This is the day that the Lord has made...

This is the day that the Lord has made...

Friday, December 31, 2010

Finish the Race

Imagine waking every morning knowing that there is a good chance that your words and actions will get you thrown in jail, or worse, killed.  Also, imagine knowing that if I survive today, I will have to suffer in some incredible way.  Yet, despite knowing all of this, you are encouraged, enthused and fired up to get out there and do your work. 

This was the life of Paul.  He was a man with a message and a mission that could not be stopped- not by man or by evil spirit.  Whatever was thrown at Paul, he was willing to take it head on.  Whatever obstacle might have been put in his way, he simply overcame it.  No matter how dire the situation, he was continuously comforted, knowing that his purpose, that what he was doing was so, so much more valuable than his life:  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.  Acts 20:24

Lord, how do I find such a purpose for my life?  How do I give up my life to a mission worthy of your acceptance? 

I read about Paul, Lord, and his desire to serve and give, and I know that I have that same desire, Lord.  I ask today, Lord, that you might lay upon my heart the race that I am to finish.  I feel today, Lord, at the cusp of a new year, that you do have bigger plans for me.  That my life thus far has been a training camp, preparing me for something greater than all of this.  I pray, today, Lord, that your purpose- your divine purpose- for my life would be revealed.

I long for the day of waking up, eager to look the world in the face and say, "Bring it on!" Lord, let me be a difference maker, through you and your divine purpose for my life.  I want to finish my race and know that I have been a good and faithful servant God.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mercy Me

The days will come when you don't have the strength
When all you hear is you're not worth anything
Wondering if you ever could be loved
And if they truly saw your heart they'd see too much

These are the lyrics from the song "Beautiful" by MercyMe.  During my "wake up" time today, this song weighed heavy on my heart as I was listening to it while preparing to write today.  Somedays the Lord inspires me through scripture, others it's through a recent life experience, and today, it is through a song.

So many people are hurting this time of year due to the lack of love in their life.  My heart aches for those who do not know the Lord and do not know what real love is.  For we, as a whole, have such a distorted view of love, what it is, what it isn't, how it should or should not feel.  When I want to understand love, I think about my children.  I think about how my heart feels for them and with them.  I think about how I share in their successes, their shortcomings, and how I share in their joy and in their pain.  Anytime one of my children is hurting I just want to take the pain away, just as, any time I can make their precious lives better, I truly want to do so. 

If I feel this way about MY children, imagine how the Lord feels about me, us.  There are many verses in Scripture regarding love.  The one that struck me this morning comes from Luke 6:32-36

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

As it is written here, to have love, you must be willing to give love, show love and be loving.  Love is developed over time as a result of a deep desire to know, serve and give to someone else, putting your own selfish needs aside.  Love is not something to be expected or granted, but created from the depths of your heart.

In this joyous time for believers, as we relish the birth of our Savior Jesus and celebrate all that he means to us, let us take time to pray for and remember those around us who may not seem loving in nature, or may not express love outwardly, or, worst of all, may not know what real love is.  Pray hard and long for the love of Jesus to be known and if you have love in your life today, be thankful in your prayers and continue to live with an open heart, filled with gratitude and appreciation.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Praise Day

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of Heaven and Earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.   Acts 17:24-25

Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus!  The giver of life, the creator of the universe, the pure Spirit of Hope for this forsaken world is the one I worship and praise.

He is mighty in his strength, quick in his forgiveness for repentant souls and steadfast in his love for you and I.  We worship the one who has led the way and written our names in the Book of Life.  Praise him for his goodness and mercy and love.

I live, because he lives in me.  I breathed because he has breathed life into me.  Everywhere I turn, everywhere I look I see him.  Tell me where he is not?  There is not such a place. 

Even for those who do not believe, he is there, still, quiet, giving life.  Waiting for the awakening of the soul, the stirring of the spirit, almost as a crouched animal waiting to spring forward, he waits for the opportunity to reveal himself to each of us.

His glory shines in those who know him.  Believers are a peculiar kind for their joy is not just on the surface but comes from deep within the heart.  For he told us all that the Kingdom of Heaven is within, therefore, that is where I must go to find him. 

Praise him, our God, Lord and Savior, waiting in Heaven.  Give him glory and praise for he is the greatest among all, and he loves us dearly.  Thank you Jesus.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Out to Pasture

Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says:  "Return to me" declares the Lord Almighty,"and I will return to you" says the Lord Almighty.  Zechariah 1:3

This what the Lod wants, again, at this moment, from all of us.  To return to him.  Is it not easy to see that our world is crumbling around us because of our turning, as a nation, away from Him? 

Our God is a jealous God in that He wants to be the center of our lives and then, only then, can we add to them.  He must be the primary motivating factor behind our government at every level; behind our family dynamics and child rearing; behind our work ethic; behind our financial policies and procedures at home, work and nationwide.  He wants us to depend on Him and use the principles He set forth to live our lives in peace and prosperity.

He wants, more than anything, at this time, for our nation to return to Him.  We, as a nation, are seeing and feeling the effects of edging God out of our daily lives and decisions.  Jesus teaches us this in John 10:10 with this: I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate; whoever enteres through me will be saved.  He will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

As we enter this new year, 2011, I am praying for the hope and future of our nation.  We have all had enough heartache, enough set backs, enough pain over the course of the past few years.  It's time to right this ship and return to God.  The enemy has been in our camp for far too long; it's time for him to go.  We, as a nation of individuals, must have our faith restored in God, not man. 

We can have a life, filled with joy, peace and abundance if, and only if, we return to He that has created all of "this".

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hope...for change.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the land of the shadow of  death a light has dawned.  You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy, they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.  For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.  Isaiah 9:2-4

As I enjoy my cup of joe this morning on a day off, I can't help but think about the upcoming year.  I find it interesting, to say the least, that the start of a new year on the calendar follows the birthday of our Savior.  During the past few days I have spent time thinking about what it means to me to be a part of the family of Jesus.  There are many words I could use to describe how I feel or to define my feelings.  The one that stands out the most is: hope.

Having Jesus in my life and having faith in his saving grace gives me constant hope for the future.  Hope is something that we all want, need and desire.  Having hope in something and someone bigger than me relieves the pressure of me needing to be in control.  Having hope in Jesus, as my Savior, relinquishes my need to be right, my need to know everything and it certainly relieves my stress of trying to control all things in my life.  This faith in Jesus, the hope that it brings, also lifts my spirits and keeps me looking forward to what's possible in my life.

This looking forward, based on the birth of a child, coupled with the beginning of a new year, provides a season of hope and change.  Not just lip service as a politician may use, but hope in something better for us and change in our spiritual awareness.

The prophet Isaiah so eloquently wrote that Jesus "shattered that yoke" that burdens us so that we could see an increase in our joy. 

During this slow week between celebrations, connect with the Spirit of Christ in knowing that our burdens have been lifted so that we might have more joy.  Joy to the world!  May the Hope of Jesus Christ and all that he brings into our world inspire you to see what's possible for you in 2011.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

And There Will Be Peace

When I was a young believer, new to the Word and the power of the scriptures, I was introduced to the Messianic Prophecies.  Today, while reading in Luke, the second chapter, my thoughts returned to those early studies of the Old Testament prophecies.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  Luke 2:4-5

Now read what Micah had to write about those same events many, many years prior: But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, thou you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from the old, from ancient times.  Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.  He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God, and they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach the ends of the earth.  And there will be peace.  Micah 5:2-5

When I think about these events, my mind can hardly grasp the awesomeness of God.  Here are Joseph and Mary, living in a completely different city during the time of her pregnancy.  Then, because of a governmental order, this soon-to-be family has to pack up and journey back to the town from whence Joseph's family had descended.  They did go to Bethlehem because of expert medical care, nor did they go there because it was beautiful destination and place to conceive their child. I would hasten to say that going on a trip at that point in a pregnancy was the last thing on their minds.  Only God could create such circumstances to allow for the fulfillment of Micah's prophecy.

From this, now, I look at my own life and all of the circumstances through which I have lived and grown from and can't help but see the hand of God at work.  I can only imagine how much work it was for Joseph and Mary to make that journey.  I would also suspect that they were not happy about having to do so.  I would tend to think that their need to return to Bethlehem was a huge inconvenience that put a significant amount of stress in their lives, and possibly, their relationship too.

How many times in our lives have we had to deal with events and circumstances that were stressful, untimely, inconvenient and created more painstaking work than we thought possible?

There is so unbelievably much more behind the birth of Jesus than a child being born in a barn because the hotels were full!  Every last step of this miraculous conception was designed by God for a purpose.  Just as every last step, journey, breath and experience in our lives is designed by God.  Each of us has a purpose that was set for us before time was created, a life designed by God, to be filled with love, peace and joy.  Find it.  Live it.  Be it.

It is my hope for all of my family, friends and acquaintances, and for everyone around the globe, to be able to focus on the bigness of the miracle child, Jesus, during the next few days.  May the peace that he brings through the Holy Spirit be magnified during the upcoming days and, hopefully, flow with you into the new year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

You Who Are Highly Favored

Over time, I have dreamt or visualized a variety of situations where someone comes knocking on my door.  I'm sure you know what I mean, or not?  Remember when Ed McMahon would show up and knock on people's door and tell them "Congratulations! You're Publisher's Clearinghouse Grand Prize Winner!"  Some of those folks would almost fall over and others had no reaction.  I always got a kick out of seeing that on TV!  I know many people have had that dream.  And I've had the not so nice versions of the unexpected knock as well, like the police or the dreaded IRS, and even Satan.

But imagine a complete stranger showing up in your home with: "Greetings, you who are highly favored!  The Lord is with you."  Luke 1:28

How would that one line change your life forever?  What will be expected of me now?  What did I do to earn or deserve such favoritism?

This is exactly what the angel Gabriel said to Mary in his explanation of her pending birth of the son of the Most High.  She learned of the plan for her to give birth to a son, and he is to be named Jesus.  Imagine what went through her mind in those moments!  What an amazing, glorious gift she received!  What responsibility she had been given.  Pregnancy itself is difficult enough without knowing you are carrying the divinely created Son of God.  Why Mary?

After much prayer my answer is this:  she was obedient.  God doesn't ask a whole lot of us, but he does ask that we be obedient to his word.  I have to believe that her favor was based on her servant's heart and her willingness to obey the Lord.  She must also have been a woman of great character to be given such a daunting task and being able to follow through on her word.  A woman of lesser character may have traveled the countryside seeking fame and fortune while sharing her story of being a virgin mother to the Son of God.  If it were today, she might be on Oprah or Maury, or any one of those self-aggrandizing shows if her character was weak.

She also must have had great trust in God to believe Gabriel and the bewildering message he brought her.  Complete, almost blind, trust in God.  Only a mother could have that kind of trust, that strong of faith.  Mary's life, even under a microscope, was obviously pure, clean and dependant on God.

So in these last few days before we celebrate her giving birth to our Lord, I want to spend time thinking about what I might have to do or how I may have to be, in order for an angel of the Lord to say to me, "Greetings you who are highly favored!  The Lord is with you."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Giftmas?

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.   Isaiah 9:6-7

As we enter the week of the birth of Jesus, the celebration of Christmas, I cannot help but reflect on the divine consequence of one little child's birth.  From that day forward, nothing would ever be the same.  With his first heart beat, his first gasp for air, Satan was defeated and the rules of the game of life would be forever changed.  Not just changed during his 33 or so years on earth, but FOR-EVER!

In this little baby, born through the seed of God, rested the future of mankind.  Imagine the pressure Joseph and Mary felt raising him as a child?  Consider the burden that Jesus carried throughout his boyhood and into manhood knowing his role in the future of the world?

How dare we, as followers of Jesus, give into the seduction of Satan and his earthly treasure during this most remarkable time of year!  Shame on us for distorting and manipulating a wonderful story centered on the birth of our Lord into one focused on 3 men bringing gifts.  In this broken down world of politically correctness where we aren't supposed to hug one another and wish everyone Merry Christmas, I propose a new idea.

Similar to the group that has replaced Christ in Christmas with an X, I propose that anyone who chooses to bastardize the birth of our Lord do so in a way that we all know where their heart truly calling it Giftmas!  I know, it's a clever idea.  It sounds like Christmas, looks similar to Christmas, is much easier to say than xmas.  It's perfect!  Merry Giftmas!  That would fit nicely with Happy Holidays!  I can see it on sweatshirts and hats already. In the true spirit of Giftmas, someone will make a mint marketing it and selling useless crap with it stitched on it.  Maybe I should copyright it now? Hmmm....

I think it's a great idea!  Solely because it would give us a better understanding of how many people we need to reach with good news of Jesus Christ.  How many lost souls are out there floundering in the darkness chasing obsessions, looking for joy in all the wrong places (hey, that could be a song). 

I know, my tone today was a bit harsh today, but the Spirit of the Lord is harsh at times when dealing with issues of the heart.  I think today was a day for refocusing for the week.  He said it best, Love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your spirit and with all your soul.

What do you say we spend the rest of the week focusing on the celebration of the birth of a King, the Prince of Peace?  Let everyone else celebrate Giftmas, we can celebrate Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Be Still

In my morning prayer time today, one phrase pierced the silence in my head:  Be still.  In this busy holiday season of parties, gatherings, shopping and cooking, I believe the Lord has asked that we slow down.  Rather than trying to be all things to all people, be still. 

Jesus is the light and the Way.  Packages under a tree, 30,000 lights on your house and 6 kinds of spritz cookies is certainly not the light nor the way Jesus wants us to remember his birth. 

Be still and know that I am God is from Psalm 46:10.  Psalm 46 is a moving passage in itself, powerful in its reverance for the Lord.  And the first line of verse 10 are strong words of support and encouragement. In this week of celebrating the birth of Christ, where so many want us to take our eyes off of Him, He wants us to remain firm in our commitment.

Be still and know that I am God.

This is not so much an idea being thrown out or request being made as it is a command, much like you may say to a child acting out: Be still.  While our God is a loving God, he is also one to hold in high esteem.  ....and know that I am God is his command to not forget who the boss really is.  As much as we might like to think we have some control over our lives, this passage reminds us of who is in charge.

Be still and know that I am God.

Take time today and thank God for this command.  Study it, break it down word by word.  I once was led through a time of prayer by focusing on this scripture verse and dropping the last word as I continued to pray.  For example, first time through was Be still and know that I am God.   The second time through, followed by prayer and meditation was Be still and know that I am.  Continue meditating and praying until one phrase remains:  Be still.

Be still, today, so that you may see the light of the Lord in those around you.
Be still, today, so that you may feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.
Be still, today, so that you may know Jesus died for you.
Be still, today, knowing that He has made a place for you in Heaven.

Be still.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Fresh Start

So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.  And the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.   Acts 13: 51-52

Paul and Barnabas had been traveling throughout the region of Cyprus and Antioch, home to both Jews and Gentiles, spreading the good news of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins when the Jews turned on them and kicked them out.  While there, they preached to large crowds and brought many people to eternal life which enraged the Jews.  Paul and Barnabas were fulfilling their mission. So what did the Jews do?  They didn't call up the army or bring in armed guards to run Paul and Barnabas out of town. No, instead, they went after the men of influence and the women of faith.  They knew that this specific group of influential people could stir up enough dissent to force the disciples to leave.

I find it amazing how true this is in life.  A man or woman on a mission has a message and the power to change the world, yet, smaller minded, self-focusing individuals that may not have the knowledge to understand the message or worse yet, are intimidated by the message, set out to derail the purposeful actions of the one following God's calling in their life.  What better way to defeat someone than through the court of public opinion.

Yet, look at Paul and Barnabas and their reaction to these events.  No fight, no resistance.  They simply shook the dust from their sandals and took their mission and message elsewhere.  And how did they go?  Filled with joy and Holy Spirit!  What a lesson for us to learn regarding being stopped, or better yet, interrupted, while on our mission.  They didn't give up, nor did they give in to the pressures of those persecuting them. 

