Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lord, We Want Your Presence

Colossians 3:23 (New King James Version)23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the church, not a single person was quiet as we prepared for the Christmas program. There was a buzz of excitement and an air of expectation to make sure it was just right. The voices, the timing, the sound, the lights, the speaking parts, the costumes, everything had to be flawless.

In dress rehearsal, the choir members were lined up on the stage with care, in hopes that a crowd would soon be there.
The program was nearly perfect, everyone felt good about themselves. It is awesome to see how things come together, let's listen for the applause.

The lights come up and to our amazement there is no applause. To our astonishment there is no crowd, just one lonely figure sitting about halfway back on the aisle.

As our eyes adjust to the light and begin to focus, surely not, it can't be, but it is, it is the the Lord Jesus sitting there. I take a hard swallow and begin to walk toward Him. In disbelief I don't know what to say or how to respond, so I just blurt it out, " Lord, we welcome you, we are glad you are here. Well what did you think?"

As His eyes met mine I could sense it coming. "You welcome me here? You didn't even take the time to ask me to be here or to bless the service? It was a nice program, good participation and a very festive performance, but always remember, there is an audience of one that you should try to please. I could have heard the same thing at the local civic gathering tonight or school production."

If you want this year's program to be special, then you have to give it to me and and do it for me. Pray before you do things, and ask me to prepare your hearts, and the hearts of the people who will be here. Regardless of the size of the crowd, in all you do, do it for me. It is then that you will know that the audience of one has been pleased."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas, Contentment, and Libby

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. for we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we carry nothing out. and having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
I Tim 6:6

Recently I have found myself doing something that I must confess. It is something that Caesar the Dog Whisperer certainly won't recommend. I have found myself heating up the stove, and cooking our dog Libby two scrambled eggs. That's correct! I said it and feel better about it. I know it sounds crazy, but I thought it would be a treat, some serendipity in the life of a dog.

The strangest thing has happened. Instead of saying thank you in dog language, she comes back every time as if to say, where is the rest, there must be more.

Applying that to a Christian's life, we can be that way sometimes. God blesses us, and instead of stopping to say "Thank you Lord", we have already moved on to the next thing we think God needs to do for us.

Paul wrote to Timothy, that godliness with contentment is great gain. We are to be content with the things God has given us. We are to strive to live a godly life. Not one or the other, godliness with contentment.

Why don't you stop and thank the Lord for what He has done. The Lord must want to hear a grateful heart simply say thank you.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Miracle On N. Liberty St.

After serving our fourth Annual Free Thanksgiving Day Meal for the community, my response is, "It is worth it!" I am really proud of our church as we try to better serve people with the love of Christ. You have touched many lives serving with the heart of the Master.

Last night Renee and I watched the Hallmark Presentation, "Christmas in November." In this heart wrenching story about a little girl with leukemia, the parents moved the celebration of the holidays up. It was a reminder to me that we need to celebrate Christ every day, not just a few days at Christmas or at Easter.

In the movie there was unconditional love, forgiveness, reconciliation, and families sticking together when things got tough. That is a picture of a church and what Christ does.

As you watch some of your favorite Christmas movies this year, don't forget to thank the Lord for he really is doing a Miracle on N. Liberty St., one life and one family at at time.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Day After

Have you ever shopped and stood on the outside of a store, just looking in through the window. For me suits always look better on mannequins than they do on me, but I like to look. People often allude to the statement that is easy to criticize, or coach, or lead, when you are on the outside looking in.
Today, the day after my birthday, I met a pastor at Applebees for lunch. The parking lot was unusually crowded for this time of the day, and then it hit me. Today is November 11th, Veteran's Day. I saw the commercial and they were blessing all Veteran's with a free lunch. It was wonderful! It was packed!
My dad did not have to serve and I haven't served, so sometimes I feel like the outsider looking in when we honor our vets.
I made my way to the table and we had a good meal, and as I scanned the room, there were older men and women, many with canes or walking aides. There were men my age, and a younger group as well, some in uniform. I was reminded once again that a price has been paid for our freedom, and for most, I don't even know their names.
I wanted to stand up and shout "Thank You, Thank you" to all of you and for those who gave their lives in battle.
I have done a number of funerals with military Honor Guards. There is nothing quite like it. It helps you understand the dignity and discipline of those who serve. I hope you have the privilege to witness this in your life.
The Bible likens us Christians to soldiers in God's army.
2 Tim. 2:3-4 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life; he seeks to please the recruiter.
Thank you to all of our men and women in uniform now, and for those who have bravely defended our country. To those who have given thier lives and to loved ones who never saw their family member come home, or perhaps saw a flag draped casket unloaded on American soil thank you. Every year on my birthday I will remember and not forget you on the day after.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cats in the Cradle or Dog In The Manger

