A Way To Hear From God

I’m writing this primarily to men (like me), but it applies to women, students and children.  In my time alone with God this morning I read Psalm 95 and it reminded me of a posture I can take to hear from God especially when people (you, me & others) gather as the Church for services.

This isn’t a check-list but a suggestion as to what you can do to hear from God as we gather.  It can also apply to your time alone with God if you have one.

Ps 95:1 Sing to the Lord.   Don’t just stand there like a spectator; engage when we sing as a congregation.   Use your brain, eyes, mouth, tongue, vocal chords, lips, heart and mind and participate because we’re singing about the greatness of God (even if you don’t know the song or it’s not your style).   I’m pretty sure the songs they sang in Old Testament Times and New Testament Times wouldn’t be your style either.    Ps 95:2-3 says we should sing songs of praise to Him because He is a great God.   Would you agree?  Then sing it!  God is good; express it as we sing.  In addition to preparing you to hear from God, it encourages those who might be watching your example (kids, students or other adults)!

Ps 95:2  Spend a moment in thanksgiving.   As you get ready, as you drive to gather with your church and/or as you arrive – spend a few moments thanking God for His greatness and goodness to you.  Psalm 100 says we enter His presence with singing and thanksgiving!

Ps 95:6  Bow your heart and life to Him.   Verse 6 suggests we kneel before God.   This can be physically, mentally, emotionally and/or spiritually.   The idea is that as we gather as His Church we recognize who He is and choose to submit our lives to Him.   You might say something as simple as: “Lord, I confess You are God and I am not, so I submit my life to You today; speak to me because I’m here to listen and obey whatever You say.”

Ps 95:7-8  Don’t harden your heart.  As you prepare for any gathering of God’s people don’t harden your heart.  Come with an open and expectant heart regardless of the music or who the speaker might be!   I suggest you simply tell God you want to hear from Him and want to obey.   I often ask Him if there’s an attitude or action in my life that needs to change, or if theres something specific I need to do like mend or work on a relationship or ask someone for forgiveness.  I also try to make sure I’ve confessed my sin (1 John 1:9) and have a right heart before God.

I hope these suggestions help you in some way.   God wants to speak to you; will you listen?  

Have a blessed day.

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Wise or Foolish at School or in the Workplace

This is that time of the year when students are going back to school, headed off to college or entering the workplace.  Students, I’m praying for you because your choices matter!  Parents, I’m praying for you as you release your students to a whole new season of life.

I’m an old guy now, but remember my high school and college years being filled with a few good times and a number of regrets because I made a ton of unwise choices. Many of my poor choices were the result of wanting to be accepted. At that time in my life I had no idea about who God made me to be and how that could have a positive impact on me and all my relationships. Another reason for my unwise choices was because I chose to hang out with other unwise people.

I wish I’d known and applied this simple truth from one of the wisest men who ever lived; his name was Solomon. Wise friends make you wise,  but you hurt yourself by going around with fools.   Proverbs 13:20 CEV

None of us want to be characterized as a fool or foolish person.  Here are a few things Solomon warned us against because they characterize foolish behavior.

Be very cautious of people who don’t take sin or the consequences of sin seriously. Proverbs 10:23 says this type person is a fool.   Sin is choosing to live life my way without regard for what God desires. Been there, and sin had some devastating consequences in my life.

Foolish people may seek the advice of friends who think they’re giving sincere advice, but it’s often sincerely wrong.   When you need wisdom, ask someone who’s been there and demonstrated wisdom in overcoming or avoiding mistakes in life. Proverbs 12:15 tells us fools think they know what’s best and refuse to listen to wise advice.

One of the best things you can do to avoid foolish choices is develop convictions.  A conviction is a pre-determined answer that’s not based on emotion; rather it’s based on truth.   Convictions can help sway your decisions the right way when your emotions are lying to you.  Proverbs 14:16 says a fool is not cautious or careful. In other words, they don’t plan for difficult decisions or emotional pressure because they’ve not developed wise convictions.

Hopefully, you can talk to your parents about anything.  If not, find a godly man or woman who has demonstrated wisdom and character and seek their advice. Most foolish people refuse to do this; Proverbs 15:5 says fools disobey parents and refuse correction.  On of the wisest things I learned to do in my twenties was to begin listening to the advice and correction of mature followers of Jesus.

