Testing God’s Faithfulness

GateI remember a day when I was a young boy that my father had taken my brother and me to a farm where he did some work.  On the farm was a fenced-in area that contained a few cows and a couple of horses.  My father went into this enclosed area to  quickly put out some food for the livestock.  Not wanting to close the gate behind him, he had instructed my brother and I to simply stand in the opening and if the horses approached they would not go past us if we stood our ground.  Now we had no experience with horses and it sounded like a frightful task.   Soon the horses came near and to us these huge and scary beasts were sending a clear message of “Get out of the way…We want out”.  When the horses got within 15 feet of us, we panicked and stepped aside.  Of course, the horses accepted our invitation and ran through the opening.  We watched our father run after those horses for the next couple of hours before he got them corralled behind the fence.  It was a long ride home with Dad!

To this day, I have always wondered would the horses have stopped and not pushed past us if we had stayed put in that opening?  If we had taken our father at his word, would we have found his instructions to be true?  Had we been obedient to our Dad’s instructions, would we have spared him hours of aggravation and unwanted exercise? That experience in my youth, has caused me to think about my relationship with my Heavenly Father as well.  How many times have I received instructions from God and then disobeyed?  How many times have I missed out on seeing God in action because I was afraid and did not trust Him?

I have always been impressed with God’s invitation in Malachi 3:10:

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.  

God is addressing the Israelites regarding their neglect in tithing and in giving offerings.  God invites them to obey, but He also invites them to prove Him, to test Him, that with their obedience, they would see that He would be faithful to provide for them in abundance.  In this instance the scripture text is speaking of giving, but I believe that God’s invitation to “prove” or “test” Him applies to us in every area of obedience.  That if we will be obedient to His instructions, to His Word, we will find Him faithful and true.  In this life, we will be challenged everyday in our obedience to God’s word and His plan for our life.  Will we trust Him and stand upon His word despite our fears and the opposition of others?

The following are some of the lessons that I have slowly learned over the years:

  1. It is wise to give prayerful consideration to those who have experience.  My Dad knew far more about horses than I did…and I have met many older Christians who have made my life easier with their wise counsel.
  2. Although the task of obedience can be scary and filled with unknowns, I have a faithful God who goes with me.  The will of God will never take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.
  3. I can experience God’s blessings and best for me because of my obedience or I can accept something very sub-standard because of my disobedience and stubborn willfulness. I think the choice is clear.
  4. God loves being put to the test for He loves showing Himself faithful on our behalf.  “…and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing…”

The Right Temperature For Thanksgiving

As a lover of good barbeque, I thought I would try my hand at using a charcoal smoker.  After a little online research, I purchased a new inexpensive smoker and began the process of “seasoning” the smoker.  Seasoning refers to igniting some charcoal and wood in the smoker and  allowing it to burn for several hours to get rid of industrial smells created by the manufacturing of the metal smoker.  I also thought it would be a good opportunity for me to test my ability to control the heat in the smoker.   Keeping a careful eye on the temperature gauge, I adjusted the air vents to hold the heat at a steady 225 degrees, the perfect temperature to smoke a beef brisket.   To my pleasant surprise, my cheap smoker held this temperature for nearly 6 hours with no additional fuel.  Great!  The next morning I would smoke some meat!.

The next day I started the fire and waited for the temperature needle to move to 225 degree.  With the same setting of the air vents, to my dismay, the gauge reflected that I only had a temperature of about 110 degrees.  I was shocked!  I did exactly the same things that I had done the day before but  now the temperature was way below what would work.  At 110 degrees, my brisket would only wilt, and not be cooked in a safe fashion.

For a few minutes I could not figure it out…I could not believe that I had been so mistaken with my temperature readings the day before.  And then I saw it!  On the gauge were two sets of numbers.  On one side of the line were numbers  reflecting degrees in Fahrenheit and on the other side of the line, the degrees were in Celsius.  110 degree Celsius equals about 225 degrees Fahrenheit.  The temperature on the smoker was fine and  the problem was with my focus.  I was focusing on the wrong sequences of numbers and reading both as degree Fahrenheit..

Having the right focus and the right perspective is so important.

This is the season of Thanksgiving and I am reminded of a simple scriptures:  In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  I Thes. 5:18

Thanksgiving may be God’s will for us, yet I find myself ungrateful far too many times.  No doubt we have a lot of things in this season that can rob us of joy and gratefulness.  A partial list might include:

-The presidential election results

-The looming jump off the “fiscal cliff”

-The weary stale mate in Congress

-The downward spiral in morality in our country

– Having to spend time with some of the crazy relatives during

the Thanksgiving holiday.

-When there is only dark meat left on the turkey platter.

And the list could go on.  It’s easy to list the negative, aggravating stuff of life, but it is not easy on our souls.  We become grumpy, ungrateful, and selfish.

My strange experience, when I found myself seeing only one set of numbers on the thermometer, reminded me that I often walk through life focused on the wrong things.

When we choose to see our blessings, we find that thanksgiving is more forthcoming.  We can see the good….and give thanks!  Or we can focus on the bad…and be ungrateful.

On my first day of smoking a piece of meat, I learned something else.  I now know that brisket smokes well at 225 degrees Fahrenheit and it smokes well at 107 degrees Celsius.   There are two sets of numbers, but I know how they relate to one another.

Should we have a separate response for the good things and another for the bad things in life?  The Bible  tells us that “in everything we are to give thanks”. Everything? Thanksgiving?

For the believer, we should  respond to the good and the bad things in life with a singular perspective.  A perspective that knows this:

  1. God loves me and the events of life do not change that fact.
  2.  God is in control and knows what is happening, both in a sparrow’s life and in my life.
  3. God has something for me to learn in every experience and desires to make me stronger with a greater dependence upon His strength.

When I focus on the above three truths,  I will give thanks…in everything!

Oh, and by the way…my first smoked brisket was great!

Do You Have A Coach?

“Everyone needs a coach”…that’s a bold statement!  Everyone?  Well, if you are someone who believes that God has created you for His purpse and your desire is to move forward and complete God’s plan and goals for your life, then a Christian coach can help you get there.  Why is a coaching relationship so important to achievement?

The term “coach” comes from the transportation era of stagecoaches and rail coaches in which the “coach” literally transported a person from one place to another. In today’s context, a coach is a person who initiates an ongoing conversation that benefits the other person and moves them forward through discovery, learning, and creating a doable action plan.

I like Robert E. Logan’s definition of coaching: “Coaching is the process of coming alongside a person or team to help them discover God’s agenda for their life and ministry, and then cooperating with the Holy Spirit to see that agenda become a reality.”   Logan’s definition of coaching not only reflects the core values of a good coach but also the intrinsic value of having a coach:

    1. A coach comes alongside you…not behind to push nor ahead to lead…and is an encouraging and supportive partner.
    2. A coach will ask powerful questions to evoke insight, discovery, and understanding into what God is doing in your life.
    3. A coach’s concern is for your welfare, your mission, your agenda, and your goals.
    4. A coach will prompt you to enlist the help of the Holy Spirit to reveal, direct, and empower His plan for your life.
    5. A coach can assist you in turning your dreams and possibilities into reality with a step by step action plan designed by you.
    6. A coach will help you to address three questions:  Where am I? Where do I want to go? How will I get there?

The goal of coaching is to help someone succeed and true success is to discover what God wants you to do and then do it. Coaches aid that process, but they don’t direct it. Coaching is not about telling others what to do; it’s about helping them explore and discover it for themselves.

If you would like to know more about Christian coaching, please visit my website at www.youneedcoaching.com

.-Danny Kirk, BMAA Director of Coaching Network

We’re Happy to Announce We’re Adopting

McCurdy School SignOur church building sits on a busy road with an elementary school just a block away on the same street. Daily, during the school year, I can watch hundreds of kids walking on the sidewalk to the school in the morning and back home again in the afternoon. Over a decade ago, I got the bright ideal to send some of our church staff over to the school to pass out Vacation Bible School fliers to the students on the sidewalks. Noticing our activities, the school administrators told us to vacate the sidewalk and not to bother the students with our invitations on their way home. The school felt the need to protect the students from any unwanted solicitation. We were disappointed and confused. We had not approached the school again to serve them until this school year.

Last year, our church involved itself in LifeWay’s Transformational Church survey and discovery process. We realized that while we had great fellowship within our church, we were not investing in our community very well. We were failing to be the body of Christ to our neighbors and therefore were not impacting our community so that it would reflect the Kingdom of God. Change was necessary!

Part of our action plan for transformation was to go back to the elementary school across from our church and ask the administrators if we could “adopt them,” meaning…

  1. We would pray for the teachers by name every day.
  2. We would survey the teachers to find out what kind of school supplies that they needed in their classrooms. We filled every “wish list” presented to us.
  3. We would celebrate the teachers’ birthdays and have a teachers appreciation day once a month.
  4. We would help them in any school events (we have already sponsored Car shows, Spring Carnivals, and field trips).
  5. We would help families in need within the school with food and clothing.
  6. We would host a Back-to-School carnival to provide school supplies to families.

The school, the students, and the parents have been amazed that we would care for them. Why should the world that God loves, be surprised and amazed that a church would love on them? Our school had every right to be amazed… we had ignored them for years.

The other day, I went by the school and saw a message on their outside sign that brought tears to my eyes. Without fanfare, the school posted that they were thankful for all that we do for them.

The believers at Lindsay Lane Baptist realize that in comparison to what our Savior has done for us, we have done so little. God is the giver of all things! I am so glad that our “adoption” went through! McCurdy Elementary is God’s gift to us that we might demonstrate the love of Christ!

The Beat of a Thankful Heart

What kind of heart do you have?

We often describe a person’s character, strengths, and faults with an adjective attached to the word “heart”. A person is described as being: warm hearted, cold hearted, lion hearted, big hearted, or even “heartless”.

In the last couple of centuries, The poets and songwriters have used a phrase to describe the excitement
when seeing the object of one’s romantic affections: “Be still my beating heart”. In truth, our heartbeat is often noticeable during times of fear, great surprise, and hard labor. The strong and accelerated beat of the heart is the same in each case, but the cause is different. Yet, in every case, the beating heart represents a response to the events of life.

How would someone describe your heart today? The holiday season reminds me that my heart should not only be big and warm, but also thankful. I like to think that when our hearts beat with thankfulness, we will also have a heart that is warm, generous, and caring .

In Luke 17, Jesus tells the story of one man whose heart beat with thanksgiving…

Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! So when He saw them, He said to them, Go, show yourselves to the priests. And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner? And He said to him, Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.
~ Luke 17:11-19 NKJV

The thankful heart beats for those who are without.

The first lesson is found in the Savior’s heart for mankind. The scriptures tell us of a Savior whose divine heart beats with thanksgiving.

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.
~ Luke 10:21 NKJV

And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.
~ John 6:11 NKJV

Jesus, the Son of God, was always a thankful Son. I go back to Luke 17, verse 11 and I find a Savior who will go where there is great need. Jesus is at a place where most of Jews would not be found…among the Samaritans…and lepers. The Samaritans were considered unholy people and the lepers where unclean. Yet it is a place where needs are great, where hope is needed, and where thanksgiving can abound.

We see hurting people all around us and yet we are paralyzed to help because our hearts are telling us:

  • “Why bother…nobody will change”.
  • “It’s too risky…you might fail or get hurt.”
  • “Someone else can a better effort at helping than I can.”

The thankful heart beats with a gratefulness for what God has done for them and realizes no one is beyond the boundaries of God’s love and power.

The thankful heart beats with a faith that things can change.

Big ThanksI have always wondered what it was that drove 10 lepers to line up on the other side of the street and shout at Jesus to have mercy on them. Had they heard stories of other miracles? Had they spoken with a former member of their leper colony who had been made whole? Whatever it was, I then wondered if they got the response they hoped had hoped for? Jesus did not heal them, touch them, or pray over them. He simply told them to “go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as the story unfolds, “as they went, they were cleansed.”

The men were told to go to the priest as if they had been healed. It would have to be an act of faith…first! They looked at their skin and their limbs and they still were covered with sores, and huge calluses and abnormalities. They had to have faith that things would be different as they made their way to the priests. They had to have faith that things could be different.

In Philippians 4, Paul is in prison and tells us the secret to rejoicing in difficult times:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
~ Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV

It is with a heart of thanksgiving that we are to pray and let God know our needs. When I pray, God can do two things:

  1. Change my circumstance
  2. Give me His peace in my circumstance

The thankful heart beats for the Giver…not just the gift.

Ten lepers made the journey. Ten would see the transformation and power of God in their life. One would return and give thanks. What happened to the other nine?
We really don’t know. Maybe they were following the letter of the law and presenting themselves to the priest for a “certification” of their healing. Maybe they were in a hurry to see family from whom they had been exiled.

I don’t know what was happening in the minds of the nine, but for one man, his thoughts were on the Giver of the gift… not the gift itself. He had to get back to Jesus and give thanks! For this man, the healing was a “God-thing” and he had to glorify the Giver!

I believe this is always true about the beat of a thankful heart for two reasons:

  1. Every gift has a Giver and our hearts, although thankful for the gift, can never lose sight of the Giver. For the Christians, James 1: 17 reminds us that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights…”
  2. It is often said, “It’s not the gift, but the thought that counts”. This is true because, no matter the value of the gift, the value of knowing that someone thought of you is much greater. Their thoughtfulness builds value into you!!

How valuable we must be for God to bestow His goodness toward us!

The thankful heart beats with thanksgiving and more is given.

The Bible is clear that all ten lepers were healed. All were recipients of God’s unmerited favor. Yet, the Samaritan, the one man who knew less about God’s grace than the others, came back to worship and praise God for his healing.

Did the nine miss out on a more important blessing? Their physical need had been met, but what about their eternal souls? Was their ingratitude a display of unbelief and a refusal to honor God?

I do know this: the heart that knows that it has been the recipient of God’s grace beats with thanksgiving toward God. Only one man worshipped and praised God for the physical change in his life and Jesus took note and He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

I believe that his “wellness” or “salvation” goes beyond the cleansing of his leprosy to the cleansing of his sin. The heart that beats with thanksgiving will always find more in life to express his or her thanksgiving toward God.

Jesus asked three vital questions that day that speak into our lives today…

  1. Were there not ten cleansed? How many times has God provided for you? Cared for you? Protected you? Are you not one of those whom God has loved?
  2. Where are the nine? Have we been faithful to give God His glory and credit? Have we acknowledge Him as the Giver? Have we praised Him for His goodness?
  3. Who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner? We were once all lost, estranged from God like foreigners! But because of Jesus, we can be saved, forgiven, and reconciled to God.

Does our life reflect the glory due to God for His gift of forgiveness and new life? Does our heart beat with thanksgiving for the One who has changed our life forever?

Looking Forward to the New Edition

As a young man in 1728, Benjamin Franklin had composed his own mock epitaph which read:

The Body of B. Franklin, Printer;
Like the Cover of an old Book,
Its Contents torn out,
And stript of its Lettering and Gilding,
Lies here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be wholly lost:
For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more,
In a new & more perfect Edition,
Corrected and Amended

Ben Franklin never confessed to being a Christian, yet he expressed a knowledge of what the Bible says about life after death. Now, knowledge is good, but there is something much better and profitable. There is greater joy in having complete faith and assurance in what you know.

I know that Jesus, the Son of God, died for my sins, was buried, and on the third day was resurrected to an eternal and glorified life; and is now seated with Almighty God.

This fact, known to so many, is more than academics to me. I have put my trust and complete faith in Jesus, the living Savior; and in Him who has promised to give me the same life that He now enjoys. Jesus is indeed the author of my life and I look forward to the day when He will make a “more perfect Edition” .

My knowledge has been embraced by my FAITH and together has become my HOPE! On this Easter Sunday, do you have this Hope in you?

I’ve Lost A Friend

I sit at the keyboard and I am stunned. Early in the morning hours I lost a good friend due to an unexpected, but fatal heart attack. My wife, Carolyn and I were called to the hospital before midnight and were told that one of my deacons, Mark Scott, had been brought to the ER after collapsing. I waited with two of his sons, his sister and other family members as they prayed and waited the results of a cardiac catheterization procedure to stabilize his heart. The heart doctor returned too soon to tell us that despite their heroic efforts, Mark had gone on to be with his Savior. The immediate deluge of cries and tears were natural as they reflected and amplified the sense of our great loss. Bro. Mark leaves behind three fantastic sons: Josh, John Mark, and Jonah; along with his mother, Faye, and sister Nancy. Pray that God’s peace will stand guard over their hearts.

Mark is one of those guys who had a sweet, compassionate, and helpful spirit. There was nothing that he would not do for you…you only had to ask and he would say, “Let’s do it!” The thing I will remember most about him was his love for mission work in Haiti and Honduras. Due to Mark’s exuberance and leadership, myself and many of our church members at Lindsay Lane Baptist made our first mission trip to Honduras two years ago. He was our experienced leader on this whole mission trip. He led in the fund raising, in laying out the itinerary, in the food preparation, etc. He did everything but pack our own personal bags. I believe that Bro. Mark was the catalyst that turned a dream of visiting a foreign mission field into a reality for many of us. Without his ministry in our lives, it would still only be a dream. Thank you, Bro. Mark!

A Drink of Cool Water
Mark taking a cool drink of water in Honduras

The picture on this page is one of Bro. Mark taking a cool drink of water as we dug a trench to lay a water line in the hot 95 degree Honduran heat. I chose this picture because it reflects what Mark was to me. He was a deacon who faithfully supported me, but more importantly, he was that friend who was always a “cool drink of refreshing water” when I needed it. The Bible tells us in Proverbs17:17: “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity”. That verse just begins to describe my friend, Mark. He was always there, a true friend…and like a brother, you could count on him in hard times!

After learning of his father’s death, Mark’s oldest son, Josh, lamented that he still had so much to learn from his father. Josh, you are not alone…we all had much to learn from your father and our dear brother. We will wait a while and one day in eternity, we can sit down and pick up where we left off. Thank God for forever friends!

Are you having a bad day?

Ever have one of those…a bad day? I have. It seems the older I get, the easier it is for me to be discouraged. I should be accustom to disappointment by now and demonstrate the behavior of a mature child of God. Yet, too many times I do not….I wish I would grow up!

Several years ago, I came across a quote written by a missionary saint of long ago, William Ward. It zapped me right between the eyes so hard that I’ve not forgotten its content. Yet, ever so often, I pull it out and read it again….kind of like a booster shot. Here it is:

Discouragement is dissatisfaction with the past, distaste for the present, and distrust of the future. It is ingratitude for the blessings of yesterday, indifference to the opportunities of today, and insecurity regarding strength for tomorrow. It is unawareness of the presence of beauty, unconcern for the needs of our fellowman, and unbelief in the promises of old. It is impatience with time, immaturity of thought, and impoliteness to God. -William Ward

I love that quote…and many times it is exactly what I needed to get up and get going! I hope it helps you today. Let’s be polite to each other…and to God!

Strife: A New Sermon Series

This Sunday morning I am returning back to the book of Genesis and to the Life of Jacob.  I have been using one word terms to express the emphasis or sections in the book of Genesis.  The first was “Beginnings” (Chapters 1-11)…the second was “Journey” (the Life of Abraham).  The next series will be entitled “Strife” and will cover the life of Jacob.   Jacob’s life was filled with strife…at the beginning, while he was still in his mother’s womb, and toward the end when he would actually wrestle with God.  Strife would drive him from his home, strife would take 14 years of his life working for his uncle…and strife was his fear as he went back home.

In our own lives there are many opportunities for strife, so hopefully we can learn from Jacob’s example and the lessons taught in God’s word.   This Sunday we will look at the birth of Jacob and Esau.  It is an extraordinary birth that teaches us that man is often times at odds (strife) with the plan of God.   God’s sovereignty or grace at times does not fit our plans or purpose or thought.  Surely, Esau, the first born, would be God’s chosen…receive the double portion of inheritance.  That is natural!   That’s the rule in the Jewish faith!   Yet, God has something entirely different in mind.

It is the wise person who learns to bow to the will of God and not strive with the wisdom and purpose of God!

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:9

May I See the Proof of Your Citizenship, Please?

This morning we had our weekly MVP (Men Value Prayer) breakfast at church.
There is much talk today in our nation about illegal aliens, border patrols, and immigration enforcement. Soon, many people in the United States of America may have to prove, when asked, that they are a legal citizen or visitor in the “kingdom” of the United States.
What about the Kingdom of God? During the course of our Bible study, we discussed the issue of being a member of God’s Kingdom and a legitimate disciple of Christ. What’s the proof…how do you know for sure? Certainly a list of things that demonstrate genuine proof of citizenship could be many. We talked about one such “proof”.

Our Bible reading for today was John 13:33-35:

“Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:33-35 (NKJV)

When Jesus spoke these words, He knew that within the near hours and weeks, He will have given His life for our sins, risen, and ascended back to His Father. It is a critical time of instruction for His disciples and so this “new commandment” carries a lot of weight and is packed with meaning. The Kingdom of God does not have physical borders to fence-in and identify the children of God. There are not any visas or green cards to prove that we belong to Him. The Bible says, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

For many people, they might list as proof of Kingdom citizenship some of the following: church membership, baptism, charitable giving, church attendance, interest in the Bible, an attempt to live a good upstanding moral life, etc. All of these things are worthy markers of a true citizen of God’s Kingdom, yet there is one thing that trumps them all according to Christ. Do you HAVE LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER? Can others see this love and know that you belong to a different world?
Today, I want to challenge you. Without a doubt, each one of us will face a situation where the “unlovable” people of this world will tempt us to act or respond in a worldly, ungodly fashion. When this happens, show them your citizenship. Don’t insist on your “rights”…but love them like Christ loves them. Why? Because you are a citizen of God’s Kingdom…represent Jesus well!