Thanksgiving


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!!

 

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!

While certain critics continue their onslaught of playwright, Tyler Perry, regarding his latest film, “For Colored Girls,” box-offices prove these so-called experts don’t altogether know everything; and especially about our understanding and appreciation of black art. In my humble opinion, the production struck (strangely) a few spiritual chords I found noteworthy, and afforded me the opportunity to incorporate them into a recent message. Through a combination of varying and independent themes, Perry amazingly caused them to coalesce in a warmly communal scene at the conclusion of the movie that was packed with preaching. If you have seen it already, then you may appreciate these epigrammatic observations from my review.

As these nine ladies stood arm-in-arm on the roof of the apartment building wherein much of the drama took place, I found their dissimilar stories and uniformly unfortunate circumstances portraying these common truths. Somehow they each came to discover (1) You’re not the only one that’s going through; (2) There’s always someone else who is worse off than you; (3) You need me, and I need you; and (4) and if any of us are going to make it, only God can bring us through!

Poetic, yes! But, I submit these are both painstaking and powerful, too!

Settle with these realities, my brothers and sisters. When you do, you may find comfort to stay in the fight, the courage to continue with the struggle, and the strength never to give up (or give in) until the battle is finally over. God is not through with you yet!

Be blessed and may His peace be with you, always!

God favored me in a most refreshing and remarkable way the other day. After years of searching (and simply refusing to give up), I was able to reconnect with a dear friend I met over 30 years ago while we both were serving as young officers in the United States Army at Fort Benning, Georgia. Reassigned to a new installation in 1981, I moved on and we simply lost contact. We had not spoken since.

Finding him was not easy. It took time and effort, and the closer I got (it seemed), the more challenging the search became. When finally we spoke, the excitement in our voices was both unmistakable and indescribable. We laughed and cried as we talked. I was especially moved as he told of his painful path over the years. Injuries, sickness, difficulties, and even the shadow of death were all a part of his peculiar journey. On several occasions he shared how he almost lost his life in a few accidents during overseas maneuvers. His story brought me to more tears, but I was (and am) so happy to discover he was alive and well.

Of all the things he shared, his voice was strongest when he told me about how God alone had kept him and had brought him safely through. Confidently, he reported he held faithful membership with Eastern Star Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, where Reverend Jeffrey Johnson serves as pastor. He cited their motto there is the church “Where Jesus is exalted and the Word is explained.” What he said next shook me to the core. He said, “Reg, you know I’m not a preacher and I may not be able to explain the word like many others; but I can assure you of one thing; can’t nobody beat me exalting Him. Believe that!” There was even more joy!

In His own mysterious way, God granted me another measure of His grace by allowing me to reunite with a dear friend and brother who I have not seen in three decades. Incredibly, and perhaps equally as long he was also looking for me.

In case you haven’t already figured it out, I’m really excited about this reunion. I have only heard his voice, but I’m still glad about it. I have yet to see his face or even shake his hand, but I still have joy about it. Just the prospects of seeing him in the near future give me great encouragement, and each time I tell of this experience, my joy excites others.

I should tell you there is a Great reunion scheduled! In these days of economic challenge and personal difficulty, keep pursuing this Friend–the Lord—while He may be found. You, too, will find joy unspeakable and full of glory. In fact, you will be surprised to learn some good news in your search. This Friend has also been looking for you!

My daughter called to check on me and to fill me in on her upcoming summer plans which will include summer school. As our conversation neared an end, I thought I was about to get away when the inevitable topic surfaced. She said kindly, “I need some money, daddy.” I smiled and told her I would take care of it, and we hung up the phone. That was Friday. On Monday, she called to see if I had taken care of it. I reassured her I had. She called a day later because the money hadn’t hit. It arrived the next day. My baby needed a blessing from her daddy and called to make her request known. Notice how I handled it! Several hundred miles away, I never even left my office, nor moved from my desk. I did not go to the bank. I did not write a check. I would not later on go to the post office, nor did I mail to her a package. I simply continued to sit at my computer and executed an electronic transaction that deposited the necessary funds into her account. It only took me a matter of minutes. I did what she asked!

