Monday, November 3, 2014

You never learn anything from the 2nd kick of a mule.

This is the time of year where I usually get myself into trouble. You would think that I would learn but evidently you would be wrong. Tomorrow is Election Day and I have a few thoughts that I am going to pass along.
  1. Politics is not the primary means by which we can affect social change. Jesus is. Even God Himself could not legislate righteousness (just read the Old Testament). The only true hope for the depravity of humanity is a heart transplant performed by the Holy Spirit.
  2. With that said I believe we have a right and a responsibility to vote our Christian convictions. We can and should make a difference in our communities and in our country. Voting is a great opportunity to be salt and light in this great nation we live in. I am ever amazed at the people who choose NOT to use their voice during the elections and suddenly find it after the fact. Complaining doesn't fix things, however, getting involved can!
  3. Now after all is said and done we need to remember that our first commitment is to His Kingdom. We are called to reach people from every walk of life and every political camp. Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and Independents all need Jesus and it is up to us, the Church, to share Him with them. As for me personally, I care more about someone’s forever than I do their political affiliation (or my own for that matter).
Now who should you vote for? That’s simple. Pray for wisdom and take time to educate yourself on the candidates and the current issues. It’s your vote and I encourage you to use it.
I’m Michael Abbott and I approved this message.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Just Another Day In Paradise.

Growing up in sunny Southern California had its benefits. Swimming during Christmas break, beautiful beaches just a short drive away, running into celebs at the local hangouts were just some of the things we took for granted. But there were also some drawbacks.

The home I grew up in was burglarized SIXTEEN times during my childhood.

That’s right - 16 x’s! Once while we were asleep and another time twice in a single day (I guess even thieves get a lunch break!?). We lived in a decent neighborhood in the ‘Valley’. We had bikes, tools, electronics, cameras, jewelry stolen and eventually just accepted that it was the price we paid for living in ‘paradise’.

I was telling this story the other day and realized what I was saying - WE ACCEPTED IT! Like it was some unalterable fact of life! The truth is that we could have bought a vicious dog (our Boston Terrier didn’t get the job done), hired a guard or dug a moat and filled it with laser equipped sharks. But we didn’t. After all, that is what we had homeowner’s insurance for.

Here in rural western North Carolina people often make fun of me because I lock everything, every time. In a town where people still leave the keys in the ignition when they run into the market I’m sort of an anomaly. Oh well, some habits are hard to change. And then I started thinking about how this mirrors our spiritual life. I love how it’s worded in the Amplified Version -

“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” - John 10:10

And here we are trudging through life allowing the enemy to steal, kill and destroy. After all we are saved (homeowner’s insurance). I wonder what we have ACCEPTED that isn’t a part of God’s plan for our lives? I wonder what doors and windows in our lives are unlocked providing easy access for the enemy? Possibly the words we use, the thoughts we entertain, the things we watch or how we spend our time & money? It might be time to DECIDE that being robbed on a regular basis ISN’T an acceptable way to live. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

I grew up watching Godzilla.

Last May our Sylva Campus Pastor Josh LaVere and I led an International Ministry trip to Ghana, West Africa. We had an amazing time with a bunch of great people and were honored to be a part of what God is doing around the world. But that’s not the point of this story.

See on the last day of our trip we do our souvenir shopping at a local outdoor market and then stop by the mall in the capital city of Accra before heading to the airport. Don’t hate me ladies but as far as I’m concerned if you’ve seen one mall you’ve seen them all - even those in another country. This was my fourth trip so I’ve pretty much bought all the trinkets I need. There is however at the mall a pretty decent coffee house, ice cream shop and a movie theater with serious air conditioning. We had a couple of hours before we needed to leave so Pastor Josh and I decided to catch a movie - Godzilla.

We (I) did the math and we had more than enough time. Well it turns out we didn’t. They didn’t start the 30 minutes of previews until about 10 minutes after the show was scheduled to start. We hadn’t factored that into our plans. We were scheduled to meet the team and head for the airport so we had to walk out during the final battle scene. We knew that the end had to be close but we just couldn’t stay any longer. During the trip home we came up with several possible endings since neither of us knew what really happened.

