Greater Things

Since my conversion and subsequent experiencing the infilling of the Holy Spirit, my life and ministry have been focused on the glorious message of intimacy with God, the reality that God would have us know Him up close and personal. You know, I believe it breaks the heart of God when those who claim to love Him refuse to get close to Him. It breaks the heart of God when they refuse to receive what He longs to give, It breaks the heart of God when we deny Him access to certain areas of our lives. It breaks the heart of God when we would instead shake His hand than experience His embrace. You know? God’s gone to such great lengths to communicate His love and devotion to us, in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us, yet many stand at a distance rendering an occasional glance, wave, nod. But, they never venture close enough to feel His divine embrace. I cannot believe, I don’t think that God went to so graned a measure as that of the sacrificing of His only Son so that we might occasionally at a distance, acknowledge His goodness. He has called us into a covenantal love relationship whereby we become, in the words of Charles and John Wesley, “Lovers of God.”

The apostle John tells us in his gospel, chapter fourteen and verse fifteen, the words of Jesus, “If you love me, you will keep my commandment.” For John, love was not so much about sentiment and emotion but always moral and revealed in obedience. Emotions ebb and flow and love based solely on feeling have no chance of survival; likewise, sincere devotion will produce passion, a passion born out of yieldingness, not out of circumstances.

I’m sure we all know those who protest their love in words but who, at the same time, bring pain and heartbreak to those whom they claim to love! There are children and youth who say they love their parents, and yet cause them grief and anxiety because of rebellion. Some husbands and wives may say, “I love you” while creating enormous pain because of empty words.

To Jesus, real love is not an easy thing. It is shown only in faithful obedience. The haunting question that looms is, “Do we really love Jesus? Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Another translation says, “If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you.”

What has Christ asked us to do? Take a moment and read Matthew 28: 19-20, and Matthew 5: 43-49, and Mark 12: 30-31, again the question “Do I really love Jesus?” Just look at what He did. Christ ate with sinners, embraced the lepers, healed the sick, feed the poor, and set the captive free. Wow! And He said in John fourteen and verse twelve, “‘Greater thing will you do then I have done.”

I love the song by the late Keith Green, “Jesus rose from the dead, and you can’t even get out of bed!” So, get up. Reveille has sound, and the World cannot wait! It’s time for the Church to rise up and be an assembly of those who love God!

A Vision of What Could Be

It was November 9, 1989, Gunter Schabowski, a member of the ruling Politburo of the German Democratic Republic, stood before the cameras, the eyes of the World were on him. A look of cold death upon his face, as he spoke with apparent anguish, “All boarders to the West are open.” The Wall had come down! The Wall that had separated families and friends had come down. The Wall that had separated Socialist and Capitalist cultures had come down. The World would never be the same.

Hildegard, a forty-year-old mother, housewife, amateur singer, school teacher, and East German citizen, wrote of that night. “I was performing with my cabaret group in Cottbus, about three hours drive from Berlin when someone said they had heard on the radio that the Wall had been opened. We all dismissed it as another rumor.

Following the performance, we were driving back and heard it for ourselves. When we arrived in Berlin, we immediately drove across the border into West Berlin. It was all a chaotic blur. The city center, on Ku’damm, was one big party. After an hour, we came back, and my friends dropped me off at my home. I tried to go to sleep but couldn’t, it had been almost thirty years. My life had been one of strict order. Joy and freedom of expression had been a rarity.

Unable to sleep, I returned to West Berlin to be hugged by my mother, whom I had not seen in over twenty-eight years. She had been waiting and praying for this moment every day for twenty-eight years. I didn’t understand the term prayer, but I did recognize a mother’s love.”

In a world of chaos and disharmony, where hate is commonplace and even sanctioned by so many, we are called by God to be a microcosm of God’s Kingdom of unity, love, and peace. The Church, His body, is to be to the World a blanket of security! But, this unity, peace, and love is the manifestation of God’s presence. It is brought about by the Spirit of God among His people.

If you want to know more, and I hope you do, then read Ephesians 2; 11-22. And, just imagine what could be if we would be the Church .. Just imagine!

The Tragedy of Hatred

Have you ever said, “I hate you?” or “I can’t stand that person.” I think at some point in our life we have all encountered difficult people who we find difficult to get along with. In fact, many of us, if asked, could probably name one or more persons that we really don’t enjoy being with.