Psalm 94:1 The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. HCSB

This photo was recently sent to me and it preaches a message without words. A stray dog had gotten into the manger of the nativity and had fallen asleep at the feet of the Christ child.

I believe that this is what the Lord Jesus wants us to do.He wants us to come close to Him, and realize that He is our safety and our shield. He is a place of refuge. as the Psalmist repeatedly reminds us.

Psalm 27: 5 For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. NLT

Another interesting thing to note is that the dog is at the feet of Jesus. Isn't that where we need to be as a believer, learning to walk in obedience to Him?

How do we learn to walk in obedience? By studying His Word, being a person of prayer, and following the lead of the Holy spirit in our life.

With Christmas approaching, what will you look for in the manger this year?
Make sure it's Jesus.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Returning to Your First Love

Today, marks the anniversary of the first date Renee and I had 32 years ago. Little did we know that we would marry after five years, just celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary. We are getting ready to see our friends for our 30th High School Reunion. Where has time gone?

God has blessed me with a great wife, she is great mom, and wow...what a mamaw she is!!!!

While the years have changed us a little physically, I believe we love each other more today than we ever have. Our love for each other has grown, and if the Lord allows, we look forward to the days ahead and sharing it with our family, and serving the Lord's church together.

When you think about your love for Christ, remember when you became a christian? Go back to the time in your mind and in your heart when you surrendered your life to Jesus. Can you remember how hot for God you were at one time, and how important it was to be active and faithful in your local church?

Jesus said to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

They were doing a lot of good things, yet they had drifted away from the most important thing and that was to keep the Lord first place in their lives, and in the life of a church.
If the Lord speaks to you about returning to your first love for Him, He wants to help you, not hurt you. Jesus is the answer!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

You're Serious Aren't You?

Psalm 39:4“LORD, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am.

Recently in a devotion on Psalms by retired IMB President Jerry Rankin, Psalm 39 reminded me of how fragile and short life really is. He shared that his thoughts were always focused on what was ahead of him and what he will do someday.

Aren't we all a little like that? Spiritually it can come in the form of putting off telling someone about Christ, or calling or visiting a person who has been on your mind. For me personally it can come in the form of fixing something or cleaning up something (such as the famous garage you have heard about.) One day; tomorrow; when I am on vacation; then I will will do it! You know what I mean, we all can fall into the slippery pit of "I get around to it later." I don't know about you, but I can live in that world sometimes and not think a thing about it.

Dr. Rankin goes on to say, that now that he is in retirement, he is not thinking so much about what is ahead of him, but that he has so little time left to do what he wants to do. It is that vapor that James 4:14 mentions, while Psalm 90:12 says to teach us to number our days that we may present to thee a heart of wisdom.

With another birthday you may be at that point where you suddenly realize that time is fleeting. I know I am. What have you been putting off that needs to happen today? Is it reconciliation with a family member or friend? It is trusting the Lord to help you share the gospel with a relative or neighbor. Let's try to finish our lives living with no regret and no missed opportunity.

You can begin today, go ahead , start now.

P.S. Disclaimer!! (The picture above is not my garage)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Three Dogs and Three Points

Today I saw an unusual sight driving home. It occurred as I drove by the dog pound in Eaton. They have an outside area that allows dogs to run and let off some energy. It is a place that you can take a prospective dog to interact with it outside, even perhaps taking it home with you.

There were two dogs that first got my attention as I drove by.

These two dogs were running from one corner to another having a great time. One was chasing and the other was being chased. As I watched them head into a corner they had to veer off quickly as a third dog, a larger, lab type dog was just sitting in the corner as if he/she were in a trance, focused on something else, almost looking up.

