Friday, May 31, 2019

May 31 Thought for the day...light scatters the darkness, always

Every Christian experiences times where they seem to be defeated. The truth is because we have faith we will never really be defeated. John makes that very clear.

"And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." John 1:5

John is writing to a church under persecution. He is also writing to you and me, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to encourage us. The word "comprehend" means to seize, to suppress to dominate, to subjugate under power. The Holy Spirit is telling us that darkness is always trying to overpower the light but never will be able to, no matter how hard it may try, it does not have enough power to do so!

It doesn't mean that the darkness won't try, but according to God's word, it does not have the power to do so unless we surrender the power given to us in Christ. Ephesians 5:8 shows us that we are children of light and therefore the enemy doesn't have the power to overcome us without our permission.

1 John 5:4 further encourages our understanding here. "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world." The word "overcome" means to conquer. It is the idea of an athlete who has become superior at their skill and takes on every competition to win. This says to us that we are going to enter into a fight but that we are also in it to win. Many believe when they came to Christ it would be peaceful, but the light overcomes the darkness. By our choosing to walk in the light we stand in the face of the darkness all over the earth, and that is why the Lord brought you to Him to be His light that will arise over all darkness.

Paul said he was "persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed," an accurate translation of this for our purpose today is "knocked down but not out!" We are the light shining in the darkness. There is not enough darkness in the world to put out the light of a single candle. The enemy will come against you, he will stand against you, but he has neither the strength, authority nor the power, to overcome the light in you. Every time we stand against the darkness, it will shatter! Begin to believe it, apply it, and live it. You will see the enemy defeated every time!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

May 30 Thought for the day...strongholds

Maybe it is the way we are raised. Sometimes it is life events. Sometimes it is our choices. Regardless of the root cause, we must always be aware of strongholds in our lives.

2 Corinthians 10:4,5 "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,"

Growing to be who Christ has called us to be, requires us to be introspective, examining closely, our own lives to find the strongholds and tear them down. There are two basic types of strongholds those that make sense and those that are nonsensical. 

Those that make sense are the most dangerous. The word "arguments" here comes from the root word meaning logic. It is the things that we can process and figure out how not to follow the Lord. God asks us to share the Gospel, and we think of 4 or 5 reasons not to. God challenges us to take a leap of faith, and we talk ourselves out of it. God calls us to trust Him through giving, and we come up with all kinds of reasons that we can't. God challenges us to choose Him for our kids over all the other extracurricular activities, we chose the stuff fearing our children will miss out. These are the most dangerous strongholds because we can cause them to make sense and present good logical reasoning to either disobey or not trust God!

The non-sensical strongholds are the irrational fears we have of developing a terminal illness, early, losing our job, crashing in an airplane, fear of rejection, most of us will never see any of this happen. Normally, these types of strongholds will run their course and then dissipate. If they stay because we are dwelling on them too long, we have to bring them captive. 

Notice Paul doesn't mention the devil at all in this discourse. The devil has no power unless we don't bring these thoughts captive. If we do not, then he has the right to attack and try to take control in those areas where we have allowed the strongholds to remain. 

We don't have to allow the enemy to have any control. Pray and ask the Lord to show you the strongholds you are facing then take those thoughts captive, apply peace, love, trust, obedience. Believe God at His Word. Read His Word so you will know it then defeat every thought that would try to take you captive by taking it captive!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

May 29 Thought for the day....being a parent can make things apparent

I am a people watcher by nature. Those of you that know me may find it interesting to know that I am at heart an introvert and shy. I enjoy watching people's reactions but watching someone's children often reveals far more than most people want you to know.

"one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence" 1 Timothy 3:4

Paul is talking about the qualities of a leader. The best way to interpret this passage, and the reflective one in Titus is that every man of God should do these things. Then from that group, choose quality leaders. Paul takes special note to the reflection the children have on their parents.

I once asked one of my teachers, in the public school for over 30 years “What can you tell about a family by the way a child behaves in school?” She answered, “Everything! I can usually tell by the way a child acts if his or her home is peaceful or tormented; if the parents pay attention to their kids or ignore them; and if the father and mother have a good relationship. Almost everything can be determined by watching a child’s behavior. It’s usually a mirror of what’s happening at home.”

The word used here to describe "children" is referencing to children that are under the guidance and tutelage of their parents. Once a child has grown to become an adult, the parents are no longer responsible, but until that time, the parents are responsible for the child's actions and speech.

I want to especially challenge men here because Paul is that we must accept the responsibility for our children. Our actions as leaders in the household set the tone. Men tend to pass off the nurturing and care of the children to their wives but especially in this day and age of Fatherlessness. I want to encourage men to be Jesus in their homes so the children will reflect Him too!

