Tag Archives: ministry

The Harvest is Ripe…

For me, there is nothing like live music. I admire those who have been blessed with musical talent and I enjoy music of most genres. Last night I had the privilege of attending Carlos Santana’s show at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Until now, I’ve been a very casual fan, if that. It was a business event and I was given a free general admission ticket along with the other business colleagues attending the conference. “I’ll stay for a few songs, then I’ll sneak out to bed.” Was I wrong or what?? His music is infectious, and I found myself not wanting to leave. Just over two hours later, I’m on my feet with the rest of the crowd applauding this man who has truly mastered his craft.

img_6151

Carlos Santana performing at the Mandalay Bay House of Blues, February 2, 2017. He is a master at his craft, and his music is infectious! Taken on my iPhone.

A little more than halfway through his show, he spoke to the audience. He told them that there are people out there teaching about “wretched sinners”, that those people are mean and we should run from them. He said that we all have this light inside us, and we should live out our lives in that light, enjoying life, being kind. Many in the crowd enthusiastically received and applauded his message. And that made me sad; sad because the only part of the Gospel message he’s apparently heard is the part about sin and death. If he only knew how beautiful the other side of that coin is – the truth about redemption, salvation, and eternal life through Jesus Christ, he could have shared that Truth with his audience.

As he launched into his next song I looked around the room – all those people. How many know Christ, and how many don’t? How many took his false message to heart? I turned to the colleague standing next to me and said, “His theology is a bit off.” My colleague responded, “He’s talking about his god.”

img_6160

We live in a lost and fallen world. As Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37) My sense of urgency is increasing, but I sometimes struggle to find my place. Talking about things of God is easy in church, but it’s frowned upon in the workplace. Screaming the Gospel at a colleague I just met in a loud music venue doesn’t seem right either. I know God wants me to share the Gospel. This morning I prayed about the harvest and my role in helping gather it. I look forward to seeing how God chooses to use me, and I pray that He will give me with wisdom and courage to seize every witness opportunity He presents.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Our Words Mean Things

What do your fingers and your tongue have in common?

Rush Limbaugh once said, “words mean things” and he’s right. Hurtful and harmful words are hard to take back, and even if acknowledged and forgiven, the damage can linger for a long, long time.

img_4924

James3:9-12 NIV

People can have a mean streak. We say and do some rather shocking things with the intention of hurting one another. We sometimes justify it, “I sure put him in his place” or “that was great, she had that coming.” Or, perhaps worse, we’re just cruel for cruel’s sake.

Observing our current leading candidates for president, I am quite disturbed by what I hear: name-calling, misrepresentations, overstatements, and even some outright non-truths. I watch the so-called “news” channels and see panelists interrupting one another and talking over each other as each believes his or her message is the only message of value. Rather than reporting the news, these channels spin a yarn in support of whatever political agenda each has chosen to support. Is any of this really helpful in forwarding our nation? Will any of this make us safer or stronger? Will any of it position us as a force for good in the world?

Sadly, many of us are taking note and following their lead. As I page through Facebook and Twitter there is much vitriol to be seen, much of it posted by Christians like me. As James writes in the passage above, this cannot be. As believers, we are to share the Gospel with this lost and fallen world. Our lives are our chief witness; everything we do and say points to something. If we sing praises in church and later speak evil of others, we cannot be an effective witness. We can’t.

Indeed, in this era of modern technology and social media our fingers are an extension of the tongue. Think about it. How many times over the last week have you lashed out on social media against a person, a cause, a disagreement or something else? I’ve been making a conscious effort in this aspect of my over the past few months. A salt spring cannot produce fresh water. With vitriol we do more harm than good and our credibility as a witness for Christ is tarnished; Something for each of us to consider as we engage our world today and every day.

Soli Deo Gloria!

It’s a Process

“It’s a process.”

My coworkers will tell you that I say this often, as much of what I do in my job is based on analysis, study, conversation and commiseration. I’ve learned that when I follow a careful process and work the process diligently, I achieve the best outcome.

img_4873

2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV

The Christian life is a process, too. Once we come to faith in Jesus, we are saved. But that is just the beginning. When we truly understand the magnitude of what Christ did for us on the cross, there ought to be some sense of urgency to share this good news with those who do not yet know Him. The qualities described here are outward signs of the faith that is living and growing within us. They set us apart and cause some to wonder what it is that makes us different, and thus they open doors.