How many of us have been stifled when following God's calling in our life?  How many times have obstacles been put in our path to try and stop us?  Paul and Barnabas show us what it means to walk by faith in this scripture.  Get up.  Get going.  Move on.  Sometimes a fresh start is exactly what it is needed to see the blessings of the Holy Spirit in our life.  And, most importantly, do it with JOY!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jesus Asked

Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right."   Acts 10:34-35

Peter was a blessed man.  He was blessed by the Holy Spirit because of his faith in Jesus and the second chance that Peter was given.  He is a testament to what God can do with anyone, from anywhere, at any time. 

As Peter traveled sharing the good news of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins, many, many people became believers.  He was able to witness to people of many creeds, sects, nationalities with all the same result: baptism in the name of Jesus Christ and forgiveness of their sins.

When studying Peter's evangelical travels, it's easy to overlook the fact that he was a stranger, in a strange land, in most of his travels.  Yet, he was accepted and revered by all who came to know him and meet him.  The Lord would go before him and make a way; create the opportunity to share the good news. Why?  Because Peter loved the Lord with all his heart, mind, spirit and body.

Just as it is written in acts, God does not play favorites when it comes to saving lives from sin.  He does ask for a couple of simple acts from those wanting freedom: fear the Lord and follow his commandments.
I myself lose sight of the simplicity of Jesus' requests because of the draw of this world and the many "things" it has to offer. 

To fear the Lord should happen in the heart when we come to understand how awesome and powerful and mighty and merciful and loving and gracious he is.  To fear the Lord is the end result of knowing the Lord.  Just as we instantly feel a deep love for a child at the moment of their birth, we can, and should, feel reverence for the Lord the moment we truly know him.

To do what is right, as Peter said, or follow his commandments, requires a change in our mind and thinking.  To leave our old way of thinking for a new is difficult and must be focused on daily.  Love your neighbors as you love the Lord and love the Lord with all your heart.  Simple, yet profound.  See the love of Christ and the light of God in everyone and it changes how you "see" people. This is what Jesus asked of me when I came to know him.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Is Your Heart Right Before God?

When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.          Acts 8:15-17

Where can I find one who is filled with the Holy Spirit to lay hands on me?  As much as I trust in Jesus and the Holy Spirit, I am sure that I do not have the Holy Spirit.  After much studying and reading I am certain of this.

In Acts 8:15-17, Luke clearly gives direction on how to receive the Holy Spirit and that it is not at all part of the baptism of Jesus Christ.  Becoming part of the Kingdom of Heaven and being filled with the Holy Spirit are obviously 2 separate gifts of God.  In our world today, however, is it appropriate to believe that there are still people filled with the Holy Spirit?  Or, as I have read, was that just a gift to those during the 40 days after Jesus resurrection? 

I want to believe that the Holy Spirit is available to all who yearn for it.  I also know that there are certain individual prerequisites needed before one can receive the Holy Spirit. In Acts 8, we learn that a sorcerer named Simon wanted the power of the Holy Spirit and was willing to pay to have John and Peter lay hands on him.  "You have no part or share in this ministry because your heart is not right before God." 

So obviously, ones heart has to be right before God in order to receive the Holy Spirit.  Now, that leads me to another question: What does it take to make my heart right before God?  Where may I find those instructions? 

I am fascinated by the leading of the Lord in my life at this moment.  My heart and mind are heavy with this line of thought and my spirit is thirsty for more.  I pray that my study and sharing may open the eyes of those learning with me and encourage them to grow their faith as I am.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Light of Life

Darkness. The absence of light.  Where there is light, there cannot be darkness.  Darkness cannot exist without the light for darkness is an empty void of nothingness. In the beginning, it was dark, the entire universe...then there was light. The absence of light allows for things to be not seen, to remain hidden. Darkness brings fear and trepidation because in it, without light, lies the opportunity for evil or harm, and, too, there lies the unknown. Darkness cannot be known or even comprehended without knowing, first, what light is. Therefore, what is light?

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But who ever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.  John 3:19-21

You are the lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.  2 Samuel 22:29

The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear?  Psalm 27:1

In order for there to be light, there must be power and energy.  The greatest power in the universe is God.  The most dominant energy in the universe is God.  Wherever there is light, there is God.  God is light.

Scientists have learned that beyond the atom, beyond the quark and all the other subatomic particles that make up matter, is the photon.  A photon is a basic particle of the universe, thereby not being able to be created or destroyed.  A photon also has no mass nor does it have a positive or negative charge, and, it will not decay in empty space. 

This is the science of God.  It fascinates me to know that science has revealed an energy that cannot be created or destroyed.  An energy, that without it, nothing would exist.  And an energy that will never change over time.

The smallest organized structure of the human body is the cell. Within each cell are a multitude of components.  These components are made of molecules which are made of atoms.  Within the atom are subatomic particles, which you now know, are derived from photons.  Therefore, in our truest essence and form, we are made of light.  Perfect light.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  John 1:1

As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.   2 Samuel 22:31

He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  John 1:2-4

Our world can be filled with darkness, which at times, can seem to consume us and control us.  Darkness is nothing more than the absence of God in our life.  Bring Jesus into every aspect of your life and the darkness will disappear.  It's not that it might disappear, or has a chance to will because where there is light there cannot be darkness.  Praise God for his goodness and light!

Friday, December 10, 2010

If I Were Named Peter

How great is our God who can use men and women, of any walk of life or background, to fulfill his mighty purposes!  Reading the end of the Gospel of John we learn about Peter and his denial of being one of Jesus disciples.  Earlier in the text Jesus predicts that one of his followers will deny him 3 times and Peter is appalled by such prophesy.  Yet, in the end, it is Peter who denies Christ 3 times.  It would be a tragic story if it ended there, however, it doesn't.

Like many of us who stray from Jesus, or deny his role in our life, Peter came back to Christ.  After the death of Jesus and he appeared to the apostles, Jesus asked Peter three times, just as Peter had denied him three times, if he loved Jesus.  His answer was yes and the Lord said, Follow me!

How loving and forgiving is our Lord to accept such a man back into his inner circle.  I tell you this, too, friends, that he will accept you back into his family when you, too, get your heart right with him.  The curse, or beauty, of being human since the fall of man is that we shall all fail or fall short at times, sometimes many times.  Because of the love of the Father, though, we are forgiven now and will be forgiven in the future if we are willing to be with Jesus and to repent of our sins.

And, when we are accepted back into the kingdom of God through the forgiveness of our sins, the Holy Spirit can work mighty miracles in our lives in the name of the Father. In Peter, whom many miracles were manifest, the Holy Spirit was strong and mighty, even though he had denied Jesus in the past.  We must understand that living by the Holy Spirit requires a higher level of devotion of our part.

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  Acts 2:42-43

Peter, once an outcast to Jesus, gave his life to Jesus and became a powerful leader of men.  He brought thousands of people to the family of believers.  It is also written in Acts that people would lie the sick and lame on mats along the streets hoping that even the shadow of Peter would fall on them.  The Holy Spirit was able to do mighty things through and in Peter.  Scripture says that people came from towns all around Jerusalem to be in the presence of Peter, and ALL were healed.

It doesn't say some or a few, or even most.  Acts 5 verse 16 says, " Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and ALL of them were healed."  Oh how the Holy Spirit can work in and through those with a heart for the Lord!

I get such peace from learning about Peter.  I am a sinner.  I make mistakes, continuously.  Thank God that we have a forgiving and loving Jesus to worship.  Praise God that we aren't expected to be perfect!  It is my fervent prayer that the Holy Spirit may do mighty and powerful things in and through you and I for the glory of God and the kingdom he has set aside for us.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Greatest Gift

With the Holiday Season in full roar, we are once again faced with the dilemma of keeping focused on the truth and beauty of the Christmas spirit.  I listen to news casts talk about the sales forecasts and how shoppers aren't spending like they used to.  I often laugh to myself when I hear silly statements like that.  Here we are, in the middle of the most uncomfortable financial times of our generation, seeing the highest unemployment rates, highest homeless rates and people worry about how little we are spending on gifts.

Maybe, just maybe, it has been the over spending on gifts (and a heck of a lot of other stuff) that has put us in this situation.  Maybe this year more families will spend time discussing the joy and value of breaking bread together, the role and birth of Jesus Christ in our life and finding happiness and comfort in the simpler things of life. 

Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.  Acts 2:40

Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let Earth receive her king, let every heart prepare Him room.  During this joyous time of year for Christians, instead of spreading the holiday cheer that so many encourage us to do, instead, let's spread the joy of knowing a loving God that has saved us through mercy and grace.  The greatest gift we can give to our loved ones is that of eternal life, with Christ, in Heaven.  If we don't share that with the ones we love, who will?

Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Acts 2:38

I pray that if you might receive just one gift this year that it may be Holy Spirit.  God loves you and so do I.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1

One of my great joys is knowing that Jesus Christ died for me.  He did it for me.  Without me asking or even hinting, he knew what I needed centuries before I was born.  At one point in my life it was very difficult to grasp this concept, along with that of sin.  I can remember thinking to myself, many years ago, "Sin?  I am not a sinner.  God made me perfect therefore I am perfect.  Sin is for those who don't see the perfection of life or aren't educated enough to know better."  Even though I believed in God, I did not fully accept all of the teachings in scripture.  I was still lost.

As my faith has grown over the years, I've learned that I am a sinner.  In fact, I would even say that I have been a slave to sin for most of my life.  I look back over my years and I look at how many things or people I idolized; how many possessions have controlled my thoughts; how many human desires have driven my decision making; how I denied Jesus.  And, now, I see that I am still a sinner.  While my sins are more internalized at this point in my life, I am still sinning. 

The difference, I can see, in my life now compared to then is what Paul wrote about in Galatians 5:1.  In Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I do experience freedom sin. To live my life with short, and sometimes long, periods without sin brings great joy to my spirit and warms my heart.  Having a dedicated prayer life and a personal relationship with Jesus has given me the power to to be free from the continuous sinful life I once had.

Being with Jesus also gives me strength in the moment of sin. If you look at this verse, Paul is telling us to "Be strong, in the moment of truth".  With the faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ, I truly am free and have the strength to withstand the temptations of this world. "Stand firm, then," is how Paul wrote it.

In scripture we are also told that we cannot be a slave to two masters, that being sin and Jesus.  When we give our life to the Lord, he becomes master of us and we gain all the fruits of his blessings.  When we remain a slave to sin, we only get the spoils of that one sin, which in turn, leads to another sin.  Paul's word here are strong, "and never let yourselves be burdened by a yoke".  None of us like to be burdened and, although I've never been in an actual yoke, I've seen one first hand- it wouldn't be pretty.  I wouldn't say I could "get by" living yoked.  I wouldn't say I was enjoying life being burdened.  I certainly would not express the fullness of who I am living that way.  Strong words.

I often will think about what I have become a slave to, as I have realized there are many things.  The Holy Spirit has been sent to release the yoke of slavery in our lives.  The real question is, what are you a slave to?

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Spirit of Truth

As diverse as this world maybe with all of it's creed's, race's and culture's, there is still and will always be only one Spirit of Truth.  When Jesus went to the cross, he did so knowing full well from the Father that we would be left with a gift, the Holy Spirit. He told us that the reason he had to return to the Father was so that we could have the Holy Spirit to live with us, not just for a period of time, or for a few centuries, but forever.  Jesus tells us that the Spirit of Truth is something that world will not be able to accept because of their separation from Him. Those who are and will be unwilling to know Jesus, too, will not no the Father, nor will they have the ability to know the Spirit.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  But you know him for he lives with you and will be in you.  John 14:16-17

The Holy Spirit, according to Jesus, is real and has been sent by the Father to continue to love and teach and comfort and lead us.  Just as Jesus taught that the Father is in him and he is in the Father, it is important for us to understand that  he is also in us!  The Holy Spirit brings the Kingdom of Heaven within, giving us the assurance that Jesus lives and that we live because of him.

But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you....Because I live, you will also live.  John 14:17, 19

In the world, or in the Spirit.  You choose.  It is a choice only you can make, and surely, a man cannot serve two masters.  Living in the world means loving this life and all that it offers more than the life Jesus has promised.  Living in this world subjects you to judgement and sin because it is ruled by another prince.  Living in this world also means that you have rejected the Spirit and the gift of eternal life.  And living in the Spirit, well, offers a whole new life, if you are willing to let Jesus be Lord of your life.

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. John 15:18-19

How powerful is the Holy Spirit that the Father sent us?  I have told you these things so that in my you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.

Praise God! Hallelujah!  He that has defeated the prince of this world has sent the Spirit of truth to bring us peace and joy.  Jesus will send you the Holy Spirit when decide to love him more than you love your life in this world.  And, when the Spirit comes to you, you will know what Jesus meant by saying "the kingdom of Heaven is within." 

On that day (the day you receive the Spirit) you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  John 14:20

Today is the day...let him in.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hug Your Kids More

I want to share a story about a young boy with a big heart.  His name is Tanner.  Tanner is a hockey player, a competitor, a fighter, a champion.  In the spring of 2010 he scored the game winning goal, in overtime, to secure our teams first place finish and champions of the Mikken Cup.  In the locker room after the game, Coach asked the boys how many had ever won a championship?  One of the skaters raised his hand and said, "we all have now, because of Tanner."

Tanner is with the Lord now.  At the young age of 11 his amazingly impactful life was cut short by an aggressive form of Leukemia.  I attended his end of life celebration yesterday with my son who was his friend.  In a church packed full of people hurting, weeping and praying for understanding, the Holy Spirit delivered a message to everyone there: Hug your kids more.  Take nothing for granted with them as each moment is precious.

I, personally, have a hard time with the death of a child.  I haven't understood why our loving Father would allow for such an event to happen.  I saw the pain of loss yesterday. I saw a community hurting.  And I saw the impact one young boy had on so many people. 

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  John 12:24

Look at all the seeds Tanner produced.  Look at all the lives one young boy impacted with not only his life, but his courageous fight to the end and his death.  Every parent in that church yesterday heard and felt the message of the Holy Spirit:  Hug your kids more.  Take nothing for granted with them as each moment is precious.

May you rest in Peace, Tanner.  And may I be a better Dad to my children because of you.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Keep The Main Thing...The Main Thing

Life without God is difficult.  I know, I lived it for some time, thinking that I was responsible for all the good, and bad, that had occurred in my life.  I bought into a belief system that taught me I was the center of my universe, that all things in my life were created by me.  What a stressful, unholy way to live!  I pity those around me who continue to think and live in that manner because there is truly a better, happier way to live- in the Spirit.

Knowing God and having a relationship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit brings a new level of peace and comfort to life.  Understanding and knowing that I have a God that loves me, protects me, develops me, nurtures me and blesses me lifts the burdens of this world from my shoulders and eases the struggle in this life.  Studying God's word offers insight into how to live, why to live in such a manner and illuminates the many rewards for doing so.

The challenge, however, is to be consistent in my thoughts, prayers and actions so that they all might be aligned with the principles that Jesus teaches.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.   1 Peter 1:13

Everyday on this Earth is battle for my mind and my heart.  It is up to me to keep my focus on that which guides me, comforts me and is the source of my life.  For each of us that has different meaning, but for me it means daily time with the Lord, reading His word and building my relationship with Him.  Just like any other relationship in life, this one, too, takes time, commitment and energy.  Unlike any other, however, the rewards for a strong, healthy relationship with Christ are unending and eternal.  As we develop our relationship it changes the substance of who we are, how we think and how we act.  It is my hope that each day I become more like Him and those around me might see more of Him in me.

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.   Ephesians 5:1

As I go through my day, Lord, I pray that your Spirit would nudge me, guide me and comfort me as I walk by faith.  I pray, too, Lord, that I would be able to keep the main thing, the main thing today: that being focused on you.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Inspired Living

A significant part of being "spiritually inclined" is studying and understanding God's word for your life.  In my study this morning, the Spirit led me on path exploring and learning about living a Godly life.  I've heard it in sermons, read about it books but I have never really explored it in scripture to wrap my head and heart around a concept so central to my faith.

The first understanding I have is that in order to live according to God's will, I must learn to put my "self" aside.  Ego, identifying and searching for who I am by physical and material traits, is huge block to living a Godly life.  The more my ego drives me, the further away from God I move, which is why Jesus taught us this in Luke 9:23, If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

So to live a Godly life I must deny my self, my ego, so that I may open my mind and heart to the Holy Spirit. The more that I fill my mind with earthly desires and passions, the less room there is for God and the less opportunity there is for me to live a Godly life.

Along with collapsing the ego, I must also move away from all of the earthly, sinful desires that accompany living in this world.  Look at what Paul teaches in Galatians 5:19, "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious; sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage; selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkeness, orgies and the like.  I warn you, as I have before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Wow! What a list.  I know I see myself in that list at times in my life.  How many times am I caught up in envy or jealousy?  How many peoples' lives are controlled by jealousy and hatred?  Selfish ambition is also easily drawn to in our daily, earthly, ego-driven lives.  So this is what Un-Godly looks like?  What does Godly look like?

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  Galations 5:16

If I am getting this, our natural state, the state of our mind and heart, is that of the sinful desire.  Without knowing Christ, we will naturally follow the path of ugliness described above.  But, when we are saved, reborn in Christ Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, our path changes as does the quality of our life and our life experience. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Galatians 5:22

It is about living in the Spirit.  That is the key to a Godly life.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  Luke 9:24  Give it up, man!  Conquer the sinful, natural desires of the ego by committing your life to Christ.  Turn in this earthly, sinful life for a new, inspired life!

To be inspired means to "be in-spirit".  The Holy Spirit is knocking at your door.  Will you get on your knees today and let him in?  Will you open your heart and mind to a new way of inspired living?  In the words of Eminem, lose yourself.  Then you can find God.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Be Thankful

As we pass by the Thanksgiving holiday, I'm sure everyone took the opportunity to give thanks for the many blessings in their life.  I know that I did.  And each time that I do count my blessings, it seems as though the list gets longer.  Longer, not because I am being blessed more than ever, but because I see the miracle of the Holy Spirit in action in so many areas of my life.

It's easy to be thankful for all the stuff of life; your home, your job, your family, etc.  That's a start, and a good one at that.  Yet, there can be so much more to be thankful for when you live spiritually inclined.  To give you a look inside my head and heart, here is a list of a few of the things you may overlook in your life that I happen to be thankful for:
     - a loving God that forgives me of my sins
     - having a God that knows that I am not perfect and does not expect me to be so
     - having people in my life that inspire me to be and live the best that I can
     - being able to come to my God during desperate, scary times and seek His refuge
     - being exposed to God's miracles everyday in my life
     - the many gifts and talents that God has given me to fulfill His purpose for my life
     - knowing my Lord gave His life for me so that I may have life more abundantly
     - the trials and challenges in my life that continue to build and grow my faith
     - the peace and understanding the Holy Spirit brings to my life
     - the opportunity to serve Him everyday by serving people

It is of utmost importance that we recognize that God has created all that there is and will be created.  If we can live our daily life with this greater perspective, then we have the ability to open our hearts and be thankful for all things in our lives.

For everything God created is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.   1 Tim 4:4

Be thankful.  Not just one day each year, every moment of every day for God is good and true and loves you and I beyond human comprehension.  He sent His son to die for us.  He left the Holy Spirit here to guide and comfort us.  Be thankful.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Trust in Him

Over my lifetime, there have been many people that I have admired, for many different reasons. One of my childhood heroes was Joe Montana, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.  I admired Joe for, at the time, what appeared to be the ability to be cool under pressure and score when his team needed it. I, as a quarterback too, also admired his skills, work ethic and ability to find ways to win football games.  Now, I would call that leadership.  Joe had amazing leadership skills in that he could stir his offensive teammates to play at very high levels when he needed them to. 

As a quarterback, Joe relied on his offensive linemen to protect him so that he could execute the plays as designed which would lead to touchdowns.  Joe needed to trust his linemen to keep those hostile defensive players off his back.  Joe knew that when stuff hit the fan, he could count on his linemen to have his back.  And with that confidence, trust, and faith, if you will, he became one of the most prolific NFL quarterbacks of all time.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  Psalm 20:7

Trust is hard thing to develop and foster in anyone because it generally requires being vulnerable and exposing your weakest points.  Those whom we do trust, earn that trust through their integrity, character and strength.  Consistency is also another quality necessary to build trust in someone.  Knowing what you'll get from someone each and every time opens the door to building to trust.

To me, one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, aspects of growing my faith has been learning to trust in the Lord.  As it reflects upon in Psalms, it is much easier to trust things than people.  Why? Because you generally know what you're going to get.  The reason for this is your experience with that "thing" leads you to an understanding that certain things will happen every time I use this.  For instance, you might have a lot of trust in the deadbolt lock on your front door.  You know, because every time you engage the lock, the door becomes impenetrable.  Over time you develop trust in that lock to protect you because you have used it so many times.

My challenge to you and me is to develop that same level of trust in the name of the Lord.
 Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  John 14:1

Of all people or things in this world, His character, integrity and strength are the purest and highest.  He was sent for us to trust and by doing so he relinquishes access to His Father and all the power that comes with that.

And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.  John 14:13-14

And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.  John 16:23-24

The name of Jesus is a mighty force in the universe that we are to trust, have faith in and use to do His good works.  He was sent here to teach us how to love one another, serve one another and lead successful lives.  His great sacrifice was for you and me, so that we might live more full, joy-filled lives.  When we trust in the name of the Lord, we truly can let go of life and know that everything is going to be not just all right, but perfect.

My man, Joe Montana once said, "Some guys practice like All-Americans but they can't play!"  Meaning that they can go through the motions and act out what needs to happen, but when it really counts, they fall short.  How true is this in our faith life?  It's easy to look the part, go through motions and appear to be something we are not.  But, when it comes down to it, in crunch time, our faith is weak because we do not trust in the Lord.

Jesus gave each of us a mighty gift in the power of His name.  It is up to us to develop the trust in the strength and power He told us it would yield.  I pray today, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, that the Holy Spirit may come upon you and move you to trust in he who has made every thing, conquered every evil and prepared a place in Heaven for you.  That your faith and trust in Jesus may be resolute.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Power of Prayer

I said I would continue my Southern Adventure story with some deeper insight, so lets get into that on this day before Thanksgiving. 

After recovering from the shock of having my once-lost-but-not-known-it-was-lost wallet returned, we got  back into our vehicles and continued on with just over 80 miles to go.  Once we got back on the highway, my oldest son says to me, "Boy are you lucky, Dad!"  I nodded but didn't reply. His comment caught me off guard as I was thinking about how grateful I was for Bill and his character.

In that moment, I said to my boys, "guys, what we just experienced was a miracle, not luck. Before we left last night I prayed to Jesus that he would protect us on our trip and keep the peace in our lives while traveling.  This was God at work in our life not luck."  In what seemed like a shining, clouds-breaking moment to me, my youngest says, "whatever Dad."  At that point I knew I was done talking about it with the kids!

Realizing that all my credit and debit cards were useless, I panicked realizing I had only $180 or so for our trip.  I called my bank and spoke to a nice woman in the help department who promptly told me, "I'm sorry Dr. Powell but we can't wire transfer money to a bank that's not an affiliate.  Banks just don't do that anymore."  I ended the call frustrated.  I decided to call back again and speak to the bank president as he is a friend of mine, thinking, maybe he can do something or has an idea.  When I called the main I spoke with a different gal about my situation and, this time, she thought there might be something they could do but he was not in at the moment so she would leave him a message.

Just a few miles down the road and my phone rings, it's the bank president.  "Hi David, thanks for getting back to me so quickly", I said.  "You're not in jail, are you?" he said chuckling.  "No, but I do feel helpless in this situation and am hoping you can help" I pleaded.  Needless to say, David, pulled some strings and made it happen.  He was able to wire transfer some money to a bank in downtown Branson. He said I would need a password, my photo ID, my check book and another form of identification to prove who I was. Pheww!  I felt like I could breathe again.  I thanked him endlessly and ended the call.

When we got to Branson, finally, we made our way to our condo and settled.  Once unpacked we decided to go check out Bass Pro Shops which looked close to the bank I needed to visit.  I pulled up to the bank and went in asked for Cindy as I was instructed to do.  Out from a back office comes this elderly woman with a big smile, "Well hello, you must be Dr. Powell" with a strong southern drawl.  "Why, yes, yes I am" I stuttered.  All of a sudden it felt like I was maybe the Governor or President with the royal treatment I seemed to be getting. "I'm the bank president and I spoke with your bank president and I am so glad that we could help you out.  Come with me.  So tell me, how did you lose your billfold?" she said.  I proceeded to tell her the story as we walked across the bank. By the time I had finished all the of tellers were listening to my story.  At the end, one of them said "Praise God for his goodness and mercy" and they all began to clap. 

It caught me off guard because I hadn't mentioned a word about my faith, my prayer of protection or any of the God-thing thoughts I had been having. D.D., the asst. manager of the bank said, "Well I'm just tickled that we could be a part of your miracle." I agreed and signed my check.  By the way, I did have to show my ID, but no one ever asked for the other information or the secret password.  As I left, I was hugged by the 2 gals and I said "I'm pretty sure there will always be a place in my heart for Branson after all of this."  Cindy replied, "Well we hope so cuz we think it's a pretty special place, too."

That night, laying in my bed thinking about the events of the day, I began to worship the Lord as it was so clear to me that this was all his work.  I lose my wallet and don't know it.  The man who finds it is a God-fearing Christian.  He calls the YMCA (Young Mens Christian Association) to reach me. ( And a side note, as I was looking through my returned wallet I found one of my business cards with all of my contacts on it.)  I get the wallet returned with EVERYTHING in it.  And the bank gives all the glory to God for the events. 

Some might look at this and say coincidence, but not me. I see the hand of God, the Holy Spirit, at work in one of his children.  I see the miracle of it all.  I see the blessing of the Holy Spirit in my life and I see the power of prayer.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Set Free

Making a commitment to do a particular thing or follow through on a set task has an incredible amount of power.  In fact, many times the commitment is the lynch pin to success.  Whether you are trying to lose weight, quit smoking, do better in school or turn your life around, it all starts with a commitment.

From the temple courts, Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. John 8:32-32

In essence He is teaching this very same concept here.  If you hold to, or make a commitment to, what it is that He has brought to the world, then you can be considered a part of His world as a student or follower.  When we follow what Jesus has taught, it opens a new door to a level of living that prior to that commitment we could never comprehend or experience. 

The truth of Jesus' teachings frees us from the bondage of our sins and our family's sins.  The ability to confess our sins, to leave the past in the past, and move forward with our life is true freedom.  How many times has your earthly mind held on to a hurt or wrongful act or a mistake (sin) that you have encountered in life and haunts you and tears you apart?  For me that has been often in my life. 

This is the true freedom that becoming a disciple to Jesus will bring.  Being able to live a life free from the fear of death; free from the punishment of your sins; free from the condemnation for faults is what becoming a disciple of Christ brings to your life.  I thank the Lord everyday for accepting me into His family of followers and forgiving me of my sins.  I know that I have been set free and praise God for that!

Monday, November 22, 2010

30 Minute Miracle

When I was packing the truck on Wednesday night, I had a gut feeling that I was in for an adventure.  A dad, two pre-teen sons and an 800 mile ride to Branson, MO was feeling like a combustible mixture.  I wasn't sure what to expect, I just knew that 11 hours in the truck was going to be a challenge.

Although I had prayed for protection and guidance before we left, I had no idea just how much I would need it.  On the first leg of our trip we made it to Des Moines, IA and decided to grab a hotel room as my eyes were heavy and my mind was tired.  I met a sweet, dear lady named Mavis at the Quality Inn.  She could tell I was tired and made my unexpected check in go smoothly.  She asked if I preferred pancakes or biscuits and gravy for breakfast, so of course I said biscuits and gravy. "I'll take that to mind in the morning.  Have a good rest."

After 5 of the best hours of rest ever, the boys and I were up and gone by 6 AM, on the road again.  We had a beautiful morning for traveling and made very good time into Missouri.  We stopped about 150 miles shy of our destination for a stretch and bathroom break.  We also gave Grandpa and Grandma some extra time to catch up to us!  We got back on the road for the last leg of our trip and the boys were pumped!  The end of the trip was near.  As we were cruising along I saw the folks pull up behind us on the highway.  Grandma was driving now with the pedal to the metal.  We traveled together for a while before they needed a pit stop, so we joined them.  We got out of the truck, said our hellos and exchanged hugs and went into the convenience store to hang out until they were done with their break.  Here's where the story gets good.

So, we load up one more time for the final leg into Branson.  Since Mom has been there dozens of times, she takes the lead and we are off.  The boys and I are jamming out with stereo cranked, laughing and singing.  Thank goodness for XM radio on road trips!  We're down the road about 25 minutes and I see my phone light up with an incoming call.  I look at the caller ID and don't recognize the number, but do realize it is an Alexandria number so I answer it, "Hello this is Dr. Powell."  "Hi Mike, this is Beth from the Alexandria YMCA" the voice on the other end says.  "Well, hi Beth, how are you?" I spout back in my finest southern drawl.  "Say, Mike, I just received a phone call that someone has found your wallet" she says.  "Well, that's impossible Beth because I'm in Southern Missouri right now", I continue with my local dialect.  Laughing, she says, "Well, I just got off the phone with a guy named Bill from Missouri and he has your wallet.  He found it laying in the middle of the highway."  "WHAT!" I yell and hit the brakes and pull to the shoulder.  (Good thing no one was behind me or we would have been in big trouble!)  "I have his cell number here, he wants you to call him," she replies.  "Oh my God, Beth, thank you, thank you, thank you!"  She reads me the number as I write it on my palm with a Sharpie.  First sign from God, the YMCA.

Meanwhile, my folks have pulled over and wonder what the heck is going on in our vehicle!  I get 3 missed calls and a text from them during that brief phone call all wondering whats up.  I call them and take 30 seconds to fill them in then hang up on them before they can start in with questions.  I dial Bill and he answers with a deep, drawn out "Heeellloooo, this is Bill."  "Hi Bill, my name is Mike and I understand you have my wallet", I said. "Well, ha ha ha, I sure do Mike.  Found it plumb in the middle of Route 44 bout 3 miles back.  Where are you now?" he asks.  I had no idea where I was so I said, "I'm in Missouri."  He laughed, "I know that but where ya' headin'?"  Embarrassed I said, "We are on our way to Branson."  "Good," he replied, "you must be just a head of us.  What town are you near?"  I had no clue so I expanded the screen and saw the next town was Bolivar, about 3 miles ahead.  I said, "Well it looks like I am 3 miles North of Bolivar."  "Okay," he says,"when you get to Bolivar take the first exit to the right.  At the top of the ramp there's a filling station.  I'll meet you there.  I'm drivin' a white Pontiac and there's a red 1/2 ton pickup with me. I believe we are about 5 miles back from ya'll." "Great," I sparked out, "I'm in a white Chevy Avalanche.  I'll be waiting."  I hung up and took a deep breath.

Now my mind kicks in.  What if this guy is psycho?  I have my kids with me, oh God, please help me.  A hundred different scenarios run through my mind and I finally come to the conclusion that we'll be alright.  So next I get on the phone with my bank and start putting a hold on all my cards.  I had every credit card and $200 cash in my wallet, ready for a great vacation and this happens!  How am I going to get more cash without my ATM card?  And no credit cards?  Seriously, what am I going to do?  I remember saying a quick prayer as I saw the exit approaching, "Lord, all things are possible with you.  May your hand be in this situation and may it have a peaceful, happy ending that might glorify you.  Amen." 