The word translated "reverence" refers to a person who carries themselves with dignity and treats others with honor and respect. What I am about to say is not 100% accurate, but it is at least 95% there are always exceptions. If I see children always bickering, disrespecting one another, treating each other with little value or care constantly. I know that the home is the same. Children mimic the life of the home, and by watching children, I can better understand the home life and the life of the parents. Children will fight and bicker it is in their nature, but it is not natural to be in a constant state.

Likewise, if children are disrespectful of leadership and lack a servants heart, I can guarantee that this is the revelation of the household. I have been disappointed at some who have worn the mask of servant leadership in the church building, yet their children revealed the truth of what home was really like.

Thank the Lord, the opposite is true as well. Respectful children, kind children, children full of love, and hope tend to come from homes filled with the same. I know some parents are feeling guilty but listen, any child can turn south after they leave home. Some children are simply problem children. Today's blog is not to make people feel guilty but to notice the signs of your household. You may not even notice your arguing, fighting, gossiping, disrespectful behavior but your children are reflecting it. Take it to the Lord. Thank Him for the acknowledgment of the problem. Ask Him how to fix it and begin to enjoy a life with your children where they truly love you and the Lord.

God never points out a problem to hurt us only to help. Your parenting may be more apparent than you know! If your kids reflect Jesus, they are reflecting Him because they are reflecting you!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

May 28 Thought for the day...say what you mean

Communication is one of our major failures in our culture. You would think with all the various means of communicating that we would be excelling at it. The truth is people don't know how we feel because we don't communicate. We allow things in our lives that shouldn't be there because we don't communicate. This latter statement is specifically what Jesus is talking about in this verse.

The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you! Luke 17:6

We talked about this verse over the last two weeks, but there is a key element that we need to discuss today. Most of the problems in our lives are things that we allow. Things we choose to ignore or feel are not that important. If they really aren't that important then don't complain about them but if they are worth complaining about they are worth doing something about.

We talked about how Jesus reference here is dealing with bitterness, unforgiveness, and offense. Jesus is telling us it takes just the smallest amount of faith, on our part, to eliminate these things. We need to take notice of how we eliminate them. We must "say" to the mulberry tree!

The word Jesus uses for "say" means to speak with force, authoritatively, with strength. Our voice represents part of our authority. When we are able to speak something with authority, it is because we actually believe it. Jesus said in Luke 6:45, "out of the abundance of the heart one speaks." Jesus is telling us that if we really want to have bitterness, unforgiveness, and offenses removed from our lives, we have to mean it. We prove we mean it but speaking it out loud, using our voices as an act of authority to declare that these things will no longer have victory or control over us.

If you don't speak to your emotions and take authority over them, they will speak to you and take authority over you! If you don't rise up and conquer your flesh, it will rise up and conquer you!

Don't allow anything but especially bitterness unforgiveness or offense to control you. If you want the victory the Lord has planned for you, say what you mean, do it with authority and expectation.

Monday, May 27, 2019

May 27 Thought for the day....a need for desire

A large portion of the call of God on my life is to enable people to become who God wants them to be. If they don't now Jesus, to make sure they are a child of God. If they do know Jesus, to help them fulfill their destiny and purpose. That is why I do this "thought for the day," my preaching, counseling, and mentoring. Paul speaks about the need to desire to be all of this in 1 Timothy 3:1

"This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work."

Paul begins his outline of leadership in the church by using the phrase "desires the position." The word "desire" here means to long for, have a burning desire, great ambition, to achieve something, or become something. Paul begins by saying that someone who is called to be a leader must possess a burning desire to be a leader.

One of the saddest and most frustrating things for me is to see is someone with great gifts, talent, ability, intellect, wisdom, love, or whatever exceptional trait they may have, sitting on it rather than using it. Having lots of gifts but being desireless is one of the saddest things I can imagine.

Not only does a desireless person rob themselves of the intimacy and promotion from the Lord, they could have by fulfilling their call, but they also can drag others down with them. Laziness is contagious but so is industry. We are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, yet the desireless person does none of this. They may, for a season, think about getting involved but thinking about getting involved and fulfilling God's passion for your life are two different things.

Without passion, burning desire in your heart, you will never rise above the mediocrity of life. If we only do what we see others doing, then we will never achieve greatness in our jobs, church, relationships, or lives. People will always want to pull down a rising star, but God has called all of us to shine, and I believe to outshine the crowd of mediocrity. We need the ambition to do better, seek more, to not settle for anything less than God's best for our lives that affect everything from our jobs to our global impact.

It can feel exhausting to go for God's best. It can be frustrating to want to break out of the pack and be better than mediocre. However, desire is the key to fulfilling our destiny in every avenue of our lives. Jesus challenged us with "to whom much is given much required." Every person of faith has been given so much. The same Spirit that raised Christ lives in us. He can give us drive and passion, but we must want to want it first. If you are missing this "desire," don't wait any longer. Ask the Lord, and He will stir it within you. There are many holes in the church because people refuse to rise above mediocrity, but you can start today on the worship team, children's church, coaching, giving, helping, mentoring, using your construction, cooking, teaching and so many other skills that will also help others rise above it!

