HOME AGAIN

15 09 2017

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We enter this world as strangers in a strange land. From the moment the umbilical cord is cut and our lungs are cleared to breathe, we cry out instinctively because we already live in a vacuum. To be tended to by loving parents will surely help keep the innate pain to a bare minimum. Being held close to a Mother’s breast and receiving the utmost of care by a strong Father will meet many of the deepest needs of that child; but there will still always be that one canyon size hole in the soul that no amount of tender loving attention will be able to cure. God created within us an unconquerable restlessness that will only be fully satisfied by discovering our home in Him. If one examines the address of origin written in an indelible ink upon our hearts, he or she will soon discover that if we are ever found in the dead letter office of humanity, the instructions are clear to please return us to Sender. Only the One who made us can properly place us in the position where we were destined to shine. Eventually all of us need to go home again.

 How do we get there? First, we have to make sure that our parcel is not purposely sabotaged and buried in a pile of forgotten presents. Second, we need people who are passionate about seeing lost packages properly delivered to the right party. Third, we have to be perfectly positioned with our eyes wide open so that we don’t miss the magic. Finally, there is a plethora of memories to be made for those who are willing to come together and put a priority on the lives of the people we need to be partnering with rather than wasting away our precious moments on projects that just don’t amount to much.

 We can’t be signed, sealed and delivered without a committed effort. There are way too many naysayers who are content to let the living letters of life be left unread. When there is not the proper value placed upon the masterpiece that every individual is, the population buys into the lie that people are nothing more than junk mail rather than special delivery. It takes a need for a hero to be called. It takes faith for someone to rise and accept the risk. It takes humility to work together as a united team. It takes a little divine chemistry for all the diverse character traits to operate in true unity and harmony. But when it happens, history is altered for the better.

 If we surrender our tendency to always have to be in a hurry, and if we learn how to pray in such the way that we will trust the timing, and if we are willing to be patient enough to listen before we leap, miracles may be there for us right on the horizon. But we have to stop treating this race as one where only those who come in first win the prize. It’s not about position that determines a winner, but about partnering together so that all will cross the finished line in a victorious fashion. We need the deep thinkers and the technologically savvy. We need those who are wise as serpents and yet as innocent as doves. We need those who aren’t afraid to exhibit the wonder of children while still being mature in their total behavior. We need to come together and break bread while sharing a kombucha smoothie and a bottle of Yoo Hoo. Some days we need to resist the temptation to email or text and break out the pen and paper and sit right down and write ourselves a note that contains our blood, sweat, smiles and tears. We won’t write the memoirs that realize the fullness of our hope and our future without being willing to let the ink of our souls sink in deep. If you want it easy, apply elsewhere. If you want to witness the view from what the world looks like from higher ground, then roll the dice and see if it doesn’t bring you to the threshold of that one in a million adventure.

 I am not settling for a tomorrow that only plays it safe. How do we genuinely ever know if we would be lost without another, if we aren’t willing to let them go so we can give them a legitimate chance to allow their love to lead them back where they belong? We all have enough excuses to never get out of bed again. We have all been burned, bruised, broken and busted. Nobody would blame us if we settled for the cushy position of status quo. Yet when the noise of this world’s volume is finally on mute, we can still hear the music of our native tongue. God has put eternity in our beings. Life is like an obstacle course, but when we are willing to suit up rather than space out, we discover that everything we have been looking for is right before our very eyes. And so it goes for those who are willing to dance. And if I can prevent you from putting down roots in a ground that bears no fruit, then I am game if it stops you from pulling up lame. I have seen the joy of a beloved homecoming. I have cried the tears that have fallen because of tasting the complete satisfaction of reunion. I am greedy for more. What some have deemed not fit for the system still need to know the sweet grace of salvation. So stop, oh yes, wait a minute Mr. Postman, and check and see one more time for me, if there’s a letter in your bag not only for me, but from me. The next letter may be the right letter that leads us all home where we belong.       