It may seem odd, but it reminds me of the christian life.

1 As Christian we are constantly being chased by the Devil. Listen, if you are doing anything for the Lord, the Devil will not be too far behind trying to discourage you or sway you from being obedient to your Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Some Christians are chasing the Devil. If you are a believer living in disobedience to Christ; if you a trying to live as close to the world as you can yet still claim to be a follower of Christ, decide to turn to the Lord now.

3. I want to be a believer who is focused, like that ole dog in the corner, looking unto the heavens seeking to please the Master. It is easy to get discouraged if you are constantly looking at everyone else and comparing yourself to them, but when I keep my eyes on the Lord, the other things seem to pale in comparison and importance.

How about you?

Phil. 3:17
Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Kool Aid , Cookies, and a Billfold

Do you remember your first Vacation Bible School? Can you remember how you anticipated that cup of kool aid and two cookies each night. Mom and dad kept in their garage for a long time, the frog I made out of busted up tile pieces.

I can still recall my young days at North Dayton Baptist Church with the pastor's wife, Lois as my teacher. I loved her. She had a heart for kids and taught us with a tender compassion. One of my more memorable events took place when she shared, that the first one to quote the books of the New Testament would receive a prize. I went home, and went though the books over and over, determined to be the first.

The moment of truth came, and by the Lord's grace, I raced through the New Testament successfully. The next day I received the gift. A billfold! I was so proud to receive the gift. I think it was her way of saying that all we have belongs to the Lord, so don't forget to tithe.

Another memory took place years earlier at the Northridge Baptist Church as we were allowed to fish in the baptistry. Not really, but if you brought a visitor, you could cast into the baptistry and reel in a prize. Your guest also could go fishing.

My prize. A wiffle ball! I loved it.

While many believe that innovation is a new thing in trying to reach kids with the gospel, I am grateful for those who taught me, and tried new things to motivate and encourage me as a young boy in church. Whether to learn a Scripture, quote the books, or simply to make a craft.

Pray for our teachers this week as we learn about Jesus at the Saddle Ridge Ranch Vacation Bible School. It takes special people to serve in this ministry, and I thank the Lord for a church full of special people.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

So You Want to Be a Leader?

James 3:1 (New King James Version) My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.

In most churches, there are a lot of folks who want to be a leader, but the group really shrinks when you talk about paying the price to be a leader.

In a recent devotion by John Maxwell in his Leadership Bible, I came across these thoughts and believe they will encourage you in the area of leadership.

Many leaders want to climb the corporate ladder, hoping that freedom and power wait at the top. They don't realize that leadership really requires sacrifice. Leaders who want to rise must do more than take an occasional cut in pay; they have to give up their rights. That's true of every leader regardless of profession. Talk to any leader, and you will find he has made repeated sacrifices. The higher that the leader has climbed, the greater the sacrifices he usually has made. Effective leaders sacrifice much that is good in order to dedicate themselves to what is best. Leadership demands constant sacrifice. It is an ongoing process, not a one-time payment. The circumstances may change from person to person, but the principle doesn't: Leadership means sacrifice!

Do you still want to be a leader? Remember, you have got to count the cost!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Passing Pride?

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (NIV)

Pride? I know that in Scripture, it normally refers to things that will hurt you, but is there anything wrong with being proud of your kids? If that means being proud of your baby as she walks the aisle to receive her Bachelor Degree....Guilty!! At the same time tears filled my eyes as I watched another page in life turn for our youngest. Each graduate with goals and dreams, and at the same time a world that is much different than for many of us than when we graduated. The Dean made an interesting statement. "In just a few minutes you will walk out those doors and your life will never be the same." Boy, how true is that!

If I get a job, where will it be....when will it be... will it ever be? You see even with a diploma on the wall, life is still filled with questions. Questions that we have faced, or will face in our life.

As we watched each student stand in line, there was really one name that we were mostly interested in. The line represented life, the steps to the stage represented judgement, and as her name was called, it represented approval, welcome to the Miami University Alumni Family.

When you stand before a Holy God, what have you done for Him as you have stood in the line of life? When He calls you to your final graduation ceremony, will you be approved? Thank God for sending His Son, and because of his sacrifice on the cross, our sins can be forgiven and we can be approved for heaven.

Will He call your name?
Romans 10:9-10 (New King James Version)
9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ipod Worship!

Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him.

Have you ever heard a person sing with headphones on? It can be quite entertaining. Recently I was mowing with an ipod on and realized that I was singing loudly. Loud enough for my neighbors to hear my off key harmony??? above the sound of the mower. We even shout when we talk at times.

Why do you sing? Is it because you have a good voice, think you have a good voice, or is it because you have a song in your heart?

I have decided that I like songs about Jesus! If it is glorifying God, I will praise Him for it.

When we come together to worship, it is easy to fall into the trap of singing only the songs that I like. You know, the times where you let it all out on a certain song, then just tolerate the others. When my worship goes from God to watching others, from an active participant to a spectator.

Let us be reminded that worship really is about glorifying God. Is God worthy of me opening my heart and mouth to lift praises to Him, anytime, anywhere? Absolutely!

We all have favorites and that is natural, but let us remember the psalmist.

Therefore my heart gladly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Easter Shoes

Luke 24:6-7
He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee saying, "The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again."

Years ago, the popular christian group Newsong came out with the heart stirring hit, "Christmas Shoes." I imagine that most of you have heard it. It was later turned into a movie starring Rob Lowe, which began a series of movies . As I think about Easter, I should write a tune entitled "Easter Shoes."

As a boy growing up, mom would have three sets of clothes for me. School clothes, play clothes, and church clothes. Most of those years, several weeks before Easter, she would take Sheila and I to get us an Easter outfit to wear to church on that special Sunday, as we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. I thank the Lord for parents who sacrificed greatly for us.

With the purchase of a new Easter outfit would normally come a new pair of dress shoe for Easter Sunday. We didn't have the options that we have for our kids today. Leather has come a long way!

Picture this, a plaid sport coat, pants , bow tie, and brand new black lace up shoes. Nice, but stiff, and by the end of Easter dinner, killing my feet. Can you remember? We will probably see some of the same sites this Sunday at church as we celebrate the Lord's victory over the grave.
I love to see our children in their new outfits, especially the boys, who come in pressed and leave untucked.

On one particular Easter, I was trying on shoes and mom got me my favorite pair as a boy. They were brown "wingtips", the same kind as dad wore. I loved those shoes, they made me feel good, and they were comfortable, but most importantly, I had great joy to know that I resembled my dad.

Regardless of how well I clean up this Sunday for Easter, it doesn't matter if I am not striving to look like my heavenly Father.
My prayer is that this Easter, my life reflects well of Jesus. Life will be hard sometimes, like a pair of those shoes growing up, but what joy there is to know that when people see you, that they see the love of God shining in your life.

Happy Easter, make sure you celebrate in church this Sunday!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Revival or Life Support?

Luke 14:23 And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

In just a few weeks we welcome Evangelist Ed Newton for our Spring Revival. He has been here before and will be a great blessing if you have not heard him. Some of my fondest memories as a boy were revival services. Dad worked second shift so mom would make us go. I would fuss for a while but once we got there it was usually a great blessing. I can remember the excitement in the two churches we attended in Dayton. The singing would raise the roof and the preaching was intense. I mean, they didn't dance around the tough subjects and called sin....sin. He would preach sin destroys, hell's hot, and heaven is real. He would preach Jesus, and stand on the truth of God's Word. The altar would be a friend in a revival.

You don't hear much talk about revival anymore. I wonder why?

When we invite people, we tend to invite other Christians most of the time. I am not sure that is exactly what the Lord meant in Luke 14:23. What used to buzz seems to have become a fizz as we have opted for "more important things." What is more important than a fresh touch of God on a life?

I used to get inundated with invitations to attend revivals from other churches, and now hardly a postcard. I wonder why? Is it because we are closer to God than ever and don't need it? Is it because we are way more busier than ever?

The longer I pastor, the more it becomes a battle. REVIVAL means to live again. The devil will do anything He can to keep a church in a life support mentality. If he can deceive a pastor, leaders, and the people, he will be happy I believe to watch us tread water in a type of ineffective spiritual coma.

Let me tell you what I am praying for. I am asking God to do something in the life of our church that only He can do. I mean the supernatural. A great movement of God as Christians get real before a Holy God and turn from sin, re-surrendering lives to Christ, the lost come to Jesus in repentance of sin, and relationships reconciled. The kind of thing we will talk about the rest of our lives. The story that is told to our grand kids about the revival that broke out in Camden, Ohio in 2010.
I look down at my feet. Draw a chalk circle around my feet, and beg the Lord to send revival, beginning in that circle. Will you join me?

Monday, February 22, 2010

What's In Your Sink?

Psalm 51:7
Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean, wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Snow was going to be my theme to share about this verse, mainly due to the fact that most Ohioans have seen enough this winter, but as I was preparing to shave, the Lord simply placed a thought in my heart in regards to my spiritual life, by using a washcloth.

The water was turned on, and the cloth laid in the bottom of the sink. I was anticipating a hot, lathery shave, so I waited. As the water ran, I picked it up carefully to not get burned, but discovered the water had not heated up and the rag was saturated with cold water.

As the faucet now began to transform into warm and now hot water, I knew I needed to get rid of the cold that was retained in the cloth, so I rang it out.

Sometimes our christian lives are like wash rags. We want to be hot for God, yet we are still saturated with cold and lukewarm spiritual water. For revival to come we need to allow the Lord to ring us out so that we are ready and receptive soil to hear from Him.

The cloth may feel like hyssop sometimes, an abrasive stone, but as the Lord cleanses, our hearts can be pure, just as white as the new fallen snow.

Any cold water lingering in your spiritual wash cloth? Give it to the Lord today!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Groundhog's Day

Corinthians 5:17 (New King James Version)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Tomorrow, February 2, is Ground Hog's Day. A great day. One, mom and dad celebrate their 53rd anniversary, and two, the title of a great movie, in which Bill Murray keeps waking up to relive the same day, over and over. After he realizes what is happening, he begins to correct mistakes he has made in the previous day. He tries to manipulate events, getting wiser and more deceptive with each new ring of the alarm clock. Regardless of what happens in a twenty four hour span, he has to start all over at 6 a.M. the next day.

What if you could go back and re-do some of the mistakes you have made in life? Would you avoid bad decisions that had cost you? What if you could wake up with a fresh start each morning?

As a christian you can, and it is not a fictitious movie, it is the promises of God's Word. When you give your life to Christ, he clears the account, and wipes it clean. As a christian, we need to settle our sin account on a regular daily basis. God is eager to forgive us, and sometimes we drag things around with us that God is longing for us to give up and surrender to Him.

Don't let your past, rob you of the joy that is in Christ Jesus today.

If the ground hog sees his shadow, six months of bad weather left, if he doesn't only a month and a half.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti Heartbreak

In my lifetime there have been plenty of natural disasters and hardships, but nothing any more than what we are witnessing in Haiti. After a team from our church returned this summer, we were reminded that the folks in Haiti didn't have anything to begin with. They were thankful for anything. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.

How depressing it would be to be known for what you do not have. My heart and our prayers go out to the survivors and families who have lost loved ones. Especially those who have not heard from their loved ones who may have perished or be trapped, even as I write.

Why did God allow it? If God loves us, how could he do this? These are some questions that you may soon be hearing from your friends and loved ones. How are you going to respond?

Paul wrote in the New Testament, "1 Corinthians 13:12 (The Message)
We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us.

Romans 8:35-39 (New King James Version)
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “ For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”[a]37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

While we do not understand, there is a hand to reach to, a Father to collapse on.

While the false worship of voodoo is huge in Haiti, may the Lord Jesus Christ be lifted up as Christians meet the needs of hurting families. One of my preacher friends, Terry Essex has invested his life there. He has spoken for us several times. He is supposed to go back in three weeks. Pray that God uses him in a mighty way as he shares hope to those who now feel as they have no hope. Meet the needs of Brent Gambrell and New Missions as they minister

My heart aches thinking about a little boy walking around with no one and nothing. Just crying. The tears trickling down a dirty face, just waiting and looking for someone to save him.

Oh God, if my heart would hurt for those who are walking alone as well, right in Camden, without Christ.

Make me hungry to see people come to Christ. Please Lord help these people.