Monday, October 30, 2017

Who Are You Thanking?

During the upcoming month of November people traditionally focus more on giving thanks than they do at any other time during the year. We generally attribute this to our celebration of Thanksgiving at the end of each November. As one of only 3 countries in the world that celebrate a specific day to give thanks (the others being Canada and Liberia), we usually pause on the fourth Thursday in November to give thanks in some form or fashion. Often times people will take a few moments, before digging into the turkey and dressing, to give people an opportunity to share those things for which they are thankful. I think this is a good and noble practice. It gives people an opportunity to verbalize their gratitude for the things they enjoy and those things that mean a great deal to them. It may be things like family, good health, love between family members, or any other number of items for which they are thankful. Voicing one's gratitude is important because it shows what is important to that person. But the thing that is more important is who are you thankful to?

If I walk into a store and someone holds a door for me, I will tell them "Thank You." If my waitress fills my drink up, I will tell her "Thank You." If someone gives me a gift, you guessed it, I will tell them "Thank You." The concept of giving thanks is to express gratitude for something. This gratitude must be directed somewhere, or more importantly to Someone. We often see the Thanksgiving Parade hosts or folks gathered around our tables at Thanksgiving sharing what they are thankful for but rarely sharing to whom they are thankful. Some will say the universe, fate, providence, good luck, or any other hosts of man-made ideals (or maybe I should say idols). We often hear an obligatory shout out of thanks to no one in particular, rather than thanking the God of the Universe.

The entire reason the pilgrim's celebrated Thanksgiving in the first place was to give thanks to God for the support they received from the local Native Americans and for His provision in their lives. Our thanks today are still to be directed at the God who holds everything together and provides us with everything we have. Psalm 107 (NIV), among other places in the Bible, reminds us to "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; his love endures forever." The Bible is clear that all of our thanks, gratitude, and appreciation for things in this life, should be directed to God because of His goodness and His love. He is the embodiment of goodness and love. Because these traits are part of His DNA, He gives us good gifts from the depths of His love (James 1:17). Because He gives us more blessings from His hands than we could ever count, we need to give thanks to Him. Not some arbitrary, lip service to the universe but to the God who created the universe and holds it all together. If you can thank a person for holding a door, pouring a drink, or giving you a gift, then why not give God the credit and the thanks for what He has done for you?

I'll close with this. I encourage you to work to adjust your thankfulness this November. Not only during the days surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday, but the entire month of November. When asked what you're thankful for, start off with the phrase "I'm thankful to God for..." As the month of November comes to an end, don't let your gratitude toward God end there. Work to make this a habit every time you give thanks going forward. It will help point others to Him and it will bring glory to Him as you tell others to Whom you are thankful.

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Danger in the Darkness

My boys and I recently put up a trail camera where we hunt on our family farm. When we found pictures of loads of deer we were excited at the prospect of this year's gun season for deer hunting. What caused us a great deal of concern was when we scrolled through the pictures and found images of two large coyotes. I'm not worried about the coyotes bothering the deer because of the nature of the deer. What I am concerned about is the coyotes attacking our cattle and possibly killing some of our calves. We had a calf die just last year and suspected a coyote killed it but we didn't know for sure. These coyotes can cause many problems for us. Everything from scaring the deer away, killing calves, or even possibly harming children walking around the farm. The photos our trail camera took show just how much danger there is in the darkness.

When we look at our spiritual lives, there are dangers in spiritually dark areas that are far worse than a couple of coyotes. For the follower of Christ, Satan uses every sin he can to try and draw us away from God and into those spiritually dark areas. When he is successful, there is all sorts of collateral damage done. Our witness or testimony can be damaged or possibly ruined. Our relationship with God and with others can be damaged. We can even find ourselves being sucked in deeper and deeper into sin that will make it harder and harder to turn away from the sin and back to God (the Bible calls this repentance). 

For the ones who do not have a personal relationship with Christ, the dangers in the darkness are even more lethal. Those sins that Satan uses to keep you captive to sin, they keep you from experiencing the freedom from sin that God offers you through Jesus. If Satan keeps you distracted by sin long enough and you don't experience salvation through Christ in this life, those sins will prove to be spiritually and eternally lethal. The dangers in the spiritual darkness for a non-believer in Christ is best explained as a pit of quicksand. You're already in the pit of sin and the more you struggle trying to free yourself the worse your situation becomes. The more you struggle the deeper in the pit you go. The only way you are able to get out of the pit is if you have Someone's help to get out. Jesus is the One who can pull you out of the pit, clean you up, and set you on solid ground. Satan will do all he can to convince you that you can get out of the pit yourself or try to keep you struggling in the pit so that you never try to get out. The good thing is Jesus knows you can't get out of the pit yourself and He is always ready to give you a hand to get you out. Reach out to Him today and allow Him to lift you out of the pit of sin if you've never asked Him to do so before (you can get more info at or by clicking here).

For those who follow Christ and are struggling with the dangers in the darkness, I would encourage you to do the same thing I've started doing on our farm. Every time I go to check my trail camera or put out more deer corn, I carry a rifle with me. I have something with me to take action against the danger I face. The weapons you need to use to protect yourself and help you get out of the spiritual darkness you find yourself in are prayer, Bible study, and worship. Spend time in prayer confessing your sins to God and repenting. Spend time searching the scriptures for what God says about the sins you are struggling with. Make sure not to neglect the time you should spend worshiping God with other believers. Not that it will necessarily be an easy trip out of the darkness, but if you make these a part of your spiritual life, then you will find it much easier to deal with the dangers in the darkness.

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Multitasking doesn't work.

There is an ancient proverb credited to Confucius that says, "The man who chases two rabbits catches neither." In a day when your survival was dependent on catching those rabbits, this bit of wisdom would prove invaluable. In today's world, we chase more than two rabbits on a regular basis and can still feel like we have not accomplished anything. In our modern vernacular we call chasing two rabbits multitasking. It is where we try to do two or more tasks at the same time. Some people claim to be really good at multitasking, but I don't think multitasking really works.

The way our brains are geared and our bodies are designed, we can only truly focus on one thing at a time. We might say we can check our Facebook and watch TV at the same time, but only one of the two will get our attention. Trust me I tried it last night! If we're reading our phone, we won't be able to fully understand what is happening on the TV show we're watching. This is a simple example that many people are guilty of nowadays. I will share with you a sobering statistic to help drive the point home that multitasking doesn't work. *In 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Distracted drivers include people distracted by many different things, including those texting or talking on cell phones while driving. But the reality of the statistic still stands. If we are not giving our full attention to our driving then we can be involved in an accident. If it wasn't the case hundreds of thousands of people each year wouldn't be injured by people multitasking.

This little fact about multitasking not working translates to our spiritual lives as well. There is an old saying that goes something like this, "You can't walk with God while holding hands with the devil." This drives home the point that we can't live a multitasking spiritual life. We have to make a choice and give our attention and allegiance to either God or to sin. If we put our faith in Christ and have a relationship with God through Christ's death on the cross, then our focus should be on Him instead of sin. We can't sit on the fence and lean back and forth between God and sin to appease what we want at a given time. We have to choose which one is going to be our focus and head in that direction. There are plenty of people out there who profess to be Christians but live like the devil. If we claim the name of Christ as our Lord and Savior, then we have to live up to His standards and expectations. This means living a life holy and pleasing to Him and living it out daily, not just when we feel like it.

A good example of making this decision and then sticking to it is found in the last pages of the story of Joshua in the Bible. Joshua was born a slave in Egypt. He watched as God delivered the Israelites from slavery and he walked on dry ground through the Red Sea. For the rest of his life Joshua watched as God was faithful and provided for himself and the Israelites. Joshua also spent his life in service to God. First leading Israel's army, then leading the nation after death of Moses. Not long before Joshua died, he gathered the nation of Israel together and gave them some words of wisdom. Those words put the people on notice and made them make a choice. This same choice is set before us every day. The choice Joshua gave them was to choose who they would serve. Would they serve the gods other people had worshiped or were worshiping or would they worship and serve the Living God of Israel. Joshua finished his statements by saying, "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord"  (Joshua 24:15, NKJV).

Each and every day you have to choose who/what you will serve, who/what you will worship, and who/what will get your attention. If you try to multitask spiritually, then you will be like the proverbial man chasing two rabbits. You won't catch what you really want or what you really need. So take Joshua's challenge to heart today and decide who/what will get your undivided attention. Then make your decision tomorrow and all the days that follow. If you choose like Joshua did, you won't be disappointed.

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Monday, October 9, 2017


There is an old adage that says something along the lines of "The only constant in life is change." It sounds like an oxymoron but there is quite a bit of truth in the statement. Things are constantly changing around us. The weather. Seasons. Moods. Age. Likes. Dislikes. Health. Things are constantly changing around us whether we like it or not. I, like most people, am not a fan of change. In many ways I like routines and schedules. Not that I can't handle change, but I prefer things to stay the same in most areas of my life. When we grasp the reality that basically everything around us is constantly changing, we naturally think about things that do not change.

When something is described as unchanging or insusceptible to change we refer to it as being immutable. We might think of a rocky island in the ocean as never changing, the same year after year, and therefore immutable. But the reality is that the waves are slowly eroding the shore and eventually the island will be on the bottom of the ocean. When we search the galaxy, the depths of the ocean, the deepest rain forest, or the smallest molecules, we will find that everything changes. The only things that are really immutable are God and His Word.

Over the centuries mankind has done all they can to relabel, repackage, and even do away with the God of the Universe. Some such as Friedrich Nietzche have even went so far as to claim that "God is dead." But regardless of what mankind has devised, God does not change (Malachi 3:6) and the reports of God's death are greatly exaggerated. Regardless of what mankind says, thinks, or does, it does not change the fact that God is the "same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).

Thankfully God's Word is as immutable as He is. It seems like mankind is constantly coming up with new packaging on millennia-old sins and trying to pass them off as something mankind has never heard of or seen before. As our world "develops" these "new" things that are in contradiction with the Word of God, the first comments are generally that God's Word is wrong, archaic, and judgmental. The problem with this philosophy is that God's Word is as correct today as it was some 2,000 years ago when it was recorded. Call me old-fashioned but I still believe the Holy Spirit of God inspired more than 35 authors, from many different backgrounds, on 3 continents, over 2,000 years, to write His message using 3 different languages. The important aspect of the immutability of God's Word is not in who wrote it or when they wrote it, but the truths contained within it. God's Word, for all the variety in locations, authors, time periods, and languages, has one central theme at its core. This theme is God's desire to have a personal relationship with mankind through Jesus Christ's sacrificial death on the cross. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, you read a story of mankind's disobedience towards God and God's plan to redeem mankind. The truths contained within God's Word tells us how to make our relationship with Him perfect once again and how to pursue the holiness God expects of us. No matter how enlightened mankind thinks they have become, we never get to the point where the truths of God's Word are no longer valid and no longer apply to us. 

The next time you think about how crazy things are because everything is always changing, give thanks to God for the fact that He and His Word never change. In a world of constant change, it is nice to know that God and His word never change.

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Coincidence? I think not.

"Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous." I heard this phrase years ago and thought it was just one of those hokey, cliche things preachers and bible teachers said. The longer I pastor, the more I grow in my faith, and the older I get, I realize this is not so cliche after all. 

We define coincidence as "the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection." We often times chalk things up to coincidence because we don't know how to explain them. We think it is an accident or some cosmic joke being played on us. The  reality of the matter is, nothing happens by coincidence and everything happens for a reason. The reason I am confident in this last statement if because I am confident in the sovereignty of God. This basically means that God is in control of everything, including those things we chalk up to coincidence, accidents, fate, or dumb luck. If we attribute things to "the universe", coincidence, luck, or any other host of non-existent credit claimers, then in our view, we remove God from His place of supremacy over everything and place something above Him. In the Bible this is called idolatry. Today it is still called idolatry. My encouragement to you would be to start giving God credit for the things He does in your life, and don't give credit to those things that man has created as the source of those things we want to easily explain away.

I'll give you three recent examples I've experienced where people without a biblical worldview may credit coincidence or luck, when the credit and glory are owed to the Sovereign God of the Universe.

On a recent mission trip to Honduras our team built a 20' x 20' cinderblock home with a concrete floor and a tin roof. Prior to leaving we checked the weather and the minimum chance of rain while we were supposed to be working was 60%, but was usually 70-80%. On the Wednesday night before we left, our church prayed specifically that the weather would not be a problem and that the rain would not affect our construction or delay us. For 5 straight days, during the rainy season in Honduras, we never so much as saw a cloud in the sky that threatened to rain on the job site. It did rain torrential downpours after our work was done for the day, but it never rained a drop while we worked. Coincidence? I think not.

While working to mix concrete for the floor of the home, we started to run dangerously low on sand. We weren't even halfway done with the floor and I could tell we were going to run out of sand at the rate they were using it. I talked to the foreman, a fellow pastor, and he said it would all work out. I made a comment about how we needed to pray for "loaves and fish" (referencing Jesus' miraculous feeding of the 5,000; Matthew 14:15-21). Somehow God stretched the sand and concrete and gave us "12 baskets leftover" (again, check out Matthew 14:15-21). We had sand and concrete left over enough for the family we helped to pour a 4' x 8' pad of concrete. Coincidence? I think not.

After returning from the trip to Honduras, we buried an uncle who had passed away while I was out of the country. The day after his funeral, which was also six months after losing my grandmother, and the day a beloved aunt had died the year before, a bible app on my phone popped up with Philippians 4:7 (NIV). It says, "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." To most it would have gone unnoticed. To me it was one of those times God chose to remain anonymous. This particular verse is a verse I have prayed over bereaved families for years. Here in the midst of my own grief, God was sharing with me the same verse I'd shared with dozens of families over the years. Coincidence? I think not.

Whether a person wants to admit it or not, God is in control of everything. Nothing is outside of His control or His power, or He wouldn't be God. Next time you think about chalking something up to luck or coincidence, instead consider giving God the credit for what He's done.

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