BEACH SERVICE 2017

30 08 2017

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Every year since 1997, on the last Sunday of August, the Lighthouse Church heads to the Beach for a Worship Service that culminates in the celebration of the Baptism of Believers right smack dab in the ocean. This past week, 26 men and women of different ages made an external declaration of the internal work of salvation that happened when they opened up their hearts to Jesus. While everyone comes to receive the gift of everlasting life by grace through faith in what our Lord did for us on the cross of Calvary, it is awesome to hear the stories of the unique avenues that God used to bring his people into a relationship with himself.     

The Baptism of Jesus was an event that made it into all four Gospels. Every author of every gospel found this event so inspiring and so important that it was commanded as a must read by the Holy Spirit. Baptism for Jesus signaled the official beginning of his earthly ministry that would eventually culminate in the death and resurrection of the Son of God. In so many ways, it was the inauguration, or his grand opening, so to speak. But it’s also a bit unusual because there doesn’t seem to be any reason for Jesus to be baptized. I mean, Jesus was perfect and had nothing to be forgiven of.                  

There’s a little confusion about baptism. Some people wrongly think that baptism is the event that makes one a Christian; but nowhere does Scripture teach that baptism saves you. Baptism doesn’t get you to find Jesus. Baptism happens because Jesus has already found you!

There is an old story of an inebriated man who stumbled upon a baptismal service one Sunday afternoon that was being celebrated down by the river. It was down south, back in the day, and this guy walked right down into the water and stood next to the Preacher. The Minister turned and noticed the old drunk and asked him point blank, “Sir, Are you ready to find Jesus?” The drunk looked back and said, “Yes, Preacher. I sure am.” The Minister then dunked the fellow under the water and pulled him right back up. “Have you found Jesus?” the Preacher asked. “No, I haven’t!” said the drunk. The Preacher then dunked him under for a bit longer, brought him up and said, “Now, brother, have you found Jesus?” “No, I haven’t Preacher.” This time quite frustrated, the Preacher held the man under for at least 30 seconds this time, pronouncing the Names of all of the Trinity and the 12 Disciples and finally brought him out of the water and said in a serious tone, “Friend, are you sure you haven’t found Jesus yet?” The old drunk wiped his eyes gasping for breath and said to the Preacher, “No Preacher, I still can’t find Jesus. Are you sure this is where he fell in?”

Baptism isn’t where you find Jesus. Baptism is what a Believer does after you’ve found him. Baptism is a Christian’s way of publicly pronouncing what the Spirit has already privately accomplished in the heart. It is not to be done as one would jump on a Bandwagon. It is to be a personal and individual decision made by someone who is ready to follow the Lord in all kinds of weather and seasons and changing times.

It’s like when a sports team does really well, it’s amazing how many people start wearing their gear. You see Yankees hats in Kentucky even though there’s nobody from Kentucky that has ever been to New York. But the Yankees win and people buy their stuff. That’s why I truly appreciate the real Philadelphia Eagles fans. When I see someone wearing something of the Eagles, I know they are dedicated. It’s not as if they’ve given us anything to be proud of lately, but here is to all the diehards who are never grounded even when the Eagles don’t fly. What do you call a Philadelphia Eagle with a Super Bowl ring? The answer is: A thief. But I am forever hoping that this will be the year our Championship Dreams come true.

Jesus is not looking for fair weather fans. He is calling all people to come out of the crowds and follow him. Those who are being baptized are those Believers locked in to not abandoning Team Jesus no matter how difficult the journey may be.

But that doesn’t answer the question, “Why would Jesus seek to be baptized by John?” This baptism was a moment of humility, commitment and identification. Jesus’ Baptism was a baptism of commitment. He was all in. Jesus took this step of obedience to show us the way. Humility, commitment, and identification: that’s really what baptism is all about.

Christianity has everything to do with the character traits of humility, commitment, and identification.  The baptisms we performed last Sunday were all about humility, commitment and identification. It’s humbling to get into the water in front of everybody. It’s an act of humble obedience to Jesus. It’s also an act of commitment and identification. When you’re baptized and people see you, the expectation level goes way up. People will expect you, and rightly so, to walk the talk. Baptism calls the Believer to fully identify with Christ, and just like he was baptized to identify with us, we’re baptized to identify with Him. He was buried and rose again, and the water symbolizes that we get buried under the water and we rise again to brand new life.

