Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Get Off Your Donkey

Recently I preached a message titled "Get off your Donkey".  Needless to say I got a lot of laughs from the message as I spoke of donkeys in the bible with who rode on them as illustration. Illustrating that ministry  happens when you get off your donkey. The comparison being the donkey to our agenda. More often then not we don't make room to do God's will because we don't leave much margin in our lives to navigate off  "our plans".  Like Peter and John who were going up to pray in acts left room for God to navigate them off course through a beggar. Boy that sure turned all of their days into a different direction. 

          My final dismissal comment Sunday to the congregation that morning was,  turn to your neighbor and say, " I'm getting off my donkey". Needless to say the congregation busted out in laughs as we headed out the door.  The next day I found myself riding my donkey ( agenda) as we all do. I had my plans, schedule and a preconceived view of how the day was to go as I started to live it out. It was a full day with reports and deadlines to try to meet with people and places to go , etc.  Halfway through my day several people crossed my path I did not have plans to cross paths with. One of those people was Jannie. She needed gas and was looking for help from churches , but not until she found me outside the church building had not even found a pastor on a Monday.  She proceeded to tell me way more information then I needed to know before telling me why she was telling all that info. I've been around the block a few times with people asking for help,  so I asked her what she wanted. So without a dollar figure she said "I need gas to get home".  

          To God's credit I recalled my own message , so I decided to get off my donkey agenda and be interrupted. So Jannie followed me to the gas station. At the gas station she asked if I could buy her something to eat. I decided to do so, when God said to me, "have lunch with her as well".  So while I was buying us lunch at the gas station she asked if I could get her some oil for her car.  I said lets go eat first back at the church and then check the oil.  So when we got back to our church we sat outside at a picnic table.  As we ate together she really opened up her heart. She told me so many parts of her journey and mostly they were hard pressed situations. She did tell me about her grandkids and some good things to, but mostly about the challenges.  

          It was during our lunch that I began to ask questions about her spiritual journey and how she viewed God. As  she cracked open the window, but I perceived she used church as a source to get through verses Christ as a personal Savior who could walk with her through daily life challenges . So in our conversation I asked her if she had ever been born again as the scriptures revealed we must be to see and enter His Kingdom. Her confession was honest and interesting. She said she had never been baptized and admitted she'd heard about being born again. When I pressed a little more she admitting to hearing about being born again and then openly admitted she was not saved from her sins. 

   At this point I was eager to help her enter the Kingdom through repentance. I asked if wanted to be saved and know the Lord. She easily said yes and willingly was ready to pray. Knowing a lot of her life story now, I realized she had changes in store if she was serious about prayer and repentance. So I began to go over the apostles creed with her line by line to affirm that she was really believing rightly about the Savior what she needed to believe. She affirmed she believed, she was a sinner and was willing to change.  She had no local church she belonged to and lives probably to far away from ours to attend. I also thought lots of people have probably planted the seed of faith with her over time as well as watered the seed of faith. However in God's providence I got to reap the rip harvest on this particular day in a context that Jannie would be receptive to.

   Jannie and I prayed as the tears trickled from our eyes. After we prayed , I took a picture of us together while checking her oil. It was low and off to the parts store we went on one more errand before she headed home. Years ago I would have felt satisfied that I led someone to Christ as that is easy for me as one called to evangelize. However,  over the years I have learned that discipleship is equally important. I hope and pray that Jannie is the seed that fell on the good soil and not the other 3 types of soil.  We plan to stay in touch and I hope to have the honor to baptize her soon somewhere. 

Pray a short prayer for Jannie as you conclude reading this post and consider how you can be ready  with pyour agenda for God's agenda at any given moment. I admit , it's not easy to get off your donkey and head in another direction, but it is completely rewarding when it ends up like the events I had with Jannie the other day. 

Friday, March 20, 2015


Back in 2001 I was at the front end of the social media wave.  I was so into technology I even took a course in social media to learn about it to make a living from it. I was among the first pioneers of all my circle of connections to Steam live, have a Facebook and twitter account and many other social media accounts.  This was long before Instagram or Snapchat.  Over a decade later I honestly have to say I do not think we are a better people or culture because of social media or technology. It was said then that it would save us time or create more time. But I believe it’s done the opposite! It steals our time and robs our real social life of sharing our life later in conversation and pictures with those we do in person life with.  Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate a lot about technology and still use it, and there are even life saving stories about technology and how it’s enhanced our lives.  But when I look at the BIG Picture it’s not as good.  Let me say this is a current struggling confessional post about social media without an absolute solution. Which means, I am still seeking solutions and balance.  So let me start on perspective of what I like about social media before I rip on it.

      I think it is great to get an inspirational idea, fresh fun happening or capture some news story or event and be able to share it for warning or inspiring others on the spot.  I mean really, social media has a lot it offers to make us laugh, learn, warn and help people on the spot.  But on the flip side I believe more people are harmed, isolated, addicted, distracted and even killed because of social media. We have something we never had before without thinking through the rules and limitations we should have set in motion first. But we did not know what we would do with what we never had before either. We never thought we might need  to protect ourselves from the bad side of it all.  Long before the internet came along we had TV.

