Category Archives: Devotional

The Verbs #20 (Loyalty)

solving_loyalty_equation
The Verbs #20 (Loyalty)
“Lots of people claim to be loyal and loving, but where on earth can you find one?”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭20:6‬ ‭MSG‬‬
We live in a world that has developed a throw away mentality. If something becomes a little aged or broken, we simply throw it away and replace it. We have disposable plates, disposable cups, disposable silverware, disposable diapers, even disposable phones. I think you get the picture.  The simple message is that we often don’t take the time to identify the root issue of an item that is completely broken or not working properly. If a computer slows down, we just go buy a faster one. If it glitches, we completly wipe out programs and get the latest and greatest new one! Even in our clothing, we wear an item one time, dispose of it and then purchase the latest fad. We are geared, even instructed, to  be “out with the old and in with the new”!
That same mentality is creeping into our relationships The moment that a relationship slow downs, has a few glitches, there is the temptation to dispose of it, wipe it out and start fresh with someone else.
In March of this year Melissa and I will be married 17 years. If you believe that our relationship has been without glitches, slow downs, or without some messes along the way, you are sadly mistaken. To say there is a lot of water under the bridge is an understatement; however, during the seventeen years of our relationship we have built a stronger and higher bridge. We are the bridge. Our duty is to stay above many of the issues that cause things to slow down or speed up.
You see, water under a bridge really doesn’t affect the bridge. A bridge (relationship) is not built overnight. Early on, when we were first building and forging our marriage, the water affected us. We were trying to build something and the storms came. It affected us because we hadn’t had the time to get our bridge built. Storms are just a part of it. You have to just keep building. If you will remain loyal to each other and to God, you will build a relationship that can withstand the storms. It’s then you move on to another phase. The same storm can occur but it doesn’t have an affect, because the water just flows under the bridge. It doesn’t flood your marriage. It doesn’t slow your marriage down, it doesn’t cause the glitches it might have before, because your bridge is higher and stronger!
Now that Melissa and I have built a bridge (relationship), we haven’t stopped maintaining, improving or working on our bridge. Nor should you! Regardless of how long you’ve been in your relationship, you need to keep building, maintaining and improving your bridge!
If you are just starting out in a marriage or a relationship, don’t go into with a disposable mindset. Go into with your eyes wide open, knowing that storms will come, but have the mindset that we will stick it out!
When people look at your life, may they know your life exemplifies loyalty! A lot of people say they are loyal. They say “I will be with you”. Don’t just say it, do it!

The Verbs #19 (Let it Go)

167787-Let-It-Go

11 Smart people know how to hold their tongue; their grandeur is to forgive and forget.

Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Pr 19:11). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

In 2013 Disney released an animated film titled “Frozen”. In the film, Princess Elsa of Arendelle possesses a uniqueness. In the beginning, this gift is used to create moments of enjoyment with her younger sister Anna. One day while playing, Elsa accidentally injures Anna. Their parents, the King and Queen, rush both siblings to a colony of trolls where Anna is “healed”, but her memories were also altered to remove traces of Elsa’s unique gift. Elsa is warned to learn to control the gift that is in her. The King and Queen isolate both sisters within the castle. Elsa shuts out Anna, causing a rift between them. The rift continues as isolation has caused insecurities. Each time there is an issue or a conflict, it is ratcheted up by the distrust caused by the shutting out of Elsa to Anna. The Film has a song that really catches the theme of the movie. That song became one of the top songs of the year, winning multiple awards. It was the feelings of one who made a mistake, who hurt someone unintentionally. Yet, was isolated and restricted, from being around the ones that she loved. So, once she was outside of the restrictions she begins to “Let it Go”! Why couldn’t there had just been a conversation between all of them, then and there about truth of the matter? Healing would have happened and relationships would have never been hindered. So often we try to cover up, instead of opening up. 