We have all sorts of ceremonies today. Graduation is kind of a stepping into adulthood event in the lives of young people. A wedding ceremony is a public declaration that some-thing in your life has changed. Baptism too should be a stake in the ground that from here on the lives being lived are now done so for the honor and glory of God.

Do you remember what happened when Jesus came out of the water? After Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And there came a voice from heaven that everyone heard saying, “This is my beloved Son. I take eternal delight in Him!” Humble obedience and commitment to Jesus and identification with God always lead to Heaven’s affirmation for those who wear God’s name on earth. For 26 people, a brand new ministry began in their lives in the ocean waters last Sunday. I am here today to pray them on as a launch for their lights to shine bright no matter what!





JERRY LEWIS, MOM AND JESUS!

22 08 2017

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As I write this, the breaking news is that Jerry Lewis has just passed. And while I have heard the news that he wasn’t the most genial of men to get along with, nobody can argue with how many laughs he brought many of us. Growing up, it was always a big Family Movie Night when a Jerry Lewis Picture was on television. The Nutty Professor, The Disorderly Orderly, Cinderfella, Who’s Minding The Store, The Ladies Man and Rock-A-Bye Baby were some of the treasured nuggets that we didn’t mind seeing over and over again.  Even my thrifty Dad would allow his kids to have their own pints of ice cream to enjoy when it was NBC Saturday Night at the Movies with Jerry. And then there were those celebrated classic comedies from when Jerry Lewis was partnered with Dean Martin. The Stooge, The Caddy and That’s My Boy will forever be counted among my all time favorites. And somehow the Jerry Lewis Telethon on Channel 5 out of New York City would always mark the conclusion of another summer and the reality of another school year about to begin. Some times those memories seem to be from another lifetime years and years ago and at other times, it seems like it all just occurred yesterday.

 I passed my love for Jerry Lewis on to my children and now my grandchildren. My son Rudy and I were privileged enough to have seen Jerry Lewis on Broadway in the musical Damn Yankees. It inspired Rudy to actually be in the play when Middle Township performed it during his high school years. And I still see lots of Jerry Lewis in me, even in my preaching. I am a slapstick kind of guy who loves to use different “voices” when I talk and still find lots of humor in a healthy pratfall. I know the times are always changing and in a constant state of flux, but there are days I miss the simpler years of childhood.

 Maybe it is the reality of my Mom turning 80 years old this weekend. Dad graduated to Heaven back in 2000 and there is still not a night that I don’t dream about him even 17 years later. And my Mom has always told me that when she turns 80, she’ll have the body of a 40 year old. I believe she’s right but I’m almost 60 and I sometimes I feel like I have the body of a 90 year old. My spirit still has the vibrancy of a teenager, but these bones will put up a good fight to sit out what my soul has put on the daily agenda. Maybe as the world continues to turn and another page of the calendar becomes a part of history, I am becoming wise to what matters most.

 There was once a Broadway Musical called The Fantastiks.  Its signature song was “Try To Remember.” The lyrics go something like this, “Try to remember the kind of September, When life was slow and oh, so mellow. Try to remember the kind of September, When grass was green and grain was yellow. Try to remember the kind of September, When you were a tender and callow fellow. Try to remember and if you remember then follow.”

 Life can’t be scripted, boxed in or tightly tamed. Love calls us to go where the heart must choose to be adventurous or else it will run and hide away. Faith is essential for us to follow our Creator into the hope and future he designed for us. You can’t put God into your own convenient carrying case to arrange and unleash when you feel like it. The tragedy of man-made religion is that it always reduces God to someone to be controlled, rather than seeing God as the One who is in control and is worthy of real, whole-life worship. And reducing God leaves us worshiping a god who cannot help or save or bless. In the end, the junk food of self-made religion will disappoint.

Whatever we make into our god—money, power, relationships or even a reduced, man-made version of the biblical God—will not deliver. The person who makes career their god will eventually find their route to blessing blocked by someone who is “too strong”—too able, too well-connected, too “lucky”—for them. The person who makes their image their god will find time an enemy too strong for them to hang onto their youth and good looks. Ultimately, death removes all the false gods we look to for blessing.  Everyone is a worshiper. I don’t believe in Atheists. The only question is, who or what is the thing we look to for ultimate meaning and purpose and blessing?

