Monday, October 20, 2014

Who's Your Daddy?

As I thought about what to write this morning, I simply couldn't escape thoughts of the series I've been teaching in Sunday School.  Well, actually, it's a series within a series.  The main series is Miracles of the Old Testament, but we are currently studying about Elijah's contest with the prophets of Baal.  Being one of my favorite stories in the Bible, I thought I knew it inside and out, but the Lord has revealed some interesting points to me throughout the past few weeks.  One of those is the thought I would like to share with you today.

Allow me to set the scene.  Elijah has challenged the 450 prophets of Baal to a little contest.  Each would build an altar with a sacrifice, then cry out to their God/god.  The God/god to answer by fire would be declared the one true God.  Simple.  Direct.  I like it!  Elijah even allows the prophets of Baal to go first.  So they build the altar, place the sacrifice on top and cry out to Baal.  And they cry and cry and cry.  After a few hours, the prophets begin leaping on the altar, still crying out to Baal to send down fire to consume the offering (and the altar on which they're standing).  Duh!  In fact, Elijah has the same attitude I do.

And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. - I Kings 18:27

I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who gets a little sarcastic from time to time.  I wonder if Elijah was a red-head too.  Anyway, he mocks, but it's what he says during his mocking that made me stop and think.  Not about Baal, but about my God, the one true God.  Look at what Elijah says:

Maybe he is talking -- Isn't it good to know that God can talk to you and listen to me at the same time, or vice versa?  God can be talking to hearts all around the world and listening to different hearts at the same time.  The line of communication with God has no "hold" button.  While He is a personal Savior, He can deal with many on a personal level all at the same time.  Baal couldn't do that.  Neither can any other god.  But my God can!

Maybe he is pursuing -- The Bible teaches us that our Lord is a Shepherd, searching for His lost sheep.  He is pursuing those who have gone astray.  But unlike the parable of the shepherd who left his fold of ninety-nine to go out and find the one, our God never needs to leave.  He can search for that one lost lamb while remaining with the other ninety-nine.  None of His sheep are ever alone.

Maybe he is on a journey -- Well, that goes right along with what I just said.  God doesn't leave His children alone.  He never takes a vacation from them, even though I wouldn't blame Him if He did.  Despite our faults and failures, He sticks with us through thick and thin.  When we call, He's there. . . always!

Maybe he's asleep -- Can you imagine what God would miss if He were to go to sleep?  How would He know about my problems?  How would He hear my praise?  How could He protect me?  He couldn't, and that's why He never sleeps.  Never!  He doesn't grow tired.  He doesn't "faze out" for a minute or two.  He doesn't miss a thing because He's always paying attention.  He is alert.  He is on watch.  And I'm so thrilled to know that I don't have to wake Him up every time I want to talk with Him.

My dear friends, we serve a wonderful God!  He is so loving and true.  He takes such good care of us and watches over us despite our stubbornness and pride.  He is our Father, Shepherd, Friend and so much more.  What a privilege to be His child!  

If you don't know this relationship with God, I urge you to accept His free gift of salvation today.  I'd be happy to show you the way.  You don't want to miss out like the prophets of Baal did.  Notice this verse:

And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. - I Kings 18:29

Did you catch that?  Not only did they not receive fire, but they didn't even get an answer of any kind.  On top of that, notice the phrase, "nor any to answer."  It doesn't say simply that there wasn't an answer but that there wasn't anyone or anything to answer.  The god they were praying to didn't exist.  And all the while, they ignored the one true God who could give them everything they needed.  Don't miss out on knowing a love unlike any other.  Ask Jesus to save you today!  No matter what you have done, you'll be welcomed into the fold of God.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Distracted by Clutter

I am writing today's posts much later than usual, but I assure you I have a good reason.  The truth is that I couldn't work another minute in my office before cleaning up the clutter. Over the past few weeks, my office has begun to resemble a junk yard.  Stuff has accumulated to the point that I could barely make my way to my desk, and I was having to rearrange stuff before I could reach my bookshelves.  With the changing of seasons, an assortment of clothes littered my hope chest.  Boxes of books from recent book signings and vendor events were stacked under the window.  But the worst of it was the collection of things that needed to go up into the attic. 

The drop-down door to the attic is in my office, which is no big deal.  It doesn't get in my way or distract me from my work.  However, I find it a pain to pull the door down and climb up into the attic for one thing.  So, what I normally do is wait until I have a few things and then make the trip up the ladder.  Unfortunately, the piles of things for the attic has grown, and I've been too busy with other projects to mess with them.  But this morning, as I stepped into my office, I made a decision.  "No more!  I am tired of this clutter.  I can't move.  I can't think.  I am distracted by the mess.  I will not put up with it a moment longer."  Then I pushed up my sleeves and spent the next couple of hours trying to unbury my office.

It was a lot of work, but I must admit it was definitely worth it.  As I sit at my desk now, I am at peace.  There is no clutter in sight.  I can move.  I can concentrate.  I can enjoy the tasks ahead of me because my mind isn't focused on the mess around me.  No more mess.  No more distraction.  Can you hear my sigh of relief?

Sometimes our lives can become as cluttered as my office.  With so much going on, the lists of demands and obligations can pile up just like the boxes and clothing in my work place.  Instead of putting things in their proper places, we allow people, things and situations to clutter our minds.  And because of that, when we strive to do the work God has called us to do, we find that we cannot move.  We cannot think.  We're distracted by the mess around us.

Sometimes, the problem is the same as that with my office--we simply have too much stuff.  In reference to our lives, I'm not necessarily talking about possessions, although they can cause quite a lot of clutter as well, but I'm referring to tasks and responsibilities.  We stretch ourselves too thin.  We think we need to be the perfect spouse, the perfect parent, the perfect employee, the perfect church member and the perfect friend.  We join clubs, attend meetings and work overtime.  We're always on the go and have no time for the things in life that should bring us joy.  Unfortunately, those are the things that have been buried under the mess.  They're still there, but we can no longer see them through the clutter.

One of the main reasons I waited so long to de-clutter my office was because I was too busy doing a lot of other things. They were good things, but were they things that I really should have been doing?  Were they more important than straightening up my office so that I could be more productive in the work that the Lord has called me to do?  It's difficult to say "no" to a friend's plea for help or your church's need of your assistance, but sometimes it is God's will for us to say, "no."  He has something for each of us to do, and we won't be able to do that work if we're too distracted by all the clutter around us.

Once we do clean up the mess, though, the results are amazing.  The peace of knowing that we're doing the exact thing we're supposed to do is overwhelming.  The ability to do that work without being hindered or distracted is exhilarating.  We can enjoy the tasks ahead of us because we aren't focused on the mess around us.

Come on, gang.  Let's roll up those sleeves and get busy.  We've got some de-cluttering to do!

And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. - I Corinthians 7:35

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Right Ingredient Is Essential

Have you ever had one of those days where it seemed as if your brain stayed in bed? Sad to say, I've had more than I can count. In fact, I had one recently. It was one of those days where there was much more to be accomplished than there was time to accomplish it; nevertheless, I charged onward in hopes of getting it all done. One chore that awaited me was the daily task of loading and unloading the dishwasher.

As I typically do, I had run the dishwasher at night while we were sleeping. So the next morning, when I opened the dishwasher to empty it, the first thing I noticed was that the dishes were not clean. Baffled and frustrated, I threw another dishwasher tab in there and started the cycle over again. A little while later when I went to unload the dishes, I noticed that they still were not clean. Knowing that the only recent change I had made was the new dishwasher tabs I had bought, I immediately pulled the pack out of the cabinet. My first clue that I had made a big mistake was the fact that there was a picture of a washing machine on the back of the package. I turned the package around and, sure enough, they were not dishwasher tabs but washing machine tabs. No wonder the dishes didn't come clean!

I knew that I would later laugh at the silly mistake, but at the time, I was frustrated by my stupidity and the massive amount of water I had wasted because of such a silly mistake. Not only that, but I knew I would have to make an extra trip to the store to pick up dishwashing liquid because I had failed to read the package. The moral of the story is this: you cannot wash dishes in the dishwasher with laundry detergent!

As comical as the story may seem, it is no joke when people try to find other means of cleansing their sin outside of the blood of Christ. They cling to their works, their religion, their financial standing and so many other things in hopes of appearing holy before a righteous God. Sadly, their erroneous ways are confirmed by false teachings that claim we're all okay as long as we do our best. These same teachings claim that a loving God could not possibly send anyone to Hell. They hold fast to the parts of the Bible that they like and dismiss the parts that they don't. And so, in vain, millions of people around the world are trying to wash away their sins with nothing more effective than laundry detergent.

If only they would realize that, just as my laundry detergent would not clean my dishes, their works or religion or whatever else will not cleanse their sins. There is only one thing powerful enough to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and that is the blood of Christ. Only by accepting his sacrifice on the cross can we appear holy before a righteous God. Everything else is in vain. It may look good. It may sound good. It may feel good. But it is of no effect.

My mistake cost me time, energy, and money, but the mistake of those who look for other ways to cleanse their sins will cost them so much more! It's up to us to tell them, to show them the error of their ways. It's time we spoke up and let the truth be known. Time is growing short, and many are headed down the wrong path. They need to see the truth. Let's get busy, shall we?

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - I John 1:7-9

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Hidden Doors

One thing that Jason and I enjoy doing during our time together is planning out our dream home.  When I say "dream home," I don't mean the home that we envision having one day, but "dream" as in fantasy.  We've planned and designed everything from 2,000-square-foot log cabins to 10,000-square-foot castles.  To aid in our planning sessions, we find unique floor plans online or in inexpensive magazines.  Then we redesign the houses to meet our own personal specifications and expectations.  It's a lot of fun and an enjoyable way to spend a few hours.

In our myriad of ideas and home designs, a few things remain constant.  First, we both enjoy an open floor plan, so that's a must.  Second, we find a way to work in a recreation room, complete with pool table, air hockey, foosball and the like, for our church youth (and adults--who am I kidding?).  Third, we plan for a music studio where we can both practice and record our musical talents (remember, this is fantasy, okay?).  Lastly, we envision some form of office/library set up for me.

My favorite designs are those where my office and the grand library are connected by a secret door.  Perhaps I've seen too many mysteries, but I love the thought of having a door that resembles a bookcase on the library side but resembles a simple wall on the office side.  From the library, one can open the hidden door by pulling out a particular book.  From the office, one simply turns the candelabra on the wall.  I think it's awesome, especially in keeping my office private.

I am equally impressed with the hidden doors that I've discovered through life.  Perhaps you're familiar with them as well--the money that came in unexpectedly, the job offer from out of the blue, the position you didn't even realize existed.  All of them doors that we couldn't even see.  Instead we were focused on the doors that we could see or trying to make doors out of windows.  And while we were so desperately trying to knock down the walls in front of us, God was waiting for the perfect time to open one or more of those hidden doors.

I've experienced a couple of those doors in the past few days.  First off, I was contacted by a Christian website that I had never even heard of.  The e-mail stated that they had seen my site and were impressed by the way I wrote.  They offered me a position (a paid position, I might add) on their writing staff.  I wrote my first article for them last Wednesday and received my first payment this morning.  As if that weren't exciting enough, I found out a little later that the administrator had looked through over two hundred Christian authors before finding my site, but once there, he decided right away that I was the one to fill the position.  Is that God or what?  I didn't know anything about this site or these wonderful people.  I didn't know they were looking for writers.  I didn't apply for a position.  I didn't even know how to apply for a position.  It was a hidden door that God opened at the perfect time.

Additionally, last week I received a payment for some royalties that I'd received for an article I had written a few years ago.  To be honest, I had forgotten all about the article.  I forgot that it was set up to receive royalties.  So, when I received this payment through my Paypal account, I was confused.  "Huh?  What's this?"  I looked into it and discovered it was just another hidden door, opened in God's perfect timing.

You'd think that would be enough, but God wasn't through yet.  I received another Paypal notification this morning telling me that some wonderful angel had donated $25 to my ministry.  Yes, I have a donate button on both of my blogs and my newsletter, but I can count on one hand the number of donations I've received through those buttons during the past six years of my writing ministry (not that people haven't contributed in other ways, mind you).  The buttons are there, but I give them very little thought.  Like I did with the article, I forgot that they were there.  But, once again, in that perfect timing, God said, "Here you go, child.  Here's another hidden door."

As I thought on this this morning, a particular passage came to my mind:  Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
 (Ephesians 3:20-21)  Exceeding abundantly above.  He has doors for us that we know nothing about.  He has surprises and blessings waiting around every corner.  So why, oh why, do we keep trying to break down the barriers in front of us?  If there's not an open door, there's a reason for that.  God doesn't show us a closed door so that we'll try harder to break it down.  Those closed doors are stop signs.  If He wants to open them, He will do so in His time, but if not, it could very well be that He has something better waiting for us behind one of those hidden doors.

Be patient, my friend.  Stop struggling against those closed doors.  Trust in God and His timing, then wait for those hidden doors to be revealed.  God will take care of it.  You won't even have to pull a book or turn a candelabra.  Just walk through and enjoy the blessings on the other side.