To the Unbeliever in 2021

Hindsight certainly is 2020, we’ll find it to be more so the further we are from it.

My dearest friends, my hope by this note is not to provide any new insight, but to give you something to consider sharing with your non-believing friends and family, as we begin a new year. It is not a treatise per se but an invitation. An invitation to consider not just the person of Jesus Christ, but the life he has provided and called us to live.

This is my letter to unbelievers in 2021.

Friends, consider for a moment your current belief about God, life, death, afterlife, what is out there, and why are we here? Regardless of where you currently stand on these subjects, I believe that they are rooted from some place deep inside you, that you probably can’t explain. CS Lewis refers to this in his book Mere Christianity, as the Law of Human Nature. That each one of us is working from a common set of internal beliefs of right and wrong, and that if we did not have those that life would be chaos. All arguments large or small stem from a belief that one person is right and the other wrong.  If you have not read this book, I would highly encourage. Lewis is one of the great apologists of the last century as well as an incredibly gifted writer and speaker.

This moral coding that is found inside all of us recognizes that there is more to life than a coincidental smashing together of atoms. It understands there is more than the here and now, we have a purpose and it’s bigger than ourselves. From this common understanding comes all things.

For example, in cultures across the world we have an uncanny level of hero worship. We make movies, television shows and books that highlight the individual sacrifice of one man (or small group of men) for the greater common good of all. Where does this come from, “For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3:17-18 

We read books and tell stories of heroes who are part God and part man that can both save and destroy the world. “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” Genesis 6:4

We place in high regard those, who against all odds, band together for a common cause to make the world a better place. “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve[a] that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” Mark 3:13-15

We love an underdog story, Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” 12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”” 1 Samuel 16:10-12

We idolize heroes, believe in the supernatural, cheer for the passionate, and identify with the underdog. What has this got to do with you? None of the stories are original, they all stem from scripture. Even before that they stem from that common core which we received from our creator, that believes in the nobility of righteousness, sacrifice, honor, and love. There is nothing new under the sun and we all are imbued with the same quest to be more than we are.

Since we know that in us is a common bond of understanding that gives us each a desire to be more, and to understand our purpose, why do we then settle for less?

In today’s culture we glorify those who hunt ghosts, seek to prove that aliens have visited from outer space, claim inanimate objects have magical properties and that we can know and understand our future by what the stars tell us. However, it’s taboo to believe that there is a sovereign God who created the universe. We believe in the supernatural but only so far as we can possess, control, or comprehend. We believe in the supernatural so long as it is small, and we can keep it in a box where it doesn’t really affect our daily lives.

In scripture we find talking animals, visitors not from this world, spirits reaching out from the grave, so called magicians and astrologers who can perceive the works of God but not understand them.

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:8-10

Dear ones, how can you continue to put your faith, trust, hope, and expectation in the created and not the creator. Inside each of us there is a longing that cannot be filled by anything but God; money can’t, power can’t, people can’t. Nothing created by God can satisfy, only God himself can.

The problems of the world are caused by the human propensity to seek to fill that void in themselves with the things of this world, which will never work. It is in that inability to be satisfied by what we have that drives us to seek more and more, nothing will ever even put a dent in that desire. There is only one answer to your longing, it is God.

If you find yourself beginning this new year longing to know more, be more, understand more, I encourage you to find a Bible and read the book of Matthew. It won’t take long and is easy to understand. Read it with an open mind, an open heart. I think you will find that it will speak to you in unexpected ways, and I will pray that the Holy Spirit moves, and you come to know who you are, how you are loved, and most especially the creator who sacrificed himself to bring you, and everyone, out of slavery to this world and closer to him.

If you remain unconvinced, I will ask you to consider one question. If you are right, and there is no God, and I am wrong. I have lived a full and complete life, truly happy with my decisions, loving my fellow man and working to spread love and peace in the world. When I die, that will be remembered of me. However, if I am right, and you are wrong, and there is indeed a God in heaven. You will not only have wasted your life chasing after things that will never make you happy, but you will also lose your eternity in the process.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people 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 their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:16-21

Let God surprise and bless you in this new year!

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

T-Minus 1-Day till 2021- Lord help me to seek you first.

It’s safe to say that of the four Gospels, the book of Matthew is my go-to. I love that it is clear, honest and doesn’t pull any punches with regard to who Jesus is and what He expects of us with regards to how we live our lives. From the Sermon on the Mount, through the parables, the Greatest Commandment and the Great Commission. You could read through this one Gospel and have a whole new level of understanding with regards to who our Savior is, what He’s done for us, and how He has called us to live.

Everything about this Gospel (all of them actually) points to God’s Sovereignty through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ with a foretelling of the Spirit to come that will enable us to do and be what we were created for. Whenever I am struggling with some aspect of my life; in my family, in my ministry, in my relationships, I can look to this book and find answers. I will find answers that confirm, and answers that convict. The Holy Spirit will reveal to me new truths and provide the direction and discernment that I’m asking for.