Friday, May 24, 2019

May 24 Thought for the day...helping or hurting?

In the churches, I have pastored, and when I worked for Christian Television, I have always worked to meet people's needs, both spiritually and physically. It is one of the joys of ministry to see a burden lightened. I learned very early that there are those that would want to take advantage and Paul addresses that in Galatians 6:5

"For each one shall bear his own load (burden)."

Yesterday we talked about bearing the burden of others, but today just a few verses later, Paul is saying that we must bear our own load (burden). This seems a bit confusing. In the Greek, the word used for "load or burden" is completely different that in Galatians 6:2. This word means to carry a backpack, the expected amount of weight every soldier should carry.  It is the normal responsibilities every person is expected to carry in life.

In Acts 2, we see that the early church had everything in common. They sold their land and other possessions to make sure that everyone had enough. This failed! People became lazy and rather than helping the community they would sit and wait to be cared for rather than caring for the needs of the community. Paul had to tell the church (2 Thessalonians 3:10) if someone does not work, they will not eat.  It is in the nature of some, not all, to become lazy and not carry their own responsibilities.

The Holy Spirit is making clear here that we each have our own responsibilities for our daily life that we must bear. Paying our bills is our responsibility to hold down a job and live within a budget. Caring for and disciplining our children is our responsibility as a parent. Mowing our own lawn, keeping our homes clean and in good repair, taking care of our health, these are all things that are the normal responsibilities that the Holy Spirit is saying are our burden (load) to bear. There are always times where a person may need help in these areas, and we do, but they must realize it is their responsibility, not anyone else's because God has blessed you with all of these things He expects you to bear your burden and be wise.

In situations where someone is not bearing their own load, it is our job to help them, but our help must be to help them grow up and become adults. Our actions of "help" may actually hinder their growth as both a Christian and an adult. God wants to bless us all, and if we shirk our responsibilities we can not be blessed and if in the process of feeling sorry for someone we enable them, we are not really helping but instead hindering their growth and ultimately their blessing from the Lord.

Be wise when you are about to help someone that you are really helping and not hurting them, hindering a blessing in their lives.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

May 23 Thought for the day...bearing burdens

Every time someone comes into my office or into our church, it is my hope and desire that whatever burdens they bring with them will be lightened or eliminated altogether. What are we supposed to do when we see someone burdened.

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

It breaks my heart to see so many people overburdened. Whether the burden is of their own choosing or some other reason, we are to bear one another's burdens. The word used for burdens here means to be crushed under a heavyweight. This weight could be spiritual or physical. It could be the result of the person's sin, a bad habit, poor judgment, failure of a family member, a broken relationship, job situation, or health crisis. The reason for the burden does not matter. The burden is not to ever steal God's destiny away from them. It is our job, as their brother or sister who sees the burden, to come alongside them, and to lift it with them.

It may be that to help them lift; we solve their problem, we give them guidance to get them to where they need to go, or perhaps we simply listen to them and pray for them. Whatever it is, we are called to lift one another's burdens.

On the other side, if we are under a crushing weight, don't just assume others know you are carrying a burden. Humble yourself, ask for prayer, reach out for help, don't allow the burden to crush you.

Lifting each other up shows our real love for one another. Thus we do fulfill the law of Christ!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

May 22 Thought for the day...the art of listening

This has been harder for me, at times, than you might think. It may be for you too. Every day I would hear dozens of people's struggles, at the same time I am thinking about the direction the Lord wants to take us, prayerfully trying to keep others lifted up, hearing suggestions from some, and working on solving corporate and sometimes international church problems. All of this is going on in my head at the same time, so when I sat to listen to someone, it had been hard to focus. James challenges us regarding this issue.

"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." James 1:19

It is very easy to jump to quick decisions when hearing someone. I believe that is part of the difference between hearing and listening. The word James uses for "quick" has an important implication to it. It implies the idea of a runner running a race is so focused on winning that they block everything else out. Their "listening" is so intense that they do it with the desire above all else to win. James is saying we should be so focused on being a good listener that we would do with the intention of winning the race of being a good listener, listening with intentionality. There are times when this is simply impossible for me, so I have to turn off my phone or stop others from talking at the same time because as a Christian listening to others is absolutely necessary.

As a young mentee, I would start to talk over my mentor. He was gracious and allowed me to make the mistake of missing out on much that he had to say because of my arrogance and ignorance. Then I had the "aha" moment of realizing my mentor was wise, and I needed to learn to listen rather than speak. People who are hurting, confused, lost, need to be heard. Even if I don't agree with them, I will still listen because in speaking to one who will listen, most people find their answers.

In being intentional about listening and working to focus, I will often repeat to the person...

“Is this what you’re trying to tell me?” “Is this the point you’re making to me today?” “Is this what you want me to get from this conversation?” “Is this what you want me to do after we’re done talking?” “Is this how I need to respond?” “Is there anything else I need to know about this?”

Asking these questions makes sure I don't miss anything. It will assure the person I am talking to that I am listening.

Listening is the first step to excellent communication. If you can learn to listen you will become a great team player, be able to resolve many conflicts and help people and yourself,  get to where you need to be, and ultimately win the race. Listening is indeed an art!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

May 21 Thought for the day...toss the tree part 2

Bitterness and unforgiveness are deep-rooted things that can damage our lives in many ways. Jesus gave us the way to healing from these challenges

Luke 17:6

The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you!

Just as a reminder, this phrase is related to a discussion Jesus was having with His disciples about forgiving people as much as seven times in one day. The disciple's response, to do this, we need more faith!

Jesus was specific about the comparison of the sin of unforgiveness and bitterness when we said it was like tossing a mulberry tree. This particular type of mulberry represented bitterness and unforgiveness well. Its root system didn't give up easily. It grows in dry dessert places like the heart of a spiritually dry person, and it has a very bitter fruit and is eaten a little at a time meditated on then eaten again the way a person deals with bitterness and unforgiveness.

There are a couple more comparisons I want to make. The wood from this tree was used most often for caskets, and I believe Jesus was also referring to this tree because bitterness and unforgiveness can kill you. The only way the fruit is pollinated is by a wasp sting. Often people will refer to their pain as being stung by this person or that person. This tree was a perfect illustration of what bitterness and unforgiveness will do!

The Cure.....

Faith as a grain of mustard seed! This seed is tiny, even minuscule. Jesus is saying while bitterness and unforgiveness may run deep and may be difficult to eliminate in the natural, it only takes the tiniest bit of faith to defeat it. The challenge is, are you willing?

Are you ready to rip those deep seeded roots right out of your heart? Are you ready to let go of all the pain, rejection, and offenses you are facing? Are you ready to eliminate from your life the love, joy, peace stealing, unforgiveness, and bitterness? It is in your power to choose to ask the Lord to remove it from your life and then allow faith to arise inside of you to stand firm against the return of the bitterness and unforgiveness. God has made a way for you to be free, but you must choose to say, "I want this out of my life," and it will be. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

May 20 Thought for the day...effective communication of the Gospel

It is not always easy to present the Gospel. We are all supposed to do it but fear of failure, rejection stifle our attempts. Paul had a really bad experience but found a way to turn it all around.

"And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."  1 Corinthians 2:1, 2

Paul had just come off of his famous Mars hill discourse (Acts 17:16-34). He had talked to the Athenians about the "unknown God." By every sense of the word, it was brilliant.  It was the perfect blend of contextualization, theology, and proper exegesis (a lot of fancy words to say any theologian or trained missionary would have been proud). The problem was it didn't work! Acts 17:32, "And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” Verse 34 tells us there was a small group from the massive crowd that did believe. So what happened?

Athens was a city full of supernatural power, demonic, but still, supernatural. In one temple prophets prophecied to every person who entered. In another, healings took place on a regular basis. The city was full of temples, and supernatural occurrences were a common thing in Athens. The supernatural to the Athenians validated the truth that was being spoken.  Paul had reverted to relying on his own strength of theology and had forgotten the key to this city was the demonstration the Spirit and power. As he is writing the Corinthians he corrects this mistake in verse 4 he makes this statement, "And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,"

To be effective in sharing the Gospel, we have to not only understand what we believe and why we believe it. Paul was not discounting that, but we must have the fruit of the Spirit (demonstration of the Spirit) and the power of the Spirit (gifts, actions) active in our ministry. In every meeting our church has, in every service I preach or teach, I expect God to move in power. We should always expect the Holy Spirit to show up. Our attitudes and character should always reflect the fruit of the Spirit and our actions the power. If you are filled with the Spirit, you should expect the Spirit to flow in power through you and if you are filled with the Spirit God expects the fruit to flow through you too! This is truly the effective Gospel message.

Friday, May 17, 2019

May 17 Thought for the day...remembering so you may overcome

There are times in life where you just feel discouraged. Times that you honestly believe God is not going to come through for you. Here is what can do, it works for me every time!

But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: Hebrews 10:32

We all go through tough times. The only way to become a conqueror or overcomer is to conquer and overcome stuff. I don't know why many of us don't realize that, but in the heat of the battle, it is easy to forget.

The writer uses the word "illuminated" to illustrate a significant point for us.  It means to make visible as in a brilliant flash, like a solar flare or flash photography (the word used is the Greek word root for photography). The writer is explaining that when in the midst of our struggles and difficulties take a breath and flashback to those times where God awakened you to His blessings!

Think back to the time when God revealed His protection over your life. An incident happened where you should have been hurt, but you know God had his hand of protection on you. You were crying out to God about how bad your financial situation was, and the Lord revealed to you about tithing, you started, and everything changed. You are battling pain or sickness, and the Lord reveals His healing power to you, and God sets you free. In my case, one of my most illuminating moments was when I realized how much He absolutely loved me, it radically changed my view of God.