The same case could be made for it. TV can be used for education, inspiration and positive entertainment. Good stuff right? But then came the bad entertainment mixed in with the good and on a gradual basis this happened until we did not know we were even consuming bad entertainment.  In general we never warned people about the bad because the bad crept in before we knew it was bad.  Now TV allows cursing, nudity, perversion and much more, but it started off pretty good at the front end.  I believe we are experiencing the slow evolution of a eventual revolution of the way we think, act and behave to our own demise. 

Let’s take the selfie concept for a moment. In my entire 53 years of life I would never have thought to take a picture of myself alone to share with people unless it was for perhaps a church directory or a resume or family heritage album or something well purposed.  Growing up people had to pay to have pictures developed, so people first.thought about what they would take pictures of. At Disney World you will find those Kodak moment spots that were made intentionally for people to stand in front of a pretty background scene so you could later share that “you and others” were at a certain place.  The picture was dual focused. It was either take a picture of a place or thing to remember and share it later  or pose in front of that scene so you could share that you were there with others.  Now that picture taking is unlimited and free we find  people take pictures from anything and everything to absolutely nothing.   I mean really, who wants to see a daily or weekly photo of what you eat every day?  We have either loss our sense of boundaries with picture taking or we never thought that we should make them or need them.  Let me admit now,  I stand guilty of my own observation to varying degrees.

Our youngest generation is the most jeopardized generation ever.  They have grown up on social media and hand held devices and nobody seemed to consider that  we should have given them with rules of when, where, how often and why.  I mean if a guy or girl takes a dozen pictures of themselves every day and post them every day what in the world are they going to grow up thinking about themselves?  I can see taking a selfie for a profile for your identity, but do we need to see a new selfie every day?  And if we do, are we empowering people to be vain and conceded and self consumed?  In large part I believe we have lost control of who we are and how to socially function properly and godly.  I cannot tell you how many places and times I have looked around me in public to only see people engaged with their devices instead of the people around them. ( I stand guilty as well) . Even while at events and life’s special moments people are often socially around the world instead of with those that are present.  Because we post and share everything when it happens we have nothing to share when we get together.  When we do get together we might start to tell someone where we were and what we did only to hear a reply such as, “Oh yeah I saw your pictures and post”. 

 A few weeks ago I learned there are Selfie sticks for cameras so you don’t have to depend on or ask someone else to take a picture of you anymore.  
We need boundaries and time limits on so many levels or we and our children will become obsessed and overwhelmed if we are not already.  Our youngest generation as well as many older folks needs help to get some boundaries in place who don’t see the problem as it is. Just to test your selfie consumption go look at one of your favorite social media sites and count how many selfies you took of you alone in the picture. How many 5, 10, 50, 100's. are you self consumed? If so , should you be concerned about this as it affects those around you in real life?

  Like I said earlier this is a current challenge in my life as it is in so many others as well.  I know I have personally missed far too many great moments in front me because I was self absorbed in another world so far away from me.   Unfortunately social media is probably doing far more damage to people’s relationships, lives and mental and emotional health then it is doing good to inspire and save and heal lives. I believe it does both, but because most people don’t set their own social etiquette rules we have become slaves to our own social creations of time savers.

Let’s look up & talk together, laugh out loud and put our devices away more often. We don’t need to take pictures of everything, everywhere all the time.  We don’t need to post what we are doing every hour about every random thought we have or heard. We need to save some of it for when we see each other. Imagine if you took pictures for a month without posting a single one.  Could you handle it? How many would you delete a month later without sharing it with anyone?  We almost have forgot to think about what we do and why we do it.

Maybe the overall good of social media is that it can cause to ask ourselves what is really important again. How much time could I have again if I played fewer games, posted less stuff and made fewer comments and read fewer posts? Do we even measure how much time we spend on our devices?  Like I said at the beginning of this post, it is not about answers as much as it’s about trying to discover a balance of good with healthy recommended rules for the next generation.

Do we need our phones with us 24/7? Do we need to be accessed 24/7? Are we still in control?  

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Old Fashioned Verses Fifty Shades of Gray

       The movie Old Fashioned is being released nationwide Feb 14th 2015. It opened a week early in 3 cities of which I was close enough to visit one on opening night. It is excellent movie.  It is rare to find a modern day movie produced with creative thought, plot, humor, cultural relevance, morally wholesome all wrapped up into one film.  I'd love to share more about the movie, but then I would be a spoiler to those who have yet to attend and see it. But why I saw it and stand behind it is another story I'm glad to share. Rik Swartzwelder who wrote, produced and acted in the film is a man who crossed my path many years ago when I was a youth pastor in Lakeland, Florida. Some 20 years later I got a package in the mail with two pre- released books from Rik. 