In Matthew chapter 6 we read a litany of worldly problems that we allow to distract us, Jesus answer to those problems is very simple, But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34

Jesus answer to all our problems, challenges, suffering, questions, etc. is to seek God first in all things. I know that in my own life it is easy to say, and harder to do, especially in the emotional moment. I am a problem solver by nature and my practical problem solving side kicks in and I’m operating in my own knowledge and not in Gods. 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 tells us, Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” 

My prayer, on this last day before the breaking through of 2021, is to seek first the kingdom of God, to seek his wisdom and his knowledge, not what this world considers to be wise, which is foolishness to God. I pray that before I speak, act, decide, and emote, that I measure each with the wisdom that the Holy Spirit provides to me through Scripture, and prayer.

I pray that this new year brings restoration for families, peace for each heart, and most especially a revival in the Church. Our world is hurting, reeling, and desperately seeking for an anchor. Christ is that anchor, Christ is what the world needs, Christ is the only one who can save us from the storm that is blowing all around us.

If you are looking for answers and are uncertain where to turn, I encourage you to pick up a Bible and read the book of Matthew. It won’t take days and days, it’s easy to understand, it will challenge your thinking, break your heart, give you hope, and prepare you for the life you have been called to live with Jesus in your heart. What harm could it do, none. However, the hope it will bring can change your life and provide answers to questions you’ve been asking.

Happy New Year dear ones, may it bring you abounding blessings, deep love of God through Christ Jesus and a life made whole by the gift of His Salvation.

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

T-Minus 3 Days till 2021 – Lord give me a new heart.

I am not big on New Year’s resolutions, never really have been. Oh, don’t get me wrong I’ve made a few now and again, usually something trite or superficial having to do with the way I look or how I want others to see me. This year however, is different. I think we can all agree that 2020 has been like nothing we’ve ever seen, and we’re all hoping, never to see again.

2020 has brought changes in all of us that require a second look, a moment to ponder our lives, our experiences, and ultimately our future. So, over the next few days, leading up to the close of 2020 and the hopeful ringing in of 2021, I want to share with you my resolutions. Well, they are actually more prayers for intervention into my life. I am expectant for what God is going to do in my life and the lives of my family and my church in the days and months ahead. I am expectant because I believe that these are what God has placed in my heart, and how he wants me to move forward into 2021. I know that when we accept Jesus, it is the ultimate new beginning, as is each day we get up and reconfirm that decision. I also know there are times in our lives that God moves in our hearts to reflect on those decisions and how they are (or are not) being played out in our day-to-day lives. New Year’s seems an almost natural time for us to pray about those area’s that the Holy Spirit has either convinced or convicted and ask God to help us make a fresh start.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:26-27

Just as God promised his people that he would give them a new heart and a new spirit, and that he would move them to follow his degrees and keep his laws. I am praying the same for myself and my family.

Lord, give me a new heart. Give me a heart to love your people the way you do. Help me to love them where they are not where I might want them to be. Philippians 2:1-3

Lord teach me to forgive and give me a short memory. Help me to remember that the people of this world are not my enemy, Ephesians 6:12

Lord help me to be patient, kind, understanding, generous, and respectful to everyone I meet, regardless of their treatment of me. Romans 5:2-4

This year I have struggled with seeing people through God’s own heart. So much of my struggle and frustration has stemmed from me seeing those around me in an adversarial way. Those around me, although they may have different opinions, thoughts, feelings, habits, reactions, and perceptions than me, are not my enemy. They are God’s children, just as I am. We are all in the same boat and walking through the same world. My prayer for this next year is that God will give me a new heart and place a new spirit in me. I ask him to turn that heart of flesh toward him and toward those around me. Lord fill my heart with compassion and understanding and let my life reflect all that you have done for me.

Pease help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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Easy and hard, we have it backwards

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend who was facing a dilemma. She knows the right decision to make, she knows the wrong decision to make. She knows the wrong decision is going to cause long term pain and suffering while providing immediate satisfaction. This is not an uncommon conversation, someone comes to you, wanting your support for a decision they know they shouldn’t make, but they give 101 reasons why it will make them happier…in the short term.

What struck me was the comment she made, it’s one we’ve all heard, and I’m sure agreed with, for the most part. She said, “Why is choosing the right path always so hard?” The right decision is always the hard decision, the decision that is going to require sacrifice or cause pain. The wrong decision is the easy decision, the one that brings the most immediate satisfaction.

As I thought about this on my way home after the conversation, I think we have this concept of right being hard and painful and wrong being easy and satisfactory, backwards. We believe that to do right we have to suffer and to do wrong we are indulging our fleshly passions. First when I state right and wrong, I’m talking about sin; specifically, when we are faced with choices to love God first, and then others as ourselves, or the choice to place our fleshly wants and needs above loving God first and others as ourselves. When you think about it, those are the only choices that really matter.