Jonah is an incredible story filled with several great spiritual truths. One of those truths is the awesome power of hatred to limit and even render ineffective a man or woman of God.

Hatred in the lives of God’s people is a real tragedy. The tragedy is unveiled throughout the story of Jonah. The unmasking begins in chapter one and verse three. Take a moment and read Jonah 1: 1-3. In verse three, Jonah hates the people of Nineveh so much that he is willing to flee the presence of God rather than obey God.

It’s important to realize that hatred breeds disobedience, and disobedience has a ripple effect, touching those persons with whom we come into contact. Pause for a moment and read verses four through eleven of chapter one. Our actions affect others!

In chapters three and four, you’ll find that hatred robs the believer of joy. Take special note of chapter 4: 3. “Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

Finally, hatred breeds self-obsession and destroys compassion. Look for a moment at chapter 4: 5-11.

What is the answer to this intense hatred in the heart of the believer? I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but I do. Is there anything I can do? The simple answer is yes, there is, but it is costly. 1John 1:9 tells us to confess, and He will forgive and cleanse.

In Ezekiel 11;19, God shouts the bottom line through His prophet, who reveals that God alone can restore and make a perfect heart!

Do Not Fear

I couldn’t sleep last night, not an unusual thing for me these days. I began looking through some old files and came across one labeled Do Not Fear. Inside the file was a single sheet of paper and scribbled on it were the words I had written many years ago, again while unable to sleep.

My eyes then caught a glimpse of a picture of my dad holding his beloved Wendy. It’s one of my favorite pictures of dad. I picked up the image and held it in one hand and in the other, I kept the small piece of paper with the scribbled words I had written so long ago.

The two seemed to go together, the picture and the words. I began to read, as I held the photograph; “Do not fear little child. Do not be afraid. I will not leave you alone. But I will hold you, and I will love you. I will not let you go. I will not let you fall. For you are my child, and I am your father.”

The last thing I remember is looking at the picture of my dad. It’s now 7:30 in the morning, and I just woke up refreshed and alert with the photo still in my hand.

Thanks dad for a good nights rest, and for never letting Go!

God and The Goodness Gorillas

When the question is asked of you, “What is God like?” how do you answer? Do you use big words like omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent? How do you describe God? As believers, it’s an important question. It’s essential because your description of God flows from your concept of God. As a believer, your behavior is related to your idea of God, and the world’s conception of God is directly related to the conduct of believers.

So, what we say about God is essential. The Psalmist in Psalm thirty-six shares his view of God. He does so by comparing the wickedness of self-obsessed humanity with the divine goodness of God.

The psalmist states that God’s love is vast and inexhaustible. It reaches to the heavens. The word heavens speak of universal dimensions. Scientists, who have in the past believed that the universe is not unlimited have discovered that this vast universe is ever-expanding. In other words, it shouts of eternity. So, when the psalmist says, “your steadfast love extends to the heavens,” it is to be understood that God’s love never ends! There is no limit to God’s love.

In verse six, the psalmist says, “You save humans and animals alike.” God’s love permeates all that He does. This love is manifested in and through faithfulness, righteousness, justice, life, protection, and blessings.

What is God like? The world is asking. What are we answering? A better question is, how are we responding? It’s not so much what we are saying with our words, although that’s important, instead what are we saying by our actions, our ethics, our behavior. What are we saying to an inquisitive and desperate world?

Often times, when I am looking for answers to difficult questions, I find the solutions not in commentaries written by world-class scholars or articles written by academics but in the literature written for children. It is, of course, true that the answer to all of life’s issues is Jesus. However, one children’s book that has answered for me this question of How we are to answer the world concerning the nature of God is entitled, “The Goodness Gorillas, written by Lisa McCourt. It is a compelling story of how random acts of kindness can change the most challenging individual. I won’t give the story away. I encourage you to read it for yourself, and in doing so, I believe you will discover the likeness of The Goodness Gorillas and God.

Stop With The Stuff

One of my favorite tee shirts is army green with black lettering. The phrase on the front of the shirt reads, “Dad, the toughest job you’ll ever love.” Underneath the saying is a Scripture reference, Psalm 127: 3. The Scripture says, “Children are a gift from the Lord. They are a reward from Him.”

I agree children are a blessing from God. For most parents, their best attempts at verbalizing their love is an impossible thing. Our language is insufficient.

Actions indeed speak louder than words. And, what is truly sad is parents are often so busy with stuff. “Just let me finish this, and we will go play.” Or, “I can’t take you today, but tomorrow just you and I will go,” but tomorrow comes, and there is more stuff that results in a broken promise.

I realize we live hectic lives, and part of the reason we do is to provide well for our families. The sad truth is there comes a day, and it comes, Oh so quickly, when the stuff we’ve been faithful to complete seems to result in regret because our little gifts from God have grown to busy doing things of their own!

There is a beautiful photograph of John Wayne sitting and holding a Prince Valiant comic. He is reading to his children who are sitting at his feet, gazing up at him, and listening to the sound of one engaged, not with doing stuff but rather being a Dad! The caption on the photograph reads, “Duke’s number one priority was being the kind of father his children could always look up to.”

Listen, that’s not doing stuff, but rather that is being a dad, which is “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” I want to encourage us today to speak love and devotion to our children, not so much with inadequate words but with committed actions. The reality is our children are not children forever. So, don’t waste another minute, allowing stuff to rob you of God’s blessing – your children!

The Dawning of A New Day

“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35: 10).

What a powerful word of hope and encouragement. One which can only be understood in the context of its writing. Isaiah served as a counselor to kings from 740-701 BCE in the Southern Kingdom. During that period, there were two major crises – the war with Syria in 734 and the Assyrian threats from 734 – 701 BCE.

Isaiah saw those events as expressions of God’s rule and reign over the nations. The cause of the wars, he said, was social injustice. God was working out His sovereign plan for His people in the international arena.

He served in the Southern Kingdom during the time when the Northern Kingdom had fallen to the Assyrians and was literally destroyed. Isaiah Prophesied of the fall of the Southern Kingdom. A prophecy that went unheeded for the most part. There was a great deal of national pride and arrogance; they had forgotten their loyalty to God. And, for that judgment was at hand. One could argue that America is facing the same fate. I pray God has mercy on me.

But the prophet saw a day known as “The Day of Universal Blessing.” Think of it – A day in which all the world stands united as one. A day, when none shall go hungry. The naked shall be clothed. Those who are cold shall be warmed. Those who are fearful shall be at ease. The sick, they shall be healed. Those who are oppressed shall be free. Those who have no hope shall have hope. Listen, the prophet says, “A new day is coming! Think of It! What a glorious day that will be.

While I believe the prophecy speaks of the Millennial reign of Christ, there is, I think, a foretaste of that day already available to the one who by faith enters it through faith in Christ. I say that because in Christ dwells all the fullness of God whose name is Righteousness, and Sanctifier, and Peace, and Present, and Healer, and Provider, and Shepherd. God is all of these things and always has been and will always be.

While the fullness of His Kingdom has not yet come, there are glimpses of it even now. And it is made visible through the lives of those in whose heart He reigns supreme.

There is a New Day Dawning, and I wonder if today others will catch a glimpse of it through those whose lives are yielded to the sovereign rule of God. Will they see images of that New Day in ME? I pray so!

Open Your Eyes

“There are many who see but do not see, and there are those who hear but do not hear.” It is a statement that, on its surface, seems non-sensical. How can one hear but not hear, and how can one see but not see? Let me tell you a story that may help in understanding the statement.

I had had a long day filled with meetings, and in those meetings were individuals with strong opinions and an unwillingness to soften their positions, and I was one of those individuals. I was exhausted. My head was pounding, and I just wanted to close my eyes and relax.

When I arrived home, I walked into the house and went straight to the den and sat down on the most comfortable leather sofa. I really loved that couch. I reached for the remote, turned on the television, and intended to take a nap before engaging anybody, which included my wife and children.

All was quiet, and for a moment, I thought I would finally get what I wanted – peace and quiet. It was short-lived. I heard the sound of little tiny footsteps running toward the couch. I remember thinking, “Not now, I want my time.” I remember closing my eyes tight and thinking, I don’t care what anybody wants right now or needs, I am not opening my eyes nor moving from the couch, nor engaging in any conversation. But, the little steps belonged to my precious daughter Kayla Rose. She fell into my lap and climbed up, and I tightened my shut eyes. I felt her small hands cup my face and heard her say, “Daddy, daddy, wake up, daddy. I thought nope not now! I am going to get my nap!