It doesn’t happen overnight. It requires effort. Disciplines such as regular church attendance, daily Scripture reading and prayer, and the encouragement and support of Christian brothers and sisters are all integral components of our growth. As we grow, we tune in to our words, our behavior and our conduct and make changes when those things point away from Christ. We make mistakes, and when we do we confess our sins and work to change.

Growing in faith requires effort. Indeed, it is a process – an ongoing process. And the outcome is oh, so worth it.

Equipped to Witness

Quite some time ago, my employer at the time conducted an investigation that involved me and several other employees. Outside attorneys were brought in, and we were called before them multiple times. The process was a tough ordeal, but through it all, I had no sense of worry; no sense of fear. One morning, as the interviews were approaching their  conclusion, a non-believing coworker came into my office and closed the door. He told me that he was impressed that I had maintained such a calm demeanor through the investigative process while others were short-tempered, lashing out at coworkers and visibly concerned. He asked me what it was that enabled me to maintain my calm. I told him that I trusted God for the outcome, and that I prayed every morning that He would see me through. My faith in Jesus Christ would not allow me to despair. He simply said, “oh” and left my office. We didn’t speak of it again.

img_4867

Acts 1:8 NIV

We Christians are commanded to share the Gospel with the world around us. This can seem quite daunting, and even rather intimidating. The world has thrown up barriers to witness in the very places we spend most of our time: our schools and our workplaces. But one thing the world cannot do is forbid us from leading godly lives that catch the world’s attention. Our actions and behaviors are, themselves, witnesses to something, and I pray each morning that every aspect of my life will point straight to Christ. I don’t always get it right, but my hope and prayer is that the Lord will open doors for me to share the Gospel with somebody who hasn’t heard it, or has heard it and rejected it just as He did with this coworker. And when God opens that door, we need not fear for Jesus promised in this passage that the Holy Spirit Himself will equip us to respond.

As we seek and await opportunities to witness, what should we be doing in preparation? Awhile back, Pastor Keith Sanders of First Baptist Church in Keller, Texas shared three ways to witness that I have sought to put into practice:

  1. Seek to become an expert witness by reading and studying God’s Word.
  2. Seek to become a character witness in the way I live my daily life.
  3. Seek to be an eyewitness by sharing what I have seen and heard.

As promised, the Holy Spirit will equip us to do these things if we simply make ourselves available and ask Him to do so. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that this is unequivocally true.

We are in the process of relocating to Houston, Texas. We plan to join Grace Presbyterian Church, whose mission statement is “Making disciples by encouraging people to make Jesus visible in their daily lives.” You see, this is where the rubber meets the road. Our daily lives are where witness happens. This past Sunday, each of us were given a tag to place on our key chain reminding us that “We are Here” and this is where we are to start living to make Jesus visible. “Here” is wherever we happen to find ourselves at any given time.

img_4870

“You Are Here”gpch.org

I intend to honor God by seeking to follow Jesus’ commandment to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and I am thankful that the Holy Spirit has used faithful pastors like Keith Sanders, Trey Hill and others to equip me to do so. He also equips me through my morning reading and study time. I am convinced that, by living my daily life in a manner pleasing to God, people will notice and some will ask what it is that I’ve “got”. God will give me the opportunities to speak and the words to say. I just have to be available and ready.

What about you? Are you prepared? Are you available? Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38) Friends, we live in the harvest field. It’s time to get to work.

Soli Deo Gloria!

My Theme for 2016

I abandoned the notion of the New Year’s Resolution several years ago, and 2016 is no exception. But as I sit here in the wee hours of the first morning of the new year, having been awakened by a squeaky dryer and a yearning for a good cup of coffee, two things come to mind that I choose to set as my theme for this year. One is a passage from Scripture and the other is a quote from a well known country & western singer.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” ~ Micah 6:8 NASB

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” ~ Brad Paisley

What does a Micah 6:8 man look like? And how can I make Micah 6:8 the overriding theme of my 2016 book?