So we get to the station, and wait.  The longest 15 minutes ever!  With every white car or red truck, Gramma hollers out, "There he is.  Here he comes."  But, no, none of them were the right vehicle.  After pacing and developing a strong urge to vomit, a white car and red truck combo come pulling off the highway.  It was them.  As they pull in to the lot, I take a deep breath.  "Mom, give me $20 bucks to give him for helping us out."  She did and I thought it was the least I could do and that it might be needed to get the wallet back.  So out steps Bill, all 70 years of himself, trucker ball cap, cowboy shirt, blue jeans and boots and with his slow drawl, "Well, you must be Michael."  "I am sir.  And you are Bill?" I replied.  "I am and here's your billfold.  It's a mess but I think I got everything up off the road fer ya.  There was pieces everywhere.  If it ain't in there then I guess the good Lord don't thinks ya need it" he says.  I take the torn up wallet from him and open it.  Every last dollar was there.  Some were torn and tattered, but it was all there.  My bank debit and credit card were in pieces, but there, as it looked like they were run over.  My American express card was missing the magnetic stripe.  My ID was there.  And the poem about being a Dad that my Father always carried was even there.  Not a thing was missing.  I extended my hand and said, "God bless you Bill.  This is an amazing thing you did here, thank you."  "Well, I figured someone was gonna miss it so I stopped.  I had to beat another lady to it, but I did.  She asked if it was mine and I said 'It is now'" he said chuckling.  "This is a miracle Bill, thank you" I said.  "Well Michael, we all believe in miracles down here" he said with a cheeky grin, "I hope you enjoy our Missouri hospitality and can relax now."  "I will" as shook his hand and gave him the twenty.  Of course, he didn't want it, but I made him take it. 

It was an amazing experience that confirmed my belief in the protection of the Holy Spirit and the power of prayer.  As I reflected on the events of the day later that night, I found what I believe to be the hidden gem in all of it.  I'll share that with ya'll tomorra!

God is good.  He loves me and He loves you.  Thank you Jesus for your miracle in my life.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Family Time

As I pack my bags for a long weekend with my family, I am reminded of the larger family that we are all a part of: the body of Christ.  It's important for me to know that I am not alone in this world.  Every where I look there are hidden connections between believers.

Over this past weekend I was able to watch, for the first time ever, the movie, Avatar.  While the graphics and sound and techno stuff were really, really cool, I found myself thinking about the connectedness of the Nabi (sp?) people of Pandora.  I thought it was unique that they could use their hair to tap into a greater consciousness and be connected with Ewya, their deity. I spent a lot of time after the movie contemplating our connectedness.

I think many people forget, or maybe never have understood, just how much we are all connected by the Holy Spirit.  We are fortunate that we don't have to "plug in" our hair to communicate with our God because He is always right here.  Because I have that ability and it is so close at hand, it is easy for me to take that for granted, which is exactly what Satan wants. 

Prayer is my direct connection to Jesus and through the Holy Spirit I have access 24/7/365.  Forget about the internet and its connectivity of the world!  The Holy Spirit has been connecting us for centuries and as we each wake up to the idea of unity and connectedness within the body of Christ, life takes on new meaning.

It was he who gave some to be apsotles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.    Eph 4:11-13

There is but one God of this universe and He made me just like He made everyone else, in His image, with His spirit.  As we realize our Heavenly connections, our service to and love for one another brings about new peace and joy in our lives.  I pray that the Holy Spirit may awaken connections in those who may be lost and bring them back to the family, the body of Christ, for their own good and for ours as a whole.

I will be spending the next four days connecting with my family and look forward to getting back to my writings next Monday.  I pray for safe travels and ask the Holy Spirit to be with my family as we travel and enjoy our time together.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Right Way and The Wrong Way

One of my mentors once said "We are who we are because of our mothers, fathers, teachers and preachers", meaning that we develop our attitudes, opinions and beliefs from the people of influence in our lives.  It took me a long time to appreciate the wisdom in this statement, however, I now certainly do see and understand this simple truth.  And I understand, too, why surrounding yourself with people of good character is so important.

Anyway, other people of influence in my life have been coaches that I have had through the years.  After my time reading scripture today, I was reminded of my high school football days and Coach Cooper.  He once told me, "There's a right way and wrong way to do things.  We do things the right way."  As a 16 year old, I didn't really get what we was saying, but I did listen because it stuck.

Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  Matt 7:13-14

As a believer, a man that has been saved by my Lord, Jesus Christ, I know there is a path that has been set before me.  Everyday that I study the Bible, the more this path is revealed to me and the more understanding I have of my role as a Christian.  But, if I don't take the time to study the Word and pray, how would I ever know if I was "doing things the right way?"

I get frustrated on a daily basis, as do many people I'm sure, with the silliness of being politically correct.  I find it hard to believe that we have created a world around us that no longer believes in teaching right and wrong and good from bad.  How in the world are the young people of today going to be successful leaders of tomorrow if we don't teach them well?  Again, there is a right way and a wrong way to do things here, and I believe we are doing many of the wrong things.

I also believe that we must allow our people to experience the consequences of doing things "the wrong way."  Nothing provides a better education than the experience of failing or falling short.  As much as failing sucks, it is a necessity in life.  I have failed in my short life many more times than I have succeeded.  I can also say that those failures have shaped me, molded me and have taught me to become dependent on God.  In a world that teaches us to be independent, to rely on ourselves, the Holy Spirit provides lessons that develop our dependency on God. 

Our God is a jealous God.  He wants to be number one in our life, as he deserves.  He has also made the path to Him narrow and the gate to life small so that only those who truly commit to Him may find Him.  Take a moment today to look at the path you are following.  I pray that it is narrow.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Taking Inventory

As I prepare for my upcoming family get away to celebrate Thanksgiving, I am reminded about all that I have to be thankful for in my life.  Far too often I find myself thinking and focusing on what's missing in my life and working to achieve and fill those perceived voids.  I wonder if that is just me or if that is part of the human condition?  I don't know the answer there, but I do know that everyone of us has many reasons to give thanks. 

I know there has been research done on the effects of  gratitude on the human being.  One such study showed changes in brain chemistry and body chemistry such that the make-up of tears of gratitude are completely different from tears of sorrow or pain.  Having an attitude of gratitude and being thankful turns out to be a fundamental character train in those people that define themselves as happy.

As for God, his way is perfect, the word of the Lord is flawless.  Psalm 18:30

Many times and many places in scripture are we given instruction on how to live which is why some refer to the Bible as a "Handbook for Life".  Living with gratitude and being thankful is a prime component to living spiritually inclined.  Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5 verse 18, Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is Gods' will for you in Christ Jesus.

If God's way is perfect and his word is flawless, then we must be thankful for everything in our life.  Maybe today would be a good day to take inventory on all the things that you have to be thankful for.  Find out for yourself how perfect His way is and open your eyes to just how often the Holy Spirit has answered a prayer, filled a need or simply blessed you with a desire of your heart.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Who Owns You

Stress is a fact of life.  It's an immeasurable force that will impact us in a negative way, even if it may appear to have a positive benefit, all the time.  Stress causes chemical changes in the brain, physiological changes in the body, both of which degrade the quality and quantity of life.  Most of the stress that we deal with is self-induced.  When I step back and look at the stress I see and feel in my life, every last bit of it is a result of the choices and decisions that I've made. And those choices and decisions were based on where my focus in life was at the time.  In no way can I point the finger or put the blame on someone else for the stress in my life.

For most, including myself, stress commonly shows up in our life as anxiety.  I believe that our society has become one ruled by fear and worry. And I also believe that is the result of the world turning away from dependence on God, and relying more on us.
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 important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Matt 6:25-26

Living spiritually inclined means having dependence on God and the Holy Spirit to meet my needs.  Remember, God is the source of all things, therefore, I can rely on Him to provide for me. So the stress and anxiety related to the pursuit of "things" we need is unnecessary if we have complete dependence on the Lord.  I would hasten to say that the majority of our self induced stress, worry, fear and anxiety is a direct result of our relentless pursuit of the material world and money.  As we get caught up in "the world" and all of it's material things, it is very easy to lose focus on what is and should be primary in our life.

No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.  Matt 6:24

God wants us to serve Him and seek Him so that in doing so He might reveal to us all of His glory and power!

But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given unto you as well.  Matt 6:33

What things?  ALL things!  Jesus tells us the way to get rid of our stress, anxiety, fear and worry in that verse.  Seek Him and His righteousness!  He is the truth, the light and the way.  When we move our focus from this world and the pursuit of the things of this world to Jesus and the treasures we have in Heaven, our life changes.  The world changes.  But you cannot serve two masters.  So I ask you, who owns you?

Living with the Holy Spirit will provide the leadership necessary to change your focus, to "sell" yourself to a new master, to the one who cares about your eternal life and wants to provide for your current life.  The challenge is having enough faith to believe that this is true.  Nothing is more powerful than a made up mind.  Make up your mind about serving God, seeing His purpose for your life being fulfilled and watch the stress in your life be reduced.  Not until we go to be with Jesus will our stress be gone for good, but in the mean time, we should make sure that He is the one we serve everyday.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Source

Living "in" the world today takes many life skills and many spiritual tools.  I have come to realize that in my day to day living, I absolutely cannot function without faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

Faith is having a knowingness that "this" is the way it's going to be in life, even though there is no physical or material evidence to support that belief.  For some, faith is a spiritual confidence and for others it appears as a mental quality that functions in your mind and heart.  Either way, faith is at the epicenter of being spiritually inclined.

Faith can also be a difficult thing to wrestle with because of our distorted human time lines.  I have known people that have had faith in and believed that something was going to happen, but when no signs of confirmation were revealed, guess what?  They lost the faith!  Why?  Because they didn't truly have faith in what they believed was going to happen, it was merely a wish.  A wish, to me, is a feeble hearted attempt to talk yourself into thinking a specific way even though you don't have a deep seated belief in what you are wishing for.  An example would be something like this:
            If you are in a relationship that is struggling due to a lack of communication, you might say to yourself, "I have faith that God can make this right."  A person offering a wish would then leave it be and wait and hope for a change to come.  Conversely, a person truly having faith that it can be righted, would take action in the direction of their faith and beliefs.  This person, knowing in their heart and mind that the relationship ills will be mended, does what is necessary to bring about the evidence of their faith. 

Faith without works is dead in as much as you have to be willing to "act as if" that which you are having faith in or for has already happened and be giving thanks for such results.  To have faith that the Lord can heal your child of a disease does not result from continuous petitioning of the Lord to do so through prayer.  The healing and intervention of the Holy Spirit arises out of: 1) the belief that it can happen and 2) giving thanks for it happening before we see confirmation.  Faith requires action in the direction of our beliefs for it to strengthen and grow.  Much like I can wish that I had big strong muscles and a shapely physique and hope that the Holy Spirit can accomplish such a task, if I am not taking action in the direction of my hopes, or faith, then it is just a wish and it won't happen.  Faith requires having a confidence in knowing the source of all things in my life.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  John 1:3
...yet for us there is but one God , the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all thing came and through whom we live. 1Cor8:6

God is the fountain head, the source of all things in my life. Without having that knowledge, without that consideration, then faith is empty because it relies on me, and I am nothing.  God is the source in my life.  Here is an example that I learned many years ago that may help:
      I can plant an apple tree in my yard.  I can care for it, water it, prune it and do all that is necessary for it to grow.  With all that I have done to make that tree grow, am I the source of the fruit showing up on the tree?  By all means no.  But where do the apples come from?  Some might say that the source of the apples is the tree itself.  Nope.  The SUPPLY of apples comes from WITHIN the tree.  The genetic qualities and characteristics of that tree are what produce the type, size and shape of the apples on the tree.  But what is the source of the apples?  Who MADE the tree?  God.  God is the source of the apples, or the fruit, as he is the maker of all things.  The tree is where the supply of the apples comes from because God created it that way.

Putting that to use in my life, the supply of joy, love, happiness, abundance and whatever else it is you may desire in your life, is inside of me.  The source of all those wonderful fruits, is God.  And, back to the apple tree, if I don't take actions in the directions of my desires of wanting fruit from the tree (water, prune, trim, etc), it won't produce as much fruit or maybe no fruit at all.  My actions are necessary even though I may hope or wish for the tree to produce fruit. The same is true with my life.  If I have faith in God being the source of all things, and I have faith that He placed all that I need, want and desire within me (as Jesus said, "The Kingdom of Heaven is within.") then I must take action, based on my faith to see the fruits of my faith, confidence and belief in God.  There is only one source for all of your needs, wants and desires in this life and He so desperately wants to know you and loves more than you can comprehend.  Open your mind and your heart to the one source.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Free Will

I woke up this morning, as usual, four minutes before my alarm was set to go off.  That seems to be the trend for the Holy Spirit lately, except yesterday when He rolled me out of bed at 3:50 am.  A while back I committed to getting up either when my alarm went off or when I was stirred by the Spirit.  Since then, I honestly can't remember a day when I wasn't awake before my alarm went off.

I use those extra moments to pray and give thanks.  When my mind is heavy or my heart aches, I find that I have more time for that special prayer opportunity.  I find it amazing that when I commit to the Lord, there become so many more opportunities to worship Him and have fellowship with Him each day. 

One difference between being spiritually inclined and materialistically focused is the appreciation you have for the subtle occurrences of the Holy Spirit working and acting in your life.  In the past, a good deal of the time I spent away from work I was still at work, mentally.  It seemed that I could never shut that "work brain" off.  That is what I mean by being materialistic.  Being focused on the material world isn't about wanting a big house, fancy shoes, nice clothes or the newest cars.  Instead, being materialistic means the physical world, the things of this earthly life, dominates your thoughts and your life; you literally live for "this world."  I would argue that you can be spiritually inclined and still have the finer "things" in life.  The difference is the "things" don't run your life and don't drive your actions and behaviors.

When I made the decision to return to the Lord, and truly live a spiritually-centered life, something astonishing happened.  I began to enjoy life more.  I had more time each day.  I no longer felt like I was on a treadmill.  It is hard for many people to believe that, especially busy people.  But it's true.  The Holy Spirit doesn't function in the same time zone or clock system that we do.  When we focus on the Spirit, and live in the Spirit, we gain access to that time table which opens up our daily life for more opportunities.  More chances to serve Him and the purpose that He has for you life.  Doing so also leads you back to the path of life that He has chosen for you.

It is up to me to decide which world I want to live in, the spiritual world or the material world.  The choice I make determines the actions that I take and the life that I have.  The question that I have to ask to understand my choice is this: Am I living for the Lord, or am I living for me?  No one can make that decision for me, or for anyone else for that matter.  That is truly free will.

I pray today that the Spirit of the Lord will be heavy in my life and those all around me.  I pray that He would touch the lives of those in need of His touch, and that His glory would shine upon them.  I thank God for the wonderful time He has spent with me and the many blessings I receive, daily.  Thank you Jesus, for your divine leadership and saving grace.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The WHO not the DO

In our local hockey arena, there is a memorial to a young athlete who lost her life at a young age.  It is a sad and tragic story with the memorial there to remind us how fragile life really is.  Within her memorial there is a copy of the following poem, "The Dash". 
by Linda Ellis
I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end
He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years
For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?
©1996 Linda Ellis

 I will bet you I've read that poem at least a hundred times in the last 4 years and every time it chokes me up and gets me thinking about the futility of life and how I spend so much time on so many of the wrong things.

As I was studying in Psalms this morning, I was reminded of this memorial and the poem with this verse:
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.   Psalm 16:11

Is life, the dash, meant to be focused and spent on the "do" or is it more about the "who"?- the who I become during the time I have been given.

Every day that I read and study it becomes more and more obvious the things of the world are out to capture my heart, my mind and my focus.  It is for this reason that I must work that much harder at being spiritually inclined in my day to day, hour to hour life.  Jesus said it: The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  John 6:63

How many times do I catch myself in pursuit of some "thing" because I feel that it is going to bring me some temporary pleasure?  Conversely, how little do I find myself in pursuit of the some "one" that will bring pleasure for eternity? 

Oh, Lord, how difficult it is to maintain an eternal perspective while being here on earth.  For this reason it is much more important, Lord, that your Holy Spirit fill me, and guide me.  The closer I get to you, the more I see, feel and know the path of life that you have laid before me.  The more of you I have in my life, Lord, the more certainty I have about the gifts you have given me and the precious time I have to use those gifts for your good.

I pray today, Lord, that those who are following my lead will bask in the glory of your Holy Spirit today.  That they might feel the joy of your presence in thier life today, and that you might reveal more of the path that you have chosen for them.  Help us all to spend time today focusing on the "Who" instead of the "do".

The Dash Poem