Tonight I found out. I was finally able to watch the whole movie and it turns out there was literally 30 seconds left of the big fight. Another 5 minutes and the story wrapped and the credits played. I kid you not. We walked out with 30 seconds to go! It made me think of a favorite verse of mine -

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” - Galatians 6:9

Here’s the deal. I don’t know what you have been and are going through. I don’t know how long you have been at this and I don’t know how much longer is left in your big fight. But I do know two things with absolute certainty -
  1. You have never been closer to breakthrough than you are right now at this very moment in this fight.
  2. No matter how close you are to winning if you give up now you lose.
My advice? Hang in there, the finale God has in store for you is worth the wait.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Dealing with Discouragement

I recently taught a message about 3 sources of defeat and I'd like to elaborate on the first one.


I see it everyday. People read a book, attend a seminar, have an epiphany that is going to change their life and then... a few days, a few weeks or maybe a few months later are back living in the same old rut. What happened? Well most times we simply became discouraged along the way. We have great ideas, even great intentions but sorry execution. We have been conditioned to respond to and expect instant gratification. I want what I want and I want it right now. I'm all for efficiency but great meals aren't made in a microwave. They have to simmer.

Great lives are much the same. It takes time to make changes and even more time for those changes to take effect. Think of it this way if you will - many of us have spent a lifetime doing whatever it is in our lives that's not working the wrong way. We have a lot invested in our disfunction. We change an attitude today, an action tomorrow and expect different results yesterday. Unfortunately that's not how the world works. When we don't see the rewards for our efforts immediately we get discouraged and tell ourselves that it's not working. The truth is it's just not working yet. Don't give up so quick because breakthrough is ahead (it's certainly not behind!).

We also get discouraged at times because we choose to listen to the wrong voices. The key word is CHOOSE. A while back I got verbally reamed by someone close to me. It had a profound effect. I'm talking loss of sleep, anxiety attacks, digestive problems and other stress related issued. Yes pastors struggle with these things too. I was talking with another pastor about my situation and he asked me why I allowed this person to talk to me like that. My response was, "What choice did I have?" The truth is that I had several and the one I chose didn't work well for me. If I'm presented with a similar situation in the future I will CHOOSE to walk away. No fuss, I simply won't participate. Hey, the deal is, haters gonna hate. There will always be people who will see (and say) the negative side in every situation.

In 1 Samuel 30 we have an interesting story about David dealing with discouragement. It would do you well to take a couple minutes to READ IT and let the reality of God's Word speak to you. David had lost everything and in that moment of discouragement everyone turned on him. Well almost everyone -

"But David found strength in the Lord his God." - 1 Samuel 30:6b

In the midst of our mess it feel like forever and it feels like we are alone. Neither are reality but they are real feelings. And feelings have to be dealt with. Get alone with God and get a proper perspective. Get around some good and Godly people who will build you up rather than tear you down. Don't let discouragement take root in your your heart and begin to bear fruit.

Think of the word for just a moment. Dis-Courage-Ment. The prefix 'Dis' means apart, asunder, away or having a reversing force. The suffix 'Ment' means the action or process of doing something. As we dissect the word it wouldn't be a stretch to define discouragement as - the action or process of reversing courage. You have to have had courage at one point to be discouraged at a later time. It's time to rediscover our courage. If we don't deal with our discouragement it will eventually lead us to defeat. You're victory is attainable. The only person who can stand in the way of you possessing God's promises for your life is you. Strengthen your resolve in the Lord and push through to victory. A great life is waiting for you on the other side of whatever obstacle or opposition you are currently facing. After all, God believes in you, if He didn't you wouldn't exist!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Distressed or De-Stressed?!