We have a mindset, and we share it with others, that to love God first and others as ourselves (that is a very important statement found in Matthew 22:36-40) means we must suffer, it will be a grueling decision that will cause short term pain and maybe long-term gain. I want you to listen to Jesus own words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus tells us that he is humble, we’ll find rest in him and that his burden is light. The reason that we struggle with the right decision (love God first and then others as ourselves) is that we are constantly battling with the world. We are constantly at war with what our sinful nature wants, not what the Holy Spirit in us wants. The battle is self-inflicted. When we chose God, when we chose love then as long as we stand with those choices and don’t stray from that path the choice to love is easy.

“You make 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

“The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” Proverbs 4:18

“Feet trample it down— the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor.  The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth. Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.” Isaiah 26:6-8

When we follow the path that Jesus has laid out for us; Love God first and others as ourselves, our life, our choices will be dictated by love. The only pain or loss we’ll feel is that of the world, and the more we chose life over death the less we’ll feel that sting.

Doing what is right means we are giving up on the things of this world that lead us to death. Choosing right, then, should be the easy decision. Living for immediate gratification from things of this world that are temporary and will disappear, only leads to wanting more things of this world for immediate gratification from things of this world that are temporary and will fade away. This choice is a vicious cycle of insatiable want that will never end and leads to death. The pain in that cycle is eternal dissatisfaction with who we are, what we have, and how to get more, because it will never be enough.

The simplest way I can state this; love is the easy decision. Loving God first and others as ourselves is the only thing that can satisfy our souls. Truly satisfy, as in we will not want anything else. The hard decision, the one that brings unending pain and suffering is the one that seems to bring immediate satisfaction, but it soon fades and leads to greater and greater need for more to fill the never-ending gaping hole in our lives.

The choice, then, is easy; eternal life by loving God first then others as ourselves. When we are truly satisfied by Christ and that abundant blessing is overflowing from us to others, even when the storms of live are brewing around us, and circumstances are trying to make us forget that we have everything, we can stand firm knowing that the storm will pass, and we will be with Christ victorious. Storms subside, always. Trials cease, always. Christ’s love, forgiveness, peace, patience, kindness, and grace are boundless, unceasing, and eternal.

The hard choice is the one we make that keeps us in bondage to the world of suffering, pain, loss, and confusion, that always leads to death. The easy choice is Christ, that always leads to life.

Pease help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

Altar of Thanksgiving

Close-up Of Gratitude Word With Pen On Notebook Over Wooden Desk

Throughout Old Testament Scripture we read that altars were created to commemorate some act that God performed on behalf of His people. Whether it was to mark the creation of a covenant, celebrate a victory, remember a promise, mourn a defeat, or forge a relationship, altars were created to memorialize what God had done for His people so they would not forget, so they would remember and have something to point to when sharing with their children and their children’s children.

An altar was a sacred place; it was where we came to make offerings and to atone for our sins. It is where we laid down our burdens and our sins and came clean before God. The altar of God was a place without pretense or pride, we humbled ourselves before God and acknowledged our lack, our inability, our weakness, and utter brokenness.

In our churches today, altars are seen much the same. The altar is a place where we come forward seeking forgiveness, provision, strength, guidance, and interceding for those we love. In our churches the altar has become a place where we bear our deepest pain, struggles, desires, failures, and fatigues. It’s not to wonder that the altar has become known as the mourner’s bench or the sinner’s rail, a place one comes to when they’ve sinned or need help, but this is exactly what the altar is for! God wants for us to come to Him with our troubles, He want to be the balm that soothes our weary souls, He wants to offer forgiveness, and discernment, and direction. God wants us to come to His altar with all our troubles and to lay them down.

The altar is a place of release, a place where we can unburden our hearts to the one who already knows everything and loves us regardless. The one who died for us even while we were living in our sin and brokenness. It is no wonder that people are drawn to the altar when they don’t believe they have any place else to turn.

I love Christmas movies! I love the feelgood nature of the, and there seems to be an unlimited number of movies to make you shed tears of joy. I’ve noticed that when it comes to Christmas movies, most of them, at some point, find the protagonist at a church, at an altar, asking God for help, for guidance, for Him to intercede in a miraculous way. In some cases, it is just a plea for a sign to show God is there. The altar is so much more than a place or a thing. It is where we come to meet God. It is where some of us have made life altering decisions, experienced the Holy Spirit in a way that is inexpressible. It is a place where we not only come to meet God, but also a place where we can point to and say, “that spot right there is where I met Jesus for the first time.”