This is a different world than the one that many of us were raised in. Americans are more known for their love of ease and their pursuit of possessions than their championing of faith, hope and love.  It is so tempting to carve out a make believe bunker for ourselves—a quiet little island of peace where we can live in affluence and forget all about the crazy and chaotic world outside. But that is not how our Parents raised us. Our Grandparents modeled for us a courage and fight and
no-nonsense work ethic that withstood The Depression, World Wars and anything else that this old world threw at them. This isn’t a season to settle. This is no time to retreat and escape. No consistent New Testament Christian can live a life of ease. No lover of the cross can retire from God’s mission in the world.                               

  If you want to settle down into life as a comfortable Christian, casually unconcerned about the needs of men and women and the call of God, you are going to have to settle to serve an idol because Jesus is going to call you not to settle in a lazy boy but to lay down your lives, pick up your cross and follow the Lord. When I remember where I came from, it gives me the inspiration to keep on going and with the faith of my Mom and the sense of humor of Jerry Lewis and the everlasting love of Jesus, I know I’m going to make it.





MANY ARE CHOSEN BUT FEW ARE CALLED

16 08 2017

 

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I recall hearing Pastor Warren Wiersbe of Moody Church once say, “We shouldn’t worry because our government won’t allow children to have Bibles in school. They’ll make sure that they get free Bibles when they go to prison.” While he said this tongue in cheek, there is still very eye opening sober truth attached to it. Currently, our prisons are so crowded that the government doesn’t know what to do. But if every family that claimed faith would start living what they say they believe at home and if the men and women of our communities would stop worrying about being so politically correct that they act so wrong they are hardly ever right, perhaps we could stop some of the nation’s crime by nipping it in the bud before it ever got a chance to blossom. To build a strong foundation for a just and socially healthy society, we must be aggressively intentional about investing quality time in our sons and daughters way before the cement has begun to harden and dry.  

There is too much saying one thing and doing another going on all around us. We are into making big spiritual speeches that lack any specific steps to put substance to those sentences. God doesn’t want your words. He wants his will to become your way! I am not a big fan of people making speeches before the game ever begins. Prove it on the field. Show up for the daily battle. Be victorious first and then be vocal about it after! Save your declarations after your sincere dedication has already made a significant statement.

 It is about time that Believers begin believing and Leaders get responsible about their mentoring and modeling. Are we are going to invest what time we have left on this earth by repenting of our sin and admitting how far we have fallen from what God had called us to be and to do? Or will we choose to just sink back and settle for staying busy by keeping up the facades and doing cosmetic adequate touch up jobs of outer image repairing? If we are not hopelessly devoted to the Lord we will end up haplessly deceived by our self centered hearts. Someone who does not have the Holy Spirit living inside of them can not follow their heart with any hope of a positive result. For without Jesus running the show, a person’s ego will always choose to be “Me First,” over allowing God to be “He First!”

 What is truly going on in your home? If your house is a good deal like many other homes today then according to statistics, money is the god the family worships, children are good at stealing from their parents and lying about what they do, and family honor is a lost art and the true God is unwelcomed and unwanted. Pursuing pleasure will always be a temptation for all of us and if it becomes number one, it will eventually preempt us from seeking the prize of knowing Jesus and putting him above everything else!

 When “It is Written” becomes “It is Wasted,” life results in “It’s Not Worth it” and it just gets worse from that point forwards. What is important when we get serious about reaching for goals and accomplishments is that we allow God to lead us and we don’t try to manipulate God by us supposedly leading Him! One of the enemy’s most subtle devices is to cause Christians to become dissatisfied and disgusted with life’s circumstances and the area of service that God has given them. “I should be better known.” “I should be in public more.” “I should be paid more.” “I should receive more praise.” It is very subtle, but far too often Christians will not do a job because they think it is beneath them; or they will leave a church because no one pays enough attention to them; or they will pout because someone else is more important than they are. If who we are and what we do is not about pleasing God, than it is being done for all the wrong reasons for all the wrong results.  

