Happy New Year
Happy New Year 2019! It is time again to make your New Year’s Resolution(s); time to go back to the gym, give up a bad habit, and/or change your diet. Resolving to make changes in your life at the start of a new year is an age-old tradition that dates back to the Babylonian period (approximately 1720 – 539 BCE)
. Making resolutions sounds good and we do, for the most part, fully intend to see them through. The problem is, they are as Mary Poppins put it, “cupcake promises” easily made and easily broken. You see, we break promises to our self-first because we accept our own justification however flimsy it may be. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, came up with a better idea in 1720 when he enacted the “Covenant Renewal Service”; The purpose of the service is to set a time for the people to reaffirm their vows that they had made to God
. During one of these services on New Year’s Eve 33 years ago in Atsugi Japan, at the Pastor’s prompting, I asked God for one thing in 1986 and that was for God to choose a wife for me and to start a family. I did not ask God for a person by name, I did not have one in mind, and I was not seeing anybody. God did not ask for me to make any promises nor, did he demand a sacrifice of any type simply, that I will be obedient and wait for him. Because I was obedient in waiting for him and not following Abraham’s misguided attempt at helping (Gen 16), he came through for me. When I got back from Japan in late April of 1986, I was lying in bed and an angel spoke in a loud audible voice proclaiming that I would marry Janine Christians and the name of my first-born son would be Joshua. I had met Janine two years earlier prior to going to Japan. Prior to the angel speaking to me, Janine and I had not dated nor spoken to each other with the exception of two letters (one from her and one from me) and that was to ask for a Kimono. We went out on a date a day or so later and I fell head over heels in love with her and asked her if she would marry me; we married in May of 86. We have been happily married for now 33 years this May. I am nobody special and what God did for me, he can do for you. The secret is not where you recommit your life nor, is it when you recommit it; simply that you be obedient and wait for him; if you ask God to do something in your life with no preconceived notion He will come through (Psalms 37:4)! My encouragement as you look to 2019, is that you recommit your life to God and then ask him to do something wonderful for you this year.
God said to Solomon, “Because you have asked for wisdom and have not asked for yourself a long life nor for wealth, nor for the lives of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to recognize justice, 12 behold, I have done as you asked. I have given you a wise and discerning heart (mind) so that no one before you was your equal, nor shall anyone equal to you arise after you. 13 I have also given you what you have not asked, both wealth and honor, so that there will not be anyone equal to you among the kings, for all your days (1st Kings 3:11-13).
You do not ask for our riches nor, do you want our stuff; simply, you want us to be obedient to you in all that we do. You have plans for our life that we cannot possibly comprehend. The problem is, many of your plans for our life go undone because we try to help instead of letting go and getting out of the way. Help me to be obedient in this new year 2019 to what you have called me to do. May each and every one of you has the best year of your life.
May God richly bless you this year
Starting from Where We are
For the past week, my wife and I traveled thru out the Phoenix AZ area on vacation from Minnesota. We visited a couple of places of note: the “Orange Patch” which is located just outside of Mesa and “The Olive Mill” which is located in Queen Creek a suburb of Mesa. The Orange patch is the last remaining orange grove in operation in Mesa which sells fruit and raw honey to the residents and tourists. I talked to one of the employees at the Orange Patch about the urban sprawl and asked how it has affected them. I was told that the area surrounding the patch was at one time lined with Orange tree groves; now, they are not certain they will be in business next year. When the first homes were built, the draw was “Move into the country and get out of the noisy city”. As time progressed, more of the country was sold and parceled out for new developments until the “country” is now a “noisy city”. As I looked at the layout of the property and the number of developments surrounding it, the thought crossed my mind how the farms appeared to no longer fit in the surroundings; sort of like seeing a parking lot full of brand-new Mercedes Benz and, in the middle is a beat-up old Ford. What is left of the once sprawling farm fields is simply a street named after the former owner or business name; for example, the development that is built on the orange grove has named “Orange Grove Estates”. Urban sprawl has not claimed every inch of the property as some of the new residents of the land have an orange, a lemon, or some other fruit tree in their backyard as a design. When I considered these things, the thought crossed my mind how our lives are much like the land. In our youth, our lives are open to whatever life has to offer. Through a process of time, we sell off or give away parts of our life in order to meet ours or our family’s current needs. I think of the number of families whose finances dictate the need to work at the expense of the real treasure, the family unit; everybody at one point in time or another has fallen prey to the demands of life. My encouragement for you today is for you to maintain the areas of your life that uniquely define you that is, your gifts and talents. Never let progress or the demands of life steal away the valuables of your life or your family. Once these are given away, there is no getting them back again any more than one can evict legal homeowners, tear down the developments, and return the land back to a farm.