I shared a message recently at LifeWay Community Church that seemed to hit home for several people so I thought I would give you a quick Cliff Notes version -

There are many sources of stress in our lives but today I want to narrow it down to two of the majors -

  1. Not accepting responsibility for obligations that belong to us.
  2. Accepting responsibility for obligations that don't belong to us.
The story of Jonah is a perfect example of both. In Chapter 1 God gives him a responsibility that he decides to shirk. It ends up costing him greatly. While the storm rages he is fast asleep in the hold of the ship. Here is the takeaway - ignoring the responsibilities in our lives doesn't make them go away. On the contrary. Ignored responsibilities eventually become problems. More often than not the sooner you deal with a situation the better. Don't let that mole hill become a mountain! One of the ways we ignore the problem is by wasting time placing blame. At the end of the day your life is your responsibility and no one else's. Quit giving control away to everyone else, take responsibility and empower yourself to change your life. Your marriage, your family, your health, your wealth, your career, your retirement, your church and your relationship with God are your responsibility! The consequence of Jonah's refusal was of course he was viciously consumed by a great white shark. We know this because Scripture tells us that he was swallowed by a great fish. First a whale is not a fish and second there are only a couple of sharks (which are fish) big enough to eat a man whole (and whale sharks are not man eaters). This is not just my irrational shark phobia talking, it's Bible truth!

Now in Chapter 2 he comes to his senses and prays for God's salvation. God then causes that perfect killing machine to 'deposit' him on the shore. In Chapter 3 he begrudgingly goes to the city of Ninevah to warn them of the impending judgment. They repent and God relents but that isn't the end of the story. In Chapter 4 we see Jonah perched on a hill waiting to see the Ninevites get theirs. When they don't he becomes angry because, and get this, God is compassionate and slow to anger. Of all the things to get mad about?!? To teach him a lesson God makes a plant to grow to provide shade for Jonah. Later God kills the plant and Jonah pitches a fit worthy of a 2 year old in Walmart. The problem is now Jonah is trying to take upon himself the responsibility that belongs to God. God is mankind's judge, not Jonah. We worry so much about things that aren't ours to worry about. We become so critical of people for decisions that are not ours to make. At the end of the day it is really an issue of trust. Do we trust a perfect God to take care of us and work through imperfect people?

I want to leave you with 2 thoughts -
  1. Whatever you are facing you don't have to do it alone. If you are willing God is faithful every step of the way.
  2. Others are depending on you. Jonah's choices affected both his fellow passengers and the 120,000 residents of Ninevah.
...and 2 questions -
  1.  What is that one thing that needs to be done to move you forward in your family, your career and/or your relationship with God?
  2. What responsibilities are you carrying right now that don’t belong to you?
 It's your life and you are in charge!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Lessons I've Learned While Mowing My Lawn.

I recently asked our ministry team a question -

“What’s the difference between maintenance, momentum and moving forward?”

I received several great responses. Here are the highlights -
  • Maintenance - the ongoing energy required to keep things functioning at the current levels.
  • Momentum - the residual energy from previous efforts.
  • Moving Forward - the intentional energy needed to raise the bar to a higher level.

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics basically states that things left unattended tend to degrade. That means that we have to work just to keep the status quo. Let’s look at a simple example -

I mow my lawn 2-3 times each month in the summer. After a couple of weeks you can’t tell that I did anything. A couple of weeks later the place looks like a jungle. Let it go any longer and kids start to go missing. You have to work just to stay were you are at. It’s called ‘maintenance’. Now the first cut of the year always seems to take a little longer. I have to pick up branches that fell over the winter, spread fresh mulch and fertilizer and just to be honest I put off that first cut as long as possible. After that initial cut it gets easier as long as I stay on top of it. That’s called ‘momentum’. You are riding the wave of your past work. Momentum is a funny thing - it makes you look better than you really are when it is headed the right direction and worse than you really are when it’s against you. Here’s the deal, you can only ride it for so long before it starts to lose its effectiveness. Now if I want to get my yard ‘moving forward’ that’s a whole different deal altogether. I’ve got to come up with a plan, round up the troops, invest in some additional resources and get to work. A nice fire pit in the backyard would be a great addition to our home and a wonderful place to hang out with family and friends. No amount of maintenance or momentum is going to make that happen.