We have a lot of altar calls happening in churches right now. If your church is like my church, we are opening the altars every week as a place for people to come forward and meet God. Whatever the reason, they come with their heads in their hands, tears streaming down their face, knowing that awaiting them are the loving arms of the Father. Each week, people walk forward to seek forgiveness, ask for provision, seek wisdom and direction for challenges in their lives. The altar is part of our public worship and a sharing of our deepest hurts in a safe community that loves and supports us.

While thinking about this today, I began to wonder why our altars are a mourner’s bench and a sinner’s rail, and not a seat of worship and praise? Why do our altars see more tears of brokenness than tears of joy?

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100

While this year has been incredibly hard for millions and millions of people. I have been trying to focus on all the ways that God has continued to bless me, my family, friends, and my church. Trying to see each challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow. God is teaching me patience, grace, and more patience. During all the hardship, fear, anxiety, struggles, and feelings of absolute inadequacy in the face of so much, God has remained faithful. Each day I find something else to praise God for, some new way He has blessed me, or that I just hadn’t noticed before.

I want to go to the altar, not to ask or to receive but to give to God the only thing I have, my praise, my gratitude, my thanksgiving. What an amazing testimony it would be if just one Sunday, instead of opening the altar for people to bring their wants and needs, instead to bring their praise and worship. What a witness to have a church full of people fill the front of the room around the altar to just thank God for all He is doing in their lives, amid their troubles, in the midst of uncertainty, in the middle of the mess, we thank God for all He has done to bless our lives, to show us favor, to provide for our needs, and to never leave or forsake us.

A church full of people, on their knees at the altar of God just giving praise and thanksgiving?

The altar of God is always open, the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts so we don’t actually have to go to a place to ask for forgiveness, provision, peace and direction. We can do that from anywhere. On our knees at our bedside or an altar in the church. The important part is to go there. My challenge to each of us is to remember that along with our requests, along with our wants and needs, we should always remember to thank, in advance and with expectation the one to whom we owe all things.

Even if

We are told to let God fight our battles, but what does that mean exactly? What does it mean for us to be in a place where the God of the universe will stand before, behind, and beside us against our enemies?

Reading through the book of Daniel, I see such a moment. A moment where three men were given a choice, God or the world, and by choosing God, He defended them.

“I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” Daniel 3:15

King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t pick a fight with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Sure he thought he could bully them into submission by holding their lives in the balance, but notice the last line of his statement, “And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” He dared God to intervene, he arrogantly proclaimed that there was not god that was stronger than he. Even after all God had done for him personally, he took his fight to the highest court, God was not going to leave his chosen and faithful believers unaided.

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” He said, “Look! I see four men talking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Daniel 3:24-25

God will not abandon His faithful. That does not mean you have to be perfect, or get all things right, or never make a mistake, it means you must be faithful. You must put God first, when we do that, when we chose Him over whatever else is calling for our attention, God will ALWAYS show up.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:9-10

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down and worship an enormous gold statue that the King had erected for himself. They made the decision to remain faithful to their God and His commands, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:1-6

Even though they were in exile, taken as children and acculturated into Babylonian society, they remembered the teachings of the Lord. They remembered his commands while being basically brainwashed to be Babylonians. Because of their faithfulness, God provided for them in all ways. Elevating them well above those who were native to the culture. They stood apart, stood above, and were favored by the king, until they drew a line in the sand. They would NOT bow down and worship a foreign God.

King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t just threaten the lives of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, which was bad enough, he dared God to defy him. He dared the God to, “just try”, and step in. He challenged the Sovereign God of the Universe to a game of chicken, and lost, miserably.

I love the answer that they provide the King after he lays down the ultimatum, assimilate or die a painful horrible death.

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”” Daniel 3:16-18

WOW! Not only do they respond with, “yes, He is able” but also with “yes, He will”. Their confidence in Gods ability and willingness to save them (either in this life or the next) is absolute and they have no doubt. My favorite words, however, are what come next. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

Even if… Even if we die in this world, we will not worship your Gods. Even if we lose our job, our home, our family, we will not turn aside from the God who sent His son to save us. Even if we become outcasts, lepers, strangers, we will remain faithful to the God of our forefathers, and we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will do battle for us.

Even if. We hear these words from Daniel, Esther, Ruth, Job, Paul, Peter, all the saints and faithful believers throughout history and into today. Those living in countries where owning a Bible is a death warrant, even if it means they die a horrible death, they remain faithful.

Even if, is our response to, But God. We read throughout God’s word how His people faced unsurmountable odds, situations and conditions that pushed them well beyond the limits of natural human endurance, then we read, But God. He defends His faithful, our response is, Even If. Even if we don’t get what we want or thing should happen, even if our lives turn out every different and we are forced to endure the unendurable, even then we will praise you Lord. Even then we will refuse to bow down before any idol, even then we will worship you, and no one else but you.

Even if…

Pease help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries