Grace


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!

 

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!

Football is perhaps my favorite of all organized sports. Routinely I enjoy a game on television, and will even catch a few highlights on a sports channel. While relaxing at home recently, a game caught my eye. The offense was executing their play as the ball was snapped, and wide receivers ran up the field hoping to get open. The quarterback unleashed a long pass toward the goal line (and near the sideline) as one receiver ran a post pattern toward the pylon—the end zone/out-of-bounds marker. Near the two or three yard line, the player inadvertently stepped-out-of-bounds, but reentered the field of play in pursuit of the descending ball. It was a remarkable catch! The referee signaled a touchdown. The stadium erupted as the crowd went ballistic. The defenders objected and I stood up in utter amazement at the acrobatic reception!

Instinctively, the scoring team’s field goal unit ran onto the field to line up for the ensuing extra point when all-of-a-sudden the game was halted. The play was being reviewed by those in the replay booth. After a short delay, the umpire repositioned himself on the field and reported, “After further review, the call on the field is confirmed; it is a touchdown!”

It is no secret we are often sidelined and knocked out-of-bounds—e. g. mistakes, blunders, indiscretions, bad judgments, weariness, fatigue, etc.—by the opposition (our adversary) while attempting to execute our Lord’s play (God’s will for our lives). In fact, to go “out-of-bounds” (in the eyes of many) actually renders one ineligible to continue or even further to touch the ball. This new rule in professional and collegiate football is affording us some valuable insights into spiritual truths I felt worthy of sharing.

Here they are:

(1) The goal of the enemy is to render us disqualified and totally ineligible to continue in ministry. His strategy is to cause us to “cross of the line” or “step out-of-bounds” through any number of discomforting means—mistakes, blunders, indiscretions, bad judgments, etc. So be aware of his schemes and ward him off at every juncture!

(2) No matter what happens, keep running the route! Had the receiver stopped his course (even though he was clearly pushed out), he never would have caught the ball and certainly would not have scored. Get back onto the playing field as quickly and as responsibly as you can, and continue with the route you have been given! After all, the ball is already in the air.

(3) Remember, lastly, the ultimate decision is not your call to make (nor anyone else’s)! There is another Person (God)—Power, Authority—who sits aptly in the replay booth; and He alone is the Official who determines whether you are “in” or “out!”

Work hard to avoid being side-tracked or side-lined, my brothers and sisters! Let the Lord use you TODAY. If you have been knocked down or in some way pushed out, get back up (or back in) and keep running your route. There’s an entire team (believers) and a stadium full of fans (Hebrews calls them “a great cloud of witnesses” [12:1]) who are counting on you! They (We) need you to score!

As I exited my vehicle at Wal-Mart this past Thursday, I noticed a young couple exiting their vehicle at the same time. Strangely, we had to park a good distance from the main entrance since the parking lot was rather full. I couldn’t help but notice how the guy was dressed. He had on a bright yellow cap with a huge green “G” on it, with a grass-colored bib that was turned backwards on his head. He also wore a green jersey with a huge number four centered on it. White striped on both the shoulders and the sleeves accented his garb as he sported some khaki colored knickerbocker-type shorts that came down to his knees. A pair of sandy-colored sandals finished off his attire that plainly declared he was a Green Bay Packer fan.

Interestingly, earlier in the week, the Packers found themselves on the losing end of a widely publicized battle against their Chicago arch rivals—the Bears. It was a great game that kept fans (and viewers) on edge as it came-down-to-the-wire. In the closing moments, the Bears skillfully positioned themselves to kick a winning field goal to break the 24-24 tie. Green Bay was helpless to do anything realistic with the ensuing kickoff. The game ended 27-24, Chicago! Pundits indicate the Packers actually gave the game away. That was on Monday night! Yet, on Thursday, a man gracefully and publicly wore his Packers regalia without shame. I thought, “What would make a man continue to wear his favorite team’s paraphernalia even though his team lost a game they should have won; and sadly had let him down?” It’s really rather simple:

1. He was clearly a loyal fan and unashamedly loved his team.

2. He knew this game (Monday night’s) was just “one game” and the season wasn’t over.

3. He also knew that Sunday was coming and there likely would be an opportunity for redemption.

Are you a loyal fan of Christ’s church? Or are you someone playing the victim and participating in the negativity about others who fail or fall? My prayer is that we—Christ’s church—will soon embrace these principles. It does not matter who it is or what they have done (or what they may be accused of doing). True believers will (1) always remain as loyal proponents of the church of Jesus Christ just because they love the team; (2) they will work hard to remember this is only one game (e.g. one fumble, one dropped pass, one missed field goal, one flag, one fowl, one strike, one delay of game, or one un-sportsman-like conduct call, etc.), and that the season isn’t over; and (3) they will keep in mind that Sunday is coming; and there should arrive (prayerfully) a fresh opportunity for redemption.

Remain loyal, my brothers and sisters! Keep wearing the Lord’s regalia; and know that God alone is this game’s Official—He’s the Umpire, the Referee, and the Line Judge—and He alone has the power and is in the position to determine if any of us should remain on the team, or can continue to play the game!

In case you don’t know, Green Bay defeated Detroit today!

Here we go again! It should be no surprise that another Christian scandal has made it to the headlines and piqued the interest of believers everywhere, the viewing world, and especially the media. Although the truth is yet to be discovered, rumors continue to mount and many have already drawn conclusions on the innocence and guilt of the accused. The devil just doesn’t play fair, does he? It is most sad!