The writer is saying, remember those times when you are in the midst of your crisis. Stand on them! They will remind you the same God that did that for you then will cause you to overcome your battle now.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

May 16 Thought for the day...hang in there

Have you ever thought God I've waited long enough for your promise. I'm done waiting! I've seen others blessed, others have their prayers answers and here I sit...I'm done! Most of us have reached that point. But the writer of Hebrews challenges us with something different.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 

Now we have looked at this verse already, but today I need us to look at the phrase "without wavering" it means something that is fixed, inflexible, it does not bend, unchanging. What is being said here is, don't ever give up on your dream. God has it in His hands. We don't always understand why He waits, but if you stand firm, He always comes through.

If we add what I have translated on other days to this, we could interpret this verse this way...

"Let us come into agreement with God and begin to speak what He says, tightly wrapping our arms around the promise we are confessing — embracing it with all our might, holding tightly to it, rejecting all attempts of anyone who tries to steal it from us, not allowing ourselves to be fickle in our commitment, but determined to be inflexible and unmoving from that which we believe and confess...."

The devil only knows how to lie. If he is whispering in your ear, "give up, there is no hope," why are you wasting your time, this is never going to happen." you can be assured God is going to come through. Don't give up on your dream or God's promises; He is faithful to keep His promises!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

May 15 Thought for the day...effective prayer

How many times do you find yourself simply throwing up a quick prayer? Not taking the time to engage Him just talking. I know we all do it from time to time with people and God. One of my biggest struggles is this in the lobby after service. I want to greet every person and show him or her the love I have for them, but so many are there we have to rush through. Sometimes people feel neglected; I wonder if God feels that way when we are in a hurry in prayer?

"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints"Ephesians 6:18

The word for prayer used in this verse is the most often used word for prayer in the New Testament. It is a combination of two words with three meanings.

First, it means intimacy, closeness, being face to face. When Paul speaks of prayer, the Holy Spirit is guiding him to teach what it is meant to be, a time of intimacy between us where we are face to face with God.

Secondly, it means a vow, a promise, a sacrifice, consecration. It is the idea that when we are offering our prayers, we are in complete surrender to God and are willing to submit to him completely. Because of the first part of the definition, we know that it is a calling to an unconditional love between the pray-er and God. As we pray, we feel His love and willingly surrender to that love to trust that His answer will be perfect.

Third, it means "thanksgiving,"  it is the idea that as we come to the Lord to talk, make our request, and build our relationship that we come expecting having a heart of thanksgiving knowing God is going to respond for our best.

Real prayer is having an intimate, face to face with God. It is surrendering to Him, all that we are and in exchange, we gain all that He has for us. We do this all with such an expectation that our hearts are full of thanksgiving for what He is going to do in us, through us, and for us.

I hope this changes your outlook on prayer. I know if you understand this it certainly will change your effectiveness. God is always faithful to hear and answer our prayers. Will we be faithful to effectively pray?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

May 14 Thought for the day....toss the tree Part 1

It is hard to forgive especially the first time real forgiveness must come to play. As little ones, we are taught to say "I'm sorry" and "will you forgive me." In the process, we also learn to forgive others. As an adult, real forgiveness can be extremely difficult as the disciples were struggling with the concept.

The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you! Luke 17:6

This has been one of the most misused verses in the Bible. Jesus is having a discussion with his disciples about bitterness and forgiveness. He is telling them they need to forgive seven times in one day if necessary. It is hard enough to forgive someone one time but to forgive someone if they offend or hurt us seven times, that will take a miracle. It would take more faith than they could muster. The disciples are saying they need more faith to be able to do such a thing, "increase our faith," they ask. Jesus response is what we just read.

It is important that we recognize exactly what Jesus is saying he is very specific. Jesus said with enough faith you could say to "this" which is to say, a very specific thing. The mulberry tree represents all the bitterness and unforgiveness that can come from all the wounds and rejection.

He chose a mulberry tree for very specific reasons. First, this type of tree would not die easily. You could chop it down, and if you didn't get all of the roots, it would come right back, just like bitterness and unforgiveness. Secondly, it grows very easily and loves a very dry environment. It doesn't take much to make bitterness and unforgiveness to grow, and they grow best in a spiritually dry environment. Third, this particular type of mulberry is a very bitter fruit. To eat it, people would nibble on it, leave it for a moment, then come back to it and nibble again. People with bitterness and unforgiveness produce bitterness for others too. Like eating the fruit, they will often chew on it for a long time, spend time thinking about the offense, then come back and nibble again, think about the offense then nibble again.

Is this you, do you see this type of bitterness or unforgiveness in your life. It doesn't have to remain. There is also another aspect or two about this tree that needs to be tossed that we need to deal with, so this week I just want you to examine your heart for the unforgiveness and bitterness, and then next week I will share how to be free.