If we want to get our lives moving forward then it is going to take an intentional and additional effort compared to what we are currently doing. It’s the old adage, ‘you get out of life what you put into it.’ After I received all the responses I shot back a follow up email -

So which are you doing in -

Your walk with God?
Your marriage?
Your family?
Your ministry?
Your health?
Your wealth?

No response necessary but I would highly encourage you to wrestle with the answers for yourself.

You may find it to be a worthwhile exercise. I believe that God has great things in store for you. Jacob had to wrestle for his blessing (Genesis 32) and you might have to as well.

“The reason most people do not recognize an opportunity when they meet it is because it usually goes around wearing overalls and looking like Hard Work.” - Henry Dodd

Friday, April 4, 2014

Wisdom & Strength

We just wrapped up our Equipped 2014 conference presented by Covenant Life Ministries and hosted by New Covenant Church. God’s presence was incredible, the speakers were amazing and getting to catch up with old friends from around the globe was great. The theme this year was Re-Generational. We are totally aware that it’s not a real word but it is a powerful concept. To realize that God, not to mention 2000 years’ worth of faithful men & women, have passed the baton on to us is humbling. To understand that we have the responsibility of preparing the next generation to carry on the cause is sobering.

We must finish well. In order to do that we must live and work for something bigger than ourselves. We must realize that true success cannot occur without a successor. I’m not talking about passing along an organization or a position - not to say those are necessarily bad things. What I mean is that we must equip people to lead and then empower them to do so. Jesus is still building His church, day by day, year by year and generation by generation.

There are so many sad stories in the Scriptures about one generation failing the next - Eli & his sons, Samuel and his sons, Solomon and Rehoboam and the list goes on. The entire book of Judges is like Bill Murray in ‘Groundhog Day’ - History repeating itself over and over. Every time God raised up a judge the people would repent and then the judge dies and the pandelerium ensues. So tragic and so unnecessary!

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” - Malachi 4:5-6 (NIV)

Generations must learn to cooperate and not to just tolerate one another. We must truly love and value each other because every generation has something of value to offer. What could we accomplish if we married the wisdom of one generation with the energy the next? Or the creativity of a teenager and the perspective of a senior? We would be unstoppable!

One generation thinks the music is too loud and another wants to crank it up. One grew up holding hymn books and another with projection screens. One remembers the stained glass and another wants LED lights and fog machines. At the end of the day what really matters is that we all have something to offer and we need each other to achieve our common calling. It’s something the Apostle Paul understood -

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” - 2 Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV)

Hopefully we get it too, and sooner rather than later. We need to pass the baton, not the buck - and that applies to the young, the wise and those of us somewhere in between.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Alternate Reality

This past weekend we had an incredible worship event at our Clayton Campus called Ignite. We spent about an hour just soaking in God’s presence and I believe that worship is a rich environment in which to hear the voice of the Lord. That evening I sensed that people had allowed their situations to redefine their reality instead of trusting God at His word. We’ll get back to that in a moment but for now I want to share a passage of Scripture with you.

“As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored.” - Matthew 9:27-30a (NIV)

Many of us have walked through an extended season of challenges. Maybe it’s an illness, or a grown child who has lost their way or perhaps you were looking forward to retirement until the economy took a nosedive. Anyway as the days turned to weeks and the weeks to years we have accepted our current circumstances as our new fate. Remember that Psalm 23 says God takes us ‘through’ not ‘to’ the valley of the shadow of death. Don’t get me wrong, God rewards faithfulness. It’s not like we’ve given up and quit on God, but we’ve lost sight of the calm waters and green pastures that are waiting for us on the other side. We’ve pushed God’s blessing off into eternity because it’s safer that way. We wouldn’t want to get our hopes up after all!

Let me make one thing clear - Jesus healed these two guys THIS SIDE of heaven! And He did it according to their faith not His. So what do you believe God is able to do? Seriously. Can He heal you? Can He reach your lost loved one? Can He provide for you abundantly in spite of the economy? A good friend of mine once told me that, “Faith isn’t denying the facts. It is demanding that they submit themselves to God’s truth.” Don’t settle for any less than God’s absolute best for you. Don’t let the world, the devil or any situation determine your reality. It’s time to get your hopes up again!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Parenting 101

First let me state for the record that I am not an expert when it comes to parenting. I have made my fair share of mistakes and am so thankful for God's (and my kids') grace. I do however have some personal experience and as a former youth pastor years of observing what works and what doesn't.

# 1 - Quit raising kids and start raising adults. I’m not suggesting that we rob them of their childhood and expect 6 year olds to act like 60 year olds. We do, however, keep our eyes on the goal which is to prepare them to be successful members of society. If they can’t make good and Godly decisions on their own by the time they are 17-18 we have failed them. That doesn’t mean that they don’t appreciate our wisdom and experience it just means we have trained them well and instilled in them the confidence that they need to succeed. That means we need to let them make mistakes (within reason) and accept responsibility for the outcomes. If you will be their parent when they are children then you get to be their friend when they are adults. If you choose to be their friend when they are children then you have to be their parent when they are adults.

# 2 - Invest in their walk with God. Get them involved in church - not just attending but participating and serving. Studies indicate that 80% of church going kids walk away from God when they move out of the house. But for kids who had a meaningful role in the church 80% of them remained. Get them serving somehow, somewhere and the sooner the better. Teens need to find own relationship with God and not just their parents. Send them to conferences, on mission trips, etc. and PLEASE don’t punish them by grounding them from church.

# 3 - Help them to discover their calling in Christ. God has a plan and a purpose for every person, not just those in professional ministry. We need Christian doctors and teachers and mechanics and business owners just as we need pastors, missionaries, etc. They need to know that success in life is fulfilling what God created them to be and to do.

# 4 - Teach them that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Because it doesn’t. If they have to discover that after 18 years of being told otherwise it’s going to hurt. I’ve seen too many kids blindsided by college professors and first bosses with the harsh reality of life. Get them volunteering in their church and community on a regular basis.

# 5 - Train them to fight their own battles. Obviously they need to know that we are there for them and we need to intervene at age appropriate moments. You won’t always be there for them and if they can’t stand up for what is right on their own they are in trouble. If we step in or let them quit at the first sign of trouble how are they ever going to make a marriage work?

# 6 - Be the person you want them to become. ‘Do as I say not as I do’ just doesn’t work. Model the attitudes and actions you want them to have. Let me say it another way. Deal with your own issues so they don’t have to. Blond hair, blue eyes and high cholesterol aren’t the only things we pass along.

# 7 - Finally, pray, pray and pray some more. I believe that God can and does make all the difference in the world.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” - Proverbs 22:6 NASB

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What Am I Missing?

I was reading through Mark’s account of the life of Christ when I came across the following passage -

“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” - Mark 6:45-52 NIV

The last statement hit me like a ton of bricks.

Please bear with me for just a moment. We ONLY see what we see and that is ALL that we see. The problem is that we inaccurately assume that all that we see is all that there is to see. Have you ever been driving along and go to change lanes only to have a car suddenly appear right beside you? It’s almost like it materialized completely out of thin air. The car has been there all along, we just couldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t see it. It’s called a blind spot. We all have them. Many of us just refuse to acknowledge that fact.

If guys who walked and talked and worked and lived and laughed and cried with Jesus could miss it is it at all possible that I/we might be missing something too? So I began to ask myself, “Self, where is your heart hardened? What is it that you are unaware of in your life? What is God showing you that you just aren’t seeing?” I’m convinced that I still have MUCH to learn from the Holy Spirit.

A good first step is to admit that we don’t know it all. Then we have to ask God to show us what we are missing. Lastly we must keep our hearts tender so as to hear. See God often speaks through people, some of whom we have decided don’t have anything of value to say. Or we have simply become so familiar to their voice that we fail to hear God speaking through them.