In life, mistakes are made, and hurt is brought on. More often than not, the hurt is unintentional. Words are spoken in the heat of the moment, actions are taken without thought of the repercussions. People’s futures are forever changed by a moment. That moment is now dictating, relationships, positions and even finances. It all started as an innocent mistake, now it is led to a complete separation of relationships. I have witnessed so many families, businesses, and marital relationships destroyed over the failure to “let things go”! To just open up and say, “I’m sorry, I hurt you, how can I make it right?”

We as people somehow believe that by letting something go, that we are placing our approval on the event. Forgiveness isn’t making an excuse for the behavior, forgiveness is actually protecting you from becoming destroyed by harboring feelings towards that individual for a mistake. Intentional or unintentional it was a mistake, and as the Proverb tells us, smart people know how to hold their tongue, and your grandeur is to forgive and forget. In other words, let it go. It is often easier to say I’m sorry, than it is to say I forgive you! 

Forgiveness actually has more to do with you than the other person. Take a look at what Jesus stated about this…
“In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.
Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Mt 6:14–15). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

See forgiveness has so much more to do with me than them. By forgiving I prove that I’m not weak, rather I am strong. I am strong enough to understand that people do make mistakes. I am also smart enough to know that I am not perfect, and I desperately need forgiveness. I will not get forgiveness without offering it to others. Sometimes you’ll need to accept an apology that you never actually get, and just forgive them without it. It’s more about you than them anyway. 

The King James Version of the bible renders Proverbs 19:11 like this 

11 The discretion of a man deferreth his anger;
And it is his glory to pass over a transgression

The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Pr 19:11). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

It is your glory to pass over a transgression. While reading that scripture, my mind is captured by the phrase “pass over”! This phrase is a huge phrase in the bible. It’s beginning is during the plagues placed upon the people of Egypt. The last plague was the “death angel”. The angel was instructed to visit the land of Egypt and any home that didn’t have the blood applied, death would come upon the first born of that home. However, if the blood was applied to the home, then the death angel would “pass over” that home and spare that family from death. (Exodus 12) The blood is what covers our mistakes, transgressions, or sins. When we ask for forgiveness then the blood is applied to our lives. 
Every time that there is an offense in our lives, or someone hurts us, we have a choice. We can either “pass over” it and spare the individual, or we can bring death to the relationship. Which will you do? 

There are many relationships in my life that I value, more than I value the need to be “right” in order to keep those relationships, I just need to “pass over” some things, hold my tongue (or my fingers), and realize that God WILL and HAS dealt with all of it already! 

Someone said that forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free, only to realize that you were the prisoner! Set yourself free, by offering forgiveness!

The Verbs #18 (Protection)

10           God’s name is a place of protection—
good people can run there and be safe.

Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Pr 18:10). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

I absolutely love this scripture. Allow me to explain why I love this text. The New King James renders this verse…

10          The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe.

The New King James Version. (1982). (Pr 18:10). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Someone once said, the sweetest sound in any language is the sound of one’s own name. If you’re walking down the street and someone calls your name, you stop dead in your tracks. That person has an immediate effect on you simply because he or she knows your name.

It is amazing to me that God knows my name. Not only does God know our names, but Isaiah 49:16 tells us they are engraved on the palms of His hands. Can you imagine walking down the road, your head hung low, thinking everyone has forgotten about you? Then suddenly, you hear your name. And the one that you meet face-to-face, eye-to-eye, the one who knows your name, is Jesus. Whether you know it or not, He does call your name. He does know your name. The sweetest sound you’ll ever hear, is when Jesus calls your name. I think about Lazarus. Lazarus was dead; yet when Jesus called His name, death couldn’t prevent him from hearing his name being called. I do believe that was the sweetest sound Lazarus ever heard.

You should be encouraged, because there is nothing that can stop you from hearing when Jesus calls your name! It will be the sweetest sound that you have ever heard! I believe, that as much as it means to us when we hear our name, it means something to God when we call on Him. Anytime that you are in trouble, just call on the Name of the Lord! When you call, He becomes a strong tower that you can run into and be safe!

The Verbs #17 (Stay Positive)

           Evil people relish malicious conversation;
the ears of liars itch for dirty gossip.

Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Pr 17:4). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

In order to change the way you speak and how you think, you have to change what you are listening to. You’ve heard the old adage, “garbage in, garbage out”. One of the most difficult things to do is to be positive while being completely surrounded by negativity.

Each year, I write out ten goals. It is a way to keep myself on track. I have a vision of where I want to go and who I want to be.  I was raised up to be an optimist; however, life has a way of taking the wind out of your sails. I have been transparent, that 2016 was an extremely difficult year for me personally. One day Melissa came to me, and in her way of setting me straight, said you’ve never been this negative before. It was then I started to notice it in myself. I was really falling on the side of being negative.

Without a doubt, some negative things had happened, but always before I had could compartmentalize the issue or issues, and stay positive. So, when it came time to write out my goals for 2017, my main goal is to stay on the positive side of positivity. I even went as far as to write down how I intend to accomplish this goal. It’s one thing to have a goal; it’s quite another to have a plan to achieve that goal.

The scripture above gives us an insight into people who like a negative conversation. I refuse to allow myself to relish in a negative conversation; likewise, I refuse to have my ears itching to hear (or my eyes itching to see on social media) what is negative. If I want to be positive, then I cannot fill my ears, my mind and/or my life with negativity.

Yes, I understand that the person who does the speaking carries responsibility for talking negative; however, I have the power to decide what I want to hear. Have you ever thought about the conversations that you are engaged in? Have you filtered it through this thought from Paul?

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Php 4:8–9). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

If I want to stay on the positive side of positivity, I must think on things that are true, noble, reputable, the best and not the worst. In order to keep my mind thinking that way, I need to set up guards on what I hear. I may not be saying those things; however, by listening to another person’s negativity, I have allowed a seed to be planted. It’s not a seed of positivity, it’s a seed of negativity. I am practicing an equally destructive behavior by listening to the destructive talk. When someone begins that kind of talk my friend, it’s time to walk.

Don’t relish in it! Don’t let your ears begin craving negative talk! Join me this year in staying on the positive side of positivity!

The Verbs #16 (Peace with your enemies)

           When God approves of your life,
even your enemies will end up shaking your hand.

Today, let’s take a look at the life of Jesus. The greatest enemy of the day was the Roman Empire. In the region where Jesus was ministering, the representative of the Roman Government was a man by the name of Pontius Pilate. The Romans were the enemy of the Jews. Many times, the disciples assumed that Jesus was coming to overthrow the empire of the Romans. They believed that Jesus came to set up a new kingdom, the kingdom of the Jews. Without a doubt, I believe Pontius Pilate considered a person a threat that had the kind of influence, or reputation, that Jesus did. In a more modern term, Jesus would be considered an enemy of the state. It would leave you to understand, that if given the opportunity to eliminate such a threat, certainly Pilate would have taken the opportunity. However, at the time that Jesus was arrested and turned over to the Romans, Jesus stood trial before Pilate. His life was now in the hands of the enemy, the Jews. His future, all that people had said about Him and who he was, could be crushed by the enemy. Instead, after a trial, Pilate stated he found no fault in Jesus. Pilate could’ve eliminated the threat, and sentenced Jesus to jail. But Pilate found nothing on Jesus. He did send Jesus to Herod, “king of the Jews”, who ruled the Galilean province. Jesus faces another trial, and again, an enemy finds no fault in Him. Jesus is sent back to Pilate, and one more time there is nothing to be found to bring a charge against Jesus.

13 Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, 14 said to them, “You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; 15 no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. 16 I will therefore chastise Him and release Him” 17 (for it was necessary for him to release one to them at the feast).
The New King James Version. (1982). (Lk 23:13–17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Three trials, yet Jesus’ enemies couldn’t find anything about, or on, Jesus. Now with His own people, that was a different story. We as Christians should live our lives to be pleasing to God. And in our efforts to be pleasing to God, God will cause our enemies to be at peace with us. Sadly, we often try to please people, instead of God. This leads to our enemies finding fault with our efforts. Just remind yourself that your duty is to love God and to serve God. That is what is pleasing to God.

