That’s My Story and I’m Sticking To It

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“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. 4 One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. 5 They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. 6 They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. 7 They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”
Psalm 145:3

Today, I want to begin a new series called Stories! Most everyone likes and enjoys a good story. There are dramas, comedies, love stories, adventures, fiction, and numerous other types of stories. Stories are told in literary form, through pranks, comic strips, plays, (Romeo and Juliet), through dance, in music, art, sculpture, movies and various other ways.

We all love epic stories…you know; “the one that got away,” “why I didn’t do my homework,” or “why I was caught speeding;” “My high school football adventures.”

Stories are important.

A. They inspire us…they cause us to dream and desire something bigger and better than that which we have known. Batman, Superman, Cat Woman, Supernatural…They open our minds to new possibilities and can even make the impossible seem realistic. They inspire courage and bring hope!
Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith comes by hearing and hearing the word of God…”1461717_10202384448283750_1634992278_n

B. Stories can also teach us lessons. Someone once said, “Those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.” What that really means is, unless we draw lessons from our past experiences, or from the stories of our parents and forefathers, we will make the same mistakes over and over. Stories can teach us principles and lessons of life. That’s what the parables of Jesus were designed to do.

C. They can comfort us. Remember as a kid asking your mom or grandma to tell you a story to help you go to sleep?

D. Stories don’t just inspire, inform and comfort, but they can also entertain. They can make us laugh, cry, the can bring great joy or deep sorrow! I think we also love stories, because we all have one!

A great story is relatable…the person listening must be able to connect with what you are saying. Each of us has walked a unique and yet familiar journey. The details, people and even the events may vary, but the emotions, issues and challenges are a part of the commonality of all mankind.

We’ve all experienced pain of betrayal, rejection and heartache…we’ve each had to overcome something…be it fear, failure or some other type of physical, spiritual or emotional stronghold. But we’ve also all known the joy of love, friendship, the fulfillment of a dream. We’ve all felt the euphoria of breaking free…overcoming…or conquering something that seemed impossible…we love stories, because we all have a story. They are all different, and yet they are all alike!

Our story is our testimony. A testimony is a verbal witness of what I used to do or be before Christ changed my life. A story is an answer to prayer…A story says, I once was lost, sick, bound, broke, depressed or so forth, but Jesus set me free!

That’s a testimony…

Daniel 4:2-3 “I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me. How great are His signs, and how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation.”

Declare- “to open your mouth and say something out loud.”

The greatest story is the story of God sending His Son Jesus into the world to redeem us and reconcile us back to God. It is a love story paralleled in human history.

The second greatest story is your own personal account of how that happened to you.
Good things are to be shared…relationships, recipes, information, cookies, etc.

Psalm 66:16 “Come and hear, all you who reverently and worshipfully fear God, and I will declare what He has done for me!” (AMP)
1 Chronicles 16:8 “Thank God! Call out his Name! Tell the whole world who he is and what he’s done!” (Message)

Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name.” (NKJV)

Testimonies are important. In times past the way history was preserved was primarily through oral record. The stories were passed down from generation to generation. In the early church one of the most important aspects of their worship service was the sharing of their stories of God’s deliverance. It helped them remain steadfast and faithful during great tribulation and hardship. It was even a part of the Pentecostal tradition in the early years…many of the songs were testimonies of God’s goodness and grace.

Why are they important…
1. They remind us of the goodness of God. Sometimes we can develop amnesia. Our flesh only focuses on the present troubles and tends to forget the faithfulness of God. Stories remind me how good God has been. In Deuteronomy 11:15-25 the nation of Israel was commanded to memorize the word of the Lord, to put it over the door post, around their arms and foreheads and to teach them to their children so that they would remember the source of their blessing and follow the Lord. It is easy to become so overwhelmed with life’s problems that you forget God’s past deliverance!

2. They remind us that the devil is defeated; he is a liar, he is totally defeated and Jesus really is Lord. Your testimony helps you keep your foot on his neck. It brings him back to the place of his defeat.
Joshua 1:5 “No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you…”
Story of Joshua and Caleb

3. They remind us that if He did it once He’ll do it again. They keep our faith vibrant so it doesn’t grow stagnant and we become comfortable and complacent. It causes is to remain hungry, anticipatory, and expectant…He did it once and He’ll do it again!

Most us of think our story begins when victory comes but in reality, it begins in the dark places, when you feeling like quitting, giving up, or walking away. A story is the result of crying out in the deepest, darkest moment of your life and watching God come through and do for you what you could not do for yourself.
I wonder; does anyone have a story? Have you ever felt alone and His presence was your companion? Have you ever been sick and He healed you? Have you ever exhausted all of your resources and He made a way? That’s your story and it must be told!

Psalm 107:2; “Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.” (NLT)

If you have been redeemed you need to speak it out loud. Testimonies are not to be kept, hidden, silenced or concealed. They are to be given out, talked about, recorded, preserved and passed down from generation to generation.

• One day your children are going to face similar situations and circumstances and they need a point of reference to know that if God did it for their parents He’ll do it for them! Testimonies should be a frequent part of a believer’s life. They should be an ongoing record of the God who remembers covenant. A Christian life without a story robs God of the glory He deserves.

Many are obvious to the fact that everyday God is blessing, protecting, keeping, providing and doing you good. In Lamentations 3:22, 23 (KJV) Jeremiah said, “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”

Just because it didn’t come in a gift wrapper with a bow doesn’t mean God hasn’t been good to you…the very fact that you are breathing is reason enough to give Him praise!

• In Psalms 100:3, the great Psalm on thanksgiving says, the Bible says to “Know ye that the Lord, He is God”. The Hebrew word used here for “know” means not only to know for yourself, but to also acknowledge and show. Because we who have been redeemed have that assurance that the Lord is the only true and living God we must acknowledge it and make sure others know as well!

• Example: I heard the story of a man who was a medical missionary for many years in India. He served in a region where there was progressive blindness. People were born with healthy vision, but there was something in that area that caused people to lose their sight as they matured.” But this missionary had developed a process which would arrest progressive blindness. So people came to him & he performed his operation, & they would leave realizing that they would have become blind, but now they were going to be able to see for the rest of their lives. He said that they never said, “Thank you,” because that phrase was not in their dialect. Instead, they spoke a word that meant, “I will tell your name.” Wherever they went, they would tell the name of the missionary who had cured their blindness. They had received something so wonderful that they eagerly proclaimed it.

• Your testimony is the greatest witness of His love, power and goodness. The Greek word translated as glorify means to “make glorious.” He began to make the Lord glorious. That’s what we should do, in our homes, on our jobs, and in our communities. Make the Lord glorious. It’s time to tell the name of the Lord, acknowledge what He has done in your life, and be thankful. Remember that God is good, remember that He is merciful and remember that God’s truth endures. YOU DON’T KNOW WHO IS LISTENING AND WHO NEEDS TO KOW HOW GOOD HE IS!

• Photo album-shows you how things used to be-a record that some of us once had hair. That’s what a testimony is!

4. They witness to others that the Bible is true.

Acts 1:8 “But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 21:19” When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord.”

Our stories are the personal witnesses and proofs that the God of the Bible is still active today! We provide evidence to support the claims of the Bible. We become an example and a model for others to follow. They inspire others to take the risk to trust God to experience the same things in their lives that we’ve experienced in ours. Stories reaffirm the promises so that others can be strengthened, inspired and encouraged.

Your story should never condemn but should cause others to cry out…”If He did it for them He’ll do it for me!”

Mark 5:1-20 tell the story…
• This was a guy who was comfortable around dead things…
Tormented…Possessed by 6000 demons…
• Dwelt among the tombs screaming and cutting himself running around naked.
• When Jesus finished with him, his story had changed…
He was clothed, in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus. You would think that there would be revival…instead they begged Him to leave. Not everyone is going to rejoice in your victory…
• They wanted deliverance but didn’t want God to mess with their pigs…
• Same today…”heal me, bless me, fix my marriage, just don’t require me to change. The moment you ask me to change, I’m going to get mad and start looking for another church!” Pigs are things we’ve become attached to that we don’t want to let go of…change requires change!
• Here was a man who was lost but now is found and free but all they could see was their pigs…
• But Jesus told him to go tell his story knowing that though there will be haters, you cannot allow them to rob you of your testimony. Keep telling it…somebody needs to hear it and somebody will listen…What’s your story?

Leave It Buried!

“…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

PT 2When I was a boy my brother John and I had a Anglo-Nubian baby billy goat that we loved immensely. He was playful, ornery, and unpredictable. He was all white with little horns protruding from his head. Unfortunately, one winter we had a terrible blizzard with snow so deep that we couldn’t retrieve him to bring him into the house. The Arkansas temperatures dropped so quickly that when we went to check on him in the morning, we found him in the barn, frozen to death. We were heartbroken to say the least!

So, being pastors kids, we had a funeral, sang, prayed, cried and then buried him. Our parents bought us another one, who was just as cute and mischievous; (whom we eventually learned to love as well), but we missed “Deborah!” We wanted Deborah back! (Ya, I know a male goat with a female name…we we’re kids…give us a break!)
anglo nubian After a couple of months of grieving, John had what we both thought was a brilliant idea; we were going to dig it back up so we could see it just one more time. To say the least that was one of the worst decisions of our young lives. We were so distraught afterwards that we cried for days. In fact we couldn’t even bury it again; my dad had to do it for us! we were overcome with grief! The trauma of digging up something that should have stayed buried was far worse than the initial burial and goodbye.
That’s the way it is with the past. You see, we’ve all made mistakes…we’ve done things we’re not proud of…things that have caused us deep emotional pain. And, we’ve all endured the sting of betrayal, felt the agony of hurt, scorn and hardship inflicted by others.
The truth is, we all have a past…but we also all have a future.

