Thursday, February 21, 2019

15 Minutes Could Change Your Life 



There is a famous car insurance company that says “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” I’m not sure if that is always true but there is a way 15 minutes could change your life. How can this happen? Take the 15 minutes spiritual challenge. Take 15 minutes a day to invest in your spirit. This one small habit can make a huge difference. 

A recent article on inc.com stats that successful people spend their mornings differently than others. Unlike most of us they do not get up just in time to go to work, rush to get their kids to school, and just barely make it to work. They do not start their day in stress, but rather on purpose. Successful people tend to do 4 things: They get up early, they get moving (usually committing time to exercise), They recharge themselves (usually through prayer or meditation), and they tackle their hardest task first. It is the third thing that I would like to talk about here.

Many successful people start their day addressing their spirits through prayer or meditation. Isn’t it interesting that recharging their spirits is more important than getting an early jump on their work? This is a very different picture than what we see in popular movies, where the successful person is stressed, overworked, and ignores herself, her family, and her personal needs. In reality, many successful people look beyond themselves for focus and direction. 

In our church, we challenge people to take the 15-minute challenge. We challenge people to spend 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week in prayer and scripture reading. For me personally, my prayer time can be meditative and reflective, or a celebration of praise and thanksgiving. I often go for walks and pray. That’s right. If you see me walking by the beach in the morning and my mouth is moving, I am not talking to myself nor am I crazy. I am praying! Prayer and Christian meditation change me and make a big difference in my life. Here is how: 

Prayer and Christian meditation remind me that I am not alone

We are a people who tend to be self-centered. It is not that we want to be, but life takes over. There is work, the children or the grandchildren, the chores, or the whatever. Life takes over. That is why we rush for here to there, thinking about our own need and wants. This can create lonely life, not to mention that is also exhausting. Focusing on ourselves or on our work only, creates a real sense of loneness. Prayer reminds us that we are not alone. Many times, I have encountered a real sense that God is with me. I become aware of His presence. It has been my experience, that God is not far from us. He is as close to us right now as we want Him to be.

Prayer and Christian meditation bring gratitude into my life. 

Gratitude is powerful. It is sad that we only think of it once a year when we eat turkey. I have heard it said that it is impossible to feel a feeling of thankfulness and a feeling of anxiety at the same time. I found this to be true for me. When I center on myself, I am acutely aware of my limitations and fears. This creates anxiety in my life. I begin to worry, and most of what I worry about I cannot even control. 
Gratefulness takes us out of the driver’s seat. We realize that we have things that we do not deserve, nor have we earned. All of us do. Being thankful puts us in a state of mind where we can receive more. We can also put the proper things into perspective. We might become more thankful for people we love, rather than being upset about the things we don’t have. God has blessed us more than we think. Prayer helps us see it. 

Prayer and Christian meditation focus me on the right things.

Real success is not measured by the car I drive or the size of my house. It is my relationship with God, my family, and my personal character. Starting my day with prayer and scripture reading focuses my mind on the things that are important. Prayer for me is more about being in God’s presence and being changed. Many have an idea that prayer is just about getting God to do the things they want him to do for them. No doubt, there is a time and place to ask God for things, but for me prayer is more about changing me. Prayer changes my focus, changes my desires, and changes my character. 

When I pray now, I usually spend more than 15 minutes, but when I started 15 minutes was a long time. Now, it is a time I look forward to.

 Successful people know the value of starting early and not procrastinating. More importantly, many know the value of having a healthy body, mind and spirit. God is not far from us. The Apostle Paul said He is as close as our mouths. One of the ancient prophets said that if we draw near to Him, He would draw near to us. This I also found to be true. Take the 15 min challenge today. Start by reading verses from the Gospel of John or go for a quiet walk. Just 15 minutes could change your life.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Three Mistakes We Need to Stop Making When It Comes to Being Generous



During the latest government shut-down our church participated in supporting our local Coast Guard. Until then, many did not realize that the Coast Guard is under Homeland Security and does not get paid during the shut-downs. We contributed to the Coast Guard Spouses Assoc. food bank. We were amazed to see the outpouring of our local community towards our service men and women. Their food bank was full before we could get our gifts to them. The gifts our church gave were very small in comparison to the outpouring from the community. Gifts were sent to other Coast Guard bases around the country and extra food is still being sent out to local food banks. This was one those times I was so proud to be a part of the community in Cape May County. It was a picture of how powerful generosity could be. 

