Monday, February 29, 2016

What's Your Excuse?

Excuses. We all make them. Often times they are used to save face with others. Sometimes we use them to "keep from hurting someone's feelings." Most of the time we use excuses as an opportunity to pass the buck and avoid taking the blame for something. There is an interesting quote by Howard Wright about excuses that says, "Excuses are lies wrapped up in reasons." We all know people who give excuses for everything and never take the blame for their shortcomings. The problem with making excuses on a regular basis is that eventually people lose respect and trust in those who constantly make excuses. Our best bet is to own up to our shortcomings, learn from our mistakes, and grow from the experience.

When it comes to our faith, people make plenty of excuses to cover up a multitude of shortcomings. Why don't you pray every day? I don't have enough time. Why don't you read your Bible every day? Its too hard to understand. Why don't you attend worship at church?  I'm busy. I'm tired. I'm _______ (fill in the blank with your favorite excuse). Why don't you serve God in the church? I don't have any spiritual gifts or talents. We can make up plenty of excuses. Yes, I used the right term there. We "make up" or "create" excuses for those areas of spiritual disciplines we are supposed to do, but yet fail to do. Here's the point of all of this. Our excuses don't hold water now and they definitely won't hold water when we stand before Almighty God. Hebrews 4:13 (NIV) tells us, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." That means that our excuses will be tossed aside when we stand before God and are examined for what we did with what He gave us in this life (2 Corinthians 5:10). That means our time, our resources, our abilities, and everything else God has given to us will be examined to see how we used them. The interesting part is that we won't have anything to stand on if all we have are excuses about being tired, busy, or some other excuse.

Here's my encouragement to you today. Get rid of the excuses when it comes to the things that are keeping you from growing spiritually. Everyone is tired. Everyone is busy. Everyone is ___________(fill in the blank with your favorite excuse). "If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not you'll find an excuse." is a quote I read recently and boy is it true. If growing spiritually is important to you, then you'll find a way to do it. Otherwise you'll find an excuse. The choice is yours.

If you enjoyed today's post be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too! 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Don't try to improve the original!

I am a purists when it comes to most things in life. If it's not broke don't fix it. Really some things in life should be left alone. I mean there are some things that were great as originals and didn't need to have changes or modifications made to them. But in the sake of the almighty dollar and a need to be relevant, we try to jazz things up and make it better than the original. I could go through a list where they tried to improve on original movies (Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, Rambo III & IV, possibly Star Wars Episode 7), TV series (every spinoff ever), and even foods (Crystal Pepsi, Diet Dr. Pepper, Cherry Lemon Sundrop) and it didn't work out. One such "improvement" made it's way into my house this weekend. Cooper asked for Maple Bacon Pop-Tarts. Don't ask me why. Out of a willingness to try new things that was instilled in me by my grandmother, I tried a bite of his Pop-Tart. After that bite I remembered why I only eat strawberry Pop-Tarts. Because there is no need to improve on the original.

God's Word should be treated the same way. There is no reason to try and improve on the original Word God gave to us, whether intentionally or unintentionally. One reason we shouldn't is given to us in Revelation 22:18-19 where John warns people not to add to or take away from the revelation he received from Jesus Christ. We should apply that practice to the entire Bible not just the pages of Revelation. But another reason we shouldn't try to improve on the original is because it misleads people. You have probably heard people quote phrases such as, "God won't give you more than you can handle," "Spare the rod, spoil the child," "Money is the root of all evil,""Cleanliness is next to godliness," and "God helps those who help themselves." The problem is people, inside and outside the faith, believe that these types of comments are found in the Bible. Some phrases like that are from Aesop's fables and others are ideas are similar in thought to biblical texts. Although the thought may have some very limited form of biblical support, it still leads people to false beliefs about what the Bible says.

The best way to avoid any mistakes when it comes to people trying to improve upon the original Word of God is to know what it says. Spend time reading God's Word. Take in the deep truths of God's Word. Learn the reality of the stories that God uses to lead us in our life of faith. When you do you'll be able to know when that smiley televangelist isn't teaching the truth to millions or your friend is basing their faith on a lie. In the end your faith will be stronger and you can help strengthen the faith of those around you as well.

If you enjoyed today's post be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Here's the truth about "OMG!"

Recently I've been leading our church through a series on the "Names of God" on Sunday evenings. We've looked at names such as Yahweh, Elohim, and Adonai. We've studied what the names mean, who gave God this name, and where the name is used in the Bible for the first time. More importantly we've looked at how these names should impact our worship and faith. One thing that we talked about at length as we started this series is how the name of God is to be hallowed or reverenced, regardless of the character revealing name used. The name of God is to be used in a way that brings glory to God. It's not to be used in a flippant way or with little regard for the way His name is used.

We live in a culture that profanes the reverent. If something is to be revered as holy or sacred then our culture will pervert and profane it in a way that makes light of the sacred. Don't believe me? Look up anything about Jesus on the internet and it doesn't take long for the reverent to be ridiculed. The sacred is not taken seriously. The name of God is no different. You can't watch TV or movies anymore without hearing Christ's name or God's name taken in vain. I recently heard God's name used in vain in a commercial for a TV show on cable. Seriously, I can't make that up. Call it freedom of speech if you will, but no matter the label it is still a profanity of the holy name of God. The most prevalent way we hear people today profaning the sacred is the term "Oh My God" or "OMG" for short. The funny thing is it doesn't matter whether you shorten it or not, you're still taking the Lord's name in vain. Our society has desensitized us about this fact so much that we don't even bat an eye at the phrase anymore. Many Christians use the phrase and don't think twice about it. The sad thing is Satan has used our culture to draw Christians away from God by enticing them to use God's name as an after thought or a phrase of surprise. 

We no longer give God's name the respect it deserves. The ancient Jews were so afraid of taking the Lord's name, YHWH or Yahweh, in vain that they gave Him the name Adonai to prevent them from breaking the 3rd commandment (Exodus 20:7). Jesus told us in Matthew 6:9 (NIV), "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name..." There is a reason the Jews went to the lengths they did to revere the name of God. There is a reason Jesus said that God's name is hallowed or holy and should be seen as such. It's because we worship a holy God and His name should be used in a holy way.

Here's my dose of encouragement to you for today. Put the time and effort into striking "Oh My God", "OMG", or any other God-dishonoring phrases from you vocabulary. From someone who cursed regularly during my younger years and then made the conscious decision to change my habit, it can be done. Don't tell me it can't. All it takes is dedication and effort. As you do start to change you'll start to notice when others don't have the same control over their tongue. You can liken it to a former smoker who is repulsed by the smell of cigarette smoke. You'll find when people use those phrases that it draws your ire and you won't want to be around it. In the end you will be bringing glory to God because His name will be hallowed by you rather than profaned with the rest of the world.

If you enjoyed today's post be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Are You Listening?

Last week Misty and I had supper with some friends. It was great to catch up with these friends that we don't get to see very often. While catching up we discussed children, work, and church. One of our friends mentioned how one of their children, who is going through a difficult time, mentioned something they had learned in a bible study I taught several years ago. I allowed myself a small moment of pride as I listened to our friend share. I was happy to hear that some of my teaching had taken root and that the Holy Spirit was able to use it to impact the life of this person.

To be completely honest with you, pastors and bible teachers hope you take everything in that they share with you from God's Word. They work hard to prepare, study, organize notes, and then share what they have learned about a topic or biblical text. But in all honesty at times we wonder how much people listen to what is preached or taught. If a bible teacher or preacher spoke for the 2 hours my son accuses me of preaching, then I could understand zoning out from time to time. But no longer than the average bible study or sermon is (most likely 30 minutes), it should be easy to listen and learn.

The real question to ask is not did you sit through a lesson or study without nodding off, but instead are you listening? Listening and hearing are two different things. You can hear someone without truly listening to them. Listening is taking in what is shared and using it in your life. Are you listening to what the preacher or teacher is sharing with you or are you just hearing a lot of noise? If you are listening to your preacher or teacher then you will find an unusual thing happening. If you listen and take in what is shared with you, the Holy Spirit can use it later to guide you and help you in this life. One of the names for the Holy Spirit in the Bible is "Helper." The Helper uses the truths of God's Word, that have been sown in your heart, to guide you and help you in this life. If you are tuning out those who are trying to sow God's truths in your heart then you are limiting what the Helper has to work with in your life.

Here is some encouragement for you today. As you can tell, it is important for you to listen to what your preacher, Sunday School teacher, Small Group Leader, or Bible Study Leader is sharing with you. To give them every opportunity to pour into you as much as they can do the following things: 

1. Be There. If you aren't there they can't teach you. Make every effort to be there and quit making excuses for why you can't be there. Everyone is busy. Everyone is tired. Everyone is "whatever." Drop the excuses and be where you need to be.

2. Limit Distractions. Put away the phone, tablet, or anything else that will keep you from paying attention to your teacher. If the people you generally sit around are a distraction (unless they're your kids) find a new place to sit where you don't have the distractions.

3. Help Yourself Learn. Everyone learns differently. Some are auditory learners and others are visual learners. Find the way that best helps you learn and then use it. If taking notes is a way to help it sink in, then take notes on what is being taught.

4. Ask Questions. Granted asking a question in the middle of a sermon is generally frowned upon, but that doesn't mean you can't ask after the service. If you don't ask for clarity or help, then you're making it harder on yourself than it has to be. Ask questions because it can only help you.

I hope today's post will help you get more out of the time you put into hearing God's Word taught to you. If you use the help mentioned above your pastor or bible teacher will probably be less likely to wonder, "Are you listening?"

If you enjoyed today's post be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, February 1, 2016

You can't do it alone.

Recently we've had to repair some doors in our barn. Anyone who has livestock can tell you how hard animals are on barns. The proverbial "bull in a china shop" comes to mind. Livestock weighing nearly half a ton aren't exactly gentle when it comes to their movements in a barn. We had a door torn off the hinges and had to rehang the door. We had another door that had to be changed to better accommodate our current needs. The only time I had to do this work was on Fridays which are my day off from the church. With my dad at work and the boys in school, I was left to do the work solo. The first door (pictured to the right), wasn't too bad but I could have used some help. I placed some blocks under it drilled new holes for the screws holding the hinges up and we were in business. But another door was a whole other story. I had to work on the supports and do some other work. But while I had the door in position trying to drill new holes for the hinges it slipped off the blocks holding it up. Normally that wouldn't be too bad except the fact that my foot was beneath this 75 pound, solid oak door when it fell. Fortunately it didn't break my foot but it did give me an unexpected break from working. While I was checking out my foot, I couldn't help but say to myself and the cows, "I can't do this alone. I need some help." Contrary to my frustration-filled comments I was able to get the door hung by myself. It didn't go as smoothly or quickly as it could have. It wasn't as fulfilling as working alongside my dad or as joyous as teaching my sons how to do the work but I did accomplish what I set out to do. I did the job but I did it alone.

One thing we need to realize about this life is "You can't do it alone. You need some help." Yes, there are plenty of people who use brute strength and awkwardness to get through life, just like I did hanging that door. It can be done. But like hanging the door alone there is much that you miss out on when you do life solo. To live life without a relationship with God is difficult. To miss the blessings that God gives and see them as coincidence or luck is to miss the heart of the giver of good and perfect gifts (James 1:17). There is no source of strength during times of weakness. There is no one to thank when provision is received. You can't experience a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). There is no fulfillment found in doing things with the Father. There is no joy found in the teachings of the Son. Difficult probably doesn't do justice to describing a life lived without God. But the wonderful thing is that life doesn't have to be lived alone. Life can be lived in fellowship and communion with the God of the Universe. He wants to have a vibrant, love relationship with you. How do I know? Because the Bible tells us. The Bible tells us that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross, so we can have our sins forgiven and receive eternal life. It even tells us that while here on earth, God wants to give us a life like we never imagined. John 10:10 tells us the type of life Jesus came to give us. It says, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (NKJV). But the only way to experience that abundant life is by having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. When you have that relationship, you'll realize that you can make it through this life because the One you need to help you is right there with you.

If you've never started a relationship with Jesus Christ then I encourage you to do so today. You can find more information about how to start a relationship with God through Christ at or by emailing me at

If you enjoyed today's post be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!