 It must grieve the Lord today to see people worshiping the idols of ministerial “success”: statistics, buildings, and reputation. In today’s “consumer society,” self-appointed preachers and “prophets” have no problem getting a following and peddling their religious wares to a church that acts more like a Hollywood fan club than a holy people of God. The purpose of man’s empty religious efforts is to get access to God so that humans can get God to do what they want. The goal of true faith is to give God access to your heart so that he can get you to do what he wants. Religion’s true purpose is to get God to serve you. The gospel faith’s purpose is to get your heart to serve him.

 Money can’t buy you God! Sin may be fun for a season, but the party is eventually over and bills must be paid for and if Jesus has not paid it all, then we die bankrupt. There are many things that can occupy our time and that you can be sure that there always will be. There are good things we can devote our lives to, but the most important things are the God things.  When you do decide to step out from under your own passing fancy to commit to getting your agenda in line with Heaven’s to do list, your schedule won’t automatically clear. It never does. Instead, expect and look for God to show up. He will give you extra wisdom, energy, resources and strength. While all those are cherished additions, the greatest treasure of all is that God will give you unlimited access to himself. Anyone ready to follow Jesus?





REMEMBERING APRILE IN AUGUST!

8 08 2017

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I officiated the Funeral last weekend of a dear childhood friend of mine named Aprile. She had asked me when the time came if I would be there to facilitate her Memorial Service. I promised that I would. We grew up in the same neighborhood up in the northern part of our beloved New Jersey in a town called Cedar Knolls which is part of Morris County. It was a simpler time in a very close knit community where we could stay out all day and never have to worry about being in any danger. Everybody knew each other and there was a camaraderie we all shared that doesn’t exist in the same manner in our world today.

 Aprile is a tough cookie. She battled cancer harder than anyone I have ever known. I would say she kicked it in the can. What should have wiped her out over a year ago couldn’t take her down. She was an inspiration to her family, her friends and any other fellow human being that was blessed enough to have had Aprile shower them with her selfless personality all the months of the year. And while ultimately her body faltered, Aprile’s spirit crossed the finish line in total victory. She’s a warrior and a winner and we are proud card carrying members of her forever Fan Club.

 I hate when people say that “God never gives us more than we can handle.” That phrase is utter nonsense and a bold face lie. So much of life falls into the “It’s way too big for me” category. It’s because this journey through the years is so overwhelming that we are forced to cry out to God for strength, help and hope because we know we are toast when left up to our own devices. Faith in heaven and healthy fellowship with friends on earth are the key ingredients to any one’s survival kit. Aprile excelled in all the areas that mattered most which is why not having her around anymore is such a tragic loss to us left behind. Death can be a real drag, can’t it? Not for the Graduate to Glory but for those of us still stuck in a creation that is caught in a circle of constant chaos.      

 Nobody had to make up nice words to say about how Aprile’s touched their lives. There were no uncomfortable periods of silence or the meaningless sharing of lifeless clichés. Aprile approached everyone and everything with her unsinkable optimism. And she was the type of person who would have you sharing about your own issues before you might catch her complaining about her own. One of her Oncology Nurses in attendance raved on and on about how Aprile’s character, countenance and courage touched her in a way that no other Patient ever had. Why does God take the strong and leave the weak behind? Or maybe it just seems that way. Maybe those like Aprile stand head and shoulders above the rest that when they leave us, the hole is the size of the Grand Canyon.

 I think cancer sucks and death is a dirty rotten deal. As a Minister, I hate funerals. They can be so shallow and in many ways barbaric. The fact that we attempt to pull it all off in a matter of hours is crazy. Life is more precious than any personal possession that this world may offer. How can you sum it all up in one session? The answer is that you can’t and you won’t. Time doesn’t heal anything. It only reveals how fragile everything is this side of eternity. When are we going to wake up and strengthen the treasure that remains forever?   

 God meets us where we are and not where we pretend to be. We need to abandon our tendency to perform and put on a good show. Let’s stop getting so upset about our expectations not being met that we keep our eyes wide open to the daily opportunities that God gives us to meet us right where we are! If we are hesitant about mourning, we prevent Jesus from transforming it into dancing. If we never learn how to lament, our laughter won’t mean as much as it should. I beg Christians to be more honest about communicating their true and honest emotions to God when life is not going as planned. Whether we’re hurt, frustrated, confused, betrayed, overwhelmed, sad, or disappointed, there is no wrong in keeping it real. It gets messy and we are flustered by the mustard. It’s a moment to get real with God when you’re hurting so bad your insides bleed and all you can do is cry out for His help. It’s a prayer that says, God, I’m hurting—will you meet me here? This is not a language limited for the super spiritual. This is the invitation to us all.





THE BIBLE IS NOT A MENU!

3 08 2017

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God detests graven images. They mislead people. They give false views of God, and nothing is more destructive than that. But our greater problem is not carved idols, but mental idols. We form mental pictures of God. People constantly say, “I like to think of God as the great Father in the skies. I do not like to think of him as a judge.”

But our desires have nothing to do with God’s true character.

 I shudder when I hear the way some people speak of God. Quite frankly, it does not make the slightest bit of difference what I prefer to think of God. God is who He is and what He is, and that is why any false image of God of any sort is forbidden. Human concepts of God are irrelevant. God has revealed Himself, and He demands that our understanding of Him conform to what He has revealed about Himself in His Word.

 Our society does not worship before a molten idol, but it does worship an artificial god. Our generation knows almost nothing of the living God who has spoken in Scripture. The great danger is that we, as Christians, begin to bow down and worship false gods as well. So it is essential that every Christian engage in a study of the attributes of God.

 Anything in our lives to which we attach the worth and importance that belongs only to God becomes an idol in our lives. Idolatry is not a relic of the past; it is a constant problem for every believer. That is the first danger point in the portrayal of spiritual anarchy. It is religion without revelation, religious practice without God’s truth. How committed are you to the truth of Scripture? How biblical is your view of God? Is your God molded by the philosophies of the age? A Believer must let God “be Himself” in our lives.

 We filter out either consciously or unconsciously the things about God that our hearts can’t accept. In some ways, this is the main sin of our time. We look to the latest chatter at Starbucks for our doctrine rather than go to the source of the Savior Himself. How often have you heard someone say: “I don’t believe in a God like that,” or “I like to think of God as this?” The most serious way we do this is by consciously and intellectually rejecting part of the scriptural revelation of God. We do this whenever we say: “We can no longer accept a God who does this, or who forbids that.” When we use the term “no longer,” we wrap ourselves in the mantle of so-called progress. In fact, what we are really saying is:

“Our culture’s distaste for this idea means we must drop it!” If God has given us truth, it doesn’t really matter what we think! If we change His words to accommodate our ways, we will eventually forfeit His will!

Have you ever been to a Restaurant? What do you receive when you sit at the table? You get a menu with many choices. The Waitress can’t tell you what you are going to be eating. The Chef doesn’t limit you to his or her favorite dishes. You can decide to dine on whatever you want whether it is healthy or not. You can order five desserts if you want to. You have the final say about what will be served to you.

This is not true at the Family Dinner Table. My Mom was very strict. If she made something for dinner, she didn’t give us many options. We didn’t dare say, “I don’t like this, is there anything else?” Mom made it clear that her kitchen was not a restaurant. If you didn’t like what was on your plate, your only decision was that you were not going to eat at all.

There would be other times that I would really like the main course but felt like it was ruined by something like cooked carrots sitting besides it. I was never given the luxury to choose to eat just the meat and pass on the veggies. If it was served, you were sitting there until it was all polished off. I remember praying not to gag as I was forced to swallow one mouthful of carrots after another. But if I wanted the Chicken, I accepted the carrots as part of the package.

The Bible is not a menu. Believers do not have the luxury to pick and choose what they will dine on and what they will deny any entrance into their bodies. God’s word is a banquet for the soul and if you want to become all that the Lord intends you to be, you must partake of everything that God serves up. God doesn’t care if you like it or if it makes you happy any more than my Mother gave much thought to my suggestions of what she might do with those mushy carrots. I ate it because I had to and I must admit that it did help me grow healthy even if it made my stomach rebel.

God feeds us with divine dishes that provide a balanced supply of all the proper spiritual vitamins and nutrients we need. If we choose to replace the heaven cooked meals with earthly versions of junk food, we will never be strong enough to walk the journey of the life of faith that God has called us to. Church is not a restaurant, it is a family table and the Father knows what you need and what you don’t. Will we submit our appetites to Him?