        Rik found me on Facebook and sent me a gift in advance of his film release. What a blessing, but also what a challenge. The challenge was I don't do romance novels.  Feeling a pleasure to honor the gift I pushed myself to read my first ever romance book. I must admit it took me awhile, but eventually I got into it. I actually finished it and my wife and daughter got a good laugh at my reaction to the book as we all looked forward to the film. 

       My daughter and her friend were getting ready to go on a missions trip for 8 weeks to Haiti and Dominican Republic. Just as they headed out the door I offered to send the book with them if they promise to bring it back.  The report back on the book was really interesting. It became the only book anyone brought with them outside of the bible. Many times over they read the book aloud to each other and quoted from it and read it many times among themselves individually.  But why?  Because the book and the movie are filled with virtue, honor and respect for women and men. From everything I read about Fifty Shades of Grey it appears that these films are approaching the same subject of love and sex from completely different directions. One film approaches fulfillment of relationships from lust and self gratification and the other from long lasting honor and respect for another person. 

       Old Fashioned is spiritual, but not overly religious. It's Judaeo Christian without shoving it down your throat. As I watched the movie with my wife of 25 years it made me think of our marriage, our commitment and our journey. Thoughts came to mind of "could I have lived better" and "how can I improve my current romance" to strength what has been a glorious journey with my mate.   

       If there was an age group I could recommend to watch Old Fashioned it would be those age 15 and older not married.  I believe married couples should see it as well, but I believe those not married would see something that creates in them a desire to raise the bar of excellence and integrity in all relationships.  As I observe our culture I would tend to agree with what was insinuated in the film that our culture is weak on honor and respect in romantic relationships.  This film was a restoration of greatness in films while still being extremely culturally relevant.  Two thumbs up!!! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

When Will Jesus Return?

Can we Know When Jesus Christ Will Return?

     The answer is complex and therefore we need to dig down deep into history and Scripture to discover what God wants us to know and what we are not to know.  In order to properly discern the times we have to take a number of subjects, perspectives and tie them all together to discover what God has said, is saying and when He will send His only begotten Son back to earth in bodily form.  

  The bible is a collection of inspired writings of God through the men of God over a period of a few thousand years. The Bible is many things to many people, but one thing it is to me among many is the story of relationship between God and man and ends in a marriage relationship.  In order to discover what to look for to be ready for His return we have to look at marriage to determine His return.  The Jewish history and arrangement of marriage is what will help us discover better about His return.  Jesus is a groom and those who are called his people are his bride. 

   We can also look at signs in the bible to help us determine when this return will occur. One thing God does not want us to know is the exact time as in the hour of day, day of the month and month of the year.  However, I believe we could determine within a 24 hour cycle  a certain day, month of the year and yet miss the exact year.  That alone is knowing God’s schedule , seasons and reasons without know the date and exact time and that is what I believe God wants us to know. In biblical history the groom has up to 7 years to prepare for his bride and pay the dowry. I will never say Jesus is returning on a certain day in the calendar year, but I certainly may suspect a certain every year and prepare myself for that day every year as God gives us great details, but also leaves us with great mystery. What a groom He is with such love for His bride.
Also in order to know the times and seasons of His return we must take in the full council of God’s Word and not just the New Testament or just the Old Testament. His Word is now 2 covenants coming together and so much of it now is coming to pass.

   Science is another factor we must calculate. Much of what is passed off as scientific evidence is often still speculation and not actually observable science. Great discernment is needed among the saints. So many today within the church are split on evolution verses creation. We are told deception in the last days will also be great.  For example, when the bible tells of the length of man prior to the flood and the decreasing age of men after the flood we can never truly object to those long ages of men prior to the flood because nobody was there to prove it one way or another. We have written biblical history and it is contrary to longevity since the flood. So science says impossible, yet the Word says otherwise.

   If indeed the world was completely flooded and is a different world then it was prior, we can only measure science based things this side of the flood.  God said in Gen 2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”    We know that Adam and Eve did not die the same day as they ate of the tree or did they? Many speculate that God meant spiritual death as result of sin entered into their lives. Indeed I would agree with that, but also 2 Peter 3:8 says “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”  Yet the bible says in Gen 5:5 Adam died at age of 930 years. “Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.  So if 1 day is as 1000 years to God then indeed Adam and Eve did die within the first day ( as God sees days). It is a mystery for us in the natural world as we are time oriented people, but Adam did die within a day from God’s Word perspective.
It’s these types of mysteries we have to work through, study through and reflect upon to see if indeed God has more for us to know and see about His soon and coming return.

In revelation we often see the blood of the saints in heaven as a martyrdom blood, but should we not keep in mind the blood of virginity as it related to Hebrew marriage? The robes dipped in blood in revelation may have more meaning to it then what we presume.

   I've been asked to blog and write about his 2nd coming and it does excite me as never before. In the 1980’s I was hoping without scriptural insight that he would return before the year 2000. Now I see so much more and look forward to sharing those things to encourage and admonish the Body of Christ.  Next post will be more about the Jewish Holy Days as it related to His return.