This is what the Lord says,
He who makes a way through the sea
And a path through the mighty waters, He who brings out the chariot and the horse,
The army and the mighty warrior, (They will lie down together, they will not rise again;
They have been extinguished, they have been put out like a lamp’s wick): “Do not remember the former things,
Or ponder the things of the past. (Isaiah 43:16-18)
We are powerless to stop progress even if we close our eyes to what is going on around us. Some of the changes in our life are welcomed others, are dreaded. It is true that we are not here on earth for all of eternity; others will come behind us and we will be forgotten no matter how many buildings we build books we write or time in at the office. Only you and your son Jesus are from all eternity. May your good Spirit guide us today. Be with my friends, family, and readers as they prepare for a new year.
The King of Glory
Christmas day is a few days away and I wanted to take a few moments to wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas. It is hard to find joy in life in the world we are in currently when all around us are taunts of our common enemy who is bent on revenge. Why is this enemy bent on revenge? Because this Devil held reign over helpless mankind until the birth of the King. Now, we have the word of the Eternal King to hold onto. In the years, months, weeks, and days leading up to the birth of Jesus, the nation Israel, or what was left of it, had endured centuries of spiritual drought, in which the people only had the words that were spoken by Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel centuries prior. Because God was not speaking, the false prophets and government appointed priests filled in the gaps with spiritual non-sense. When all was bleak and apparently hopeless for the nation, a magical thing occurred, the birth of a boy child not by the hands of man but by the move of God’s hand. This very ordinary boy child would one day rule the nations not by fear nor by prowess in battle but by the way he taught the people, cared and provided for them not for his glory but for his Father. This very same boy child one day became the King of Glory; his kingdom was not an earthly kingdom that would fade into history but an eternal kingdom that is alive and well today. This very same King wants you to be part of his kingdom that you will allow him to rule over your life. My encouragement for you today is that you will welcome this king on this very special day into your heart if you have not done so already; if you have welcomed him in, then let this be a day for renewing your vows and sharing the message. You may say, “I’ve screwed up so much that no one wants to help me”; yet, I tell you, there are nothing and no one that can stand in the way of the mighty Jehovah. To those of you in hospitals, prisons, and other places you would rather not be, I encourage you to take hold of the hand that will never let you down; forget about the former days and allow this day to be the first day of the rest of your life.
Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, your gates; lift them up, your ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty— he is the King of glory (Psalms 24:8-10).
Today we celebrate the birth of your son Jesus. The world has witnessed a great throng of men and women who have come and gone. Our libraries are full of the words of these people; yet, only one person’s word in our entire history remains alive; That is the word of your son who came by means that still baffles the wise and the learned. Jesus’ life and testimony are life-changing even in the 21st century. Thank you for sending your son when it would have been easier to just annihilate the world once more and be done with it. Thank you for this special day in our life.
The Power of Prayer
A couple of days ago, I was listening to the news about the incoming political representatives who are preparing to put their signature on the political landscape. I became angry about what I read and what I saw on TV because I felt my values would be ignored. It was then that God spoke to my heart about the power of prayer. Three thoughts came to mind: King Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony (Daniel 3), the 10 kingdoms that would come ending at the time of the Messiah’s death (Daniel 10-12), and the events of Acts 2. The common tie of all three is a call to seek the God of Heaven and Earth and that our hearts would be pliable and usable. I hold in my hands, just as you hold in your hands, the power of prayer when combined with the command to live Godly lives in an ungodly world. When you consider the rebirth of Israel and the 2nd temple period, you might think that God mysteriously changed the heart of the wicked king by waving a magic wand or scaring them into submission. The truth is, the change was due to God’s servants doing the right thing in the darkest of places and the darkest of times. There is no world leader, no matter how wicked they are or what profession of faith they hold that can stand in the way of the procession of a Holy God. We must understand, above all else, that God is not on our side as to imply “we’ll always get our way”; rather, we must stand on God’s side doing what he asks of us which, includes praying for our leaders (1 Tim 2:2). My encouragement for you today, turns your worries and fears into streams of prayer and pray for our leaders and let God do the changing. If the scriptures and our history should teach us anything, it is that we are powerless to make people do what they do not want to do, and no amount of legislation will change that fact. This is not the time to shrink away but to stand up and seek the God of Heaven and Earth.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your requests known to God. 7 And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-6 amp).
We hold in our hands and hearts the power that will transform the world from hatred to live in you and that is through prayer and petition. The enemy is fully aware of this power and seeks by the form of public disturbance to form laws that only exacerbate the situations of our world. Help your people to ever keep their eyes on you no matter what goes on in the world and always seek your face despite who the leaders may be. I call all of my brothers and sisters in all denominations and all professions to prayer this week.
In his Name
Good morning and Happy Thanksgiving!
Today would be a great day to tell everyone “Happy Thanksgiving”; yet, with the world events riding a roller-coaster, violence in every known corner of the world, and the disasters that pervade our world, it would be safe to say, “Thanks for nothing”! Saying “Thank you”, is not just a pleasantry, it recognizes the gifts we have received knowing that we did not buy them our self. When our focus is on the disasters of our life and not on the gifts we hold in our hands, we become ungrateful and unthankful. Truthfully, it is by far easier to be thankful when the winds of providence are in our favor then it is when the skies above us become bronze and the grounds beneath us become hard as iron (Deuteronomy 28:23). God’s word says that we should be thankful in season and out for a reason which is so that we can survive in this world and never lose focus on the Father. The Devil loves nothing more than for our attitude to be mired by the disasters so that we stop trusting God, become bitter and then has become useless as salt that is no longer salient (Mark 9:50). My encouragement for you today is, that you will find a reason to be thankful even in your darkest hours. My heart goes out to those who are facing dire circumstances today either because of illness, destruction or, any other thing that eats away at your joy. I want to hear from you today if there is a specific prayer need or, just need a word of encouragement.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. Psalms 98:2-3
Thank you for this season of our lives. In our world, we have witnessed countless acts of destruction and death that fly in the face of your word. I pray for the people in Paradise, CA whose entire town was destroyed by the wildfire, for the people who are ill, the families who have lost loved ones in recent days, and for the world at large. May your good Spirit guide us today and always.
God’s Word on the Witness Stand
A Hostile Witness
In the process of law, there is a term called “hostile witness”. The purpose of treating a witness as hostile is to refute their testimony when it is detrimental to the defendant’s case. The lawyer’s job, after all, is to prove his/her client’s innocence. Ok, so why would the Word of God’s testimony be detrimental to our case? The answer is, in our theology; that is, “how we see God with respect to our religious views”. Here’s the problem, we enjoy reading the “feel good verses” and the ones that justify our argument or theology and turn a blind eye to the ones that would sink our argument. The first thing we do when our theology is called into question is to jump to defend it only to find out in the crucial hour that we were wrong. The Bible is a marvelous thing, people, in that it holds several thousand years of history, lessons learned, and true cry of God’s heart. If we do not read the whole word, we are missing key information that will help us in our daily walk. My encouragement for you today is, pick up the Bible and read it for yourself and make it a daily habit. Put the word of God on the witness stand of your life and let it bring into question your theology and philosophy even if it appears hostile to your belief(s). Without a doubt, we would all like to believe that our theology is correct but, one of two people are wrong: us or God.
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12 NIV).
Thank you for your awesome word. You impressed on the hearts of your servants across several centuries to write the word. People even risked their lives to write and disseminate it. If it was so important for the Bible to come into being, it must be equally important for us to read it and apply it to our lives. Your word was never meant to be a hammer nor a paperweight rather, a living breathing part of our life. May your good Spirit guide us today and always.