It Is Written must be the way of life! Even when you don’t like it, the Lord loves you enough to lead you to spiritual maturity. But you have to trust Him and let Him feed you with what is on His stove because Church is not a restaurant- It’s a Family Dinner!!!





DEEP AND WIDE, JUST IN TIME!

24 07 2017

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There was a man one day who was ready to give up on God. He was tired. Life was no longer going well, and he didn’t know if God was going to come through for him like he had once believed. He had gotten to the end of his rope, the last of his hope, and wanted to give up. So he whispered to God, “I quit.”

Perhaps that’s you today. Perhaps that’s how you feel because you can’t see God, you can’t hear Him. You feel weary, wasted, wandering and waylaid.  You sense that you have been overlooked in the showcase of life, left in the back row to rot quietly. You feel forgotten. You are totally alone. You want to be loved but only sense loathing.  Even though you once held so much optimism, those days seem like another lifetime alone.

 The man who told God that he was through with faith decided to go to the woods to have one last conversation with the Lord. “God, You disappointed me,” this man feebly cried. “You’ve got me stuck out here, and I don’t know why. I don’t know how long I’m going to have to stay in this prison before my change is going to come. I’m just ready to give up and unless I experience some divine intervention soon, I’m checking out.”

 Just at that very moment, another man appeared as he was also hiking through the brush. After some polite communication, the stranger took a deep breath and shared with authentic enthusiasm, “Look around and tell me what you see.” The man looked around and feeling a bit silly answered that that he saw lots of ferns and also some bamboo. The elder statesman with wide eyed energy exclaimed, “Exactly! Now let me tell you the lessons we can learn about the fern and the bamboo.” The surprised student perked up his ears to listen intently. His tutor continued, “When the fern seed was planted, the ferns grew up very quickly, and they became lush and green and beautiful. But when the bamboo seeds were planted, nothing grew at all during its first year. The same thing occurred with the second year and the third year and the fourth. It wasn’t until five long years later that the very first small shoot of the bamboo came up.” Then old timer’s voice paused allowing all the reality of the illustration to sink in. Then he continued with a question, “How tall is that bamboo you are looking at?” The man answered, “At least a hundred feet tall.” “You are right,” the teacher said. “And the reason bamboo is a hundred feet tall is because during the five years when you saw nothing, things were moving and it was growing deep on the inside. It was growing strong, deep roots down beneath the surface where you cannot see. The reason why it was going deeper first is because it was going to eventually be over a hundred feet tall. It knew how high God had designed for it to be and in order for it to sustain that height; it would have to grow deeper inside where no one could see anything at all.”

 As the man began to comprehend what was being shared, he only turned away for a second and when he looked back, the older sojourner was gone. It was as if he disappeared into thin air. It was in that brief second that the man presumed that he had been visited by an angel. The dark clouds had seemed to vanish and the sun was shining bright once again. In a mere matter of moments, God had lifted up the shade that had held the heart captive in the night.  

When the man got home, he wrote in his journal that night the following life giving sentences. These words literally jumped off the pages. It read, “If God is taking a long time with you on your journey, it is because the Lord is trying to take you deeper on the inside first. He is trying to develop and strengthen you to sustain the destiny in store. His plan for you is high. His calling for you is tall. His purpose for you will one day soar. But just as you can’t build a skyscraper on a chicken-coop foundation, you can’t place a divine destiny on a shallow soul. The higher your mountains, the deeper your valleys will seem. And difficult roads often lead to the most magnificent destinations.”

 If you are attempting to get your fill of the ocean by only sticking your toes in the waves, you have a long way to go. You must be willing to swim out into the depths of God’s open sea of grace for when you get shallow and stubborn; you end up stranded in the sand where the water no longer flows! God still speaks to those who are quiet and wise enough to look up and listen. What might he be saying to you today and who is the messenger of that timely truth? Never underestimate the lengths the Lord will go to get through the density of our pride. If we are too thick of skull, we might very well be too thin of skin. God isn’t finished with a masterpiece that is still breathing fresh air. Let God lead deep and wide today!