The Verbs #15 (Good Counsel)

22           Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail;
take good counsel and watch them succeed.
Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Pr 15:22). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

This verse has been one of my life verses. There is much in this life that I do not know; however, I do know people who know much of what I do not know. My objective in any decision that I make, is to find those people and ask them questions so that I become knowledgeable on the situation. For much of my life, I have pursued people that are much older and wiser than I am. I have found that hanging around people that are at a higher level than I am, causes me to rise to a higher level.

In my speaking with other people, I listen to what hurdles they have overcome, what trials they have been through, and I listen to see how they handle circumstances that are not life’s best. How do they operate and handle the obstacles that come in this life? How do they handle themselves publicly and privately in a crisis? Why are these questions important to me? Because I want to handle myself in the ways they have handled themselves. I too, want to overcome the obstacles, hurdles and trials in this life, and by listening to their advice, I might avoid additional crisis’s, obstacles and hurdles.

I seek out people, invite them to lunch, just so I can ask them three questions. Certainly, it will relate to areas in which I need help. There isn’t a single person that has made it by themselves. Every person needs help. Let me remind you that when you see a turtle sitting up on a fence post, you can be assured that the turtle did not get there by itself. The same thing holds true with us. Somewhere along the way, all of us have had some help. Early on in my leading at the Worship Center, I received so much help. One would think, now that I have been here and we have had a great revival, that I may not need any more help. On the contrary, I receive more help, and now I desire more help than ever before. Never be ashamed to ask for Godly help, advice or counsel; however, when you ask for Godly help, advice, and counsel then you should strongly heed that advice. That is exactly what this Proverb is stating; refuse good advice and watch plans fail.

Solomon wrote the Proverbs to his son Rehoboam. Rehoboam took the throne as king after Solomon died. To give a little perspective on the story I want to share with you, I must tell you about what happened towards the end of Solomon’s life. Solomon began letting his relationship with God slip. He begin to live in a way that was not godly. (I Kings 11:1-6)

Much was happening in the kingdom towards the end of Solomon’s reign as king, and most of it bad. People in the kingdom were being forced to flee to other nations to escape death. Solomon brought in idol worship, and instead of governing wisely, Solomon placed a heavy tax burden upon the people. The choices made by Solomon, to choose women over God and money over the people, caused an enormous weight to come upon the people. This weight caused a nation that was once wealthy, healthy and unified, to collapse upon itself.

Ultimately Solomon died, and his son Rehoboam began to reign in his place. At the time of Rehoboam coming to the throne, the Bible states this:

Rehoboam went to Shechem, where all Israel had gathered to make him king. When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard of this, he returned from Egypt,* for he had fled to Egypt to escape from King Solomon. The leaders of Israel summoned him, and Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel went to speak with Rehoboam. 4
Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (1 Ki 12:1–4). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Notice who came to speak with Rehoboam. The leaders, those who had left Israel and the whole assembly, went to speak with him. That’s quite a group of people coming to meet you on your first day in office. Here’s why they wanted to meet with him:

 “Your father was a hard master,” they said. “Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us. Then we will be your loyal subjects.”
Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (1 Ki 12:4). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Here they are, giving the new king a way to unify the country, gain loyalty and make the nation a pleasant place to live again. They laid it out; here is the advice, counsel and steps you need to take in order to have a successful kingship.

Rehoboam asked for three days to think about the council’s advice. Here is what happened in those three days. He asked the older men who had been counselors to his father.

The older counselors replied, “If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.”
Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (1 Ki 12:7). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

But Rehoboam rejected the advice. The counsel of the elders was rejected. Rehoboam then went to his friends, the younger men who had grown up with him, who were now his advisors and he asked them what he should do. Here’s their response…

10 The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! 11 Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’ ”

Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (1 Ki 12:10–11). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Wow. If you look at these two pieces of advice, you can immediately recognize the vast difference between them. One was good advice and the other should have been rejected on its face; however, Rehoboam did exactly as his father told him not to do. He rejected the good advice and went with the advice of his friends. It cost him. It cost him dearly. The kingdom divided and civil war was narrowly avoided.

Let this proverb and the practice of it become a part of your life. Seek good counsel, then don’t ignore it. Your life will be the better for it. Your plans will prosper by taking and heeding the advice of wise counsel.

The Verbs #14 (The Golden Rule)

The Golden Rule

The golden rule is defined as a rule or law of reciprocity that relates a principal of treating others as one would wish to be treated themselves.

Jesus said it this way in Matthew 7:12

“Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.

Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Mt 7:12). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

It is a simple rule of thumb to guide our behavior. I am starting to think that this simple message isn’t simple enough for some people. We live in one of the fiercest generations! We are angry, frustrated and greatly impatient with other people. We simply do not have grace for each other, nor do we extend grace to each other. Yet, we demand grace in our mistakes, failures and shortcomings.

Proverbs 14:14

14  A mean person gets paid back in meanness,
a gracious person in grace.

Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Pr 14:14). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

One of the best lessons I have ever learned in my short life, came through an object lesson from the corporation that I worked for. We were taught to place the person that we were having difficulty with, in our chair behind our desk. Then we would sit where the employee would normally sit. We would then ask questions of them such as, if they were us, and we were them, how would they handle the situation at hand? It usually had an amazing outcome. I had employees literally tell me they would fire employees that did the same thing they were doing. Yet at the same time, didn’t see the irony in the moment.

I try every day to handle each situation in terms that I could handle if I were in the other position. If I were the one failing, how would I like to be handled. I sure wouldn’t want to be kicked while I was down, so that challenges me to lift others. Why? There might be a day when that person is in a position to administer justice and/or mercy, and I want them to remember how I handled them when it comes time for them to handle me. Ask yourself the question, “how do I want people to treat me”, and then begin treating them the same way. You’ll be amazed by the results!

The Verbs #13 (Walk with the Wise)

20  Become wise by walking with the wise;
hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.

 Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Pr 13:20). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
Remember this old saying, you are known by the company you keep. I have always been an old soul if you will. From as far back as I can remember, I loved being around people who were much older than I was. The church that I grew up in, had some of the finest elders you could ever hope to find. Most them were World War II veterans, quiet, reserved, respectful, and incredibly strong men. My parents would arrive early to church, for the prayer services that preceded our Sunday night services. I would slip out of the prayer room, and go hang out with the elders of the church. I learned so many things from these people, I couldn’t tell you a single sermon on faithfulness, not that they weren’t preached or taught, but faithfulness was something that was caught by watching the elders of my church. Every time the doors were open you would see those faithful men at the church. Not a single one of them are written in the annuals of a hall of fame, but to me they are heroes. When you say faithful, most people think of Hebrews 11 names. Names like Noah, Abraham, Moses, or Enoch. I think of Simon, Baskins, Edgin, Silvers, and Proctor, these were the men that taught me about faithful serving. I cannot tell you a single sermon that these men preached, because they weren’t preachers. However, their lives are simply one of the greatest sermons you could’ve ever watched. Every one of them, have went on to their reward. Everyone one of them finished the race and finished it so well. I can remember the days that I would stand in their aisles, or by their usher seats, and speak to them, but mainly I remember them speaking and me listening in on those conversations. There was a lot of wisdom flying around, I was then and am now trying to mop up what they dropped. I learned reverence, faithfulness, prayer, and serving from those men. I’d like to think that I am known for those same characteristics today. I strive to be a man that has reverence for the things of God, to be faithful, to be a man of prayer, and that I served my generation well. I want to be known by the company that I keep, so I do my best to keep company with God, and with people who will help me soar with eagles.
I would tell that just as you are known by the company that you keep, you are also known by the company that you don’t keep. Paul told the church in Corinth this…
I wrote you in my earlier letter that you shouldn’t make yourselves at home among the sexually promiscuous. I didn’t mean that you should have nothing at all to do with outsiders of that sort. Or with crooks, whether blue- or white-collar. Or with spiritual phonies, for that matter. You’d have to leave the world entirely to do that! But I am saying that you shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when a friend who claims to be a Christian is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior. I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house.
 Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (1 Co 5:9–13). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
I believe that is exactly what this proverb is talking about hang out with good and wise people, and you’ll be challenged to live good and wise. Hang out with people who are crooked, who act the fool, and aren’t good, and you’ll find yourself facing some challenges. Sometimes the best thing that you can do, is to stop hanging around folks who bring you down, cause you to stumble, and consistently add stress and worry to your life. I have often said some of you need to ask the Lord to expose your enemies, but shouldn’t be surprised when you start to lose friends. Think you are alone in that you’re not. Zechariah prophesied about Jesus in Zechariah 13:6
And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds between your arms?’ Then he will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’
 The New King James Version. (1982). (Zec 13:6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Jesus called Judas His friend, He called those that crucified Him His friends. Sometimes are greatest resistance to a better life, is those that appear to be the closest to us. If you desire to walk and live differently I would start by getting a best friend that will never leave you nor forsake you, He is that friend that sticks closer than a brother. Who is this Friend? Jesus!
One thing about hanging out with those elders when I was kid, not one time did I ever get into trouble. By hanging around the wise, I avoided hanging with the fools. By hanging with good company, I avoided hanging with the bad company. Show me your friends and more often than not, I can show you your future. If you want to be the best, hang with the best. Get around them and learn, then apply what you’ve learned.

The Verbs #12 (Don’t Be an Eddie)

“Don’t Be an Eddie”            

One of my favorite movies, especially at Christmas time, is “Christmas Vacation”. We laugh about that movie, but there are some really serious points in the movie. Maybe you remember this scene, and even if you don’t, I think you’ll identify with it. It goes like this:

Clark: “How can they have nothing for their children?” 

Ellen: “Well, he’s been out of work for close to seven years.” 

Clark: “In seven years, he couldn’t find a job?” 

Ellen: “Catherine says he’s been holding out for a management position.”

You probably know someone that you can insert into that story line. The idea of trying to get ahead without ever starting, isn’t a new one. Proverbs 12:9 is pretty clear this isn’t a new concept.

Ann Landers stated that, “Opportunities are often disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.”

Solomon wrote, “it is better to be ordinary and work for a living than to act important and starve in the process.” Another translation of that verse reads, “He that is despised and is a servant.” There is nothing wrong with giving an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. No matter where you find yourself in this life, if you are working, laboring and carving out a living, then you are truly following the word of God. Wherever you find yourself working, give it your best. Look at what Colossians 3:22-25 states.

“Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.”

Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Col 3:22–25). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

I can tell you that God uses the person that knows how to work. So often, I hear “I want to work in full-time ministry or I want to get into ministry”. I am quick to say “ministry is hard work, look at the Cross.” The calling of a pastor is to equip the people for the WORK of the ministry. God uses people that know how to work.

It was when Moses was tending his father-in-law’s sheep that God appeared to Him in the burning bush (Exodus 3).

It was when Elisha was plowing that Elijah cast the mantle of ministry upon him (1 Kings 19:19).

It was when Peter and Andrew were casting their nets that Jesus called them to be fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).

It was when Saul was working for the high priest on his way to Damascus that Jesus appeared to him and turned his life around (Acts 9).

If you want to be used by God, or if you desire to move up in this life, it will happen while you are working. You have to work at everything. Someone once told me that Jesus delivered them from all that works stuff. They took it both spiritually and literally, meaning they didn’t have to work for anything. However, on that day, the purpose of the conversation was because they needed assistance and they were asking for my help. They were willing to live off everyone else’s hard work. That is the epitome of this verse in Proverbs 12:9. They believed that God’s grace exempted them from ever having to put forth any effort in this life. They didn’t realize it, but their belief of “grace delivering them from working”, placed them in the role of a beggar. The Bible reminds us that “I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor His seed begging for bread”.I do not work for righteousness, nor do I work for grace. I work because of love!

So, don’t be an Eddie! Walk through the doors that are open to you, and then God can open more doors for you. Once you start, remind yourself of these words in Ecclesiastes…

Endings are better than beginnings.

Sticking to it is better than standing out.

Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Ec 7:7–8). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

The Verbs #11 (Build Up Your City)

10 When it goes well for good people, the whole town cheers;

when it goes badly for bad people, the town celebrates.

11 When right-living people bless the city, it flourishes;

evil talk turns it into a ghost town in no time.

Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Pr 11:10–11). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Years ago, a man told me, “as the church goes, so goes the city”.  I have taken that to heart in my life and more importantly, in my pastor ship. I want to be a church that is impacting the city. My dream is to be a church that is so impactful, that we cannot be ignored by the city. The Worship Center is made up of people that come from many cities. I have determined that I may not be able to reach every city in the same way, but I would make it an important part of my life and our church’s life to lift up our cities.

Upon arriving in Southern Illinois as Pastor of the Worship Center, I began a series of sermons. I called them “A Church on Purpose.” It has become a mantra of our church.  There were three sermons specifically in that series that have stuck with us. Today, you see them on sweatshirts, t-shirts and across our social media platforms. We are a Church on Purpose; across the aisle, across the street and around the world. It has become so engrained into our fiber as a church, that there have been campaigns to change the church’s name to Purpose Church, Church on Purpose, along with some other not so catchy names. I have stepped back in awe as I watch people live out that sermon, vision and purpose, and yet close to ninety-five percent of our church has never heard that sermon. The people who did hear it, practiced it, and preached it through their daily lives. It has become a sermon, a vision that isn’t taught; it’s caught.

Starting out, we didn’t have the resources to impact the cities like we do now. We began by doing small things. One of the most powerful things we did, was to pray for our cities. We took that responsibility seriously. I chose to build up, talk up, and pray up my city. I chose to lift my city up versus tearing it down. Words are so powerful that if you keep saying something often enough, people will begin to believe you, good or bad. For example, if you continue to talk down about where you live or talk down about the people that live around you, people will start to believe you. However, if you start talking up, lifting up and building up your city and the people around you, they’ll start believing you as well. I want to make my city the best that it can be. Remember these words, “speak to those things that are not, as though they already are”. It doesn’t do a whole lot of good to sit around and criticize and point out the negatives. The person at the table who can point out all the problems and issues, isn’t the person who holds the power. The person who holds the power is the one who can come to the table with a solution to the problem. Our cities know they have issues, and they have enough people telling them about them. What our cities need is people to become a part of the solution.

Southern Illinois is a great place to live. I have come from the outside, and I was told you’ll never fit in. You’re right, I haven’t, but the people have accepted me anyway. My children moved in from a different school district, we haven’t had any issues. The teachers here were so accommodating. We feel like we’ve been here forever.  The beautiful scenes of southern Illinois are too many to list. We just need to keep lifting up the city, building it up, and praying it up.

For too long the church has sat on the sidelines and allowed our communities to drift! I have witnessed in my time here, that as the church has shown interest in the community and uplifted the community, the church has grown and been strengthened. I am now witnessing the turnaround in many of our communities, including my own. As the church goes, so goes the city. I continue to believe that our best days are ahead of us. If we the church, begin to lift our cities, our leaders and our nation up in prayer, then the city flourishes.

I challenge you to get involved in your community. Here at the Worship Center we put sweat equity into our cities by participating in community clean up days and the rebuilding of parks, just to name a few. We will continue to do those initiatives here, but we must also ensure that we are praying for our cities. Rebuilding a community to greatness isn’t an easy task, but we are well on our way to rebuilding, reclaiming and putting Southern Illinois on the map.

Melissa and I take Jeep drives through the various communities that make up Southern Illinois. We take note of the many businesses, restaurants and stores that weren’t here when we first moved here eight years ago. As a city boy, I am thrilled for the many “new” establishments that have invested into our communities. As a Pastor, I am seeing the results of God honoring His word. Now on our Jeep drives, we try to stop at the unique places of Southern Illinois, including a lot of the Mom and Pop restaurants and stores. I make it a point to invest back into the businesses that invest in their local community.

So, let’s do our part to bless our city, bless our community and if we do those things, ultimately we bless Southern Illinois!