PHOTO COURTESY: JONATHAN FAIN
LIVING ON PURPOSE
LET PATIENCE HAVE IT’S PERFECT WORK
Difficult times are not something we enjoy going through, in fact, we usually try to avoid even talking about them. When trouble comes, the first thing we ask is why is this happening and if we are not cautious, we can easily be drawn into a full-blown mental, emotional and spiritual breakdown. You would think as many of these storms that we have experienced, we would be learning how to handle them, but for the most part, we are just as shocked and confused as all the times before. Unfortunately, we just can’t seem to realize the spiritual value of our trials and how there is a way to walk through them with peace, faith, and understanding.
In the book of James, we find a passage that sounds like something someone would say when they cannot think of anything else, but in reality, it is a wise spiritual principle that can change the way we perceive our problems. Chapter one and verse 2 and 3 says, “My brothers, consider it all joy when you fall into various adversities; knowing this that the trying of your faith works endurance and patience.” If our journey was without adversity or tribulations and if we could always fix our own problems, we would not really need to pray or have faith in God. When everything is going smooth, we usually do not worry about adjusting our attitude or evaluating the way we think. However, when we run into obstacles and life becomes difficult, most of us are not prepared and immediately become overwhelmed with worry and fear. Some of our options include running from them or denying them, or confronting it the wrong way and making it worse, but our most favorable reaction is turning to God for help. When we make the decision to trust him completely, this will open up a brand-new way of comprehending what he is trying to do in our life. James continues in verse 12, “Blessed is the person who is patient under stress and stands up under temptation, for when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to them that love Him.”
Patience is a fruit of the Spirit that is demonstrated and developed when under extreme pressure. The word patience is associated with being steady, having composure, calmly enduring, and tolerating delay while devoted to seeing something through to completion. Sometimes when things are not going our way, we are tempted to take matters into our own hands, but its good to consider that God desires for us to submit and listen to him even though it may not make sense to our emotions. This type of response is not learned instantly, but it’s like a muscle that builds strength when it’s used consistently. The more we allow Christ to control our thoughts, the more we will be like him. We can waste the opportunities within our trials, or we can embrace them and allow them to strengthen our faith.
The Christian life involves perseverance to develop an awareness of God’s presence so that we might be transformed into his image. As we surrender our will to God and allow his character and nature to lead us, we will eventually evolve into the person he has called us to be. Included in our yielding to his wisdom and timing, is to have the desire and respect to bow before him in repentance and humility. This is where our human strength comes to an end and our spiritual dependence in him begins. When the Lord answers our prayers and gives us our miracle, it not only increases our trust in his ability but also fills our heart with confidence to know that he truly cares and is always with us whatever we are going through. God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our life that includes a storehouse filled with spiritual abundance, but we can only advance into His peace and contentment according to how seriously we take our responsibility to become spiritually mature and eager to obey him. Yes, of course, God can deliver us from our trials and troubles but our attitude has more do to with us listening than our screaming and crying. Joyce Meyer is quoted, “Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we are waiting.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WHAT IF IT IS TRUE?
Life is filled with thoughts and ideas. Many spend their time trying to keep busy because they do not want to think about what God expects from them. The strategy is to live in a state of distraction so their conscience will never have the occasion to pause and ponder about the true meaning of life. Everyone is unique and that’s what makes life interesting but I was thinking the other day about how many are always on the go and never sit still for a moment unless they are forced to stop. Somewhere down the line, there will come a time when we will not be able to run or hide behind a distraction. On the other hand, there is another group that enjoys the quiet and peace of God’s presence and sincerely desires to listen and obey his voice simply because they love him. Whichever group you belong to it can be said that we only have one life and one chance to get it right, so whether we choose to live in denial or embrace our spiritual reality, one-day truth will be revealed.
I read a sign one time that compared two different philosophies of living and I looked it up the other day to make sure I had the words correct. The quote is as follows: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a ride!” Of course, the phrase has been modified through the years but you get the general meaning. This declaration has been attributed to a man named Hunter S. Thompson and has been widely accepted as an enthusiastic motto to live by. For those who live on the edge and experience everything to the absolute maximum, this describes the attitude of a wild and carefree life. Instead of a sensitive, and peaceful journey, this philosophy encourages people to drain every drop of excitement, indulgence, thrill, and pleasure they can with every chance they have. These pie in the sky ideas have been floating around since the beginning of time but it’s just another way our human nature tries to influence the conscience to not be concerned with what God wants. The Bible is clear about our destiny and the definition of true salvation which includes surrendering our plans and being transformed into a completely different person. Sadly, it’s common that most people do not take their spiritual life seriously.
God is not obligated to give us unlimited windows of mercy to embrace his truth but he does so because he is filled with patience and love. His intention all along has been for us to love him back but most of the human race simply ignores him. The masses are convinced that eternity and this “God thing” is no more than a slight chance of being true and they are perfectly content with rolling the dice. It seems that many have come to this conclusion; if God is really filled with mercy, then why should I worry? This is another one of those ideas that makes it easy to accept that it matters not what a person does or does not do because they are covered by that highly popular religious word called grace. In this way of thinking they can relax and trust that everything will all work out in the end.
For those who are convinced they were given the gift of life to do whatever they want, they are living in a fantasy world. We were born to know, worship, and serve God. Most people want blessings and heaven but have not really decided to seriously investigate about their purpose or responsibility because they have no interest or intention of accomplishing it. I was behind a car the other day that had a bumper sticker which said, “What if it is true?” and it did exactly what it was meant to do; it caused me to think. I thought about the gospel of Jesus and prayed that everyone would believe it is true. It’s a brand new year and he is inviting everyone to make a brand new start. God is waiting to forgive and deliver us but before we can embrace the cross as our ransom, we must humbly acknowledge that we were the reason he had to go there.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WALKING WITH GOD ONE STEP AT A TIME
A brand new year and I hope it will be filled with health and happiness for all of us! I realize there are many things that will happen this coming year and some of it might not be pleasant, but whatever may come, let us declare that we will obey the voice of our heavenly father and continue to dedicate our lives to him. We had a heart-breaking end to last year as just before Christmas we had to put down one of our most beloved dogs. China was a brush-coat Sharpei and one of the most intelligent and loyal dogs a family could ask for. She had a protective personality and felt that it was her job to guard our property and to be constantly on the look-out for intruders. We have secure fences but every now and then a wild animal would climb into our yard and that was always a huge mistake on their part. She was jet-black and was difficult to see in the night as she would patrol the premises in stealth mode until we told her it was bedtime and she would proudly come in. We took her keen hearing for granted and how she would bark even when people were walking or talking across the street. China was so athletic and loved to run through the fields and investigate everything and after 10 years we miss her terribly. I can just imagine her running in the fields and forest of an endless heaven with all the other animals who are there.
So far in this first week of the new year, things have not been much better as we are now dealing with another serious personal setback. Sometimes it seems that trouble comes in waves and that we are being attacked from every side, but these are the occasions when we must stand strong in our faith, keep our armor buckled on tight, and stay focused on God’s promises. Yes, life has its share of ups and downs but through the worries and discouragements we must remember that Christ loves us, he is aware of our circumstances, and will take care of us. Even though we realize that he always has our best interest in mind, most of the time it’s difficult to understand what is going on or why this is happening because we are traumatized and in shock. Psalm chapter 119 and verse 105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” and this is a comforting reminder that God wants us to have confidence in where we are going and to not stumble on our way there. The world is filled with darkness and he is offering the light of his truth so we can see and follow his path. Another important part of this analogy is that he wants us to walk a specific path that he has arranged and not one of our own makings. His desire is for us to listen to his voice and obey him in every situation. Unfortunately, most of us decide that “if it is to be, it is up to me” and begin to trust and follow our own desires and ideas.
Sometimes this path is confusing and fearful but the light of God’s love encourages us to trust him even when it appears to be heading straight up a cliff. Even though many times it may not seem like it, he is completely aware of our circumstances and always has our best interest in mind. We are told that faith is the evidence of things not seen which means we must trust where he is leading us. Also, this light is not like a powerful spotlight illuminating what is up ahead. The lamp or lantern of his word is designed for us to take one step at a time and go slowly as we hold tightly to his hand. Lastly, this path allows us to believe he is leading us into his perfect will. The reason and meaning of life is to know God and to follow him so whatever happens in our journey, let us stay as close to him as possible and live with his confidence and peace which passes all understanding. “Then spake Jesus again unto them saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” John 12:8.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
A WONDERFUL TIME TO BEGIN BRAND NEW
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 the reason 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 choose to live our own way, we will remain empty 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.” Actually, the Bible contains many passages where God declares how much he loves us and wants to save us but most of the time we’re so busy making our own decisions that we hardly ever consider the distractions that are preventing us from serving 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 think about this important decision. The incarnation, crucifixion, and the resurrection is all about God’s passion to have a personal relationship with us.
At this time of year, we start planning our resolutions and it’s the perfect occasion to start developing spiritual lifestyle changes. You notice I used the word “developing” because drawing closer to God is a process of patience much like losing weight, exercising or any other type goal in which we are working 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 warns everyone to be realistic about trying to change everything all at once because personal transformation is a lifestyle change that will require serious concentration and perseverance. 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. Philippians 3:14 says, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus” and this reveals a critical truth that no one else can do this for us. Personal change is always between us and God!
A great place to begin would be to dedicate a few minutes each day simply talking with God. Daily Bible reading is another excellent place to give our attention because his words are spiritual nourishment to our soul and will help fill our mind and heart with strength and confidence. A new way of thinking will require courage and a fierce tenacity because our old nature hates to be disciplined and to surrender control. Also, as many of you 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’ve recorded an 80-minute CD where I narrate over 100 encouraging Bible passages and includes prayers, and several original songs that are filled with hope, joy, and faith. This is an encouraging resource for those who would like to fill their mind and soul with God’s promises. Contact me and I would be glad to send you a free copy. God is always faithful, and if we look at the past year, we will notice that he has been working in our lives even when we did not realize it. This coming year, may you discover the wonders of God’s love and receive the peace and contentment you are searching for. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become brand new” II Corinthians 5:17.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD IS COME!
Christ is called Emanuel, which means, “God is with us” and we are so grateful that he came to save us. Yes, we enjoy the nativity and he was once a baby, but he’s not a baby today. He was born, lived, and was willing to be crucified because he loved us more than anything in the world. Whatever you are going through today, be encouraged to know that God wants to be with you and is more than able to take care of you. He is El Shaddai, God Almighty, The All Sufficient One! Here are seven attributes of our creator that remind us why we celebrate the incarnation and sing, “O come let us adore him.”
1. God knows: God is Omniscient and is fully aware when we are going through difficult times, our worries and fears and even what we are thinking. Actually, He is the only one who really knows how we feel and we can always trust that He has the perfect plan to help us. There are three answers to our prayers; yes, no, and keep waiting, so whatever the situation we can know that he is in total control and always has our best interest in mind.
2. God loves: The love and grace of God is greater than all of our sin. Jesus died a cruel and painful death in order to save us from ourselves. The good news today is that whoever embraces this gospel about God’s love and receives it into their life by faith, can obtain his mercy and be redeemed and transformed into a child of our heavenly Father. Read Romans 8:37-39.
3. God cares: He sees every tear and knows all about the problems we are going through. God wants everyone to believe that he cares about them and desires to be a part of their life. His word promises that his eye is watching every sparrow which allows us to realize how much more he is watching over us. He is sensitive and compassionate about our circumstances and longs to have a close personal relationship with us. “Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you” I Peter 5:7.
4. God provides: The Lord always supplies peace, comfort, joy, or whatever we need, whenever we need it. Jesus can bring what no one else can give and he is always more than enough! We can place all of our trust in God and believe with all of our heart that he will do above and beyond all that we could ask or imagine. Philippians 4:19 declares, “But my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
5. God desires: What is God’s desire? For us to love him and follow his voice. He also wants us to succeed, to be an overcomer and to live an abundant life. When we were born, he designed our personal blueprint and within this wonderful plan includes a possible destiny of victory and joy! He created us to be filled with his power and intended for us to walk confidently in his love and peace. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
6. God heals: Jesus is the great physician and has all power and authority in heaven and earth. He gives instruction and wisdom to doctors; He creates medicines and knows the solutions to every problem. God has the miracle power to take care of all of all our needs including physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Whether in this life or in heaven, we can know that God will eventually heal his children perfectly and completely. In Exodus 15:26 God declares, “I am the Lord that heals you.”
7. God delivers: Whatever the bondage, temptation, crisis, or fear, the King of kings can lift you out of your anxiety and set your feet upon a solid rock. Believe his promises and allow his truth to set you free! Psalm 18:2-3 reminds us, “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so, shall I be saved from my enemies.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
OTHERS ARE WATCHING AND LISTENING
Even though it rarely crosses our mind, there is always someone listening to what we are saying. Words are not just meaningless sounds but were created to communicate and most importantly to relay God’s thoughts. They contain the power to influence and persuade the listener which means those who speak are being held accountable for their intentions. Words that are presented from a negative attitude can cause much damage while words spoken from a heavenly influence are filled with life and can bring hope, faith, and encouragement. A wonderful reminder about how we are to guard our communication is recorded in Philippians 4:8, “Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” We have all been affected by words and realize they had some type of impact on who we are today.
God’s word gives us instructions and insight about the power of words, and how critical it is to be careful and watch what we say. In the third chapter of James, we read about the potential dangers of the tongue. It talks about how we can put bits in the mouths of horses and use a rudder on a ship as a way to manage direction, but controlling the tongue must be disciplined from within. Verse 7 and 8, “For every kind of beast, and of birds, and serpents, and of creatures in the sea is tamed and has been tamed of mankind; but the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” The tongue is a little member of our body but how quickly it can stir much trouble as many lives have been ruined by allowing their hateful and foolish thoughts to be released. This passage continues to identify the tongue as a “world of iniquity” and like a spark that can ignite a raging fire. For those who know God, our words can be filtered through a humble awareness of our weakness and a passionate desire to walk in God’s character.
Have you ever heard the old saying, “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt?” This is probably a paraphrase from Proverbs 17:28 that says, “Even a fool when he holds his peace is counted as wise and he that closes his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” Another old expression is, “Our mind is a garden, our thoughts are our seeds, we can grow flowers, or we can grow weeds.” When it comes to speaking, a good servant not only desires to eliminate judgmental opinions and negative conversations but has a passion to obey and relay what God is saying. I heard a true story the other day and it convicts me to consider that people are watching and listening and how important it is to respond when God calls.
A young high school student attended a church camp over the summer and accepted Christ as his Savior. When classes started back in the fall, he really wanted to be a faithful Christian and was excited to tell others about his spiritual experience. He was a member of the football team and right before the game he sensed that God wanted him to share his testimony in front of everyone…now. Naturally, he was a little embarrassed and nervously buckled under the pressure. The team went out and won the game and as they returned to the locker room hooping and hollering he was again feeling a strong urgency to witness about how Jesus had forgiven and saved him. He privately asked the coach if he could say something and through the noise and chaos the coach shouted, “Everyone be quiet for a minute!” The boy stood up on one of the benches and told his story about how he had surrendered his life to Jesus. When he finished the team went back to their wild celebrating. 20 years later, he received a phone call from one of the boys who was on that team. The man had always remembered that night and said those words had played a huge part in him becoming a Christian. He just wanted to call and say that we never know who is listening and how grateful he was for a young boy’s obedience.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
SEARCHING FOR THE ONE THAT IS MISSING
Have you ever experienced times when you were excited and filled with anticipation but after it was over the expectation did not live up to the hype? It’s nothing to worry about because we all have our share of disappointments every now as this is just a normal part of life. Sometimes we even become sad and restless when life is going well which may seem strange but we were never intended to live only by our emotions. When it comes to our spiritual life, the Bible says the joy of the Lord is our strength. This is an internal confidence and peace we can enjoy no matter what we are going through. However, our joy has a tendency to leak out and needs to be re-filled constantly which also explains how easily we can fall away from God and become cold and irritable. If we feel like a grinch and looking for someone to blame, we can always point to the many daily distractions we encounter. Focusing too much attention on the things of this earth while ignoring God is a sure way to become discouraged.
Christians are spiritually connected to their creator and have undergone a miraculous transformation, but this does not mean they are always walking with Him or even aware of his presence. In the old life, we were led by our feelings without any respect or concern with God, His Word, or His people. But when a person surrenders their life to God, the idea is for everything to change including laying down their independence and embracing a lifestyle of trusting and obeying God’s voice. This new identity includes following his decisions and letting go of the things of earth that desire to capture our thoughts and devotion. When any of us fail to have our priorities in the right place we automatically become detached from our joyful excitement and this explains why many are miserable.
No matter how wealthy or healthy we are, this temporal realm is hardly a continuous mountaintop experience. Actually, our existence here on earth was never intended to be a perfect paradise because heaven is an eternal dwelling place reserved for God, his angels, and his people. It may not be popular, but we will all have our share of valleys in this life as they are meant to teach us valuable lessons. By the way, the fear and darkness of the valley does not matter as long as we are holding tightly to his hand. The good news is these sad and difficult places were only designed to be temporary situations. God wants us to learn how to be an overcomer by allowing him to open our eyes and ears so that we can know what he wants us to do.
Since we all have free-will, we have the choice to do whatever we set our mind to and even Christians can make terrible decisions if this is what they really want. Jesus has always realized how easy it is for humans to wander away from him as he tells the story in Matthew chapter 18 about the sheep that becomes separated from the flock. Christ represents the shepherd and says the good shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to go search for the one that is missing. How often do we consider that God loves us so much that he is constantly trying to rescue the ones who have lost their way? How easy it is for any of us to become untied from the harbor like a small sailing vessel that is pulled by the strong currents out into the open sea. This reminds me of the old hymn that warns, “You’re drifting too far from the shore.”
Many times when we are busy with shopping and entertaining we can fail to recognize why we feel a sense of emptiness and loneliness. Even when we are surrounded by family and friends and everything seems fine on the outside, we can experience a loss of peace and contentment on the inside as if something deep-down in our soul is missing. This “something” is our personal relationship with God that we have neglected. As we approach one of the most hectic and stressful times of the year, let us take some quiet time to ourselves and think about what is truly important. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me all of you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
TRUST GOD AND HE WILL LEAD YOU
I’m sure that most of us have dreamed about accomplishing something but discovered that our goal was not going to be easy. Some individuals, maybe yourself, became so determined to succeed that nothing could prevent them from achieving their vision. So, what causes a person to be so passionate and excited about what they love and where do we find this ability to focus and the internal drive to persevere even in the face of incredible resistance and seemingly impossible challenges? Can anyone develop a persistent never-give-up attitude? Is this only for certain individuals whose brains are wired a certain way? Well, we are all unique but I’m also convinced that each person has the God-given potential to unlock success when the excitement of achieving becomes greater than the fear of trying.
We all want to experience a sense of worth and respect, to grow and make a difference through meaningful work, and to live with the joys and peace of contentment. I want to share two simple phrases that I believe can help us reach our goals and encourage us to keep pressing forward. Number one: we must know our source. As a Christian, I believe that we should always acknowledge God as our source and believe he works through us by empowering, enabling, and, equipping us to succeed for him. Since he is the one who is helping us achieve our mission, it only makes sense that he should receive all the glory for whatever we might accomplish. When we reject this wisdom and place our confidence in our own abilities, we are puffed up with pride and wrongly take the credit for ourselves. Consider this passage, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths” Proverbs 3:5-6.
Our second point is knowing our direction. Until you know where you are going I can promise you will not get there. When we are surrounded by uncertainty, we can feel discouraged, helpless and alone. Some do not know what they have been called to do while others might have a desire to do something but feel afraid and overwhelmed at what seems impossible. So how can we know our purpose and destiny? Whenever we are trying to find something, it pays to know where to look and in the case of our spiritual purpose, seeking God’s voice is always our answer. Matthew chapter 7 and verse 7 declares, “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” What a wonderful word of confidence that we can freely ask him to reveal our direction but unfortunately many suffer from their negative imaginations more than they do from reality. Courage and faith are like muscles that grow stronger the more we use them. Victory is not developed in pleasure and comfort. Only through trials can we learn and grow in wisdom and in suffering can our soul be strengthened. A successful person will find a way to lay a confident pathway with the bricks that others throw at them.
Many of you have the heard the remarkable sports story about a young girl named Becca Longo. In high school, she was a successful soccer and basketball player but also had a desire to play football. The idea to enter into an all-male sport was quite a challenge but to everyone’s amazement and a lot of hard work, she managed to arrange a tryout for her high school team and was accepted solely for her ability to kick. She was very accurate and scored so many points that she earned the attention of the football coach for Adams State University, a division one college in Alamosa Colorado. They offered her a full scholarship which made her the first female in history to earn a football scholarship at the NCAA Division 1 level. This was not a publicity stunt but a legitimate situation where the school needed a good kicker to help them win games. Longo is quoted, “So many people told me I could not play football and I should just stop and give up. Many have asked for advice and I tell them don’t stop just because someone says that you cannot do something. No matter how long the odds, no matter how others may criticize and judge, you must always believe.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
TIME DOES NOT SLOW DOWN FOR ANYONE
Growing older is like a train rolling down the track and no matter how many botox injections, vitamins, or hair plugs, we cannot stop the reality of our mortality. There is nothing wrong with trying to look young and we agree that dieting and exercise would surely be a healthy and positive lifestyle but the hourglass only contains so much sand. As the days keep ticking away, we are reminded to not put off until tomorrow what we can do today because we are not sure how many tomorrows we will have. If you want a big juicy steak for heaven’s sake go have one. If you have thought about helping someone or have a desire to say or give them something, do not fall into the someday excuse and never do it. If you feel a burden to write a letter, make a call, invite someone to dinner, or ask someone to forgive you for something you did or said, by all means, do it today. Delay is a sure way to miss a golden opportunity.
There are certain aspects that I miss from my youth like being free from worries, along with having boundless energy and vitality. Now that I’m older, I cannot see as clear, I get winded pretty easy and sometimes I cannot remember peoples names. I love to take naps and when I watch Jeopardy, the answers are given before I can even think. Then there are the mistakes I wish I could forget. I realize it does no good to live in regret but I cannot help but wonder what could have been. I recall being more occupied with the present than concerned with the future and I can only imagine how much more I could have done if I knew then what I know now. The past is gone and even if I were given a do-over, I would probably make more of a mess than I did the first time. God has always been there for me and all in all, even without winning the lottery, I’m happy with where I am in my journey. Sure, we dream about what we could do with large amounts of money but then we snap back into the real world and realize the most important purpose in our life is our personal relationship with God. As the scripture says in Matthew chapter 16, “For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? I am not rich by any means but I am also not poor and there again is the compassionate and amazing grace of our heavenly Father.
As you and I face the prospects of growing older, we will ask ourselves questions like, “What should I be doing now to prepare for a time when I cannot take care of myself?” Along with these practical decisions are also considerations for our spiritual life that speaks bluntly and boldly to the deepest recesses of our heart. Truth does not intend to be mean or cruel but desires to awaken us to the realities and possibilities of purpose. The fact is, without change, you will be then what you are now. If you are not becoming a person of faith, love, and kindness now, you will not be that type of a person then. If you are a negative and grumpy person now, you will not suddenly become a positive and cheerful individual then. If you are not learning, growing, praying and developing an intimate personal relationship with God today, unfortunately, you will not walk with him then. We will change when the agony and conviction to be transformed becomes greater than the apathy and contentment to stay the same. Charles Bancroft wrote this comforting poem, “God loves the aged. He gives them greater visions than the young: He puts words of wisdom on their tongue: And keeps His presence ever by their side, from dawn to dusk, and on through eventide. God helps the aged. Within their home, his spirit dwells: Their mellow hearts are touched like chiming bells: He calms their fears, then worries disappear because they know his help is always near. God keeps the aged. With hearts of gold, and silver tinted hair, and earnestness, and greater faith in prayer: He keeps them as a shepherd guards his sheep, til in his fold they gently fall asleep.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GIVING THANKS FOR GOD’S BEAUTIFUL EARTH
Imagine if you were the creator of the earth with all of its breathtaking beauty and gave each living creature the gift of life. For every human, you provided a book of your promises which gives a detailed description of how they are to live. And then, you sent your only son to sacrifice his life and raised him from the dead to redeem the souls of all who would believe. Your invitation to deliver those who would believe from the bondage of sin and welcome them to live with you in heaven forever is beyond words. As you patiently wait for the masses to respond, you notice that only a few individuals actually have a desire to know you and even less are showing an appreciation for your offer. What would you do? Of course, you would be disappointed but you gave them free-will to live however they want. You will just have to let them decide their own path.
Even though mankind has the choice to make decisions, I am relieved to know that God rules on his throne, is in total control, and nothing can keep us from his love. The Bible declares that His mercy endures forever and whether the masses will admit it or not, we are all very fortunate to receive his grace and patience. I was looking through a world atlas the other day with all the many different places on our planet that are filled with such awe-inspiring beauty and astonishing creatures. The rainforest of the Congo river basin and the gigantic Sahara Desert that covers nearly a third of the African continent and then on to the wonders of the Oceans that are another astonishing realm of bewilderment. The vastness of nature is overwhelming much like the mysteries of the universe are beyond our imagination and then I noticed the title that said, “Our World” and wondered, is it really? Yes, the earth is our habitation in the sense that we are temporarily camped out here and allowed to enjoy everything it has to offer, but in reality, God is the rightful owner and generously gives us the privilege to be an invited guest. Psalm 24 verse one says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof: the world and they that dwell there.” This statement is quite different from the perspective of many humans who have aggressively staked their claim. It’s remarkable how some individuals actually believe a real-estate deed proves they are the rightful owner without humbly considering who gave them the privilege to occupy and use the resources. How often do we appreciate that each breath of oxygen was created and given by his kindness so that our lungs would not collapse? Every clean glass of water we drink was made by God as a gracious gift to satisfy our bodies demand for hydration. The thermostat for the atmosphere is monitored by his hand in order that we might survive deadly temperature fluctuations and it’s his law of gravity that keeps everything perfectly balanced and in place. Though most humans think they are strong and in control, in reality, we are very fragile and totally dependent on his compassion every moment.
According to the Bible, God is not only the maker of all things but willingly turned mankind loose upon His beautiful paradise even though He realized how uncaring and destructive they can be. He knew that humanity would pollute, deplete, and ruin his masterpiece with their greed and selfishness. Not only would they abuse it, but many arrogantly deny that he is not the author and designer who spoke it all into existence. It is so breathtaking to witness whales and elephants moving gracefully with such wonder and magnificence. The honor to watch a glorious sunrise or to walk along a sun-drenched beach and feel the majestic power of the sea is given for all of us to admire, respect, and be grateful for his love. It’s truly sad when humans declare how the Almighty God is not a real person and that everything we see somehow evolved from nothing. How could anyone not be humbled with a sense of reverence and adoration to this divine architect who is called the Alpha and Omega? “The sea is his and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, and let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker” Psalm 95:5-6.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
SOME GAVE ALL AND ALL GAVE SOME
Though I did not serve in the military, I am very appreciative of those who have. I’m very proud of my son who is a marine that spent time in Japan and Thailand. He has a Masters degree and served with Homeland Security is now working as a police officer at a Veterans hospital. Neither my father or his dad were soldiers but on my mother’s side of the family, it is quite a different story. My maternal grandfather fought in WWI and was in France. He was injured in the war and according to my mom, he was never the same. I can barely remember him as a child but do recall a few details like when we would visit, he would greet us at the door making meow sounds like a cat and then he would always peel and slice apples and set them on the coffee table. I ate the apples and laughed at his meows. His wife, my grandmother passed away when I was even younger. They had 7 children, 3 boys, 4 girls, and my mother was the baby. Like many families during that time period, all three sons were eventually enlisted in the military. However, I thought it was even more unique how the father and each son was a soldier in a different war. The dad World War I, the oldest son was in Japan during WWII, the second son was killed in Korea, and the youngest son served in the Vietnam era. I vaguely remember two of these uncles and now realize they both suffered terribly from PTSD. My uncle who was killed in action died in 1950 eight years before I was born.
I wish I had been old enough to speak with these family members about their military experiences. My mother can recall a few memories and recently I contacted the department of military affairs and requested some of their official documents. I received a few things but much of it was difficult to read and some were unfortunately destroyed in a fire at the National Personnel Records Center Archives in 1973. My mom was very close to her brother who never returned and was convinced that he was her mother’s favorite child. His nickname was Kenny and he worked a little part-time job before he went to the war and she remembers he would give her ten cents every Saturday to buy some candy which she really looked forward to. He would also buy his mother flowers every week and she would sit them on the kitchen table. She also remembers the day when military representatives knocked on their door and told her mother that they were sorry to inform that her son had been killed. She ran through the house wailing and screaming no please no, over and over. My mother said it was a terrible time and she can recall her mother going to bed and staying there for weeks.
I currently have the privilege to volunteer as a chaplain at a veterans health care facility and its truly an honor to spend quality time with the many fine men and women who have served our nations armed forces. I teach Bible studies and lead worship services with the old hymns which they really enjoy. I’m on call whenever a resident becomes seriously ill and present with the family whenever someone passes away. I’ve come to accept that many veterans who need constant medical care do not have family or friends to visit them. Many of the older ones have outlived everyone but its still sad to walk into a room and not see any pictures or greeting cards. I’ve asked the staff on numerous occasions if a certain resident has had any visitors and they cannot remember the last time someone was there. I’m also a chaplain for a small honor guard team which presents memorial services for military veterans. I open and close in prayer and have been known to sing the national anthem on occasions. I encourage you to set aside some time and visit a veteran. They would appreciate it very much and I promise you will also be blessed beyond words. Veterans day not only remembers those who served our country in the past but also recognizes those who continue to serve today. We share a sincere gratitude to all who gave some and to some who gave all to preserve our freedom.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR ME TO KNOW GOD?
I have thought about why many Christians including myself so often find our lives in a lukewarm state of mind much more than we should. To say the least, there are several reasons but actually, these are not considered justifiable excuses. I have regular conversations with my close friends about the spiritual life and one thing we all share in common is how difficult it is to stay motivated with our prayer life while maintaining our enthusiasm to resist temptation. I realize everyone’s schedule is filled with distractions and we are busy just trying to keep up with everything we need to do, but when it comes to God, it always comes down to priorities and what we love the most. Of course, we have the obvious enemy called the devil which we do not hesitate to blame for our failures, but pointing our finger and accusing anyone other than ourselves is not really taking personal responsibility for our actions. The truth is, at the end of the day, we do exactly what we want to do.
I recently wrote a short story called, “Living an illusion” that is about an average guy who lives a normal life and then discovers after he passes away that his ideas were not exactly lined up with the way God thinks. It’s a sobering consideration that emphasizes how we only have one existence and one chance to get it right. Once we cross over into the next life, there are no do-overs and no more opportunities. I encourage you to read the story on my website. This reminds me of the next reason why we have a hard time walking close to God and that is we are influenced by a rebellious nature. When we are born, we are blind to spiritual truth and do not have the ability to understand God’s word or the desire to seek after the knowledge and wisdom that we need. This is why we must be born-again so that we can be transformed into a new spirit and be renewed in our mind and conscience. We must have the correct receiver and be dialed to the precise channel in order for us to receive God’s signal.
I’m going to be completely honest, the Christian life is hard. With the two powerful forces that I’ve mentioned already, it’s no wonder why we have such a difficult time staying on the straight and narrow. This conflict is commonly referred to as spiritual warfare and I’m sure many of you will agree these battles are fierce and often. Yes, we can have the victory over sin but the idea of the Christian fighting in a literal war means we are an active soldier that is always on duty. If we believe our mission after we have accepted the gift of salvation is laying on the couch and eating ice cream, we can clearly see why we are always feeling like a punching bag. I realize it’s not popular but we’ve been called to pray, study, and fast so that we can build courage and discernment. If we are not equipped with our spiritual armor, using our sword and shield, filled with hope, and dedicated to interceding for others, how can we expect to be a successful warrior? Even more important than all the religious things we say or do is having a personal relationship with the one who gave his life for us.
Most people want just enough of God to save them but not to the point where it becomes uncomfortable or requires something from them. It’s much easier to wade in the water that’s only up to our ankles instead of jumping in over our head with total dedication and commitment to his will. We are first in line for his help and blessings but not really excited about words like sacrifice, perseverance, and accountability. So, how much of God do we want and how important is it to follow him? I’m reminded how the discipline of participating in sports is similar to the dedication and determination needed to be a serious and effective Christian. Champions work hard and have a vision of who and what they want to achieve which is another reason why most people are simply not interested. A truth seeker is listening, learning and focused on God’s voice and is willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish their vision. Come to think of it, what is our spiritual vision?
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GREEN PASTURES AND STILL WATERS
When we think about living on purpose, it can mean different things to different people. Personally, one of the first aspects that come to my mind is the desire to not only love God and be thankful for who he is but to also love my life and appreciate who I am. This is not to be confused with being arrogant or satisfied about where I am in my journey, but rather it has everything to do with having peace and contentment in our soul as we allow God to change us into his image. It’s true that being honest and willing to embrace the anxiety and the unfairness within our everyday life is painful, but it’s also the only way we can truly become the person God wants us to be. The difficult part of being transformed into this way of thinking is learning how to embrace not just the pleasant events, but also the difficult circumstances. This is a very important part of our spiritual development and a great way to learn how to listen carefully, wait patiently, keep our eyes focused on him, and trust him completely. Alexander MacLaren is quoted, “Only he who can say the Lord is the strength of my life can also declare, of whom shall I be afraid?”
We realize that many of our problems and failures are self-inflicted but there are also times when things happen to us that are not our fault. When we find ourselves in a difficult place, we must believe this season of agony will not last forever. We can know that if we keep walking forward with complete faith in God that eventually our situation will change for the better. As we realize the whole world is not a scorching, relentless desert, but also contains lush jungles, beautiful lakes and rivers, majestic mountains, forest and fields, likewise, if you are walking through a dry and desolate experience, I encourage you to stop and consider that your oasis is possibly right over the next hill. I do not know how or when you will walk out of your desert, but the Lord is our shepherd and it’s only a matter of time before he leads you into his green pastures and still waters. An amazing truth is that God wants the best for all of us and of all the promises we can write upon the tables of our heart, we can stand with confidence on the spiritual reality of his endless love.
It’s no secret we all have a certain amount of independence that wants to do things our way. We are always trying to fix our own problems but we can look around and see this does not work out very well. I believe that being honest with God and ourselves is a great place to begin when are trying to figure out how to deal with our troubles. Psalm chapter 94 and verses 18 and 19 gives us this insight, “I cried out, I am slipping, but your unfailing love O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” The idea here is that it’s alright to cry out to God and tell him exactly how we feel. If we are sad, depressed, tempted, angry, or whatever, we can just pour out our feelings to him anytime. He listens to us, he sees our tears and knows exactly what we are going through.
Actually, God is the only one who can help us when it comes to healing and deliverance. Others can pray and help comfort us, pat us on the back, and maybe offer a tissue, but another person cannot catch us when we are falling into a state of discouragement or rescue us when we are drowning in misery. When we have lost all hope, God not only has the power and authority to forgive us and redeem our soul but he is also waiting to open our eyes, give us courage, and keep us safe until the storm passes. “He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” Psalm 91:1. It gives us hope and comfort to know if we should ever collapse under the weight of our burdens, his love and mercy will always carry us to safety. Remember, he who created us is more than able to take care of us.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
A SPECIAL LOVE FOR GRANDCHILDREN
It seems like yesterday that my Son and Daughter-in-law announced they were going to have a baby and today I am declaring to the world what a wonderful miracle has happened. The joy of this news was beyond words and the anticipation grew every week until our grandson has now finally entered the world. I remember seeing him for the first time and must admit, this little man has absolutely captured my heart. He’s not even six weeks old yet and I am thinking about him all the time. We love to buy him toys and clothes, and I’m already planning the things I want to give and experience with him. I realize that everyone who has grandchildren feels this overflowing fountain of love and now I’m understanding these emotions for the first time.
When my wife and I were young parents, I did not comprehend when people would tell me how exciting they were about their grandchildren along with the never-ending slideshows of pictures. I get it now. They are beaming with pride and thanksgiving and want the whole world to see these beautiful individuals that have no limits to what they can do or who they can. Lately, I’ve found myself repeating the exact same comments I have heard others say all of my life. Things like, “he has long arms and legs, probably going to be a basketball player” or “he is so alert, I know he is going to be very smart.” I am captivated with a love that will provide unlimited cuddles and kisses, an endless supply of cookies and candy probably not pay attention to bedtime curfews, and always have time for one more story.
There is so much I want to see and know about his life. I want to encourage and inspire him and talk with him about everything and share what I’ve learned about the mysteries and joys of this life. At the same time, this relationship reminds me of what a serious responsibility I have to be a good role model, to demonstrate and help point him in the right direction to the best of my ability. I remember when my children were small, I would tuck them in at night and pray over them because I wanted God and his angels to protect them from harm. I would also ask the Lord to give them wisdom and favor and to bless and help them in their decisions and opportunities. I feel the same fervency for this next generation as I will also intercede for this young man as he explores and searches for his place in this world. Most of all I will pray that he will know God and have a special relationship with him and that he will grow up to be a man of integrity and honesty, a good son, and eventually a good husband and father. I hope I am around long enough to be a special part of his life and to watch him develop into the man God has called him to be.
I remember my grandfather and how much he meant to me as a little boy. I can still hear him singing little songs about me that he would make up and how special it made me feel. I was the first grandchild and I remember how my grandparents would grab me and hug me every-time they saw me and I know they were filled with joy and love for me. When I was about eight years old, I started spending the weekends with them and it was so much fun. They lived way out in the country and to a small boy this environment was an enchanted place filled with adventure and exciting new experiences. They are gone but those moments are still in my heart and now I’m so looking forward to making new delightful memories together with my grandson. As I close with a poem by Teri Harrison, I am united with all the other proud and grateful grandparents who since the beginning of time have enjoyed this great honor. “I stroked your little hand, perfect sweetness as we touched. I whispered that I loved you…loved you so very much. I held you close to me, memorized your darling face. I’ve waited so long, my heart now touched by grace. As papaw and grandson, an amazing journey has begun. You’re my heart, you’re my joy, my precious little one.”
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
PRAYER CAN BRING SPIRITUAL AWAKENING
When we consider the word revival and more specifically within the Christian faith, we think of a series of evangelistic meetings with the intention to increase interest in God. If we look more closely, we notice that being revived is the act of being restored and renewed back to a former place. Other words that are associated with being revived are, reinvigorate, revitalize, refresh, restore, energize, rejuvenate, regenerate, and stimulate. Within the context of our spiritual life, we see that a personal revival is a positive experience that causes us to rearrange our priorities in order to give God a higher place in our life. This stirring of the soul brings a fresh awareness and rekindles the desire to follow the Lord with a renewed zeal and deeper commitment. If we once had a genuine and exciting relationship with God but now for some reason we have drifted away, our intimacy with him can be restored by humbling ourselves and calling upon him. We do not need to attend a church meeting in order to repent or draw closer to Christ, we just need a passion and determination to be with him.
Through the years, there have been some very powerful spiritual movements recorded in places such as China, Korea, India, Brazil, Nigeria, and Indonesia. These movements have not only generated interest in Christ and the Bible but has helped spread the gospel into areas where individuals were introduced to Christianity for the first time. One such example of a rich outpouring of the Holy Spirit in America was the New York City revival of 1857. Theologians and historians agree this revival changed the minds and hearts of many people and helped establish a spiritual awareness at a time when the interest in God was declining. There are several names given to this manifestation such as The Fulton Street Revival, Union prayer meeting, The Third Great Awakening, and The Layman’s Prayer Revival just to name a few. The years leading up to 1857 were defined by tremendous economic development as the United States was reaping a bountiful harvest of prosperity. As wealth became the focus, the desire and obsession were turning toward materialism. Unfortunately, the younger generation was growing up without a reverential respect for God and the Bible and were also becoming captivated by the love of money.
While church attendance falling, many congregations moved out of the city to accommodate their remaining members. However, one church in Manhattan decided to stay in the inner city and make themselves available to those in the surrounding community. They hired a man named Jeremiah Lanphier and as a minister and missionary to lead this evangelistic vision, he proved to be a man of prayer and an effective and enthusiastic speaker. Lanphier had a burden for souls and immediately began to visit homes, distribute Bibles and tracts, and preach the gospel. It was a slow start and with being somewhat discouraged, he found peace in his personal prayer time and sensed that he was being directed to begin a daily time of prayer for all who felt the need to find some quiet time with God. He advertised all over the city for men and women to slip into the church and focus on God and to call upon his mercy for a great spiritual awakening even if it was only for 5 minutes.
That very year, there was an economic disaster that forced many people to lose their businesses. Banks closed and over 30,000 people lost their jobs in that city alone. There was also much tension over social issues as talk of a Civil War was growing stronger. Before long, the prayer meetings had become so large the church could not hold the crowds, so new ones were started in other churches and public buildings all over the city. According to eyewitnesses, within a few months, it was estimated that over 10,000 people were attending these daily gatherings and it did not stop in New York, as a great wave of excitement began sweeping across the country in places like Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC. A simple prayer turned into a massive revival which became one of the greatest spiritual movements since the reformation. It’s estimated that in the period between 1858 and 1859, one million people were converted from a population of less than 30 million. Like many of you, I believe in II Chronicles 7:14 and that our nation is in desperate need of a spiritual awakening.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
TRYING TO FIND OUR PLACE IN THIS WORLD
As we are noticing in our ever-changing world, when one person is offended over something, the new social acceptance solution is to stop what we are planning and allow that individual to change or prevent the desires of many. It now appears that new rules of order are being established with the supposed intention of not offending anyone. I understand the idea to try and accommodate everyone with whatever they believe but since we are trending toward a puzzling destination, I’m troubled that our culture is losing an understanding of right and wrong. I was raised with the idea that it takes a voting majority to make decisions and this seems simple enough, however, our world is now becoming more complicated and focused in the quest to be socially and politically correct. Some will say this way of thinking is not what it appears and is actually based on a one-sided agenda to muzzle certain views while promoting others but whatever the case, our lives are being impacted.
I am a certified fire chaplain and a faith-based member of our state emergency crisis response team. This is a government agency and even though I am recognized as clergy, there are boundaries given to me such as not being allowed to randomly pray for those who are traumatized and especially if I intend on acknowledging the name of Jesus. I am also a volunteer chaplain for a veterans health care facility and again, I am limited with my intervention and continually reminded to restrain from using the name of Jesus because of the diversity in the resident population. The laws of correctness have developed to the place where I would not be surprised if all prayer will eventually be banned in the public domain. We have already seen prayer and the Bible removed from our education system and there has even been a strong attempt to remove “one nation under God” from our pledge of allegiance. Based on what we have witnessed in the last 50 years, we know this agenda to eliminate public displays of religious expression will continue.
As Christians, we are called to follow the example of Christ in all that we do and we notice he was never intimidated by what people thought of him. He continually declared that his purpose was to obey what his father wanted and that was exactly what he did. How was he treated? People wanted his blessings but the government and even the religious world did not care for his dogmatic messages. Recently, I was asked to open in prayer at a horse racing track as a part of an honor presentation for veterans. There was a color guard with various members of the armed forces, the national anthem, a live bugle rendition of taps and all the activities were to be simulcast around the world. When the opening ceremony was posted on the website, a horse racing family who lives in another country, called and said they were offended because it mentioned the day would open in prayer. So, in order to appease this family, the owners of the track called and told us there would be no prayer. After a week of conversations, the organization did agree to allow a prayer but only if I would promise to not mention the name of Jesus. Everything worked out fine and we were still able to effectively represent God and honor the Veterans. Yes, of course, it’s disturbing to know that our freedom of speech was stepped on but even more important is the concern of where our religious liberties are heading.
I realize it would be impossible for everyone to agree on everything, but do you believe crucial decisions should be changed or canceled whenever one person disagrees? It’s true we all have the right to protest, but since arguing accomplishes nothing except stirring and increasing more strife, should any group of people who want to express their convictions be stopped because someone objects? Should we as Christians fight against the world for our right to be heard and are we called to protest against others who do not believe like we do? I don’t think so. Number one: political and religious decisions will be controlled by the government which are decided by the masses. Number two: we should love and respect everyone but our personal dedication and ultimate mission is to obey God.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
A TIME TO ASK AND A TIME TO LISTEN
Sometimes life is so difficult that we can barely keep it together. All of us have faced serious trials and for those who are Christians, we have appreciated the comfort and peace of God’s presence. As wonderful as this is, we are still often left with unanswered questions and painful wounds that live in the secret depths of our soul. Yes, we have friends and family members who try to encourage us and we listen to suggestions that try to explain why things happen, but in the back of our mind, we are reminded that we actually understand very little. How many times have we heard that listening to God is not easy and how difficult it is to differentiate between what he is saying and our own thoughts. I find it interesting when our life is rolling along without any problems, we do not seem to be concerned with his advice or suggestions. But when we are facing a serious crisis and desperately crying out for answers, we are begging for him to intervene. Even though the Bible is filled with scriptures that encourage us to listen for his voice, we discover he is not like a radio where we can just turn the knob and hear him explain why this is happening. So, why are we still in the dark about certain events? It could be that we are forgetting some important principals within the context of our natural and spiritual reality.
Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.” To many people, this brings up an uncertainty about how to seek God and if we are we doing it correctly? Rest assured dear brother and sister, it’s normal to feel perplexed and fainthearted when we are knocked off our feet. We are made of flesh and blood and most of our considerations are based on our emotions. Humans have amazing mental capabilities but are also very vulnerable when it comes to being led by their feelings which is usually not a help in our time of need. In order for any of us to comprehend what God is saying, we are reminded in the first chapter of Romans that as a part of our born-again experience, our mind must also be renewed and transformed into his way of knowing and understanding. We no longer depend on our reasoning but learn to trust his plans for us.
As followers of Christ, many of us will spend the rest of our lives trying to listen and discern the will of God for our life and for situations all around us. The extent of our success will depend on how serious we are about it. Whatever the level of interest, we can agree that if we desire to hear from the Lord it would be wise to place this subject up at the top of our priority list. I keep prayer journals and believe we can simply ask God to reveal what he wants us to do in order that we might know his will. Of course, there is more to hearing God’s voice than just asking him to make it happen and by the way, miracles do not always happen automatically. It’s each individual’s responsibility to pray and ask forgiveness every day so that we can live holy before him, and then we must have patience as we wait for him to respond. The Lord promises in Jeremiah chapter 33, “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not” but it will take perseverance, desire and determination to develop this level of self-discipline and spiritual awareness.
When we are troubled about something we should not be intimidated or afraid to ask for clarification. There are times when we might need to fast and spend some time away from everyone so that we can hear the Lord more clearly. It’s good to also remember that God has infinite power and we should not limit his abilities. Yes, he is compassionate about a failing air-conditioner but He is more concerned about molding us into his image and for us demonstrating his character. Prayer is not just a one-sided conversation where we do all the asking but rather a beautiful part of our intimate relationship where God freely speaks and intervenes. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” John 10:27.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
UNITY IS BEAUTIFUL BUT VERY RARE INDEED
Have you noticed lately that conflict and disagreement are more abundant than unity? Though the average person would give peace as the answer to what they would like to have more of, we are bombarded with an environment that is filled with arguing, strife, and criticism. It even seems that some people actually enjoy fighting and bickering as a challenge to see how many disputes and quarrels they can instigate and win. Wouldn’t the world be such a happier place if we could all just get along and try to focus on what is good instead of being constantly critical and judgmental? We are reminded of the passage in Philippians chapter four and verse eight where Paul states, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” The writer realized that our minds are highly vulnerable to receive and express negative influences and is trying to explain that we would be much more happy and relaxed if we could learn how to be less condemning and more optimistic. I know, some of you strongly disagree.
So, as we are surrounded by an ocean of disagreements, who has the wisdom and authority to know what is right and wrong? Every political, philosophical, and religious group on the planet will step forward and acknowledge they possess the absolute truth which has now increased the confusion beyond comprehension. As the world ponders about universal correctness, we are hearing more about how truth is relative to each individual. This suggestion proclaims there is no such thing as absolute truth but rather is a personal conclusion. On the other side of the fence, Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the absolute truth, the purpose and meaning of life, and the Bible has been given to mankind as our spiritual compass and instruction guide. Of course, there are many who will disagree.
So, with all of this arguing and strife, are Christians directed to enter into this battle? If Jesus were here today, would he be an outspoken, aggressive political activist? I don’t think so. As a follower, I’m convinced we are called to demonstrate his character more than we are commanded to tell everyone how they should live. Christians are encouraged to promote unity as we read in I Peter chapter 3, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult” also in Romans chapter 12, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Why is this important? Because when Christians climb into the ring to fight against something they disagree with, they are exchanging their spiritual authority for a destructive attitude of carnality which can easily develop into resentment and hatred. We are tempted to disregard God’s warning about wrestling against flesh and blood but unfortunately, our arrogance would rather go to war on the battlefield than go to war on our knees. Whether a Christian or not, our fleshly nature is filled with denial and ugly emotions but I’m sure many would disagree.
The gospel is relaying the love story about Jesus being born, dying on a cross, and rising from the dead. This message is all about God offering to transform a conscience and redeem a soul for those who decide this is really what they want. So, instead of Christians arguing, criticizing, and harassing people about their views and lifestyle choices, we should just quietly demonstrate the character of Christ and pray that we will follow only what he is telling us to say and do. This includes letting go of the idea that we are somehow going to persuade or convince someone else to dedicate their life to God. I will make a statement here that some might consider a little on the pessimistic side but the majority of people on this earth will never accept Jesus Christ or come together in unity with those who do. Christians believe that God is everyone’s judge, has all the answers and the only one who can give us the peace, joy, and contentment we are searching for. However, yes, you guessed it, the majority of people on this planet disagrees.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
ALLOWING GOD TO CHANGE OUR PERSPECTIVE
Decisions are a part of life that we face every day. With everything from what we will wear to purchasing a new washing machine, our choices contribute as key components of our success and failures which are also directly connected to our peace and joy. Sometimes we are strongly influenced by the mesmerizing sparkle and emotional excitement that pulls us into a hypnosis and this crossroad can be a dangerous place to make a long-term commitment. It’s also common to experience regret after making a decision that did not turn out like we thought it would and is a discouraging environment especially if we conclude there is no reasonable way out. For example, it would be miserable to buy an expensive sports car and then discover its uncomfortable to drive and is consistently breaking down with outrageous repair costs. Even more deflating would be to realize no one else wants it and we owe more than its worth.
We can go down the list and see the many different areas of life where people are disappointed and feel hopelessly trapped. Things like a huge house mortgage that is more like a ball and chain than home sweet home, a boring job they dread every day, or maybe a relationship where they feel like they made a mistake. Whatever the case, we do not have to search very far to find individuals that have learned how to fake a convincing smile while behind the mask there is much disappointment and agony. So, if a major part of our happiness and contentment depends on right decisions, how can we improve our selection process from this point forward? This is an important question because we are talking about our mental, emotional and spiritual state of being and it will take more than a horoscope or a fortune cookie to help us.
Some may be thinking that life is similar to rolling the dice and taking random chances as the only option any of us have, which is the old, “you win some and you lose some” philosophy. This hap-hazard attitude might be the way a non-Christian operates but it’s not the way God intended for His people to function in this life. The Lord is always offering His compassion and power but is sometimes hesitant about fixing our problems until we are ready to follow His instructions. How many of you have ever stood in a crossroad desperately trying to decide which way to go? You may have ventured out and tried with all of your strength to do something and was left wounded when the doors were slammed in your face. Yes, disillusionment makes us feel sad and sometimes can stagger us like a hard punch in the nose but it certainly does not mean we are finished by any means.
Within the two camps of thought between God’s sovereignty that desires to manage our affairs and our free-will that makes us responsible for our own decisions, we can find a perfect balance. I believe we have the freedom to select and make choices but I also feel strongly that God can intervene however and whenever he wants. Have you ever considered that maybe the Lord did not open a door that you were pushing on because he knew there were dangers on the other side that would harm you? Remember the old saying, “thank God for unanswered prayers?” When things do not work out as we planned, maybe we should stop and at least consider that possibly we are being protected from further heartache and discouragement.
Christ invites us to ask for wisdom, to pray, study and research the situation thoroughly before we continue forward because there is no excuse for not listening to his advice. Be cautious and remember that when things seem to good to be true, take your time, analyze the details carefully and pray about it. Yes, God does open doors and can guide us into amazing blessings but it’s usually as a result of us being spiritually prepared and having the right attitude. Life is what we make it and many times we are more unhappy with ourselves than we are with other people and all of our stuff. When we learn to depend on God for everything, He fills us with joy and peace and this will always change our outlook on life.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WHEN WE ARE TEMPTED TO WORRY
As much as we would like to avoid worry, and anxiety, these feelings are just a normal part of our natural emotions. When I say “normal” I’m referring to the everyday aggravations and frustrations that are a part of this journey. Some people seem to be more controlled by these feelings than others but we will all have our share of difficult times. I’ve thought about whether the world we live in today is more hectic and stressful than the times of our parents and grandparents but is it the external circumstances that cause a person to be overwhelmed or the lack of internal peace? Even though the situations are different, apprehension and panic would be the same for a caveman or a business executive. However, I’m also convinced that Christ never intended for us to be constantly stressed out to the point of living in discouragement and depression.
There have been many studies about the effects of stress and its now confirmed that constant worrying has a negative impact on our mental, physical, and emotional well being. Our Creator is very much aware of how we are “wired” which is why he gives us many scriptures to help us understand how to deal with stress. God emphasizes the importance of trusting him throughout the Bible because he knows that when we have faith in his power and ability, we can relax and enjoy the peace of knowing he is in control. One of the most relevant passages about trusting God is found in Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” This sounds like a wonderful alternative instead of allowing ourselves to become twisted into knots, but it’s not that easy. Since worry comes from our mental imaginations, we must realize that walking in faith will call for us to discipline our mind.
As the above scripture implies, trusting is a decision. Each person has a choice to ignore the Lord and worry themselves sick or to let it go and give it to God as a way of depending on him to take care of it. If we acknowledge the situation is beyond our ability to change, why would we believe that the one who has all the power in heaven and earth cannot give us a miracle? The Lord loves us and wants us to bring him our burdens and problems but we must also believe that he desires the best for our lives. Worry is the opposite of faith which means if we are worrying we are actually hindering this process and becoming our own worst enemy. Once we learn these spiritual principals, we can develop our faith and grow stronger in our confidence and relationship with him. Another important thing to remember is that we do not need to micromanage God. When we turn our problems over to him, we can rest in peace. We do not need to know how he is going to solve the issue, or when he is going to do it. We just need to remind ourselves that he always knows exactly what to do. He wants us to trust in his love while we are waiting for him to accomplish his perfect plan.
I want to leave you with two things to consider as you continue moving forward. Humility is a word that is not very common these days but very important when we are approaching the Almighty. There are many reasons for us to have a humble attitude and one of them includes the realization that we are weak in our own power and there are times when we just cannot fix our own problems. Be honest with the Lord, tell him you desperately need him and do not be ashamed or embarrassed to come before him in reverence and appreciation. Another critical component is to guard your conversation against producing negativity. It’s much better to not say anything than to talk about how hopeless your situation is. As you pray and share your heart with God, make a personal decision that you are not going to cancel out your faith by making pessimistic comments. A positive confession would include declarations such as, “It doesn’t matter what it looks like, I trust and believe God is working on it!”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
EVERY PERSON CHOOSES THEIR OWN PATH
I had a serious conversation the other day with a middle-aged man and we talked for a couple of hours about God. I’ve known him for years and we’ve had these discussions before but I noticed he has become stronger in his opinions which by the way are based on atheism. He is a likable person, hard worker, a great husband and popular. He is also a very talented artist and sculptor and concentrates much of his art work on the dark world of the supernatural. He has studied Greek mythology and loves any type of art work about this subject and is also very much into modern superheroes or any type of figure or being that has special abilities and powers. He collects books, posters, paintings, sculptures, comic books, and creates incredible statues of these creatures and has a waiting list of people around the world who want to purchase his work. I’m glad that he is gifted and successful but of course, concerned that he will not consider the one who has all power and authority and is the creator of all things.
I know from our past conversations that he was not raised with any type of religious instruction or influence and never even entered a church until he was married in one. He loves history and has read about spirituality and has come to the conclusion that religion has always been used as a way to calm the masses and distract them from the discouragement and suffering of being controlled by tyrannical governments. To be honest, I’ve not really known that many atheist and as a Christian minister, I find it disturbing to hear someone say they believe God is nothing more than a figment of the imagination. He goes on to say that everything we see and know came from nothing and the Bible is just a storybook filled with fables and legends. He is also strongly convinced we are not spiritual beings and there is no such thing as an eternal life after this one. Of course, in between all of these statements, I spend a considerable amount of time explaining what the Bible says all the while realizing that I am using a resource that he does not consider reliable. Even though he has made up his mind against the Almighty, I also have faith and believe that with God no situation is hopeless and anything is possible.
I understand that God has given every person the free will to believe whatever they want and as we look around, we can see that people have definitely taken Him up on that. In today’s world, it’s becoming more common to hear people say the Bible is not true and that all the thousands of gods and religions in the world are all the same. I’ve walked with the Lord for much of my life, and have come to the realization that we cannot change someone’s mind. We can relay God’s message and demonstrate his character, we can pray and confess that God will intervene, and we can hope the Holy Spirit will influence and persuade an individual to consider turning to Christ but the rest is in God’s hands. The gospel of Jesus has the power to convict the human conscience and stir the soul but ultimately each person who hears how God so loved the world that he gave His only son to be crucified and save us, will either choose to accept His offer of salvation or walk away from Him. The individual who embraces the God of the Bible becomes a Christian while those who reject him have simply made the decision to acknowledge an alternative idea and follow another path.
I could fill the entire newspaper with reasons why everyone should become a follower of Christ but I know there are others who could also do the same about their own worldviews. I could tell stories from the Bible and I could share about those who were once unbelievers and have now miraculously turned to God and are excited, grateful, and filled with joy and peace. But you know, I’m not really thinking I can make anyone love God and like I said, I certainly cannot spiritually redeem or save anyone. In all honesty and sincerity, I just want to communicate about God’s infinite love for all of us and will pray that someone will want to know more about Him.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
NOTHING CAN KEEP US FROM GOD’S LOVE
Memories can be a wonderful place to visit when they are pleasant and filled with peace and joy. On the other hand, not all of our experiences have been good and can be more like a haunted house on a dark and stormy night. We all have our collections of thoughts and our own task of trying to figure out a way to deal with them. As most of us know, there are positive ways and negative ways to handle our past experiences. We can look around and see that many people are not doing such a good job when it comes to emotional management. The Lord wants us to give our problems to Him and allow Him to bring true healing as His way is always the best way.
Some will say, “you have not walked in my shoes” and this is very true. However, this does not mean the light of God’s love cannot bring you comfort, forgiveness, and happiness. His promises are true and cannot fail which to say the least is a tremendous offer to consider. His love, mercy, and hope is available to anyone who has the faith to believe that He can transform our disappointments and stumbling blocks into victorious stepping stones. In Psalm fifty seven, we read where David is in great danger and is hiding in a cave to escape the wrath of Saul. However, even in this dark hour, we notice in verse one he is singing God’s praises, “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until this difficulty and burden has passed” Psalm 57:1. There are many different types of trials and sorrows, but God’s arms are always open to those who trust Him.
Maybe you were the one who was always picked last for games in gym class or in the neighborhood. Maybe someone spread a hurtful rumor about you that caused you much pain and distress. There are many individuals who for whatever reason have a non-existent relationship with parents or children which is very painful. Some have been betrayed by a person they loved very dearly and are deeply wounded in the depths of their heart. Have you ever felt forgotten, alone, and unwanted? Sometimes discouragement punches you in the gut and then slowly dissipates and then there are times when the voices that tell you no one cares seem to hang over your head for weeks or months on end. Whatever the situation, even if you have made huge mistakes and hurt others, God wants you to know today that He cares about you more than you can imagine. Since you were in the womb, He has never taken His eyes off you. He knows every thought, seen every tear and wants a personal relationship with you more than anything.
I remember years ago watching a family member make fun of his nephew who was just a kid. At birthday parties, family dinners, cookouts or whatever, the attacks were meant to be a joke for everyone’s entertainment and laughter – everyone except that young boy. The boy grew up and now does not call or come around at all. I wonder why? I also heard a testimony one time from a young woman who shared about her painful childhood experiences with an uncle. He would always tease her for being so skinny and say derogatory comments about her body. Sadly, these rude and tawdry remarks are the only words she can ever remember him saying to her. I’m sure it never crossed his mind how this made a self-conscious adolescent girl feel. She went on to say this definitely had a negative impact on her self-esteem and later in life when he passed away she felt distant and numb as he seemed like a total stranger. Within our disappointments we can know that He will never hurt or abandon us and nothing can prevent His love from healing our mind and soul.“No, in ALL these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-38.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
FOLLOWING GOD’S PLANS AND NOT OUR OWN
The more we venture out of our comfort zone and look around in this great big world, the more we will run into people that are hurting. Yes, many of us are blessed and some of us have led sheltered lives, but if we desire to become more sensitive to those around us we will notice there are individuals that have not had it so easy. There are so many places to serve and so much desperate need that sometimes it seems overwhelming. As a community chaplain, I am surrounded by disturbing situations and within my personal writing and music ministry, I am constantly being approached by those in this country and around the world who are crying out for financial assistance. Like you, I have concern and want to help everyone, but there is only so much we can do. It’s our responsibility to pray for everyone, but also critical that we listen to God’s response and react according to His directions. When we turn away from considering the burden of human suffering, this coldness turns our prayers into a private bless me confession and reduces the big picture of the world’s needs into a tiny peep-hole that is easier to ignore. I realize it’s more comfortable to live in denial, and only focus on our desires, but is this truly following Christ? We read about selfless individuals like Mother Teresa that abandoned her life so that she could help others, and we recognize she not only had a compassionate heart but was actually willing to sacrifice her plans in obedience to God’s voice.
With God’s perspective, it’s not how many good deeds, how much money we give, or how much a person accomplishes, but it’s all about us knowing what He is saying and then being obedient to His instructions. In Mark 12:43-44, we read the account of the poor widow that contributed two cents into the church offering while some of the wealthy members were donating large amounts of money. Jesus was watching and made a very interesting comment, “And He called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in ALL that she had, even all her living.” The old saying, “things are not always as they seem” comes around on a regular basis and when we are sensitive to recognize what is happening, we can begin to understand the deeper meanings of life. The widow realized that her two cents were not a significant amount but instead of being discouraged or embarrassed she stepped forward in faith because she heard God’s voice and was expressing her love and worship to Him as an act of obedience. This is an example of why we are encouraged to develop our spiritual awareness so that we can be equipped to comprehend God’s divine reality. In Isaiah 55:8-9, the Lord is gracious to explain, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
When it comes to our ideas about giving, it’s important to realize that God is not always impressed with what we think. Our old nature has a strong and stubborn desire to be in total control and this even includes our labors and contributions associated with God’s work. We must guard against the temptation to decide what we should do without first consulting the one for whom we are doing it. To Him, it’s simply about us listening for Him speak and being willing to do what He says. In this lifestyle, we can appreciate His grace and wisdom and know that He will receive all the glory. We can also be assured there is no such thing as a prayer that is not important or a compassionate gesture that is too small if God is leading us. Learning and accepting that God desires to be in control of everything in our life is a difficult lesson. His way is for us to surrender our ideas, opinions, and justifications so that we can humbly submit to His perfect instructions and walk in His Spirit.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
PERSONAL BIBLE STUDY IS THE CHRISTIAN’S RESPONSIBILITY
It’s no secret there are many different ideas about religion and spirituality. I’ve studied different religions and even within my own faith of Christianity I have discovered there are many conflicting opinions concerning what God wants us to be and how we are to live. At this time I will limit my views to the Christian faith because that is where I have spent more time in research and also declare my allegiance. I must add that I have not “arrived” at some type of wisdom plateau or to be considered a Bible scholar but instead have a long way to go in my spiritual understanding. In fact, it seems the more I learn the more I realize I do not know.
I was raised in a traditional Baptist church in the sixties and seventies. As I began to study on my own, I realized there were many other creeds and ideologies in the religious world that at least deserved careful consideration. I’ve also discovered the more time we spend sincerely praying and researching the Bible, the more questions we have about what we have been taught. It’s true, that every denomination has different ideas and uses certain Bible passages to prove their points but with so many conflicting opinions we can see why there is so much division which also explains why God advises us to seek out our own salvation with fear and trembling. I’m not suggesting that we turn away from reading and listening to other peoples views but we have a personal responsibility to seek the Lord and search for divine truth on our own. “But the anointing which you have received of God abides in you, and you need not that any person teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things and is truth and not a lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in Him” I John 2:27. Bible teachers can help us learn but it’s much easier to trust and even pay someone else to study and explain their views than it is to become a disciplined Bible student. Since we are referring to personal accountability, why would our private studies and prayers not be our highest priority?
It’s common knowledge that many ministers and teachers have certain areas they like to focus on. For example, similar to how we have primary physicians along with a wide array of medical specialist, we also have pastors and evangelist who regularly preach salvation messages, some are known for Bible prophecy and eschatology, while other members of the clergy have a reputation for instructing about faith, positive thinking, and prosperity, etc. Ministers should do what God is telling them to do, but I am also convinced that with each area of expertise there needs to be a more complete presentation within the context of the full gospel. There is something wrong when someone picks out all the passages about how God wants to make us wealthy but does not emphasize that it’s more important to demonstrate God’s character. Yes, we all want to eat chocolate cake and live a comfortable carefree life of blessings but this is not the foundation of our salvation nor the true meaning and purpose of life. We should be alarmed how the olive press, the threshing floor, and God’s refining fire which are critical components of the Christian faith, are being replaced with deceptive feel-good philosophies.
There is a divine order to the way God wants us to live and His desires must be first and foremost. Our highest goals after we are born-again is to know and obey God’s voice, to learn and receive His word, to yield our will, develop faith, love, and live holy. The Bible was not written to satisfy or justify our carnal flesh or to make us comfortable in our sins and neither are blessings given so that we might be absorbed in pleasures which distract us from knowing spiritual truth. The disciple’s mission is not easy or a popular subject because being crucified with Christ and taking up our cross is all about surrendering our will and allowing Jesus to be our Lord and to control our lives. The life-long commitment and responsibility of a Christian are for the mind and conscience to be renewed into His image because unless we are changed from the inside out, Christ cannot be seen in us.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
MEEKNESS IS NOT WEAKNESS BUT STRENGTH UNDER CONTROL
We know that atheist and agnostics have been around since the beginning. There is always someone in the crowd who will disagree about the existence of God and sadly this view seems to be growing. I admit that our free will and independent thinking are beneficial components to establishing what we believe but it never ceases to amaze me that we would argue over the reality of a divine creator. I can understand different worldviews about science, social issues, politics, and even some religious differences, but the subject of whether or not there is a God troubles me deeply. I have also noticed an increased animosity from those who do not believe in the Bible toward those who do. As a Christian minister, I’ve had my share of attacks from individuals who declare I am insane for accepting the God of the Bible as a legitimate source of spiritual truth. My columns are a regular target and in my experiences, atheist do not usually exhibit their disagreements with civility but instead choose to unleash their perspectives with aggressive hostility. It is Christ within us that can sense their internal misery and this causes us to have compassion as we hope that somehow their eyes will be opened before it’s too late. However, at the same time, we must admit that it’s also tempting to argue and fight back against those who are intentionally trying to insult us. So, what is the right way to handle these offensive and slanderous personal attacks? Jesus Christ as the greatest role model of grace and humility in the history of the world, demonstrated that meekness is not weakness but strength under control.
There are many men and women who have faced incredible persecution and we can admire how they also embraced the attitude of Jesus in their life. Jackie Robinson is one of those individuals. He is a sports legend known as the first African American to break the color barrier as a major league baseball player. He won rookie of the year in 1947 and went on to become a baseball superstar. There is not enough room on this page to describe his talents and abilities but what I want to emphasize in this article is the type of person he was. It’s difficult to imagine everything Jackie Robinson endured when he stepped into the spotlight of a world that was filled with prejudice. The horrific name-calling, the nasty and hate-filled insults and people spitting on him were all intended to hurt him and cause him to quit. But instead of railing against them with bitterness and hostility, he displayed a remarkable presence of grace and integrity. An important part of this story that is often not mentioned is that Mr. Robinson and Branch Rickey the man who signed him with the Brooklyn Dodgers were both devout Christians. It was no secret this was a huge step toward desegregating the sports world and they were also fully aware of what a strong resistance they were going to face. Their strategy was to maintain self-control and refuse to retaliate no matter how fierce the persecution. This mindset would eventually become the standard for the civil rights movement and by the way, this historic moment in time was also 17 years before the civil rights act of 1964.
It is told that Mr. Rickey encouraged Robinson and said this will require a person with deep faith and proven character. They both discussed a fervent commitment to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:38-41 that Christ himself exhibited when he went to the cross. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” Rickey issued Robinson this pointed challenge: “I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough to not fight back” and by the grace of heaven Robinson was used as an instrument to accomplish God’s will. Let us be reminded today that we are not called to fight against those who hate us but to demonstrate love, integrity, humility, and self-control.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
FAITH THAT CARES ENOUGH TO BECOME INVOLVED
We do not have to look very far to find someone that needs a miracle. Many are suffering some type of crisis like health problems, their children, and grieving over a loss, finances, marriage issues, and on and on. 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 actually 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 literally demonstrating our faith by our willingness to reach out and help someone.
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 finances 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 live however they want and I can understand this point of view for a non-Christian. However, for those who are followers of Jesus, 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 an attitude of generosity and compassion as we 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 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 His followers, 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 write 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 is thinking about us and cares enough to make an intentional effort to bless us as we all want to feel loved and respected. Galatians chapter six talks about our deeds being like seeds and that we all reap according to what we sow. Applying this spiritual principal to our life, allows us to see how important it is to care about 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. Yes, God can make the divine appointments 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 left beside the road nearly dead. Two different men came upon the situation (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 type who passes by and looks the other way, or the one who stops and becomes involved?
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 7/23/18
THE TEMPTATION TO NEGOTIATE WITH GOD
I am told on a regular basis, “write something that makes us feel good.” I understand that we want to live in comfort where we gravitate toward information that allows us to relax and enjoy life and it’s wonderful to train our mind to be a positive thinker. However, in our quest to live in “happy land” there are also difficult realities whether we choose to accept them or not. In Hebrews 4:12, God’s word is described as a two-edged sword which has the power and wisdom to know all things including our conscience. We are called to praise Him not only in the good times of blessing and peace but also to humble ourselves and submit to Him in situations we would rather not think about or deal with.
Humanity has always been gullible to confusing evil with good because our old human nature loves to justify and excuse our guilt. Adam and Eve were the original pioneers of agreeing with Satan and did not hesitate to defend and justify their disobedience. Since then, this world has drifted so far from the shores of honesty it can hardly see land and still remains in denial about the danger. Is it any surprise that most of the world is still trying to blame others for their own decisions? When the compass of God’s truth is thrown overboard and guidance is left up to those who are spiritually blind, there are going to be serious problems. If evil were not made to appear good, there would be no such thing as temptation or deception and allow me to add that when people are more concerned with being politically correct than obedient to God, we can guarantee that society is destined for failure. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” Isaiah 5:20.
A common word I hear on a regular basis is “balance” and in fact, I use it myself from time to time but I’ve discovered that we can also use this concept as an excuse to justify our own ideas. If we study with the intention of learning about our spiritual responsibilities, we will discover challenging demands from the Lord which require us to make painful decisions. We do not hear this taught often but God operates in simple terms. He is filled with mercy and long-suffering, but He is also strict when it comes to obedience. For example, when He says, “do not look back” He means what He says, as Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt reveals. I realize this is not a happy ending but nonetheless a valuable lesson to be remembered.
We are seeing a trend in this day and age where Christianity is being projected as an image of soft and easy lifestyles that describe God as a sympathetic old man who is overly lenient. This really becomes noticeable especially at funerals where everyone no matter who they were are now suddenly declared as a devoted saint. This message seems to imply that if we sing the old hymn, “When we all get to heaven” we can rest assured that we will all end up there. Another uncomfortable subject are scriptures that command us to take up our cross and follow Him, which includes being transformed and completely changing who I am. My carnal human nature does not waste a moment trying to persuade me that it knows how to handle these religious concepts without any degree of sacrifice or suffering even though the Bible clearly explains that becoming a follower of Jesus will cost me everything.
So, with love and grace, let us graciously acknowledge that the sword of God’s truth has two edges and that all Biblical instruction is not hot-fudge cake. Saul before his conversion in Acts chapter 9 was a fierce enemy of Christ, but after he encountered the living Jesus on the Damascus road, he fell in love with the one he so fervently rejected. Verse 18 says, “there fell from his eyes something like scales.” He did not just focus on the happy verses, attempt to compromise, justify, negotiate a deal, or try to escape his personal responsibility. He simply trusted in God’s truth (even the difficult parts) to make him free.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 7/16/18
WHEN PRAYING FOR RAIN, DON’T FORGET YOUR UMBRELLA
I’ve heard the old saying that “life is not a bed of roses” for as long as I can remember. I understand what it’s trying to convey but I’ve also thought that it would not really be all that great to lay down on a bed of sharp thorns. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say our journey will have its ups and downs and unfortunately, most of us will experience our share of hard times. Whether it’s a financial worry, a medical situation, family problems, a concern for the world, or just being discouraged from the relentless grind of our job, life can be tough. However, in the midst of all that is going on, we can always turn to God who is filled with an endless source of strength, hope, and love. We can choose to embrace the encouraging truth that God cares about our problems and how He has the power and the solutions to give us the victory no matter the size of our mountain or how dark the night. “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” II Corinthians 9:8.
Yes, there are bumps in the road that can help us learn about faith and patience but whatever the crisis it was not God’s intention for us to dwell in a state of defeat. In spite of being surrounded by negative forces, we have been given the opportunity through Christ to abide in His presence where there is an abundance of joy, security, and peace. In John chapter ten and verse ten and eleven we find the words of Christ, “The thief comes not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: but I (Jesus) have come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” Whatever the situation, He has promised that He wants to save you and bring you through your trials stronger and more confident than ever.
The concept of God supplying our needs are wonderful and true spiritual realities but there is also a very important component of receiving His abundant blessings and that is our responsibility to believe. If we do not have faith, it’s not only impossible to please Him but highly unlikely that His miracles can be activated into our life. In Jeremiah chapter 29, we see in verse 11 that we are always on His mind and He has planned very good things for us to enjoy. But continuing in the context, the next two verses mention for us to take the initiative to call upon Him, pray, and seek His presence with all of our heart which of course includes the element of trust and assurance.
I recall a story about a small farming community that had been experiencing a terrible drought. The crops were dying in the fields and everyone was very worried because this is how they made their living. The pastor of the local church called a special prayer service for all the people of the town to gather in front of the church and spend some time agreeing in faith that God would send some rain. Many people arrived and you could sense the seriousness among the crowd. As the pastor was getting ready to begin the meeting, he noticed a young girl standing quietly in the front. Her face was beaming with excitement and then he saw beside her, open and ready for use, was a large colorful umbrella. As he stared at the umbrella, he was a little ashamed that he did not bring one but also felt a sudden surge of hope and confidence. The little girl’s childlike innocence warmed his heart as he realized how much faith she possessed. Though the town had come together to pray for rain, it seemed no one else had thought that maybe they should bring an umbrella to keep from getting wet.
A life without a positive expectation and a hopeful anticipation of goodness is an example of the miserable pessimist who abides in the shadows of fear and sadness. The world and even our own human nature is constantly telling us it’s impossible, it’s risky, it’s hopeless, but we will believe that nothing is too difficult for God and all things are possible with Him.
Read more articles and stories at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE CHALLENGE TO KEEP FAMILIES TOGETHER
I am sure that many of you can remember when life was not so demanding and filled with anxiety or at least it seemed that way. I was raised in the city so when I had a chance to go to my grandparent’s house out in the country it was like going on vacation. They lived on a quiet overgrown road that came to a dead-end at the Kentucky River and their farm was so remote that when an occasional car would pass by we would stop and stare at it like it was entertainment. I will never forget helping in the garden, feeding the animals, playing in the fireplace, and the sights and smells of country living that gave me a sense of love and security.
I have such fond memories of my grandmother serving huge delicious meals, eating homemade ice-cream, the joy, and freedom of running through fields and forest and then catching lightning bugs in the evenings. When I was young, I thought that going fishing on my grandfather’s boat was the ultimate adventure and going to the creek to help them wash their old car was such innocent fun. Looking for crawdads, throwing rocks, watching out for snakes and getting soaking wet on a hot sunny day was the perfect combination of thrills and excitement. And in the winter when the snow was deep we would go out and play then come in and hold our hands over the pot belly stove and listen to the coal crackle and pop. Spending the night was filled with such anticipation as we slept in huge feather beds with piles of blankets and I still recall the moonlight shining through the windows that made everything seem magical to a boy who dreamed this would last forever.
My wife Cheryl has also told me of the special occasions her family shared together with cookouts and all the kids running and playing. I remember her grandmother that lived in an old farmhouse off the highway where so many dinners and celebrations happened there over the years. Her husband had passed away a long time ago, but they had seven children and this is where everyone would meet on the weekends. My wife recalls how the men would gather under the shade trees and talk about cars, sports, and fishing while the women would be in the house laughing and preparing the meals. Unfortunately, when her grandmother passed away, it was the end of an era. Many times, families break apart and become distant as the absence of these central figures reveal just how much their love and generosity was the “glue” that held everyone together. We also hear people blame the world for changing and how weird everything has become but maybe we are the ones that became so busy that we neglected the importance of spending time with family. Actually, the world becoming darker should motivate us to protect and keep our families closer than ever. Whatever the case, through the years we’ve slowly been drawn into the worries and anxieties of life and as we became burdened with more responsibilities we gradually drifted away from each other.
I wrote a song years ago about how sad it is when families drift apart and there’s a line that says, “Just because life is not the way it used to be – doesn’t mean we can’t do the things we used to do.” When certain individuals pass away and the locations are not the same it’s important to adjust and adapt for the sake of those who are left. The past may be gone but may we not allow this to prevent us from actively carrying on the legacy and traditions within our family. It’s sad when children and grandchildren do not even know their own aunts, uncles or cousins and the only time they come together is at a funeral where the atmosphere is awkward and everyone seems like strangers. Children form their own opinions and attitudes from the bonds of family and it seems selfish for us to have our wonderful experiences and memories and then pull away from this important foundation just because the situation has changed. Our parents and grandparents were hoping and praying that someone (like us) would keep the family together because they understood that close families provide the encouragement, stability, nurturing, and love that we all need and long for.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WHEN PARENTS AND CHILDREN DISAGREE
Children are a wonderful blessing! How exciting it is to hold a little baby and imagine the person they will become along with all the great things they will experience and accomplish. These feelings of expectation and happiness are amazing and hopefully will continue as we watch them grow throughout our lifetime, however, as children develop beyond their formative years and into their teens, our excitement often turns to confusion and discouragement. No one is perfect or has all the answers, and we might as well face the reality that even with our prayers, sometimes our offspring will not always go the way we thought they would.
When children are young, they are subjected to the influences of their parents. As they grow older, they begin to explore and absorb what everyone else has to say about everything. In this process of comparing what they have been told with all of the new information they are gathering, it’s only a matter of time until they begin to form their own opinions and worldviews about what is right and wrong. Often, these ideas and belief systems are different from their parents and of course becomes an agonizing disappointment as they watch their child evolve into someone they never imagined. Proverbs chapter 22 reminds us of the importance of teaching and raising a child according to God’s principles and we appreciate His promise that when they grow older they will remember and embrace these truths.
So, what can parents do that are facing this situation? I’ve been asked this question many times over the years and it seems as time goes on, I am hearing it even more. We can start with accepting that we cannot change what anyone believes and this includes our precious child. To present this statement in an even more sobering perspective, we can ask ourselves, is it possible that anyone could change what we believe? Probably not. So, once we understand the guidelines of the situation, we can move forward. We are living in an ever-changing world that is filled with all types of philosophies and ideologies which are being advertised as correct and acceptable alternative truths. Since we are referring to our ideas and opinions, let’s go back and recall our own experiences when we were in our teens and early twenties. As you were developing into an adult, did you agree with the views of your parents? In some clans, we notice that politics, religion, and social issues are not a big deal while in other families these topics consistently dominate the conversation. After an exhaustive exploration, some young adults will accept and approve of their parent’s views while others will conclude their parents were either not intellectually able or willing to research the subject thus hindering their understanding. Moms and dads are not intentionally leading their children into error, but we can all make mistakes. May we consider that it is best to teach a child how to think than to tell them what to think? Often, the child attempts to explain their newly discovered persuasions, only to encounter intense attitudes of displeasure and rejection. In these cases, it’s common to have both sides praying for each other that God will open eyes and hearts.
When we pray we know that trusting God is acknowledging that He is the only one who has the power to transform someone’s thinking. Along with this fervent commitment to intercede, I must include another consideration just as important. There is a huge difference between asking God to make someone believe like we do and asking Him to open their eyes to the truth. You see, if we are just wanting a “mini-me” we are missing the point. Having someone who believes exactly like us might make us feel good, but what if we are wrong? At the end of the day, sometimes the parents are right and sometimes the next generation is right. Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that God’s love is what binds us together far beyond our convictions and interpretations. Yes, what we believe is who we are and learning how to get along with someone when you strongly disagree with them is challenging to say the least, but if we desire to have a meaningful relationship with them, it is also necessary. Since Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, we will always discover more unity and agreement when we humbly listen and learn from Him.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GO AHEAD AND ASK – GOD IS LISTENING
We know that people pray for all types of things and many times I wonder if God takes every request seriously or if He considers some of them unreasonable. For example, I’m sure that at sporting events both sides are praying for victory over the opposing team but I’ve always thought these types of prayers generally fall into the category of the non-spiritual variety. The Bible actually mentions unsuitable attitudes behind our prayers and uses the word, “amiss” which means, flawed, incorrect, harmful, and inappropriate. James 4:3 explains, “Ye ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts.” We find other connotations related to this way of thinking such as mistaken and inaccurate intentions related to wrong and impure motives. So, along with other reasons why our prayers are not answered, we can add this one to the list. We realize its difficult to understand the difference between a legitimate prayer and one that falls into the classification of being selfish, but this does not mean that God is not listening and carefully considering each one.
An amazing prayer request is found in the tenth chapter of the book of Joshua. Israel is at war with the Amorites and with Joshua leading the way, we are given an account of this true story. In verse 12, it’s recorded that Joshua declared to the Lord and in front of the entire army for the Sun and the Moon to stand still until they could defeat the enemy. God actually granted this request and for an entire day, the Sun and Moon miraculously stood still. Israel eventually won this battle and it’s described as an overwhelming victory in which the enemy was completely destroyed. When I think of modern military leaders standing strong in prayer, I must admit that General George Patton is not on the top of my list. However, it’s recorded in history that Patton also believed in prayer and had faith in the power of God. Most of us have heard of the World War II conflict called, The Battle of the Bulge, and on a cold December in 1944, the American ground forces were struggling because dense clouds were preventing air support. Patton realized the fate of the war was now being determined by the terrible weather. He aggressively took action and ordered this prayer to be distributed to every unit in the Third Army. “Almighty and most merciful God, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these moderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for battle. Graciously hearken to us soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.” Whether you believe this was a miracle or simply a coincidence, the fog and clouds dissipated and allied air power helped defeat the last major German offensive of the war.
Though faith on this level is rare, I recently read a few innocent prayers that young school children had written down and as they are honest, some were also comical. One 8-year-old boy prayed that his math test would be easy and another classmate made his heavenly request for the cafeteria to serve chocolate cake every day. Others had a more mature petition when they asked God to protect every law enforcement, firefighter, and first responder. One 10-year-old girl said, “Dear God, thank you for helping George Washington win the Revolutionary War so that we could become the United States of America and live free” which I thought was a wonderful appreciation for answered prayer.
Nonetheless, it’s beyond the imagination how God listens to everyone all at once, sorting through millions of prayer requests every hour, then deciding yes, or no, or wait till later. This is why He is the Sovereign Almighty whose attributes include being Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent. As we continue in our journey and are inspired to believe that mountains can be moved with a small amount of faith, I see nothing wrong with sincerely asking God for a larger amount of confidence. We accept that all prayers may not be answered, but at the same time, if our motives are pure and God is in agreement, we can embrace His promise that nothing is impossible.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE GREAT COMMISSION
I love to write (and talk) and all who know me will agree that I am not a man of few words. As a windy minister, it only seems logical that I would be involved in the world of communication. For the last few years I’ve been writing “Living on purpose” and it’s truly been a pleasure. I just want to say that I sincerely appreciate all of you that take the time to read the column and the many thoughtful and encouraging emails that I receive each week. I’ve been writing sermons, articles, and music for a long time which eventually branched into a weekly blog. From there it evolved into being accepted as a regular weekly columnist with my local newspaper two and half years ago and has now expanded larger than I could have ever imagined. Just like shooting basketball or playing the piano, God’s grace works together with our faith and diligence. However, I also realize that sitting in front of the computer every day can only take me so far which is why I must listen and daily depend on Him to somehow use me to relay what He wants to say. It’s amazing how the Lord can use our gifts and talents for His glory even if it’s something like the gift of gab!
After serving in several churches over the years, I’m now trying to step out of my comfort zone and become more focused on those who live outside the walls of the church. When we venture away from the safety and security of our familiar routine, we discover the attitude of the world is not as sympathetic toward our cause for Christ. For example, we can give a praise report at church and receive enthusiasm and excitement from those who are like-minded, but in a crowd of non-believers, we will notice some eye rolling and a few disrespectful yawns. Why? Because a non-Christian could care less about anything associated with God. Jesus explains in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love his own: but you are not of the world because I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” The idea here is whenever someone becomes a Christian, their spirit is transformed into a new person and this changes their spiritual identity and citizenship. As we remember the old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together” it’s clear that when we become born-again we become a different bird indeed. Thus, we understand why there has always been a natural spiritual resistance from the world toward God and His followers.
For those of you who want to know more about our ministry and some of the projects we are involved in, the easiest way is to go to our website, billyhollandministries.com and pull up a comfortable chair. There are pictures, original music, and over 500 articles to download for free. I’m very excited about meeting Christian pastors and leaders that are contacting us from around the world through the site. Most are from very poor countries and we have felt the Lord leading us to purchase Bibles from bookstores in their communities and having these ministers pick them up and distribute them. Some send us pictures but we are careful not to post them because if they are recognized their lives would be in danger. To see their spiritual hunger and thirst for God is truly refreshing, yet we wonder why many churches here in this country appear to be spiritually asleep. Have our blessings and pleasures distracted us and caused our love and compassion to wax cold? Yes, we might not be called to go to Kenya, Poland, or Japan, but we can at least pray and financially support those who are. First Corinthians chapter 3 describes that some will plant the seed and others will water it, but only Jesus can make it grow and in Matthew chapter 28 and Mark chapter 16, Jesus instructs His disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel along with baptizing and teaching all nations about God. However, as the nickname for evangelizing the globe is called the “Great Commission” our highest priority as a serious follower of Jesus Christ is actually more about personally demonstrating God’s love than just telling everyone else how to live.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
I’m sure that many of you remember the man who portrayed the friendly neighbor in the popular children’s program known all over the world as Mister Rogers. Who can forget the childlike song that asked the question, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” With the macho crowd, he was labeled a sissy and downright creepy but to children, he was always a nice, polite, and comforting role model. There have been many false accusations about him through the years like the rumors about him having to wear long sleeve sweaters to hide his offensive tattoos, but these have all been proven to be nothing more than overactive imaginations and a display of how cruel our human nature can be. How sad to witness the moral convictions of our society falling so far away from God’s standards that when someone is acting normal the world believes they are weird. This reminds me of the scripture found in Isaiah chapter five that warns, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that exchange darkness for light, and light for darkness; that trade bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Unfortunately, this is another example of how the harsh attitudes of the oppressors are always seeking to bully and criticize decent individuals who are trying to make the world a better place.
Actually, most of this negativity can be explained when we realize his presentation was never intended to impress or entertain adults. His focus and passion were completely dedicated to providing an honest and wholesome ministry to children. He did not care about what his critics were saying, he was just grateful to be communicating with the young ones and approached this responsibility very seriously. Apparently, he was not trying to become famous or a television star, he was simply using the broadcast as a vehicle to reach more children and designed Mr. Rogers Neighborhood as an outreach ministry as an extension of his service for Christ. The show began in 1968 and filmed 895 episodes before ending in the year 2000. He is quoted, “I went into television because I was convinced there was some way of using this fabulous instrument of technology to help nurture those who would watch and listen.” He approached his young audience with respect and directness about issues such as self-control, imagination, honesty, creativity, appreciation for diversity, cooperation, patience, and kindness just to mention a few. There is a movie being made about his life and I for one certainly hope this represents Fred Rogers in a favorable expression of honesty and integrity. In 2002 he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and quietly passed away in 2003 with his wife Joanne at his side.
As an ordained Presbyterian minister, Fred Mcfeely Rogers graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1963. I’m sure that most people did not think about it, but he was more like a Sunday school teacher that used simple props and themes to tell stories about everyday life. He was a puppeteer and used his own voice for the many characters in the show. With a degree in music composition, he actually wrote over 200 songs including, “I’m proud of you” and “You are special.” As the character Mister Rogers, Fred was not necessarily acting a like someone else but was simply being himself. He was seriously devoted to his Christian faith and used his platform to sincerely demonstrate and communicate conservative Christian values. As we acknowledge and appreciate today’s modern spiritual leaders and their message of hope and inspiration, we can see that Fred Rogers was actually a pioneer of the encouragement movement. Instead of traditional religious sermons that focus on how bad we are, Fred wanted to build self-esteem and emphasize how everyone is loved and how we are all unique and important to God. Another quote, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” This optimistic outlook and positive thinking approach is a choice we all make every day. We can be like Eeyore and always complain about the glass being half-empty, or we can develop a humble awareness to value our blessings and thank God not only for the glass but also for it being half-full.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WISDOM IS UNDERSTANDING WHAT WE KNOW
When it comes to having spiritual wisdom, it’s not how much we know but how much we understand. It’s one thing to have bags of information seeds stacked up in the barn of our mind, but more importantly, how many seeds have been planted and nurtured to take root within our heart? The devil and all of his helpers have worlds of spiritual knowledge but they do not allow it to penetrate their conscience and change who they are. Likewise, humans can also learn and accumulate information and then select what they believe because each person has been given the gift of free will. So, when it comes to spiritual knowledge, just because we read about how to live a victorious Christian life does not mean we will automatically be converted into a victorious overcomer. We must absorb His Word through our brain and into our spirit all the while learning how to surrender our will and discipline our flesh. Whew! These powder-puff sermons about strolling through life enjoying the overflowing storehouses of blessings are deceiving, to say the least. In reality, the true Christian life is not easy, in fact, the more serious we become the more difficult it will be. If we are genuinely born again, our spirit is connected with God’s Spirit and we have a wonderful opportunity to channel His energy into our being. If we can prevent our old corrupt nature from talking us out of it, we can be saved from ourselves but it’s going to take a burning passion and a total commitment. Being a follower of Jesus means we are accepting a golden opportunity to transform the way we think which will literally change who we are.
Persistence and stubbornness can be good if we can incorporate them into following Christ. Yes, being stubborn for God can be considered as faith, however, being stubborn against God is an attitude of rebellion. He appreciates and blesses us for being persistent but when He tells us no and we still keep pushing forward, we have fallen into disobedience and rebellion. There have been times in my life when I did not know whether to stop believing or to keep proceeding. Have you ever felt that way? I’ve had doors slammed in my face and my share of disappointment, but I kept knocking even to the point of trying to force them open with a bulldozer. To say the least, this is not always the right way to proceed. Maybe God never intended for them to open and our demolition attitude just makes a huge mess including the misery and discouragement from resentment and confusion. To understand if the dark-side is working against us or if the Lord is directing us we need discernment which comes from seeking God’s still small voice with all of our heart.
It’s also important to make sure we know our direction. Pray and research thoroughly before you move. If you do not know what to do or where you are going, do something positive while you are waiting for His confirmation. If you’ve been praying for a long time and have not heard anything, I once heard someone say, “while waiting for a door to open, praise Him in the hallway.” If you are really serious, you can declare a personal fast in order to become more spiritually sensitive. There is no need to broadcast this on social media or tell everyone you see. By the way, fasting is not always just about food but can be the denial of other pleasures along with dedicating quiet time alone with Him. When you discover all of the basic fundamentals and requirements that are associated with your goals, you may realize you are simply not ready to proceed with your goals at this time or maybe not at all. Yes, God can move mountains but He does not put the cart before the horse or force you to cooperate. He can influence others, give you favor, and present opportunities but most of the time, it’s our diligence and perseverance that helps us to be in the position to press forward. He is preparing a path for you behind the scenes that can utilize your strengths and will be a perfect fit for you. However, our obedience and patience are critical factors as we follow His plans and not our own.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
REMEMBERING THOSE WHO GAVE ALL
Memorial means to “remember” and every year on the last Monday in May, we honor those who sacrificed their lives in the line of active military service. On Memorial Day we stop and pay our respect to those who were willing to stand in the gap between freedom and tyranny! 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 many more that have suffered from physical and mental difficulties. Over the years, numerous families have suffered loss from war including my own and we have a deep appreciation for the men and women that have served to protect our country. My uncle, Kenny Maye was killed in Korea and I have his tags, casket flag and a rare picture of him. He was only 20 years old in 1950 and his body was never found. Sadly, his existence is nearly unknown and I often wonder about the life he could have had.
We are only a few miles from Camp Nelson National Cemetery and from the highway you can see many rows of the over twelve thousand perfectly lined white marble tombstones. At times I’ve often driven past without 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 liberties – whatever the cost! Each one of those brave soldiers was willing to give their life for their country and many did. It is said – “All gave some and some gave all.” Truly, the cost of freedom is beyond the imagination. In March 1775, Patrick Henry said, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.” I am convinced this is the heart cry of all the heroes that have given their lives for our country.
Here is a story about a World War II hero whose name was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific and on February 20, 1942 his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader gave him a direct order for him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back. As he was returning to the ship he saw something that turned his blood cold. A squadron of Japanese aircraft were speeding their way toward the aircraft carrier which was defenseless. He couldn’t reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet, So, there was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert their attention away from the ship.
Laying aside all thoughts of this probably being his last moments, he aggressively dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber machine guns blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. O’Hare was weaving in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. However – he did not stop there. He continued the assault, diving at the fighters, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible. Suddenly, the Japanese squadron headed off in another direction which was nothing less than a miracle. Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his damaged plane somehow made it back to the carrier. Upon arrival, the film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It clearly revealed his daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had in fact destroyed five enemy aircraft. For this heroic act Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of World War II, and the first Naval aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. Sadly, a year later Mr. O’Hare was killed in another aerial battle at the age of 29. His hometown would not allow the memory of this war hero to fade, and today the O’Hare International Airport in Chicago is named as an honor to the courage of this brave man.
Dr. Holland is a Christian minister, author, and community outreach, chaplain. Read more at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
NOTHING CAN BE DONE WITHOUT HOPE AND CONFIDENCE
We spent some time at Cumberland Falls State Park this past week. It’s always refreshing to get away every now and then and behold the breathtaking beauty of nature. The earth is His masterpiece and with all of the magnificent places on the planet, we appreciate the privilege to enjoy His wonderful creation. The trees and flowers are now blooming and we were fortunate to catch a glimpse of many types of birds, a family of deer, squirrels, groundhogs, raccoons, and chipmunks along the trails. The roaring falls is always a spectacular sight and reminds us of God’s amazing power and majesty. After spending a day breathing in the fresh forest air and enjoying the peace and quiet, we ate dinner at the lodge and then retired to our room. Out of habit we turned on the television and discovered there had been another deadly school shooting. How suddenly we were snapped back into the sobering reality of more heartache. Evil can only be stopped when it is removed from the conscience of mankind. Until then, we are faced with the consequences of sin.
The serious Christian is troubled by what is going on in the world but they also realize that God is not panicking or surprised – He is in total control. We also know the Bible predicts that before the return of Christ, the days will become more perilous. So, what can we do? Well, we can make ourselves available to help those in need but there is a condition that many Christians tend to forget. Most people do not really want help. They do not want to hear about God and they do not want to change the way they live. The old saying is true, “You cannot help those who will not help themselves.” Next, we need to learn how to remain calm. The flood of daily negativity can cause fear and anxiety if we become more focused on the chaos than the hope and peace of God’s presence. Yes, there is much wickedness and demonic influence in the world which is why it’s so critical to keep our mind and heart focused on God’s still small voice. This is the only voice that really matters. He is our rock, our refuge, and our anchor that can keep us from being overwhelmed with worry and discouragement. Charles Spurgeon said, “Let this one great, gracious, glorious fact lie in your spirit until it permeates all your thoughts and makes you rejoice even though you are without strength. Rejoice that the Lord Jesus has become your strength and your song and has become your salvation.”
Another point is the most obvious – we must pray. Prayer is a widely used word and yet we wonder if people are really falling on their knees or is it just a nice thing to say? I am personally convinced that we must ask God to give us a desire to pray or we will never understand our spiritual responsibility. Our human nature rebels so fiercely against us praying that if we do not develop a passionate burden to intercede, we will settle for just talking about it. Since prayer definitely changes circumstances, can you imagine how much good we could do if we did pray and how bad the world would be if the few individuals who are praying would stop? God knew in the last days that His people would choose to spend more time watching television and enjoying life’s pleasures than praying and this explains more than we would like to admit. Can we make a difference in the world? Absolutely! Do we really want to make a difference in the world? That is the monumental question. It depends on how dedicated and determined we are to do what God is asking. Helen Keller once said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” This is a wonderful motivational statement, but we need to distinguish the difference between a natural confidence to do what we want to do and a spiritual faith that is devoted to God’s instructions. When reverential respect and honor toward God is removed from education and government, it’s like replacing our moral compass with a self-serving philosophy which justifies our decision to drift aimlessly on a sea of arrogant independence.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WE ARE THE CARETAKER OF OUR THOUGHTS
I read a book years ago by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale called, “The amazing results of positive thinking” and I recommend it as an inspiration and encouragement to your spiritual life. He explains that our mind is filled with all types of thoughts and suggestions but everyone is held accountable to manage them. We have the ability to resist and ignore the negative ones that hinder our life and embrace the ones that are positive and encouraging. I remember after studying about this principle, I had an interesting dream. I do not always place a lot of credibility in dreams because sometimes I think they are related with late-night pizza binges, but on the other hand, the Bible reveals that some dreams have been used a legitimate way that God can communicate. Anyway, here was my dream.
I found myself on a dusty construction site and as I looked around, I noticed workers with shovels and they were busy digging up small trees and bushes. Some were driving trucks and others were using chainsaws and in the distance, I noticed a bulldozer was pushing over large trees. They were obviously clearing the land but I was not sure for what reason. I approached one of the workers and asked who was in charge but he just kept walking. For some reason, I sensed in the dream that Jesus was overseeing this operation and so I started searching for him. I was expecting any moment to see him in a white tunic, sandals, and hard-hat, but I never did. Finally, I saw a man that was writing on a clipboard and he appeared to be a supervisor. I went over to him and said, “excuse me, sir, can you tell me where to find the project manager?” As he started walking away he turned his head and calmly said, “you are.” This is the last thing I remember.
There is an old rhyme that says, “Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are seeds, you can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.” This may sound silly, but according to our subject, it makes perfect sense to consider that we are the gardener and caretaker of our own mind. We may not want to admit it, but our spiritual journey was never intended to be a carefree experience but rather to fulfill a destiny of specific meaning and purpose. Since it’s been established that what we think is directly associated with how we feel along with what we say and do, we can agree that whatever has taken root and is growing in our mind is having a huge impact on who we are. As the wind and the birds distribute seeds upon the earth, likewise the voices and experiences of this life are deposited within our soul. Each of us is vulnerable to this natural process, however, in the light of free-will, we have been given the authority and responsibility to choose what we think about. There is an interesting scripture found in Romans chapter 12 that refers to our mental accountability, as Paul declares in verse one that we should present our lives as a living and holy sacrifice which God expects us to do. Verse 2 continues about how this can be accomplished. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you might prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” The idea here is that we must awaken and realize as Proverbs 23:7 so clearly declares, “As a man thinks in his heart – so is he.” When we understand that managing our mind is a crucial priority within our Christian walk, we will be motivated to develop mental clarity and a stronger spiritual awareness. But, if we choose to live in a default mode that accepts anything to take root in our mind, we are more likely to become overwhelmed with fear, sadness, chaos, and discouragement. Recognizing this spiritual reality and becoming determined to pray and work toward our mental transformation, will help us stay sensitive to His still small voice. We will never become what God has called us to be until the desire to change becomes greater than the desire to remain the same.
Dr. Holland lives is a Christian minister, author, and community outreach chaplain. Request a free copy of his new CD at: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 5/7/18
TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL
To be honest, I probably spend too much time watching and being saturated with the news. I feel the need to keep up with the latest developments so that I can at least have an awareness about current events. However, many times I find myself being absorbed in an ocean of information that is not only meaningless but is also negatively impacting my mental and emotional state of being, (especially when much of it is not true). I’m reminded that I have no power to prevent the moral decline of the culture, but I’m convinced that our passion to help make the planet a better place will always be centered on a relentless dedication to prayer and faith. In today’s stressful environment, the average emotional response is a hopeless sigh and to conclude that we are headed in the wrong direction, but nothing is too difficult for God. As Christians, we called to do more than express an emotional concern…we must have a burden to pray. We can and should roll up our sleeves and demonstrate our faith, but God is the only one who truly can help this world and our prayers are directly connected to His unlimited power and authority.
Over the years, we have all noticed that rebellious attitudes are becoming bolder and more aggressive. I do not necessarily believe that evil is evolving but just becoming more outspoken. There has always been an abundance of hatred and prejudice but when the boundaries of moral decency are removed in the name of free-speech, there is no limit to how ugly an expression can be. The concept of the shock factor appears to be the strategy of choice for those who desire to be widely noticed in a very short period of time. In today’s world of instant information, a relatively unknown person can publicly release their thoughts and within hours they are known all over the world. This basic concept is used in many different movements as a type of marketing and promotional strategy to generate a global awareness. For example, satanic death metal bands see their popularity being measured according to how evil they can appear. I’m sure we have only seen a glimpse of this Pandora’s box as we suspect the future will continue to be a competition to see who can be the most disturbing and outrageous. So, I guess one of my questions is why would we allow ourselves to become a captivated spectator to these militant narcissists who crave our attention? With social media becoming a mental and emotional addiction we can clearly see that the darkside is working overtime to distract many individuals from accomplishing their spiritual destiny. Instead of concentrating on what God has called them to do, a large part of our society has accepted the comfortable role of a spectator by allowing their mind to be held hostage with information that is of little or no significance.
With so many voices attempting to explain politics and social issues, you would think the world is becoming more intelligent and unified. However, it seems the tsunami of chaos and confusion is actually creating an even broader chasm of disagreement. One quandary is that much of our information comes from those who do not really understand what they are talking about which makes it nearly impossible to figure out what is real and what is a biased opinion. Even a small amount of false information and misinterpretation contaminates and hinders the presentation of truth. I believe everyone has been given the opportunity by God to believe or oppose whatever they want as our free-will allows each person to study and research their own political, social, and spiritual convictions. Furthermore, no one should be intimidated to embrace or support an ideology that is offensive to their own personal belief system. Sadly, our freedom for religious expression is dissolving and now mutating into a humanistic cultural agenda that ridicules and mocks certain religious expressions. There is a serious problem when one camp attempts to establish a dominant social law of political correctness and then attacks everyone who disagrees with public condemnation and persecution. If activist groups sincerely desire global respect and tolerance for what they believe, it’s imperative for them to also acknowledge and tolerate the worldviews of those who think differently.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 4/30/18
GOD DOES NOT FORCE US TO LOVE HIM
For those who are interested in the life after this one, there is no doubt some curiosity about where we are going and how to get there. The followers of Christ place their faith in His promises and believe He has the power to save and secure a place in heaven for them. Others who prefer to live their own way are somewhat more skeptical and independent in their thinking. As a minister, I spend most of my time thinking, talking or writing about our spiritual life and most of the time the conversation will include questions about our progress according to God’s perspective. On one hand, the Bible is a simple instruction manual teaching us how to live the Christian life and on the other hand, it’s perceived as a complicated and mysterious collection of messages that most of us cannot understand. This is why it’s crucial to pray and invest our time asking Him for the heavenly interpretation of what He is trying to say. Knowing God personally and obtaining His wisdom is not easy. It requires diligence and perseverance and is much like searching for buried treasure.
I probably attend more funerals than the average person because I often officiate them. When families are grieving, it’s very difficult to find words that help and I’ve learned that most of the time silence is golden. We do not like funerals or cemetery’s because they remind us of the end of life and especially for those who are not ready to face God, this explains why they choose to avoid them. Funerals are an occasion where we are not only paying our respect for the one who has passed on, but we also sense the anxiety as we are reminded of our own fate. I believe it’s good to discuss this because we should not deny that death is a part of living. In fact, a funeral is a wonderful place where God can clearly speak to someone’s heart and have their attention long enough to show them the true spiritual meaning of life. Yes, we have a choice to follow Christ but just because we are convicted of our need to surrender our life to Him does not mean we will go through with it. He will never force anyone to love Him.
When I am at a funeral, I’ve noticed within the conversations there is always someone declaring the deceased as now living in the glories that are beyond the imagination. For the Christian, this is a wonderful truth but being an heir unto salvation is more than having a reputation as a hard worker and an easy going personality. Evidently to the masses, these requirements, whether they were a Christian or not, allows everyone a guaranteed passage to the eternal joys of walking on the streets of gold. I’m not trying to sound negative, but this idea is confusing because I cannot find the Biblical confirmation. Of course, we cannot know what is in someone’s heart or judge their intentions but as followers and messengers of God’s Word, we know that God does require everyone to be accountable to the gospel. If there is no responsibility or commitment to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, this sends a message of false security to those who still have a chance to be redeemed.
There are many people today who are convinced that everyone is going to heaven, and if funerals are being used as an indicator then it does seem so. However, from God’s view, we are told that it’s all about the spiritual association with who we loved and considered our Lord while we were alive. Inviting Christ into our heart and allowing Him to be the Master of our life is our reaction to receiving His atonement. Knowing God is the purpose and meaning of everything. Salvation is not based on us being a decent person but rather completely on His grace and no amount of good deeds could ever be a substitute for being born-again. There is no need to fear a funeral or a cemetery because those who are in covenant with Jesus Christ are celebrating their victorious release into a sin-free realm where they will live in peace with God forever. There is nothing more important than knowing we are prepared to meet Him.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GIVING CHEERFULLY AND ACCEPTING GRATEFULLY
Success is a popular subject and an exciting attitude that fuels the imagination and drives our motivation. The fervent desire to succeed seems to be embedded within our DNA and I see nothing wrong with an honest inspiration to accomplish certain goals. Even the Bible talks about “pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” and refers to winning and being victorious as a spiritual blessing in accordance with God’s perfect will. Yes, success can be satisfying if our motives are pure but the real objective may be to understand what it really means. It’s not a sin to be proud of our accomplishments, in fact, we pray for our children’s success and encourage them as they pursue their dreams. However, good fortune even though associated with a healthy and normal progressive lifestyle can be interpreted differently according to whether we are pursuing our desires or following God’s instructions.
Wealth is usually associated with accomplishment but true success is not always dependent on money. Finances are a vehicle that can do amazing things when God is allowed to be in control and since He wants to be the ultimate decider of each individual’s direction, we acknowledge Him as the one who allows success to manifest. For those who claim to yield their will unto God, this obedience also includes all decisions including our business affairs. When Christ is allowed to become Lord of our heart we are also inviting Him to be our financial adviser. His vision is to use us as a vessel to pour through instead of us building huge bank accounts and hoarding earthly treasures. Our heavenly Father manages everything with perfect wisdom and holy truth and His plans are constantly trying to weave the paths of men and women together for the good of many. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to be selfish and rebellious and are usually so focused on ourselves that we rarely comprehend or care what God is trying to tell us. Some might say they would be generous and help others if they had more resources but this is usually only an excuse for not giving a part of what they already have. Winston Churchill is quoted, “We make a living by what we get – we make a life by what we give.” It has been said that waiting until we are rich to bless others is a smokescreen trying to hide our lack of faith and love. Mother Teresa once said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” So, we can conclude that giving has everything to do with an attitude of compassion.
There are reasons why the Lord of heaven might open a door to wealth but there are many others that could explain why He keeps them locked. Whatever the case may be, He has the power and authority to bless us with rooms of gold but thankfully He also has the divine discernment to protect us from being ruined by it. He knows our intentions and what we will do before we are given success and I also believe there are special situations where we are tested to see if we have any inclination whatsoever to seek the bigger picture of why this is happening. God longs for His children to wake up and realize that we are just a spoke in the wheel and having our barns filled with plenty is His plan to use us as a distribution center. One of our Lord’s most notable attributes is giving and everyone who claims to be filled with His nature will recognize and cheerfully follow His promptings.
We cannot out-give God as He is pleased when we become a trusted steward. Pride loves to collect and accumulate because it creates a false sense of power and authority, but placing too much emphasis on the material realm will always distort our spiritual relationship with Christ and possibly derail us from our divine destiny. Maya Angelou said, “when we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” Instead of thinking that life is a game to see who can accumulate the most, may we realize from His perspective it’s actually about who can give the most away.
Find out more about Dr. Holland’s book, “A Lifestyle of Worship” and his free scripture CD offer at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THERE ARE HEROES ALL AROUND US
We hear a lot about heroes in this day and age. Accomplished athletes are seen as idols for throwing around a ball along with blockbuster fantasies that portray individuals who can fly and use their incredible super-powers to save the universe. However, in the real world, it’s encouraging to know there are humble and hardly noticed heroes all around us. These selfless individuals have no desire to be praised or even recognized. They are a special group of human beings that are not only determined to accomplish what God has called them to do but sincerely willing to sacrifice their life so that others can live. The following story is an example of one of these heavenly secret-agents.
Irena Sendler was a Polish nurse and social worker who worked in the Warsaw health department during World War II. In a short window of time between 1942 and 1943, she along with a small band of co-workers led a courageous effort within the Warsaw ghetto to secretly smuggle at least 2500 Jewish babies and children from facing the certainty of the German concentration camps. She and her team were members of the Zegota, an underground organization established in 1940 by the Polish government for the purpose of rescuing Polish Jews. With permission from the Nazi’s to enter the ghetto to help segregate the city’s 380,000 Jews, she came up with a plan to secretly smuggle babies and young children to safety. They used every idea possible to rescue the innocent, which included hiding them in toolboxes and under gurney’s, sneaking them into ambulances, taking them through sewer pipes or other underground passageways, wheeling them out in suitcases, and leading them out through an old courtyard which led to the non-Jewish areas. She carefully recorded the names of the children on cigarette papers and sealed them in glass bottles which she buried in a colleague’s garden. After the war, the jars were dug up and the lists handed over to Jewish representatives. Attempts were made to reunite the children with their families but sadly most of the parents had perished in the Treblinka death camp.
She was arrested in October 1943 and taken to Gestapo headquarters where she was interrogated to surrender information about the leaders of Zegota. She endured severe beatings and as her legs and feet were broken, she was eventually driven away to be executed. With what many consider to be a miracle from heaven, a private deal was made between Zegota and her executioner and she was released. Irena was later found unconscious along the side of the road and had to use crutches the rest of her life as a result of her injuries. One of the names in the jars was Michal Glowinski, a professor of literature. He said, “I fondly think about her and owe my life to her.” With tears, Elzbieta Ficowska also agreed as she was smuggled out of the ghetto by Mrs. Sendler inside a large toolbox when she was just five months old. Mrs. Sendler was eventually nominated for the Nobel peace prize in 1997 and announced as the 2003 winner of the Jan Karski award for Valor and Courage.
Unlike the German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who saved more than 1,000 Jews by employing them at his Krakow factory and is widely recognized thanks to an award-winning book and film, Mrs. Sendler’s story remained relatively unknown until a few years ago when it was discovered in America by a group of Kansas school children who wrote a play about it, called “Life in a Jar.” The word spread very quickly and now the world is aware of her saving many defenseless victims of the Nazi ideology. She spent her last years in a Warsaw nursing home and passed away in 2008. When interviewed, she sternly insisted she did nothing special and is quoted, “I was brought up to believe that a person must be rescued when drowning, regardless of religion and nationality. The thought of being considered a hero irritates me greatly as I continue to have pangs within my conscience that I did so little. My emotions are overshadowed by the fact that my faithful co-workers, who also constantly risked their lives, did not live long enough to receive the honors that are now falling upon me.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
published – 4/9/18
BEING REUNITED WITH OUR PARENTS FOREVER
I went for a quiet walk the other day, to relax and sort my thoughts like the stacks of messages and notes on my desk. While gazing at the clear sky and breathing in the cool air, it dawned on me that it’s been almost two years since my dad passed away. Honestly, it seems like yesterday. I realize that many people grew up without a father and I’m very sympathetic about that. Thank God, there are great step-dads and step-moms that have stepped into difficult situations and have been a much needed tower of strength and stability in the life of a child. Then I realized, that everyone who manages to enjoy a normal life expectancy will eventually outlive their parents. This means that most of us will be required to go through the heartbreak of saying goodbye to those who were always the center of our universe. Whether you have already walked through this valley or if this event has not yet happened, we will most likely be left to continue in our winter years without our mom and dad.
When my wife Cheryl and I were married, our parents were in their early forties and everyone seemed so young and filled with dreams and expectations. I guess this is why we were in shock when her dad passed away four years later from cancer at the age of 48. She remembers as a tom-boy, crawling under cars and watching him work on them. She did not have a clue what he was doing but just enjoyed spending quality time alone with him. Working on an old car was probably aggravating to him, but to her, it was exciting as she was like a nurse trying to figure out what type of wrench to hand him next or more than likely what size hammer he needed. Soon after we married, we rented a little house in town and on Saturday mornings after I left for work, her dad would stop by with donuts and they would have some coffee and talk. Through the years I’ve listened to her mention about how much she misses him and what a large part of her security and safety disappeared. Now I understand.
It seems so strange when I think that my dad is no longer here. I remember the first few months, sometimes in the evenings, I would pick up the phone to call him. When I would come to my senses, I not only realized he’s not there, but he’s never coming back. These are the moments we begin to understand how fragile life is and how we take our blessings for granted. As we grow older, we begin to seriously comprehend we only have one father and one mother. Though many other dads and moms are listed in the obituary every day, our pain is unique because they are our parents and we are more closely connected to them than anyone else in the world.
It’s only natural after they are gone, to feel alone and to miss hearing their voice and listening to their thoughts and opinions about everything. You will begin to notice that you have some of your parent’s traits and quirks but that’s OK because it makes you feel closer to them and appreciate them more than ever. You will always be filled with their memories and they will continue to mean more to you as time marches on. Even the simple things like remembering your dad mowing the yard and watching his favorite team or your mom putting the food on the table and giving you a big hug becomes like one of the greatest movies you will ever see. There is a poem by Diana Der-Hovanessian called, “Shifting the sun” and she expresses so beautifully about losing a parent. Here is one of the lines, “When your father dies, you lose your umbrella against bad weather, he takes your childhood with him and your sun shifts forever.” I cannot communicate as eloquently as she, but just as we will follow in the natural cycle of life and death, we are also filled with hope and joy to know this life is not the end of our journey. For those who are born-again in Christ, our salvation includes the exciting and encouraging promise that one day we will be reunited with our parents forever.
Read more articles and stories at: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
PUBLISHED – 4/2/18
WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR US TO BELIEVE
When the celebration of incarnation and the holy week come around, I cannot help but wonder what the general population thinks about the spiritual significance of these events. I realize that Christians are more involved with these holidays because of their personal connection with Jesus Christ, but we must also admit there are many different levels of commitment and enthusiasm. In the last few years, the big screen has produced several Christian based movies and however, you feel about them, at least someone is trying to relay the life of Christ when He physically walked the earth. I saw the movie, “Risen” the other night and after it was over, I thought about some key moments within the film. I’m encouraged whenever I see someone believing when they see a miracle, but I’m also reminded that everyone will not believe in Jesus whether they see one or not. Jesus declared in John 20:29, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Yes, Jesus spoke divine truth and in only three years made a huge impact, but His message was generally not embraced by the masses and neither is it today. Why? Well, the most disturbing reason which is also revealed in this movie is that many individuals will absolutely never allow themselves to surrender their will to God.
“Risen” is based on a fictional character named “Clavius” who portrays a high ranking Roman soldier and fierce non-believer that oversees the crucifixion of Christ. This account is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, but some of these events could have been possible. Nonetheless, he’s following his orders and convinced he’s doing the right thing but a few days after Jesus is buried in a tomb, he witnesses the Messiah miraculously comforting His disciples in the upper room. He is so stunned and in a state of shock that he abandons his duties and begins to stalk the disciples hoping to discover what in the world is going on. There’s a scene when Pilate enters this very room where Jesus had miraculously appeared earlier and is furious because the stone has been rolled away and the body of Jesus is missing. Trying to silence the rumors that Jesus actually rose from the dead, he notices a note fastened to the wall that was written and sealed by Clavius. It said, “Do not seek me. Do not follow or wander. Persecute no one on my behalf. I have seen two things which I cannot reconcile. A man died, without question and that same man is alive again. I pursue him, the Nazarene, to find the truth.” Pilate responds angrily, “My right hand has turned against me…how could he follow that Hebrew?” A soldier comments, “Perhaps…it’s true.” And then Pilate makes a very troubling statement, “Well, if it is…I’ll kill him again.” Is this not a heartbreaking example of the lost and depraved nature of mankind?
Although this story exposes our spiritual blindness, it also reveals an encouraging hope that God has provided everyone an invitation to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. We commonly use skits and plays in church to illustrate spiritual principals and even Jesus Himself told parables which are narratives that help explain divine truths. I have no intention to argue about the accuracy or intentions of movies like this, but within the presentation of Jesus we can at least ask ourselves, “is seeing believing?” You would imagine if someone actually witnessed that God and His Word were absolutely true, they would become a Jesus fanatic, but this is not necessarily so. Humans struggle with believing because our pride fights against us being transformed into His way of thinking and living. We want to control our own lives, and do not want anyone, especially God, to interfere with our desires and decisions. We find in Luke chapter 16, where a rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus passed away. The rich man ends up in a spiritual afterlife of misery but yet has the ability to see Lazarus and Abraham in the realm of paradise. He lifts his eyes in torment and begs Abraham to please send Lazarus back to warn his family and friends about this place of endless suffering. Abraham replies that whoever refuses to accept God’s message would still not surrender their independence even if someone came back from the dead.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GOD IS FAITHFUL AND JUST TO FORGIVE
Repentance is a common theme throughout the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah 55:7 declares, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the Lord.” Matthew chapter 4 and verse 17 says, “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The most common translation of the word “repent” means to turn or return and more specifically from a theological perspective it represents turning away from evil and turning to God. Though most of the world is in denial, our heavenly Father has a very strong desire, actually a demand, for us to resist sin and be transformed into His image. This has never been a popular message because with us being notoriously rebellious and often referred to as depraved, we have a built-in urge to do what we want. We hate to be told how to live and proudly call it freedom, but God calls it disobedience. The gospel reveals that saving us from ourselves is exactly why Jesus went to the cross. First Peter 1:18,19 says, “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.”
Many people commonly want to know what they have done that is so bad, and why do they need to ask forgiveness? For anyone to believe they are exempt from judgment is a huge problem because we are all sinners and cannot save ourselves. Non-Christians want everyone to leave them alone while many Christians have a tendency to relax in a false sense of security. Non-Christians are trying to avoid dealing with a guilty conscience but Christians can also drift away and become lukewarm about their need to live in the constant awareness of God’s presence. Wherever you are today, repentance is an honest, regretful acknowledgment of sin with a sincere desire to be spiritually cleansed and a commitment to yield our will to Jesus Christ. “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins might be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” Acts 3:19.
My personal understanding of repentance is centered around a conviction to stay close to God and to live according to His standards of purity. I admit I have my share of daily failures even though I know the dangers of temptation. I’m convinced that every person gives their love and attention to what is important to them as we serve whom we obey. The more we learn the more we are accountable for and yet it seems many times we still neglect the discipline to live what we believe. A key ingredient within repentance is having regret and remorse. If we are not broken-hearted and nauseated over what we have done or what we are doing then it’s highly unlikely we will call on God to forgive us. When we come to a point where we are not bothered by our transgressions and have no sense of urgency to make things right, something is terribly wrong. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a person sows, that shall they also reap” Galatians 6:7.
There is more to forgiveness than just saying we are sorry. True repentance is having a change of mind and completely turning away from those enticements that are attempting to control us. When we realize we are guilty and in need of God’s grace, true repentance inspires us to confess we are wrong and should motivate us with a commitment to walk with God instead of against Him. Billy Graham is quoted, “The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance. In Jonah’s day, Nineveh was a wealthy superpower, unconcerned, and self-centered. When the prophet Jonah finally arrived and proclaimed God’s warning, the people listened, repented and was forgiven. I believe the same thing can happen once again but this time in our own nation.” “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” I John 1:9.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 3/19/18
PRAYER IS THE LEAST AND THE MOST WE CAN DO
Recently, my wife Cheryl was talking about the need to increase her prayer time and I was definitely agreeing that praying is very important in our spiritual life. In the middle of our conversation, she said, “we should turn our cares into prayers” and that instantly caught my attention. I love catchy phrases and told her that I just might borrow that slogan! We all have worries and cares but for some strange reason, many times we do not consider praying as our highest priority. In fact, for most of us, it’s usually a last resort. Similar to prayer, I’m reminded of the fire axes that are mounted in glass cases and reserved for emergency use only. Sadly, we often forget what a great price God has paid in order that we might have the privilege and opportunity to communicate with Him. It’s been said that prayer is the least we can do and yet the most we can do.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, the bridge of intimacy was severed between God and mankind and forgiveness became a temporary covering instead of a permanent removal. This infection of sin not only prevented our Creator from indwelling the heart of the individual but the restoration of our relationship was also not possible until Jesus went to the cross. The crucifixion and resurrection allow us to see that God loved us and wanted to be with us so much that He sent His Son as a ransom for our soul. The blood of Christ was the only payment that could redeem us. So today, instead of going to a priest and having them to intercede and slaughter an animal for our forgiveness, we can approach Jesus Christ directly and invite Him into our life as our personal Savior and Lord.
Prayer is the deliberate act of communicating with God. We can talk with Him while we are doing our daily work and if we need to be quiet we can concentrate and know that He understands us and knows our thoughts. Prayer has been described as simply pouring out our conscience to God about our desires, needs, burdens, and everything that is important to us. Whatever is weighing heavily upon you today is causing anxiety and worry but there is encouraging news! God has provided a wonderful opportunity to cast our cares on Him. A huge aspect of faith is believing that He is concerned with our fears and troubles and that He desires to intervene. Consider writing down these circumstances and petitions and trust Him with all of your heart that He is going to take care of them. Billy Graham once said, “This should be the declaration of every follower of Jesus Christ. No matter how dark and hopeless a situation might seem, never stop praying. When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God.”
Prayer may sound easy but anyone that has attempted to approach His throne on a regular basis will tell you that it is one of the most challenging goals of this life. There are certain steps to take in order for prayer to become a serious part of our journey and it may sound elementary but first, we must have a desire to pray. Without a deep love for God and other people and until we come to a higher level of dedication we will not incorporate prayer as a lifestyle. Next, it is important to believe that prayer is real and that God is listening. This is also not as easy as it sounds because if we have not abandoned our will and allowed Him to sit on the throne of our heart then He already knows we are just playing games. He is not mocked or deceived neither does He look over sin. He is very sensitive to our intentions and attitudes as this directly affects how He responds to our request. Once we decide to approach Him, let us humble ourselves and ask Him to forgive and cleanse us from our transgressions. This is how we can proceed into His holiness with a pure mind and heart. May we be reminded, since He has a specific destiny for us, to always respect His decisions which includes when He says no, as everything is about His will being done instead of our own.
Dr. Holland is a Christian minister, chaplain, and author. Discover more about his ministry at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 3/12/18
GOD IS MORE THAN ENOUGH
We’ve all heard the song, “He’s got the whole world in His hands” but did you know this is actually from scripture? We read in Isaiah chapter 40 and verse 12, “Who has calculated the waters in the hollow of His hand, and who has measured the heavens and determined the dust of the earth, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?” Today, if you feel that your crisis is too much for God to take care of, if you believe your problem is too big for God to handle, and if you are convinced your enemy is just too powerful, God wants you to know that you are not seeing life in a correct perspective. God is for you and this means that nothing or no one is greater than His power. You and God are a majority no matter how bleak your situation. He is saying to stop confessing how huge your problems are and start declaring how awesome your God is! Doubt see’s God through the eyes of our emotions but faith see’s our circumstances through the eyes of God. Pray and believe that He is in total control and that He always wants the best for your life. Just for a moment, let’s stop and consider how powerful God is and how we can know that nothing is too difficult for Him.
Imagine an ordinary marble and let’s say this represents the size of the earth. To better understand the size comparison of the earth to our sun (which is actually a small star) we would need a container large enough to put 1 million marbles inside. This would be the equivalent of approximately twenty 55-gallon drums of marbles. Alright, let’s use the marble again except this time it will represent the size of our sun. To have a realistic idea of the size of our sun in comparison to one of the billions of larger stars in the universe, we would need to measure 20 feet which would represent the distance across just one of them. Mind boggling but just imagine, He simply spoke everything into existence. Do you have visions, dreams, and prayers in your life that you are looking for Him to answer? We all do. Since God created all things then He can definitely provide whatever you need today!
To understand the contrast in distance from the earth to the moon verses from the earth to Mars, it has been calculated using a quarter to represent the distance from the earth to the moon and the length of a football field from the earth to Mars. Yes, it’s difficult to understand how big the universe is because our tiny brain cannot grasp it, but it helps our faith to think about these facts and realize that God spoke everything into existence. Let us not forget that He also keeps everything spinning, balanced and tilted perfectly since the beginning of time. Jeremiah 33 and Genesis 22 compares the number of stars with the grains of sand on the seashore. Before the invention of the modern telescope, it was possible to only see about 4000 stars, counting all that was visible from every point on earth. Many astronomers were convinced that Bible passages related to nature and creation like those verses in Jeremiah and Genesis were just exaggerations. Now with the technology of the Hubble telescope which is traveling deep into space and sending back new images of the universe, science now agrees with the Bible that there are truly as many stars as there are grains of sand. God created you, knows you and loves you more than anything.
Our Creator is definitely more than enough for every person who has ever lived and will ever live. He is big enough to deliver you, wealthy enough to provide for you, powerful enough to heal you, and strong enough to deliver you. His unconditional love is infinite and He longs to give you exceedingly abundantly above and beyond everything you could ever imagine. God has a perfect plan for your life. Do not give up and never stop believing for your breakthrough because we serve a big God and His promises never fail! Matthew 19:26 says, “Jesus looked at them and said, with man this is impossible, but with God ALL things are possible.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
PUBLISHED – 3/5/18
GOD IS ALWAYS WITH YOU
God has promised in His Word that we will never be alone and I consider this blessed assurance as a foundational pillar that supports our faith in Him. I trust Him completely and shudder to imagine drifting like a ship on the open Sea without a sail, a compass, or an anchor. May we be reminded that God is always with us, He knows our situation and always wants the best for us.
When we think about why we are here on this planet and what God’s plan is for us, we realize it would be wise to study His holy instruction manual. We observe Jesus in Matthew chapter 28 and verse 10 having a private conversation with His disciples. While trying to encourage and give them final instructions He said, “Teach these new followers to obey all the commands I have given to you and be sure of this: I am always with you, even to the end of the world.” This was not just a passing gesture like, “take care and I hope we meet again” this was a literal promise confirming that He was sent to dwell within those who give their life to Him now and forever. Many other passages declare that we are never alone once we invite Jesus to be our Lord such as Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
As a volunteer chaplain for a long-term health care facility for Veterans, I officiate special services and Bible studies, along with visiting and praying with the residents. A sad part of my duties includes being on call when a resident becomes very ill. This is when families and hospice are notified that the time is near and unfortunately these are often. I was called the other day and when I stepped into the room, I saw an elderly lady sitting with her back to the door next to the bed. When I moved around in front of her, I introduced myself and noticed she was holding her husband’s hand and patting his arm. He was heavily sedated and even with oxygen, he was having a difficult time breathing. I pulled up a chair and said a prayer and then she began to tell me how very much in love they were and how happy they had been. They had been married many years and did not have children. He had been in the facility for the last two years and along with visiting him almost every day, she had been trying to manage their affairs. With a brief hesitation, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “When my husband is gone, I will be all alone and I wonder who will take care of me?”
Throughout our life, we enjoy the happy times when we are surrounded by friends and family and if we are married we can always depend on our mate being there whatever may come. What a blessing to have a close relationship with our spouse and how attached and dependent we are to them. However, unless the husband and the wife pass away together there will come a time when only one will be left. I’ve watched both my mom and my mother-in-law walk through this situation and even though it’s been difficult, I’ve also witnessed a strength within these two remarkable ladies that was no doubt from the Lord. I talk to my mom all the time and she reminds me that we just need to take everything one day at a time. She has given her fears and worries over to God and this is what gives her peace. She believes this life is not the end and that she will be reunited with dad someday. It’s a great comfort to know that whatever may happen we will never be alone because God is always with us. Isaiah 41:10 promises, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
AN ORDINARY MAN WITH AN EXTRAORDINARY MISSION
Like many of you, I’m very sad about Billy Graham passing away. Those who are younger will probably not have the familiar connection with him like some of us older folks, but nonetheless, I’m sure his books and recordings will continue having a beneficial impact on future generations. Throughout my childhood, I remember my parents always dialed in our old television set to watch Billy Graham evangelistic crusades and even though as a typical child I thought church services were somewhat boring, I would still sit and listen. In fact, I may not have realized it at the time, but I’m convinced his messages had a positive effect on my spiritual calling and helped influence me into a life of ministry. Here is one of his more popular statements, “Being a Christian is more than just an instant conversion, it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Jesus.”
He had such a mesmerizing voice and would speak with such passion that you could not help but feel this was a truth that was being relayed from heaven. I believe his sense of urgency along with expounding the ever-important subject about Jesus being crucified and where we are going to spend eternity caused his audience to be riveted to their seats. I recall when my grandparents would come to visit and if Billy Graham was on, my dad would tune in as his parents also appreciated Mr. Graham’s ministry. My grandmother would pull out her handkerchief and every now and then she would wipe a tear from her eye. I did not understand what was going on at the time but after I grew up I realized she was being blessed and moved deep within her soul.
In the church where I grew up, we had prayer alters around the stage and as people would come and kneel down, it was common to see them weep. Some would cry because of a crisis and some were repenting and asking forgiveness and yet others were often filled with joy. I believe this is a wonderful and natural reaction as we sense God’s presence we can express how grateful we are for who He is. The act of finding a special place to meet with God and falling on our knees before Him can open our spiritual eyes to how much we desperately need Him. We need more messages about yielding our will and inviting Christ to be the Lord of our life as Mr. Graham would always point out. At the funeral, Franklin Graham presented this quote from his father, “No matter what your problem is, if you and I could sit down and talk, I would want to tell you one great truth: God loves you, and He can make a difference in your life if you will let Him. God loves you so much that He sent His Son into the world to die for your sins. When we open our hearts to Christ, He forgives our sins and comes to live within us by the Holy Spirit. He also gives us strength for the present and hope for the future.”
It’s estimated that in his lifetime he preached to live audiences totaling over 215 million people in 185 countries. This along with his books and resources is more than anyone else has ever relayed the gospel of Jesus. He knew what God wanted to say and was used as a vessel of honor to demonstrate the authority of God’s Word. Billy Graham was not perfect and I’m not trying to portray him as a saint, but it’s obvious he truly loved people and had a burden to make sure everyone knew about salvation and eternal life. He was an ordinary man that God used to accomplish an extraordinary mission! It’s never the charismatic personality, intelligence or ability of humans that can change another person, but rather it’s the power of divine truth that convicts the conscience and allows God to transform a life. The opportunity for you to be forgiven and accept the Lord is available right now as I close with this last quote, “God proved His love on the cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, I love you.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
A PRACTICAL WAY TO MAINTAIN GOD’S PEACE
Every now and then I’m asked why I do not express my thoughts about political and social issues. Of course, I have personal opinions about all that is going on just like you, but do we really need more repetitive commentary especially when it comes to confirming how disturbing the world has become? How could I help anything by joining in with the crowd to criticize and argue about problems which are politically and socially divisive? I’m not saying we are to avoid or hide from strife and confusion but we could at least limit our intake of negativity in order to keep from being emotionally overwhelmed. Since I am not a political analyst, I intentionally refuse to become tangled up in a meaningless merry-go-round of hopeless dialogue. Instead of multiplying the sorrow about what we already know, we can choose to seek a refreshing word of hope that can inspire and bring encouragement and this is what I’m focused on. Spiritual peace is not something humans can give to each other but comes as a gift from God when an individual seeks His presence. He is the only one that can renew a mind and transform a soul.
It does not take a genius to correlate the world’s anxiety to the daily overload of shocking and discouraging information. Thanks to the ever-increasing wonders of technology, we have a constant access to an endless flow of darkness and strife. It seems many are subconsciously drawn to having their senses stimulated by a constant news-feed, even though a large majority of the content consists of devastation and suffering. With television crime dramas, violent action movies, vulgar music, pornography, vicious video games, and horror films being so popular, I honestly wonder if many people are becoming addicted to tragedy. Is this attraction to sinister and disturbing events, along with the fixation for real-life crisis situations, causing us to lose a healthy perspective of reality? The gospel is called the good news for a life-changing reason and it’s vital to balance our intake of information in order to preserve our sanity and protect our spiritual peace. Let us remember that Jesus came to deliver us from evil and to give us victory over the darkness of sin. “Casting all your cares and anxiety upon Him; for He loves and cares for you” I Peter 5:7.
I heard a story the other day about a group of businessmen meeting for breakfast and were discussing the ground-breaking subject of how they all had slept the night before. They went around the table as each man relayed his comments. The first man complained about tossing and turning all night and made half-joking remarks about listening to the news before bedtime and how the negative reports seemed to upset him and cause an uncomfortable amount of anxiety. He also mentioned that maybe the coffee he had consumed did not help. The man across the table spoke up and with enthusiasm declared he had a wonderful night’s rest and was filled with energy and sincere anticipation to start the day. He added that he had used his go-to-sleep plan that had never failed to work perfectly. Of course, this interesting proclamation had everyone’s attention and they all wanted to hear about this secret. He said when he was a child, his father would gather the family together in the living room at bedtime to read the Bible and say a prayer. Afterward, he would go to his room and sleep with such an indescribable peace and contentment. He said it felt like the entire house was filled with a heavenly presence as a sense of safety and security would cover him like a blanket. However, when he left home and went out on his own, he fell away from spending time with God and developed the habit of going to bed distracted with the cares of the world. He went on to say that recently he and his wife were facing some serious situations and mutually decided to re-establish Bible reading and prayer before bedtime. He said, they were both amazed at how their sleep had improved and his attitude has changed from being worried and nervous to become more happy, content and positive minded. Psalm 94:19 says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
HOPEFULLY, CANCER WILL SOON BE DEFEATED
It’s very sad, but most of us have known someone with cancer or maybe have heard a doctor tell us that we have the c-word. My wife Cheryl has been diagnosed with cancer twice but with surgery and radiation, she has been cancer free for about 12 years and we definitely thank God for that. Recently, my uncle was told he had lung cancer and family and friends are sending up prayers for him. Whatever the situation, there is always fear and anxiety when it comes to severe illness and in times of distress, it’s good to know that God is not only aware of our problems but also has the power to take care of any crisis. It’s evident that most people believe that God can heal because when someone they know is sick, they always ask for prayers and that is wonderful. Nonetheless, we can also know the Lord is very involved in the medical community as He gives science the intelligence to comprehend the human body and ideas for new treatments that can help us overcome diseases. However He chooses to intervene, we are forever grateful for His mercy and compassion.
I was listening to an interesting conversation the other day by a man named Jay Walker, a visionary that researches cutting-edge medical advancements. He said that every day the medical world has a deeper understanding about cancer and is on the brink of discovering new life-saving procedures and medicines. He explained that finding a cure for cancer could happen in the near future but for now, the attention is more focused on helping those who are diagnosed with the disease to live a relatively normal life. As medical technology has advanced over the years, we have seen other serious diseases become manageable and it’s widely believed that cancer treatments will also continue following this pattern. Mr. Walker went on to say, “For the first time in the history of the world, humans are learning how to control the operating code. Scientist are now manipulating the DNA, and are at the cusp of operating down to the instructional layer, which creates the proteins that create the tissues, systems, and organs of the body. It’s almost as if we’re inventing printing, reading, writing and thinking all at the same time in forms of medicine.”
It’s believed that most people actually have traces of cancer in their bodies but may never manifest the disease because of the slow advancement in cell multiplication. It’s also common knowledge that when cancer is detected through screening, it has been developing at least seven years. The hope is to find ways to slow down the progression of these bad cells instead of the radical surgeries and chemotherapy we are subjected to today. His personal time-lines were very encouraging with cancers of the blood being under control in five to ten years and all other cancers from ten to twenty years from now. With so much pain and suffering, I’m sure you will agree this is wonderful news and how exciting it is to know this terrible sickness will soon be defeated.
Going back to the discussion about God healing our physical body, I have people ask me about this regularly. We realize God can do anything, but I do not understand why He does not choose to heal everyone. I read where Jesus healed those who called upon Him and how He desires that we walk by faith but I also know there are reasons for everything good and bad and only God has the perfect wisdom and judgment to make all these decisions. Why are we sometimes disappointed? Again, I do not know and neither does anyone else. As humans, we do not have the capability to know everything about everyone. However, the one thing we can be sure of is that God is filled with love and whether He chooses to heal us now or in the life to come, He always has our best interest in mind. God is good all the time and we can live in peace when we love Him and trust Him with everything. No matter what happens in this life, I believe His promises are true and never fail.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 2/5/18
AS FAR AS THE EAST IS FROM THE WEST
Someone said, “Our lives are defined by opportunities, including the ones we miss. Let us not weep over chances we have missed, but rather for the ones we did not take.” When I look back over my life, I can see where I’ve made plenty of mistakes and I’ve also missed out on some wonderful opportunities. Maybe you are saying the same thing. If so, I encourage you to resist the temptation to live in regret. Humans are fallible creatures and we all make wrong choices but at least our disappointment reveals that we care and that’s a good thing. James Joyce said, “mistakes are the portals of discovery” and there is no doubt they can be a significant part of our learning process. I realize that living in denial is much easier than forgiving ourselves but repentance is a more worthwhile endeavor than living with the overwhelming feelings of guilt and condemnation. The truth is we can either embrace the inclination to allow these negative thoughts to haunt us and flood our heart with sadness or we can resist this emotional torture by calling on the Lord to heal our heart and renew our mind. God’s plans and ways are bigger than our mistakes and lost opportunities. He is not only ready to forgive and restore us, He can fill our life with confidence, hope, and victory!
It’s common when suffering from regret, to be reminded of certain ones that we secretly blame for our failures. However, as the water is long gone under the bridge, there is no need to hold on and replay the scenarios of what could have been – you’ve suffered enough. It’s important to consider that walking around in this negative and stressful state of mind can lead to depression, anxiety, and even physical health problems. It would be wise to make a list of those we need to forgive and sincerely pray while making sure our name is at the top. You see, unforgiveness holds us in a spiritual and mental prison and giving it over to God is the key that opens the door to freedom. We are the only one that can put an end to us living in the misery of an unchangeable past. Alice Walker said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they do not have any.” The Bible refers to the devil as the “the accuser” of the brethren and this is where these negative voices are coming from. Some may try to pretend these situations never happened or that maybe they will all just go away which sounds nice, but running away from reality does not work. Being honest with God and ourselves is the pathway to peace.
I love what the Apostle Paul said, “This one thing I do; forgetting those things which are behind, I reach forth to the things which are before me.” He is encouraging us to not only concentrate on the present but also look to the future and be sensitive to new opportunities. We have a tendency to deal with our problems our own way, but God wants to help us deal with this once and for all. Let go and allow Him to give you a brand new start as He’s ready to fulfill the dreams and desires He’s placed in your heart. He loves us and longs to forgive us and to restore our dreams that seem to be lost forever. He can create new opportunities in ways we could never imagine. I believe our heavenly Father desires to restore the years that you’ve lost and give you a new vision and a fresh zeal to fulfill your destiny. Being positive and optimistic about your future is a deliberate decision. Will you allow the rest of your life to evolve into His character and continue to grow stronger in His truth? We know that nothing is impossible with God and His Word cannot fail. Psalm 103:11-12 is one of the greatest promises about our security and filled with the hope for all eternity. “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
GOD’S LOVE MAKES EVERYONE UNIQUE
I’ve mentioned before about how most small towns have unusual characters who are disrespected and mocked as an embarrassment to the community. Like a folklore legend, these outcast individuals are remembered for their strange behavior while it’s hardly ever mentioned about who they really are. Recently the subject came up again about these odd men and women and I thought that instead of just feeling sorry for them, I could learn a valuable lesson about treating others with dignity. The notable recognition list included a few such celebrities as, shopping buggy man, barbershop man, dancing girl, Ahab the Arab, and a man they called “Eggs” who would sit on Main street day and night and just quietly watch the traffic. I’ve spoken with some of these people in the past and discovered they are not homeless or penniless, they just enjoy walking around and doing what makes them happy. They wave when people honk their horns and will gladly take a sandwich if you bring them one.
I read a story a while back, about two young girl’s that were playing on the front porch. As one of them raised up, she spotted an older woman coming down the sidewalk pushing a tattered baby carriage. She was wearing old wrinkled clothes but was not really doing anything wrong. Most people around town knew her as “crazy Mary” the lady who picked up odds and ends from the trash. As she quietly passed by the front of the house, the girl’s started mocking her and calling her names, laughing and giggling. Even after the woman was out of sight, they continued talking about her and judging her harshly until they looked up to see the father of the girl who lived there staring at them. He sent the friend home and calmly told his daughter to go upstairs and change into her church dress. She did as he said without saying a word and soon returned. He said they were going for a walk and on the way he wanted her to think about what she had done and to prepare an explanation about how sorry she was for acting like that.
After a while of awkward silence with only the sound of their footsteps on the sidewalk, they came to a little shack and the little girl knew they were at the right place when she saw the baby carriage sitting next to the front door. They both approached reverently and he knocked on the door. The lady inside slowly opened the door and the girl’s father said they had come to say hello if it was alright. She graciously invited them inside. The little girl looked around as her eyes tried to adjust to the darkness. It was a small room filled with trinkets and the basics of living and she watched nervously as the woman proceeded to make tea. Finally, in the awkwardness of the moment, the father spoke up and said that before they could partake in her generosity, his daughter had something she wanted to say. The little girl presented a seemingly sincere apology that passed his approval and he took the tray from Mary and placed it on the only table in the room. The conversation was about the weather and other topics of small talk until suddenly the father stood and thanked her for her kind hospitality. The walk home was again uncomfortable as the little girl’s mind was swirling with so many questions about not only what had just happened but also about all the other people in the world who live like this. Did something happen in Mary’s life that caused her to be this way? And then she thought about how people condemn this woman just because she’s poor (like her and her friend had done earlier).
When they arrived home, she went up to her room and stared out the window as if it were a portal to the unknown mysteries of life. She thought about how things are not always the way they seem and how everyone walks a different path within their journey. We are unique in our own way but just because we’re different does not mean we are bad or deserve to be treated harshly. Her dad never mentioned it again and neither did she. There was no reason to.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
SOMEONE REMEMBERS – SOMEONE CARES
It’s true that some people are healthier than others, but the uncomfortable facts reveal the human body is generally frail and vulnerable. I occasionally joke around with my Son-in-law about him being from another planet because he says he’s never been sick, but unfortunately, like all the rest of us, there will come a day when something will go wrong. As a minister, I’ve been around my share of sickness and pain and it truly hurts me to see others suffer. My father was a very sick man, and our family watched him go through years of agony. With my parents being faithful members of their church, they received countless thoughts and prayers for him to overcome his health problems. Why was he not healed? Well, I guess that question could also be asked about millions of others since the beginning of time and the answer is always the same – we really do not know. Do prayers work? Of course, but just because we do not see instant results or for that matter, any results at all does not mean the power of God was not working behind the scenes. I absolutely believe in miracles from heaven and have personally seen them, but we also need to remember this life is only temporary and its true meaning is to develop an awareness of humility, respect, and trust in the one who is in total control.
We’ve heard the old saying about how life was never promised to be a rose garden and we can see a lot of spiritual truth in this statement. In this light, we can also be reminded that every rose has its thorns. If our path was always smooth and we always had plenty of money and felt wonderful every day, we would not understand what it means to desperately seek Him. There would be no desire to pray or need to demonstrate faith which are essential spiritual building blocks in our relationship with God. You see, the Lord did not intend for us to worship creation and have the independence to live however we want. He desires that we worship Him the creator and live according to His will. Each person is given a few years on this earth as an opportunity to know God and allow Him to transform us and prepare us to live with Him forever, which is what life is all about.
Since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden and God changed the way the human race was living, mankind has been given a much more difficult fate. Along with things like the atmosphere and the plant and animal kingdom being altered, our DNA is hindered by imperfections and susceptible to abnormalities and disease. These hardships and places of desperation are not only a reminder to keep focusing on the promises of heaven but a window of opportunity to draw nearer to Him. If you or a loved one is facing a serious illness, there is plenty of discouragement and negativity but at the same time are certain truths that can fill us with peace and joy. Having the right attitude even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death can change defeat into victory. Here are a few things that illness cannot do. It cannot stop our love. It cannot keep us out of heaven or hinder our faith. It cannot take away our peace. It cannot erase or ruin our memories. It cannot harness our courage or destroy our confidence. It cannot steal our joy. It cannot conquer our spirit. It cannot keep us from Jesus or shatter our hope. In Hebrews chapter 4 and verse 16 we are given this promise, “Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
If we are in Christ today, we can say with all confidence that one way or another we will be healed. Whether in this life or in the next, God’s great love and mercy will make us whole! Today, may you be surrounded by His glorious presence as He ministers His comfort and peace to your mind, body, and soul. Someone remembers someone cares – your name is being whispered in someone’s prayers.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
HOPE IS CONFIDENCE THAT SOMETHING BETTER IS COMING
I have the privilege of being a community chaplain and along with this opportunity to serve I see a lot of heartbreaking circumstances that many people do not see. Every year at the holiday season it’s difficult for me to be filled with excitement because I’m surrounded by those who are facing major problems and will not experience the same blessings that most of us enjoy. This past Christmas and Thanksgiving, we were overwhelmed with those reaching out for help. The little children are so innocent and helpless and we have actually watched them open the jars of peanut butter and eat it with their fingers because they were hungry. We do not have to search in other third world countries to find people who are hungry and going through hard times – we have them in our own hometown. The last couple of months, I’ve been busy helping to coordinate food drives for the needy, but even though we helped numerous families, this did not resolve the problem. Boxes of food and clothing is a nice gesture but how can we help people escape from poverty? I know nothing is impossible with God as I remember Jesus miraculously feeding five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. If this was not amazing enough, after everyone had eaten all they wanted, they took up twelve baskets of leftovers. Maybe instead of focusing on the size of the need, we should consider how big our God is!
Many of those filling out applications were grandparents who are raising their grandchildren because their children are in trouble. I could sense the anxiety as I listened and with no magical solutions, all I could do is pray for them and encourage them to keep praying as well. The drug epidemic has become so widespread that it’s affecting extended families and many of them cannot afford the financial burden. Another factor that is associated with poverty is the number of people who do not have a college education and are faced with accepting lower paying jobs. Add this to the ever-increasing cost of living and this creates a serious challenge to survive. I know when I’m dealing with difficulty I am stressed, but can we imagine the level of concern that many people deal with every day? Unfortunately, a significant portion of our society lives in a continual state of fear and depression about their inability to purchase food, pay their bills, or maintain reliable transportation. Many are worried about the basics such as having health insurance and being able to purchase big ticket items when things need to be replaced. I know there is probably not enough money in the world to fix everyone’s problems, however, I do believe with all of my heart that the God who delivered Israel from the Egyptians in Exodus chapter 14 can also deliver any of us from whatever problems we may be facing. Of course, I believe in doing all the practical things, but hope gives us the ability to remain optimistic (even when things seem impossible) with a sincere confidence that something better is coming.
We should celebrate Thanksgiving every day as an appreciation to God for giving us His blessings, however, if we are only basking in the delight of our own abundance we may forget about the individuals all around us that have a fragment of what we have. I know that some people will be quick to point out how hard they have worked to accomplish great things and that is a worthy point, but it’s also good to remember that we did not do it all by ourselves. It’s the Lord who empowers us with His wisdom and gives us the favor to succeed. May we consider where we would be today without His grace and mercy? It’s our pride that makes it easy to look down on those who struggle as we blame them for their own failures. Yes, many have made critical mistakes but that does not disqualify them from receiving God’s love and forgiveness or our compassion. Maybe we should try to see others as God sees them and demonstrate more humility instead of being judgmental. “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name” Psalm 100:4.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE PERFECT WORD OF GOD
We apprehend this is not a perfect world and as humans we constantly make mistakes. However, when it comes to the Bible, there is a major difference. This book might have been transcribed by mere mortals but its content is not from this world. The holy scriptures are a collection of divine messages directly inspired by an Omnipotent God and were simply recorded by ordinary men. As one of the most popular and best-selling books in the world, it’s given much reverence and respect but as our postmodern society continues to evolve in their progressive arrogance, many individuals are now convinced with the false notion that the Bible is not true. Psalm 19:7 declares, “The law of the Lord is perfect” and Proverbs 30:5 promises that “Every word of God is pure.” These heavenly claims of purity and perfection are statements of heavenly truth from the only one who cannot lie. Note the text doesn’t say God’s Word is “mostly” pure or scripture is “nearly” faultless which leaves no room for partial perfection theories. “God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, shall He not do it? Or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19. We are reminded when Jesus answered Pilate and replied that He had come into the world to bear witness unto the truth. Pilate then asked the question, “what is truth?” and revealed that humanity is spiritually blind until God graciously opens their understanding. The truth was standing right in front of him but he could not see it.
There can be no agreement or compromise with the agnostic or the deist who believes that God does not care or intervene in the affairs of mankind. If we submit to the worldview that many of the Biblical accounts are not literal, we are left holding a mystery novel instead of the greatest revelation ever given to the world. Psalm 12:6 says, “And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.” Believing that God is perfect and that His truth is without error is the foundation of our faith! If the Bible is not accurate when it speaks of geology or genealogy, how can we place our hope in its theology? In other words, it’s either a trustworthy document, or it’s not. The Bible stands or falls as a whole and is a reflection of its author which come to think of it, all publications are! If a major newspaper were routinely discovered to contain errors, it would be quickly discredited. It would make no difference to acknowledge that, “all the errors are confined to page three” or “we regularly publish stories that are fabricated.” For any publication to be reliable in any of its parts, it must be factual throughout. Why would we waste our time reading anything that is a falsehood?
So, where does this leave the Christian who places their hope in the Bible as being the absolute truth? We must comprehend this controversy is not about a religious organization or tradition but rather is a spiritual war between truth and deception. As we continue moving toward a more politically correct age, we can agree that when it comes to Biblical sovereignty, the remnant disciples will continue to lose the support of community, friends, and even family. In fact, Jesus in Luke chapter 12 predicts how spiritual views will be the cause of much disagreement, strife, and even hostility. We can try to live in peace and step softly around controversial issues but eventually, there will come a time when the serious followers of Christ will be called to stand for what they believe no matter the cost. As the growing number of atheist, free-thinkers, and skeptics continue to become more militant and influential, we can clearly see an aggressive agenda to diminish the integrity of those who uphold and defend the Bible as God’s perfect Word and God Himself as the meaning and purpose of life. Are we prepared to stand boldly in our faith about God’s Word, even if it means persecution and the separation from those we love? God is absolute truth and the doctrine of Biblical perfection is extremely important because the truth does matter.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WHAT ABOUT OUR BOX OF CHOCOLATES?
It’s hard to believe that 2017 is history. We have many things to be thankful for along with events and situations that unfortunately brought sorrow, pain, and disappointment. Forest Gump’s mom said, “life is like a box of chocolates” as we never know what we are going to get. I guess basically we can see the point, even though this seems to imply that even the worst of times would be no more than just another flavor of candy. However, in the real world, we can agree that we are not only unaware of what is coming our way, but also unprepared how these future events will change our lives.
I’ve had several people express to me how they did not feel excited about Christmas this year. I must admit that I agree and with me personally, there are a few reasons why. Over the years I’ve done some research about the origins of the holidays and let’s just say the more we learn the more we are accountable for. Another reason is with our kids now in their mid-thirties and married, we are still eagerly waiting for grandchildren. Without small children running around, the enthusiasm of the festivities is reduced to say the least. I must also include that the relentless bombardment of holiday advertising is enough to dampen even the most fanatical participators. It seems by the time we’ve been exposed to numerous Santa Clause salesmen, decorated trees, dinner parties, shopping excursions, holiday songs, movies, etc… we are more than ready to pack it all up and escape from the chaos. Maybe I’m turning into the Grinch or Mr. Scrooge, or could it be something more? Maybe, I’m sad because things are not the way they used to be. I keep thinking back when life seemed more simple and sincere. I miss certain individuals that are no longer with us and their absence has left an empty place in my heart. Yes, the world is rapidly changing and all of it is not necessarily for the better.
I also have thoughts about growing older. For those of us who are wondering who that white-haired person is in the mirror, I’m starting to feel a little nervous and maybe even stressed about my future. Issues like financial security for our retirement and questions about our health are like those unknown pieces of chocolate, but I’ve come to understand that I can plan my life through two different views. I can depend on my own abilities and allow my emotions to establish how I feel and who I am. Or, I can decide to draw close to God and learn how to trust Him with everything. The first choice is to live in fear and worry which is a very miserable way to exist. I know we are to use our mind and do everything we can to help ourselves, but there is likely to come a time when we will have a problem so large that we cannot fix it on our own. The second choice has everything to do with becoming very serious about our relationship with Jesus Christ. Surrendering our will to Him is the most difficult sacrifice we will ever make, but keep in mind that He also made the ultimate sacrifice for you because He loves you more than anything. A very common response to the topic of faith is, “you do not have a clue what I’m going through” and I realize that, however, the severity of our problems cannot change the reality of His truth. There are occasions like with John 3:16 when even the simplest message can awaken us to a brand-new way of living, but our part will always include embracing and believing that His promises cannot fail. Can you imagine how much peace and joy we could experience with Him every moment if we would trust Him with everything? It’s not essential that we know where God is taking us, what He is going to do or how He is going to do it, we just need to pull over, give Him the keys and let Him drive. This coming year, God desires to be the Lord of our life, no matter what flavors of chocolate are still in our box.
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 about 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 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 sin. 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. About 6 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 heart-broken 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 on 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. Since His character and nature is 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 all the sudden, 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 may 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 more clearer understanding about 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 continually 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 period 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 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? First of all 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 in the 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 develop friendships 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.”