Let me be clear! Christ’s church is no stranger to controversy; and Christians and Christian leaders are never exempt from these routine and riotous hazards of the faith. Regrettably, some of these are self-imposed and the results of ones’ own undoing. Many are not! Throughout history God’s people have been under the microscope of constant judgment and incessant criticism. In fact, Jesus said, “…the kingdom suffers violence and violent men take it by force.” (See Matthew 11:12, NASB). As believers we will never escape satanic attack and the inequitable demonic strategies employed to destroy God’s work and our witness. What, then, are Christians supposed to do? How are we to respond when these tragic and unavoidable black-eyes occur? And believe me, this is undeniably a huge “black-eye!” Let’s see!

First of all, whenever a brother or a sister has been charged or is accused of a thing—a crime, an offense (a sin), an indiscretion, a fault, etc.,—as sad as it may be, don’t be surprised. In Revelation 12:10, our adversary is called “the accuser of the brethren.” Satan is still the “father of lies, the master of disguise, and the author of confusion.” These are the indisputable facts, and there’s no way around them!

Secondly, don’t judge. Any rash conclusions reached or quick judgments made about anyone who is accused is both premature as well as immature. “All the facts” need to be weighed! And even further, it is not our right or responsibility to ever reach a hasty “verdict” without giving those facts due consideration. Yes, believers will eventually judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3), but these will surely be based on facts!

Thirdly, remember grace. Were it not for the grace (goodness) of God, any of us could be under attack (under seize, or even under fire) at any given moment. That means while you may not be on the witness stand or public display (today), you don’t have to be guilty of anything for the enemy to accuse you of something. We are ALL guilty of something(s), and it is only God’s grace that keeps ALL of us out of the lime-light and the public line-of-fire. Thank God for His grace and always be sure to extend the same to others who may be struggling or are presently under attack!

Fourthly (and most of all), PRAY! The fallout associated with these terrible misfortunes is incalculable. We should immediately begin to intercede and pray. Consider for a moment those who are directly affected:

(a) The accused—undoubtedly a human being with feelings, family, friends, some form of fortune, failures, faults, and flaws. It cannot be easy for anyone accused (whether innocent or guilty).
(b) The accusers—no doubt, there are some issues within the hearts and minds of anyone who would pursue a legal (and public) course of action to resolve an apparent personal problem or difficulty. The Bible is clear on the way believers are to resolve offenses and settle differences.
(c) The world of believers—whenever scandalous matters are aired before the world for open debate and public consumption it sadly damages the image of the church and the strength of every believer’s witness. There is absolutely no way around it!
(d) The unbelieving world—these (unsaved sinners) don’t need another excuse for failing to choose Jesus Christ as their portion. When you take a look at it, it’s a no-win situation and we all lose; and the only way to combat these kinds of heinous assaults is to engage the most formidable weapon in our arsenal and at our disposal—prayer!

Fifthly (and lastly), trust God to work it out! God alone is judge, and we should trust Him and His power to work it all out for all of our good and more especially for His glory. It is still true whatever the enemy may mean against us for evil, God can (and will) work it out for our good! Trust Him!

Be encouraged, my brothers and sisters. This certainly won’t be the last attack (or perhaps fall) of a believer or man or woman of God. When it’s all said and done, God will still be God, He is still good, He will still be great, He yet remains gracious, and He will always be greatly to be praised!

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!

The surge of opinions and barrage of shameful criticisms about a still gifted and greatly celebrated member of the human race (Mr. Tiger Woods) has spanned the spectrum and just about covered the entire gamut. The air ways have been inundated with commentaries from “haters” to “celebrators,” from once-claimed friends to unfortunately evident (and recognizably arrogant) enemies.

When it’s all said and done and the dust has finally settled from this tragic, but true episode in an apparent hurting brother’s life (and no doubt his family’s life), one indisputable truth yet remains: “I am Tiger Woods.” We all are!

It would be a good thing for us all to soon realize it and to never forget it!

Let’s pray for our brother! He (and we all) need it!

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?

A few years ago (1995) British doctors proposed a revolutionary course of action to save a girl with major heart problems. At two years old, they decided to implant a donor heart directly onto her faulty heart. With two blood-pumping organs co-existing inside her body for 10 years, Hannah Clark’s own heart began to do what many experts had thought impossible. It actually began to heal to the extent that doctors were able to remove the donated heart. While a donor heart sent blood throughout the rest of her body, it miraculously enabled her original heart the chance to be transformed and get well.  Commenting on the discovery, Dr. Douglas Zipes, former president of the American College of Cardiology said, “This shows that the heart can indeed repair itself if given the opportunity.” Though not associated with Clark’s operation and treatment, Zipes continued, “The heart apparently has major regenerative powers, and it is now key to find out how they work.”

A malfunctioning heart caused the Psalmist to beg God to “…give me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10). No matter what is the cause, whenever the heart is not right, life is miserable and devoid of essential peace. Here are a few truths I discovered about good heart health for believers in God. A healthy heart:

1. is necessary for welcome engagement of worship. (Psalm 24:4)

2. allows one to know joy and gladness (Psalm 51:8).

3. enhances one’s effective witness (Psalm 51:13).

4. is crucial for acceptable giving of our offerings (Psalm 51:17).

5. for sure delights God to prosper us (Psalm 51:18).

Are you having heart problems? Is yours hurting because of your own sin, sorrow, or perhaps an injury caused by another? There is good news. We know a donor who is willing to lend you His heart until your own heart can heal and get better. If you would allow Him to attach His heart to yours, a miraculous transformation will take place. Before long, your heart will begin to repair—be transformed—and function like He originally designed it to.

 

Jesus can fix it! I dare you to let Him!

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 »