Learn from your mistakes quickly.  I can’t count the number of times I didn’t do this because I allowed the voice of “foolish” friends to prevail and I wanted to be accepted (by the wrong people).  I have many regrets because I didn’t learn from my mistakes fast enough.   One “foolish” choice can impact you for a lifetime.    Proverbs 26:11 is pretty graphic; it says “Dogs return to eat their vomit, just as fools repeat their foolishness.”

There are a number of verses in Proverbs about wisdom.  Simply put, Proverbs 1:7 states: “How does a man become wise? The first step is to trust and reverence the Lord.  Only fools refuse to be taught.” I was a young man before I understood this. I could have avoided a lot of pain and regret if I’d made the wise choice to trust the Lord and learn from people who were following Him much earlier in my life.

However, the most profound statement I believe anyone made about wisdom was when Jesus said:   “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.Matthew 7:24    I’ve never met a person who took the words of Jesus seriously, put them into practice and regretted it. I hope you’ll consider doing this whether in High School, College, or the Workplace. I also hope you’ll make this your practice in all your relationships!

I’m praying you have a year (and life) filled with wisdom.

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PRAY FOR AND WITH YOUR KIDS

One of the most powerful things you can do is pray with and for your kids; not just when they’re in need, but throughout the day.

“Janet and I still pray consistently for our children, but we intentionally focus on our grandchildren too. When our kids were young, the best time to pray for them and with them was at bedtime. Bedtime was a great time to talk about the day, have treasured conversations and pray. Of course each of them was different; some nights they were tired and ready to go to bed (not very often!), but at least one of them usually had “just one more thing” to talk about with us. Bedtime was a great time to answer their questions and ask questions about their day to build their faith and encourage their trust in God.

When it comes to our grandchildren, we don’t have that privilege, but we do have the privilege of praying for our grandchildren and their parents. We began praying for each of them before they were born and will continue to pray for them until God takes us home. Of course, we prayed they would be healthy and their moms would be healthy as they were born. We want them to mature physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually and we pray for these things.

However, the first thing we began to pray for was their salvation. You can know you’re praying within God’s will when you pray for this. (1 Timothy 2:1-6)

We pray that they’ll grow in their relationship with Jesus and be full of faith, love and power. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

We pray that they’ll always walk in truth. (3 John 1:4)

We pray that they’ll seek first God and His Kingdom. (Matthew 6:33)

We pray that Jesus will always be their first love and they’ll never turn their back on Him. (Revelation 2:4)

We pray that they’ll be mighty men and a mighty woman of God who will only boast in the fact they know and understand the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

We pray for them to find a Godly spouse. (2 Corinthians 6:14)

We pray they’ll always love God’s Church; universally and locally. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Of course there are a number of other things we pray for them. As they begin a new school year we’ll pray they work to their full potential and develop their minds and skills. We also pray they’ll find great friends. (Proverbs 13:20)

Why post this? To give you some additional ideas of how you can pray for your kids or grands! God Bless!

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Readers Are Learners and Learners Are Better Leaders

I was discussing a book I’d recommended to a friend recently and realized just how much I love to read.   This wasn’t always the case with me, but I’ve developed this habit of love over the years and read a variety of books on a regular basis.   I keep a list of current books I plan to read, and like to read the classics occasionally.  If you don’t have a planned reading list, I hope you’ll consider developing one and start reading! By the way, I’ve loved being part of a ministry called Radical Mentoring (RM) for the past five years because RM has challenged me to read books I wouldn’t have chosen to read on my own. I believe readers are learners and learners are better leaders.

I primarily read non-fiction, but I enjoy taking a break to read a novel once or twice a year.   Most of the non-fiction books I read are written by Christian authors, but I also read books written by those who are not followers of Jesus.

When I read a book written by a Christian author, I always ask God to reveal to me something I need to learn or can glean from the writings to help me or challenge me personally.    I don’t always agree with everything the authors write, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get something worthwhile and great from the book.

When I read books written by non-Christian authors I ask God to help me glean understanding from the authors perspective.  I want to learn from them and gain a better perspective of our culture so I can learn more effective ways of putting the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) into practice.

When I recommend books to people, I am hoping and believing they are at a point in their life where they can glean truth God has for them in the book.  I don’t expect them to agree with everything in the book, but I’m hoping they’ll be open to learn some truth that God wants them to learn and practice as they read.

Readers are learners and learners are better leaders.