God says through the prophet Micah that He requires three things of me:

  1. IMG_3045

    Memorial Lutheran Church, Katy TX

    To do justice. When I think of justice, I think of fairness. I think of treating others as I would like them to treat me. While these things are true, justice is a far weightier concept than that. Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23) As leaders in the synagogue, the Pharisees were often more concerned with how others perceived their practice of religion rather than leading their congregation to a broader understanding of God. They elevated themselves above those whom God had called them to minister. Justice here puts each of us on an even plane. Yes, I am to practice the disciplines of my faith, not to glorify myself but to align myself more closely with God. At the same time, I must seek to serve and minister to others in whatever way and by whatever means God calls me. The Bible says that we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God (see Romans 3:23). A Micah 6:8 man never seeks to elevate himself above those around him – in church, in his family, at work – anywhere, any time.

  2. To love kindness. Jesus also said, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) How do I want others to treat me? I bet we all want pretty much the same things: to be treated with dignity and respect under any and all situations and circumstances. What would this world look like if each of us put these words of our Lord into practice? What would it look like if each of us actively sought to help meet the needs of others as they seek to help us meet ours? If each of us sought to live our lives under this mandate of Jesus’, kindness would abound. Isn’t it worth a shot?
  3. To walk humbly with your God. The Pharisees, seeking to trap Jesus, asked Him what is the greatest commandment in the Law. Jesus replied, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40) Notice who these two greatest commandments are NOT about: they’re not about me. They are about Him and His creation. Even the Ten Commandments reflect this, as the first four address our relationship with God and the last six address our relationship with others – our neighbors. A lifestyle of walking humbly with my God demonstrates a focus on Him and the people He has placed into my life. It does not seek a position of superiority over either.

IMG_3046As I look back over the pathway of my life thus far, I am thankful that God has chosen to gift me with a vibrant and an ever-growing faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. I look forward to continuing that journey with Him during 2016 as He wills. For my part, I will seek to be in His Word daily, converse with Him through daily prayer and meditation, worship with fellow Christians each Sunday, and seek to live out Micah 6:8 in all areas of my life. 2016 is a leap year, thus we all have an extra page to write in this brand new, clean book we’ve been given. With God’s help, my 2016 book will be pleasing to Him and to those around me.

Happy New Year!

The Voice Behind You

Adversity and affliction are good things. Yes, I’m serious. We all face adversity and affliction at certain points in our lives. While usually manageable, sometimes it seems they are about to overtake us and we become discouraged, frustrated, or angry. If you are in that situation, I offer here a different perspective for consideration.

O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help. As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” ~ Isaiah 30:19-21

Have you ever considered the notion that adversity and affliction could be our teachers? Have you ever considered them as bread and water? When we are walking with God, adversity and affliction are all of these things.

Adversity and Affliction as Our Teachers

We all experience difficult times in life; times during which adversity and affliction seem to rule the day. As they are happening, life can be difficult. It can be painful. We may feel as if we are in a deep, dark cave with no escape in sight. All we want is to be out of the cave and back in the light. Once we are delivered from the cave we take a deep breath and move on. As I consider those times I realize in hindsight that they have molded and shaped me into the man I am today. I learned lessons from having gone through those difficulties. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, adversity and affliction were teaching me some very important life lessons.

God teaches us here that adversity and affliction are, in fact, teachers. He uses these difficult times for our ultimate good! Knowing that, and walking through life trusting the Lord, I now handle adversity and affliction completely differently than I did in the past. Instead of anger, I am eager. Instead of downcast, I am positive. Instead of experiencing stress, I experience peace. I trust God: I know I am being taught. I know the difficulties will end. And I know that, upon escaping the cave, I will look back and appreciate the lessons I have learned.

Adversity and Affliction as Bread and Water

This blew me away the first time I read this. Why does God refer to “the bread of adversity and the water of affliction?” Bread and water are the basic nutrients of life. Prisoners being punished used to be put on bread and water diets – no pleasure food, just the basic nutrients needed to keep them alive as they served their punishment. As Israel traveled through the desert after their release from Egypt, God provided manna and water to nourish them on their journey. Bread and water are important to nourishing and preserving life. Could it be that adversity and affliction are somehow important, too?

