Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Let’s Show God

I am reading through the book of Job right now and it is, once again, so pertinent to our circumstances today. Amazing how God’s Word does that, huh? For those who do not know the story. Job was a man of great faith. A successful farmer with a large family, and many servants. Satan claimed Job’s faith was based upon his wealth. He believed, if Job lost his wealth, he would lose his faith and curse God. The Lord had faith in Job, and so He allows Satan to take away Job’s wealth. Satan kills all of Job’s animals including his donkeys, sheep, and camels. He then kills all of his farmhands and shepherds. Satan doesn’t stop there. He also kills all of Job’s children. Leaving Job penniless and alone. Only Job’s wife survives. Still, Job does not lose his faith or curse God. Satan then claims it’s because Job has good health, but if he lost his health he would lose his faith and curse God. God continues to have faith in Job and allows Satan to do as he pleases without taking his life. Satan, therefore, “…struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot” (Job 2:7).

Now Job is a sinner, just like the rest of us, but he had not done anything to deserve these consequences. God was essentially betting on Job. Believing in Job’s faithfulness. Similarly, we are sinners too, but we have not done anything specific to deserve Covid-19. Sometimes bad things happen. Bad things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. We do not live in paradise. We live in a fallen world, full of fallen people.

The question is, will we lose faith and curse God when bad things like the coronavirus happen? How about a hurricane? Tornado? Any other illness. Cancer. Heart disease. Stroke. Alzheimer’s. 

It is easy to have faith when things are going well. It’s much harder when things are not. Like Job, I can understand frustration, weariness, disappointment, and even anger. However, think about this. When your child is afraid or in pain they usually run to you and want to hold on tighter, don’t they?

I don’t know if this coronavirus is a test, like Job’s situation was for him. My prayer is that we continue to face this unexpected event affecting every facet of our lives, by running to the Lord, and holding on tighter to Him. He is the only source of true restoration, healing, and peace. 

At the end of the story, we learn that Job never lost his faith. God restores his fortunes. Giving him twice as much as he had before. God even gives Job ten more children and he lives to see four generations of his children and grandchildren.

God does bless the faithful. Let’s show God that Satan cannot get us to curse Him either. Let’s show the Lord that our faith is true by encouraging each another, and helping one other during this most difficult of times. Let’s show God that He can bet on us too. I do love it when Satan loses.  

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

I Do

Two Saturday’s ago, my middle son Justin got married. I am so blessed to now have Taylor as my daughter-in-law. Any parent will tell you when your child is hurting, whether it is from a physical injury or emotional wound, your heart hurts just as much. It is difficult to explain. It is something you cannot really understand until you have children of your own. The opposite is true as well. Taylor so obviously makes Justin truly happy, and I believe he makes her happy too. To see my son so deeply, genuinely happy brings a dad indescribable joy, and I am grateful to God.

Today, I want to share with you what I said to them at the ceremony, as I believe it is a message for a wider audience. I said, 

“Justin, Taylor, your mom (soon to be mother-in-law) and I have been married for thirty-nine years this October. I wish I could say it was four decades of marital bliss, but I would be lying. Marriage is work. Hard work. Worthy of the work. I so wish that I had the insight I have accumulated over the past thirty-nine years, back in 1981. I would have been a much better husband, father, and person. One piece of wisdom I can share, I discovered only a few years ago. It relates to what the Bible says in Ephesians 5. In Ephesians 5, the Bible clearly presents a command to husbands and wives. Husbands are to love their wives, just as Christ loved the church, and wives are to respect their husbands. What hit me was that when a bride and groom make such promises on their wedding day, they make them not only to each other, but also to God. He is present. He is listening. He was the one who brought you together. There will be times when keeping the promise will be a challenge. Ask anyone who has been married longer than a year. Nonetheless, because you make this promise to God, He expects you to honor your word. This means, a husband is even called to love a disrespectful wife, and a wife is called to respect an unloving husband. There is no justification for a husband to say, ‘I will love my wife after she respects me,’ nor for a wife to say, ‘I will respect my husband after he loves me.’ ‘No,’ God says, ‘I do not care how he or she is behaving, you promised Me to love, cherish, honor and respect each other, and I expect you to honor your promise.’ Keep your promise to God, even when it is hard, and He will bless you with a marriage beyond anything you could imagine, and you won’t have to wait thirty-nine years to figure that out. God loves your wedding. Invite Him to your marriage too.”

Do you see why this is not just for Justin and Taylor? Whether you have been married one year, fifty years, or are hope to get married someday, Ephesians 5 still applies. When you stand before God and exchange vows and promises with your beloved, you are making those same promises to the Lord. In the midst of an argument, however – especially if we are the “wronged” party – we tend to feel entitled to withhold our love or respect until our spouse is rightly apologetic and repentant. That is not what we promised. Sure, on occasion, our spouse may not be living up to his or her promise, but that never excuses us from honoring ours. Especially, our promise to God. He always lives up to His word.

I encourage all my married brothers and sisters out there to remember the promise you made to God on your wedding day. Keep it. Honor it, and God will bless you more than you can imagine. For those who are not married, you can bless your children’s, family members, or friend’s marriages by sharing this with them. “I do,” is a promise made to God, not just to each other.

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Do You Have a “Jared?”

The Book of Proverbs is a collection of wisdom sayings written primarily by Solomon – the wisest man who ever lived. The son of King David. In Chapter 10, Solomon writes, “A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother” (Proverbs 10:1; NIV). Today, August 12, is my youngest son Jared’s birthday. He turns thirty-two today. Jared was an “unexpected child.” You see, after two boys, we were not actually planning on more children, when we discovered one day that Renée was pregnant. I have always said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans for the future.” Solomon tells us as much later in Chapter 16, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9; NLT). I am so glad God’s plan for us was to have three sons. I cannot imagine my life without Jared.

In May of last year, I finally received my doctorate. It took me a while. I was fifty-five years old. Yet, even with Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degrees now, in my opinion, without a doubt, my son Jared is still the smartest person I know. When he is interested in something, philosophy, religion, astronomy, economics, history, agriculture, whatever, he does extensive research on the subject, and before you know it, he could easily teach the subject at the college level. It is truly amazing. He is also multi-talented. I know a lot of parents say that about their kids, but I have never been “that parent.” Still, Jared excelled at soccer and swimming. He can cook and garden. He can play the guitar, bass, piano, drums (better than I can, and I have been playing for forty-two years), and writes music as well. Really great songs. Better than the two hundred or so that, I wrote over my fifteen-years in a band. Jared has always succeeded at work. Wherever he worked, his employer would eventually discover his gifts and talents, and he would soon rise to positions of responsibility. Sure, like any human, he is a sinner and has his weaknesses, but “A wise son brings joy to his father” and over the past thirty-two years, he has brought me such joy.

I mention Jared today, because it is his birthday, and because I am certain you have a “Jared” in your life. I hope you do, and I hope if there is someone in your life that has brought you great joy, that you would let them know. Soon. I have done literally hundreds of funerals in my twenty-three years of ministry and at funerals; I hear the nicest things about people. Yet, I often wonder, did they tell that person any of it while they were still alive to hear? Don’t wait. Tell your “Jared,” your parents, friends, children, how you feel about them. About the difference they made in your life. How much you love them. None of us knows how much time we have. That is particularly clear during this time of coronavirus. It would be such a shame to miss the opportunity. So, Jared, I just want you to know, you have brought so much joy to this dad. Thank you. Happy birthday. 

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Real Thing

Fourteen years ago, I was diagnosed as a Type-2 diabetic. You could have blown me over with a feather. Diabetes was not really prevalent in my family tree. My dad had been diagnosed at sixty-three years old, but I was forty-three! It was quite a shock. As was the class with the nutritionist that Renée and I attended later. I learned all about carbohydrates and how all carbohydrates turn to sugar, so I needed to severely limit my intake of carbs. Do you know what carbs are in? Everything! That means no sugar, sauces, sweet pickles, or salad dressings. No candy, milk, or soda. Anything that has flour has carbohydrates. That means no pasta, no breads, pizza, cakes, cookies, chips, crackers, or bagels! I loved bagels! No McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, or Five Guys. All fast food is pretty much a no. It is not easy, but so many people struggle with far worse things. I truly am blessed that, at least in the 21st century, there are a myriad of sugar-free options, which diabetics did not have seventy or better years ago.

Renée, my wife of thirty-nine years this October, has been on this journey with me and has really been a trooper. She is constantly experimenting with alternatives like almond flour and coconut flour in order to make something close to what I used to enjoy. As a result, I have had cookies, cakes, and pies all made with almond flour and Truvia (a sweetener made from the Stevia plant). I so appreciate her effort and it all tastes good, but it is never the same as the original. It’s not her fault. Pizza crust made with almond flour or cauliflower is just not the same. I would not expect it to be. They are substitutes.               

Similarly, there is no substitute for Christ. Philippians 4:7 tells us that only in Christ Jesus can we experience God’s peace, which passes all understanding. Galatians 5 reminds us that when we walk with the Lord, “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). The list of ways people seek peace is endless. You can try to fill what is missing in your life with money, drugs, alcohol, or sex, but they are all substitutes. You will never find what you are seeking until you seek Jesus. You may think a bagel made with coconut flour tastes good, but eat one and then sink your teeth into a genuine Jewish New York bagel boiled in water for a couple of minutes to give it that flavorful, modestly sweet taste, with a chewy, soft, shiny crust. There is no comparison. You simply cannot fake real bagels any more than you can fake true peace, joy, kindness, patience, gentleness and love.

So, if you feel as if something is missing in your life, stop looking elsewhere. Come to Jesus. If you know someone else who feels that way, tell them about Jesus. He promises, “…everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:8). Nothing will ever taste as good as the bread of life – Jesus Christ. He – not Coca Cola – is the real thing.

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

No Substitute

Fourteen years ago, I was diagnosed as a Type-2 diabetic. You could have blown me over with a feather. Diabetes was not really prevalent in my family tree. My dad had been diagnosed at sixty-three years old, but I was forty-three! It was quite a shock. As was the class with the nutritionist, Renée and I attended later. I learned all about carbohydrates and how all carbohydrates turn to sugar, so I needed to severely limit my intake of carbs. Do you know what carbs are in? Everything! No carbs meant no sugar, sauces, sweet pickles, or salad dressings. No candy, milk, or soda. Anything that has flour has carbohydrates. That means no pasta, no breads, pizza, cakes, cookies, chips, crackers, or bagels! I love bagels! No McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, or Five Guys. All fast food is pretty much a no. It is not easy, but so many people struggle with far worse things. I truly am blessed that, in the 21st century, there are a myriad of sugar-free options, which diabetics did not have seventy or better years ago.

Renée, my wife of thirty-nine years this October, has been on this journey with me and has really been a trooper. She is constantly experimenting with alternatives like almond flour and coconut flour in order to make something close to what I used to enjoy. As a result, I have had cookies, cakes, and pies all made with almond flour and Truvia (a sweetener made from the Stevia plant). I so appreciate her effort and it all tastes good, but it is never the same as the original. It’s not her fault. A cauliflower pizza crust or one made with almond flour is just not the same. I would not expect it to be. They are substitutes.               

Likewise, there is no substitute for Christ. Philippians 4:7 tells us that only in Christ Jesus can we experience God’s peace, which passes all understanding. Galatians 5 reminds us that when we walk with the Lord, “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). The list of ways people seek peace is endless. You can try to fill what is missing in your life with money, drugs, alcohol, or sex, but they are all substitutes. You will never find what you are seeking until you seek Jesus. You may think a bagel made with wheat protein isolates, tastes good, but eat one and then sink your teeth into a genuine Jewish New York bagel boiled in water for a couple of minutes to give it that flavorful, modestly sweet taste, with a chewy, soft, shiny crust. There is no comparison. You simply cannot fake real bagels any more than you can fake true peace, joy, kindness, patience, gentleness and love.

So, if you feel as if something is missing in your life, stop looking elsewhere. Come to Jesus. If you know someone else who is seeking, tell them about Jesus. He promises, “…everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:8). Nothing will ever taste as good as the bread of life – Jesus Christ. He – not Coca Cola – is the real thing, and He is carb-free!  

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.