Did you get it? If I—sinful me—as an earthen father, have the capacity to respond to the needs of my children by long distance (and thereby keep my word), how much more do you think our Heavenly Father is likewise able to meet the needs of His children; and also keep His word? His word says, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) His word says, “…God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Yes, at times it feels like we are being neglected or somehow overlooked when it comes to our prayer requests to God. The apparent delays are unnerving and can frustrate us to no end. Rest assured, dear friends, God heard you when first you asked; and is already doing (and maybe even has already done) something about it. The angel of the Lord came to reassure Daniel of this truth (read Daniel 10: 12). In essence, the angel said, “I was on my way, but unfortunately I got held up…” (paraphrase, mine) What great comfort Daniel must have received to learn that God was faithfully working on his behalf (sending help to see about him) even though the manifestation had not been revealed!

“Keep holding on, my brothers and sisters!” Help is on the way!

Only a moment ago I stepped out of my truck and walked around to the passenger side door to retrieve my brief case and shoulder bag. When opening the door, a small meal receipt fell out and onto the church’s parking lot. Before I could pick it up, a gentle breeze lightly swept it under the vehicle and it was too far gone for me to reach. Calmly, I walked to the other side of the vehicle, backed up a bit to see if I could see it, and just stood there unmoved. After a few minutes, the receipt eased its way from under the vehicle, and I quietly picked it up. As I walked into my office, I rehearsed (in my mind) my harmless incident and clearly heard God speak.

In case you feel you have fallen short in raising or parenting your children, perhaps my innocent experience in our church’s parking lot can help. If you have dropped-the-ball or even feel as though somehow you missed-the-mark with yours (or simply wish you had done things differently), then do what I just did:

1. Notice (pay attention to) where the mishap occurred.
2. Reposition yourself so you can see the direction in which they might be headed.
3. Wait for the Wind (of the Holy Ghost) to breathe on them.

God still has a way of gently breathing on our imperfect efforts and returning to us what seems to have been lost. Solomon said if you train the child properly (“…in the way he should go…”) while he or she is young, the child will not depart from the path when the child becomes old (read Proverbs 22:6).

How do we know God yet breathes? It is because the Wind is still blowing!

A cold and dreary atmosphere permeated much of the east coast in the wake of Ida—a much anticipated hurricane that was eventually reduced to a tropical storm. Although the weather conditions resultant from the gulf winds were downsized somewhat, low cloud cover produced dense fog over a great portion of the eastern sea board and threatened air traffic for many travelers. Several flights were actually cancelled due to strong winds that made flying absolutely unsafe. Thankfully (and nervously, I must admit), our direct flight from Newark to Omaha did not make that list. The take-off was extremely choppy and reaching a comfortable cruising altitude all but seemed impossible. In spite of it all, we pressed on!

The science of air travel has always fascinated me. Even more intriguing is the confusion of flying when there is no visibility. I still cannot fathom this process. After years of boarding and deplaning aircraft, I finally decided to ask the pilots when we were aground. My question was a simple one: How in the world do you maneuver this huge jet through dense cloud cover and the often in darkness when in truth you cannot see? I know this is the case, because from my seat (as a passenger), I can’t see. Their response to me was interesting. They conceded my observation was true. From the cockpit, their view was the same as mine; but they said they didn’t need to see. The planes, they reported, are equipped with an instrument panel and multiple sensors. All they needed to do was pay attention to the indicators, and they could almost always land on any runway to within mere feet. I got happy!

If the manufacturers of these large big-iron birds could design airplanes with the essential equipment capable of navigating just about every conceivable condition, how much more, then, does it make sense that our Manufacturer has also equipped us with critical sensors to negotiate every circumstance we face. Through a shifting economy, unemployment, tough times, and more, we have already been equipped to survive, and even overcome.

Be a witness today and find someone who may be struggling and just say to them, “You can make it; God has already willed it so!” Be encouraged, my brothers and sisters!