Just as I can look back on times of adversity and affliction in my life and realize I have learned lessons from having experienced them, I also realize in hindsight that I am a better person for having experienced these things. I have gained confidence. I have gained wisdom. I have gained compassion. My faith in God has been strengthened. I am a better man, and even more important, I am a better Christian. Indeed, I have been greatly nourished through the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, and I thank God for that nourishment.

The Voice Behind You

God’s promise given to us through the prophet Isaiah (30:21) in this passage is one of my favorites in Scripture:

“Whether you look to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it.’”

Read it again. And again. Do you hear the compassion? Do you hear the caring? Do you hear the Love? You see, when we walk with God we are never alone. He is always there, teaching us, nourishing us, guiding us, and loving us. Adversity and affliction will come. It’s OK. God has proven time and time again that He will use them for our ultimate good. God cares about your life and He cares about mine. He cares about what is happening to you and to me right this very moment. His path is perfect, and when we tune in to Him, He will show us the way out of that cave. At all times, but especially during times of adversity and affliction, we must listen for His voice. We must be in His Word. We must be in prayer. And we must listen.

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, thank you for your unfailing mercy, grace and love. Thank you for the lessons you have taught me thus far in my life, and thank you for being that voice behind me, showing me the way. Help me, Lord, to be in your Word and to walk with You through all my remaining days. Through Jesus I pray, AMEN.

The Treasure of God’s Word

Are you a Christian who believes that the Old Testament has nothing to offer we Christians in these modern times?

Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. ~ Luke 24:27

Soon after His resurrection, Jesus joined two of His followers as they walked along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They were kept from recognizing Him. Jesus asked them what they were discussing along the way, and they described the recent events concerning Jesus’ death, burial, and reported resurrection. They expressed their disappointment that Jesus of Nazareth apparently was not the Messiah as they had come to expect.

Jesus then opened the Scriptures to them, explaining the prophesies of the Old Testament that point straight to the Messiah. Later, as they dined together, Jesus broke bread and their eyes were opened; they recognized their risen Lord and Savior!

God reveals Himself to us in many ways. We look at the wonder of creation and see His handiwork all around us. We see Him in the faith and sacrifice of those Christians who have gone before us. God reveals Himself to us in His Holy Word – the Bible.

I’m always amazed when somebody claims that the Bible is nothing more than an elaborate hoax on humanity. Some claim that it is all made up, and that we believers are fools for believing it. They claim that it is out of step with modern-day humanity; that it was useful before, but no longer useful in this so-called evolved and intelligent society. They accuse those of us who believe God’s word of wallowing in fantasy. Such thought, my friends, is the work of the devil himself.

Many modern day believers set themselves up to fall into this trap by ignoring God’s Word, or by only studying portions of it. When we Christians limit our study of Scripture, we do not partake of God’s full revelation of Himself and we open ourselves up to buying into the hoax. As I read God’s Word, the majesty of who He is springs forth from the pages. As I read Old Testament prophesy and New Testament revelation, I see a more complete picture of God and I realize that those proffering the hoax theory are the fools.

In this passage, Jesus intentionally keeps His companions from recognizing Him so that He would have the opportunity to relate Scriptures to Himself – to alleviate their doubts, from God’s Word, that Jesus is the Messiah. Later, when He opened their eyes over dinner, the full picture of Jesus became crystal clear to them and they were ready to share the good news.

Christian, if you are not studying God’s Word in its entirety, you are missing out on God’s gift of revelation to His people. It’s not too late. On January 1, I began a one-year Bible reading plan. Each morning I read passages from the Old Testament and the New Testament as well as Psalms and Proverbs. The reading plan is sequential – I am in the Old Testament book of Judges and the New Testament book of Luke as I write this. And, already, my understanding and awe of my Lord and my God is rapidly growing. As He reveals Himself to me in this Treasure of His Word, my faith is growing stronger as well. Bible reading plans don’t have to start on January 1 – won’t you join me?

For the complete account of Jesus’ encounter with His followers along the road to Emmaus, read Luke 24:13-35.

%d bloggers like this: