LIVING ON PURPOSE
A MEANINGFUL NEW YEARS RESOLUTION
A brand-new year is here and I’m excited to see what the Lord has for us! Keeping Christ at the center of our thoughts takes a great deal of discipline and determination but so does everything else we really care about. It comes down to how serious we are about knowing God and how willing we are to give Him total control of our life. Whatever we become involved with, He simply wants us to listen and obey His instructions which is why we are here. If we abide under the shadow of His wings, we will walk in the peace and joy of His Spirit but if we allow ourselves to be tempted and drawn away, we will remain distant and miserable. Matthew chapter 22 gives us the meaning of life, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” Most of the time we are so busy making our own decisions that we hardly ever consider the distractions that cause us to ignore Him. In the book of Revelation chapter two, He’s disappointed with how the Ephesians had left their “first love” and today is a perfect time for us to examine our heart, and choose whom we will serve. Actually, the Bible contains many passages where God says He loves us and how much He wants to be with us. The incarnation, crucifixion and the resurrection is all about restoring our fellowship with Him and living in the awareness of His presence.
At this time of year, we start planning our resolutions and the perfect occasion to start developing spiritual lifestyle changes. You notice I used the word “developing” because drawing closer to God is a process much like losing weight, exercising or any other type of goal in which we are striving toward a goal. For example, eating a salad today is not going to automatically fix our weight problem, but it’s a positive first step and the same is true with learning how to become a follower of Christ. There have been many adaptations from the original Al-anon credo that encourages everyone to be realistic about trying to change everything all at once because it’s important to realize that personal transformation is a lifestyle that will require concentration and perseverance. Philippians 3:14 says, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus” and reveals a vital condition that no one else can do this for us – this must be between us and God! It’s great to have long-term goals and we should release our faith into accomplishing our destiny, but it’s also important to focus on our mission one day at a time. It would be much better to go slow with permanent results than to rush and become overwhelmed with frustration and disappointment.
Another meaningful resolution would be to dedicate a few minutes each day to prayer. Daily Bible reading is another excellent place to give our attention because the words of God are spiritual nourishment to our soul and will help fill our mind and heart with strength and confidence. I must include this journey will require a fierce tenacity which is commonly not mentioned because our old nature hates to be uncomfortable. As many of you already know, the Christian life is a serious challenge because of the added resistance from the dark side. Long story short; it’s not easy but absolutely worth it! I recently recorded an 80-minute CD where I narrate over 100 encouraging Bible passages and includes several original songs that are filled with hope, joy, and faith. This is a resource for those who want to fill their mind and soul with God’s promises. Contact me and I would be honored to send you a free copy. May you live in the peace and joy of His presence this coming year. “Father, in the name of Jesus, we acknowledge you as the ultimate authority of all things. You created everything and are in total control. Please give us the courage to discipline our flesh and an extra measure of faith that we might become what you have called us to be, amen.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
LET EVERY HEART PREPARE HIM ROOM
The author of this story is unknown and has been told by many people throughout the years. The gentleman to whom I’m going to introduce was not a Scrooge, but a kind, decent man and generous to his family and upright in his dealings with other people. He just could not understand how or why Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins. It just did not make sense, and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. “I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He went on to say, he would feel like a hypocrite and this year he would much rather stay home. He would just read and wait up for them until they returned. And so, he stayed as the rest of his family went to the midnight service.
Shortly after the family drove away, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched as the flurries were becoming heavier and then went back to his chair in front of the fire to finish reading his newspaper. A short while later he was startled by a thudding sound… then another, and then another. His first thought was that it sounded like someone throwing snowballs against his living room picture window. As he opened the front door to investigate, he found several birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter, did not realize the glass barrier keeping them entering into the safety of his home. Well, he could not just let the poor creatures freeze, so he had an idea that the barn which housed his children’s pony would be a provide a perfect place from the storm if he could only figure out how to direct them into it.
Throwing on his coat and rubber boots, he headed out into the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on the light, but the birds did not move. Figuring that food would entice them to come in, he hurried back to the house, grabbed some bread, and started making a trail of crumbs to the lighted stable. But to his dismay, the birds paid no attention and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. Trying to catch became comical as they were too fast and then his attempt to herd them by waving his arms only made things worse as they scattered in every direction except where he wanted them to go. Suddenly, he realized they were simply overwhelmed with fear. I’m sure I seem like a dangerous and terrifying giant he thought if only I could think of a way to let them know they can trust me. If I could just convince them that I’m not going to hurt them and sincerely want to help them. But how? Whenever I move they go into a panic and seem to be confused and suspiciously determined to not let their guard down. Then it dawned on him, if only he could become a bird, he could mingle with them and speak their language. Then hopefully they could come to know me and learn there is no need to fear. I could show them the way to a safe and warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, hear and understand. At that moment the church bells began to ring through the crisp stillness and as he stood there listening to the melody of “O come all ye faithful” he thought about how most people, (including himself) are generally afraid of God and have a difficult time with faith. Hmmm… so this is why Christ came to earth… to become like us. The man realized the only way Jesus could ever save anyone is when they completely trust Him. Christ had to somehow prove His love and the cross became that way. At that moment, the man humbly sank to his knees in the snow.
This year, even in the hustle and bustle of shopping and parties, let us rejoice in the real reason for the season. From my family to yours, may Christ be the center of your holiday and have a very Merry Christmas!
LIVING ON PURPOSE
TRUSTING GOD IN TIMES OF SORROW
One area of the vast unknown that has been the focus of speculation throughout the ages is why certain events happen that seem to be cruel and unfair. As a Christian minister and counselor, I am consistently either thinking, writing or being asked why tragedies happen when there is a God who can easily prevent them. How many times has someone said, “If He is all-powerful, then why does He allow terrible things to happen?” This leaves His followers trying to explain what we understand very little about. Actually, the Christian worldview does not have answers to specific situations but there are general reasons why some things happen. Matthew 5:45 mentions that nature does not discriminate between good and bad or the atheist and the believer. Suffering can come to anyone and anytime without moral cause.
There are several reasons why we are vulnerable to tragedy but we only have time to observe a couple. First, we are mortal and very vulnerable within an environment that is filled with danger and death. In the beginning, God established this world with natural laws in mankind’s best interest but these laws can also cause us much harm. For example, fire can be a wonderful way to cook our food and generate heat to keep us warm but it can also be a destructive and devastating force. Likewise, gravity is a blessing as it keeps everything in place but if we are skydiving and our parachute does not open, there will be tragic consequences. On the sixth day of creation, God said that everything was perfect and beautiful which many believe included a disease-free atmosphere without sickness, genetic defects or any other type of fear or violence. However, when Adam and Eve sinned against God and was cast out of the garden of Eden, according to the Bible most everything changed. Unfortunately, physical and spiritual death became a part of life.
My son and his wife are dog lovers and last year they chose to put two of their dogs down because of advanced cancer and of course they were very upset. A few months ago they purchased an adorable puppy and she was such a loving and strikingly beautiful dog. This past week, they let her out in the backyard like usual and about a half-hour later called for her to come in. They started searching and thought that maybe she had escaped. You can imagine the horror when he stepped up onto the deck of their pool and saw her resting on the bottom. He dove in and retrieved her but it was too late. The gates on the deck were locked and security cameras revealed that she had made an incredible leap into the pool from the yard. We’ve all made terrible judgments, and this mistake became a tragic accident. They are devastated and in this time of being heartbroken again; it was mentioned about why God did not stop this from happening. What can we say? Without being disrespectful, there are many times in our journey when the sovereignty of the Almighty seems to not make sense.
As we are reminded of the old saying, “we will not understand until we get to the other side” this hardly helps in our time of grieving. We have seen situations when miracles happened and were convinced that God stepped into the situation. Then there are other times when crazy things occur which leave us confused and afraid. We know that God is watching and can do anything but occasionally He decides to not intervene. Why? It’s all a part of His perfect will. These are times when faith becomes more than a religious platitude and for us to maintain a healthy spiritual attitude we are called to bow before the Father as Christ prayed in the garden, “not my will, but thine be done.” A second reason why bad things happen is associated with us having free-will and we can agree the most dangerous gift that God ever gave was our ability to choose. Like the puppy who made the bad decision to jump in the pool, a large part of suffering can be and often is self-inflicted. Reaping and sowing are associated with conditions and consequences and somewhere in the mix, we do the best we can and trust Him in everything.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
FINDING OUR PLACE IN THE WORLD
Personal change is not easy. Anyone who advertises how wonderful it is to sacrifice, suffer and be uncomfortable, probably has a degree in marketing. There’s nothing wrong with reading books and watching videos about how other people have accomplished their goals, but even if we become experts on how to be successful, this does not automatically mean we will. Besides, beyond the motivational seminars and highly proclaimed formulas that are available, you are a unique individual and God has a special path for you to take. There is no substitute for prayer and perseverance if we are to become all that God has called us to be. Anyone that has experienced even a modest amount of achievement had to eventually arise from their couch and get moving. Every idea needs faith and a plan but without allowing the Lord to build us His way, we will most likely never fulfill His perfect will for our life.
When it comes to finding our place in this world, let us consider two categories. The first one I call, “floating down the river.” Picture a scenario of someone napping in a small boat without a compass or a paddle. Having a spectator mentality, they have no map or intentional direction but rather are just hoping for the best. It’s also common for these individuals to throw pity parties from time to time because their happy-go-lucky lifestyle runs into problems and disappointments. Often haunted by thoughts of being left behind, they are caught in a vicious cycle of confusion and discouragement. As a Christian counselor, I’ve tried to help those who are stuck in this drifting mindset and certainly have compassion for them. No doubt it’s extremely difficult to climb out of a deep hole whether they blame themselves or in denial believing everyone else is causing them to fail. It’s always scary to move out of our comfort zone and face reality because sometimes life can seem like a huge mountain that’s impossible to climb. We cannot force anyone to do anything and neither can we help those who not willing to help themselves. In every area of life, those who desire a healthy state of being must see the truth about their own situation and be willing to act on it. With God’s character and nature having divine order, we can agree there are no heavenly blueprints for floating aimlessly down the river. The good news is that God is patiently waiting to help us whenever our desire to change becomes stronger than our desire to remain the same.
I believe that having Jesus Christ as the Lord of our life is the meaning and purpose for everything we do and this brings me to our second point. As the author and finisher of our faith, His Word reminds us that He’s drawn a general outline and a specific one-of-a-kind blueprint for everyone’s life according to His perfect plans. True, He has not written, “John Doe will be a plumber” but the basic concept is to trust Him and listen to His still small voice as He leads us where He wants us to go. This truth encourages and motivates us, but another aspect of this process is to realize there are certain conditions and responsibilities on our part and in order for His plan to be fully activated, it will require surrendering our will to Him. Our greatest challenge with God as the Potter and us being the clay, is to accept the fact that we do not conveniently add God to the ambitions we have already established but rather to surrender everything to Him so that He can create within us a brand-new direction. Yes, there will be pain from abandoning our dreams and intentions but this is a very critical part of our salvation experience. Having a personal relationship with God is all about allowing Him to mold us into His image. He desires to be more than a Savior, He wants to be our Lord. Proverbs chapter 3 and verses 5 and 6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
BULLIES ARE A PRODUCT OF IMMATURITY
As children, we only think about life on a surface level. Having fun, our toys, food, and security are usually at the top of our priority list and this is normal. However, when we become older, we hopefully begin understanding things with a more mature perspective. I’m reminded of the scripture found in I Corinthians chapter 13 and verse 11 that talks about how it’s alright to think like a kid for a while, but there will come a day when we put away our toys and become accountable for our thoughts and actions. We all have memories of people in our past that had certain personalities. Unfortunately, bullies are usually never forgotten whether in our childhood or as an adult. By the way, let it be said that nothing positive can come from this type of barbaric behavior.
I remember when I was around ten years old, there was a girl at school a couple years older than me that was constantly being made fun of and treated harshly. I can see her clearly like it was yesterday even though this was fifty years ago. She was a stocky girl with tangled jet-black hair and her clothes were often wrinkled, but what really caused the negative attention was her constant runny nose. There are many reasons why children are mean, but as a shy child, I’m ashamed to admit I was a part of the crowd of spectators that quietly witnessed the daily harassment of this poor young lady. How I wish I would have had the courage to stop them but I was just a scared skinny kid who was thankful they were not picking on me. After months of mean and rude comments, the entire school eventually learned who she was and also made sure they stayed far away from her. Not only was everyone afraid of catching her “cooties” whatever that was, but they did not want to be associated with her and risk being included as another target.
I just so happened to ride the same bus as she did and one afternoon I observed an act of cruelty that was even more disturbing than normal. I will never forget that day as it was one of those muggy fall afternoons and the bus was packed. I was being squeezed against the window, hugging my books because it was so crowded and kept thinking what a relief it will be when I get home. The bullies began their daily routine of taking turns hitting this girl on the head with their heavy books and you could tell it hurt. Of course, she started crying and telling them to stop but this just made things worse. I felt very sorry for her and always become emotional when I recall this story. I now see myself as no better than a spectator at a Roman Coliseum when they would throw the Christians to the lions. Anyway, everyone was cheering and mocking when suddenly, one of the boys grabbed the bag out of her hands and started tossing everything out the window. I looked back and could see her books, notebooks, personal items and papers blowing down the road and across the lawns. I was in shock because I realized the importance of these things and wondered how anyone could be so vicious. I can still hear the crowd screaming and going into a frenzy because evidently, they thought this was the ultimate humiliation. The bus driver was hollering for everyone to keep the noise down but as far as I know nothing was ever done about it. I will never forget the look of horror on her face and I often wonder how heart-breaking these years must have been on her and her parents.
Aggressive behavior may be traced back to how children are raised, but there is no excuse and no place in this world for a bully. For those who have been victims, (statistics show that one in three kids are bullied), these painful recollections are commonly kept a secret within the depths of our soul. However, as hurtful as these wounds might be, we can turn to God and ask Him to help us with forgiveness as a way to receive emotional healing and spiritual peace.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
LET US EXALT HIS NAME TOGETHER
I’ve always enjoyed Thanksgiving with my family but many times I become distracted from the intended purpose. I also confess that sadly between football, conversations, and pumpkin pie there is not always a lot mentioned about being thankful. Unfortunately, many have forgotten or maybe they have never known the history of human suffering that is associated with the Pilgrims. It’s been recorded that the new colony was focused on giving God thanks for His blessings and protection as William Bradford is quoted. “Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element. Thus, out of small beginnings, greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of God have all the praise.” Clearly, the pilgrims of the Plymouth colony worshiped God and appreciated Him for all they had, but today the meaning of Thanksgiving is almost completely lost under an endless avalanche of media hype, sales advertisements, marketing gimmicks, and aggressive commercialism.
Like all of God’s people since the beginning (not just the Pilgrims), this week we give thanks to the Lord for all He has done for us. I know in my own life, I’m truly thankful to Christ for allowing me the opportunity to learn and grow in my relationship with Him. I realize there are hard times and many problems and difficult situations, but all in all, we are so fortunate to have God’s love and how He longs to surround us in His peace. I published a book a couple of years ago called, “A Lifestyle of Worship” and it’s about becoming determined to develop an awareness of God’s presence in all we do in order to have a clearer understanding of who He is. Our Thanksgiving holiday is more than a day off from work, a celebration ritual or a black Friday sale, it’s a state of mind where we can appreciate our eternal salvation every day. It’s wonderful to have a roof over our heads, good health, and a long list of blessings but I’m especially grateful for God’s infinite love and mercy. I’m embarrassed to admit that I do not always wake up in the mornings and think about such important things. Why? Because I’m too occupied with trying to control my own decisions and lean on my own understanding. It will take perseverance and serious dedication to concentrate on how worthy He is of our gratitude and praise. “O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together” Psalm 34:3.
So, we see that Thanksgiving is actually expressing our love to God and those who desire to know Him personally will discover that we do not love Him for what He can do – but just for who He is. Above my fireplace at home, there’s a log engraved with Matthew 22:37 and 38 and I ask God all the time to please show me the depths of this spiritual truth.“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Every word that has ever been spoken and every book that has been written can only scratch the surface in describing God’s endless generosity and glorious Majesty. Brother Lawrence, whose seventeenth-century work, “The Practice of the Presence of God,” details his discipline to become so focused on everything around him that he might consider all situations as an opportunity to serve Christ and be thankful for His goodness. It’s my prayer today, that I may never take God’s grace for granted or allow myself to become spoiled with His blessings, but instead, to not only be sincerely grateful for all He has done in my life, but that I may be willing to demonstrate His great love and compassion to others.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
TRAIN UP A CHILD AND CONTINUE PRAYING
Every child, whether they turned out wonderful or less than desirable, is to some degree the product of a mom and dad. It’s true that some parents have invested very little enthusiasm into their children’s development, but generally speaking, mothers and fathers dearly love their kids and want the best for them. Unfortunately, things do not always go as planned and many wayward children have caused their family much worry, sadness, and disappointment. Spectators are quick to blame the parents, but I do not believe that all liability can be laid at their doorstep. Moms and dads have the perfect opportunity to present constructive thinking and a sense of right and wrong into their children’s mind and spirit within the formative years, however, this does not always guarantee the child will continue in the direction they were pointed. It’s a common fact; sometimes good parents have children that are rebellious, uncontrollable, and are an embarrassing shame.
Children are like sponges when it comes to learning and very curious about what they observe, which gives every parent the duel opportunity to not only be the instructors but also the responsibility to demonstrate what they believe in front of them. We must also include that children are vulnerable to outside influences and will choose their own way. So, how important is it to pray for our children? Many experts agree that the first six years in a child’s life is his or her most important years of mental, emotional and spiritual development. It’s believed that the foundation that is laid within the individual’s conscience during this crucial window of time becomes the decision filter they will use for the rest of their life.