Currently in our church we are doing a series on generosity called “The Blessed Life” based on a book by Robert Morris. I am challenging myself and the congregation to be more generous in 2019. Generosity is powerful. It not only changes the lives of those we help, but it has a profound effect our lives. There are three common mistakes we make that stop us from being generous.

We Give Away our Power 

When it comes to finances, often feel out of control. We feel like we are slaves to our income, living paycheck to paycheck. When we come to the conclusion that we are not able to give to others, we are putting our circumstances in charge of us. Making a financial plan with a plan to be generous gives us back our power. 

In our family we make giving a part of our financial planning. No matter how little we make, it is important that giving be a part of our plan. It helps us to realize that we are making a difference and we can help in the greater good. For us, the start of giving is the concept of the tithe. The scriptures speak of the tithe or the “First Fruits” offering. It meant that the first ten percent of your harvest (or money in today’s currency) went to God. In ancient Israel it was the Temple, for Christians today it is the local church. We have found that putting the tithe last in our plan never works. We have to make it the first priority. After that, we look for other ways and places we can give. We find that putting giving first, helps us to realize we are making a difference.

Putting giving into your financial planning, no matter what percentage you choose, starts to give you control. It is good at the end of the month to know you helped someone other than yourself. It empowers you to make better financial decisions and gives a sense of control even in the direst of circumstances. 

We Miss the Opportunity to Change 

Giving is a heart issue. Jesus wisely taught that “where your treasure is, your heart will be also”. We care about things in which we invest our money. Deciding to generous, changes the direction of our thoughts and emotions. It also changes our character. 
People often make the mistake of thinking that only people with wealth can be generous. This is not true. The reality is, this best time to learn to be generous is when money is tight. Why? Because it is easier to learn how to give ten dollars than it is to give a thousand. Giving is not an issue of your financial situation, it is a heart issue. Being generous changes our character, and people can smell it on us.  I believe givers are more likely to get job offers, promotions, and customers. No one wants to hire or work with a stingy person. If it is hard for you to give away money when you have a little, it will be harder when you have a lot. This little act of giving, can change our character and change the path of our lives.

We Close Ourselves Off From Others 

The final mistake we make is isolation. Human nature makes us prone to dwell mostly on our own problems, and to ignore the plight of others. Think about your thoughts during the day. What percentage of your time do you think is spent thinking about yourself and your problems? If you are like me, it’s probably about ninety percent, maybe ninety-nine. We are by nature selfish. Our selfishness hurts us in a deep way. 

Think about the most memorable and meaningful times of your life. Are they when your were selfish and got exactly what you wanted, or were they times you spent spending time with others, giving to others, or helping someone else? Our best times in life are when we give to others in some way. Giving connects us with others. As stated above, Jesus taught us that our heart follows our treasure. We are connected to those we choose to bless, even in the smallest way.

The next time someone asks you to help a church, charity or an important cause, take it for what it is – a blessing! The act of giving develops a life-changing attitude of generosity. It will do much more for you, than it will ever do for them. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Humility Over Politics

Humility Over Politics 

2 Chronicles 7:14New International Version (NIV)

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

In my current sermon series we are talking about rising above politics. This scripture holds some principles for us in finding our healing. Political parties and our country are broken right now, and contrary to what many believe, there is no man or woman that has the power to heal our land. Sunday, I spent a lot of time speaking about humility. Since then I have begun to wonder about how Jesus dealt with politics. I always thought he avoided politics but in reality he had various political people around him. Politics was a daily reality for him, just like it is for us. Take a look at some of his disciples.   


Simon the Zealot - This is not Simon/Peter but another one of his disciples. If this Simon was the kind of Zealot we believe he was, he was one of the most radical of political people.  The Zealots refused to pay taxes, and wanted war with Rome. His identity was so married to his political ideas that it was part of his name. Jesus definitely was not a war monger, but I wonder how long it took for Simon to let go of his political ideas?