As determined as I was, I was no match for my daughter. She took her tiny hands and began trying to force my eyes open. I made every effort to close my eyes even tighter. It was then she won the battle by saying in a tone that was filled with disappointment and confusion, “Daddy, it’s me, Princess Kayla.” My heart softened, and my selfish determination melted as I opened my eyes and saw pure love staring at me. She put her arms around my neck and her head upon my chest. I put my arms around her, and in a short period, we had both fallen asleep. She had gotten her hug, and I had gotten the peace I so desperately needed.

There were three truths I learned that day, and you can find them in Ephesians 1: 15-23. First, to really see, the eyes of your heart must be open. Second, you are God’s child, and that changes everything. Finally, you can rest in God’s divine embrace.

As a result of my encounter with Princess Kayla, God revealed three keys concerning the church and her mission. The people of God must be more determined to open their eyes than they are to close them. The community of faith must do more than recognize who she is. The community of faith must walk in her true identity. And, instead of redoubling her own efforts, she must rest in what the Holy Spirit is doing. In other words, the people of God must yield to the Holy Spirit’s embrace!

I want to encourage us to read with fresh eyes Ephesians 1: 15-23, and listen for the tiny steps of revelation and understand that will empower each of us to really see and clearly hear the heart of God!

Compassion

It was a big game, the Fairburn Flames vs. the Jonesboro Yellow Jackets. It was cold, and the game was close. We were losing, down by six. Time was running out, but we had a chance. It was third down and lingo, and we had the ball.

Zack Dillard, our amazingly talented quarterback, called the play. I was to run a post pattern, and I did, and I ran it perfectly. I had beaten the free safety, and as I was wide open, Zack threw a perfect pass; you guessed it, I dropped it. The ball went right through my hands. Everyone had executed their position with precision, and I had run a perfect pattern, I had beaten the defender, but I dropped the ball. Time ran out, and we lost the big game by six points.

I remember, after the game, the team went to Krystle for lunch, and I don’t blame them. I didn’t want to sit we me either. If I had caught the ball and we had gotten the extra point, we would have won. We lost because of me. The team was upset and understandably so.

I remember Zack’s dad, Mr. Dillard, sitting at the table with me when no one else wanted to. After twelve Krystle hamburgers, two large fries, and a large coke, Mr. Dillard looked at me and said, Sam, everybody drops the ball, and then, he smiled at me and said, “tomorrow will be a better day!” And it was a better day.

I’ve thought about that game, often, and the encouragement by a very caring man many times over the years. Isn’t that crazy? It was Little League football, but it was a big-time lesson in love and understanding. By a simple act and an encouraging word, there was indeed a better day. I’ve tried to, over the years, respond as Mr. Dillard did so many years ago. Sometimes I’ve succeeded, and blessing has been the result, and at other times I have failed to act with such grace.

Today, just remember everybody drops the ball, everybody. The question is When they do, and it involves you, how do you respond – with grace or judgment?

Just think about!

What Are You Chasing In Life?

What are you after in life? Another way to ask the question is, “What are you seeking? What are you chasing? The truth is we are all after something in this life and what we pursue matters.

In Matthew 6: 33, the Lord admonishes those around him to “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.”

Again, what is it that you are chasing? Is it good or not so good? What we are seeking, in no small degree, defines who we really are as a person.

I believe there are two paths in life, the right one and the wrong one. I can not begin to tell you the number of times I have discovered myself traveling the wrong path. But by God’s grace, he has lovingly corrected my way. God is good that way!

I love what my friend, Judith Olaya, from Juba Sudan, writes, “The minute you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right thing a chance to catch you!”

Many today are going the wrong way fast, wasting their life on things that are contrary to their authentic self. As a result, their presence is void of real purpose, peace, and contentment. They are restless and angry people often hurting others who stand in their way. Don’t be that person. Instead, be still, slow down and listen for God and follow after him, and you will soon find yourself on the right path that leads to the Kingdom of God!

Oh, I almost forgot. “Something that is given does not need to be sought after… it is given, so receive it today.”