Decisions…

Why is it so hard to make decisions, let alone good decisions? Most of our time is spent making decisions.

Can I hit the snooze alarm and still make it to work on time?  Can I hit the snooze alarm again and still make it to work on time? Do I need a shower? What do I want to wear?  What will I eat for breakfast?  If I climb back in bed for a few minutes can I still make it to work on time?

It’s one thing to make meaningless decisions that affect virtually no one but yourself, but some decisions are far reaching…life changing…and they can affect hundreds of people. How do we handle those?

Psalm 86

11 Teach me your ways, O Lord,
    that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
    so that I may honor you.
12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
    I will give glory to your name forever,
13 for your love for me is very great.
    You have rescued me from the depths of death.

When we enter into decisions with a pure heart, seeking the Lord’s guidance, and praise our God no matter the outcome, we can be confident in our decision. My prayer today is for both you and me…that we may honor God with our choices, that we may be rely on God’s wisdom, and be confident of his love and guidance in our lives.

I’ll be teaching Bible class, and preaching in Wheeler, TX this weekend. If you’re anywhere near the panhandle region, come on out and say hi!

Never Gonna Give You Up!

This is the season of Lent. If you are unfamiliar with the season, allow me to explain. Lent is supposed to remind the observer of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, where he was also tempted by the devil.

Observers of Lent are encouraged to go without…usually this includes fasting, as well as giving up something you enjoy. A friend of mine has decided to give up coffee.

But not all Christians participate in the observance of Lent. Some choose to give something up, others choose not to participate. But whether you do, or don’t participate there is a lesson to be learned here.

Paul addressed a situation in Rome where some people were observing certain days as holy, and special. Others treated them as just another day.  There was also questions about what foods could be eaten or not. Here’s how Paul handles it.

In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. – Romans 14:5-6

So to all of you during this season of Lent, whether you choose to observe or not observe, do it in a way that honors the Lord, and honors one another. After all, that’s what Jesus called us to do.

3 Ways To Not Be Overwhelmed

Today has been overwhelming.  This whole week has been overwhelming, actually. It has been a big week at work, yesterday was my birthday, I had a big meeting last night, I have a big weekend ahead of me, and I have to prepare for being away from work Monday.

It is so easy to look at our surroundings, circumstances, goals, workload and quickly become overwhelmed. But that’s just what Satan hopes we do. He wants us focused on the here and now, and not on the eternal. Here’s three quick tips to keep focused and not be overwhelmed.

  1. Trust God –  John 14:1 says “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”  It’s easy to believe that God is not active in our lives, or that he simply doesn’t exist…especially when we face tough times. But Jesus knew we would face those situations, so he reminds us to believe in God, believe in Him, and to trust that they are in control.
  2. Trust His Promises – 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds us “You have never been tempted to sin in any different way than other people. God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted more than you can take. But when you are tempted, He will make a way for you to keep from falling into sin.”  We’re not told that it will be easy…it won’t. And we are never promised that we won’t fail…because we will. But we have the promise that we are able to withstand the situations we face with God’s help. And that can be an enormous source of comfort.
  3. Trust His Salvation – Acts 4:12 states “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  When we are tempted to look for a solution to our problems, look no further than Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the author and perfecter of our salvation. When life becomes a challenge, run toward Him!

Pray for God’s guidance in the difficult situations. Look to Him as a source of hope, and encouragement. He is faithful, and will never let you down.

I’ll be preaching this Sunday morning at East Side in Synder, TX. If you’re in the area, come on out and say hi! I’d love to meet you in person. Blessings on you this weekend!

via Daily Prompt: Overwhelming

John Glenn and Jesus

john-glennThe world has lost a giant among men. John Glenn, Astronaut on Mercury 7 and Discovery, U.S. Senator, U.S. Marine, and a Christian, made an indelible impression on human history.

One would guess that such a man, surrounded by science and fame, might lose his way. During his historic return to outer space aboard Discovery in 1998, Glenn gave the following statement that showed his faith in God.

“Looking at the Earth from this vantage point, looking at this kind of creation and to not believe in God, to me, is impossible…To see (Earth) laid out like that only strengthens my beliefs.” – John Glenn, Nov. 1, 1998

Thank you Mr. Glenn for sharing your amazing gifts with us. For teaching us more about the world we live in, and showing us that we can believe in the one yet to come.

I doubt I will ever be able to see the earth and the universe in a way equal to Glenn. But even without that stellar view, we can still arrive at the same conclusion!

We first have to stop and consider how improbable our lives really are. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal the chances of our existence just happening through natural means is infinitesimally small, it should have never happened. And when we realize how improbable the existence of human life is, we should look to a Creator far greater than ourselves. click-here-to-tweet

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1

The prologue to John’s gospel goes into a bit more detail.

In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
    and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.

There’s simply no other way to explain how our universe was created. No theory can explain how something came from nothing. That is, unless you account for our Creator.

God has blessed us with such an amazing creation. He even designed it so that when we explore the magnitude and complexity of our surroundings, it points a huge arrow right back at Him.

19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. – Romans 1:19-20

We serve an amazing God. One who created us, surrounded us with a creation that points back to Himself, sent us a Savior to help us when we fail, and continue to provide for our every need.

Today, be proud that God saw fit to create you too! Of all the places, and all the times of history, God saw fit to place you where you are today. John Glenn changed the future of humankind with the life and time he was given. What will you do with today?

The Worst Advice I’ve Ever Heard About Stress

What is it with stress? Why are we so overwhelmed about stress? Did you know that over 30 million Americans are currently on antidepressants?

We are a stressed out society that thrives on the idea of working yourself to death, being miserable, and wearing it as a badge of honor. And we get absolutely nothing for it! (Click to Tweet)

As a high school band director, 16-18 hour days are more common than not during the school year. During marching season, I put in 82 hours a week for three straight weeks.  Yes, you read that correctly.

Just this week I overheard someone at school say “Feeling stressed is how you know you are working hard enough!”

It’s been a rough year for sure, and the holiday season only adds stress. But last night I sat by my Magnavox Astro-Sonic stereo (I inherited from my great aunt), listened to Christmas music, drank apple cider, felt the warmth of the fire in the fireplace, and watched my daughters play in the glow of the Christmas tree, everything seemed right. I took a deep breath, sat back in my chair, and the stress melted away. While relaxing I heard the words of Jesus playing through my head:

Matthew 6:25-34
25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Our lives are so upside down. We spend our days worrying about all kinds of things and neglect our families, our friends, and our Father. Instead, Jesus says focus on the Kingdom, the things that truly matter, and everything else will fall into place. Why do you have so little faith?

Lord, help our unbelief. Help us to trust in you, and to not let the distractions of this world steal the joyful peace that only you can give.

It’s my prayer that we can all rest in Christ, divert our energy and attention into serving Him, and allow everything else to be under the control of God.

Blessings to you and your family!

Hosanna In The Highest!

All four of the Gospelʼs record the last entry into Jerusalem by Jesus before he was crucified. Iʼm going to use Markʼs account for a reference point.

Mark 11:8-10
8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
10″Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”

Now most of us recognize this event in the life of Jesus and have heard it read and referenced time and time again. But today Iʼd like to focus in on just what the people were saying as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Now most of us have heard the word “hosanna” so many times we can’t even begin to count. We sing it in hymns, read it in the Bible, hear preachers say it and people pray using the word hosanna. But I think most of us wouldnʼt be able to give a very accurate definition of the word if asked.

Hosanna is a Hebrew word that literally means “save, we pray,” and throughout the course of time it became a term of praise as well as a prayerful statement of sorts. But when we put this understanding into the context of what was about to happen in the life of Jesus, we can definitely see a drastic change in the hearts and minds of these people in Jerusalem. Here we see the people shouting “Hosanna! Save, we pray!” Theyʼre acknowledging that Jesus was their savior! They are indicating that he has come to them in the name of the Lord! That he is part of the coming of the kingdom promised through the line of David! And in just a few days they would be persuaded by the Pharisees to cry out to Pilate to have Jesus crucified.

How could these people be so double minded? How could they praise Jesus as the savior and then trample him under foot the next moment? Well, maybe we should ask ourselves. After all, donʼt we basically do the same thing when we profess Jesus as Lord and Savior on Sundays, and live the rest of the week as though he were nobody?

Radical Disrupts Place of Worship

No this isn’t a recent headline from the New York Times. It’s likely what the Jerusalem Daily Gazette would have published the morning after Jesus cleared the Temple.

There is so much we can learn from this passage, but it so rarely gets brought up in churches. Questions about this passage always pop up. “Why would Jesus do such a thing?” or “Doesn’t Jesus love everyone? Why would he cause such a scene in a place of worship?”

There are two accounts of this happening in the Bible. One recorded by Matthew, the other by John. Today we’ll look at John’s account of this event.

John 2:13-17 New Living Translation (NLT)
Jesus Clears the Temple
13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. 14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money.15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
17 Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

When I was growing up, I would hear someone reference this passage the moment a fundraising catalog entered the church building. But that’s just not the context for what Jesus is reacting to here. So if you don’t want to buy that stale popcorn, you may have just lost your scriptural basis for doing so. To fully understand what Jesus was so outraged about, we have to look back into history and take a look at what it took to worship at the temple.

Ever since the temple was rebuilt by Ezra and Nehemiah, it was the national place of worship for all Jewish people. As many as 2.5 million Jews would travel vast distances to worship God in His temple on holy days! And as we all know, there’s always cost involved when traveling.

Besides the cost of travel, a Jew wishing to worship would also have other monetary demands put upon them as they arrived at the temple. The “Temple Tax” offset the cost of maintaining the temple, and was equal to 1 day’s wage. If you were traveling with a foreign currency, you must exchange your money at a rate of 2 days wages. If you brought your own animal to offer as a sacrifice, there was a fee of 1/2 days wage for someone to inspect the animal. If you failed inspection, or couldn’t afford to travel with your animal sacrifice in tow, you could normally purchase doves at the cost of 2 days wage. But in the temple courts prices had been raised to nearly 40 days wages!

If you calculate the cost in modern day figures, it would cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 just to worship at the temple!

These services that Jew’s had set up as a convenience to traveling worshippers had instead become a roadblock preventing the poor from being able to worship God in his temple, all the while lining the pockets of the religious leaders. No wonder Jesus was upset!

It’s stunning to think that something which started out so noble by aiding God’s people in worship turned out to be just the opposite. God’s people lots sight of what they were doing, and what they were causing to happen around them.

Question: What sort of things stand in the way of worshippers today, and what can we do as the Church to remove those obstacles?