Matthew the Tax Collector  - It is amazing to think that Matthew and Simon could be in the same room. Tax collectors worked for Rome. While the Zealots worked to defeat the system, tax collectors benefited from it. Often they would take extra money from the people, and Rome looked the other way. 

The "Regular Joes" - Peter, James, John and Andrew - These men were fisherman, blue collar, the regular guys. You would think that they were the least political, but we find that not to be true. It was these men who argued about who would be greatest in Christ's kingdom. They could have been thinking, "about time the average guy gets an opportunity". These would be the guys that were tired of the politicians (or rulers). They thought Jesus was going to bring change, and make things better. They misunderstood his mission. 

All of these men were missing one of the most important ingredients for healing: humility. 

Jesus states that the greatest in his kingdom would be the servant of all. So here are my humility questions:

1. Are we willing to relinquish control? Simon wanted to fight for his rights but Jesus wanted him to lay down his life. Matthew had a nice life working for the state, but Christ called him to give it up. Maybe we will have more influence on people when we lay down our lives for them, instead of screaming at them about who to vote for. Can we trust that Christ can bring healing to our lives and our land, as we serve others?

2. Are we willing to admit that our candidate is not the answer? We all should vote and our vote should reflect who we are and what we believe. Candidates, however do not bring healing to our land -  God does. God has chosen his primary vehicle of change on earth to be the church. My candidate did not win in the primaries, but if he did he would not be able to heal our land. Peter, James, John, and Andrew lost their political gamble when Christ died on the cross. They were discouraged and disillusioned. The resurrected Christ however, made them leaders in the church, not through political parties, but through supernatural power. This is where real change comes from. 

James 4:1-3New International Version (NIV)

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

This scriptures from James is sobering when it comes to politics. It shows us that most of what get angry about is not righteousness, but rather our own desires. Are we trying to advance His kingdom, or are we trying to create the America that we want? Carnal means do not accomplish godly ends. 

We once had a newly converted woman attend our church. Her family almost stopped her from coming to church because they though we would make her a Republican! May seem a little funny but I wonder how many people reject the gospel because we have been so affiliated with political parties. The early disciples had a diversity of political opinions and Jesus wasn't interested in changing their parties or their votes. All of them had to learn humility regardless of their political beliefs. Our churches need to have room for a variety of political beliefs. We do not need to unify around temporary political candidates or parties. We unify around Christ, His kingdom and His mission. 

The next president will not heal our land, neither will gender bathroom issues, gay marriage, saying Merry Christmas, or Supreme Court Justices. While these issues are important, it will be our humility, our dependence upon Christ, and the laying down of our lives for the world, that will bring change and healing. I for one, am tired of looking for answers from the next politician when the answer is right in front of us.

 2 Chronicles 7:14
.Blessings!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Your Vote is Your Voice, Not Your Party's



This blog was a response to someone who asked me about my response to Walker's and Cruz's speeches at the RNC convention is 2016. The person who asked me the question asked also about a Ross Perot situation. She implied that people voting for Ross Perot stole the election from George HW Bush. This is a difficult question. I believe however, that voting your conscience is more powerful in the long run than voting your party. Here are 3 illustrations that point to why.


1. Socialist – The socialist political party has been part of our system for decades but no one took them seriously. They were faithful to their third party vote, while they worked their philosophy at the local level (a philosophy I do not believe in). The Democratic Party (DP) saw this and started moving toward this group of voters. Now the DP is pretty much a socialist party. So my first question is, what would have happened if socialist were not so committed to their cause? Would they have changed the DP?

2. African Americans – Many African Americans are concerned over socialist policies from the DP that they feel have ripped apart the African American family. When they stand up against it what happens? They often get ostracized. Why? Because the DP has told the African American community that they have no other place to go. People on the right see this as a gross injustice. Yet the message the GOP is giving to Christians, Conservatives and other groups is the same – “You have nowhere else to go.” This is nothing short of manipulation.

3. Car Dealers – The DP and GOP are private political parties selling a product. The conventions are 4 day infomercials. That is all they are. Would we accept this kind of marketing from a car dealership? If Red car company pointed out to us that while it is true that their cars have killed 10 people, the blue car company has killed a 100 people, would we buy their red car, or would we look for a car from a completely different company, neither the red or the blue? Would it matter how popular the red and the blue car companies were?

While I really respect Walker and others who make statements like this, Walker is a reluctant salesman for a private political party. His best sales line was “We are bad but not as bad as or competition”. This decision however, is way more important than car. It is decision over who will be the leader over the free world. “We are not as bad as the other guys” is just not a good enough argument for me.

Our vote is not always about winning and loosing, its about making our voice heard. When a private political party tells you they are your only choice, and you believe them; they have successfully silenced your voice. As far as Ross Perot, the "product" was seen as weak. People were not happy with George HW so they looked for an alternative. Perot could not have run against Reagan because he was seen as a stronger "product". The responsibility for loosing falls on George HW and GOP, not Ross Perot or the people who voted for him.

I am trying to take my vote prayerfully and seriously. Some people are looking at the red car and saying “this is the best car I’ve ever seen”, others feel “this is the only car I can buy”. I understand both of these positions (the second more than the first). There is nothing in the constitution that stops me from looking for another alternative. Hillary does not get an extra vote if I vote third party. We only have two parties because WE have decided we only have two parties. The country, the GOP and the DP in my view are all broken. We didn’t get here over night, and things will not be solved in this election. The best we can do is pray for direction and vote our conscience. This is my little voice in a sea of voices. Its time for unity around principles, not parties. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Spirit of Faith 

Scripture 
Galatians 3:2New Living Translation (NLT)

2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ.

Observation
Paul is confronting the people of Galatians about observing the law instead of putting their faith in Christ. Here he ask them the question: Did they receive the Holy Spirit by faith or by observing the law?

Application 
Interesting here is the connection with the Holy Spirit and faith. For Paul to ask this question, the churches must have had real Holy Spirit experiences. I believed this included tongues, healing and supernatural power. The Holy Spirit was received by simple faith. Working for God’s favor and power is contrary to the Spirit’s work. We must simply receive what He has for us. The Spirit is a critical part of experiencing the cross and living the work of Christ. By faith the Spirit unfolds for us our daily walk with Christ. That is why living in the Spirit is the part of the normal Christian life. He does more than miracles and signs, He is the revealer of the living Christ.

Prayer
Lord open up my eyes to with work of the Holy Spirit. Let Him be completely integrated in my life. Holy Spirit reveal Christ to me.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Where is God's Kingdom?

Journal Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Scripture
Luke 17:20-21English Standard Version (ESV)
The Coming of the Kingdom
20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”[a]

Observation
Where is the evidence that there is a Kingdom of God? The Kingdom of God is much different from an earthly kingdom that many were looking for. They were concern with signs and times when God will take over the world. Christ tells us that the Kingdom is not as concrete as that. God’s Kingdom is not like earthly kingdoms. It is a spiritual kingdom that is already among us. It is inside believers and is working in the mist of this world.

Application
Sometimes we get too concerned about signs of the times, the end of days and signs for the return of Christ. While the Bible does say that we are to read the signs, we are not waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. The Kingdom of God is here now. It is working throughout this physical earth and the work of God is being accomplished. There are signs that is it exist, but we cannot always see it. Most important, it is within us, making us a critical part of God’s plan. We look forward to the return of Christ but we are not waiting for the Kingdom of God. We are to live breath and move in the Kingdom of God now. We proclaim now that Christ is present to change lives. God’s power is present to enable us to overcome. Things that are happening in the spiritual world now will reveal themselves in the physical world later. That does not mean that we have to wait to experience them. The work of Christ has brought God’s kingdom among us.  

Prayer

Lord reveal your Kingdom work. We wish to see changed lives by the power of the Holy Spirit and the work of Christ. Perform signs and wonders with healing. Reveal to us the power and the presence of Your Kingdom. Help us to be constantly engaged in Your kingdom work. Let the power of Your Kingdom move ahead of us and behind us.