Ignorance isn’t bliss. What we don’t know can indeed hurt us. Let’s not live life with hearts hardened and blinders on.

Monday, March 3, 2014

What a Jerk!

So the other day I’m driving through the Nantahala Gorge on my way to my parent’s house. For those of you who don’t have the privilege of calling Western North Carolina home let me paint a picture for you. The two lane road winds through the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains along the banks of the Nantahala River. In the summer months both the road and the river are full of tourists and locals alike eager to experience the adventure the white water has to offer. It’s not uncommon to see skillful anglers waiting for a wary rainbow trout to hit their expertly presented fly. One of the best ways to take in the sights and the sounds is in an open air passenger car aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railway. Needless to say it is a beautiful drive, but not the best route if you need to get somewhere in a hurry.

So as I’m navigating the twists and turns I notice a vehicle quickly approaching in my rear view mirror. There are several places to pull off to let others pass and I’m inclined to use them (and so should everyone else). I will state for the record that I was driving the speed limit plus 5. After all this is ‘Merica! Apparently this guy fancies himself a budding NASCAR driver because he was drafting me like Talladega Nights. Before I came to a place to let him pass he crossed the double yellow line and blasted by. What a knucklehead.

Of course since I’m a pastor my immediate response was to pray for him, speak blessings over his family and extend unconditional forgiveness… or not. I felt my blood pressure rising. Where did he need to go in such a hurry?! Who was he to put me and everyone else on the road in danger?! Why did he think that he was above the law?! NC’s finest often patrol this stretch of road. I could picture him pulled over, blue lights flashing, the bead of sweat forming on his brow as he calculated the cost as ‘the man’ handed him his well-deserved ticket. I should probably call *HP and get this menace to society off of the streets. After all it’s my civic duty. I owe it to every other law abiding citizen out there.

Except that I was speeding too. And it’s not my job to enforce the law. And I’m sure the guy in the other car hasn’t given it another thought. I’m the one wound up. I’m the one frustrated. What a jerk. Not him - ME! I let someone else into my head, into my heart and gave him the power to determine my state of being. So I had this thought… what if I didn’t care anymore? I’m not talking about people or important things but stuff that I have absolutely no control over. In reality this guy didn’t do anything to me. I wasn’t delayed, I didn’t wreck, we didn’t exchange communiqué via sign language.

What if I focused ONLY on the things that God has given me responsibility for and COMPLETELY trusted Him with EVERYTHING else? My guess is I’d definitely enjoy life’s scenic drives a lot more. I suppose you would too.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Why I quit going to church.

God’s presence has been incredible lately at LifeWay. I’m not talking about better than usual, but like at a whole new level. Worship is amazing, lives are being changed and people are getting saved every week. I love it! I’m not saying that to brag on us but rather to brag on Him and to ask a question…

What changed?

I think we changed. Scripture clearly states that God didn’t.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” - Hebrews 13:8 NIV

We started this year by calling our church to a 21 day fast and many people responded in faith. I believe that with our physical hunger came a deeper spiritual hunger for God. We came to church expectant and I believe placed a greater demand on the Holy Spirit.

“Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.” - Mark 6:4-6 NIV

It absolutely amazes me that the Bible states that the very Son of God could not (COULD NOT!) do many miracles because of their lack of faith. I think a lot of people show up at church on Sunday because that’s what they do every Sunday (which is not a bad thing). The rub is that our focus is on what we do rather than who we are. Heart always trumps habit. We can either wake up and go through our routine OR we can stop, recognize that we are getting ready to gather together with the Body of Christ (the hope of glory) in the very presence of the Creator of heaven and earth. Anything and everything is possible! How we approach Him makes all the difference in how He approaches us.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dollars & Sense

Most people have more month than they do money. Every year they fall just a little further behind, working harder and longer and still not making any headway. Without a plan for life’s emergencies they make it from paycheck to paycheck with a little help from their plastic ‘friend’. They delude themselves into thinking that things are going to change (without making a change) and their plans for the future involve little more than wishful thinking. If it’s not working for most people then maybe we should consider a different approach.

