A relatively new marvel of modern technology is a device called a Fitbit. I received one as a gift for Christmas, and it continues to amaze me. A small watch-like apparatus strapped around the wrist is able to understand and interpret human motion (or activity). By analyzing acceleration data, the details about frequency, duration, intensity, patterns of movement, number of steps, stairs, distance traveled, calories burned, and sleep patterns are all made available for wearers to review. Mine revealed the quality of my sleep habits as if I had been to a polysomnography clinic. I continue to be literally blown away!

With all of that, this small gadget would show me something more. In a matter of days, an email message came to my inbox from the Fitbit monitoring system alerting me of a matter I had actually neglected to notice. The message read: “Your Charge battery level is low. Charge your battery as soon as possible.” I looked at the device and as sure as the message was real, the battery indeed needed to be charged. The Fitbit is only designed to run for about a week before it needs to be recharged.

Technology is incredible. In all actuality, these advances are really not new. And to the surprise of many, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are not the creators of such brilliance. Since the beginning of creation, God made us with an even more advanced kind of genius. The Psalter noted that humanity is “…fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Psalm 139:14) Perhaps one might consider ours a “Faithbit”—a parallel kind of technology (namely, spirituality) designed to help us with a variety of daily motions and maneuvers no matter what we face in life. By faith, we can get up when we fall; overcome great difficulties; traverse great distances amidst the darkest nights, and so much more.

Faith is so amazing that along with it comes an alert system that apprises every believer whenever the battery—that essential power—is low and needs recharging. One might ask, how does one know? Great question! Here are a few hints! A bad attitude or quick temper is an alert that signals your battery is low. A negative spirit or some unhealthy (bad) habits surely indicate your battery is low. Weakness and ungodliness are certain notices that your battery is low. The paralysis of fear and exaggerated worry are no doubt tell-tell signs your batter is low.

If any of these or other similar indicators are the case with you, it could be that your faith-bit battery is low and needs to be recharged immediately. Simply plug it in—that is, pray, fast, spend quality private time with God, read your Bible, worship), and allow God to give you the strength you need to make it a little while longer. In case you don’t have one (a “faith-bit”), it only requires you to take the time to sign up. The only way any of the Fitbit data would be at my disposal obliged me to register online to allow the advocates to keep me informed. You can sign up, too; and you don’t even need a computer. Simply approach the Father in prayer, and confess your sins, and accept the terms (Jesus) for your salvation and justification. He is faithful still to cleanse and forgive you of all your sins if you’ll only ask Him.

In the Wild Card game between Cincinnati and Pittsburg, things changed for the big cats with less than two minutes to go. The Bengals (up by a score of 16-15) intercepted Pittsburg’s backup quarterback Landry Jones’ pass, and all but sealed the Steelers’ fate with just about 1:50 remaining. In fact, success was so sure (so they felt), some players ran into the tunnel towards the locker room as if it were a done-deal; like the game was actually over. And then, it happened!  With less than sixty seconds to go and their entire season on the line, dumb penalties literally took the breath out of the Bengal nation (on the field, on the sideline, and even in the stands). The would-be victors were noticeably stunned. A late hit and an unsportsmanlike conduct call ultimately imploded the Bengals’ hopes and dreams for a chance to go to Super Bowl 2016. They appallingly lost the game and left the stadium in shock, angry, visibly in tears, and utterly dismayed.

 

As Cincinnati’s commitment to discipline literally disintegrated before millions of viewers, it reminded us of some basic principles for encouraging success and winning. If you are reading this note, then perhaps it’s not too late. The game may not be over. With time left, every disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ (true believers) can surely learn from the Bengals’ errors.

 

First, we must always remain focused. Failure to remember the goal and objective can cause a bad decision or a brief distraction to completely derail the train. Believers need to stay focused at all times. The stakes are much higher and far greater than a Super Bowl appearance.

 

Second, we’ve got to maintain discipline. When you have been taught/trained (and professionals surely ought to know better), then you are supposed to do better. There’s no excuse for “losing your cool” on the field of play. It is the clearest signal that one lacks essential discipline and is likely (perhaps even literally) out of control.

 

Third, keep playing until the game has officially ended. If there is still time on the clock, then the contest is not over. All too often we have a tendency to get comfortable and relaxed (a sure hint that things may not end well) before the final horn sounds. This is a terrible miscalculation! And it is one that can literally cost you the game.

 

As the Apostle Paul drew nearer to the end of his ministry career, he wrote to encourage his son in ministry (Timothy). He touched on the matter of finishing well in Chapter 4 of the second epistle where he penned: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (verse 7). These are timeless and insightful words for a world that is recurrently messing up, making unnecessary mistakes, shamelessly losing their cools, engaging in deliberate unsportsmanlike (ungodly) activities, and all sorts of flagrant fouls (debaucheries) that are publically known and being constantly revisited via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

There’s one final take away we can gain from this instant NFL classic. In fact, a few games this season (and in years past) have reminded us of this same truth: “It ain’t over until it’s over!” For believers, it truly ain’t over until God says it’s over!” After all, He’s the One managing the clock! Stay the course, keep fighting, and be disciplined at all times! In the end, we win!!!

Some time ago, I was driving through Nashville and heard an abnormal noise from the left rear side of my car.  Quickly, I decelerated (as safely as I could) and maneuvered to the right side of the interstate right past Exit 215; and turned on my flashers.  Sure enough, I had a flat, so I immediately dialed my insurance company as I was on my way to an engagement in eastern Tennessee.  They indicated they would dispatch a wrecker to come and repair the tire within an hour.  In a matter of minutes, a huge lime yellow truck pulled up behind me with the tag on the side which read, “Tennessee Highway Incident Response Unit.”  A rather tall gentleman exited the vehicle and came to greet me.  I concluded he was not sent from my insurer, and asked him how did he know I was there.  He calmly pointed to the overpass behind us over a half mile away, and said, “Our monitors saw you when you pulled over, and I was sent (radioed) to come and assist you.”  I strained my eyes to see, and in the distance, I noticed surveillance cameras strategically mounted on the interstate bridge that had us in view at that very moment.  I waved, and was amazed and grateful at the same time.

 

In an ancient culture and in quite a different world than the one in which we live, the Psalmist—without the advantages of technology and electronics—yet knew something very similar about God.  In the 46th Number, it was declared, “God is my refuge and my strength, a very present help in the time of trouble…” (verse 1).  No matter where you are and what you may be going through, this reality remains indisputable.  Our God sees all, our God knows all, and ONLY our God is yet able to do ANYTHING; but fail.  If you’ll wait on Him, He’ll come see about you.  Sometimes He sends angels, sometimes He sends others (believers), and then sometimes, He just shows Himself!  Ain’t that good news!!!!!

 

You may not have had an “accident” or perhaps some other major “incident;” even if you’ve only had a flat, God can still fix it!!

 

In August we held our annual back-to-school festival for the youth of our church and community in Memphis’ beautiful Martin Luther King Park.   Its exquisite landscape and rolling hills are a wonder to behold as it sits almost hidden off Interstate 55 in south Memphis.

 

Upon my arrival to join others from our church who had already made their way there, I observed the features associated with the glorious park scene as some of the youth (and adults) danced to music that was being played on a CD player.  There was a nice pavilion situated in the area we had selected with a nicely paved platform that served as its foundation and floor.  Picnic tables were positioned thereon for users to enjoy any food they might bring.  There were a number of convenient places to cook—barbeque pits—all around the pavilion area.  A picturesque fishing pond sat adjacent to the platform for the kids to cast their reels and poles.  We had a joyful time.

 

After a couple of hours that warm Saturday afternoon, I made my exit from the event to rest for the next day’s activities.  As I did, I became distracted by what sounded like an idling lawn mower that I failed to notice when first I came.  Moving toward the direction of the sound, I discovered a portable generator off the pavilion floor that was curiously purring away.  In that moment, I heard God speaking to me.  Amazingly, the engineers of this tremendously family-friendly venue designed the area with just about every amenity one could imagine to enjoy a normal outing with one exception—there was no electricity.  It was a profound revelation I will never forget; and about which I wish to share.  The lesson is simple:  Because of the way the land was designed, in order for there to be power IN the park, someone would have to bring power TO the park!”

 

Bless you, my dear readers!  There is no need crying about the fact that you live in a hell hole; work in a heathen environment, or routinely find yourself with or around some ungodly people.  That, my dear friends, may be the very reason your presence is needed there.  You may need to consider my discovery at the MLK Park in Memphis, Tennessee:  If there is to be power ON your job, IN you home, or AT those places you frequent and enjoy fellowship, then SOMEONE—more especially YOU—simply may need to bring that power TO the job, TO the home, or TO those places where God’s presence is needed to make a redemptive difference.

 

Let God use you

It has been quite a few months (and even more some significant developments) since last I sat to compose an article.  Many, I am yet discovering, have no knowledge of the transition.  The not-so-new news is the Lord has reassigned me to the Springdale Baptist Church of Memphis, Tennessee. That’s right!  In July 2011, I received the invitation to serve as its new pastor, and by September, I was moving.  It is still overwhelming to me that I actually was summoned away from a people with whom I had been in relationship for precisely 22 years (since 1989).  Omaha, Nebraska, was home to me through a full generation—over two decades—of family ministry, changing seasons, rites of passage, personal experiences, and more.  I must admit it was one of the most difficult decisions with which I have ever been faced.  It continues to be difficult for me and them.  Yes, I am sure Memphis is where God (alone) sent me to serve, but I miss the kind people of Antioch dearly.  Pray for us!

 

Recently, I was extended an invitation to be a sky box guest in one of the suites at the FedEx Forum—the home court to the Memphis Grizzlies.  I would only need my ID to retrieve my tickets to be able to see the game that hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers.  A number of glitches occurred with this invitation; and not the least of which found me ticketless and outside the ticket window (and gate) for several minutes.  After making a phone call, two tickets were delivered to me, and we—me and my assistant—made our way into the Forum.  Upon locating the section of the arena that held our assigned seats, we made our way to the row and aisle, and proceeded to sit down before the game started.  In a matter of moments, I looked at him and he looked at me, and I said to him in a calm voice, “This can’t be the accommodations to which we were invited.  Something must be wrong.”  We got up and went back into the corridor and I registered another phone call and was told to just remain still until the host showed up.  Within minutes, my host arrived, apologized, and escorted us to some elevators that took us up to the concierge level to a suite where others were gathered to enjoy the evening’s event.  He left.

 

Quietly we sat inside the suite, until approximately 5 minutes later the host returned and told me (us) to gather our belongings and to follow him.  We got up and walked a good distance to a completely empty suite in which we would be occupants.  I was told these would be our accommodations and that no one else would be joining us.  We were shown the layout—the easy chair, the big screen TV, the stadium seats and the bar—and invited to enjoy some hot food that was at our disposal.  Once we got our plates, we sat down and relaxed; and gratefully enjoyed our meal and the game.  While eating, our eyes met as we sat at the counter, and we smiled.  I said to him, “Now this is more like it; I’m about to feel like this is why we came.”  He chuckled and agreed.  Incidentally, the Grizzlies won!

 

Now some may say it seems somewhat ungrateful to have been dissatisfied with the original seats we found when first we arrived at the complex.  At least we were invited to the game.  I beg to differ!  We were extremely grateful, even though we were equally disappointed.  Yes, I said it, “Disappointed!”  And there’s a legitimate reason why.  We simply were not satisfied with the accommodations we were given, because we were promised something more!  Too many believers settle for less than God’s best.  We settle in relationships, we settle when it comes to jobs; we even settle when it comes to our expectations and performances at work and in our service to the Christ.  Well, I’m just a messenger from heaven who wishes to report that God has already promised us better, and we actually may be insulting Him when we settle for less.  After all, He has gone to great lengths to make sure things ready for your and my arrival.  Don’t settle!  There’s something better in store.  There’s something greater awaiting those of us who can trust Him.  There’s a whole lot more that is ours to enjoy; if we can choose no longer to settle, and believe God when He tells us that He’s got more!

 

One final note!  In one moment, we were standing at one location; experiencing life at a level with several others; when all of a sudden an escort came and took us to a higher elevation!  It soon will happen again, brothers and sisters!  God has more; and something better ahead for those of us who truly love Him.  Don’t settle!

 

A young pastor and I were having a discussion about a text he was investigating for his sermon he would be preaching the upcoming Sunday morning. As he sat on the deck at the back of his newly constructed home, a disturbing scene unfolded before his eyes. A father (and neighbor) was cutting his grass two lots away. While pushing his lawnmower through the yard, the man’s six year old daughter thought it playful to run in front of the mower just ahead of her dad, and without being admonished. Before he knew it, my friend called it “an accident-just-waiting-to-happen.” He further blurted out while I was yet on the phone, “That’s exactly why I have got to hurry up and get my privacy fence put up.” Unaware of the developments since I was at my house and he was at his in another city and state, I asked what he meant. He described the scene and repeated his comment and added, “Because, I don’t want to be a witness to nothing!”

I laughed with him (at first), and then I thought to myself about this common malady and how tragically this position characterizes many a Christian. We have been called to be just that—witnesses. Our Lord said before He left, “…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NIV). Yet, we seem to want to hide behind our preciously designed privacy fences and neglect to be and do what we have been called to be and to do. We prefer to hide behind the safe and comfortable privacy fence of a nice sanctuary, the fence of public worship, the privacy fence of a church building, the nice privacy fence of a tailored suit and a new dress on Sunday morning. But, as soon as worship ends and for the rest of the week, we seem content to hide behind these and other well-constructed privacy fences so we don’t have to be witnesses to no one and to no-thing—not anything.

Allow me to admonish you, dear brother or sister. Before it is everlasting too late, commit to come from behind these familiar barriers in your own life. Encourage others who may be hiding as well to do the same thing in their lives.

As darkness prevails in our world, every community needs the light of bold witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ. We can no longer remain silent and unseen behind these spiritual privacy fences. Let your light shine! Be a witness to someone today, and share with them the gospel of salvation. The Lord will bless you for it, and you just might prevent a tragedy from happening!

While attending the Hampton’s Ministers Conference recently, a colleague and I were conversing about the NBA playoffs and he asked at what time the game would start that evening. Motioning to pick up the TV remote, he objected and said, “Let me get it!” Curiously, he took his Smartphone and began speaking into it. Effortlessly, he simply verbalized the question, “What time does Miami and Dallas play tonight?” In a matter of seconds, the phone executed a search and revealed the game would begin at 8:00 p.m. I was literally blown away. Quickly, I asked him what in the world did he just do! He told me about this downloadable application for Smartphones that would allow such an option to anyone who wanted to use it. Not wanting to be left out, I located the software on my phone and downloaded it with ease. I have been using it ever since.

Don’t miss this! Technology has now come to a point that without ever typing a key, one can simply via voice recognition ask your phone just about any question you want, and in almost no time the phone will reveal the answer. Well, the creators of Google aren’t that smart. In fact, they simply have been trying to mimic an application designed by God since the beginning of time. Similar to Google Search, God’s search engine is called prayer. It’s free and only takes a little, and it is available to anyone who would access it. Our Creator has already designed us to employ it; and is only waiting an opportunity to resolve and answer all of our issues and questions. He is only a prayer away.

If you’ve got a problem, just ask God. I am a witness He will answer you!

Some time ago I sat in a familiar chair to have my shoes polished on my way to a funeral. As I sat there to negotiate this experience, I paid close attention as my shoes underwent a necessary transformation. The skilled craftsman quietly began by brushing away any loose dirt or debris, and followed with some saddle soap and water to thoroughly clean the leather. Afterwards, he took an old cloth to wipe away the excess moisture and dried the leather before applying the polish. He then took his crooked fingers and carefully patted the small can of Kiwi held in his left hand, and slowly started rubbing the wax solution onto the shoe’s surface. After brushing his application into the shoe, it left a simple flat black hue on my nice monk straps. Thankfully, he wasn’t finished. He then applied a second coat to ensure it was adequately absorbed within the leather and began brushing it into the shoe. Slowly, a faint luster began to emerge on the shoe’s surface. In patient form, the quiet gentleman took a soft finishing rag and began popping it across the ball of my shoe; around the sides and on the back of the heels. Eventually, a rich black glossy finish sparkled at my feet as he concluded his work by nicely dressing the soles.

Interestingly, when the shoe shine man started out, he was undaunted by the fact that my shoes were unclean; a bit scuffed, and clearly needed attention. Even as he went through his procedure for cleaning and buffing, he remained undeterred by his assignment though no major change occurred. He was determined to keep working and did not stop until the end he desired emerged. This keen man stuck with his task and was able to get a shine out of the shoe because he knew there was a shine “in the shoe.”

Our Lord, Jesus (our Shine Man), likewise would never have told us to allow our lives (lights) to “shine” had He not known there was “shine” potential and possibility already within us. He firmly said that you and I are the light of the world (Matthew 5: 16). And we are encouraged by the Lord to allow His light to shine through us so others may see our good works and give glory to the Father in heaven.

Today, why not make this your new commitment? In fact, you should sing it aloud:

“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine;
Everywhere I go, I’m going to let it shine;
Jesus gave it to me; I’m going to let it shine;
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”

Recently I counseled someone who had become rather melancholy about church, worship, and just the whole image of modern day ministry. The smorgasbord of appeals being made from an array of sources makes choosing a church (even Christ) very difficult, and has caused some to be discouraged to the point of disinterest.