Ask the Lord to reveal any unforgiveness or bitterness that might be alive in you. The Lord will set you free!

Monday, May 13, 2019

May 13 Thought for the day...the peace you've been looking for

Let's face reality; we live in an age where news is 24/7. People have access to us 24/7. The demands of life are simply 24/7 between work, home, kids, and everything else we could all use a little peace.

"and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7

Just like that, it is a beautiful promise. When we look deeper, it becomes amazing. When Paul says the "peace of God," that contentment, security, focus, love that comes from God, "surpasses" all understanding. "Surpasses" means it transcends any problem, outshines any difficulty, goes higher than any trouble can reach, it makes every struggle and difficulty look small and doable compared to God's peace.

What does it outshine and transcend? Our "understanding" the ability to reason, to think, to comprehend the world around us. Together this phrase is telling us, no matter how impossible the situation may be and how large it is by our comprehension, God will cause us to outshine and transcend any difficulty with His security and contentment. The way you think is the way your life will be! He doesn't leave it there.

When we begin to grasp this understanding of God's peace, our flesh and the enemy will try to fight us on it. The word "guard" means that God's peace is like a sentry around your heart and mind. It monitors everything that tries to enter your heart and mind and protects you from those things that would do you harm.

Paul is telling us, "the security and contentment of God will outshine any difficulty that we might be able to reason is an overwhelming problem and that same peace from God will protect our heart and mind from anything that might come to rob us everything God has for us."

I hope this is the peace you have been looking for if it is, relax! God has got this for you, must choose to live in it!

Friday, May 10, 2019

May 10 Thought for the day...just do it

My blogs often are long. I break down the Greek meaning so that we can all better understand what was written. But there are times I simply need to be plain and to the point and today is one of those days.

These things I command you, that you love one another. John 15:17

We need to understand this simple truth; this is not an option; this is a command. Jesus did not say, only love those that look like you, think like you, have the same background as you, agree with you. He said "I command" which means if you are going to call yourself a Christ-follower, you have no option but to do as He says and "love one another"! In other words, even if you disagree with the person if they are a democrat, republican, tall, short, rich, poor, white, black, brown, purple it doesn't matter, this is not an option for someone who calls themselves a Christ-follower...LOVE ONE ANOTHER!

So the Greek for "love" is, to dearly love, to prefer with immense favor, to give of yourself. How does that apply to the way you think about everyone in your church and every Christian you know? Jesus was saying, "I am charging (commanding) you to prefer with immense favor, giving of yourself to others in a way that shows My life to them."

I think that is probably enough for today...I love you, but you must learn to love one another...please!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

May 9 Thought for the day..agreement with God

There are some people I completely trust. Unless someone has taught me otherwise, I tend to trust people first and not be suspicious of them until they prove otherwise. Trusting God completely is something that most people work on for a lifetime. The author of Hebrews is encouraging us to do just that in Hebrews 10:23

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful."

We have all known people that talk a good talk. They speak all of the right words, it would appear that their "confession" is true but as you get to know them something is off. Their walk with the Lord is not as it should be their walk is not matching their talk. They have anger issues, lying issues, lust issues, bitterness or any faction of the flesh fully alive in them.

I am not talking about people who are trying to follow the Lord. We all have issues that we are working to overcome but ones who are playing the church game to impress others rather than to love both God and people. The difference is found in their "confession."

The word "confession" is what I want us to focus on today. This word is a bit tricky. The idea is you take God's word; you memorize it, practice it in your life, then choose to make it yours. It is making God's word alive in you in such a way as you have so completely come into agreement with His words. It is not just something you know, but it is part of who you are, your agreement is as if your heart and God's heart are completely in sync with one another.

The evidence of this synchronicity is that your confession is no longer empty chatter but is life-giving and powerful to change the world around you. You are no longer speaking mere words but words that are in complete agreement with a relationship with God. You know His heart, His words, and you are living them powerfully. This "confession" makes it easy for God to keep His promises to us!

Each week as I prepare to preach, part of my early morning prayer is "Lord, I know your words in my mouth are just as powerful as your words in your mouth, let my confession be true. Let me only speak your words that I show I am in complete agreement with you!"

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

May 8 Thought for the day...helping the immature

We have all seen it the parent who acts worse than the child at the sporting event. The bully, though they are now an adult stills acts like a child. We have them in our lives, at work, in our neighborhood in our families and Paul helps young Timothy with them in the church.

"And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient," 2 Timothy 2:24

Paul is writing Timothy in response to a letter Timothy sent to Paul about unruly, immature people in the church and some even in leadership. As I am writing this, I am reminded that I need you to understand, if you see the immaturity in your own life be grateful because the Lord is showing you what you need to work on to be ready to fulfill your destiny otherwise you never will.

