The Guarantee of Resurrection Life

21 04 2019

Many years ago, after a particularly difficult trial I was put through at the hands of another leader who was lying and misrepresenting his position for personal gain, I left that particular meeting pretty downcast and confused.  I knew he was not telling the truth, as did my wife, but there was really no defense to be made.  It was one of those times in your life that you know you were just going to have to deal with the personal pain and loss.  As well, we worked closely with this person and that fact did not help the matter.

 

Trials are like that sometimes.  You simply have no defense.  You take the hit, knowing you stand with truth and integrity.  You, as well, console yourself with the understanding that God knows, cares and will walk you through it.

 

But the best advice from this situation came to me just following the meeting when one of the persons in charge pulled his car alongside of me and said, “Remember, Steve, after every death you die there is a promised resurrection.”  I listened graciously, but with some questioning in my heart wondering just where he was during that awful meeting we endured.

 

Years later I still carry that statement with me because of its powerful truth, its lifelong encouragement and its depth of meaning.  There is a New Testament truth we hold onto as Christians.  That truth is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and then gave up His life to die on a cross.  On Sunday, Easter we call it, He was no longer dead but alive forevermore. Following His resurrection, there was a continual stream of persons who witnessed that resurrection and literally saw Jesus after His grave experience.

 

Are you walking through a trial right now?  Are you facing a hardship or a broken relationship?  Have you been hurt or suffered loss in some way not provoked by your own behavior?  It is this time of the year that we remember the New Testament guarantee of resurrection life.  For after every death you die, there is a promised resurrection!

 

Have a glorious, life-giving Easter.  Our Savior is ALIVE!

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Nehemiah Did So Much More Than Build a Wall

15 04 2019

The Old Testament man of God called Nehemiah was a king’s cupbearer turned leader of Israel.

 

He is well-known and honored for his obedience to leave a very comfortable position serving king Artaxerxes to return to his people, the Israelites, to rebuild the walls and gates around Jerusalem. It was a daunting task, but Nehemiah continually spoke faith-filled words like, “The God of heaven will give us success.”  The assignments were handed out and the walls were being rebuilt even through opposition.

 

But were the walls his most meaningful feat?  I actually think there were others that were just as important – perhaps more important.

 

First, Nehemiah saw something amazing happen in Israel as they went to work on the walls together. In chapter nine we are told the Israelites, under Nehemiah’s lead, gathered together to fast and pray.  The result?  Repentance.  They confessed their sin and the wickedness of their forefathers.  Then in chapter ten, we are told what followed confession was a new-found desire to once again obey God’s commands.  They took an oath to follow the Law of God, given to them by Moses.

 

Following this, the Israelites started tithing again, including a tithe of their crops and a tithe of the tithe to the treasury.  They would stop neglecting the house of their God!

 

Finally, Nehemiah reestablished the Sabbath.  With repentance, with obeying God’s commands through His Law and with tithing, Israel would also find rest in God’s Sabbath principles.

 

Nehemiah’s Initial response challenges me, “When I heard these things, I sat down and I wept.  For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”  (Nehemiah 1:4).  Am I hearing God’s commands for me in the midst of my day?  Am I willing to step out and obey?  Am I willing to do something that others see as radical?

 

But perhaps most important for each of us, this story causes me to think that Nehemiah’s obedience and passion require a profound question: what breaks my heart; what am I weeping over?





Seven Benefits of Praying Couples

8 04 2019

My wife and I have found a place of intimacy that far exceeds any level of intimacy within a marriage through our connecting in prayer.  We have made this a priority for many years and have grown our marriage in numerous ways through the vulnerability of prayer together.  Here are seven benefits that we have identified from praying together.

  1. When we pray, we find agreement with God and with one another. Agreement is far more powerful, life-giving and life changing than disagreement.
  2. Through prayer together we are not so self-focused, but rather, we are focused on God, one another and the needs of those we are praying for.
  3. We are recognizing our need to trust outside ourselves. We are realizing we cannot provide all the needs or answers.  We are humbling ourself to say, we need God.  Prayer reminds us and our family that God IS our source.
  4. Prayer helps us to grow in grace and patience. We learn to wait on God.  We also learn to confess our needs, brokenness and vulnerability. We, before God, recognize our need for forgiveness.
  5. We communicate our life issues when we pray and that helps us to hear out loud those needs. We pray what is on our heart and when we hear one another’s heart, we know what deeply touches us and concerns us.
  6. Prayer changes us as we learn to listen to God. It changes us financially, emotionally, mentally and sexually.  In all ways we are changed as we reach out to and then hear God’s still small voice.  Our hearts and our minds are transformed through prayer and we experience a greater level of oneness.
  7. Praying together increases our intimacy. As intimacy increases our trust levels increase and as our trust levels increase, our strength and bond together grows stronger.

Helping you to start your prayer trek

  • Purchase a devotional book, read and then pray.
  • Take turns praying/reading.
  • Start small or brief and grow your time.
  • Find a specific focus and pray.
  • Walk your neighborhood and pray.

  • Pray together with your children teaching them to pray.
  • Pray in the car when there is a lull in the conversation.
  • Pray when one of you or your children are not feeling well.
  • Pray with thanksgiving to God repeatedly.
  • Bless one another in prayer.  Bless one another’s day, workplace, etc.
  • Ask your spouse how you can pray for them.




I Slept But My Heart Was Awake

1 04 2019

I’m not sure if you recognized it, but my title for this blog is actually a verse in the Bible. It’s found in Song of Songs.  I find this verse to be fascinating.  I know scientifically that while I sleep, my mind is awake, but according to this verse my heart can be also.

 

My heart has been described as the center of my personality, my emotions, my intuition, my affections, my spirit.  The heart is also described as the innermost center of things.  My heart can be awakened to love or hate, fear or trust, light or darkness.

 

Jesus said it this way, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”  Luke 6:45

 

Jesus’ words beg us to reflect on what’s in our heart.  If you honestly desire to know what’s in your heart or another’s, simply listen to what language comes out of your mouth and theirs.  It will reveal the heart.

 

We have the option to store love, generosity, compassion, service, kindness and passion for God’s kingdom in our heart or we can store jealousy, hate, judgement, criticism, comparison and negativity in our heart.  It is truly up to us.  I think I can guarantee each of us one thing.  If it’s the latter, our awakened heart, while we sleep, will not find peace or rest for our soul.





See You Later, Snowy

25 03 2019

He showed up one day at my high school.  A couple of my friends and I began to pepper him with questions. “Where are you from?  What’s your name? Why did your family move here?”

 

He just moved to my home town from Alaska and we, without hesitation, nicknamed him “Snowy.”  It stuck.

 

Snowy was quiet, but strong. He helped to begin the soccer program at our school.  He was a wrestler and a talented gymnast.  His specialties were the rings and the high bar.  Snowy could do anything athletically.

 

In his junior and senior years of high school he entered the mechanics classes at the local vo-tech school and excelled.  He could take an engine or a transmission apart and actually put it back together working properly.  How?  No one really knew.  He just could.

 

After high school he entered the Army.  It was there that he lost himself.  Southeast Asia was not good to Snowy and I lost touch with him for a season.  He did things in those years that damaged his body and his mind.

 

Some years after his military service, being married, having a daughter, being divorced, having another daughter and walking in deep depression, Snowy resurfaced.  He allowed me back into his life.  I was thrilled.  We had so much to catch up on.  And we did.

 

Snowy bowed his knee to Jesus and a brand-new relationship began between us.  He allowed me to disciple him and then the request came to water baptize him.  His pastor told me the tradition in their church was to baptize two times backward and one time forward and then he said, “Are you okay with that?”  I told him if I had the honor to baptize my friend in his church’s baptismal pool, I would do it standing on my head.

 

What a day…the washing away of the old and the receiving of a new life.

 

Another close friend was general manager at a Christian theater and he expressed that he was desiring to hire a person with a long list of multiple talents.  I remember telling him what he wanted in one single employee was impossible, but I knew just the guy – Snowy.

 

He was an engineering genius for them, minus the engineering degree.  His handprints were on many of the intricate, technical designs and creations needed for the hydraulic and pneumatic props.

 

He worked there until he became disabled.  The pain in his body was taking a toll and he found himself no longer able to physically meet the demands of the job.  His body quickly went backwards and pain killers became part of his daily routine.

 

Those forthcoming years would be hard, filled with pain and regression and an inability to meet all of his financial obligations.  I went to his tool sale at a garage he had rented on the side.  I watched him sit and eye every well used tool he once held and fixed things with being sold. With each tool purchased by a new owner, it was like another piece of him went out the door.  He knew he would never again find the emotionally and mentally satisfying repair work coming from his gifted hands and creative mind.  Something died in him that day and I saw a different Snowy clutching onto his wooden cane.

 

Snowy gave up; he stopped fighting and he was barely living.  He would reach out with his needs.  We would reach out to him to join us for holiday meals.  Most times he came, but some days he hurt so badly he couldn’t leave his small, two-room apartment.

 

The message from his daughter was a dreaded, albeit, somewhat expected one.  Snowy’s lifeless body was found in his apartment just days earlier. He was no longer answering his calls or sending me text messages.  Snowy was gone and with his Savior.  Too young and way too early.

 

I miss him.  I miss his offhanded, but witty remarks.  I’m going to miss our regular breakfast meetings where he always told the waitress, “Scramble my eggs hard…kill ‘em.”

 

Along with the Patriot Guard, I have had the privilege and honor of serving Snowy and his family by ministering at his full military memorial service.  It was a final opportunity to bless this man who came from Alaska just to be my forever close friend.  Thank you, Snowy, for the laughs, the rides to the beach in your amazingly fast Mustang, hanging out at your garage, the many spiritual discussions and our many, but not enough, breakfast meetings.

 

One thing I will never say to you, my life-long friend, is “Goodbye.”  What I will say is, “See you later, Snowy.”





God Knows He’s Not Getting a Perfect Leader

18 03 2019

In a vision the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, has (Isaiah 6:8), God asks who He should send as a prophet to His people.  Isaiah immediately responds in two sentences and five total words, “Here am I.  Send me!” Have you ever said, “Here am I, send me” to God or have you hesitated, knowing He just might take you up on it? When I was a parent of younger children and asked who was available for a job, my kids would tend to make themselves scarce quickly. That reaction to a voice of authority is not uncommon.

 

However, leaders, like Isaiah, do not wait to see if anyone else is going to step up when something needs to be done.  Leaders initiate, take initiative.  They are raising their hands and are not hesitant to stand and speak up.  Leaders make decisions to lead and are willing to take the jump at short notice. Leaders obey God and know when to step aside and leaders obey God and know when to step in.

 

True Holy Spirit led leaders also know they are not capable within themselves to lead, they walk in a Holy sense of inadequacy.  At the same time, leaders who know the voice of the Spirit, walk in a confidence that their adequacy is from the Lord only.

 

I have been a leader for a long time.  I’ve wanted to be a leader and have been committed to growing my leadership skills.  I have never been a perfect leader, but often felt like a mistake- ridden one.  It goes with the territory.  But when you as a leader respond to God with, “Here am I. Send me,” God knows He’s not getting a perfect leader, but rather a leader He is perfecting.

 

Leaders need grace like everyone does, especially when making a mistake.  There is no perfect leader, only leaders our Father is perfecting.





Crying, It Does a Marriage Good

11 03 2019

My wife cries.  My eyes sweat.  There is a difference!

 

A sad movie, a sad story, repeating a sad story or re-watching a sad movie – my wife cries.

 

My eyes sweat during those times.  I have no idea what comes over me…feelings, I’m guessing.

 

Did you know that God collects our tears? Psalm 56 reveals, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.”

 

Tears are actually a chemical wash to your eyes.  They are designed to help you feel better after a good cry because those chemicals cause a euphoria, so to speak, that helps to release emotion.  In that respect, it’s a healthy response or outlet. Tears have medicinal purpose because God made them that way.

 

So the next time your wife cries and/or your eyes sweat, let it happen; let it out and encourage your spouse to do the same.  Give one another permission to cry and do not attempt to rush in and fix the problem. Maybe all that is needed is a good cry or profuse sweating…whichever the case.








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