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Life Lessons From A Great Dad

My dad was one of my greatest heroes. He was one of the strongest men of character and integrity I’ve ever known. Years ago I asked him to fill out a book for me about his life. One page asked about the 5 most important life lessons he’d learned. Here’s what he wrote.

Here’s a photo of him as a young man…

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The Older You Get The Better You Get – Unless You’re A Banana

I found this and dozens more great captions from Instagram to use on an 18th BIRTHDAY! 

So HAPPY 18th BIRTHDAY GRACE FELLOWSHIP! (June 8, 2003)

According to dozens of Social Media pages, turning 18 is a milestone birthday to celebrate! 

As I said – I found dozens of cool captions to use to celebrate an 18th Birthday from Instagram.  Here’s a few of my favs with a few edits for Grace Fellowship…

  • Another year older, but still looking marvelous!
  • Today, I just want to thank God for adding another year to your life.
  • I can’t wait to see what you do with the next 18 years.
  • We age not in years, but in stories.
  • Keep shining; the world needs your light!
  • You were made on purpose, for a purpose.
  • Take a deep breath, keep reflecting and dream big.
  • Your 18th Birthday!  The start of so many exciting adventures.
  • Bringing bigger dreams to 18.
  • It’s your birthday, and nobody is as excited as I am.

Today I’m excited and celebrating these things in big ways….

  • A little over 18 years ago a group of people had the courage to step out in faith and trust God to start a new and different kind of church called Grace Fellowship.
  • God chose to call me to be the first Lead Pastor of Grace. I’m humbled and grateful for the privilege of serving in that capacity for 17 years.
  • God continues to do an amazing work in and through Grace Fellowship. 1000’s of lives have been changed by Him and continue to be changed for God’s glory!
  • God called Chris Hurst as our new Lead Pastor.  I’m so proud of Chris and can’t wait to see what God going to do through Grace in the years to come under his leadership.

SO – ONCE AGAIN – HAPPY 18th BIRTHDAY GRACE!

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Repentance isn’t a religious word…

Luke, a 1st century physician, wrote an accurate account of the life of Jesus which included His birth and early years, including information about Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist. Luke did a meticulous investigation of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection by interviewing a number of the eyewitnesses of these things, and was a regular companion of the Apostle Paul.

In Luke 3, he writes of John the Baptist: “And he came into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Luke 3:3 NASB John wasn’t preaching you need to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, but that after genuine repentance (which is the requirement for forgiveness of sin), be baptized as a visual sign of your repentance and forgiveness.

Repentance basically means a change of mind that leads to a change of heart and lifestyle. Let’s say you believed a certain product was good and then learned truth about the negative aspects of this particular product. In essence, to repent, you would change your mind about the product and change your lifestyle when you quit using it.

However, when John talks about repentance, it’s immensely important. Repentance is not about being religious, it’s about establishing a relationship with God which is then demonstrated in the way we respond to God and people. To repent means I change my mind about my own sin (living life focused on myself with little concern about God’s desire) and change my mind about Jesus (who He was and what He did for me).

Repentance means I discover the truth about God’s grace and love and choose to turn away from sin (living life focused on myself); turning to God to live in a way that honors Him by trusting/following Jesus. Granted, none of us live a life of perfection after genuine repentance, but there should be evidence of a change in direction as we submit ourselves to Jesus and He begins to transform (change) us.

John said it this way: “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God….” Luke 3:8 NLT

BTW – when Jesus began His ministry, Matthew (an eyewitness of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection) writes: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 4:17 EST

If you’re a Jesus follower, the most evident proof of genuine repentance is that we love God with a whole heart and this is evidenced by the way we treat others; loving them as God loves us. (see Matthew 22:36-40)

When John told the people to prove your repentance by the way you live, they asked him how? He gave them some practical examples that are the result of living out the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40). In Luke 3:10-14 he told them three practical ways to demonstrate their repentance.

1) Generosity – make it your habit to share with others in need.

2) Live a life of integrity in all matters, especially those related to the handling of money and possessions.

3) Don’t use your power of position to take advantage of others, rather be content with what you have and back to point 1 – share with others.

Just a few thoughts from my time alone with God this morning.

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A Different GOAT

There’s not been much talk about the GOAT in sports recently, but this week I was reading some things Jesus said that actually relate to a better meaning of the GOAT.

Whether you’re a follower of Jesus or not, what He said could drastically impact your relationships and life in a positive way because following Jesus makes life better and makes you better at life.

Some religious people in the first century asked Jesus; “What’s the greatest commandment?”  In other words, what’s the GOAT when it comes to God’s commands.

Jesus said:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”   Mark 12:30-31

This is the plumb-line for a follower of Jesus.  If you’re developing a Christian worldview and growing in your relationship with Jesus, this will be your plumb-line.  If you’re more influenced by a secular worldview, you’ll know these commands, but they’ll not impact every decision.

Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me you’ll keep my commands.”  None of us are perfect in keeping His commands.  As I’ve said for years, we live in direction – not perfection.   However, the direction of our lives should move us closer to fulfilling these commands.  If this isn’t happening, you should seriously reflect on who or what’s influencing your choices and worldview.

Let’s take it a step further with what Jesus said.

When Jesus was asked by His disciples about who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, He used a child as an example.  Simple childlike faith that fully trusts and follows Jesus leads to greatness.   (Matthew 18, Luke 9)

Jesus also said the greatest among us would be the person who serves God by serving people.

When His disciples were arguing about who was the greatest among them, look what happened.    Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

If the GOAT command is to love God first and love people as you love yourself, the greatest way to demonstrate that love is found in Jesus’ words in John 15:12-14  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.

To lay down your life for your friends requires sacrifice, service and a Christian worldview that doesn’t include a primary focus on “ME”.   To lay down your life for your friends requires that you love God first and people as you love yourself!  In other words, we need to have the attitude of Jesus as written about in Philippians 2:1-11.

To do this involves sacrifice and most likely some form of suffering, but Jesus says when you trust and follow me, your ultimate reward will be GREAT.    “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  Matthew 5:11-12

One of the most radical illustrations of a person who chose this lifestyle in the 1st Century was the Apostle Paul.   He was a man who hated and persecuted Christians and then became one.  Paul became a follower of Jesus because he has a personal encounter with Jesus after Jesus was raised from the dead.  When this happened, Paul realized Jesus was legit; Jesus was the Messiah, Son of God, Lord.

God used Paul to plant many churches and under the direction of God’s Holy Spirit, Paul wrote much of what we have in the New Testament.  One of Paul’s key statements about how we should serve (which is greatness) is found in his letter to the local church in Ephesus. 

And [His gifts to the church were varied and] He Himself appointed some as apostles [special messengers, representatives], some as prophets [who speak a new message from God to the people], some as evangelists [who spread the good news of salvation], and some as pastors and teachers [to shepherd and guide and instruct], [and He did this] to fully equip and perfect the saints (God’s people) for works of service, to build up the body of Christ [the church]; until we all reach oneness in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, [growing spiritually] to become a mature believer, reaching to the measure of the fullness of Christ [manifesting His spiritual completeness and exercising our spiritual gifts in unity].   Ephesians 4:11-13 AMP

The bottom line for me is a Christian worldview and a genuine love for God and others will lead me to serve God by serving people; in His church (the local church) and in our communities.

Just my ramblings on this Thursday morning.  Hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on these things.  Have a blessed day.

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Despair and Hope

When your soul’s in despair, change your focus.

In light of what’s going on in culture there are times I feel a sense of despair as did the author of Psalm 42 which I just read.

In these times of frustration, fear or despair – I remember whose I am and who I am and focus on God who is my hope.

When I thank Him it builds my trust. When I praise Him it changes my perspective.

Declaring God’s goodness helps dispel my despair.

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HE’S NOT HERE – HE IS RISEN

Reviewing some photos from our trips to Israel caused me to reflect on the things that took place as Jesus was arrested, falsely tried, crucified and raised from the dead.

Of course, one of the most significant places we visited was the Garden Tomb which is believed by most to be the tomb where Jesus was buried after His crucifixion.  The photos below are of the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem.

As Matthew writes in Matthew 28:1-10 – “Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”

The Resurrection is one of the most documented events in human history and is the key to the faith and growth of the early church.  Christianity is based on the resurrection of Jesus. 

Paul, who hated the name of Jesus and violently persecuted Christians in the first century, later became a Christian because he had a personal encounter with Jesus after Jesus’ resurrection.  He realized Jesus was legit; Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.  Before Paul was martyred for his faith in Jesus, he wrote much of what is preserved in the New Testament for us including these words about the resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15.

Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.13 For if there is no resurrection

13 For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 

16 And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 

Garden Tomb Sign
Garden Tomb Entrance
Garden Tomb Inside
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