To be honest, there have been many times in my life where I have tried to help Christians reach their potential. However, when it came time to respond to correction rather than understanding I was trying to help them get to their destiny, they made excuses, accused others, placed blame.  I watched time and time again as they continue to walk around the same mountain. Graciously, only a few never made it, most eventually became frustrated enough that they accepted the correction or discipline needed. This is where real leadership skills come in.

Must not "quarrel" this word means to argue, fight with verbally, strive or contend with. As a true servant, we are never to lower ourselves to the level of immaturity where we are verbally jousting with others. We are to speak the truth in love, explain it the best we can, respond to the questions but do not lower yourself to get in a battle of words, just stay on track, stay focused.

"Be gentle," Paul is indicating here that when dealing with someone immature realize what you are doing. The word gentle in this case references to treat them as if they are at the maturity level of a child, caringly guide and direct as you would a child. The problem with many immature parents is rather than being the adult, the parent, in disciplining their children, they lower themselves to act like children. In my eyes, this is a very big problem in parents today. We must not become children in disciplining and correcting the immature but act like mature adults never "flying off the handle" but maintain calm with patience.

Once again, if you see this immaturity in your life, don't worry, be thankful the Lord has exposed it. He is probably preparing to promote you but will not do it until you are ready. He will expose the immaturity so you will be ready to fulfill the destiny He has for you!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

May 7 Thought for the day....overcoming weariness

I enjoy technology. My world is wrapped up in my iPhone. If I lose it, I would be in big trouble because every appointment, contact, and having all the information in the world at my fingertips is something I use every day. It has also added to the weariness of life 700+ e-mails/day, 150+ text messages/day, appointment reminders, and phone calls, all can be overwhelming. The Lord has taught me a key to overcoming the weariness.

"But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." Romans 8:11

You have demands on your life. Goals to reach at work, the pressure to make that deadline or simply to keep your job. After work, there are things to do at home. Bills need paying, grass needs mowing, meals need prepared. Sometimes the pressure even sneaks into our sleep, creating a cycle of sleeplessness adding to the stress.

Add to these things the family responsibilities. Caring for aging parents, being with grandchildren, school activities, sporting events, birthday celebrations. All of which requires time and energy, you want to enjoy, but it is one more thing.

Then church responsibilities. You love your church and the people you want to do more and feel guilty for not doing more but simply don't have the physical or mental energy to make it happen.

The pressure continues with friendship responsibilities. Being a good friend requires you to be friendly, to reach out, encourage, spend time, and be with your friends

So now that you are thinking about this and getting wearier than refreshed, here is how this scripture applies. One of the enemies greatest tools is discouragement, and when we are exhausted, it is easy for that tool to be implemented.

The Holy Spirit will "give life" to our bodies. Our bodies have limitations, but God does not. The word used here means to, rejuvenate, revitalize, renew, and make fresh. God knows all the demands, He knows the time constraints, and He reminds us, and I see Him do it in my life nearly every day, that His Spirit living in us will completely rejuvenate us as we learn to rely on Him. Let Him overcome your weariness not by your strength or resolve but by His Spirit, and He will do it!

Monday, May 6, 2019

May 6 Thought for the there evidence Jesus is alive in your life?

(Warning! a little longer than usual) When my children were very little, they believed the TV character McGuyver was real. Week after week we saw episodes of his brain figuring out the most dangerous situations. Why was McGuyver real for them? Their Dad was on TV every day, and he was real so if Dad is on TV and real McGuyver must also be. This was solid logic for a 2 and 5-year-old. The problem: McGuyver is fictional. Dad could be touched seen, known, talked with and there is evidence of his presence. But not McGuyver. If that is the test of what is real, how do we know Jesus is real?

"that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you," 1 Corinthians 1:5,6

So what does that scripture have to do with knowing Jesus is real or not. I shared yesterday about William Wallace much of what we know about him is legend versus fact. We can't talk to him interact with him to find out what is truth versus a story. Jesus is different!

Paul is writing to the Corinthians church recognizing that they are in contact with Jesus through the Holy Spirit on a regular basis. He says they are "enriched" in other words, abundantly wealthy, wealth beyond measure with what "utterance and knowledge."

As you read the Corinthian letters, you see that this church while they had not known Jesus personally as He walked the face of the earth, were the blessed beyond measure with the witness of Jesus, the Holy Spirit. The "utterance" gifts, according to scripture are tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy. The "knowledge" gifts according to the Bible are words of knowledge, wisdom, discerning of spirits, and can also be prophecy. These things were active in their lives and church life.

The entire community knew these things were alive in their lives and church and because of that, they proved that Jesus was with them. The word "confirmed" means to make concrete, authenticate as to be proven in a court of law. Because they used these gifts, Jesus was seen in their midst!

