground!

This week's devotional word is MINISTRY. Ministry, simply put, is serving! 

Often I wonder if Christians today look at ministry the same way as weeding. On the outside we may seem ok with doing it, but on the inside screaming "nooooooooooo!" Every follower of Jesus is a minister, not just the "paid clergy" or pastoral leadership of churches. 

Here's the rub... God has called each of us to love and serve people. Ministry is putting the needs of others before your own. It's loving when you don't feel like it and even giving when it hurts. We struggle when we try and serve others in our own power. This type of serving is empty and unfulfilling.

True ministry is dying to self yet living life as a new creation of God. It's His Spirit and power at work in your life as you help others be reconciled to God. Check out this passage from the Bible... 
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

Ministry is washing feet in a 21st century kind of way. It is the living out of your faith in Jesus in real and practical ways knowing that it brings honor and glory to God. Pray for the Lord to open your eyes and hearts to the needs around you. 

Go and serve others in the name of Jesus. Love the least of these physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Do it with great joy and blessing understanding that God calls you to be His hands and feet used in powerful ways. 

That's true MINISTRY!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #19: TRANSFORMATION

I have to say one of my most favorite commercials of the past few years is the Geico one with two friends lifting weights. During the 30 seconds of commercial, one of the "bros" goes from being scrawny to having huge muscles. It's an incredible TRANSFORMATION right before our very eyes.



Now, I realize that the Geico commercial is just some good Hollywood special effects. But how about the people who experience the health/physical TRANSFORMATION in real life? I love to hear the stories of people who have lost a lot of weight... the testimonies of people changing their diets and lifestyles. I mean don't we all?! Why do you think "The Biggest Loser" was such a popular show? The "wow" factor of seeing the before and after pics!

Even more than that, I love hearing people's stories of how God has changed their lives. There is nothing like an incredible testimony of the power of God at work in someone's life.

This week's word is TRANSFORMATION. As used in the Bible (see verses below), it's the same greek word from which we get "metamorphosis" in English. This makes me think of the caterpillar in its cocoon being changed into a butterfly. This word means change that comes from the inside out. In the context of God's Word, it's the change brought about through the power of the Holy Spirit of God in one's life.
Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.   ~ Romans 12:1-2

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:18

All of us long for personal growth. We want to be better friends, parents, spouses, workers, etc. The harsh reality is all of us face struggles, hardships and failures in this life. Many of us spend most of our life trying to move on from mistakes of the past... longing for the "do-over" button to push to bring about a grand "reboot" for life. It doesn't happen like this.

Here's the straight truth: God desires to bring about TRANSFORMATION  in your life. While you can't simply try harder to change yourself, you do have an important role to play. You ARE called to stop conforming (and numbing your hearts/minds) to the popular patterns of this culture. You ARE responsible for daily dying to self in surrender ("present your body as a living sacrifice") and consistently getting into the Word of God ("renewing of your mind").

Don't settle with where you are in life. Give up on doing life your way: Walk faithfully and intimately in your relationship with Jesus and watch Him supernaturally change you from the inside out! In this, I believe, God will get the most glory from your life.  

Looking up. Living (inside) out!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #18: PERSEVERANCE

Did you read about it? Did someone tell you about it? Did you see it on social media?

True inspiration was witnessed at the Boston Marathon a few weeks ago. An Army veteran and a Marine captured the hearts of so many people not simply by running the marathon, but by running the race with prothetic legs.


Earl Granville (Army)


Jose Luis Sanchez (Marines)


You see... both these men lost legs while serving our country in Afghanistan - Granville (roadside bomb in 2008) and Sanchez (IED in 2011). These men are living examples of PERSEVERANCE.

Perseverance is defined by Merriam-Webster as "continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition."

I wonder about each of these men and the journey of the past few years following their injuries while serving in the armed forces. I imagine how difficult it was for each of them to relearn how to walk. I think about the people close to them that stood by them as they healed inside and out. I'm certain there were days of extreme physical, emotional and mental anguish.

Yet here they were running the biggest race in the country. Every step they took in the marathon, every drop of sweat, every life that was touched was PERSEVERANCE lived out for all too see.

I think there are great lessons we can all learn from their example. The Christian life is not a sprint, but rather a marathon.

At the end of his ministry and life, the Apostle Paul looked back at his life and recalled "fighting the good fight... finishing the race... keeping the faith."

"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved his appearing"
~ 2 Timothy 4:6-8

No matter where you are in the marathon of this life, expect difficulties, failure, and opposition! The Christian life was never promised to be a walk in the park. If and when things get tough, keep running with perseverance. The end of your race will come in its due time. 
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with PERSEVERANCE the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
~ Hebrews 12:1-3

When interviewed after the race, Sanchez told a local news station that he ran the race "for others to be inspired, to be motivated." Mission accomplished!

Don't forget that others have gone before you and set the example. Many are presently running along side of you or cheering from a close distance. The Lord will give you the strength and provision you need to finish the race. Keep your eyes on Him!

I imagine we should all live this life the Lord has given us just like Granville and Sanchez ran the Boston Marathon... 

one step at a time!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

2017 Devotional Words #16 & 17: GOOD GIFTS

It was our last day at Ricks Institute in Liberia. We were finishing up an amazing three days of a Pastors (& wives) Conference. Each of the members of our mission team were called up front of the auditorium. What happened next blessed my heart in a special way... its was icing on the mission cake of an amazing trip to Liberia.

I and the other men were given colorful Liberian shirts while the ladies received beautiful dresses. This was such a great gift that I definitely wasn't expecting. 



Everyone loves a good gift. I especially love the ones that catch you off guard - the gift that's totally unexpected. Can I remind you today that our Heavenly Father is the perfect representation of "goodness" and He certainly loves to give good gifts! James 1:17 declares, "every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of the Heavenly lights."

The two things I want to briefly share about today are: SALVATION and the HOLY SPIRIT. These two gifts go together - you don't have one without the other. Each of these are perhaps the greatest gifts we receive as children of God... for those who have put their hope and trust in the finished "Easter" work of Jesus. 

Mark 10:45 states that "the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many." Jesus shed His blood dying on the cross to purchase our salvation - our redemption and forgiveness of our sin. John 3:17 (after the famous "For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son...."), proclaims "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him." He died in our place taking on our punishment for sin. Our salvation means new and abundant life here and now and also one day in heaven. 

* When you get discouraged, remember God's precious gift of salvation. His life for yours. What a gift!

God didn't just offer the gift (Romans 6:23) of eternal life to us, He also gave us the Holy Spirit to empower us in this life journey. By placing our faith in Jesus Christ, we are "sealed with the promised  Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 1:13-14) as a guarantee of our inheritance as children of God. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the "counselor" or "helper" who would convict the world of "sin and righteousness and judgment." The Holy Spirit guide us in all truth and bears its fruit in our lives - fruit of Jesus' righteousness at work in us and on display out from us. 

* When it seems as if the pressures of this life are waging war with your heart and soul, remember that you have the Holy Spirit inside of you. What a gift!

Take time today to thank God for His good and perfect gifts of salvation and the Holy Spirit. Praise God for His wonderful provisions and generosity.

Friday, April 21, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #15: PEACE

Not too long ago, my wife and I were singing in the car - one of the many reasons I fell in love with her in college. It just so happened that we were listening to the 80s channel on XM radio. My youngest daughter had the nerve to chime in and call it "oldies" music.  I'm a child of the 80s... yes, I left childhood and ventured into my teen years during this amazing decade. Let's face it... our music was and is much better than most of the junk today. Lol.


I can remember as a kid in the 80s being worried about the very real "Cold War" threat of conflict between the United States and the former Soviet Union - U.S.S.R. Then the first gulf war took place my senior year of high school and I had registered for the selective service (draft). I was genuinely worried I might get drafted if things didn't go well. There was a lot of tension back then and the real threat of Nuclear and other types of war was always in our minds and the news. 


30+ years later (yes that ages me), not much has changed. Access any type of news you can on your phone, tablet, radio or tv and it's always right there. Tensions run high. Political upheaval and regime change. Threat of war and other conflicts at home and overseas. Even today, the big news is that China is on high alert due to the issues in North Korea. There will always be some conflict or crisis confronting each of us every day. Many of us wake up every day saying, "when will it come to an end... give me a break, please!" We all want PEACE. We all need PEACE.

If you are longing for PEACE - internally and externally - you won't find it apart from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We will all have trouble, but through God we can have a PEACE beyond even what our minds can comprehend.  

Here are the words of Jesus as recorded in John 14 and 16...


In the midst of failure, brokenness, war, chaos, stress, worry, doubt, fear and everything else that is buzzing around you, you can have PEACE from the Lord above. It is perfect in its timing and ministry to your heart and soul.

Peace!

P.S. For the record, I did NOT like some of the music of the 80s - especially the New Kids on the Block!

Monday, April 10, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #14: PERSECUTION

I woke up Sunday morning to find these news notifications on my phone...

EGYPT BOMBING: At least 21 killed, 25 wounded in explosion at a church north of Cairo.

PALM SUNDAY ATTACKS: Blast at second church in Egypt kills 6.



PERSECUTION

The persecution of Christians around the world continues to escalate.

I often think that many in the Christian church (Christ followers) in America live with an incomplete understanding of how many believers live around the world. I dare say most of us went to church this past week (at least those that made it) without fear of a bomb going off or some other type of violent opposition.

For many of our brothers and sisters in Christ outside of the USA, persecution, suffering, and hardships are a normal part of everyday life. Many people weigh the hard choice of following Jesus against the harsh reality of their family disowning them, public disgrace, and even death. Great sacrifices are made to be a part of simply going to worship on a weekly basis or even reading the Bible.

In these places, against what we would expect, Christians are bold in their faith and obedience to Jesus. They seem to genuinely grasp the call to daily deny themselves, take up their crosses as they follow Jesus. 

How are we living here in our borders of freedom? If you are like me, I am often overly focused on the insignificant as I ignore the simply call and presence of the Savior. My hardships usually revolve around my disappointment in not getting what I "need" when I "want" it. 

For many who claim the name of Jesus, they fail to simply commit to a community of faith due to the busyness of their self-indulgent lives. The reality of the "consistently inconsistent." If this sounds harsh, I guess I'm really not sorry. The truth hurts sometimes. 

This week in our small group class time, a friend reminded our group of a powerful quote from a recent movie our church showed:

“I cannot forget the words of my friend, Stoyan..."I took great joy that I was suffering in my country so that you could be free to witness in your country." And then he raised his voice to say: "Don't you ever give up in freedom what we would never give up in persecution - and that is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!” ~ Nik Ripken in The Insanity of God.

In our freedom: don't give up your witness for Jesus. Don't miss out on the eternal value of sharing life with other believers (in church). Pray for the Lord's peace and empowerment for our brothers and sisters around the world. Give your all to Him each and every day!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

2017 Devotional Words #'s 12 & 13: PRAYER & EVANGELISM

* This post is to make up for the last two weeks before and during my mission trip out of the country.

The plane touched down on the runway and then came to a stop. We had finally made it to Liberia, West Africa.

This was my first mission trip to the continent of Africa and I was certain that God was going to do great things. What I wasn't certain of was how God was going to speak to me personally during my time in Liberia.


Our mission team led a conference for nearly 115 (maybe more) rural Liberian pastors and their wives (almost 90) at the Ricks Institute in Virginia near Monrovia. All were encouraged as we grew together in the Lord through Bible study, fellowship, worship and more.

Having spent nearly a week on the campus of Ricks, I was so very encouraged by the time with new friends - brothers and sisters in Christ. Here are a few thoughts I have on my heart and mind following the trip:

PRAYER

Thank you to all of you who committed to pray for us before and during the trip. I believe in the power of prayer and we could certainly sense God's peace and presence. Prayer is one of the most genuine expressions of our faith in God.

Prayer expresses our dependence upon God, "I need You, God. I can't make it without You, God. I trust in You, God. Without you, I am nothing, God."

Prayer reveals our desire for Him to move. As we pray for God to move as only He can, we express faith and trust in His provisions and power to move in any and all situations.

I certainly enjoyed many quality times of prayer while in Liberia. I was honored to be in the midst of the prayers of many of our Liberian brothers and sisters. I thank God for His speaking to me through His Holy Spirit and His Word.

EVANGELISM

One of the greatest joys we have in this life is to serve in God's Kingdom work through sharing the good news of Jesus. Many of us, however, get sidetracked by fear, doubt, and complacency.

We watched the movie The Insanity of God tonight at church. During years of interviews with people in the persecuted church around the world, Nik Ripken asks the question "is Jesus worth it?" The answer he discovers is a resounding YES, He is worth it all - all the sacrifices, all the struggles, all the pain, all the loss!

What is stopping you from sharing Jesus with the people you know who are lost apart from Jesus? What things do you need to lay down in order to be obedient to the call of God?

Prayer and evangelism are tied together... they complement each other perfectly. As you pray, God's heart and desires become your own. As you share Jesus with others, prayerfully surrender everything to God.

Daily turn your heart and life to the Lord in prayer and devotion. Sing your heart song to Him daily and follow in obedience as He leads you to share the good news with all who need to hear! 

Jesus is worth it!

Monday, March 13, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #11: JOY

It all happened so fast.

There he was... Luis Romero, my 7th grade nemesis. I wanted to beat him up in a bad way.

It was after school waiting on the bus. Before I knew it, we were wrestling in an alpha dog struggle. I picked him up and slammed him down on the ground. I got a few jabs and an upper cut in as well before I knocked him out with a big right hand to the jaw.

Ok, that's NOT really how it all went down. In reality, we rolled around on the ground and got a few slaps and scratches in before some adult broke it up. That was it. No more, no less. I don't even remember why we got in a fight that day.

You and I are in a very real and serious fight each and every day: it's the fight for our JOY!

JOY is defined as "the expression evoked by well-being, success or good fortune." For Christians, our JOY comes as a direct result of our eternal relationship with our heavenly Father. In Christ, we have eternal blessing, success, and good fortune.

Here's the rub: every day is a fight for JOY as we battle circumstances, people, satan, and even ourselves. These things and more join the struggle against us at different times... or sometimes all at the same time! Let's not forget that JOY is not the same thing as happiness. 

While the struggle is real, know that we all can have JOY in spite of any of the problems we face in this life. 

"Consider it pure JOY, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing." ~ James 1:2-4

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." ~ Philippians 4:12-13

I'm waiting for the day for my boys to ask if I ever got in fight when I was younger. I'll be honest and tell my few stories. I'm sure we will laugh together. I'll be sure to share about the real fights and struggles of this life.

I'm also waiting for the day when I see Jesus face to face, but I don't think I have to wait until that day to ask Him about His fight to the death on the cross. I already know the Truth! The Word of God is sufficient in it's description and account of His struggle and sacrifice that paid for my sin debt.

"Therefore, since we also have such a large crowd of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and the perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won't grow weary and lose heart." ~ Hebrews 12:1-3

Keep your eyes on Jesus: that is how we can have JOY every day of this life.

Monday, March 6, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #10: BLESSED

Did you know that today, March 6th, is National Oreo Cookie Day? Yep, if you're like me, you can almost taste a Double Stuf Oreo (or 7) in your mouth soon to be followed by some ice cold milk!





Leave it to my mentioning delicious cookies to get your attention! You have to admit that there are some really good things that we can experience in this life: family, food, friendship, and many other things that do and do NOT start with the letter F (like a good steak - sorry vegetarians!). Blessed!

Before I go on, I must clarify a few things.

I think America has been truly blessed by God's hand. There are so many blessings that can be associated with living in this incredible country. We are blessed even if only by our country of birth. Don't think so? Then travel outside the USA and see how much you miss and appreciate it!

Being blessed means so much more than where you live, what job you have, your bank account balance, the house/neighborhood you live i, or the car you drive.

According to the Bible, blessed is a state of existence that incorporates the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of this life and the one to come. Being truly blessed is a byproduct of being in relationship with God - being a Christ follower and a child of the King of Kings.

Jesus said (Matthew 5:3-12 / the Beatitudes!) being blessed has a big correlation with one's pursuits and attitudes in this life. You can even be blessed in spite of the circumstances in which you find yourself. For those who: are poor in spirit, mourn, are gentle/meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, are merciful, peacemakers, persecuted, and insulted...  God offers a place in His Kingdom, His comfort, new life, purpose and so much more!


"Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." ~ James 1:17

Instead of focusing on all the things you wish would happen or thing you want to possess, remember that you are blessed!

Now go get some Oreos and a glass of cold milk!




Tuesday, February 28, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #9: OBEDIENCE

So, we got this dog a few years ago. His name is Bo "Duke" Johnson. Yes... his name is a double shout out to the Blue Devils and the Dukes of Hazard.


I was naive enough to think that Bo would like me the best.  After all, I was the one to take care of him when he was a puppy -AND- my wife, Erin, only had cats growing up and doesn't even like dogs!

As Bo got older and bigger, I noticed a shift in loyalty. I began to realize that Bo was getting more attached to Erin. In fact, something happened one day that confirmed my fears... my dog Bo loves my wife more than me. It happened while I was telling Bo, who incidentally loves socks and dirty dishtowels, to go to his room. While he was ignoring me in pure defiance, Erin calmly walks into the room and tells Bo in a soft voice, "Bo, go to your room." Instantly, he got up and went to his room.

I was devastated... my dog's obedient actions proved that had given his heart to my wife. Don't get me wrong, he still likes me but only when I have food or something else he wants to beg for.

I say all this because the word I want to share about this week is OBEDIENCE. That story is simple illustration of a powerful Biblical truth! By his obedience (or lack of), our dog Bo is simply proving his loyalty and love. It's no different with our relationship with the Lord. Our obedience is a good measuring stick for our love for God.

Jesus, as recorded in John 14:15 (HCSB), declares, "If you love me, you will keep my commands." In John's first epistle, he says this: "And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. Whoever says `I know Him' but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected."(1 John 2:3-5, ESV)

It's pretty simple: If you love God, then obey His commands. If you know God, then you should have a genuine desire to demonstrate your connection to God by your actions.

Let's be clear: we do NOT obey God's commands to earn His love. Our obedience to His commands are simply and profoundly because we love Him. Being a Christ follower is not all about following some set of rules and laws. In fact, our obedience is the proof that our love is genuine!

If you say you love Jesus, then pour out your whole life to know His commands and follow in obedience!


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #8: CONVICTION

There I was on the edge and I just couldn't step off. 

Growing up, I was always the cautious one. I had to think through everything, then wait... and wait some more before doing anything of great risk. I was definitely NOT the kid who would jump and then ask questions.

It was the Zipline at Camp Rockmont. My seven year old vantage point made that drop off look like I was stepping into the Grand Canyon with only a harness and a thin cable holding me. The counselors reassured me that I would be safe. I thought they were nuts.

I couldn't do it. I didn't do it... at least not then. Or the next time.

There I was on the edge again and I finally stepped off. Incidentally, it was awesome and amazingly fun. Over the years at Rockmont, I would do the Zipline hundreds more times. When it became the "Triple" Zip, it was even better!

What had changed?! CONVICTION, pure and simple. My beliefs changed about getting into that harness, hooking up to the cable and jumping off the edge. I reached a point where I simply trusted it and I profoundly believed I would NOT die after all. Once I had that conviction, I was free to jump.

Conviction is a "firmly held belief or opinion." Conviction, if it is genuine, ultimately leads to action.

Christian believers throughout history have stepped out in great acts of faith - all because of conviction. It was more than simple set of doctrinal beliefs, it was a deeply held conviction that transcended this life. Criticism. Prison. Persecution. Unknowns. Facing death. Great losses. Incredible hardships.

I need to live with conviction each and every day. My children need a dad that lives our his Christian faith with a deep conviction that Jesus is LIFE! We need conviction in our world today. The Christian church needs to live with great conviction and must accept nothing less. Our nation needs people willing to stand up for what is right.

What about you? What ledge are you standing on? What act of great conviction is right before you? Where is the Lord calling you to step out in faith and act with great conviction?          
________________________________________________

"I would rather be a man of conviction than a man of conformity." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

"A belief is something you will argue about. A conviction is something you will die for." ~ Howard G. Hendricks

"It's the repetition of affirmations that lead to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen." ~ Muhammad Ali

"Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct." ~ Thomas Carlyle

"Strong convictions precede great actions." ~ James Freeman Clarke
________________________________________________

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." ~ Hebrews 11:1

"... because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:5

It's time to jump!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #7: LOVE

LOVE

To quote the old Dionne Warwick song... 

"What the world needs now is love sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone!"

Now that's some truth we need to let marinate into our daily lives. This world needs some real love. Not the cheap, hyper emotional, mushy-gushy, make your palms sweat, "I've never felt like this" kind of love. Nope, we need the real thing! True love is an action VERB and God is its source and ultimate example to us all. 

I never had a full grasp of LOVE until the love of Jesus changed my heart and life forever as a college student. Once I had experienced the perfect love and forgiveness of an incredible Savior, I was enabled to put that same love on display. That is how God has created us: be filled with His love, then show and share that love to a world that desperately needs it. 

Hey Christ-follower, don't forget to love others as God has loved you. When it comes to who and how we show love, our differences and disagreements should not matter! Don't simply be a noise maker (gong/cymbal - 1 Cor. 13) or satisfied with deep spiritual abilities such as great faith, wisdom, or other gifts. Those things are great, but they are incomplete without love!!!

Love God. 
Love others (yes... as much as you love yourself)

Now this is His command: that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He commanded us.” ~ 1 John‬ ‭3:23‬

By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~ ‭‭John‬ ‭13:35‬ 

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” ~ Romans‬ ‭13:8‬ ‭

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 6, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #6: GODLINESS

GODLINESS

"Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for Godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance." ~ 1 Timothy 4:7-9

Well, the NFL season came to a wild end last night in the Super Bowl. I started thinking about all the work and preparation that went into the season for each of these teams. Coaches. Players. Assistants. Other personnel. Management. Owners. Thinking of just the players for a moment, can you imagine the physical training these guys go through all year long to keep themselves in top form?! It's truly amazing seeing these professional athletes at the top of their game... yes, even Tom Brady. C'mon man! He is 39 years old and looks like he could easily play for another 5 years (I hope not for the Dolphin's sake).

I've been going to the YMCA faithfully 2-3 times over week for the last 4 months. My goal is to get in and stay in shape. I usually do the elliptical machine for 30 minutes and then some of the weight machines as well. Physically I am not the person I was 20 years ago... ok, not even what I was 10 years ago. There is value for me to be physically healthy and in shape. But what about my heart? How about my mind? This passage in 1 Timothy does reference the value of physical training, but is quick to speak of the greater value of Godliness.

Godliness doesn't happen instantly once you become a Christian. You have to work at it every day. Take a day off and your attitudes and actions will definitely suffer. To be Godly, you need to train: spend time in the Scriptures, pray and meditate in the Spirit, worship regularly on your own and with other believers, and spend quality time with other people you consider Godly.

Keep training your body and stay in shape to have a better quality of life. But please don't forget to work out your heart and mind, your Godliness will have value for this life and the one to come!

Peace!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Closer Look (inward)

I have decided to refrain from political comments. This is not political, it's deeply personal. 

We seem to be more divided than I can ever remember in my lifetime. Should I be surprised at my own selective outrage (and, honestly, in all of us) at current events in our country and world? Probably not. 

Open Doors just published its World Watch list and highlighted all the places on the globe where the persecution of Christians is rampant and unchecked. Where is the outrage?

TODAY, many thousands upon thousands of children (here and internationally) are in need of families willing to open their hearts and homes through foster care and adoption. Who will come to their aid? Where is the outrage?

The list of other issues important to many of us could go on and on. Where is the outrage? 

What I am most outraged at is the SIN nature of all humanity - especially my own! All of our nation's and world's problems come back to our SIN and selfishness. Why is our cry often, "ME, ME, ME, ME, ME..."?!?! At a time in our world's history when we should be most educated and "evolved," it seems as if the worst in all of us is rising to the surface. If this was not the case, we wouldn't have need for immigration measures or border walls, we wouldn't have law enforcement officers on edge fearful of people lying in wait to ambush/kill them, we wouldn't fear for our children's future... and on and on I could continue. We have a SIN problem to say the least! Where is the outrage at the glaring failures of all of us? 

Practically, there are real needs all around us - deeply spiritual, emotional and physical needs - here in the USA and overseas. May each one of us look in the mirror and see how we can be part of the solution and help.

Side note: I am so thankful for a mighty God who has graciously offered us freedom from the bondage of our own sin. His name is Jesus and by His work on the cross, my sin debt was paid. Salvation by faith in Him is our world's hope! I have come to realize that God has not just saved us so that we can go to heaven one day. We are called to be serving in His Kingdom work here and now as Salt & Light. Eternity doesn't start when we die... it's now too!


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #5: WORSHIP

WORSHIP

Worship can be understood as the action or placement of value and worth you direct toward someone or something. If we apply this to our lives... worship boils down to the object(s) to which we give our most attention and affection.

When it comes to our faith in Jesus Christ, our understanding of this idea of worship should drive us to the Scriptures for clarity and wisdom. Two passages come to my mind:

"You shall have no other gods before Me." ~ Exodus 20:3

"Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God." ~ Romans 12:1-2

Understand that there is a war raging for your worship. From the beginning, God has commanded us to guard our hearts and minds - to not worship any other things (or gods)... only Him! Some may say that it was unfair or extremely cruel of God to be jealous of our worship. I say God, first and foremost, is the only One worthy of our worship. Secondly, God gives us this command as a guardrail for our lives for our protection and provision. 

In today's culture, there is a practical, emotional and spiritual battle raging for our worship. God is the only One worthy and deserving of the affections of our hearts and minds. He has called us to not align our lives with the ways of our culture, but rather to be daily renewed and transformed by the Holy Spirit in conjunction with His Word. Open your eyes to the battle for your worship. Guard your hearts and minds. Fight on!

Monday, January 23, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #4: PURPOSE

PURPOSE

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”‭‭ ~ Acts‬ ‭20:24‬

I believe all of us in Christ have a common purpose: we are called to testify to the world about the grace of God. It doesn't matter who you are, how you are gifted, what your personality is, or your geographic location. If you have been saved by God's grace - forgiven of your sin by faith through the precious blood of Jesus - then you have a responsibility and call from God to direct your life to the purpose of sharing the good news. 

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” ~ ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:12-16‬a

You don't have to pray about it and see if it's God's will. You don't have to give it a second thought and wonder what God wants you to do. In all areas of your life, make it your goal and ambition to consider nothing as important as sharing your story of how God graciously brought you from death to LIFE!

Monday, January 16, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #3: GLORY

GLORY
Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty”‭‭ ~ Psalms‬ ‭104:1
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”‭‭ 1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:31‬
Glory is defined as (1) high renown or honor, (2) magnificence or great beauty or (3) to take great pride or pleasure in. 
At the root of all our struggles is the battle for "who gets the glory." When you think about it... the main difference between self-centered and Godly is the recipient of the GLORY. Many times we live our lives burdened for the achievements and possessions that ultimately only point others back to us. Is this what we should want? Are we ultimately deserving of that honor and glory?
Years ago I heard this description about our call to reflect and deflect the Light and glory of God. The image is of the moon shining in the night's sky. Here's the deal... the moon has no source of light, it simply reflects the light coming from the sun. The only light we see from the moon is not its own. We should never give the moon the credit and praise for shining brightly in the sky. The credit and "glory" needs to go to the source of light. 
We should live our lives like this - simply reflecting the Light of God to the world. All the glory from everything good in our lives should go to the Son who has shown His love and grace freely upon us. So all of us who are Christ followers should strive for excellence in all we do. When the world or anyone gives us credit or praise, take the time to point them to Jesus with high praise and renown offered only to Him!
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” ~ Ephesians‬ ‭3:20-21‬