Jesus Died For All

Sitting in a local shopping mall, I began to reflect on one of the most important and profound truths ever to be revealed by the angels of God, the people of God, and God Himself.

Jesus died for all.

Friends, enemies, people I like and those I don’t give a hoot about.

Americans, Canadians, Mexicans, Chinese, and even those who haven’t a clue to their nationality.

People who think like me, act like me, vote like me, and like the same kinds of food.

But, He so loved the world He died for those who are even the exact opposite of me.

And He loves them as much as He does me.

Jesus died for everyone who’s now in Heaven, as well as those who are incarcerated forever in the place of the damned.

There are more than seven billion people on this planet and Jesus died for each and every one.

He died for the conservative, the liberal, the gay, and the straight.

Those with tons of intellectual power and those who barely have enough smarts to blow their nose; Jesus died for them.

Many say they don’t believe, can’t believe, in such a ridiculous thing. They claim mankind made up a fairytale to make themselves feel better about the hereafter.

People say a lot of things. 

Some say they used to believe, but they outgrew such nonsense. Others won’t believe because, in their minds, the gospel doesn’t make sense. Like, why would God do such things? Create mankind knowing he would fall from his position of glory. Give His Son (if He could be called that) for people who demonstrated nothing but contempt for Him. And raise Him from the grave three days later?

To those who have such a difficult time with faith (or in things they can’t figure out, explain, see, etc.), they must have forgotten all the times they have believed something they haven’t figured out, could explain, or ever saw.

Most people will follow their doctor’s advice, even if it includes going under a surgeon’s knife. Why? They certainly can’t figure out the whole procedure, nor will they be awake to assist. No, they believe because they choose to believe.

And make the necessary arrangements.

But whether or not they really believed the doctor isn’t what made the doctor’s message true or false.

The doctor knew.

The message isn’t true because it’s validated by the hearer. Nor is it false, because the majority won’t believe. Truth. Jesus lived, died, and rose again. He did.

He did it for me, you, and anyone who’s ever taken a breath of air. Jesus died for all.

Believe it? Good.

Can’t figure it out? Good.

There’s only One Person Who knows for sure, Who planned everything, and Who continually invites all to believe. God, the Father. He knows.

So why not choose to trust, even though it all seems so preposterous?

Why not yield your life to the One Who cares for you more than you or I could ever imagine?

Jesus died for all. 

That includes YOU!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16 – 3:17 ESV)

When mountains won’t move…

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Some of the most important times in our lives happen when mountains suddenly appear, blocking us, at least momentarily, from continuing on the path we are plodding.

Our focus is redirected.

Though our view is changed and all we seem to be able to see is the obstacle looming before us, it is important for us to have the right perspective – to see beyond the obvious – and position our sights on the glorious, the Glorious One.

Earlier this year a huge mountain appeared before me, taunting me and daring me to continue on my present path. It was overwhelming, to say the least.

But as I stared at the mountain, as if my glare would make it suddenly disappear, I sensed the Lord directing me to take a few steps back, get a different perspective, and see what He could and would do.

As I did, I began to see the beauty in the mountain, the obstacle. I began to see the Lord’s lovingkindness as He revealed to me my path isn’t blocked, it is changed.

His path is one of abundance, righteousness, and peace. It is life-giving.

It is not a dead-end. 

As I quieted my heart before Him and started walking the new path, a new hope and vision came into view.

Sometimes mountains don’t need to be removed. So enjoy the view as a redirection occurs.

The Smile 

Toothy or toothless,
Faint or recognizable from miles away,

The Smile.

Silent or audible, youthful or well defined through age,

The Smile.

It speaks, soothes, invites, supports, and can help sustain one’s soul through otherwise debilitating situations.

It welcomes others into its space, its territory, even in a crowded room.

The Smile.

It says, “You’re okay, and I hope the best for you.”

Everyone can Smile.

Even the one whose face has been paralyzed due to an accident or illness can Smile in their heart, unless their heart is paralyzed.

The Smile reveals a person’s heart.

The Smile.

One of the simplest ways to encourage, and be encouraged.

The Smile.

Medicine for the soul, an embracing arm around the shoulder.

The Smile.

Ready and willing to run the risk of disappointment, the Smile opens the door to reconciliation and restoration.

God created the Smile. 

Hope revealed in the flesh.

Born of the Virgin Mary.

Christ the Savior.

The Smile.

Merry Christmas!

Who’s ever heard of a man named Shemaah?

Shemaah, a Benjaminite, had at least two sons, Ahiezer and Joash. Though not well known, they were greatly appreciated for their skills and leadership abilities. 

They were bowmen and could shoot arrows and sling stones equally well with either hand. They were Benjaminites, Saul’s kinsmen. (1 Chronicles 12:2 ESV)

Use your imagination and picture them around ten years old, practicing and competing with each other. 

“They’re both just wasting time”, friends and family would grunt. “They’ll never amount to anything.”

But the Lord had other ideas.

There was a little boy, growing up just ten miles away, who would need the skills and loyalty of such men.

David, the young shepherd boy, destined to be king of Israel.

Navigating your way through your teen years, maybe you struggled to discover your life’s purpose, while those around you thought you were wasting time, or pursuing the wrong thing.

Maybe you didn’t know, or could never quite figure out, what to do with your skills and passions. 

Perhaps even now you’ve been afraid to step out in pursuit of those passions because no one else is doing it. 

No one likes to be the oddball. 

No one appreciates being labeled a rebel or nonconformist. 

But Shemaah’s two sons, Ahiezer and Joash, though they had skills that weren’t exactly conventional, did much for the Kingdom of David and the Kingdom of God.

You say preaching, teaching, or prophesying to the nations isn’t your calling? There’s still a place and calling for you. 

Let’s remember there’s a God in Heaven Who gives each person gifts, callings, and passions for His glory and the edification of all those around us.

Your name, my name, may never appear in lights or be mentioned in the most popular Christian magazine. 

It really doesn’t matter. 

But if we’re doing our best with what we’ve been given, what we do will matter. Greatly! Ahiezer and Joash seemed to find their niche, and God thought enough of them to include their names in His Word some 2500 years ago. 

I’m sure Shemaah never dreamed for a moment how important those days of his kids playing with bows and arrows, or throwing rocks at tin cans, actually were.

And God may be the only One Who knows what He has in store for you and I. 

But you can be sure it’s good. 

And necessary for Kingdom business.

The Start Of Something Wonderfully New

Early morning @ Little Boy Lake

Early morning @ Little Boy Lake

There’s an encouraging word resonating deep within my spirit; one I hope can makes its way to the blogosphere.

Every day, every moment, is the start of something wonderfully new with God.

Encouraging? How?

God doesn’t get bored with me. Or you.

Remember, He’s the One Whose mercies and compassions are unfailing; they are new every morning.

He’s the One Who makes all things new, whether it’s a new Heaven and earth, a new creation, a new opportunity, or a second chance.

He is always doing something wonderfully new.

Always!

You’re never too young or old to experience His new beginnings. And even if you think you’ve seen it all, pay close attention. You haven’t seen anything yet.

I was wondering how I could “sing unto the Lord a new song”, when He’s heard it all before and my vocabulary is so extremely limited.

I sensed Him speak to my heart, “I treat it as something new and fresh, when it comes from your heart.”

Wow!

Which tells me how I should receive the words He speaks to me; as something new and fresh.

Walking each day with the One and Only Almighty God is the experience of a lifetime – every day. It’s new, wonderfully new and fresh, when I allow my heart to rule over my mind and flesh. As I yield to the Spirit’s voice, rather than my own feelings and ideas.

He Who has promised to faithfully complete what He began in my life some 40 years ago, has promised to do so in an amazing way; one only He could possibly accomplish.

There have been multiple times when I have felt burnt out, overlooked, too old for the “good ministry positions”, and out of sync with life. The Kingdom has seemed far off rather than near. I’ve wanted to run and hide, and not be bothered with anything while I wait for Heaven.

But as He encourages me to not quit because my labor isn’t in vain, He also reminds me that I “ain’t seen nothing yet”!

Regardless of how many things He’s already done in and through my life, He’s always in the process of starting something new.

Something wonderfully new.

And the same goes for YOU.

I Choose To Be Thank-FULL

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Here it is, the day before Thanksgiving, and I just realized how unthankful I’ve been. 

No, you won’t hear me grumbling about non important things; I mean, how would that sound? But I have definitely been less than thankful.

Most definitely.

It dawned on me yesterday afternoon, actually. I ran into a former coworker and he asked me what I had been up to. I hadn’t seen him for a number of years, so I brought him up to speed rather quickly.

But in doing so, I included the reason why I was no longer working for the same company. Oh, I could have simply told him I had retired, but I felt the need to tell him why. After all, it made for a better story.

And besides, the more I tell it the more I justify my feelings; the better I look in my eyes. 

But the Lord convicted me of how unthankful I had become.

Yes, I was wronged. I shouldn’t have been treated like I was. It was awful to lose a great paying job, and have to retire so young.

But the Lord still wants me to be thank-FULL. Full of thanks. Without any room in my heart for complaints or grudges.

What do I have to be thankful for, even in the situation I was “forced” into?

First of all, the level of stress I was experiencing immediately dropped to almost nothing. I can be thankful for a stress free life.

Second, I discovered a passion and calling to write. And with ten books published, I’m just beginning to develop my skills as a writer.

And the ideas keep coming.

Third, my schedule is so much more flexible. No longer must I submit a request to take time off, and hope someone with more seniority doesn’t want off the same day.

Of course I am thankful for my Savior, my wife and family, my church and my friends.

But if I am harboring ugly feelings toward someone, or about a situation wherein I was wronged, I cannot be thank-FULL.

So I’ve made up my mind. I don’t have to explain to anyone else about how badly I was treated. Nor do I have to beg for another’s consolation or pity.

No, I choose to be thank-full.

I have a wonderful life to live, and I’m going to do just that!

How full of thanks are you?

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15 ESV)

If I Were To Pastor Again…

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I’ve been a Christian for over forty years. I received Jesus as the Savior of my soul, and Lord of my life back in August of 1975.

I’ve been in Christian ministry, as a credentialed minister, for almost thirty five years. Pastoral ministry for about eighteen years, as well as worship leading and various teaching/preaching responsibilities.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on the pastoral side of ministry.

I have been privileged to sit under the leadership of some great pastors. Here’s some things I have learned and seen modeled along the way.

1. Build the church/ministry upon the personality of Christ, and Christ alone. My smile and encouraging words are important, but should never be more important than God’s words, plans, disciplines, or His Church as a whole.
I will not stay around forever. God will. I am not infallible. God is.

2. Help others find their gifts, callings, and anointing; discovering how they fit in the Body of Christ.

3. Let people practice their calling without fear of failing.

4. Focus on the Kingdom of God, and declare/model the many different ways the Kingdom should affect society.

5. Model unity, and teach how to keep unity in an unrelenting manner.

6. Teach by precept and example how to protect one’s life and ministry from wolves who desire to enter into the fold and wreak havoc among the brethren.

7. Pray more, talk less.

8. Listen to my ministry/life partner-my wife. God speaks to her and through her, also.

9. Build friendships outside the borders of the “ministry”, as a well as with those within.

10. Ask more questions and learn the stories of others. Earn the right to speak into someone’s life.

There’s probably more but this list will suffice for now. It will keep me busy as I think of others.

Even if I’m not a lead pastor or head of a specific ministry, I can still focus on those ten things. 

After all, I’m in a kingdom which I did not start, is far greater than I know or even imagine, and is in need of every person in the kingdom doing their part.

That’s what I’m attempting to do.

How about you?

It’s not over yet…

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There are at least two reasons why it’s even more important NOW to seek God on behalf of this nation.

1) the nation is as divided as I’ve ever seen it.