The Bible says such a period would emerge. Paul told his colleague and friend there would come a time when people would not endure sound doctrine (2 Tim 4:3), and even said some would eventually abandon the faith (1 Tim 4:1). With the deluge of preachers and self-proclaimed prophets afoot in cyberspace and the world today, it is becoming more and more difficult to know exactly what and who to believe. A lot of stuff out there may sound good, but so much is neither good nor sound.

Is there an actual litmus test for determining legitimacy in ministry? How can one know what and who to believe? Or even know who is real? Our Lord said clearly without regard for personality, charisma, gifts, degrees, apparent success, and the like, there is one sure tell sign. He said, “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” (John 13:35, NIV) Succinctly, amidst all the hype and pseudo-energy that characterizes a lot of contemporary preaching, the love of God must and will be unmistakably clear to help confirm if a message and messenger is truly real. The power of God’s love is still able to woo sinners unto repentance if we would simply trust Him.

Remember our childhood days? While we could hardly afford a bicycle, most kids were enamored by the speed and sound a motor cycle made. Too dangerous and expensive for most of us, we remained content to ride our bikes, but would make an inexpensive modification to its operation to enhance our experience. We would simply take a playing card (any card) from a deck of cards, and a clothes pin from where mom would hang the laundry, and clip the card onto the frame of the bike so it would flap against the spokes. Remarkably, it created for us a noise that gave the sense we were riding a motorized cycle. There was only one problem. While it made a lot of noise, it actually had no power.

Chew on that, my brothers and sisters. Please don’t be guilty of the same. Be encouraged!

Fate has a way of introducing situations into our lives that challenge us at the deepest levels. From debt, difficulty, disaster, divorce, death, and beyond, these have a way of putting-the-squeeze on us in ways we would prefer to avoid. Never does God intend for these things to depress or destroy us. To the contrary, He uses these to develop us into power-broking people who can endure trials and prevail at any time, in any place, and under any circumstance. Settle with the fact that some realities just won’t change. Loved ones do age and may become ill. Grown children will eventually leave home; whether at a time we are ready for them to go, or earlier should they decide to take the plunge. Employers may make hard choices that cost us substantially. In short, we will continue to experience losses no matter who were are or what we have attained. We cannot change these!

You should know, though, you have options! You can either fight it—that is, try hard to deny the reality as if it does not exist—or you can face it. You can either take it lying down, or you can stand up in the midst of it and be a victor, and not the victim. When life issues you a lemon, you can actually make lemonade. God gives believers the power to take stumbling blocks, and successfully turn them into stepping stones. Regardless of how painful the dilemma is, we can make it, because it’s not the end of the world. That is, yet! Want to know how? Here’s an approach:

First, thank God for the test (trial). Really, that’s all it is. It’s a test of your faith. I don’t know anyone who tries to intentionally fail a test. There are some Christians, however, who would prefer to simply “not take the test.” Don’t trip! Thank God for it. It’s only a test! Second, ask God to help you learn from it. There is so much to learn in every experience. Turn that trial or challenge into a learning module. God will show you areas where you are much stronger/wiser than you realized, and ways (and places) where you need improvement. No matter what, learn from the experience! Third, be positive! The matter of faith is a “living” reality. Therein lies a power at our disposal to handle and overcome any adversity if we would simply appropriate it. Sing songs of praise and be joyful. Do all you can to celebrate God’s goodness even in the dark places! Make God larger than the problem. Fourth, trust His word (Him) through it! Remind yourself of the promises of God. He alone declares never to leave nor forsake us. He alone has the power to defeat death, hell, and the grave. Read and remember His word.

Daniel had fasted and was praying for three full weeks anticipating a breakthrough and some needed relief for the people of Israel (Chapter 9). While still praying, the angel of the Lord came and told him what he needed to hear. Amazingly, the angel confessed he departed heaven to come to Daniel’s aid a full three weeks earlier, but had been strangely detained by demonic forces (see Chapter 10:13). Even more amazing was the fact Daniel never lost hope. I wondered why! I pondered how we might equally be resilient as we wait on God’s timely intervention into our situations today. Two things came to mind:

(1) God always gives assurance in spite of the appearance. When things appear they are not changing and you find yourself getting a bit weary, pay close attention to how God mysteriously provides assurance even in spite of the appearance. Things are not always as they seem.
(2) Trust the revelation instead of the manifestation. As you read His word, hold fast to what God has said rather than what you see. His word alone can kindle a fire in your heart and give to you the comfort you need to make it through. I am a witness He will!

Dear brothers and sisters; roll up your sleeves and tell the devil “He’s a liar; and the truth is not in him!” Trust God! You can and will make it!

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