Because of the blood of Jesus, it doesn’t really matter what happened or why it happened. We are promised not just forgiveness from OUR failures, but also redemption and restoration from the effects of the failures of others who have left a dubious mark in our lives. We have been granted grace to be forgiven and to forgive!

But, how often do we, just like my brother and I as kids, dig it back up? How often do we allow guilt and shame to cause us to relive events or situations that are far better left buried beneath the blood? How often are we our own worst enemy…beating ourselves up over things that cannot be changed, and allowing the trauma of it to taint our approach to the future?

Digging things up that should be left buried is not a good idea…we have to leave it buried…buried in the sea of God’s forgetfulness…never to be dug back up again!

We can’t change the past but we can determine the future…leave it buried!

Remember…No amount of guilt can undue past and no amount of anxiety can change the future! The blood has erased it; God can’t remember it; you must stop bringing it back up.

People!

wholer_business_peoplePeople are important! They represent the potential for good or evil. If our relationships are strained it tremendously hinders what God is able to bring into our lives. The truth is, most of the answers to our prayer are brought through people. Most of our problems are caused by people, and most are solved by people. People represent relationships and resources; but they also represent responsibilities. Some make the mistake of going after resources without realizing that most resources are directly connected to relationships. It’s like the Pastor who said, “I love the ministry; it’s the people I can stand!”

Healthy relationships are essential to a healthy life! You will never become all that God has created you to be by yourself! You needPT blue suit crop others! You need friends and partners who will walk with you through life. You need people to fight for you during life’s struggles, people to celebrate with you during the victories, to correct you you’re your wrong, and to encourage you when you’re down!  There is nothing worse than having a battle to fight and having to face it alone; or having a victory to celebrate and no one to celebrate it with! You need people!

It is also very important to know where the people in your life fit.  You need the right people in the right place! The more accurately you identify their role, the greater the efficiency of the relationship. Wellington Boone wrote a book entitled, “Your Wife Is Not Your Momma.” When we get the roles right, we will experience the purpose for which God has brought them into our lives. Failure to properly recognize roles can greatly limit our ability to maximize the potential in the relationship. For example, when God sends a mentor, be willing to be a student. When God sends a son, be a father!

The Apostle Paul models this for us. Everyone needs a Barnabas, a Silas and a Timothy. Barnabas-a mentor; someone above you pulling you up.  Silas-a peer; someone on your level that relates with your situations and helps you stay balanced; and a Timothy-a son; one you are pulling up!

More next week!

Change

1461717_10202384448283750_1634992278_nChange…we all need it; but we all dread it! It’s been said that the only person who likes change is a wet baby. The truth is, change is seldom easy, but always necessary in order to improve the quality of your life. If you continue to do the same things you’ll continue to get the same results. Something has to change. The changes you make now, will determine the trajectory of your life in the future. Truthfully, we all know we need to change, but actually doing it can seem overwhelming; mostly, because we don’t know where to begin. Allow me to challenge you to carefully consider a few things…

1. The genetic code of your future is found in your daily routine. You see, everyone does the right things SOMETIMES; but the secret to maximizing your potential and living life at the highest possible level, is to do the right things CONSISTENTLY!  Your daily routine is creating the behavior pattens of your life, establishing daily habits that ultimately control the outcome of your life. What are you doing that is unfruitful, unproductive, or unfulfilling? Why not seek out information that will help you save time or money; improve your health, better your relationships,  or enhance your walk with God? Instead of repeating habits that are limiting you, why don’t you consider finding ways to do what you do in a better manner? Your future will not change until you change your daily routine.want it

2. Whatever you make excuses for you’ll never change. You can always find an excuse for what you don’t want to change. You know, we’ve all head them…”I’m too old.” “I’ve tried but can’t.” “It’s too difficult!” Honestly, these are not reasons, just excuses. DREAMS HAVE NO AGE LIMIT!  The world famous Colonel Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken at the age of 65, using his first Social Security check as start up funds. Before his death at age 90, KFC had grown to over 6,000 locations with sales of more than $2 billion.How big is your dream and badly do you want it? Stop excusing the things that are sabotaging it!

3. The thing you need to change the most, is probably the thing you want most NOT to change.  The primary factor is fear. Fear of the unknown is a powerful force. However, avoiding things will not make them go away. You can’t hide forever. Go on a deal with it. Even if you’re not entirely sure what to do, do something…anything…confront it…answer the phone, join the gum, make the call, read the letter, cut up the credit card, enroll for classes, say you’re sorry…do what you know you need to do…do what you’ve been putting off. I dare you; come on do it. Do it quickly! Do it now! You won’t regret it!

4. Doing nothing is doing something! Change for the sake of change is seldom fruitful and rarely lasts.  Change is only change when it’s really change. In other words, once you make a change, expect opposition and discomfort. It’s like working out; in the beginning, your muscles will get sore, there will be days when you want to stay home and go back to your old routine, there will be times when it seems nothing is improving. But, remember success is NOT the result of doing the right things…it’s found in doing the right things over and over and over again. It takes time; discipline and commitment to work through the tough times until you develop the habits necessary to sustain your new behavior!

Be honest with yourself and identify the things that are not working. Search out the information required to improve those areas that are unfruitful; seek God, find a mentor, ask questions, read a book, examine what others are doing. Once you acquire the necessary information, begin the process of adaptation. Realize it takes time so see results but stay with it!

Your best days are ahead. Don’t fear change; embrace it. It’s then you’ll discover things about yourself and your capacity to achieve that you never knew before!

Pastor Tim

What Are You Looking For? Repost from 40 Day Fast From Negativity

Originally posted on pastortimwalker:

For those who missed the introductory blog, allow me to once again share the premise of our thought process in this continuing fast of negativity. (Repost) Both the hummingbird and the vulture fly over our nation’s deserts. All vultures see is rotting meat, because that is what they’re looking for. They thrive on a diet of dead, rotting flesh.

Hummingbirds ignore the pungent smell of the flesh of rotting animals. Instead, they look for the colorful blossoms of desert plants. The vultures live on what was. They live on the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is. They seek new life. They fill themselves with freshness and life.

The amazing thing is, each bird finds what it is looking for. And, in a sense, we all do. If you believe the world is mean and cruel, every time someone cuts you…

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The Secret to Effortless and Lasting Change

GREATER Part 4

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (Romans 12:2 NLT)

No matter where you are in life, God desires to do something GREATER!1461717_10202384448283750_1634992278_n

There is a price to pay in order to enjoy GREATER things in your life. You must be willing to…

Release-what’s over

Refocus-upon your objective

Rekindle-the fire of your passion (Romans 12:11 MSG) “Don’t burn out.  Keep yourselves fueled and aflame.”

Renew-your mind and begin to think in line with God’s word. It is the secret to effortless, lasting change.

Every day you are either becoming more of what you desire to be or more of what you already are…You are either conforming (being pressed into the mindset and mold of this world) or transforming…the good news is, you are the one who decides which it will be!

Transform (Greek-metamorphu)…“completely change into another form.” It implies a process of development where the hidden design is ultimately revealed. It means to allow what’s on the inside to work its way through to the outside.

The butterfly goes through the process of metamorphosis until that which was always there in its genes or DNA is revealed.

Caterpillars can’t fly. But they were born to fly. How do you solve this conundrum? Metamorphosis! When the caterpillar has been changed into a butterfly, it becomes what God always intended it to be. It emerges from the cocoon as a beautiful butterfly. It maximizes it’s potential!

Metamorphosis reveals the essential character of whatever was put there by the Creator in the beginning.

 What are dangers of conformity?

 You fail to recognize your uniqueness

You allow others to determine your value, purpose and potential

You never access the fullness of your calling and heavenly resource

You don’t maximize the GREATNESS God created in you and prepared for you

The opposite of conform, is transform! We will all choose one or the other! We will either conform, or be pressed into the mold of the world or we will be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ 

Now let’s apply this to life of the believer.

When you were born-again, God placed something great on the inside of you…His life, His power-His glory, grace, love, confidence, peace, wisdom, the full potential for every resource and promise of God to be fulfilled.  He has given you all things that pertain to life and godliness.

“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3 NLT)

You have everything you need to be an overcomer in life. The devil should never get the best of you. You have the potential to win in every situation.

But, for many the treasure on the inside isn’t manifesting on the outside! This is why we see so many saints living like sinners. They struggle with the same issues, bad habits and unproductive patterns of behavior as unbelievers. When they were born-again they were given eternal life and brought into the family of God. Their SPIRIT MAN was changed on the inside, but their lifestyle or manner of living…THE OUTSIDE has remained much the same. They still battle anger, hatred, bitterness, strife, lust and so forth. They are still sick, broke, discouraged…living under the effects of natural conditions. They are just surviving…not living out the exciting adventure of discovering, fulfilling their life mission and heavenly assignment. Daily life is just the constant repetition of past events lived over and over!

The truth is, most all of us realize we need to make changes in some area of life!The problem is actually doing it! To be honest, most changes are short-lived, lasting just long enough to relieve the stress of the current dilemma and then the old patterns re-emerge.

I’m not questioning anyone’s salvation or commitment to Christ; no doubt they have acknowledged Jesus as their Lord, and will go to heaven; but they are living far below their potential in Jesus Christ. Something is wrong. Since the problem is not the inefficiency of the life of God within, it must be the inability of the believer to yield to it and nurture it.

If we are going to experience outwardly the inward things that God has planted in our hearts…the things that He whispers to us…the hopes, the dreams, the benefits and the promises that He gives us . . .something has to happen, and it is this: We must renew our minds.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you might experience, prove, and taste the will of God.

What are you facing in your life right now? Is it stress, physical challenges, or problems in your marriage? Are you grappling with emotional issues? Perhaps you have a deep, dark depression that enshrouds you and just does not want to let go of you. Maybe you are struggling with some familiar sin; perhaps it is an issue of illness; maybe there are things going on with your kids or in some other arena of relationship. I truly believe that God wants to bring transformation into your life.

If you are struggling with financial woes, He wants to bring you into blessing; under emotional strain, he wants to give you peace…marriage, family relationships, lost joy, no sense of purpose, spiritual life, habits or additions, battles with the flesh. God wants to bring you into the fullness of what He created you to be and He wants you to enjoy the total provision of Calvary.

What were you created to be? What has He deposited within the DNA of your redeemed spirit? What is your capacity? What is your dream or goal for this new year? What does GREATER mean to you? Are you ready to be changed?

Here’s the secret to true life transformation…renew your mind; “embrace a new way of seeing, thinking and believing!”

How?

The Motivation  – (Romans 12:1-3) “in light of the mercies of God…” (Verse 1) “Then you will always be able to determine what God really wants—what is good, pleasing, and perfect.” (Verse 2)

    Because of all He has invested in you.

    It’s the only way to experience the fullness of His will and purpose for your life

The Means (Titus 3:5) “[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

You can’t change yourself. You may be able to modify behavior, but you can’t transform your life. You need help!

The power to change comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in your life as He reveals and then leads you into truth and then breaks the power of old thought patterns and habits.

The Method (James 1:21) “…humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. (22) But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. (23) For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. (24) You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. (25) But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”

Change comes as our minds are renewed to think in line with the word of God.

Read it (James 1:21-25) read, hear & study the Bible

Reflect upon it (Psalm 1:2-3) meditate in it day and night

Repeat it (Proverbs 10:11) confess it with your mouth

Respond to it (John 13:17) act upon it

The Word is a seed which when planted and nurtured bring forth the fruit of effortless and lasting transformation.

When Christmas is not “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year!”

The Holidays are traditionally a time of joy, laughter and celebration with family and friends. But for some, it can serve as a stark reminder, not of what they have, but of what they have lost. Rather than being “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year,” it can be a time of sorrow and heartache.1424404_10202384450323801_511798782_n They struggle to find any “holiday cheer!”

To those who lost a loved one (this is my second Christmas without my mom), gone through a divorce and spent Christmas alone or without the people they love the most; the unemployed or under-employed, who couldn’t afford to buy gifts for their children, or to those who lost their home to foreclosure and are now displaced, or just those who were unable to really enjoy the holidays because of some other extenuating circumstances, I want you to know that you are not forgotten. I also want to encourage you to make the effort to find some happiness even in the time of pain.

I want to make a few suggestions…
…it’s ok to look at pictures, cry and recall the good times of the past. It’s alright to remember the good memories that last a lifetime; just don’t live there!
…get out of the house and socialize with other people; i.e. a church group, a community support group, or even extended family. Go to the mall, a restaurant, a coffee house or bookstore. You need the comfort, encouragement and support. You also just need to be around other people; even if they are strangers.
…go do something nice for someone else who may be having a difficult holiday. Help feed the homeless or hungry, volunteer at a charity, church or community group.
…rescue a pet. Animals can be a huge source of love and companionship. Giving them love can make you feel that warm, fuzzy feeling all over again!
…begin building NEW MEMORIES. There is always something you can do to begin building new memories and traditions. Try something new, or do something old in a new way.

Remember you may FEEL alone but you are NOT alone. Jesus has promised to be with you always. Open your heart and respond to His invitation…”Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29 NLT). Talk to Him…He’s always listening!

Finally, feel free to message me and I will be sure to keep you in my prayers…even if it isn’t “The Wonderful Time Of The Year…” it can be special…you may just have to try a little something new!

Any additional suggestions from those who have learned to “survive” a difficult holiday season would be appreciated…

Happy Thanksgiving!

banquet

On Friday of this past week, my family, congregation and a host of friends came together to help me celebrate 30 years in ministry. Unless you’ve done it, it is impossible to understand the complexity of full-time ministry. It is filled with joys and sorrows, ups and downs, good moments and terrible ones! You have to check your heart to make sure you are doing it for Jesus, because there are moments when it seems the very people you have devoted your life to serving don’t appreciate it or worse yet don’t even want it!

For several years when we were first getting started at a church, we didn’t even do a Pastor’s Appreciation. I would travel around and preach all of my friend’s special days and then come home feeling unappreciated and unloved. Someone asked me why I didn’t organize one myself. I remember saying to them, “I don’t need a particular day, or event to feel honored.” The truth was, I PRETENDED I DIDN’T NEED IT BECAUSE I DIDN’T HAVE IT!

Remember in school, the guy who was always saying it wasn’t important to have a girlfriend because he couldn’t get one? Subconsciously, that was my attitude.1461717_10202384448283750_1634992278_n

However, once they organized special day to show their appreciation, I understood for the first time that while I don’t need anyone’s affirmation to confirm my calling and destiny, it does mean a lot to know that there are those who appreciate what you give your life for.

Having said that, I also want to add, that there are times when I feel like I’m NOT APPRECIATED! You know… when saints won’t support the church financially, aren’t faithful in attending service on Sunday, fail to show up when they’re scheduled to be serving in a particular ministry, or worst of all when there is fighting and strife between people who should be holding up the standard of God’s love for the all the world to see.  It’s like the bumper sticker that says, “Honk if you love Jesus!” I want one that says, “Don’t honk; If you love Jesus, pay your tithes, treat others right, forgive each other…” You see, appreciation, thanksgiving, and gratitude are emotions, that can be articulated, but if they are not also be displayed by actions, they are simply empty and meaningless words.

Gratitude, thankfulness and appreciation are essential elements of the Christian walk. Whether it is showing appreciation to God, or other people, all of us need to realize that we have much to be appreciative and thankful for.

The word most often used in the Bible to express appreciation is the word, “Thanks; thankful or thanksgiving.”

This week, all across America families will be gathering together to eat turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pies; to watch football and celebrate with friends and family a holiday we call, “Thanksgiving.” Somewhere in the process of events, many will take the time to acknowledge God and show appreciation for His goodness.

The sad part is, that for most once the celebration is over the spirit of thankfulness disappears and within a few days discontent returns. In fact, I believe this is one of our greatest vulnerabilities as a generation…unthankfulness! It seems as though as a generation we have more than any previous generation has ever had but have become more unthankful, unfulfilled and unappreciative than any other in recent history. There is almost a sense that we deserve what we have and what others have as well. It is an attitude of entitlement that is being demonstrated in cities all across this nation right now.

Just walk the halls of any major mall in America and listen to the children talk to their parents about what they want for Christmas; you see exactly what I’m talking about. There seems to be a mentality that that everyone is entitled to equal status in life. Thank God for a nation that tries to guarantee equal opportunity but none can promise equal outcome. There are far too many factors such as talent, timing, work ethic, favor, relationships, and so forth to guarantee that everyone can live life at the same level. Let’s be very careful not to fall into the trap of being thankful for a few hours and then reverting to our sense of entitlement or ingratitude.

Thanksgiving must be more than a holiday, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November; it must become an attitude of life. You must develop a mindset that searches out the good even in the bad! Being thankful has nothing to do with our current condition, situations or circumstances; it is a matter of the heart…it is a choice to appreciate the good instead of focusing on the bad. No matter how bad things are…there is still something good happening if you’ll only take the time to look hard enough!

  • Thanksgiving does not come automatically into our lives; we must choose to nurture and express it
  • Negative circumstances are never reasons for negative living; they may be excuses but not reasons.
  • In order to move in into the fullness God has prepared for you, you must learn to appreciate and be thankful for what He has already done. It is a stewardship issue. God will not promote you or entrust you with more than what I can be a proper manger of. Appreciation is the first step of good management!

(I Thessalonians 5:18 AMP) “Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will].”

To give thanks means to “confess your appreciation; to praise or acknowledge verbally your gratitude for something you have received.”

So thanksgiving is the appropriate response of appreciation from one who is grateful!

There are 3 aspects:

1)        Acknowledgment…Thanksgiving begins with appreciating God and recognizing that every good thing in our lives comes from Him as an expression of His grace and love! In fact, one of the Greek words translated as “thank” in Matthew 11:25 actually means to acknowledge and agree fully. James tell us, “…every good gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17) Thankfulness begins with recognizing the good…the blessings from the Lord…the love of people…the kindness we’ve received! There is goodness all around you if you’ll only take the time to look!

2)        Attitude…The natural effect of this realization is an attitude adjustment. We become a person of gratitude and appreciation. You see, your attitude is the outward expression of what you are feeling and thinking inwardly! Attitude is the thermometer of your spirit. It gives an indication of the condition of your heart.  Jesus taught that what comes out of the mouth and what is produced around us is a reflection of what is in abundance within us. Our attitude gives us a means of measuring the spiritual condition of our hearts. That is why an attitude can be seen without a word being said. Your face can reveal what you are thinking regardless of what you are doing. Since an attitude often is expressed by our body language and by the looks on our faces, it can be contagious. Instead of wearing a frown; smile! Recognizing the good that you have received will cause you to change your attitude and become more grateful!

3)        Actions… An attitude of appreciation and gratitude is expressed through actions. While thankfulness begins in the heart it is revealed by our attitude and actions. There are a variety of ways in which appreciation is shown.

A.  Thankfulness is shown by offering praise to God. Singing, lifting our hands and verbalizing our thankfulness is one way. You see, verbal praise is also a declaration to others of the wonderful works of God….what a wonderful way to show that we are thankful! (Ps. 100:1-5)

A woman and her husband went to see a marriage counselor. She wanted a divorce because she was convinced that he didn’t love her. She said, “We’ve been married for 20 years; I wash his clothes, cook his meals, take care of the children and he never says, ‘I loves you!’” His reply was, “When we got married, I said, ‘I love you!’ If anything changes I’ll let you know!” It’s not enough to feel it in your heart…you need to say it with your mouth! Say it to God; to the people you love…express your thankfulness!

B.  We can also show thankfulness by serving…blessing others as an expression of our appreciation for what God has done for us. To be blunt, the only way to “serve” God is to serve people.  In Matthew Chapter 25:42-45, Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you wouldn’t feed me; thirsty, and you wouldn’t give me anything to drink; (43) a stranger, and you refused me hospitality; naked, and you wouldn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ (44) “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ (45) “And I will answer, ‘When you refused to help the least of these my brothers, you were refusing help to me.’

The Apostle James said, “This is pure religion undefiled… to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)

C.Thankfulness is show through our giving of gifts and material support. One of the most practical ways we can show thankfulness is by giving back a portion of what has been given to us. Even when it comes to tithing or honoring God with the first-fruits of all of our increase, it is and must always be an expression of gratitude. (Acts 28:10)

D.  A final way we can express our thankfulness is through praying- A heart of gratitude does not forget the acts of kindness and love it has been shown! One of the best ways to show appreciation is to pray for God to bless those whom He has used to bless us. We can ask God to bless their kids, give them health, meet their financial needs and so forth. Pray for those who bless you! (II Timothy 1:16; Ephesians 1:15-18)

You see, thankfulness is a matter of the heart; making a choice to be grateful and appreciative. Someone said, “When I was young I thought it was happy folks who were thankful; as I grew older I realized it is instead thankful folks who are happy!”

“All you preachers talk about is money!”

It’s amazing to me how talking about “giving” quickly exposes the content of the heart, revealing both the generous and the stingy. Last night, Dr. Dave Martin said, “To raise the standard of your living, you must raise the measure of your giving!”image

When I tweeted it, some people immediately were offended and someone even in-boxed me, “all you preachers talk about is money!”

I didn’t even mention money…to be totally honest, I very rarely even talk about “money.”

WHY? I believe and teach that generosity isn’t about money; it’s about the HEART and what one places value on.

Generous people hold their treasures loosely knowing all that they have…their natural and spiritual gifts, their financial resources, their love, their wisdom, their kind words, even their smile…EVERY TREASURE they possess…has been given to them by God; not to be hoarded, but to be used to be a blessing and to improve the quality of the lives of others. They are BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING! Because they value improving the lives of others, they find joy in giving. As they share with others the things they have been made stewards over, it elevates the quality of their own lives.

Generosity is contagious…those who have received then want to give as well. I suggest it may well be impossible to truly appreciate what one has received and not want to in return, help others in need.

The generous feel a sense of fulfillment as they watch others being blessed. They discover that it really is more blessed to give then it is to receive. There is no greater joy than being the vessel God uses to feed a hungry person, pay someone’s rent who is about to be evicted, buy a pair of shoes for a child whose shoes are worn out, or sharing the gospel with people who would otherwise die in their sins!

This is the highest expression of true love.  Someone once said, “You can give without loving but you can’t love without giving.” We are never more like Jesus than when we are generous! PT and Dave Martin

Giving opens the floodgates of God’s generosity. In fact, the passage in Luke 6:38 where Jesus said, “give and it shall be given…” wasn’t even referring to money; although money is certainly included in the concept, He was actually referring to forgiveness and mercy towards those who mistreat you! As we give, God causes great things to happen for us! The MANNER in which, as well as the MEASURE with which we give…money, grace, kindness even friendship, and so forth is essential. It determines the manner and measure of the blessing we receive in return.

The generous value the cause of the Kingdom. They realize that reaching people and changing lives costs money. We have to build buildings, pay staff, purchase materials, update and buy equipment, do outreach ministries, feed the hungry and clothe the naked, and pay the bills! So they willingly sacrifice…they deny themselves things they’d like to indulge in because the Kingdom is more valuable to them!

They value legacy. They are perceptive enough to know that THEY drive on roads others built, live in a country others died to preserve, we’re educated in buildings other generations sacrificed to pay for. They know they too are leaving something behind and that they will be remembered for either the problems they caused or the problems they solved. So, they build for the future…they INVEST in the lives of others depositing things that time can never destroy…things that will live on for eternity!

It’s about the things one values!

The stingy, on the other hand, have values too. They value themselves! Everything they have is theirs…”they’ve worked hard for.” All that they do, is to benefit or improve THEIR LIVES or the lives of those who bring them pleasure! They see their own needs as always being greater than that of others and so they are defensive and stingy when they give. They may sow a little here and there, but it’s always with an attitude and usually with the expectation of getting something in return. They don’t really release anything…they trade what they “give”…for a position, a title, a good feeling, to look spiritual in the eyes of others, etc. Then, when exposed, they usually claim to “do a lot of things no one knows about!” People who are stingy with money are also stingy with everything else they have because it’s about what they value in their heart!

You see at the root, giving is a HEART ISSUE!

In Matthew 12, Jesus said, “a good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil things…” Proverbs 4 cautions us to “guard” our hearts because out of it flows all of the issues, forces and even the boundaries or perimeters of our lives. This is the reason Paul says “a person should give as he purposes IN HIS HEART…” What your heart values will determine how you manage the resources God has trusted you with!

Solomon says, “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself,” (Prov. 11:25) and Jesus said we will receive according to “the measure” we’ve used to give to others! (Luke 6:38).

What to elevate the quality of your LIVING? Then raise the measure of your GIVING!

 

The Value of Youth!

PT 2“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” (Lamentations 3:27)

The illustration is drawn from cattle who had to bear the yoke of the plow. They were always paired…the young with the old. The OLD oxen had the wisdom necessary to do the job effectively…the young oxen had the strength and energy required to carry the weight of the plow. The farmer would gradually distribute the weight from the young to the old as they both aged, matured and learned to work in sync. Done properly, the young ox carried the burden and the old taught the routine of success.

If the young ox was stubborn, failed to learn responsibility and discipline, or refused to yield to the direction of the driver, his strength was wasted and he was useless to the purpose of the master. All he was good for would be slaughter…he was not even suitable for breeding for fear of reproducing the same stubbornness in his offspring. His future was wasted and his legacy cut short because of the choices made in his youth.

The moral of the story...Yokes are not the same a burdens…they enable us to CARRY BURDENS! The earlier we learn responsibility and discipline, the more useful we are to the purposes of God and the better level of life we will enjoy. The habits we form when we’re young, becomes the lifestyle we live when we’re old.

The person we are today is a blend of the person we WERE and the one we are BECOMING! The older we get…the more often we do something, the more set in our ways we become and the more difficult it is to change and make adjustments. Actions become patterns of behavior and ways of living. Each day we either becoming more of what we WANT TO BE or MORE OF WHAT WE ALREADY ARE depending on what we are nurturing!

Jeremiah is saying, while you’re young, invest the time to learn from those who have plowed a few fields, and save yourself the heartache of having to “learn the hard way.”

He is saying, “Young man, while you’re young, develop the habits that produce success…learn to seek after God, find the purpose for your life, learn respect and honor, learn the value of work, how to manage money, how to treat a woman, learn the value of education, learn how to take care of your body, and mind…learn how to live life effectively. The quicker you learn it, the more pain and failure you can avoid and the more fruitful your life will be. Thinking you can ‘sow your wild oats’ when you’re young and then taking life more seriously when you get old is a huge mistake…every thought, word and deed is a seed…every seed has a harvest. You are building your future, and determining your legacy by what you are learning and applying TODAY…not in some distant time in the future when you’re older!”

I have 2 questions…
1. Where would you be today, if 5 years ago you had started saving or investing more money, taken better care of your body, treated your spouse better, spent more time in the Word or in prayer, pursued your education or taken the risk to follow your dream?
2. Now the big question…what are you doing TODAY that will affect your life 5 years from today? Where will you be in 5 years?

Life is flying past and you’ll never have another opportunity to relive it…while you have strength, bear the yoke!

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