I think its worth you asking yourself this question, ” who will …?”

Standard

Did you ever read a book that stops you in your tracks so that you either have to re-read it, or just put the book down and think over what you read.  Well, I just did.   Beware–I think it might just stop you as well and give you something to think about.  The excerpt is from a very insightful, and excellent book, “Addictions—a banquet in the grave”  by Edward T. Welch.

“The Bible asks the question, Who will be king?  The one true God or worthless idols?  Curiously,  the answer wasn’t very straightforward for the Israelites (just like it isn’t straightforward for any of us).  They started moving  toward idols very gradually  by rubbing shoulders   with foreigners.    They found they weren’t  so bad so they moved closer.    They they began to see that their gods made some promises that were very appealing; rain and fertility in particular. Maybe, they thought, they could worship both God and idols, and in so doing  get what they wanted. But the promises  by the other gods were false promises. Gradually, these foreign gods demanded and received worship , and the children of Israel started walking in the dark.  Let me put it this way. The story of the Bible  is entitled, “Whom Will You Worship?” The story of our lives  has the same title. And ultimately, the idols  we worship  are shaped by our  own desires.”

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Friends, let me encourage you to really wrestle with this question, and pray about it as well.  Keep in mind that in this spiritual war that we are in, only God, the holy, sovereign, living and loving God deserves our best. (remember, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind”?  Yet, due to our sinful nature, we can all so easily allow people, or things, or ambitions take first place in our hearts and minds, so that our worship of God as numero uno, gets pushed aside to a second, third, or lower priority.    He will not tolerate it and your life will not be satisfied by these false substitutes.

I need to confess …

Standard

This is one of those occasions when I can’t really believe I’ve missed it for so long–it’s been a massive blind spot in my life.

Wondering what it is?
It’s this–awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life.  That’s right- the third person of the Godhead who lives not only within me, but every single person who has put their faith in Jesus Christ to be their Savior..
Let me be very transparent, I am a person who would immediately  raise my hand if I was asked by someone, if I believe in the Holy Spirit.  Being pretty familiar with the Bible, I understand that there is a Holy Spirit, and that He lives within me and that His role in my life is to comfort me, to help me exalt Jesus Christ, and  to guide me.  He is the giver of spiritual gifts. He convicts me of my sin, the righteousness of God, and eternal consequences of a life disobedient to the Almighty.  I get all that.
HOWEVER, am I really aware on a daily basis of His literal presence in my life?  Sadly to say, “no”, I’m not.   But, things are changing.
Let me share some additional thoughts I’ve been having.
Picture yourself about to take your 4-year-old son, or grandson (or daughter/grand-daughter) on a walk. So, you start to drive to the park.  As you are driving, some other driver cuts right in front of you.  You can almost sense the angry words coming out of your heart about to make their way out of your mouth and then you stop those words from coming out.  Why? It’s because you don’t want to expose the precious young one  in the car with you, to your harsh words.  It wouldn’t be a good thing for them. Right?
Finally, you get to the park, and as you start your walk in the park, you see two young people having a very, very public display of affection. Again, what do you think your first instinct will be?  My guess is that like most people, you will veer off your course and go a different direction so the child with you doesn’t  have to see something that they won’t understand and that is not a polite or respectable behavior in a public setting.
So, what’s my point and what’s the tie-in to the Holy Spirit?  It’s this.  In a fairly similar way to my awareness to exercise self-control and discernment to shield a child from an inappropriate behavior, I believe I need to grow much more in exercising that same discretion because of the awareness of the Spirit of God’s presence in my life.  But the deeper level motivation is different though in one major way between not exposing a child to something harmful and not exposing the Spirit.
Shielding a child from negative behaviors is a protection for them.  Shielding behaviors from the Spirit isn’t about protecting Him, but really about protecting me.  It’s about looking for, depending on, and obeying His instruction. Afterall, the Holy Spirit is the one who identifies that certain behaviors are not holy.  I’m thinking of activities,  such as swearing, or losing my temper and cursing someone, or watching people take off their clothes and commit acts that should strictly be between a husband and his wife, etc.  But, I’m realizing it goes well beyond that.  For instance, if I do something for someone with a selfish motive, the Holy Spirit is right there, witnessing my plans play out, trying to help me realize my motivation for doing what I’m thinking about..  He gently seeks to speak truth to me.    If I find myself staring longer at a pretty woman than I should be, again, the Spirit is there to whisper to me “do I really want to be doing that?”  and “right now, are you thinking more about your self, or respecting the other person?”
I am learning that the Holy Spirit is wanting to help me understand His purity and the goodness that can come from following Him and His loving and wise ways.  He wants to protect me. He desires to warn me of behaviors that are not good for me to be exposed to and that will bring about consequences and impressions that are not good for me.  Best of all, He is there every step of the way with me.
To understand that God Himself, as the Holy Spirit lives within me is just so awesome!
It is so cool and then again, such a struggle.  Why?  Because just like a child wants to not always listen to their parents and assert their independence, I too, have a nature that craves power. I want to do my own thing.  I want to do what I want, when I want, and how I want.
The question for me (and you) is that of trust.  Can I, can you really trust the Heavenly co-pilot to give us directions throughout our day, every day and acknowledge, look for and submit to His ways?
The thoughts in this post today are challenging me in a big-time way.  I hope they challenge you as well.
One final thought I felt led to share.
All I have written about up to now has been to those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ and now need to learn how to walk in a closer way with the Holy Spirit.
However, there may be some of you who have never really given up control of your life to Jesus in the first place. As of yet, you have never accepted from Him, the forgiveness of your sins because of the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.
You might believe there was a person in history called Jesus Christ, but to be honest, your belief in Jesus Christ as a historical figure is no different from your belief in the person of George Washington.  Neither one is really making any difference today in the way you live your life.
My friend, if you are in the place where your belief in Jesus might be academic, without any real heartfelt knowledge or experience of His working in your life, I would encourage you right now to get alone with Him.
The thief on a cross next to Jesus understood that he was a sinful man, deserving of justice and punishment.  However, as the thief observed the behavior of Jesus (and maybe, was aware of His godly reputation), the thief could sense that he was in the presence of deity. In great desperation, the thief sought grace and mercy from Jesus.  And he (the thief) said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he (Jesus) said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43 esv).   
Have you ever spoken words of humility to God asking for His forgiveness, and mercy to you?  If not, is it time? 
I believe its time for God to have the rightful place in all of our hearts (not just our minds) and for us to live our life “all in” trusting Him with our lives.

1000th post—–well, let me tell you a story

Standard

1000 posts! Its hard to believe.  It has been so enjoyable (even therapeutic at times) to share so many thoughts that have been going on in my head.  1000 celebration photo

Thank you to so many of you who have “liked”, or “shared”, or “commented” on these posts.  I have appreciated your encouragement.

Well, as I thought about this milestone, I thought today’s post needed to be something personal and something different.  Some of my readers have to wonder who I really am as I write about topics as varied as quotes, book reviews, parenting, finances, faith, poetry, work, etc.   Well, sit back and let me tell you a story:

I grew up like most kids back in my day.  I loved being outside playing sports. Some of my fondest memories in my life involve playing baseball with my friends. I couldn’t get enough of sports, especially baseball and soccer.

As far as faith went, our family went to church nearly every weekend and I was confirmed at 12 or 13 years old.  As I look back at that time, I would say, I believed in God, but in a similar way to believing in George Washington.  I believe they existed, but also that they had little relevancy in life.

Throughout my teen years in the early 70’s, a new kind of interest was developing for me: girls and partying.  I won’t go into all the details of those years but I will summarize it like this:  sports (and mostly soccer at this point), which had been a huge passion of mine, was being replaced by my own selfish and foolish pursuits. Fortunately, my soccer talents were still good enough that a college gave me a scholarship to play soccer there.

While at college, and basically living on my own at campus, I was free to indulge my carefree passions, which I did with an intensity.  Again, the details are not important other than to say, I cared little for anyone else, just the pursuit of my own pleasures.  Looking back now over that 5-6 year period of time, my heart is weighed down by so many regrets. I have since apologized to many people who I know, in my selfish ways, I hurt during that time.  I am so sorry for so many things I did.

Beside my focus on just looking out for my self,  the result of that reckless period in my life was:  almost total hopelessness, a heavy feeling of loneliness, and despair.   The life that my heroes (the rock ‘n roll bands I listened to) described was not turning out to be the “endless Summer” kind of life I thought it would be.  Instead, it was a very, very  dark time for me.

Then, things changed.  In December of 1980, I was partying with some guys at school when someone came in to our smoke-filled room to say that John Lennon of the Beatles was just shot and killed.  Wow!   Although I enjoyed the Beatles’ music, I was never a total zealot, but this news rocked (no pun intended) my world.  I got up and said to the guys I was going back to my room to write.  Say what?

I had never done anything like that before, but I cranked out in no time at all a paper on Lennon’s death, called “Stillness in the Air”.   From that moment forward something crazy happened.  By writing that Beatles’ piece, it was like I had turned on the creative faucet.  Going forward, I had an incredible urge to write in poetry the things that were on my mind.

In classes, or in restaurants, at pool sides, or in the middle of the night, while driving, etc. thoughts were pouring out of my head and I had to write them down.

Initially, the poems were very dreary. They were very depressing.  During that early stage I had a feeling I would be sharing these writings with others, and so I felt a need to filter them so that they didn’t reveal to others how confused and messed up I really was. But, then one day, it was like I was standing in front of a mirror to my soul and the thought came to me, “you’ve been lying to so many people for so many years now, you can’t even be honest to yourself”.   Wow!  Those words were piercing!

Like John Wayne, pulling up his bootstraps for the final showdown with the bad guys, I told myself I needed to be honest and see where this all led.  The poems continued pouring out of my heart. But now, I didn’t filter them in any way.  What I was thinking came out on paper.  The poems continued to relate a mix of my partying adventures along with times of reflection and it was during these soul-searching times, that I could see the growing depth of my loneliness, confusion, and despair.

But one day,  a new poem came out,  Spirit by the Sea   and that poem marked a change.  In that poem, a person leaves the shore and gets in a boat, only to find himself about to drown, but then miraculously is given hope and new life by a dove flying above his head.  From that point going forward, my poems started to reflect life and a change of heart.

In fact, during this season of an outpouring of poetry, I knew deep down that poetry from a searching heart would come out of it. Those poems, “Emotions”, “Change of Heart”, and “Aaron” are the poems I share on Friday and Saturday nights.

The next massive change in my life came in June of 1982.  I was at a restaurant in Rockford, Illinois.  It was about midnight. I was studying for a Summer class I was taking at a community college.  A friendly guy, a stranger next to my table started a conversation with me and soon had me at the edge of my seat with our conversation.

He told me of his life. He mentioned to me that he was a musician who frequented a bar quite a bit. At one point, he was offered a record deal by Motown records, but at the last-minute, his deal fell through.  It led him to great depression.  His frequency at the bar escalated, until he was a mess. While frequently being at the bar, he developed a friendship with a guy who saw that he was down in his luck and he offered him a job–to join him in being a professional art thief.  You know, the kind of guys who do the million dollar art heists.

My new friend at the restaurant went on to say, he was kind of shocked by what this guy at the bar was telling him.  He was never aware of anyone personally who really did those kinds of things.  He then asked his bar friend what would be involved in a job like this. His friend said two things: 1) you can’t be involved with a woman (because if you break up, she could turn us in)–that made sense and 2) you have to sell your soul to the Devil.

“Uhhhh!–I can’t do that” my new-found friend replied and the conversation was over between the two bar buddies.

Continuing then in his declining ways for many more months, this stranger at the restaurant went on to tell me how hopeless he was and that he saw little else to do, but to go kill himself.  So, he left his mother’s house (in either Indiana or Pennsylvania, I can’t remember) and left in his pick up truck to go kill himself.  While driving, he remembered he forgot the item he was going to kill himself with, so he went back to his mom’s house.

While there, he met his sister who lived in Texas, who was a Christian.   As the sister and brother talked, she said that she felt overwhelmingly like she was being led by God to go back to her mother’s immediately, though she didn’t know why—but she obeyed God’s prompting.

“I don’t really know, but I really felt like God was wanting me to come home for some reason” she told her brother.

Not too long afterwards, the brother revealed what he was planning to do and the sister knew why she was sent home—to share about a living and loving God who was wanting to save her brother from the darkness he was in and the death he was considering and to offer him forgiveness, and peace, love, and life.

The brother welcomed that news and gave his life to Jesus Christ by confessing his rebellious and sinful ways and believed that Jesus Christ had died on a cross to take his punishment and through Christ’s resurrection, to offer Him new life.

His story left me speechless. Although I was aware of God, even from my childhood days, He tended to be a historical figure.  But, here I was, hearing something totally new. I was hearing about a God who is alive and who was personally willing to get involved in people’s lives today.  He is a God who desires to demonstrate His love for each of us and willing to reveal His life  to us, if needed, in dramatic ways to those who were open to giving Him a chance.  My restaurant friend gave me something to read (a Bible or a tract, I can’t remember) and that night in June of 1982, I gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Since that time, I have been regularly overwhelmed by His love for me and His truth and glimpses of the amazing God He really is.   I have appreciated His patience with me as I still struggle at times with surrendering my will to Him and trusting Him, but He is always faithful and always there if I just turn to Him.

I have also developed my passion for life coaching to help people understand the importance of making wise decisions now, instead of living a life of regrets.  Because I have seen the consequences of living a self-centered life, I am, all the more, energized to help people recognizing the need to strive for excellence in all areas of their responsibilities.

Well, that is my story, really it is just a continuance of His story that He is revealing every day.

So, where do you fit in to this story?  Who are you like in the story I just told  and why do you think that?

Are you seeking to live in a way like I was in my late teens and early 20’s, a kind of life that our world endorses, whether it is life bent on pleasure or power, or material goods, that seems so meaningful, but realistically offer no lasting satisfaction?

Are you living in way like me in my early 20s’s when I was just trying to figure out alone what life is really all about, meanwhile getting further and further into a rut of despair, loneliness, and hopelessness?

Are you like the sister who is walking in obedience to God and willing to obey His promptings, even in what could appear to be a radical or “over the top” kind of way just to be used of God in whatever way He so chooses?

Or are you like me in June of 1982 when I was coming to understand that I am a lost and sinful person before a holy God?  Are you coming to realize that you have been living in a way that has been independent of God and not pleasing to Him?  Have you come to a point where you now see that He is alive and loves you very much, more than you’ll ever know and that He has made a way for you to be forgiven of your sin, and brought in to a relationship with Him through the death of His Son on a cross, and through His resurrection?  Are you ready right now to receive this Good News—then do it!  Don’t wait”

With a post like this, where I have opened up my life to you, my hope is that you will share with me your response.  I’d love to hear your story.

Well, on to the next 1000!

Are you “Experiencing God”? Study Review

Standard

IN 5 MORE POSTS, I WILL BE WRITING A SPECIAL 1000TH POST!—-CHECK IT OUT

“One of the greatest tragedies among God’s people is that, while they have a deep longing to experience God, they are experiencing God day after day but do not know how to recognize Him.”

quote from Henry T.Blackaby/Claude V. King- “Experiencing God”

 

The Christian God is not a god of Deism. That belief basically said God created the world, then flung it away from Him to let it take care of itself.   However, our God is the Sovereign One,  active and engaged in this world.

How often are you depending on Him to accomplish His will and not your own?

How often are you relying on Him to reveal His ways to you?

How often are you asking Him to reveal Himself to you?

How often do you recognize God’s movements in your life?

 

One resource that can help you to develop a closer walk with God is the classic Bible Study:  “Experiencing God.”  It is an excellent Bible Study that gets you reading the Bible, memorizing a weekly verse, filling in blanks, encouraging you to reflect on the lesson, pray about it, and act on it.

Many people will remember doing these lessons back in the 90’s (like me) and I would encourage you to revisit these lessons and go through it again.  For those who have never done this study before, you are in for a treat.   Doing this study will be worth your time!

 

It really is a Wonderful Life !

Standard

My guess is that the majority of my readers have watched “It’s a Wonderful Life”. It’s a holiday classic.  Having just concluded another holiday season, this movie is fresh on my mind.   ItsAWondrflLifestill2-300x225

It gets me wondering about my own life, especially who I am as a Christian, and how really grateful I am for having a relationship with a living and loving God.

Although I am doing fairly well in my walk with Him, life can still have a sort-of routine about it  that can stir my emotions of wanting something more.  Can you relate to that?

However, even as I write that, my mind races back to a time when I really had no one to answer to.  At that time, I felt I was in control of my life. I did what I wanted to, which was primarily to please myself first, others second (if at all). I remember a restlessness in my soul because I knew there had to be more to life than what I was experiencing and what I was striving for, but what was it?  As I looked around at others, I recognized they were also trying to make sense of life, but deep down, I knew they were only searching as I was.  We were all looking for something that would satisfy our souls at the deepest level and trying many different things in hopes of getting to that place, but all we found were temporary “rushes”. Like a beach ball held under water by all of our efforts, when we get tired, the beach ball (our feelings of emptiness) launched themselves again to the surface.

As I start my new year, I thank God for having memories like these.  Although they contain many emotional scars, they stir up within me shouts of thankfulness that I am saved!  Feelings come and feelings go, but in the deepest part of my soul,  there is a peace with God and a peace with myself because I know I’m a part of God’s family.

What’s totally amazing is that I recognize that I was so undeserving of His kindness, yet despite any efforts I might have tried, He demonstrated His love for me by giving up His life to pay a ransom price for me, so that I could be adopted in to His family. I’m now a child of the living and loving God.

With this new family relationship comes many perks:

I’m recognizing that this family of God is huge. It is made up of other foster adults and children who have also been adopted like me

I’m recognizing the reality of His presence as the Holy Spirit is living within me 24/7

I’m recognizing my importance as I’ve got security detail watching over me and ministering to me in unknown secretive ways by His angels

I’m recognizing there is a playbook to making sense in this life.  The Bible reveals to me God’s wise, loving, and righteous thoughts on how best to navigate the choices I have each and every day

I’m recognizing my life has purpose to it as well as He has designed good works for me to be involved in to be a blessing to others and to point people to look in His direction to better understand How incredible a God is

I’m recognizing that beyond all these benefits that I can experience right now, that this is just a sampling of what is to come.  He has promised me an eternal lifetime with Him and His children in an environment free from the corruption of sin

 

Yeah, I think my life is pretty wonderful.

Friends, if you are at a place in your life where you are searching, trying to experience a lasting satisfaction and peace, let me encourage you consider the benefits of being in a relationship with God that I have just mentioned.   But, before you can legally claim them as your own, you have to believe that you are not worthy of any of it.  All you (and I) really deserve from this Holy God is judgement over your sinful actions, yet miraculously, He is willing to forgive you if you just acknowledge your unworthiness before Him and ask to receive His free gift.

What holds you back, even now from taking that step and experiencing a Wonderful Life?

 

 

 

Top 10 posts of 2015- # 1 –“now, this kind of church experience makes sense”

Standard

….and here is my #1 post for 2015!!!     “now, this kind of church experience makes sense”

In my younger years of going to church, I did what many still do today. I attended the service and checked it off my mental list of to-do’s.
It would be an entire week (or sometimes longer) when I would again fulfill my expected duty to go to a church service.
Going to church was just one of many “rules of conduct” that I felt pressured to submit to.
What I was not seeing clearly was that no meaningful relationship can be established or maintained by forced pressure to follow external rules (with the threat of judgement hanging over your head).
Today,  I have come to a growing appreciation of a living and loving God who seeks to come alongside me to love, encourage, discipline, guide, and nurture me.  Being a follower of Jesus Christ is truly an adventure in doing life with Him.
Far from being a lifeless thing to do once a week, being a Christian is a 24/7 365 days a year experience  My Christian walk brings satisfaction, purpose, and meaning?  And going to church is a joy. It’s a time of celebrating His resurrection with others who understand the awesomeness of who He really is.
I think this picture of Jasonmy son-in-law Jason getting baptized, as a gesture of his commitment to follow Jesus captures wonderfully the joy of being a believer!
Let me encourage you if your past experience in church could be described as a draining, non-relevant usage of your time, then, try again.
Find a local church that has a reputation for being a place that is alive and find out why.
You will never regret doing so!

Why settle for this sight?

Standard

I would imagine that I’m not the only one who enjoys seeing a bunch of wrapped presents under the Christmas tree.  christmaspresents

I would take it one step further and say that I’m like most people in that I want to know what gift is under each of the wrapped-presents. Am I right?

Yet the reality is that when it comes to the biggest gift of all, actually the reason for Christmas in the first place, most people settle for just observing the Present from a distance.  Some people display a bit more curiosity and even go to a church service during the Christmas season, but still choose to resist the Giver’s invitation to open the Gift for themselves.

Friends, there is a much deeper message to the Christmas season, the “reason for the season” if you will than hanging out with family and friends, exchanging gifts, and watching classic movies.

The Christmas message is about love–a Divine Love. It’s about healing and starting over. It’s about “RESTORATION”.  With that in mind, I wanted to pass along a message for you from  James MacDonald – Final Resolution .  It’s the concluding message in a series, but I thought this message of “restoration” was a bulls-eye for the holiday season.

It will take you about 45 minutes to unwrap, but a lifetime to enjoy.

Blessings.