Sound fiscal management isn’t rocket science but it does require a purposeful approach. In a nutshell here is God’s plan to win with money -

1. Measure - You have to know what’s coming in, what’s going out and where from/to. Every dollar needs to be accounted for.

“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.” - Proverbs 27:23 NIV

2. Manage - You need to give every dollar an assignment. Instead of asking ‘where your money went?’ it’s time to tell it ‘where to go’. This is where the tide turns. This is where you take control of your financial future and make a change that makes a change. If you don’t want to be like everyone else then you can’t do like everyone else. You must choose to go against the grain, live beneath your means and free yourself from the bondage of debt.

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” - Proverbs 22:7 NIV

3. Multiply - You’ve worked hard for your money. Now it’s time for it to work just as hard for you. There are a number of different ways to invest (business, stocks, real estate, etc.) but the first investment you should make is in educating yourself. This is not about making a quick buck but about systematic sowing and reaping.

“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” - 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 NIV

The reason most people struggle with money is not an issue of education or even economics, the real issue is Lordship. See money has a way of getting its hooks in our hearts like few other things.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” - Matthew 6:19-24 NIV

The best advice I can give you in keeping a right relationship with money is to actively cultivate your own generosity.

“One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” - Proverbs 11:24-25 NIV

Making your money count for more than just yourself is a great investment and pays dividends in both this life and the next. After all, ‘what comes around goes around’.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Anatomy of an Apology

Last time I checked there has only ever been exactly one single solitary individual to walk the face of this earth without sinning. I promise it isn't me and I'm fairly certain it's not you either. We drop the ball, we miss the mark, we make mistakes. Face it, we sin. It's part of living in a fallen world. But that isn't an excuse and doesn't absolve us of the responsibility of our actions and/or inactions. We should own up, fess up when we mess up, and apologize. It's interesting how most people mentally agree that everyone fails but the same people who claim to 'not be perfect' act as though they are. They make excuses, rationalize why the behavior of others or the situation justifies them and flat refuse to admit their guilt. It's' crazy.

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." - Romans 12:17-21

I think as Christians we ought to be the first to step up, humble ourselves, accept responsibility and ask for forgiveness. When we have come up short so to speak, unintentionally or otherwise, this is how we should respond -
  1. Recognize that you have wronged, offended and/or hurt someone else. That's all that matters at this point. This is where being sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit is vital. Guilt is good because it leads us back to God, shame is bad because it causes us to withdraw and hide.
  2. Repent before God. The sooner the better! Many view repentance only in terms of our initial salvation experience. I believe it should be a hallmark of our lives as believers. God says IF we will confess our sins He WILL forgive them.
  3. Pray for peace. In impossible situations God can do amazing things. He can soften the hardest heart and open the door for difficult discussions.
  4. Ask for forgiveness. It may be semantics but I rarely if ever say 'I'm sorry'. If you look at the true meaning of the word you are literally saying 'I am a worthless' and regardless of how bad I've screwed up I'm not worthless. My recommendation is that you say, "I apologize for ???, will you forgive me?" One is a statement and the other a question. It requires a response and empowers the other person in the situation. If you don't think it matters just see which one is harder to say.
  5. Make amends if possible. If our heart is truly grieved for hurting someone else it is appropriate and right for us to fix what we can. As for what we can't... thank God for grace! For instance - 'I accidentally ran over your mailbox repeatedly. Will you forgive me? Can I replace it for you?'

I think it's safe to say that forgiveness is a BIG DEAL with God so it should be a big deal to us as well. If God cares about something we should too.

 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." - Matthew 5:23-24

Thursday, January 30, 2014


As I have grown in my walk with the Lord I have matured in my expectations and perspective. I appreciate the input that my pastor has had in my life. Early in ministry when I encountered a 'word' from the Lord or had some fresh revelation I assumed that if God was speaking to me then He must be speaking to everyone. With much grace and good advice he was able to temper my enthusiasm. See just like infants progress into toddlers, into children, into adolescents, into teenagers into young adults we as Christians go through (or at least we should) a similar spiritual progression.

For instance I used to long for the day when I hear God say, "well done good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25) but now after a couple of decades of following Christ I've raised my expectations. When all is said and done, when I have finished the race that God has given me to run I hope to hear Him say, "This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Matthew 17).

There are a few questions in life that must be answered and how we answer them impacts everything.

  1. Who is God?
  2. How does God see me?
  3. Who am I living to please?

There was a time in my life when I only saw myself as a servant, but now I see myself as a son. Makes sense when you read the following passage -

“Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” - Galatians 4:1-7

See both a servant and a son desire to do well and be commended, but each work from a different motivation. One from a sense of duty or obligation and the other because of relationship. It is different working for a company than it is in the family business. When it comes to the Kingdom we are more than just people punching a clock, we are fully invested stakeholders!

"For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends." - 2 Corinthians 10:18

My prayer is that you are able to see yourself as God sees you, not with arrogance but with humble confidence!

Monday, January 20, 2014

In Victory and Defeat.

So I watched a great football game last night. Both teams came to play and fought tooth and nail until the very end. I love watching games that keep you on the edge of your seat and come down to the last few plays. Down by 6 points and in possession of the ball the QB hurled what could have been the game winning pass into the end zone. As the ball hung in the air the cornerback leaped and spun just in time to get a single hand on it. It proved to be just enough to deflect the pass into the hands of a nearby teammate. Game over. Done. Finished. He had single handedly sealed the fate of two teams. His team headed for the Super Bowl and their opponents to the locker room. He was a hero.

But in the heat of the moment he felt the need to antagonize the other player. After incurring a personal foul he kept digging during a post-game interview. It was pitiful to watch. In what should have been a moment of triumph he suffered personal defeat. He rose to the occasion as an athlete, but sank in the moment as a man.

It reminds me of another account of pride found in Scripture -

Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother’s name was Jekoliah; she was from Jerusalem. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success… But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense… Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the Lord’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead… King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house—leprous, and banned from the temple of the Lord. Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land.” - 2 Chronicles 26:3-21 (NIV)

Pride is like leprosy of the soul. Humility is not a sign of weakness, but rather of inner strength and character. True humility is being secure in who you are and compassionate to those around you. God wants us to be confident, not arrogant, in both victory and defeat.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Fast To Put God First

Our church is in the middle of a 21 day Fast To Put God First in 2014. Fasting is a mostly misunderstood and often underutilized tool in our Christian journey and I wanted to share a few thoughts regarding the subject -
  1. First it is not a diet because the primary goal is spiritual and not physical.
  2. It is not strong-arming or manipulating God. Cut to the two year old throwing a tantrum in the Walmart checkout because he wants a candy bar.
  3. It is not punishing ourselves or even sacrificing for the sake of sacrificing. You need to fast with wisdom and people with medical conditions or taking certain medications should talk with their doctor (sounds like a pharmaceutical commercial). Remember that God is not asking you to hurt yourself.
  4. Fasting is a conscious choice to sacrifice something for a specific period of time in order to focus on something else.
  5. It is aligning our spirit, soul and body in the right priority and choosing to put God first - see Matthew 6:33.
  6. Fasting is not about bondage, it's about freedom.
  7. A true fast is not just about what you don't do, it is just as much about what you do. Take a look at Isaiah 58 for more details.
If you've never fasted you really ought to try it. You might have a bunch of questions like 'What do I fast?', 'For how long?', 'When should I start?'. Why don't you just ask God? Start small, start where you are at but the most important thing is just starting. After all Jesus said "When you fast..." not if you fast (Matthew 6:16-18).

If you want more info there are some great books available and Campus Crusade for Christ has some really helpful online resources HERE.

God's Promises.

Earlier this week I was working on a log cabin I have for sale. As I was driving over to crawl back under the house for the 3rd day this is ...