In His Name
God’s Word on the Witness Stand
The Power of the Oath
In the legal world, the term “oath” is a solemn promise and invokes a divine witness (dictionary). Oaths have been a part of the fabric of man’s life from the very beginning to present day. As great and as moving as the oath is, what if the person uttering the words really didn’t believe what he or she was saying and only wanted to get something? Consider Zedekiah who was put in the place as governor of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar after the nation was taken into exile (2nd Chronicles 36). Prior to his assuming the position, Zedekiah was made to swear an oath in God’s name to honor the King by giving of tributes; in effect, Zedekiah’s words were his bond. In Judaism, taking an oath in God’s name was binding and carried a promise of destruction for breaking it. In breaking trust, as much as it might have developed esprit-de-corps with the people of Judah, it created more problems for the decimated nation. What is most problematic is, it said to King Nebuchadnezzar “I do not honor the God of my ancestors and God is irrelevant and my system of beliefs is a mere sham”. As the governor, Zedekiah’s actions spoke for the entire community. In our day and time, we too say by our actions the true conviction of our heart about what we believe. We become enraged by the words and/or actions of a foul politician, actor, and/or athlete while we, by our words and/or actions, tell the world “God is irrelevant, and my system of belief is not all that important”. As children of God, we owe it to ourselves and the kingdom of God to live holy lives not as a badge of courage but as a daily way of life and a silent witness despite what the world does (Ecclesiastics 9:17). My encouragement for you today is “honor your vows” despite the world’s ways or what it demands without an expectation that the world will agree with you. Remember, the Bible was not written to the world but to those who choose to follow the Lord God of the Universe; if we find it of no personal value, how can we ever expect the world to treat it or our system of belief with respect?
Just as You commissioned and
sent Me into the world, I also have commissioned and
sent them (believers) into the world.19
For their sake [e]
I sanctify Myself [to do Your will], so that they also may be sanctified [set apart, dedicated, made holy] in [Your] truth (John 17:18-19 AMP).
Above all you are sovereign, and you are Holy. In this world, oaths are uttered and quickly broken when the circumstances are not in our favor. Your kingdom is not of this world and, as such, it does not fall in line with the ways of the world. Your word stands to testify the results of honoring our vows and what happens when we break them. May your good Spirit lead us today as we follow you.
God’s Word on the Witness Stand
Today, I am beginning a mini-series of writings called “God’s Word on the Witness Stand”. The word of God is called by the names: a sword (Ephesians 6:17), a light (Psalms 119:109), and a shield (Psalms 3:3). These are great names but, I want to introduce another name and that is, “a witness” (John 5:39). The problem with being called to witness anything, is what you have to say will not be popular to one side or the other and sometimes no one likes what you to say. Fortunately, or unfortunately, “like or dislike” is not relevant when it comes to testifying to the truth. For the judge to make the right decision, he/she must have all the best information available which, means the witness has to be credible or be dismissed. God gives us the responsibility or choosing for our self which path we will take; which, puts us in the position of “Judge” (Joshua 24:14-15). The word of God provides us convincing information based on historical evidence that we need to make sound decisions. Granted, it was written long ago, and the terms appear foreign to us; but, if we listen to what it has to say, we will be able to rightly divide the word of truth. My encouragement for you today is for you to consider the possibility of calling the Word of God into testifying to the truth of God’s love for you and how your decisions may lead you down the wrong path.
“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
and I find knowledge and discretion.
The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
and perverted speech I hate.
I have counsel and sound wisdom;
I have insight; I have the strength (Proverbs 8:12-14)
Thank you for your precious word. The world does not like it because it speaks contrary to the world’s belief system. Doubtless, the word of God is not popular but, I don’t believe for a second it was written with the idea of “what is popular”; rather, it was written because of what is necessary. You never leave us without a witness so that we never need to walk in darkness. May your good spirit guide us today and always and may our ears ever be attentive to your word.
In His Name
Isaiah 44 in Reflection
The Name by Which We are Called (1-5)
Have you ever reflected back on how your parents came up with your name? Maybe, you were named after an aunt, uncle, parent, grandparent, or a patron saint. For the nation Israel, the namesake came from Jacob who was later called “Israel” (Genesis 32:28). Anybody who has read about Jacob (Israel) knows that the man was not always a good man; in fact, he had learned how to be deceptive from his mother and later his uncle and, by the time he left Padanaram had become a master of deception. In light of this, why would anyone in their right mind want to refer to themselves as “Jacob” when the better name is “Israel” or, the Lord’s? I struggled with that thought this past week and I come to understand that, our name is like an empty box given to us at birth that we only we can fill; if we make good choices in life, we fill it with good things and conversely if we make poor choices bad things go in the box (Matthew 12:33). When you consider the name Christian just like the name “Israel” or “Jacob” or any other derivation, they are simply names which can either be a curse or a blessing depending on our choices. God holds us accountable for how we use his name and that is by our words, actions, and attitudes of the heart; this is something we should never forget. The outside world will always have its opinions about us, how a Christian should be, what they should stand for, and is indifferent towards those who refuse to comply. My encouragement for you today is that you reflect back on the name or title “Christian” to ask yourself “what have I put in the box of my life and what will I be leaving behind for the next generation”? We are powerless to change what others have done in the name of Christianity just as the people in the time of Isaiah could not change what the leaders of Israel had done leading up to the writing; but, that does not mean we continue the misguided paths and give credence to the world’s opinion. What we can do is, take up a cross and walk in the direction of the throne of God every day of our life.
What shall I return to the Lord for all of his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of his people (Psalms 116:12-14 NIV).
There is no other name under heaven that man can be saved (Acts 4:12). You did not give us your name for political clout nor, your word to be used as a hammer; yet, in our world, that is exactly what has been done. Daily you tell us to “pick up your cross and follow you” despite all that the world thinks of us or, what has happened in our history. For over 2000 years, your name Jesus has been a banner for mankind and from your selfless sacrifice, many millions upon millions have come to faith in you and have never been ashamed of doing so. Help me, my city, state, nation, and the world around me to ever learn the righteous acts of the Lord by how I carry myself day in and day out. May the words of mouth, the words that I write, and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you (Psalms 19:14).
In His Service
The Crucible by Which We are Judged
A thought crossed my mind this morning that material items never tell what kind of person we really are nor our true motives; they only mask our intentions with glitz and glitter. Unfortunately, our words and actions are the true crucibles by which we are judged long after we are gone not our material items (Matthew 12:33-36). To own something means it cannot be taken from you even when you fail; all of our stuff erodes and needs constant updates; not to mention the fact that they can be stolen. Each of us carries in our psyche the words and actions of our parents, those we associate with past and present, and the actions of others like bullies and con-men. The common misconception, though, is that the influence of the previously mentioned people is justification for our words our actions; when, in truth, we have the God-given commandment to honor the Lord our God in all that we do and/or say despite the influence of others (Matthew 22:36-40). It is popular in our culture to blame others for the things we do or how we act without one time considering our part in the collapse. My encouragement for you today is to carefully think about your words and actions before committing them to action for, what is done is done. Before Jesus was taken from this earth in death and later resurrection, he left his group with the power of “choice”; he leaves mankind today with the same power – leave the world in a better place then we found it in or become just another sad statistic (Matthew 16:14-19). I leave you with a poem
Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior
Keep your behaviors positive because your behaviors become your habits.
Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values
Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny. Mahatma Gandhi
What is the value of a life lived for you? Can it be weighed on a scale or placed in a financial sum? Or, is it the value after the books are reconciled? Teach us to number our days uprightly that we might fear you. You tell us “to live for you” as to let you live vicariously through us. Many say “God who” yet look at an empty life filled with stuff and have no peace. I’d rather have your peace than all of the trappings and yet feel trapped. Please keep us all of our days that at our death we will have peace and a path will be brightly lit for others to follow us. In you, we are set free to live, love, and prosper in ways stuff or position could not possibly succeed. May how I live my life bring a smile to your face all of the few short years.
Yours in His Name