Not twenty minutes ago I made a hospital visit to the room of a gentleman who underwent a successful kidney transplant procedure last evening. We have been praying for Brian for a few years now that God would graciously allow him a chance to have a good kidney. The surgery went without-a-hitch; the new organ is an excellent match and is functioning fine. Brian told me he felt better than he had in years. Up and moving around, he was watching a football game with his family when I left his room.

As I drove back to my office, I thought about the anonymous donor family, and uttered a simple prayer for them in light of their apparent loss. To be sure, somebody—who we do not know—had to die in order for Brian to have this new opportunity to live a healthier, better quality of life.

His is no new irony! In fact, it is a very familiar paradox for many of us. We who know and enjoy redemption could not benefit from such were it not for the fact that Someone had to die that we might live. Bless His holy name!!!!!

The principle difference between these observations is clear. In Brian’s case, an accident made it possible for him to receive his new-lease-on-life. For you and I, it was no accident. Jesus died on purpose in order for us to have the privilege to live. Didn’t He do it?

Isn’t that good news?

On Sunday, June 28, 2009, Joey Logano became the youngest driver ever to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. At 19, the rookie somehow bounced back from a near debilitating crash that blew a left rear tire, and ultimately rendered him one lap behind the rest of the field. Forced to leave the race, his crew skillfully (and quickly) repaired the flat; and simultaneously refueled his car so that he was able to reenter the track. Incredibly, Logano took the lead when Ryan Newman, along with several others throughout the course, ran out of gas around lap 264. The scheduled 301-lap chase was shortened due to rain in the 273 lap, and Logano emerged as the front runner to take the championship. In spite of a tire-blowing crash and while everyone lacked petroleum, Joey Logano was able to win the race; all because somebody else on the team made sure he had fuel enough to finish.

 

We, too, encounter tragedies and experience setbacks that often sideline us along life’s unpredictable journey. Many times throughout the course, we are forced to make unscheduled pit-stops because we’re hurting and need to deal with the damage. Every tragedy, however, does not have to take us completely out of the race. No matter the disaster—debt, difficulty, divorce, even death—we can still continue the journey and finish strong if others on the teams would ensure we have sufficient fuel to finish. Worship, prayer, and praise, are necessary pit-stops for Christians. The church—the people of God—is her maintenance crew. It is our duty for those who have blown-a-tire or simply had a crash to readily help them get back in the race, so they can finish and win the prize.

 

Nine weeks beyond my rotator cuff surgery, my physical therapist tells me my range of motion is now around ninety per cent. Currently, we’re working on strength-training so I can again do the things I would normally be able to do. Were it not for the skilled intervention of some physical therapists, I would likely not be able to fully recover. I’m already back-in-the-race, because I have some qualified crew members who are helping me refuel.

 

May the Christ’s church likewise help others so they can continue the journey and be useful, too! He’s able!

The year 2009 has been a real challenge for me. Having undergone two surgeries—one for my left knee and the other for my left shoulder due to a rotator cuff tear—God has yet been faithful and allowed me to move assuredly toward recovery. I am so grateful.

 

While seated in the waiting room during one of my scheduled office visits, I asked the receptionist to run off a copy of my account for me. She did and I was blown away at what I discovered. The costs for my knee operation were nearly $5000. My rotator cuff surgery was in excess of $39,000. Neither of these services includes the correlated office visits, x-rays, MRI procedures, medication, nor physical therapy. When it’s all said and done, already this year my medical expenses total over $50,000. As I reviewed the numbers, I was moved with joy in that I didn’t have to pay the balance. In fact, were I required to pay it, I wouldn’t have had it. Thank God for insurance!

 

Before I could fold the page and put it in my pocket, the Lord prompted me about another account. He reminded me there was another bill coming due. And for this balance, Mutual of Omaha, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, nor Cigna, had created a policy to cover these charges. Then it occurred to me that for these expenses, I didn’t need “insurance.” What I would need for this bill was “assurance.” I shouted; because I have exactly that! Blessed Assurance; Jesus is mine…

 

If you don’t have it, you should get it today! You’ll feel so much better!

 

Next Page »