They didn't know Jesus by the time the Corinthians church was founded. He had gone to the Father at least a decade earlier. What they knew from their history was Jesus the Prophet, Healer, and Miracle-worker. Because of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and the church they saw the testimony of Christ in their lives through the miracles, prophecies, words of knowledge and wisdom, and all the gifts of the Spirit. Every week in our church someone is touched by the prophetic, a healing, word of knowledge or wisdom. Jesus is not simply a historical or worse fictional character to us, He is alive as prophet, healer, miracle worker and so much more. His testimony is alive in our church and my life. That same testimony can be alive in your life as well if you allow Him!

Friday, May 3, 2019

May 3 Thought for the well have you fought today?

In one of my favorite movies, "Braveheart," the lead character William Wallace makes this statement, "all men die, but few men truly live." I am not sure if William Wallace actually said that, but it is the intent behind what Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:7

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 

Paul is winding down his life. He knows his end is near. By saying he fought the good fight he is telling us much of his life was a struggle, battle but he stayed the course, he did not give up, he fought! Paul had been beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, rejected, illegally charged, tried and convicted, mistrusted, lied about and to, yet in all of this he stood firm. This could be translated, "I stayed in there, and I fought and won!"

Paul goes on to say, "I have finished the race." This is personal. It could read to help us understand better, "my race." Paul didn't do anything anyone else was called to do, he completed "his" race, what he was called to do. It could be translated, "this was my race, and I kept going until I did everything I needed to do to win!"

I have "kept the faith." The word "kept" here means to "guard" as in a soldier guarding or protecting a post. Paul is saying regardless of the battles, the attacks, the struggles I kept guard of my faith, and I did not let go. I never left my post, I never surrendered, I overcame, I was more than a conqueror, I kept strong watch over the mission and call God had given me.

Paul's perspective was eternal. His fighting, finishing, and keeping was something where he held an eternal perspective. Some of the arguments we get into, some of the things we worry about, some of the things we work so hard to achieve may be things that people remember for the moment but are quickly gone after that moment. Some of the negative things in our lives become who we are, and all of the positives disappear because of a moment of surrendering our eternal perspective. Think about the way you are going to engage people today. Think about how you will live your life today. There are many things that seek to rob us of who we are and our reputation. Choose to fight the good fight and keep the faith so you will win!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

May 2 Thought for the don't realize the power in your hands

There are things in our lives that we take for granted. They become so familiar that rather than seeing their value we dismiss them as normal or basic. We do it with stuff, gifts, talents, relationships and so many other things. Paul reminds us to not allow that to happen with one of the greatest powers we possess.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16

You know I stress reading the Bible. I tease about it on a regular basis, but I need you to understand something about it. Picture for me a deflated balloon. What does it take to inflate this balloon? Lots of breath. So you blow up the balloon, and when you do this, it is then that you can actually see what the balloon looks like. At the same time, what is in the balloon? Air but not just any air your air with your unique DNA, molecules, basically part of who you are.

No, I didn't go down a rabbit trail. This is one of the best ways for me to describe this scripture to you. The word "inspiration" means God-breathed or the breath of God. Like the balloon, the very Bible you keep on your shelf, by your bed, in the back seat of your car, is God-breathed. Basically, the DNA of God is in the Bible it is not just a story about God, but it is part of who He is, it is represented by His breath. That same word that spoke and caused everything to come into being is in your hands. The power that spoke and creation happened is on your nightstand. In other words, when we read God's Word and make it part of us, we are moving in one of the greatest power we can imagine, and like the balloon, we become what we are meant to be. Does it make sense now as to why I stress reading it so much?

Knowing this do you also understand how it is profitable? The word, profitable can be translated simply as something that is for your main advantage. If we do not read, live, and believe God's word we are missing out on the power that brought everything into being. We are limiting ourselves to our power. God's own breath and Spirit are contained within the Word just like the air in the balloon. That’s a very good reason why you should spend time studying and meditating on God’s Word. By studying and meditating on the Word, you will learn to unlock the power contained within it. And when you have unlocked that door, the power of God will come pouring into your life and into the situations you are facing.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

May 1 Thought for the's all about love

Sometimes life can be very complicated. God doesn't intend it to be that way, one of the key elements to uncomplicating our lives is stated by the Holy Spirit through John.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7

Today's thought is very simple and very to the point. John uses three times the word "love" which is defined as to love dearly, to be pleased with someone in a blessed and giving way. In other words, under the Holy Spirit's inspiration, we are being told a very simple yet profound command.

Reread the verse. What do you think? God is saying love dearly, be pleased with and be willing to give of yourself to all of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Can you imagine if we always gave our brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt, the encouragement they need, choosing to believe in them, stand for them, helping them to stand and become their best!

Isn't it amazing that God calls us to this? He is saying to us those who are true followers of mine, those who are really my children live this way, all of the time. Can you imagine how church would be changed? How our lives would be changed? How all of our relationships would be changed? How quickly the church would grow if we all chose to believe and live this way!

Your challenge today is to live this way just today. If you can do today, then you can do tomorrow and every day after that!

BTW if you picked all the petals, you would always be reminded that He loves you!