It’s no secret that young parents are inexperienced when they begin raising children of their own, but we can also acknowledge the level of success can be traced back to their own childhood. The generational cycle of curses and blessings are very real and it’s generally accepted that knowledge is transferred from generation to generation (whether it be positive or negative) and is directly associated with human behavior. There are exceptions where parents have realized their own lack of understanding and have made it a priority to improve the cycle for the sake of their children. Unfortunately, this is rare. Parents can discover valuable information when they desire to learn but unfortunately, this is usually the problem. Parenting requires not only a deeper understanding but also a sincere determination instead of a “rolling the dice” attitude. Again, if the parent has been brought up with an awareness of how important it is to live in God’s presence and obey Him, then most likely these spiritual principals will be passed on to the next generation.
Does this idea of good parents producing good children always work? Well, through the years, I have talked with many broken-hearted moms and dads that are still trying to figure out where they went wrong. They seem to be good Christian people who live a decent moral life, they took their kids to church, corrected them and tried to teach them the best they could. While attempting to console and search for an explanation, this scripture found in Proverbs 22:6, usually finds its way to the surface. “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it.” The idea here is to remind us that if good seed has been planted in the heart of the child, God’s living Word will eventually germinate and lead them into His way. Sadly, there are so many bewildered parents who remain confused and stressed as they are still waiting for this miracle to take place. What can parents do? We can stand in faith and believe that God’s promises never fail. Secondly, let us realize that everyone has a free-will and is accountable for their own life. When we sincerely repent of our mistakes, God will forgive us and heal us by removing condemnation and guilt. He truly loves you and your child. He has heard your cries and seen your tears and is the only one who can transform a mind and change a heart.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
LETTING GO OF HATRED AND UNFORGIVENESS
How much grace does it take to love our enemies? Well, that is a good question. Tragedies are happening all around us and it’s true we are very heart-broken and alarmed, but what if one day our family is harmed? I admit that I do not always have the character of Christ when I’m being threatened or provoked to anger. Many times, my first reaction is to retaliate because that’s a strong part of our human nature. I realize that people need to be punished for their terrible acts of violence but the problem within our soul is the temptation to hold unforgiveness against them. Life is filled with challenges and situations that attempt to lure us into bad attitudes but for the serious Christian, it’s the forgiveness of Christ that can teach us and lead us into the peace that passes all understanding.
When we fall into a negative mindset, our joy (which is our spiritual strength), evaporates and we become weak and discouraged. Anger and the desire for revenge can emotionally, mentally and spiritually hold us in the bondage of misery. If we allow ourselves to become weighed down with animosity, our relationship with God suffers which is why it’s so important to not become entangled with resentment and hatred. To those around us, everything may seem fine but inside we are full of anger and contempt. The battle we choose to fight in our conscience is something we want to do because we feel we are justified in our hatred. However, if we continue to embrace the desire for vengeance, we are allowing the darkness of sin to control our thoughts and hold our soul hostage to contempt. Sadly, many would rather live in agony, brooding thoughts of hostility instead of releasing them to God and allowing Him to execute justice His way.
I was called to pray for an elderly gentleman the other day that was near death. He was barely able to understand or communicate because of the heavy doses of morphine. His son was sitting next to the bed and after a while, he started to talk about his dad. They were not close and he began to describe a man that was not only harsh and uncaring but actually abusive. I could sense the deep emotional pain as he revealed the sad story of a disappointed and wounded family. The son was a Christian and had been dealing with resentment for years and as he continued to share about forgiveness, amazingly I could see the love and peace of God in his countenance. This type of emotional pain is truly a heavy burden, but If we sincerely ask the Lord to step into our situation, He is the only one who can bring inner healing to our heart and mind.
If you watch a toddler, you will notice they react to basic experiences of hunger, affection, disappointment, happiness, and anger but have not yet learned the dangers of being offended. Resentment is one of many attitudes we naturally develop as we grow older and it’s only through inviting Christ to become our Lord and allowing His Word to transform our mind that we can be molded into His way of merciful thinking. God wants us to be open and honest with Him and not suppress these ugly imaginations which can damage our personal relationship with Him. The opportunity to call on Christ is always available as Psalm 46:1 declares, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Holding on to these negative attitudes becomes like a growing infection that can also desensitize us from having sympathy for other people’s pain and caring about their needs. This is a very serious problem because it involves the Christian’s most precious asset – our love. The enemy of our soul will use anything he can to hinder our love and discourage us from praying for others. May we never lose our focus to humbly serve and obey Christ because we are blinded by our own misery. Whatever someone has done to hurt us, may we remember that living in the peace of God’s love and forgiveness is possible. Some may say they will not or cannot forgive but the Bible reminds us in Philippians 4:13, “I can do ALL things through Christ which strengthens me.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
MERCY IS THE RESULT OF HUMILITY
It’s easy to be suspicious and though it’s wrong, unfortunately, it’s common to judge unfairly and display negative emotions toward others. If we could only remember that many people are going through some type of painful trial and difficulty which usually explains their unusual behavior. I am regularly involved with those who are struggling with serious problems and it changes your perspective when you know the circumstances. As Christians, we are called to be a light that represents the nature of Jesus and this includes patience, mercy, long-suffering, forgiveness, and love. This is so that everyone can see Christ within us and hopefully inspire them to learn more about who He is. When we act ugly and rude, we are actually turning others away from the message of grace that we proclaim is the spiritual compass the lost world desperately needs. You have probably noticed that people around you are carefully observing your every move which by the way is having a direct impact on what they think about you and God. It’s true, how we live reveals much more about us than even what we say.
It would be wonderful if we could know what is going on within the lives of those all around us but most of the time we can hardly deal with our own problems. I published a book last year called “A lifestyle of worship” that is about developing a spiritual awareness of God’s presence and how this discernment can drastically change the way we see life. I am convinced we will not grow in our compassion for people until we draw nearer to God. It only makes sense the closer we are to Him the more concern we will have for others. When I’m focused and trying to do God’s will, I am more humble and have no desire to judge others. It’s when we are distant from Him and filled with arrogance that we gravitate toward negative and critical reactions. Rick Warren is quoted, “God’s mercy to us is the motivation for showing mercy to others. Remember, you will never be asked to forgive someone else more than God has forgiven you.”
I read a story a while back about a young stewardess that told about her experiences. She had always considered herself a happy and positive person and was so excited when she had been selected among many capable candidates. She wanted to help people and serve others and this unique opportunity seemed perfect. However, shortly after she began her new career, the glamorous imaginations turned to a disappointing reality as she realized she was hardly more than a waitress working 30,000 feet above the ground. Nonetheless, she continued trying to be positive but started to become more of an actor that went through the motions of faking a smile and constantly forcing a thank you to groups of people that were rude and harsh. She discovered over time that when someone was desperately calling out for her it was usually not an emergency but rather to complain because their coffee was cold.
One day she noticed a man boarding the plane that was carrying a black plastic garbage bag which is an automatic red flag. He placed the bag in the overhead and patted the closure softly. She was having a bad day and with being highly suspicious of what was inside the bag, she warned the crew to keep an eye on him. All of these negative thoughts were swirling inside her mind and had given her a hateful impression even though she knew nothing about the situation. As he was waiting in line for the bathroom she finally saw a perfect chance to pounce on him with a subtle interrogation about his intentions. He looked at her with tears in his eyes and said he had come to New York because his only son was a first responder at ground zero and had been killed when the towers collapsed. He had picked up his uniform which was so precious to him and it was in the plastic bag in the overhead bin. These are the wake-up calls to our conscience that remind us of what a vast difference there is between the way we see life and the way life really is. “Blessed are merciful: for they shall receive mercy” Matthew 5:7.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
FOND MEMORIES WITH MY GRANDPARENTS
An older man was telling a story the other day about his grandparents and it caused me to think back to when I was a kid and the relationship I had with my mamaw and papaw. Now that I’m older, I realize that grandparents look forward to spoiling their grandchildren and are usually just as excited. When I was growing up, my dad and his dad worked together in their own construction business and every so often in the summer, my papaw would take me home with him. Sometimes, I would stay for a whole week and those adventures were some of my most cherished childhood memories. On the way to the country, it was not uncommon for me to become car sick because the roads were so curvy, but hanging my head out the window did bring some relief. When we arrived, I would feel weak and my grandmother would say I looked as white as a sheet, but with her administering every remedy she could think of, it didn’t take long for me to recover. You see, I was the first child and the first grandchild, so with being the center of attention you could say I was a little spoiled. They were always squeezing me and kissing me so much that I could hardly breathe, but it’s a good feeling to know you are loved.
To a boy of seven or eight years old, houses and yards seem huge, but have you noticed when you grow up how everything seems to shrink? I drove by a few years ago and hardly recognized the place. It was so tiny and even the land which seemed like a vast plantation to me back then was actually more like five acres. As a kid, their house looked beautiful to me but it was really just an old farmhouse that my papaw had tried to patch and piece together. The front yard seemed as big as a football field and I remember one day my papaw wanted to see if he could beat me in a foot race from the driveway to the garden. I can still feel the hot summer air against my face while out of the corner of my eye I could see his bare feet flying past me. I slowed down and started laughing as I knew he was not feeling well. He had a debilitating kidney disease and I discovered later that even though he did not say anything that day, the overexertion caused him a lot of pain and we never did that again. He did it because he loved me and just wanted to play and have some fun with me. In behind the house, the yard steeply dropped off into what many people call a holler, and if you were willing to climb down a steep cliff, you would find yourself on the bank of the Kentucky River. Across the road were fields of tall grass as far as you could see sprinkled with patches of large trees and if you were really quiet sometimes you could hear them majestically sway in the wind along with the lonely sound of a cawing crow.
I remember one time, they drove their old station wagon in the creek and parked it right in the middle. We rolled up our pants and waded out into the cold water. They started washing the car while I was thrilled to explore and see what I could find. My papaw would also take me fishing in his old wooden boat and then after he cleaned our catch, my mamaw would fry them and make cornbread as they were so delicious. At bedtime, I would sleep with them in a massive feather-bed. It was such a feeling of security like I was in an enchanted castle where everything felt magical and larger than life. In the winter I loved to throw paper wads in the fireplace and can still see the red-hot chunks of coal. I really miss them both and know in my heart they truly loved me. Every time my mind goes back to these special times, my eyes cannot hold back the tears. Someone said, “Grandparents make the world a little softer…a little kinder…and a little warmer.” They must have had grandparents like mine.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
LEARNING TO READ OUR HEAVENLY BLUEPRINT
I recently spent an afternoon with a young man as he was sharing about his search for personal direction. In his attempt to discover what type of life God wants for him, he’s hoping that he will eventually find happiness and contentment. I truly respect anyone (especially a teenager) that is trying to do the right thing and willing to invest the time it takes to search until they find it. I remember a few years ago reading about another young man named Guiseppe, who was also trying to find his place in the world. His parents had come to America from Sicily and his father was from a long line of fisherman (no pun intended). His father was very proud and considered it an honor to carry on this profession and he expected all of his sons to continue just as all the generations before. The problem was that even though he wanted to please his father, the Sea and the smells of dead fish made Guiseppe nauseated. Instead of this type of work, he had a passion to play sports. Sadly, throughout his teenage years, his father was very disappointed and constantly declared Guiseppe was lazy and would grow up to be a good-for-nothing. Nevertheless, in spite of the emotional hurt and pain, he continued with his vision and surprisingly ended up more successful than anyone in his family could have ever dreamed. You may have heard of him, his full name was Guiseppe Joe Dimaggio.
Horace Bushnell is quoted, “There must be detail in every great work” and if we stop and think for a moment, we can see that paying attention to even the smallest features and components can make a huge difference between success or failure. Creative individuals are called dreamers and visionaries and its true with high expectations they achieve wonderful accomplishments but somewhere within the advancement process, you will find that either themselves or a team of trusted supporters worked diligently to make sure all the tiny elements and aspects of the original idea was taken care of. Mr. Bushnell went on to say, “Accurate and careful minding of common and small tasks, combined with general scope and vigor, is the secret to efficiency.” This is an excellent principal to our natural life but we can also apply this wisdom to our spiritual life as well. Becoming a Christian does not complete our mission – it enables us to begin. Until our spiritual eyes are opened, we are not able to interpret how our divine blueprints were meant to guide our everyday life. The same way that a good education or a successful profession does not just fall out of the sky, we must accept that becoming spiritually sensitive and developing our faith also does not just automatically happen.
So, how can we begin to pay attention to our divine blueprint and become more enlightened to what God’s will is for our life? We begin with the desire to know what He wants us to do. As we are constantly making decisions let us remember that God will not force us to follow His instructions. For example, we know that praying is the most powerful spiritual action we can take, but to what level are we willing to persevere in order for prayer to become an essential part of our life? It would be such an inspiration if we could grasp how God has planned a wonderful destiny for us and is just waiting for us to not only see it but also to become determined to accomplish it. When we take a serious look at this concept, we notice right from the beginning that our level of desire will ultimately measure our how successful we will be. We have heard the old saying that, “if we can dream it – we can build it” but let us also be reminded there is no substitute for hard work and no such thing as an overnight success. Herman Melville is quoted, “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” We can reach for the stars but may we keep in mind the purpose of our destiny is not necessarily for our pleasure or glory but in order that we might fulfill HIS plan.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GIVING OUR STRESS OVER TO GOD
It may seem insensitive, but the idea of stress being an issue we can control is worth considering. Many within the medical world agree that stress is not a monster that forces us to be afraid but rather our worries originate as a response from within our own mind. Thus, if we can learn how to re-wire the way we think, we can begin to walk in victory over the stress which we blame for ruining our happiness. In some way or another, we have heard about going to our “happy place” a seemingly magical location where we can take shelter from whatever is threatening our security. But just what is this well-intentioned advice really talking about? It can mean different things to different people but to many, it’s a place in the deepest part of our conscience where we can commune with God and embrace the safety and joy of His presence. I remember a movie where a young girl was experiencing severe anxiety and panic attacks whenever a stressful situation would present itself. Her family would lovingly remind her to go to her happy place, and she would close her eyes and begin to control her breathing. As she blocked out what was happening around her and focused on comforting thoughts, she would eventually calm down and return to a peaceful state of being. As Christians, we are reminded that Jesus is a type of strong tower where those who are afraid can run into Him and be safe. Psalm 91:1 says, “They who dwell in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God in Him will I trust.” If we stop and think, we realize that everyone has a choice to either emotionally wrestle with their problems or immediately give them over to God and let Him take care of them. If you notice when we become entangled with these external circumstances and allow them to hold us in the bondage of stress, we are consumed with hopelessness and can hardly focus on anything else. However, when we embrace God’s truth by faith and allow Him to carry them for us, our confidence is renewed as we press forward in the freedom of His peace which passes all understanding.
God’s promise that no weapon formed against us can prosper, is another confirmation how the mountains and giants may try to intimidate us but if we listen and obey His instructions they cannot defeat us! Anxiety, fear, tension, stress, and worry are caused by thinking too much about the future, while guilt, regret, resentment, sadness and all types of unforgiveness are established by concentrating too much on the past. I was listening to a sports commentator the other day as he was explaining how a positive mental state is a crucial factor when it comes to success. He mentioned a particular football team that had recently lost a game by barely missing a field goal with no time left on the clock. The intensity of this gut-wrenching defeat was multiplied by the fact they had been defeated by this opposing team 30 years in a row. He was sympathetic yet making the point that if they could not get past this heart-breaking agony, this discouragement could possibly cause them to lose their next game. Living in the present means not allowing the disappointments from our past to prevent us from accomplishing the victories that are waiting for us in the future. How critical it is to remember that God never intended for us to carry the heavy weight of our burdens but rather to know and trust God, surrender our will and give everything we have and all that we are to Him. Yes, there will be difficulties but He is here now to put His arms around you and fill you with hope and faith. Consider this wonderful passage of inspiration found in II Corinthians 4:8-9. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down but not destroyed.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
OUR THOUGHTS DEFINE WHO WE ARE
When we talk about life being filled with possibilities, we usually imagine someone stepping into our situation and helping us achieve our goals. It’s easy to fall into the habit of hoping that another person will provide what we need or figure out the solutions to our problems. True, there are times when we can depend on the generosity of others but God has given each of us a sound mind and unlimited potential if we can only learn how to activate these internal resources. A common spiritual principal is to pray and wait, and there is validity in that process, but I have also learned through the years that many times God is actually waiting on us to take the initiative to press forward. When we place our trust in Him and allow Him to change our attitudes into a positive force, that which seems unattainable moves into the area of possibility. Romans 12:2 points out that we have a responsibility to be transformed by the renewing of our mind in order that we may prove and demonstrate God’s perfect will. We must allow the Lord to change our mind from fear to faith as learning to believe is the basic foundation for success. If we focus on being the best we can be, good things will come but if we expect the worse, we release the powers of negativity that can diminish our joy and hope. With every situation we can respond with a positive confidence or a negative skepticism and these mental choices will always determine whether we live in spiritual peace or emotional misery.
I recently read a true story that was told by Hugh Fullerton, a famous sportswriter many years ago. His account involved a man named Josh O’Reilly who managed the San Antonio baseball team that was a part of the Texas League. O’Reilly had an impressive roster of all-star players, including seven whose batting average was over three hundred. Everyone thought this super-team would easily win the championship but mysteriously they began the season losing seventeen of their first twenty games. For some reason, the players could not hit the ball and as time went by, frustration boiled over into angry accusations against each other. Just when it seemed the situation could not be worse, they were beaten badly by a weak Dallas team and managed only one hit the entire game. In the clubhouse after the embarrassment, the players were confused and depressed, to say the least. O’Reilly knew he had the most talented team in the league but also realized the trouble was in their mind. They were not expecting to get a hit and were not anticipating a victory because they were thinking wrong. They had slowly allowed doubt and discouragement to fill their heart with negativity and defeat. Their mental focus had turned against them and had literally created difficulties not only with their confidence but also physically with timing, strength, and coordination. And yet, they were the only ones who could change the situation.
The story continues that a certain minister named reverend Schlater was very popular in the area at the time and he was drawing large crowds as his messages were filled with positive and faith-filled encouragement. O’Reilly asked each player to lend him their favorite bats, to which he loaded into a wheelbarrow and told the players to stay in the clubhouse until he returned. He was gone about an hour and returned overflowing with excitement as he told the players this preacher had blessed the bats and they now contained a spiritual power that could not be stopped. The players were astounded and jumping with enthusiasm. The next day they overwhelmed Dallas with 37 hits and 20 runs scored. They continued their way through the league schedule and convincingly won the championship. Regardless of what we believe about praying over the bats, we can agree that something very powerful happened within the minds of the players. It was not the bats that changed but with a new way of thinking, the creative power of faith blossomed. Good news! Mark 9:23 declares this spiritual principle is available to all who believe.
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky where he is a Christian minister and author. Ask for a free copy of his new CD called, “Keeper of my soul” at: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
PROTECTING OUR SPIRITUAL SENSITIVITY
A couple of months ago, we brought an English Bulldog puppy into our home and he has been a wonderful addition to our family. The breeder told us he was 8 weeks old, but after finally receiving his papers, we noticed he was actually only 6 weeks old at the time. He was a healthy little bruiser and we would laugh at him stumbling and being uncoordinated, but now we realize it was because he was such a baby. My wife and I would sit on the porch in the evenings and watch him explore around in the front yard. He was so happy as he would jump and roll in the grass and investigate his new surroundings, but when he would hear a loud commotion like a noisy car passing by, it would scare him and he would come running to us. (Maybe we should consider running to God for safety and preservation more than we do). After a while, he gradually became more used to the traffic sounds and lawn mowers and eventually, it did not bother him at all. One afternoon, it dawned on me that our conscience is also sensitive to the sights and sounds we absorb and how throughout our life each of us will choose to remain tender-hearted or become calloused and indifferent.
When we consider our spiritual life, as Christians we have a responsibility to guard and protect our heart from the negativity and darkness of iniquity. A huge part of accepting Jesus as the Lord of our life is to respect His holiness and for us to make a strong effort to live a pure life. You see, the idea is that God hates anything that resembles sin and likewise we should also feel the same way no matter how tempting it may seem. Unfortunately, many individuals are convinced this concept is old fashioned and not really important. Have you noticed lately that people, in general, do not want to hear about self-discipline, repentance, or messages that contain topics about changing the way we think and live? In our defense, we consider this intrusion as meddling and no one’s business, including our creator. The Bible defines this as conviction which are the uncomfortable feelings we sense whenever we know we are doing something wrong but love it too much to stop. I can relate to this daily battle because I struggle just like everyone else. Our fallen nature is opposed to virtuous living and is always willing to fight for its independence.
As we saw with the puppy’s sensitivity, we notice similar reactions with those who live close to railroad tracks or airports but they eventually get used to the sounds. We have several antique clocks in our home that are bonging and gonging all the time and when people come in, they comment about how loud they are but we do not even notice them. It’s one thing to get used to sights and sounds that do not hinder our spiritual life, but it’s dangerous to let our guard down when it comes to accepting things that are contrary to God’s standard of sanctification. I am reminded of the old Dick Van Dyke show where even though Rob and Laura were married, there were two separate beds in the bedroom. Back then, even the idea of a married couple in the same bed was socially and morally taboo and that was only fifty years ago. What happened to our modesty? As modern television and movies are pushing the limits of decency, those who indulge are being tempted to dwell on thoughts that are ungodly, to say the least. If we are not careful, we will become numb to perversion, darkness, and wickedness like the frog who sits in the pan of water on the stove and hardly notices he is being boiled. If we absorb and accept small amounts of impurities here and there, before long we will not be offended or insulted at all, in fact, we might begin to enjoy it. “Having, therefore, these promises dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” II Corinthians 7:1.
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky where he is a Christian minister and author. Ask for a free copy of his new CD called, “Keeper of my soul” at: billyhollandministries.com
BEING THOUGHTFUL – ON PURPOSE
Over a 12-year span at UCLA, American college basketball coach John Wooden won ten National Championships and their total of 11 remains a record today. Wooden is regarded as one of the most successful coaches in sports history, and more importantly an even greater person. He was a man of integrity and character and was highly respected on and off the court. He believed in discipline and felt strongly about teamwork and demonstrating appreciation for those around him. This attitude of being outwardly gracious became the foundation of his coaching philosophy and played a huge part of his team’s success.
Wooden taught that each time a player scored, they were to personally congratulate whoever helped make the play. At first, this seemed sissy and awkward to the arrogant players, but the coach explained that even the slightest gesture of recognition would encourage the individual and create a stronger unity within the entire team. This awareness is now openly seen in every sport with high-fives and the various gestures of open acknowledgment. This reminds us of how powerful our attitude can be as it has the potential to motivate or deflate those around us. Inspiring words can build self-esteem, confidence, and hope but they only have a chance to be effective when they are released. Imagine what a difference we could make by simply developing a determination to show our gratitude and be an encouragement to everyone.
I once heard a story about a man who dreamed he was in a beautiful palace, and was escorted into a huge dining room. The man noticed a round table with large bowls of delicious food in the middle of it. Sitting around the table were people who were holding three-foot long spoons. These individuals looked like skeletons and were starving because the spoons were long enough to reach the food but too long to put the food in their mouths. In anger and frustration, they kept trying desperately to feed themselves and it was a pitiful sight. Then, he was taken to another dining room and there, the man saw a similar table and likewise the mouth-watering bowls of food in the center. These people also were using the extremely long spoons except they were all glowing with health and vitality. The room was filled with light and laughter and everyone was having such a wonderful time and then he noticed the difference. With joy and love they were using the spoons to feed one another.
Being thoughtful is demonstrating positive and encouraging communication – on purpose. As we choose to speak hope to the disheartened and offer a helping hand to those who are struggling, we can bring comfort to those who feel discouraged. Relaying a kind word is so easy, yet to someone who could use a pick-me-up these small acts of compassion can make a huge difference. It would be wonderful to consistently relay to our spouse, our children and our dear friends how grateful we are for them. As a light in this world, we’ve been called to develop the habit of recognizing the contributions of those around us and express how proud we are of their accomplishments. Every day we are given the opportunity to listen to God’s voice and obey His instructions or ignore Him and live our own way. There is nothing preventing us from being respectful, appreciative, encouraging and generous. The choice is ours.
You have unlimited potential. God has drawn an amazing blueprint for your future and longs to help you succeed. You are unique, a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that He adores more than anything in the universe. He is aware of your situation and is working behind the scenes on your behalf. Jesus not only said He loved you, He suffered and died on the cross to prove it! There are so many people that could benefit from the gifts and talents that the Lord has given to you. You were created to bring hope into the world and as you reach out to help others this gives Him honor and glory. Never give up on your dreams, and be encouraged to know that since God is for you – who can be against you?
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky where he is a Christian minister and author. Ask for a free copy of his new CD called, “Keeper of my soul” at: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
DILIGENCE REQUIRES LESS TALK AND MORE ACTION
Success is not easily understood or there would be more of it! Learning and demonstrating certain principals can make the difference between watching others succeed and enjoying the blessings of success in our own life. One of these fundamental principles is that your God-given talent will make room for you! Proverbs 18:16 is a powerful statement that is worth considering; “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.” What does this mean? If we will pursue and practice whatever we are good at to the point of becoming our best, others will recognize our talent and will be more than willing to promote us and declare to the world about what we can do. Proverbs 22:29 say’s, “Do you know a person diligent in their business affairs? They shall be presented before kings and shall not stand before mean tyrants.”Allow me to include that our talents are truly opportunities but as we are reminded of the 10,000-hour rule, they must be developed. Very similar to being an athlete, it will require vision, hard work, and determination to become outstanding. How does a marathon runner increase their stamina and endurance? Certainly not by laying on the couch and eating Cheetos! They run every day to build strength and fortitude.
Alexander Graham Bell believed that sound could be converted into electrical impulses transmitted by wire, and today, no one remembers the long list of those who thought this idea of communicating was crazy. He had a relentless passion which kept his vision alive and his legacy is still greatly respected all over the world. If you are content with doing just enough to get by, you will always find yourself helping someone else achieve their goals. However, when you decide to focus on your mission and put your entire heart into it, you can then begin to trust God, live by faith, and fulfill your mission. There are huge differences between leaders and followers and it begins with knowing who God is, who you are and how serious you are within this personal relationship. When anyone begins to invest their life into what Jesus has died for them to be, they will be planted firmly on the path to success. What is the catch? We must become pliable and willing to surrender our will in order for the seed of God’s Word to be planted deep within our soul. This field of dreams must be watered daily with prayer and the awareness of His presence in order to know our purpose and develop our spiritual wisdom.
Have you ever felt like the world was passing you by and doesn’t even know you exist? Do you feel rejected and discouraged because you are not sure what direction to go in or how your dreams are going to come true? We are born with a custom designed blueprint and it only makes sense that our spiritual gifts and abilities are intended to be an important part of this highly detailed plan. The question is how many people will understand how all of this is going to come together? We have heard that nothing takes the place of perseverance and hard work but is it how devoted we are helping someone else or is it how serious we are to embrace and focus on what God has called us to do? Just because we have some success does not always mean we are following our own divine destiny.
Let’s consider a few synonyms for the word diligent; “Industrious, hard-working, responsible, conscientious, meticulous, painstaking, thorough, aware, persevering, persistent, tenacious, zealous, dedicated, determined, committed, tireless, and undeterred.” Wow, does this describe you? These are words we need to tape to our bathroom mirror! How powerful and life-changing to incorporate these positive inspirations into our daily prayers and for them to eventually become embedded into our conscience. An elderly chaplain told me one time that he loved his vocation so much that it never seemed like work. If you will submit and ask God to lead you, you will not have to worry about an audience, respect, recognition, finances, or God’s favor. When you discover your spiritual blueprint and become willing to do whatever it takes to see it evolve, you will accomplish your calling.
Ask for a free copy of his new CD, “Keeper of My Soul” at: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WE ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT WHAT WE LOVE
A while back, a good friend wanted to know if I would teach her husband how to play the guitar. Though I have led worship in church for years, I am not really what you would call a guitarist. I enjoy writing songs and using the music as a vehicle to relay messages about the Christian life. Anyway, she had an old guitar in the attic and thought it would be wonderful to hear her husband develop a musical gift. He is in his mid-sixties and up to this point has never mentioned anything about playing and singing. But, nonetheless, she announced for his birthday that she had paid me for several lessons and went on to say how excited she was to see this come to pass. With being put in such an awkward position, he pretended to be thrilled and as it is commonly called was, “a good sport about it.” In the first lesson, I was able to speak to him privately and asked if this was really something he wanted to do. He would just laugh and sigh as he struggled with the chords that were killing his fingers. Each week I would bring more homework for him to practice and I could tell this idea had turned from being comical into more of a burden.
I’m not declaring it’s impossible to learn something new when we are older because we certainly can, but I am saying if we have never been passionate about a particular subject our entire life, this is probably not our calling. Gifts and talents are given by God and usually placed within our heart when we are filled with energy and enthusiasm. In this particular case, the individual had never felt a stirring deep within his soul to play music and was only trying to make someone else happy. It was obvious he was not practicing during the week and of course was not advancing in his ability to play. Eventually, he gave up just like everyone else that attempts to do something on a whim. Gold medals are not won by demonstrating a mediocre interest and a half-hearted effort. We can appreciate others when they attempt to persuade and offer suggestions about our life but ultimately, it’s our responsibility to discover what God has called us to do. I believe that unless we have a relentless passion and a driving determination to accomplish something, we will end up reminiscing about what could have been. It would be like a father telling his son how he wants him to become a body builder. The dad converts the basement into a gym, plans all of his meals and then relays to everyone about what a champion his son will be someday. This just does not work unless a burning desire is embedded within the heart of the individual who can not only see the vision but is consumed with a fervent aspiration to succeed no matter what it takes.
I guess by now you have figured out where I am heading with this and I confess it causes me to think deeply about my personal devotion to Christ. Is God really at the top of my priority list? The Bible mentions a condition called lukewarmness and I am sorry to say that I have been there many times. Sure, I can act religious and talk Christianese but the truth is that I do not always live like I should. Why? Because I simply do not want to. Much of the time I use excuses in order to justify my lack of spiritual enthusiasm. The principals of sacrifice we use to be successful in the natural world can also be applied when we attempt to draw closer to Jesus. Since we have a free-will that relentlessly tries to influence our decisions, we will only be victorious when we lay down the law about who is really in charge. Where do I begin? First, I must understand that my carnal flesh hates everything that is connected with following God. Secondly, until my desire to accomplish God’s will becomes stronger than the desire to serve my own, I will remain the same.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
ASKING FOR THE GIFT OF WISDOM
When I think about having wisdom, I am reminded of King Solomon. If you remember the popular story of David and Bathsheba, Solomon was their only son and also became king of Israel after David passed away. In I Kings chapter 3, we read that Solomon sincerely loved God and obeyed His laws. Verse 4 records him offering 1000 burnt offerings upon the altars at Gibeon and as the story continues we notice that something very special happens to him. “The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, ask whatever you want and I will give it to you.” We must admit this is a huge opportunity and temptation especially for a young person, which is why it’s so impressive when we hear his request. How would we respond if God offered to give us whatever we wanted? Money, fame, super-powers, long life? Amazingly, Solomon gives a very mature and humble response as he simply desires more wisdom and understanding so that he can be a good king. Verse 10 says that Solomon’s reply pleased the Lord and listen to this, “And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and has not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked for riches for thyself, nor hast asked for the life of thine enemies; but has asked for understanding to discern judgment, behold I have done according to thy words.” This is truly awesome, but the encounter does not end here. God continues to declare that Solomon will not only become the wisest human being in the history of the world but will also receive all the things he did not ask for like riches and honor beyond the imagination. Scholars say that Solomon wrote thousands of clever sayings and songs and we can read some of his brilliant writings in the books of Proverbs, The Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes. However, we also know that when he became older, he made some critical mistakes as it seems that he allowed his wealth and authority to distract him from his original passion. It’s unfortunate that he strayed away from focusing on God’s commandments and carelessly allowed his wives to publicly worship their pagan idols which made God very angry. Solomon was just like everyone else in the fact that walking with God requires a strong personal commitment and is much different than a casual religious lifestyle.
Since wisdom is such a wonderful attribute and it no doubt pleases God when his people ask for it, I wonder why we often forget to make this a high priority within our prayers? Have you ever wondered why we would need wisdom? When we begin to search for the meaning, we discover that it is more than just collecting information. Becoming a contestant on Jeopardy might reveal that we have retained a lot of facts but it does not necessarily mean we are wise. It is commonly said that knowledge is knowing about things but wisdom is the gift of understanding them. I believe we can all agree the desire to develop a deeper comprehension is a good path to consider and one that can transform what we do and who we are. One of the greatest discoveries is the realization that if a person can allow God to change their mind into His way of thinking, they can become the person He has called them to be. When Solomon relayed God’s truth in Proverbs 23:7, “for as a person thinks within their heart – so are they” he was revealing one of the most powerful life changing revelations we can apply to our life. Arnold Bennett said, “Our mind is a sacred enclosure into which nothing harmful can enter except by our permission.” Let us consider that the reason people are the way they are is because of the way they think. If we dwell on negative, critical and discouraging thoughts, we will be a wellspring of darkness and depression. However, if we think about forgiveness, compassion, and humility, we will live in the contentment of God’s peace and joy. Through the positive awareness of His presence, we can learn how to become sensitive to the influences that form our convictions.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
DEMONSTRATING OUR FAITH BY OUR WORKS
We do not have to look very far to find someone that needs a miracle. Many are suffering some type of crisis with everything from health problems, their children, and grieving over a loss, to finances, marriage issues, and addictions. When difficult situations are presented, we become sympathetic, but how often do we consider that God may have brought these individuals to our attention so that we can not only pray but to intervene and help meet their needs? Instead of just discussing the situation and having pity, maybe we can become the miracle they are praying for. James chapter two talks about the difference between having faith without becoming involved and demonstrating our faith by our willingness to take the time and actually help them.
Have you ever been discouraged or in trouble and you cried out for God to please send somebody to help? If someone responded, you knew they were a Godsend, right? But if no one came, we assume someone was called upon but was probably just too busy or maybe they simply did not want to take the time or money to become involved. I believe this reveals more about what life is really about than we care to think about. Many people are convinced they are free to do whatever they want and I can understand this point of view for a non-Christian. However, for those who are followers of Jesus Christ, the Bible clearly explains that we are called to radically change from only thinking about ourselves to listening and obeying God as our highest priority. This transformation will produce generosity and compassion as we develop a willingness to become more like Christ in His attributes and character. I Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which is God’s.” When we accept the life-changing gift of salvation, we are called to let go of our old self-centered nature and become focused on the greatest commandment which includes loving God and others as ourselves.
The Bible refers to those who become God’s children as instruments and vessels of honor. The idea of being used by the Master of the universe is a privilege and as followers of Christ, we are to be listening for His voice, growing stronger in our compassion and more aware of what He desires (which by the way there is much to do). He may be guiding and preparing us to present a Bible scripture with a friend at work or maybe to share our heart in a letter to a loved one that we are concerned about. There are so many opportunities all around us where we could bring encouragement. I know there are times in my life where I could have used someone’s kindness. It feels good to know that someone cares enough to make an intentional effort to bless us as we all want to feel loved and respected. There is a passage in Galatians chapter six that talks about our deeds being like seeds and that we all reap according to what we sow. Applying this spiritual principle to our life, we can see how important it is to reach out to others in the same way we would like someone to care about us. If you need a miracle, become someone’s miracle, if you desire to have more friends, go out of your way to be friendly, if you want to be loved, learn how to love. God can connect us but our responsibility is to make ourselves available.
Jesus told a parable in Luke chapter ten about a man who was attacked by thieves and was left beside the road nearly dead. Two different men passed by (one of them a minister) and both ignored him. Then a Samaritan man found him and literally saved his life. The good Samaritan became the wounded man’s miracle and presents the question that is worthy of consideration; are we the one who passes by or the one who becomes involved?
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky where he is a Christian minister and author of the book, “A lifestyle of Worship.” Learn more at: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WE CAN BE AWARE WITHOUT BEING AFRAID
Lately, people have been asking me about the coming eclipse and now the situation with North Korea. It seems whenever strange or crisis events are predicted, people become nervous. Of course, it’s only natural to wonder what is going to happen and I am reminded of the famous Y2K scare that was a huge topic in 1999. We all know this ended up being a false alarm like the boy who cried wolf, but it doesn’t take long for the masses to forget about it and embrace the next doomsday prediction as the hype starts all over again. I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of these events or be disrespectful toward those who are panicking but rather offering the suggestion to take a few deep breaths and rest in the comforting thought that God is in control. We can find peace in God’s presence no matter what will come as we are reminded that fear is the opposite of faith. Let us remember that fear is seeing God through the eyes of circumstance while faith sees circumstances through the eyes of God.
When it comes to discussions about the end of the world, the religious crowd commonly refers to this as signs of the end times. Christianity believes the Bible is filled with indicators which reveal when certain events will happen. These predictions are called prophecies but unfortunately, many of these guideposts are so shrouded with symbolism they are difficult to interpret. For those of you who are students of eschatology, you have no doubt discovered there are countless opinions and disagreements about timelines and how everything will fit together. Nonetheless, I believe the Bible is true and with serious prayer, we can at least have some general clarity about what the future holds. Most importantly we are reminded in II Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
The coming eclipse is interesting to many who follow Bible prophecy because it will cover the entire country. Why is this significant? Without going into a long and drawn out Bible study about the return of Christ, let’s just say that many agree that America has not exactly followed the straight and narrow path of spiritual obedience and is in danger of judgment from the Almighty. This sign is being recognized as a part of the end-time calculation and considered as another warning from heaven. Jesus spoke these words in Luke chapter 21 and verse 25, “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations; with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring.” The chapter goes on to say that even though the masses will be afraid, those who follow God will continue to trust Him like they always have. He uses the fig tree as a simple way of teaching and compares the end of the age with the ripening of the fruit. We can watch and eventually know that as the fruit becomes ripe the harvest is very near. He is saying there is a way to spiritually discern the difference between what is real and what is another opinionated guess.
We realize there have always been earthquakes, eclipses, and wars and many people will be quick to argue that we have heard about Christ returning since we were children. This is true, but allow me to leave us with a closing thought. Our focus is not trying to figure out what day or hour Jesus is coming back because we have been told in Matthew chapter 24 that only our heavenly Father knows when this will happen. This basically means there is an appointed time that He has marked on His calendar and each day that passes is one day closer to this date whenever that may be. The point of becoming more aware of Biblical promises and prophecies is to draw nearer to the Lord and be prepared when Christ appears. When the sea of voices overwhelms our mind with the anxiety of doom and gloom, we can always run into the endless compassion and protection of God’s open arms.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
SOMETIMES LIFE SHOWS UP
I have been privileged to sit under many great speakers and teachers in my life. Human behavior and spirituality have always been fascinating to me and it’s an honor to be involved with the work of the ministry. There are mysteries and complicated questions that we will never understand while we live in this realm, but, there are also practical lessons that God can reveal to us when we diligently seek Him. Years ago, I knew a special lady that enjoyed a full life of adventure and was used as a blessing to many. Included within her life of success and respect, unfortunately, there was also a great deal of tragedy and disappointment. It’s not that this is rare or unusual, but it was how well she responded when things went sour. You could see the years of hurt and pain on her face and sense the agony in her soul but she also had a strong will and fortitude to keep pressing forward. She spent much of her career as a counselor, helping to comfort people in times of emergency with what is defined as psychological first-aid and was known for a simple phrase that she repeated constantly; “life shows up.” This was her familiar battle cry and a coping mechanism that helped her endure the tragedies and disappointments in her own life. She taught that no matter what we go through, we cannot give up or stop trusting that God will help us overcome. This message of courage and faith are more than just words – they are a mindset and a key to victorious living.
There will be times when all of us will be shocked, surprised and caught off guard. These moments of crisis can hit us so hard that we can literally be “knocked out” for an eight count, but with God in our corner, He can help us get back on our feet. When things are going well, we have a tendency to enjoy the ride without a need to be cautious or prepared. If we have not invested the time to make sure our spiritual foundation is solid and our psychological first aid toolbox is loaded, we are vulnerable for an unexpected ambush. When we are drifting too far from the shore and away from the safety of God’s protective harbor, our only defense is a weak collection of emotions which usually fail to provide us with the ability to think or act clearly. Christians realize there is no substitute for praying, but sometimes just saying a prayer is not always an automatic fix for our own problems or anyone that is going through a serious situation. In times of adversity, we can react with a positive attitude or we make things worse by piling on hopeless declarations. The best preparation for any type of situation is to live in the constant awareness of God’s presence. When we are walking with God and a serious storm comes upon us suddenly, His peace that passes all understanding can lessen the weight of fear and discouragement.
We have heard the old saying, “it’s not what happens – it’s how we react to what happens” and since life will have its share of emergencies, we can agree this is important. As you go through this difficulty, may the Lord continue to give you His strength and endurance and I pray that you will continue to lean on His understanding and be surrounded by His comfort and security. He knows all about the situation, He has heard your prayers and is working on your behalf according to His sovereign will. If you are agonizing over someone in a crisis situation, be encouraged by remembering they know how much you care about them and are comforted with your love. If you are experiencing a severe trial and hurting deeply within your soul, reach out to the Savior today and trust Him completely. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). The Lord never said that we would live free from difficulties and gut-wrenching disappointments, but He did promise that when life “shows up” He would always be there to help us walk through it.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
ARE WE A SPECTATOR OR A PARTICIPATOR?
We do not have to look very far to find someone that needs a miracle. There are lots of people who are suffering some type of crisis with everything from health problems, their children, and grieving over a loss, to finances, marriage issues, and addictions. When we see and hear about difficulties, we become sympathetic, but how often do we consider that God may have brought these individuals to our attention so that we can not only pray but to intervene and help meet their needs? Instead of just discussing the situation and having pity, maybe we are their miracle and the answer to their prayers. We can remain the spectator like always or with God’s power we can become a participator and an agent of change!
Remember the times you have been discouraged or in trouble and you cried out for God to please send somebody to help? If someone responded, you knew they were a Godsend, right? If no one came, we assumed they were too busy or maybe just did not want to take the time or money to become involved. I believe our reactions toward others reveal more about us than we care to think about. It seems that most people are convinced this life is their own to do whatever they want and I can understand this point of view for a non-Christian. However, for those who are followers of Jesus Christ, the Bible clearly explains our way of thinking is to radically change from only concentrating on ourselves to obeying God as our highest priority. This renewing of our mind will produce generosity and compassion as we develop a willingness to become more like Christ in His attributes and character. I Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” When we accept the covenant of salvation, we are letting go of our selfish independence in order to become sensitive to God and the needs of others.
The Bible refers to those who are God’s children as instruments and vessels of honor. The idea of being used by the Master of the universe is a privilege and something that should not be taken lightly. For those who are serious about becoming a disciple for Christ, we can learn how to listen for His voice and develop our spiritual awareness. He may be guiding and preparing us to present a Bible scripture with a friend at work or maybe to share our heart in a letter to a loved one that we are concerned about. There are so many opportunities all around us where we could bring encouragement. I know there are times in my life where I could have used someone’s kindness. It feels good to know that someone cares enough to make an intentional effort to bless us as we all desire to feel loved and respected. There is a passage in Galatians chapter six that talks about our deeds being like seeds and that we all reap according to what we sow. Applying this spiritual principle to our life, we can see how important it is to reach out to others in the same way we would like them to care about us. If you need a miracle, become someone’s miracle, if you desire to have more friends, go out of your way to be friendly, and if you want to be loved, ask God to help you learn how to love. He can connect us but our responsibility is to make ourselves available. Jesus told a parable in Luke chapter ten about a man who was attacked by thieves and was left beside the road nearly dead. Two different men passed by (one of them a minister) and yet both ignored him. Then a Samaritan man found him and literally saved his life. The good Samaritan became the wounded man’s miracle and presents the question that is worthy of consideration; are we the one who passes by or the one who becomes involved?
LIVING ON PURPOSE
LOYAL FRIENDS ARE TRULY A BLESSING
I was thinking the other day about how wonderful it is to have friends and how rare it is to have good ones. I believe we can all agree there are levels and categories with the people we know that range from those who seem like a brother or sister to the casual acquaintance. Our special friends help celebrate our victories and console us when we fail and we can trust them with everything. You know that if anything serious were to happen, they would be by your side all the way to the end. In this day and age of electronic relationships, it’s refreshing to have someone we can confide in, to sit down with and be transparent as we share our heart. We were not created to be an independent island to ourselves but rather are given an internal sense of the need for love and to develop a covenant bond with others.
Friendship is all about sincerely caring for another person without any false motives or reasons. We realize that many people who know us are not really connected with us and that is alright. We accept that we will not be best friends with everyone and no doubt that most of our casual friends also have this same mutual feeling about us. Have you ever been talking with someone and as they ask how you are, they instantly move on to another subject before you hardly have a chance to answer? I believe that true friends ask about us out of sincerity and are really interested in what is going on in our life. Those who are happy when we are on the mountain and cry when we are going through a dark valley can be placed on our short list of individuals who love and care about us. Donna Roberts is quoted as saying, “A true friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails.”
The story of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane just before he was to be crucified, allows us to see a brief moment of His human side and how He really wanted the spiritual and emotional support of His friends as He was going through a very difficult time. Within this mental image, we can know that God definitely understands about loneliness and the value of having someone walk with us in our journey. Jesus knew that His time was near and He asked three of His closest friends to accompany Him to this quiet place where He could spend some time praying to His Heavenly Father. When they arrived, he asked them to stay awake and pray as He was going on a little further down the path. As He walked away it’s clear that He felt an overwhelming sadness and anguish as His words are recorded, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with Me.” You can read the account in Matthew chapter twenty-six and verses 36-56, which also includes Him falling on His face and crying; “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” After a while, He returns to hopefully receive some positive encouragement but instead finds them asleep. This happens on three separate occasions and the last time He stood over them and with compassion said to sleep on now and take your rest. Even though they could not hold their eyes open does not mean they did not love Him because they truly did, (and by the way, I would say we would have not been able to stay awake either). My point is that we all want our closest friends around us when we are walking through our experiences whatever they are. There is an old saying that explains how there comes a time in our life when we realize who actually matters, who never did, who is not around anymore and who will always be there. When we are in the hospital or in the nursing home and our family and friends are holding our hands, we can thank God for giving us our greatest blessings.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
A TRUE ACCOUNT OF FAITH AND FORGIVENESS
For those of you that have never heard of a woman named Corrie Ten Boom and her remarkable family, it is truly a heartbreaking account of courage and sacrifice. We begin our story with Cornelia (nicknamed Corrie) who was born in Haarlem, Netherlands, in 1892. She was raised in a devoted Christian atmosphere and lived in a large house above her father’s business where he was a jeweler and watch maker. This loving family believed in demonstrating their spiritual convictions by offering shelter, food, and help to anyone in need. They also held a deep respect for the Jewish community in Amsterdam, considering them precious in God’s sight and during World War II, actually participated in an underground organization that secretly hid hundreds of Jews to protect them from arrest by Nazi authorities. Within their home, they built false walls, and alarm systems, but eventually were betrayed by one of their Dutch neighbors. Unfortunately, all ten of the family members were incarcerated, including Corrie’s 84-year-old father, who soon died in the Scheveningen prison, located near The Hague. Corrie and her sister Betsie were taken to the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp, near Berlin. Betsie suffered and died there on December 16, 1944. Corrie miraculously survived and in her book entitled The Hiding Place, she tells her inspiring story about the power of forgiveness. The depth of what she learned is seen in quotes such as this one; “You can never learn that Christ is all you need until Christ is all you have.”
The evil horrors of the holocaust are beyond comprehension and a sad reminder of the fallen state of mankind. When Corrie and Betsy were struggling to stay alive with sleeping on lice infested straw and nothing to eat but a small amount of bread and water each day, she tells of a particular prison guard that was cruel to them and how these nightmares haunted and tortured her soul. When Germany surrendered the war, Corrie was finally released and after regaining her health, she began traveling around the world giving her testimony for Jesus. Another of her popular declarations is, “Love is the strongest force in the world” (especially when we include our enemies). It was now 1947 and she had been invited to a large gathering in Munich to share with a devastated country how God desires that we let go of the resentment and forgive each other. Her message was centered on confessing our sins, and as we forgive, God is faithful to forgive us and begin the healing process. She said it was common to have auditoriums filled with solemn faces and when dismissed they would not say anything and quietly leave.
She had just finished speaking when she saw a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat working his way toward her and then it was instantly clear, this was the evil guard from the concentration camp. He did not recognize her, and exclaimed, “What a fine message you have spoken fräulein” as he stretched out his hand. He joyfully confirmed how good it is to know that our sins are washed away forever. She literally felt paralyzed as it seemed the entire world had stopped. Emotionally confused, she fumbled with her pockets and stared at the floor as her mind flashed back to the piles of dirty clothes on the floor and the shame of her and Betsy standing naked in front of him as he mocked and slapped them with his leather crop. He spoke up again and said she had mentioned Ravensbrück and that he had been a guard there, but since that time, he had become a Christian and now believes that God has forgiven him for the cruel things he did there. Again, the hand came out as he boldly asked, “Will you please forgive me?” She admits this was gut wrenching but placing all of her trust in God, she followed the Biblical command, grabbed his hand and said yes, with all of her heart. Her words are remembered; “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is the power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
CHOOSING TO MANAGE OUR TIME WISELY
In this modern world in which we live, the access of information is becoming an addiction. For many people, technology is emotionally stimulating entertainment and as it continues to advance we wonder if the intent is to influence us within this evolution of pleasure enhancement. It’s amazing to consider that only 70 years ago the concept of computers controlling the masses seemed more like science fiction but now it has become a reality. Who would have dreamed that in this short period of time that most everyone would be connected to a worldwide information system and what a significant part it would play in our everyday lives?
We realize that technology is helping us in many different ways but we also consider that possibly we are also being drawn into a dimension that is having a negative effect on our mind and spirit. Take smartphones, for instance, they are literally becoming a part of us. Since we are moving away from practical problem solving and personal human interaction, I can only imagine how the masses would react or even survive if service was lost and everything was turned off.
I’m not saying the old days were necessarily better and they certainly were not easier but from a spiritual perspective, I believe there was more of an awareness to connect with God, our thoughts and each other. Yesterday’s world was less chaotic which allowed the brain to rest and be open to meaningful conversation along with being more creative, but today we are so bombarded with information we have become full-time communication managers. Another question I have is whether or not this ability to access more information is actually making us smarter or less intelligent? Human nature loves indulgence and rarely has the discipline to know when enough is enough. Rationing our time of being mesmerized with social media, games, and television would be an improvement but if you notice the off switch is usually not pushed until we can no longer hold our eyes open. So why are we so drawn into this cyber world? One reason is that it’s a way to escape from this one. Sadly, many people are not happy in the realm they live in. In fact, some do not enjoy those around them or even themselves so spending as much time as possible in an alternative environment provides the perfect distraction and allows them to escape reality.
Let us at least contemplate that spending hours each day on the web, playing video games, texting, calling, tweeting and watching television can divert us from learning how to do fundamental problem-solving. Our grandparents knew how to use a hammer and a wrench as they worked on their cars and their homes grew their own food and figured out how to take care of basic problems. After a hard day’s work, they enjoyed a home-cooked meal together and then relaxed on the front porch talking with each other. Telephones were for emergencies and occasional greetings instead of an obsessive compulsion. People were not afraid of silence because they had peace in their souls. They were not as stressed or rushed and looked forward to simple events like taking Sunday afternoon drives out in the country just to be together.
As a Christian, it’s always wise to daily inspect and examine our conscience. We do not have to be a part of the world’s system of stress or feel like we are being coerced into a certain way of living. We have the choice and responsibility to lay the phones down and turn off the machines that steal our time. I have often wondered how God feels when we spend all of our time with meaningless activity instead of investing our precious moments trying to hear His voice. Our most common complaint is that we do not have enough time but the truth is that we are poor time managers. Could it be that all these devices are being used against us as a way to distract us away from God and our true purpose in life? “He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” Psalm 91:1.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
A YOUNG PATRIOT WILLING TO GIVE ALL
Every summer we look forward to July fourth because it’s filled with fun things to do, like barbecuing, picnics, games, family reunions, fireworks and of course it’s a paid vacation day. Along with the excitement and activities, let us also remember and be grateful for those who have served our country so that we can enjoy our freedom. Independence Day is all about the courage of many Americans who fought against Great Britain in the Revolutionary War and with much blood-shed declared the victory and helped establish this great nation. On July fourth, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, declared the sovereignty of the United States of America as they signed the Declaration of Independence which is recognized as our nations birthday.
There is an interesting story of a young man who was a soldier in this war and in every sense of the word defines the meaning of a true American hero. Nathan Hale of Coventry, Connecticut was born in 1755 and grew up to be a highly educated and handsome young man who had every prospect for a happy and fulfilling life. Those who knew him commented on his love for sports, his kindness, and strong Christian convictions. As tension increased about a possible conflict with the British, Nathan like many other enthusiastic young men, joined a local militia and was quickly advanced to the rank of sergeant. When the war officially became a reality, many chapters of Connecticut militia rushed to Massachusetts to help their neighbors during the Siege of Boston but Hale was unsure whether to join these forces or to wait and see what would unfold. He was a young professional teacher that had a lot to lose especially with not being clear about what was happening. In early July 1775, Nathan received a heartfelt letter from his best friend, Benjamin Tallmadge who had seen the war firsthand and was now reporting about the situation. Tallmadge told Nathan that teaching school was truly noble but at this time it was critical to consider the responsibility of defending this glorious country. The day after receiving this letter, Nathan Hale resigned his teaching position and became dedicated to the call of duty.
When George Washington reorganized the army in January, 1776, Nathan received a captain’s commission where he spent six months helping to build fortifications and preparing for the inevitable battle for Manhattan Island. Early in September 1776, Washington formed an elite, green beret-type group of New England Rangers and Hale was soon invited to command one of the four companies whose mission was forward reconnaissance. Washington desperately needed to know the probable site of the upcoming British invasion and the best way to obtain this pivotal information was to send a spy behind enemy lines. This was extremely dangerous and guess who volunteered?
It is not verified exactly how Hale was captured but we know he was immediately brought for questioning before the British commander, General William Howe. Intelligence information was found on Nathan and since this was not in code or invisible ink, he was irrevocably compromised. Although Howe was moved by the young man’s demeanor and patriotism, it could not be denied that he was out of uniform behind enemy lines. The customs of war were clear and Nathan was sentenced to hang. The next morning, Sunday, September 22, 1776 at 11:00 AM, Nathan Hale was marched north, about a mile up the post road to the Park of Artillery where after giving a spirited speech he was executed. A British engineer named John Montresor witnessed the event and was deeply touched by Nathans composure and his last words. As fate would have it, Montresor was ordered to deliver a message from General Howe to Washington under a white flag that very afternoon. Montresor sincerely emphasized that Nathan had impressed everyone with his sense of dignity and quoted Nathans words while he stood on the gallows: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Nathan Hale’s body was left hanging for several days near the site of his execution and later was buried in an unmarked grave. He was 21 years old.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WHEN LIFE DOESN’T MAKE SENSE
There are times we become confused and will not be able to figure out a way to solve our problems. Life is not always a smooth interstate and it’s good to remember that God is with us when we encounter unexpected roadblocks and detours. In these stressful situations, we can know that delays do not necessarily mean denial but could be an opportunity for us to stretch our faith and learn more about trusting God. There is a fascinating story found in Genesis chapter 22 about a man named Abraham and his wife Sarah. They were not able to have children and were now in their nineties but one day an angel came to them and relayed a message from God that they would give birth to a son. Miraculously, they did have a child just like the Lord promised, but when Isaac became a teenager, the Almighty asked Abraham to do something very confusing and heart-breaking.
God told him to take the boy and a bundle of wood to a certain place and build an altar. He was to bind his son with ropes and lay him on top of the wood. This promised child that had been given as the most joyful gift in their life was now to become the most devastating sacrifice they could imagine. Even though Abraham did not understand, he trusted God and raised the knife in obedience to God’s request. At the last second, a voice called out to stop him and said that Abraham had proved that he loved God above everything in the world. Amazing to say the least. We do not always understand what God is doing and this is exactly why the Christian life is based on faith and trust. I know it sounds easy to tell someone to “have faith” or “just believe” when their world is falling apart but this is the message from heaven. Jesus wants us to know that He is aware of what we are going through and to sincerely release our fears over to Him. He is God and He can handle it! Never lose hope no matter how impossible it may seem. “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me, and heard my cry” Psalm 40:1.
No matter what predicament, problem or difficulty and there seems to be absolutely no relief in sight, the Lord has a perfect solution. God always provides an answer to every problem, it just might not be the one we are looking for. Let us focus on His Word and learn about His will so that we can experience His grace, power, and sovereignty in our life. In the New Testament, Paul understood how God makes a way when there seems to be no way when he wrote, “It is God who is at work in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” Philippians 2:13,14. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus it’s comforting to realize we are limited in our own strength but there is nothing that He cannot do. Faith is willing to hold God’s hand when we cannot see where He is leading us and His promises become our solid rock of hope when life does not make sense. When we find ourselves in these seasons of discouragement, let us simply ask the Lord to help us understand what it means to declare as Christ did before He was crucified, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.”
In 1887, John Sammis, a Presbyterian minister, knew that in times of crisis we can turn to the one who loves us and wants to rescue us as he wrote this popular hymn that has inspired and encouraged so many throughout the years. “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” It seems many times that our emotions make the Christian life more complicated than it needs to be as this little chorus simply relays how we are to live. As God’s truth brings peace, security, freedom, and victory, may we refuse to be driven and defeated by the adverse circumstances of this life.
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author, outreach minister and community chaplain. To learn more visit: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GOD WILL NEVER FORGET OR FORSAKE YOU
Have you ever known someone who was even-tempered and composed even when circumstances seemed to be falling apart all around them? In times of a serious crisis, somehow these individuals remain calm and collected and in fact, it’s not unusual to see them comforting the very ones who came to help. So, what is the secret to living in this calm and peaceful state of mind? It’s coming to the point in our journey where we simply begin to realize who God is. For those who consider themselves a Christian, it only makes sense this would include believing what He has said. Having a passion for knowing God more personally will go a long way toward learning to trust Him.
Life has its share of wonderful times where we enjoy the blessings and have delightful experiences and then there are also times that are devastating and disappointing. Have you noticed that when we are on the mountaintop, unfortunately, we tend to forget about God because we are so distracted with our pleasures. Then, after this season has passed, we find ourselves walking through a dark and discouraging valley, and immediately call out to Him because we want to go back to the good times. It’s true, this fluctuation is a normal part of life but it’s not the way God intended for His people to live. His plan is for us to mature beyond our emotions and become more spiritually connected with Him whether we are walking through abundance or adversity. Proverbs chapter 3 and verses 5 and 6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all of thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In ALL thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” If we look at this carefully, He is talking about becoming more spiritually sensitive, not just in times of crisis and emergency. He wants us to trust Him in everything and to be aware of His presence in every area of our life.
I believe it would help the anxiety and stress if we could just sincerely place our lives into His hands and rest in the confidence that He knows our situation and is always working behind the scenes for our best interest. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 145:18 and 19, “The Lord is near unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of them that fear Him: He also will hear their cry, and will save them.” He wants to intervene because He loves us. His answers might not always be what we imagined, but He will always make the perfect decision. There are many people today that are struggling financially and find those money problems are stealing the joy of their salvation. Others are facing serious health issues or major family problems and are afraid of an uncertain future. I do not have the answers and neither can I explain why bad things happen to good people, but whatever is confronting you with worry and concern, I know that God hears our prayers, honors our faith and is working on a solution.
This may sound strange but having money, being physically fit and having a beautiful family does not necessarily solve all of our problems. In fact, most studies show that wealthy and healthy people can have even more trials and torments with anxiety and depression. So, how are we to handle life’s cares? According to the Bible, we’re to worry about nothing and pray about everything. Peter put it this way, “Casting all your care on Him, for He cares for you (I Peter 5:7). This means instead of us trying to carry our burdens, the Lord wants us to let go and let Him accomplish His perfect will in us. Jesus did not guarantee a trouble-free life even to those who live by faith, but it’s encouraging to know that He promised to walk with us every step of the way. No matter what type of giant we are facing, our Heavenly Father owns everything, is in total control and there is no situation too difficult for Him to take care of.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE BOND OF LOVE WE HAVE WITH OUR PETS
Within two weeks of each other, my son and daughter-in-law took both of their dogs to the vet to end their suffering. Juno and Bishop were so loving and gentle. They were rescued a few years ago, but sadly they both had recently been diagnosed with cancer. It’s very difficult to go through this, but our sincere love and respect do not to want to see them suffer. When my wife and I would visit, Juno would always bring us this huge chew bone and Bishop would wrap his legs around ours like he was hugging us. Of course, my son and his wife are very upset, and we can definitely relate as we have also said goodbye to several dogs through the years. I remember our Boston Terrier Katy, and the sorrow I felt when they put her to sleep. I was rocking her like you would hold a baby and she was staring into my eyes like she had done since she was a baby. I believe us being present in their last moments is very comforting to them and I cannot help but believe they trust us to do the right thing.
A couple of weeks after I had written a rough draft of this column, we came home to find our beloved French Bulldog Sampson had unexpectedly passed away. We have taken it hard and miss him very much. I would kid around with my wife in the evenings when Sam would snuggle on the couch with us that he was the recipient of a lot of grand-baby love – ha! In fact, I do not even call them dogs, but I admit I refer to them as “children.” When I say, let’s go to bed children, they march to the kitchen for their bedtime treat and go straight to their designated areas for the evening. We do not have grandchildren yet and our dogs are so spoiled it’s comical. You know, I’m sure that some will think I’m silly, but a pet over time becomes much like a close family member and to some people, the bond may be even stronger than any relationship they have with a human. Only those who are deeply attached to their animals would understand.
No matter what we are facing or how difficult the situation is, our pets love us without questions or judgments and can sense when we are upset. They are always there for us as a best friend should be. I have seen therapy dogs in action and I’m convinced they are not only intelligent but also have an emotional discernment. For those who live alone, a faithful companion can bring much comfort and a feeling of security. After a long day, they are always happy to see us and it seems our time together with them is the most important thing in their life. Sam loved to take turns sleeping in our laps at night and he would snore so loud, I would have to turn the volume up on the TV. He would follow us around and just always wanted to be with us.
A survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association says there are well over 120 million dogs and cats that are pets in the U.S. Fish, birds, small animals, reptiles and horses that are considered a part of the family, make up another 50 million individuals. With food, supplies, grooming, boarding and vet expenses at over 70 billion dollars annually, we can agree that people are serious about their companions. The American society for the prevention of cruelty to animals estimates that around 75 percent of American families own at least one pet. I personally believe that pets are good for children as they learn to be sensitive and compassionate. participating in the care and to enjoy the love that animals give in return helps to develop maturity and responsibility. I have been asked, if our pets go to heaven, and though no one really knows for sure, there are several examples in scripture that confirm there will definitely be animals in the next life. I for one certainly hope that I will see them again.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD
I never grow weary of writing about prayer because to me it’s the heart of our spiritual communication with God. Even though I believe that our Heavenly Father listens and all things are possible with Him, I must admit I do not pray like I should. We realize our spirit is willing but unfortunately, our flesh is weak and has every intention to prevent us from connecting with the Almighty. In fact, there is hostility between the carnal mind that is governed by our human nature and anything that is associated with God including our new transformed spirit that is dedicated to knowing and serving Him. This explains why praying is much easier to talk about than to do. As the popular English minister, F.B. Meyer once said, “The greatest tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but neglected prayer.”
Of course, we know there is no problem too large or small for the Lord to take care of. His long list of divine attributes includes being the creator and authority over all things and accepting that He is in total control gives us a wonderful sense of peace and security. We are motivated to pray when convinced that He desires to intervene and is concerned with even the smallest details of our life. He may not always give us the answer we are seeking but that does not take away from the reality that He is working in our best interest. “Do not be worried or anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:6-7.
I have the privilege to be a free-lance columnist for many newspapers around the country and I take this responsibility seriously. Anyway, I was cleaning house the other day, mopping and vacuuming, (yes, men do such things), and I was casually talking with the Lord about how I had been trying for several months but had been unable to make any contacts with editors from a particular state as if the door was locked and how I needed Him to do the impossible. While thanking Him for His blessings I felt compelled to kneel in front of the couch and pour my heart out to Him. A couple of hours later, I returned to my office and while routinely checking email messages, I opened one of them and – you guessed it! It was from a large newspaper in the very state I had been praying about, saying they would love to run my column every Saturday in their religion page. Can you imagine the expression on my face? This may not be a big deal to some, but to me, it was nothing less than amazing! I nearly cried as just a short while earlier I had called upon Him in faith, to please help me and make a way where there seemed to be no way. I admitted that I had done all I could do and I needed His super-natural power. This was not a coincidence, and I believe it’s just one of the millions of daily demonstrations where God steps in and performs a miracle according to His perfect will. Jeremiah 29:12 says, “You shall call upon Me, and you shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you.”
Whatever you are praying for today, remember that God has seen your thoughts and listens to every word we say. He knows all about our problems and situations and has seen our tears even in the darkest night. This is not a guarantee we will receive everything we ask for, and we must also consider His requirements and timing, but He wants us to know that He really cares about what is important to us, (even the little things). Jesus loves us so much that He sacrificed His life in order to rescue our soul and have a personal relationship with us. We are humbled in His presence and love and praise Him not only for what He can do but most of all just for who He is.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
REMEMBERING THE HIGH COST OF FREEDOM
Every year in early June, we observe Memorial Day and remember the anniversary of the Normandy invasion of World War II commonly called D-day. By the way, the “D” simply stands for whatever day a military assault is planned. For example; D-3 meant three days before a D-Day, while D+7 meant seven days after a D-Day. On June 6th, 1944, America and her allies engaged in one of the most significant military operations of the 20th century. I have been personally touched by war and have a deep appreciation for the service and sacrifice that men and women give to protect our country. My mother’s brother, Kenny Maye was killed in Korea and I have his tags, casket flag and one picture of him. He was only 20 years old in 1950. Sadly, his existence is nearly unknown and I often wonder about the life he could have had. To everyone that has sacrificed for this great nation, I sincerely thank you for your service.
I live a couple miles from a National military cemetery and its close enough to the highway to see over twelve thousand perfectly lined white marble tombstones. I am sure there are many who drive past with hardly thinking about how each of these individuals at one time or another accepted the call of duty. And what is that call? To defend and protect our freedom – whatever the cost! Do you and I have convictions that strong? The first Amendment was not only signed into existence with ink but with the blood of over 1.1 million Americans that have died in U.S. wars along with even more that have suffered from physical and mental difficulties. For instance, the privilege we have to publicly communicate what is on our mind are liberties that have come at a great price and we should not take them for granted.
As a chaplain for a Veteran health care facility, I have the opportunity and honor to sit and talk with many fine men and women that have served in our nation’s military. Some of them are now in their eighties and nineties and I believe it’s important to record and preserve not only their amazing war stories but to simply listen and appreciate who they are as individuals. One of these residents is a man named Edward Hicks who willingly stepped forward when his country needed him the most. He was only 22 years old and had just married his lovely bride Mary Lou 4 months earlier. He received the call to join the front-line and bravely responded to what would be known around the world as “Operation Overlord.”
Edward and his company were assigned to six miles of beach that was code-named “Omaha” which has been recorded as one of the bloodiest first wave battles of Normandy. Only 600 men survived out of 2600 that came ashore. He recalls when he jumped out of the amphibious vehicle, how the water was up to his neck and icy cold. With being loaded down with full gear that was now water-logged, he said it was very difficult to keep from drowning. As bullets were splashing the water and whizzing past his head, all he knew to do was to stay as low as possible. Using floating bodies as shields, he was nearly paralyzed with fear. As he slowly crawled upon the sand, he immediately began to dig a hole where he could partially avoid the onslaught of constant machine gun fire. Somehow throughout the day and thankfully with the Germans running out of ammunition, he managed to work his way inland and on to accomplish the rest of his mission. He received several medals for bravery including a silver star and 4 bronze stars but there is much more to being a hero than human fortitude and earning awards. It is recognizing the depth of spiritual love. The love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross is the type of compassion that inspires individuals to love and protect others as much as they love themselves. John 15:13 reminds us that, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author and community outreach, chaplain. To learn more visit: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 5/25/2017
LIVING IN THE AWARENESS OF GOD’S PRESENCE
There is a touching story found in John chapter 12 about a humble servants love for her Lord. Verse 3 reads, “Then Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.” Judas managed the finances for the ministry of Jesus and was angry about how the perfume should have been sold and the money used to help the poor. Jesus spoke up and said, “Leave her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor, always you have with you; but me you have not always.” We can picture this scene in our minds as a beautiful example of the importance of having our priorities in the right place. Mary was not intimidated by the criticism of the world because she was mesmerized in the holy aura of God’s presence. She discarded what this realm considered logical and practical and was only concentrating on the revelation of who He was. Her personal relationship with Jesus was her highest calling and nothing was more important than becoming one with Him. This is a glimpse of humility that has made the bold decision to be free from embarrassment and fear and is determined to live and serve God whatever the cost.
Pure and love are not two words that we often connect together because much of what we know about love in this world is not always pure. We are flawed humans and realize that love many times has a slightly twisted angle or ulterior motive. Within our dysfunctions, it’s common to feel that we need to earn someone’s love as we learn how to exchange and trade love in order to receive it. However, the wonder and beauty of God’s love is not based on how much we can do or how well we perform. He loves us with a pure unconditional love which means that even in our worst moments – He loves us just the same. When we receive this revelation of His pure love for us, we are broken and drawn to express our sincere love back to Him through worship. When Jesus was on the cross, we were on His mind and we will forever bow before Him in gratitude. To recognize who He is and to love Him with all of our strength, mind, and soul is all that He has ever wanted. What more can He say, what more can He do?
Brother Lawrence, whose 17th-century work, “The Practice of the Presence of God” details his determination to re-train his conscience to become so discerning that he considered everything as an opportunity to know and serve Christ. By allowing this concept of awareness to transform who we are, we not only have a wonderful opportunity but a responsibility to mature into a higher level of spiritual sensitivity. We are learning that the Christian lifestyle is about establishing and maintaining a bond of intimate devotion with God, as we allow our mind and heart to be changed into a reflection of His image. It’s not just about the world watching us sing a song to Jesus, it’s all about us demonstrating His character in our life. Brother Lawrence is quoted, “many times the most powerful sermons are without words.”
If we truly desire more of God, we must choose to deliberately pursue Him. Spending time with Him is how we get to know Him and every day He patiently waits for us to acknowledge Him and get alone with Him. It is enlightening to discover that the more He is on our mind the more sensitive we are to His voice. When all is said, and done, and we stand before His throne, the amount of our thoughts we allowed Him to occupy will reveal what meant the most to us. The extent we are filled with Jesus depends on how much of our will we surrender to Him. When He is invited to sit on the throne of our heart as Lord, is when the awareness of His presence will become a lifestyle.
This is an excerpt from my new book, “A lifestyle of worship, living in the awareness of God’s presence.” It is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble or you can contact: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE MEMORIES OF OUR LOVED ONES LIVE WITHIN US
Through the winter months, I had been thinking about how I was going to tackle the huge project of replacing our privacy fence in the spring. I have built this type of fence before and those of you that are familiar with this will understand when I say it is very hard work, especially when you are doing it by yourself. Digging post-holes are not for the faint of heart – ha! I retired in 2014 and have not really been involved with strenuous activity for a while, so when I started tearing down the old fence, I knew the first day this was going to be rough. Yes, there were days I thought about calling a fence company to take over, but to be honest, as I kept going, the better I started to feel. I would start early trying to come up with a game plan for the day, drinking coffee as I contemplated. The weather was cool and it was very peaceful listening to the breeze flowing through the trees and the birds in all their glorious and enthusiastic singing seemed to be encouraging me to keep pressing forward. I finally finished the other day and I am very grateful to be able to mark that off my list and now I can move on to other projects I need to accomplish.
When I was growing up, my dad was a custom home-builder and he taught me a lot about construction. He passed away last year and my mom gave me some boxes of tools that he had saved from the past and I put them in my shop. The other day I was looking for a drill bit and noticed dads old set of bits and as I opened that old familiar yellow plastic box, I remembered the good times we spent working together. The flood of emotions took me by surprise and I just sat down and allowed the memories to roll like I was watching an old movie. My dad was very talented and I was always amazed at his strength and what he could do when it came to building things. He was creative and had an ability to problem solve and was not afraid of hard work. He was respected for his high level of expertise and was definitely a true craftsman.
As I thought about how much I miss him, I was reminded that one day I will see him again. It seems I never really considered how precious my time was with him but now I think what a blessing it would be to hear his voice again. I am sure you feel the same way about your loved ones and how we have a tendency to take for granted they will always be there. We have a small plaque in our house that I walk past every day which says, “You will never be forgotten although we are far apart – your memories live within me forever in my heart” and how true this is. We have a brief opportunity on this earth to spend time with each other and hopefully to also get to know God, as the Bible declares that for those who are born-again in Christ, death is not the end – but actually the beginning. This gift of eternal life is the best news that has ever been given!
John chapter 14 says, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” May you be comforted to know there is a heaven where you can live with God forever and be with your loves ones again. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things will pass away” Revelation 21:4.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
OPTIMISTIC THINKING IS A LEARNED BEHAVIOR
As a minister, I am always being updated about what is happening in the daily news and regularly reminded about how the world is falling apart. I do appreciate the hard work from the news agencies to keep us informed, but we must also realize there needs to be a balance between constantly absorbing what everyone else is doing and concentrating on the life we have been called to live. While it’s true there are many bad things that happen every minute, we should also remember this does not mean that everyone is a criminal or that the entire world is a valley of death and darkness. There have always been bad people that do evil things but it just seems worse now because the population has grown and with advancing technology we can instantly know what is going on everywhere. Unfortunately, this constant flood of negative information can overload our emotions and cause fear, anxiety, and stress. It is also not a coincidence that technology and anti-depressant medications have grown together.
Years ago, people lived somewhat isolated from the constant bombardment of bad news which by the way gave them much less to be upset and worried about. The average person was more focused on their family and investing their time working to make sure they had everything they needed. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “there is no substitute for hard work” and I believe the concept of perseverance and determination should be included in our education curriculum. Excuse me if my views are old school, but playing on a cell phone all day and watching television all night is not the formula for accomplishment. OK, back to our subject. Another point that we can consider, is there are many decent people that are doing good things. They may not receive the same amount of attention but they are out there. I see this side of the spectrum a little more than the average person because I am in and out of places where these individuals devote their time and resources. In my small community, I know lots of people that volunteer behind the scenes and are making a huge difference in the lives of others. Just imagine all the ones that support charitable organizations, those who work in the churches and others who are actively involved in community outreach and then multiply that around the world. Nonetheless, like I said earlier, we rarely hear about these secret agents that are driven with love and concern and are not afraid to act upon their convictions. To them, I say; Praise the Lord for you!
The old illustration of the glass being half-full or half-empty is a timeless truth. We have the choice to think negative thoughts or positive thoughts and whichever we choose will have a direct influence on what we do and say. Do we really want to be known for being the first one to be the bearer of bad news or the one that always declares, “it will never work?” Do we want to be remembered as someone that has a dark cloud of negativity that follows them everywhere they go? I realize that inquiring minds want to know, but we should not receive pleasure from shocking others with the gory details that will give everyone nightmares. Being concerned and broken-hearted about a tragedy is one thing, but getting excited about it is dysfunctional. I personally believe the most important act we can do is to begin our day in prayer and ask God to help us be a positive person. When we take the time the time to connect with God, we are being equipped with His attributes to face the day in a higher state of spiritual awareness. His divine wisdom and discernment will help us live under His control and prevent us from being influenced by our emotions. Whether we embrace it or not, a Christian is accountable for what they think, how they act and what they say and it would be a wonderful testimony and would bring glory to God if we would demonstrate His optimistic light of love, hope, and encouragement in every situation.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
HAVING COMPASSION ON THOSE LESS FORTUNATE
In today’s world, it’s common to see people standing on the corner holding signs that declare how desperate they are for financial assistance. In our small town, we also have individuals that walk up and down the streets, at all hours of the day and night and over the years they have become familiar simply by being continually visible. I along with others have spoken with them and assist in whatever way possible. Most of them have a place to stay and receive social assistance but still, need help in many different ways. They suffer from various health problems and dysfunctional family situations but unfortunately are also exposed to harassment as people honk their horns and laugh.
One older gentleman, in particular, pushes a shopping cart around town and it’s usually filled with empty cans and various items he has found. His skin is weathered and wrinkled and occasionally someone will stop and talk with him and bring him a sandwich. In speaking with him I discovered he receives social security and has a modest place to live, but he seems to enjoy walking the streets and is free to do whatever he wants as long as he is not bothering anyone or causing a problem. We have a number of other colorful characters that do the same thing and remind us there are people who live a much different life than we do. I’m sure there are reasons and circumstances that would explain their situation but we are not to look down or be cruel with those who have experienced a difficult and disappointing life. Colossians chapter 3 describes the attributes that Jesus is hoping we will realize and develop. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, a heart of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; showing patience and understanding, and forgiving one another.”
As a community chaplain and a member of our state and local emergency crisis response teams, I am involved with those seeking assistance, especially during the wintertime. Our local leaders graciously open the schools and specific buildings for emergency warming shelters for the homeless and restaurants are always generous to donate food. Recently, a new emergency shelter has opened with a vision to provide 60 beds, along with washers and dryers where individuals can maintain their clothes and they also attempt to serve 3 meals per day. My sister Terri helps me each year with the holiday food boxes for the needy, was taking a tour of this new facility recently with her 8-year-old son Victor. He listened as she was explaining to him about generosity and how important it is to help others. Suddenly, he spoke up and said, “Mom, maybe the man that pushes that shopping cart around town can find this place.” The room fell quiet. He was trying to process this information and the innocence of a child had connected with having compassion on someone in need. This brings a tear to my eye as I think how important it is to teach our children to not take our blessings for granted and how Christ wants us to love and help others.
James chapter 2 talks about those who are wealthy and the ones who are poor and refers to respect and attitudes of pride and the way we treat people. The writer goes on to explain how easy it is to brag about possessing faith and having pity on those who are suffering, while yet walking away without actually doing anything to bring relief to the situation. Verse 15, “If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you tells them, depart in peace and I hope you find food and shelter but does not take action to give them what they need – how is that helping?” We can use the excuse that people have created their own problems but we have all made mistakes and if not for the grace of God where would any of us be? “And be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for the sake of Christ has forgiven you” Ephesians 4:32.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WITH GOD, IT’S ALL ABOUT OUR ATTITUDE
We know how important it is to have a good attitude and the correct motives especially when it comes to approaching God. Here are two Bible stories that expose the human conscience and identify why some people seem to overlook what is really important in their quest for satisfaction and security. Our first example is found in Luke chapter 18 and is about a wealthy businessman that has a meeting with Jesus. Verse 18 says, “And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” It’s easy to read over this and not discern exactly what he was asking. It seems “eternal life” is what everyone is always interested in, and the easy version of salvation has given the masses just enough false security to believe that all we need to do is just understand the story of Calvary and everything will be all right. We notice at the end of this conversation that Jesus perceived the pride and greed in this man’s heart and knew that He needed to become blunt with what true discipleship is all about. When Jesus explained that salvation was more about a personal relationship than keeping a list of rules, the man weighed the cost against the scale of his love for materialism and decided that the price was too steep. Tragically, this is a very common reaction among those who are faced with yielding their independence. Allow me to say, we will never enjoy spiritual fulfillment while living in the bondage of selfishness and arrogance. Of course, we can settle for a socially acceptable religious facade, but again, God knows the intentions of our heart.
Our second story is found in Luke chapter 19 and is about a man named Zacchaeus. This man was also a wealthy leader in his community, but notice closely what he was seeking when Jesus came into his neighborhood. Verse 3 says, “And he sought to see who Jesus was; and he could not for the crowd, because he was a short man.” The first man wanted to know how to secure a place in heaven, but Zacchaeus only wanted to know about the person of Jesus! He did not ask about a point system, political favors or how to earn enough gold stars, he was sincerely focused on God. Likewise, we should remember the next life is not about streets of gold but rather about who sits on the throne. Heaven is not a fire insurance policy, but the glorious honor of being with the one who rescued us because He loves us and wants to be with us forever.
The first man walked away depressed because he wanted an easy way to guarantee a good seat in the comforts and glories of splendor. He represents those who are satisfied with just going through the motions in order to satisfy a requirement. Zacchaeus on the other hand, represents those who desire to worship God in Spirit and truth and are willing to sacrifice their will. These individuals are filled with the Spirit of God and will be delighted to shout His praises because they have a clear conscience and a clean heart! There is never a problem so devastating they cannot sing, “It is well with my soul” and there will never be a night so dark they cannot trust the light of Christ to be a light unto their path. Whether in abundance or lack, on top of the mountain or in the valley of the shadow of death, there is a song of triumph on their lips and the oil of gladness within their souls! All of this is evident not because they have gathered empires of wealth and power, or have been recognized and respected in the halls of man’s admiration, but because they simply wanted to know who Jesus is. If anyone is just using His grace as a free reservation for heaven, they will miss the point of salvation, but if we love God just for who He is, we are given the privilege to live in the joys of His presence now and forever.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
PARENTS CAN GUIDE BUT CHILDREN MAKE THEIR OWN CHOICES
How many parents have waited for the day when their child’s eyes would suddenly be opened and like the prodigal they will finally see the truth and change their ways? Mothers and fathers dearly love their kids, but unfortunately, things do not always go as planned and many difficult children have caused their parents much worry, sadness, and disappointment. It is easy to blame the parents, but I do not believe that all liability can be laid at their doorstep. Parents have the perfect opportunity to present constructive thinking, discipline and a sense of right and wrong into their children’s mind and spirit within the formative years, however, this does not always guarantee the child will continue in the direction they were pointed. We guide and provide for our children, but they have a mind of their own.
Children are like sponges when it comes to learning and are very curious about what they observe, which gives every parent the duel opportunity to not only be the instructors but also the responsibility to demonstrate what they believe in front of them. We must also realize that children are vulnerable to other outside influences and have the ability to embrace whatever they want. So, how important is it to protect and guard the mind and spirit of a young child? Many experts agree that the first six years of a child’s life is his or her most important years of mental, emotional and spiritual development. It is believed that the foundation that is laid within the individual’s conscience during this crucial period of time becomes the decision filter they will use for the rest of their life.
It is no secret that young couples are inexperienced when they begin raising children of their own, but a key to success can be connected back to their own childhood. The generational cycle of curses and blessings are very real and it is generally accepted that knowledge is transferred from generation to generation whether it be positive or negative and is directly associated with behavior. It is wonderful when parents realize their own lack of understanding and make it a priority to improve the cycle for the sake of their children. Instead of a “rolling the dice” attitude, there are many wonderful educational resources that are Biblically based with constructive spiritual principals.
Does the concept of good parents producing good children always work? Through the years, I have talked with many broken-hearted parents that have wondered where they went wrong. They are good people who lived a decent moral life, took their kids to church, corrected them and tried to teach them the best they could. In these times of trying to console, the scripture found in Proverbs 22:6, usually finds its way to the surface. “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it.” This passage reminds us that if good seed has been planted within the heart of the child, God’s living Word will eventually germinate and become manifested later in life. I’m sure many bewildered parents have been waiting a long time to see this miracle, and we could speculate forever, but I have come to the conclusion that when a person becomes an adult they simply choose what type of life they want to live.
For moms and dads that have reflected on the past and where they have made mistakes, we can all ask God to forgive us – and He will. It is important that we stop blaming ourselves for the choices our child is making. The Lord is aware of the situation and is listening to our prayers. He loves us and our children and is filled with understanding and compassion. So, let us continue having faith and hope in His promises that never fail and remember, it is never too late to talk with our children and sincerely share our heart with them. There is nothing impossible with God and He can make a way where there seems to be no way. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual (unceasing) fervent prayer of a righteous person accomplishes much” James 5:16.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE PASSION OF CHRIST IS OUR ETERNAL HOPE
This is the time of year when Christians remember the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Personally, I cringe when I hear someone say, “Happy Easter” because when you know what the holiday rituals symbolize, you know that it has nothing to do with Christ and everything to do with paganism. I encourage you to spend some time researching the history of Easter. This is a season when His true followers are focused on how He suffered and died on the cross and after 3 days He arose from the grave. To be honest, holy week is not really a jolly time of celebration but rather calls for serious meditation and being grateful for the gift of salvation. It is bittersweet because it’s never pleasant to imagine a person being brutally tortured, but the fact that Jesus miraculously came back to life, is a demonstration of His infinite power and authority and why we are so filled with humility and a desire to worship Him. Jesus Christ did not just talk about love, He demonstrated His passion by suffering and surrendering His life so that we could live.
I admit I am an emotional person. I remember going to see the Passion movie a few years ago and I was disturbed, to say the least. It is not uncommon for me to cry when I witness something that moves my soul and this was no exception. Recently, I was watching a story about the “Make-a-wish foundation” and how they provide a way for very sick children to experience a happy but most likely a last request and it seems I cried through the entire program. As the scenes of what Christ went through was presented before me, I kept thinking how could someone watch something like this and not be deeply stirred? I am not ashamed to wear my feelings on my sleeve, as I have no desire to hide behind a mask to pretend I am strong and not emotionally influenced. Actually, I believe if we are not careful, we can become hardened by the harshness of life and lose our spiritual sensitivity.
I think about His life and the reason why He came to earth which is explained so clearly in the sixteenth verse of the third chapter of John. I think about how He was betrayed by those He trusted and was denied by His closest friends. The religious community rejected His message and the legal system along with the demands from the general population overwhelmingly agreed to publicly execute Him without a reason other than they hated Him. Sadly, things have not really changed that much.
We notice that He was constantly approached by those in desperate need and it was His character to be concerned and compassionate. The world has always been filled with human suffering and He is always ready to respond in love and mercy. Being emotional and even knowledgeable about the Bible is fine but that does not necessarily mean that someone is following Christ. It is what they do with what they have learned that transforms emotions into spiritual obedience. When we see someone who needs help or even an encouraging word, what good does it do to just look at them with pity? Christ was always ministering to those who would reach out to Him by faith and two thousand years later He is still pouring out His grace and forgiveness to anyone that will call upon His name.
As His followers, we have been called to focus our attention on becoming more like Him in spite of a troubled world that justifies walking over the wounded and being self-centered. His command to take up our cross includes letting go of our natural way of selfish thinking and to willingly embrace the empathy of heaven. It seems the more I learn about His life, the more I can sense what was being felt by those who knew Him. As we meditate on His message, we are given a deeper understanding of who He is, and what He wants to do through us. The reverential fear and awareness of who Jesus is and why He came is our hope for heaven and it is now our responsibility to keep our spiritual eyes focused on our mission. Beyond the new clothes and the Easter festivities, may we spend some time focusing on the one that loves us and came to save us from our ourselves.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THERE IS MORE TO BEING RICH THAN HAVING MONEY
We often hear the term “it’s all about the money” but nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to hope and a sense of spiritual well-being. Humans use their creativity and imaginations to dream about being satisfied and I would say that fantasies about power,, fame and money are the most common. The recent record-breaking lottery generated quite a bit of excitement and like everyone, else I was amazed at how the jackpot grew and what a mesmerizing effect it had on the masses. It is our lust and greed for money that increases its influential power to deceive and distract us from what’s really important.
Certain religious interpretations declare that gambling is a sin and it might be, but casting lots is not always associated with wrong doing. I can agree that someone who cannot afford to pay their bills and yet will waste money on daily lottery tickets needs more than a financial advisor. Nonetheless, I personally do not see anything wrong with someone spending a couple of dollars every now and then to have a chance to be financially secure. It is true, money cannot bring happiness and I question whether or not even winning the lottery would truly be a blessing for many, as I believe that would depend on how mature and level-headed the individual is. I have also pondered that instead of praying to have more money, maybe we should spend more time asking God how to better manage what we have.
We have heard about the stories of those who have lived modest lifestyles and then suddenly find themselves with a mind-boggling amount of financial power. However, many of these testimonies have not turned out as one might think and in the end, have actually been more like a curse. I am not knocking money, in fact, I need it and it can do a lot of good, but in the hands of those who pay no heed to God’s instructions it can become like a blind man operating a wrecking ball. Instead of wealth being used as an instrument to help others, if we are not careful it can actually use us by capturing our mind and possessing our soul.
The Bible mentions a lot about wealth and there is no shortage of books and sermons to help further explain the benefits and dangers. One camp teaches that God desires to bless His people with material abundance while the other side emphasizes the need to give everything we have away and to live by faith alone. I personally fall into the category of trying to find a reasonable balance that can enjoy God’s blessings while also learning how to be compassionate and generous toward others. Yes, Jesus told His followers to sell all they have, give it to the poor and take up their cross and follow Him, but does this mean literally or to just be willing? Surely there is no condemnation to work, earn a paycheck, pay our bills, have a home, and support our family all the while faithfully representing Him as a true Christian.
I have also wondered if winning the lottery is strictly by chance or if God has a hand in who wins? We realize He already knows in advance who will have the correct numbers, but how inthe world with so many people praying to win, does He choose one winner? Let’s just say it’s possible that God could give us the numbers through road signs or a dream, but we must remember that more important than having a bank filled with money is to make sure we are not in love with it. Hopefully, we all can agree that having money and being rich are two different things, and even if we have small finances, our true joy, peace and contentment will always be found in the secret place of His presence. “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have turned away from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Timothy 6:10).
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author and community outreach chaplain. Request a free copy of his new CD at: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE PRESENCE OF FAITH WITHIN COMMUNITY
The idea of faith within any community usually leads to thoughts about various types of churches and this can definitely be a part of it, however, if we step back and observe the larger picture we notice that faith is more of an overall spiritual presence than just the local assemblies themselves. We realize there is a huge difference between being religious and spiritual and this has everything to do with how we connect with God and society. The Christian evangelical emphasis is based on the great commission which involves allowing the light of Christ to shine as we associate with those who are watching. Though many have yet to embrace their spiritual mission, the needs are great and there is no shortage of opportunities to become involved. For the follower of Christ, we are given the responsibility to develop a genuine lifestyle of sensitivity and there is no greater environment to become a walking, breathing lighthouse of love and concern than in our local community.
One definition of community according to Merriam Webster is: “a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” This allows us to develop lifelong connections with neighbors, co-workers, friends, church members and businesses that can evolve into lasting relationships. Especially within the smaller communities, this concept can be preserved by caring parents and concerned individuals that are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and become actively involved so that future generations can continue to enjoy a sense of belonging.
In the 1830’s the young French nobleman, Alexis de Tocqueville traveled throughout the United States carefully observing its people and institutions. When explaining the success of America’s democratic republic to his countrymen, he commented at length about the critical role played by America’s religious devotion. He observed that spirituality was essential to forming this nation’s political convictions and I can see why. Those who genuinely walk with God are called to be a spiritual witness and testimony everywhere they go as well as being a practical asset providing stability, trust, and integrity. With the stress of social correctness, we need the sincerity of sound spiritual wisdom along with moral demonstrations of God’s character now more than ever.
In 2006 and 2007, Robert Putham of Harvard and David Campbell of Notre Dame also surveyed a large and representative sample of Americans about the role of faith in their lives. One of the unique contributions of their research discovered that behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs of those who are considered people of faith are more likely to give their time and financial support to both religious and non-religious causes. They also concluded with what George Washington declared in his farewell address, that “of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” When discussing how Christians should participate in socially responsible ways, active faith is clearly just as vital for maintaining community today as it was when the Pilgrims and Puritans arrived.
Since the foundation of love begins with God and family, we can agree the vision of community is to allow the character and compassion of Jesus to overflow into good works unto all people. This type of faith is not about denominations or a particular religious dogma, but it’s more centered on an innocent enthusiasm to cooperate with others in order to live in peace. When people are committed to following God’s directives they will not be able to ignore the needs of those around them, thus, when followers of Christ reach out to embrace community, everyone benefits. Community faith is about individuals who feel an accountability to step out beyond the walls of the organized church and interact with the world that surrounds the church. Christians were never called to be spectators – they are equipped and empowered to be participators! Social religion talks about the cross while the true disciple of Jesus is identified with what it means. In fact, all people within God’s Kingdom should be excited for the challenge to openly live what they believe and be included within society as an optimistic ingredient of faith, love, and hope.
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author and community outreach chaplain. Request a free copy of his new CD at: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GOD DESIRES THAT WE PLACE OUR HOPE IN HIM
Hope is one of those dynamic words that deserves the title of a catalyst when it comes to change. It is a spiritual attribute that God’s people should have on hand at any given moment because it is filled with life, enthusiasm, and energy. Your first reaction to the idea of hope may be one of skepticism because you are thinking, it’s easy for someone to talk about hope when you do not understand what a terrible condition my life is in. Well, I may not have walked in your shoes, but I also know that being negative and giving up will not make the situation better. It’s true that health, finances, sorrow, family and marital disagreements are very serious problems but remember that God cares and desires to help you today. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31.
Many times, we think we know what is happening, but the Lord wants to remind us that hope is believing in what we cannot see. In other words, we already understand what our difficulties are but we need hope in order to receive the solution. Listen to Romans 8:25, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Trusting that God is not only able to help us but actually desires to take care of our circumstances, gives us confidence that He will intervene. When we know that He is faithful to respond to our prayers, we cannot be held in bondage by our doubts and sadness. Hebrews 6:18 reminds us, “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.”
When we look up the world’s definition of hope, it is described as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen” and is also associated with other words such as desires and dreams. Many people associate hope with wishing, but wishing and fantasizing is a half-hearted whim, that changes from day to day. However, spiritual hope is associated with the reality of divine truth! This God kind of hope is more than waiting to see who wins the ballgame or if the casserole will taste good. This is a hope based on who God is and what He has promised! Biblical hope is a sure anchor of the soul based on solid evidence of His character and nature. Hope and faith work together as we see in Hebrews Chapter 11 and verse 1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Now we are realizing the key ingredients in believing is a confident expectation and anticipation which literally moves the heart of God.
Listen to these words from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. “Hope is a dynamic force, a reality filled with power. It can bring the weak back to strength. It can bring the sick back to health. It can turn failure into success. No wonder St. Paul included it as one of the three great principals of Christianity: faith, hope, and love. What’s the condition of hope in your life at this very moment? Does it get up with you every morning? Does it carry you confidently through the day? Is it still there, soothing and sustaining you, as you fall asleep? That’s what God intended when he created this shining quality and poured it into us at birth. If cares, worries, fears and discouragement have gained a stronghold in your mind, then you need to open the windows of your soul and allow a strong, fresh current of hope to come surging through.”
Yes, sometimes our journey takes us through the dark nights of the soul where we battle against fear, anxiety, and discouragement, but having a sincere hope in God can allow Him the opportunity to fill our mind and conscience with contentment and happiness. “Now may God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that through the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope” Romans 15:13.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
COMPASSION AND MERCY IS THE HEART OF GOD
For those who have visited a nursing home or a medical care facility, you know what I mean when I refer to these places as difficult and uncomfortable. The sights and sounds are difficult for our emotions to process and explains why many would rather avoid them altogether. I have heard people say they do not like hospitals, nursing homes or funerals and this is usually because they provoke us to think more deeply. When we look around and witness how individuals are coping with aging and health problems, it is a normal response to live in denial as the old saying reminds us, “out of sight – out of mind.” However, there is really no need to dread or live in fear about our future, because whatever we may go through, God reminds us in Psalm 27 that He will always be with us and take care of us.
My good friend Ian, who is a highly intelligent and humorous newspaper editor in Texas, shared a story with me recently about his experiences with nursing homes. He said, many years ago when he was still living in England, he was the chairman of his home town’s carnival association. This was a nonprofit committee that organized an annual festival, which included an elaborate parade that featured the annual carnival queen and her court of two princesses. These beautiful young women were the winners of a beauty pageant during a gala the previous fall and were now ready to go on tour. As a part of the carnival promotion, the association would take these girls to surrounding cities and have them participate in other parades and public appearances thereby optimizing its fund-raising potential for local charities and other worthy causes.
Ian tells how it was easy to enthuse the royal court to attend these festivities as they would quickly make friends with local celebrities along with the opportunity to meet swarms of potential suitors along the way. On each official outing, the carnival queen wore a white wedding-style ballgown and crystal crown and the two princesses wore colored ball gowns and crystal tiaras. To all the children they met, they were, indeed, touched with the magic of fairytale royalty. However, with all of the attention and star status, there was one stop on the tour that was not considered glamorous. They were required to visit a facility for physically and mentally disabled patients. My friend found himself trying to persuade these “rock stars” to devote their morning on Christmas Day to spending time with individuals whose severe handicaps would break your heart. Every Christmas holiday it was a part of his duty to collect the girls and chauffeur them to the hospital and with absolutely no hint of his inner apprehension, convince them that what they were about to do would forever change their perspective of life.
Each year, a new group of celebrities would enter the hospital with trepidation, obviously intent on getting the ordeal over and done with. However, surprisingly, these young ladies would stay at individual bedsides far longer than anyone would have expected, hugging and chatting with children who could hardly speak. The mask of pride and pomp quickly melted into a sobering realization that many innocent individuals live each day with misery and suffering. As they embraced the elderly, you could sense the power of compassion that was creating waves of gratitude and humility in everyone present. The girls always thanked everyone later for giving them the opportunity not just to spread some fairytale magic to the chronically unfortunate, but also to realize just how blessed they were.
Members of the clergy are more likely to be seen in prisons and health care facilities, but we do not need to be an ordained minister to brighten someone’s day. It is precious to developfriendships with these individuals and I know there are many lonely people that would simply love to have someone visit and talk with them. I understand it is a sacrifice to pull away from our busy schedule, but according to Matthew chapter 26, this is an act of compassion that reveals the heart of God.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
DARKNESS CANNOT OVERCOME THE LIGHT OF GOD’S PRESENCE
It’s amazing to think that without light, there is complete darkness. Thank God, every morning He directs the sun to rise which allows us to see without stumbling and having to feel our way around like a blind person. Spiritually speaking, we were all born into spiritual darkness and are only given our vision when we invite Christ to transform us into a new creation. Another exciting reality is that no amount of darkness can extinguish even the tiniest light, and confirms that as creator, His authority is greater than any other power. “And the light shines in darkness; the darkness cannot overcome it!” John 1:5.
When we are children, it’s common to be afraid of the dark because our natural instinct does not trust the unknown. We imagine creatures that can see us and are waiting in the shadows to grab us. We laugh at how silly this sounds, but fear is associated with our fallen human nature and even as adults we are still faced with the temptation to be anxious and worried about what we cannot understand. It is only when our mind has been renewed by the Word and Spirit of the Lord that by faith we can trust Him and know there is nothing to fear as long as we are holding His hand. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1.
I remember as a child, probably no older than 6 or 7 years old, my parents planned an exciting adventure to Mammoth Cave. I recall that we followed a large group of people into the cave as the tour guide explained about the aragonites and stalagmites and so on. There was decent lighting as we moved deeper through the damp tunnels but still a little scary for a wide-eyed kid. Anyway, we finally came to a place that opened up into a huge room that is technically called a “chamber” that also included a steep drop-off that in my mind was nothing less than terrifying. People were saying it seemed to have no bottom and I was definitely not going to the edge to confirm these statements. Yes, there was a flimsy railing to prevent someone from falling into a delightful Chinese restaurant, but nonetheless, I was not taking any chances. Suddenly, they intentionally turned out the lights and I am not exaggerating, you could not see your hand in front of your face. Of course, they were trying to make a point about total darkness and believe me I was completely convinced. It did not help that I had somehow drifted away from my parents just before the black-out and I remember during those few moments feeling a huge sense of relief as I had both arms wrapped around what I thought was my dad’s leg. When the lights came back on, I was calmly trying to adjust my vision when I looked up into the face of a complete stranger. Yes, in the chaos, I attached myself to some poor man and was embarrassed, to say the least. When my frantic parents found me, the rest of the tour my mom was either holding my hand or had a firm grip on my jacket.
You know, thinking about how dark it is in this world without light, gives us a hint that eternity will be the same way. God’s Word proclaims that heaven will be filled with the brilliant light of His presence forever. Revelation chapter 21 and verse 23 says, “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” and also in verse 25, we are promised there will never be darkness or night. John chapter 8 and verse 12 says, “Then spoke Jesus unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall never walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
PROTECTING OUR CONSCIENCE FROM THE LITTLE FOXES
Life has its ups and downs and no one is exempt from struggling every now and then. We’ve heard that how we react to situations is a key to how much peace we can maintain and I certainly believe this is a nugget of wisdom. For example, when someone disrespects us, it is common to allow insult to develop into an infection. However, these are times within our journey of learning, to pray and ask God to help us look past our pain and direct our focus and trust on Him. I admit this is very hard to do because when we are wounded and trying to deal with damaged emotions, it seems we cannot think of anything else other than how we feel. Nonetheless, it’s possible to take these times of discouragement and not only use them as a ladder to help us climb out of our pit of sadness but to actually rise to a higher level of peace and contentment.
In the Song of Solomon chapter two, the Shulamite women and the king are in love and their dialogue is a beautiful expression of romance. In verse 15, she mentions about how the little foxes damage the grape vines by chewing on them and eventually hinders the ability to make wine. To make a long story short, the foxes represent frustrations and aggravations while the vines are symbolic of our relationships, especially with God. She is trying to warn her future husband the importance of keeping their emotions in check by being aware of negative forces that will attempt to impede their marriage. This is not only true within the home but in all relationships. Importantly, the story reminds us that the foxes may be small but many times it is the little things that cause huge consequences. When others take advantage of us and fail to appreciate what we do, instead of wasting our emotional energy pouting and having a negative attitude, we can be much more effective by taking these burdens to the Lord in prayer.
We have become used to living in an age of instant gratification and this can, unfortunately, bleed over into our spiritual thinking. We have a tendency to say a prayer and then expect immediate results and when we do not have an answer by the end of the day, we move on to something else. Let us consider, this is not always how the spiritual realm works. Have you ever experienced a stressful trial and as you were searching for answers it seemed that God was silent? Maybe He was quiet for His own reasons and then it could be that we were not listening. In order to hear His still small voice, we need to be very close to Him. As believers, we are not to approach God and demand that He respond or else. Heaven is not a vending machine where we put in our quarters and our problems are fixed. He is our heavenly Father that is completely aware of our situation and within His plan to help us, is for us to have patience and submit to His will. Knowing Him is all about trusting Him even when it seems that no one else cares or understands.
In the book of Ephesians, we are given the explanation about our spiritual armor and if we notice, the helmet and breastplate is given to protect our mind and heart from the dangerous arrows of words. The enemy of our soul loves to use words against us because he knows how much damage they can inflict. When we are confronted with negative circumstances, we are tempted to absorb this agony within our soul, which in turn triggers our response mechanism to unleash a flood of pessimistic reactions. Unfortunately, anger, sadness, and low self-esteem have literally ruined many people’s lives. Whatever emotional pain you are going through today, realize that God wants the best for you. Guard and protect your conscience from the irritating distractions of hurtful words and embrace the absolute truth of His promises. He loves and respects you and will never fail to take care of you.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
ENJOYING THE ABUNDANT LIFE AT ANY AGE
We are all growing older. Thanks a lot, right? I realize that many will think this is not a very optimistic or positive thought, but nonetheless, it is a reality. I could have gone all day without hearing that, however, as with other topics, this too has a certain amount of accountability attached to it that can make a huge difference between dreading the future and having a healthy and positive attitude. Recently, I could not help but notice a picture of Stan Lee on the front cover of a magazine and was amazed at how great he looks for 94 years old. He is no doubt enjoying the fruits of his labors from creating fictional characters such as The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and Spider-Man, just to name a few. And amazingly, he is still creating new figures and creatures, comic books and of course providing the inspiration for an endless supply of highly successful super-hero movies. As I continued reading about Mr. Lee, it appears that his highly active imagination gives him the energy and excitement that fuels his relentless work ethic. He does not consider the retirement mentality because his imagination provides him with a continual supply of enthusiasm and motivation.
I am in and out of nursing homes every week and I personally know several men and women in their nineties that will astound you with their outward appearance as well as their very sharp minds. I always ask about their secret to enjoying a long life, and the common reply is that hard work made them tough. I have also noticed that most of them keep busy and have certain activities they look forward to. As with Stan Lee, we notice that active people whether physically or mentally seem to possess a built-in optimistic anticipation that motivates them to keep pushing forward. Older individuals who are still mentally strong, are keenly aware of current and future events. They keep up with what is happening and have their own opinions which are a healthy form of independence and inspiration. May we keep a tight grip on our faith in God and focus on positive thoughts that can increase our awareness and help keep us young at heart. Frank Lloyd Wright said, “the longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.”
I cannot overemphasize how important it is to retain hope and faith in order to retain a positive attitude for the future. If we lose our expectation that good things are coming just around the next corner, we will have nothing joyful to live for and become vulnerable to falling into a state of negativity and discouragement. I have heard throughout my life that you are as young as you feel and I can personally say that some days I still have a pep in my step to which I am grateful. One activity that I will pass on to you who are now being given “senior discounts” is the benefits of walking. My wife and I walk around the neighborhood in the evenings and I am amazed at how good I feel once we get going. Stretching the legs, relaxing and getting a breath of fresh air can do wonders for the body and mind. Deuteronomy 34:7 reminds us, “Moses was 120 years old when he passed away. His eyesight was not impaired and he was still vigorous and robust.”
As we become more mature, another great idea is to stay in contact with family and friends. It’s good to explore new adventures, to write letters, visit acquaintances, attend church and different types of events and make some lasting memories with those we care about. Maintaining a hobby is another excellent idea that can help keep us mentally, physically and spiritually stimulated. Raising a small flower or vegetable garden is a wonderful activity that not only gives us some physical exercise but watching something grow can invigorate us with expectation and a sense of appreciation from day to day. I like this quote from Betty Friedan, “Aging is not lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author, outreach minister and community chaplain. To learn more visit: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
MAINTAINING A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AND OUR SPOUSE
Last week, I was sitting in my office on a dreary afternoon, tapping on the keyboard and listening to the rain blowing against the window. The house is quiet during the day as my writing routine commonly includes both dogs sprawled out on the hardwood floor snoring contently around my desk. Then it suddenly dawned on me; this will be the fortieth valentine my wife and I have shared together. I sat back and pondered about our upcoming wedding anniversary and how very happy I am to share this milestone with the one I love. I am confident she feels the same way but might be a little self-conscious as I blow the trumpet about us being together four decades. Nevertheless, it has been amazing so far and throughout the hard times and the good times, we are truly blessed.
Familiarity is a slow-growing deception that causes us to take people for granted and in the realm of marriage this is one of the main reasons why couples become distant. Those of you that have been married for a while can relate when I say that holidays (especially valentine’s day) lose a little of their sparkle and excitement and I guess it’s partly from a combination of getting older and becoming more familiar with your mate. For example, when we were newlyweds, the flowers, gifts, candy and going out to a restaurant seemed like a magical fairy tale. It was so exciting just to be together, gazing into each other’s eyes with hardly thinking of anything else. But as the years pass by, the newness seems to wear off and now after a hard day’s work, its mutually agreed that a peanut butter sandwich, a candy bar and watching Wheel of Fortune is plenty of excitement to celebrate the occasion. Whatever happened to all the hugging and holding hands? Have you noticed how the first years of marriage are filled with a series of three little words like, “I love you” and “you are beautiful” and then after a few years they evolve into, “toilet seat down” and “need more Advil?” When we were younger, we didn’t know the meaning of tired and now we become giddy about taking a Sunday afternoon nap. Nonetheless, it’s a comfort to know that the person who shares our couch with us every night is there because they love us and enjoy being with us.
Since valentines is a week dedicated to love, let us embrace the moment and think about the one who stole our heart. There is no need to wait for a certain day of the year to express our romantic feelings as we can surprise them with our affection all through the year. The point is that it’s important to let our spouse know we are thinking about them and we appreciate them. We assume in our mind they already know we love them, and they do, but there’s nothing wrong with showing it more often. By the way, we are not guaranteed how many years we will have with our spouse which is another reason to cherish the moments we have. We can also turn to the Bible as a wonderful source of wisdom as it reminds us of our responsibility to honor our vows. We made a pledge as we lit the unity candle, that having God at the center of our marriage would bond us together and should always be our highest priority.
We do not need to be a marriage counselor to come up with a few ideas that can improve the relationship with our spouse. It’s not the price or value of what is given at this time of year, but rather the genuine sincerity of why we are giving it. I would prefer to have someone give me a Reese cup while telling me how much they love me than to receive elaborate expensive gifts out of obligation. Let us remember that God is love and having constant communication with Him and our mate is not an option if we desire to maintain a close relationship with both of them.
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author, outreach minister and community chaplain. To learn more visit: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WE WILL ALWAYS BE A MEMBER OF GOD’S FAMILY
As a chaplain for a Veterans health care facility, I meet a lot of interesting men and women on a regular basis. I facilitate Bible studies and lead worship services throughout the week and really enjoy the private conversations with these military heroes. Recently, I had the privilege to spend some time with a man named Tony who is a Vietnam veteran. He suffers from the effects of agent orange and has recently lost both legs from diabetes and the use of his left arm to a stroke. I listened intently as he shared about his very interesting life which included being adopted.
Statistics reveal there are over one hundred thousand children adopted every year in this country. With all the difficult situations that families face, it is encouraging to know there are many sincere men and women who reach out with compassion and are willing to love a child as their own. Tony was very young when he was adopted by a loving Christian couple that could not have children and he grew up as their only child. His new dad was a military man and Pearl Harbor survivor and his new mom was so excited to have a child of their own. Tony had a wonderful middle-class upbringing and while everything seemed normal, he always had a strange feeling that something was not right. When he was fourteen, his new parents finally revealed he was adopted. His new parents also surprised him with news that he had two brothers and a sister but they did not know their names or where they were. He recalls the school children taunting him and saying that he would never be worth anything which gave him low self-esteem and a negative outlook on life.
As an adult, he would often think of his siblings and even though he could not remember them, he had a special place for them in his heart. After doing some intense investigating, he finally obtained the name of a man that had been a neighbor and was friends with his real mother and father. Tony arranged to meet him and learned about his mother who gave birth to his oldest brother when she was only 12 years old while his father was in his early thirties. She had Tony when she was 14, a year later another son and by the time she was 17 she had 4 children with the last one being a little girl. Sadly, Tony’s parents were alcoholics and drug addicts and were abusing the children in horrible ways including burning them with cigarettes. The State removed the children in 1954 when Tony was only 3 years old and they were split up with each being adopted to a different family. Now he was determined more than ever to try and find his siblings.
With more research, he learned that both of his parents had passed away and that his oldest brother had been killed in a motorcycle accident. He was able to track down his younger brother and sister and called them as he cried and talked to both of them on the phone. They set up a meeting and when they were finally united, it was such a joyous occasion and Tony was amazed at how much they shared in common. He learned how those who are adopted take a chance when they begin searching for their family because they may not like what they find. However, he emphasizes that it is worth the psychological risks and believes it can bring healing and closure along with answering many important questions. Today, when he sees parents with their children, he imagines what it would have been like to grow up with his siblings and says that he hopes that all parents will embrace the responsibility to allow love to preserve and protect their children. We are reminded that our Heavenly Father has spiritually adopted all of His children and loves us all so very much. It is comforting to know that as a child of God, we will always be a member of His family and nothing will ever separate us from His love.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
TRUE PEACE AND JOY IS ONLY A PRAYER AWAY
It is spiritually reassuring to know that we are not alone in this world. Our gracious heavenly Father has promised His children that He is interested with even the tiniest occurrences in our life and has promised to be with us always. Matthew chapter six mentions how He knows what we need before we even ask Him. This spiritual insight brings comfort and peace to our souls as we realize that God is constantly aware and always concerned about us.
I was teaching a Bible study the other day and closed with a song called, “God will take care of you.” I love this old hymn and it’s simple yet profound message of security and assurance. In these troubling times, we know the world is changing and there are many people that are very worried about where it’s heading. As many are hoping our nation can become great again, (whatever that means), let us agree that our highest priority should be to follow God’s voice. When mankind only listens to his own dreams and imaginations, there is always a lack of true contentment and security. As Christians, we cannot afford to be saturated with doubt and negativity, but rather need to realize when we try to hold our frustrations and problems, it will only increase our fear and anxiety. God loves us and desires to deliver us from stress and discouragement in order that we might live in peace.
Our spiritual armor is described in the sixth chapter of Ephesians, and in particular, verse sixteen mentions about the shield of faith that offers protection against the different types of evil arrows and attacks from the enemy. This is not to say we will not be involved in warfare, but at least we can be prepared. The reality of having a defensive barrier is truly a blessing but for it to be activated, we need to understand that it is our responsibility to believe it and incorporate it into our daily walk. Is there more to this shield? Another aspect is developing the discernment to recognize a spiritual ambush and then asking for wisdom to know how to deal with it. I personally believe the constant bombardment of information is another type of attack that is overwhelming our mind and causing us to be distracted from our mission. The strategy of the dark-side is to keep us twisted in knots and spinning around in circles with panic and confusion. As we discover how to avoid negativity and manage our time more wisely, we can learn not only how to survive – but to thrive!
I Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.” Here we see a loving and compassionate God calling us to come and give Him our worries. We can bring these heavy weights of concern and anxiety to Jesus today as we humbly and simply trust Him. Matthew chapter eleven declares, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” A yoke is a device that connects horses or oxen to a wagon in order for them to pull a wagon. God is explaining here that He never intended for us to pull our wagons of worries by ourselves, but rather to give it to Him. Being critical and negative has never helped anything, as listening and speaking are two different skills. He is the Almighty, the all-powerful ruler of the universe and has more than enough authority and power to manage the world He created. He promises that by faith, we can release our fears and stress through prayer and worship, and be refreshed and renewed which enables us to once again enter the race and continue our mission. Jesus is waiting to restore the joy of your salvation today as you consider He is only a prayer away. “Come unto Me, all of you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart and you shall find rest for your souls” Matthew 11:28-29.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
CHOOSING TO BUILD ON A SOLID FOUNDATION
This Presidential election has caused a lot of stress and frustration, to say the least. Each campaign relied on the same strategy of trying to intentionally scare and convince voters about what would happen if the other candidate took office and to some degree – both sides had a valid point. Sadly, it was reported that both candidates were more strongly disliked than any nominees in the past ten presidential cycles. For those who believe in praying for God’s will to be accomplished and the importance of submitting to governing authority, the 2016 election has left many wondering if the best person actually won. Whatever your worldviews, the Lord wants to encourage you today with hope and joy about who He is!
Jesus in the sixth chapter of Matthew teaches there is no need to feel anxious or fearful. He has the ability to see the future and has always known the hostile atmosphere every generation would be dealing with. We are spiritual creatures but the problem is that we are also heavily influenced by our emotions. Christ said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” The idea here is to simply trust Him. When we realize our weakness and sincerely believe He is in control, we can rest in the peace of His presence. His message continues, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself and has its own share of troubles.” Yes, we live in a time of concern, but if we allow ourselves to become despaired and discouraged about the political system, we are certainly not helping our blood-pressure and our negative attitude can actually cause us to become a bitter and miserable person.
The problem with being overly focused on negative events that “might” happen is that we lose focus on the positive and definite things we could be doing. Fighting and stressing about who sits in the Oval Office will not change what happened, however, if we can direct our attention to the real purpose why we are here which is to pray and seek God’s face, we can continue being spiritually effective for His glory. From a Christian perspective, let us consider that Jesus never ran for office even though the political atmosphere in His day was also aggressive and at the center of attention. It was not that Jesus was uninformed or did not care about society, but rather He simply chose to not allow politics to distract Him from His mission – and neither are we. He had no intention of becoming a political candidate nor was He seeking votes, but His agenda has always been devoted to searching for the hearts of those who would believe in Him.
The message of Jesus relays that government is not our highest priority, but instead emphasizes the focus should be our relationship with God and reflecting the light of His love. The Jewish people were hoping He would step forward as their king who would establish heaven-on-earth and deliver them from the political stronghold of the Roman Empire. However, He was trying to teach them (and us today) how to live as a spiritual citizen of heaven while also functioning in this earthly realm at the same time. This is not easy, but when men and women allow God to transform their minds and souls, we will see love, peace and compassion flourish. The condition of the world is a direct result of the way humans think and act. True greatness has nothing to do with wealth or influence but has everything to do with the spiritual foundation we are building our life upon.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
CONNECTING WITH GOD BRINGS SPIRITUAL PEACE
I realize there are many people that are genuinely concerned for our nation. We knew all along that whoever won the election, there would be a large amount of strife, worry, and disappointment but we pray and hope that over time, we will agree to press forward and keep our focus on God. We are never going to agree about everything but we can at least put forth an effort to work together and be unified on the issues we feel the same about. Another point we can agree on is that whatever any of the candidates had in mind to bring America to greatness may not necessarily be what God considers important. Being pleasing in God’s sight is much more than insurance plans, military strength, trade agreements or foreign affairs and let us not forget becoming wealthy which seems to be the pillar of the materialistic American dream. God’s way should be our highest priority as His Word declares that He is much more concerned with the condition of our heart than the condition of our infrastructure. The world’s system is driven by politics but God’s kingdom is always emphasizing and concerned about our personal relationship with Him.
This is a story that was told years ago, by an elderly evangelist. “I have spent time in many different places in the forty years of my ministry as a traveling revival preacher. On one occasion, I lived in the home of a woman who had seven children and though she had a large home to care for and attended to her husband’s family business in her spare time, I never saw her disturbed once. There was always the fragrance of Christ about her life, and I marveled at it. While staying with them during a week-long conference, one morning around five o’clock I noticed a faint light filtering in past the door so, I opened it very quietly and saw this woman kneeling by her piano. I quietly closed the door. The next morning the same thing and every morning after that. So, I asked her, “what time do you rise to seek the Lord?” to which she replied, “Oh that is not my decision. I made a choice long ago that when He wanted to have fellowship with me I was available. There are times when He calls me at five or at six, and on occasion, He will call about two o’clock, I think just to test me.” Always she would get up, go to her piano stool, and worship her Lord. I asked, “how long do you stay?” and she said, “Oh that is up to Him. When He tells me to go back to bed, I go back. If He doesn’t want me to sleep, I simply stay up.” This humble saint made a conscious decision to go beyond the disappointments and frustrations, beyond the discouragements and all the little things that try to steal our happiness. She had a passion for walking in a spiritual awareness with God as a constant way of life and realized when our will is submitted to Him, there comes a freedom and joy of living in His presence.
When we decide to make this connection with God on a daily basis, we can sing, “it is well with our soul” because we are no longer living our life – we are living His. Yes, there is a way we can live in optimistic contentment if we will give Him our burdens and allow His promises to be activated within our life. This includes releasing unforgiveness and resentment that can infect our mind and make us sick in our spirit. When we embrace the power of His Word and become determined to sincerely trust Christ and invite Him to sit on the throne of our conscience, we can enjoy an exciting, positive and victorious life. Even when the world around us seems to be falling apart, we can rest in perfect peace because we know that God is in total control. “Casting all your fears, worries and anxieties on Him because He cares for you” I Peter 5:7.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
LOVE WILL ENDURE WHATEVER MAY COME
It’s hard to believe that 6 months has gone by since my dad passed away. I know that many of you have lost one or both parents and I’m sure we never really get over losing our loved ones but rather learn how to adapt as we try to keep pressing forward. Dad was the hub in our family where all the spokes were connected and now without him, there is a huge void. As the oldest child, I’m trying to step in and help in any I can, but only the Lord can heal the wounds within our heart and bring comfort and peace that passes all understanding. He was only 77 years old which is a decent span of life, considering he lived with serious kidney problems. He had an illness called PKD which stands for, Polycystic Kidney Disease and as the kidney function continues to decline, the individual must turn to dialysis in order to keep the rest of the body functioning properly. A kidney transplant is an excellent option and as several of my family members have gone this route, for them it has truly been a miracle.
For reasons that my dad came to terms with, he decided to not have a transplant. He started dialysis in 1996 and this past year made the unbelievable stretch of 20 years on the “machine” and was a model patient which helped greatly with his success. Through these last two decades, he had times when he felt decent and then there were weeks when he suffered from terrible pain but you would hardly know it. He would force a smile and always try to direct the conversation toward something other than him being sick. Since his departure to heaven, which by the way gives us comfort and encouragement, I have come to realize how much my mother also struggled. She has always been in relatively good health, but since they had such a close relationship, she naturally became absorbed in what he was going through. I am sorry to say that most of the time, we were so focused on dad, we hardly noticed that as a constant caregiver, it was not only his life that had become turned upside down but hers as well.
Dad was an organizer and always thinking ahead, so it’s not a surprise he had been preparing mom to take over their affairs after his death. They planned their funerals and was helping her understand about certain details and now everything seems to be going as well as can be expected. In all of this, it is true that no matter how we try to brace ourselves for someone to pass away, we are always broken and in shock with the loss. I am proud of how my mom is at least trying to get out and function in the world by herself. Even with us visiting and calling every day and along with her making new friends at her church, she confides in me that she is lonely which of course is understandable. Dad left their car in good shape and she goes shopping or wherever and recently her church purchased a new van and they provide transportation which is a blessing especially in the winter. After church a couple of Sundays ago, she went to the Pizza Hut for lunch. A couple that she knows walked in and came over to her table to say hello. The woman said, “you are sitting all by yourself” and mom instantly replied, “well, I might as well get used to it” which is somewhat comical but also a little sad. I have written a short story called, “Till death do us part” and it’s posted it on my website if you would like to read it sometime. It’s about the unfailing commitment and compassion my parents had for one another through nearly 60 years of marriage and reminds us that no matter what the future holds, the power of God’s love can give us the faith and strength to walk through anything together.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT IS A LIFESTYLE
A brand-new year is here and I am excited to see what the Lord has for us! Jesus addressed the church at Ephesus in the book of Revelation chapter 2 about how He was disappointed they had left their “first love” and now is a perfect time to consider that in all our plans for 2017, nothing is more important than staying close to God. This is not the only reference where Christ mentions about us being distant in our relationship with Him and is still actively speaking today about how we all need to restore our fellowship and consistently pray for an awareness of His presence. Most of the time we live so casually that we hardly ever think about the distractions that cause us to drift away from Him. Keeping Christ at the center of our thoughts takes a great deal of discipline and determination but so does everything else we really care about. If we believe and confess that we are a Christian, the best way we can demonstrate our love and devotion is by trying to live for Him. Whatever we become involved with, He simply wants to be our highest priority which is what being our Lord is all about. If we abide under the shadow of His wings, we will walk in the peace and calmness of His Spirit but if we allow ourselves to be tempted and drawn away, we are miserable and unhappy. “Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” Matthew 22:37-38.
At this time of year, we think about resolutions and actually, it’s a perfect time to start developing spiritual lifestyle changes. You notice I used the word “developing” because it is a process much like losing weight, exercising or any other type goal in which we are striving to be successful. For example, eating a salad today is not going to automatically fix our weight problem but is a positive first step and the same is true with learning how to live the Christian life. There have been many adaptations from the original Al-anon credo that encourages everyone to be realistic about trying to change everything all at once by understanding that personal transformation is a lifelong endeavor. It’s great to have long-term goals and we should release our faith into becoming all that God has called us to be, but the key is to focus on our mission one day at a time. It would be much better to go slow with permanent results than to rush the process and become overwhelmed and disappointed.
One meaningful resolution would be to dedicate a few minutes each day to prayer. Daily Bible reading is another excellent place to focus our attention because the words of God are spiritual nourishment to our soul and will help fill our mind and heart with faith and strength. However, this journey will require words like discipline and determination which we commonly avoid because of the association with being uncomfortable. As many of you already know, drawing near to God is a challenge because of the added resistance from the dark side. I recently recorded an 80-minute CD where I narrate over 100 encouraging Bible passages and also includes several worship songs I have written that are filled with hope, joy, and faith. This is just an additional resource created for those who want to invest more of their time with God. Contact me through my website and I would be honored to send you a free copy. May you live in the peace of His presence this coming year. “Father, in the name of Jesus, we acknowledge you as the ultimate authority of all things. You created everything and you are in total control. We rest in your arms and trust you completely. Please give us the courage to discipline our flesh that we might draw closer to you. Prepare and equip us for this coming year. Watch over us and protect those we love. We love you and worship you, amen.”