2) the election process is not a done deal. There COULD be a fly or two in the ointment…

In my opinion, the country is heading toward a not so civil war…maybe not state against state, but various people groups and ideologies all vying for their rights. Maybe not with guns and militias, but certainly with enough hateful words and actions that would only further divide us.

Pray for not only a peaceful transition from one administration to the next, but for Divine intervention, wisdom, and protection for all leaders.

Pray against rioting and murderous spirits. Pray for the spirit of humility to prevail over the spirit of pride.

There’s a spiritual undercurrent at work attempting to steal, kill, and destroy anything good, pleasant, and connected to Truth. It’s our responsibility, as citizens of God’s Kingdom, to seek God’s face on behalf of our land.

We must stand with God and against our foe.

Let’s give God half a chance!

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Many people think our rights as Christians will be dismantled if a certain person gets elected president. 

Others are worried that Christianity itself is in jeopardy.

Really? Since when?

Ever since the resurrection of Jesus, the Church has weathered years and years of tumultuous times, from insane rulers to compromising church leaders. But God has always had a remnant of believers He could count on to carry His message of truth to the next generation.

And it’s the same today.

God is not ceding His power and authority to any man, woman, or devil. Regardless of who’s in charge, God’s truth shall prevail.

If Christianity is outlawed, so be it. We who are Christ followers have sold out to Jesus, not the ways of the world.

If we can no longer claim charitable donations as a tax exemption, so be it. Our heart is for God and His kingdom purposes; that’s why we give.

If we can no longer preach against homosexuality or abortion…if we’re incarcerated for “hate speech”…if we are hunted down like mass murderers because we declare Jesus as the only way to the Father…

…then so be it.

God will not be overpowered, undersold, or outmaneuvered.

His plans and purposes may not be understood, but they’ll never be outplayed.

And we can enjoy the victory along with Him if we’ll simply give Him half a chance to work in our lives.

So in spite of all the fearful rhetoric being tossed about by many well meaning believers, we should be excited to see what God will do next.

After all, He’s the One Who raised Lazarus from that stinky old tomb after he’d been in it four days.

Just think what He could do if we believers gave Him half a chance…

Maybe We Should Let Some Things Die

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How long can we keep gripping the slightest sliver of hope? Should we?

Is holding on for dear life always the best course of action?

If our dreams and plans, yes, even our lives, are deemed as utter failure, or they’re cut short before becoming that which we intended, is that so bad?

Even if we’re convinced we’re doing everything for a righteous cause, that God’s honor is at stake, isn’t there a time to stop our powerless efforts and yield to Him?

For honest reflection, we must remember there is no resurrection without first a death, and victory never comes before the battle.

In many cases, the best thing we can do is exchange what we’ve called hope for simple trust.

What do I mean?

Hope is a powerful thing, yet at times it’s nothing more than wishful thinking. As long as there’s at least a small percentage of things working out, we’re hopeful and perky. 

But if and when things take a turn for the worse, we work ourselves into a frenzy trying to maintain our hope.

So instead, why not just give up and trust?

Maybe pretend our situation is akin to the story of Eutychus and Paul (Acts 20).

“On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.” (Acts 20:7-12 ESV) 

Our dreams, like Eutychus, can become so tired. All work, no joy, no life, and eventually they droop and sag until we’re worn out trying to keep them propped up.

But when we finally release our grip, and the results to the God of the resurrection, life becomes enjoyable once again.

At that point the plans and purposes, the calling of God, are within our grasp.

It’s the same with trusting God for our nation.

God has had a purpose, a calling, on this nation from its inception. But to make America great again will take more than a man, woman, or political party.

So maybe things need to die first, to make room for the resurrection.

Yes, we’re to do what we can. Faith AND works (and all that).

But you know what? Many times we never begin to REALLY trust until we’ve exhausted all our resources.

So, like I said, maybe things need to die, expire, or become even worse before we finally trust the God Who moves mountains and raises the dead.

Maybe THAT is what’s needed to make America great again…

 

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