Successful… or not?

Faithful is the new definition of success. Success means different things to different people. Promotion, more money, new car or new house. To a pastor, success may be defined as a bigger church, numerical or financial growth, bigger buildings or a “big” preaching opportunity.

But God defines success as “faithfulness” in Psalms 101:6 Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walks in a perfect way, he shall serve me. God keeps His eyes upon the faithful. The faithful walk with God. Faithful, according to this verse, is walk with God, walk in a pure life and serve God.

Success may not follow you but in Psalms 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:… The discovery of success is found in goodness and mercy following, you have been found faithful. Success is not wrong but integrity must not be compromised at the expense of success. Success may follow the faithful but faithfulness doesn’t always follow success.

I would say that sometimes the most radical thing you can do with your life is to simply be faithful.

Michael Hyatt

Let me share three reasons we must choose to be faithful:

Faithfulness brings blessings. Proverbs 28:20 A faithful man shall abound with blessings… Blessings and success are oftentimes worlds apart. Blessings is best described as family, friends, health, His presence, peace, joy, rest, well, you get the picture. There are people who own very little – in the business term of success – they have failed, but they have a happy marriage, enjoy peace in their family, no doubt they are blessed. Maybe successful in another definition.

Faithfulness brings opportunity. Luke 16:10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much… integrity is strengthened in the little things. Fading away in a few sprinkled compromises may bring success but it can never bring faithfulness. Faithfulness breeds character. The principle is simple, Faithful in little – faithful in much.

Faithfulness brings reward. Matthew 25:21 …Well done, thou good and faithful servant… Success may bring certain rewards here but faithfulness will bring a reward for eternity. Compliments are varied and encouragement is somewhat lacking – many seek for men’s approval only to be disheartened. But one day, the faithful will hear, from the mouth of God, “Well done!” Faithfulness is worth it!

Comment below: What does being faithful mean to you?

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Walking in the Dark

It isn’t easy to walk in the dark and it is far more dangerous. Jim Cymbala, of the new book, Spirit Rising, told a story of his dark adventure. One night, as a small boy, he was walking in the dark, when he stubbed his toe on a container he had not previously known was there. He made this observation, had he been walking with the light on, he would have been able to see what was in front of him.

Most of us would like to know – “what is in front of me.” If we knew what God had planned we might not be so anxious about giving up. Quitting would not be in my vocabulary if I could see my tomorrow. My wife and I have anxiously followed a small newborn, still in the hospital after some months, with several complications. The mother posted a picture of the child at birth and one this past weekend; the difference was remarkable, untold miracles have enveloped this child since birth, giving him the strength and life. Looking back the Mother can say, God has been faithful.

But you say, I need something right now! Walking in the dark with an unknown future is difficult, to say the least, but here are three distinct points to remember.

God’s presence is magnified in the dark. The presence of God is most cherished when I have walked through the dry time, wrestled with my emotions and worried through the problem. God is so close during the difficult days. Tears are easy to come by but God’s hand lifting me up and keeping me courageous is encouraging each and every day.

My daughter recently bought a night-light in case one of her two boys gets up during the night. But the night-light is off through the night but comes on when someone passes by. You may not see God’s presence when you want to but in the dark, when you are walking alone, the light comes on. God’s presence is magnified in the dark.

God’s promises are exemplified in the dark. It is in the low times, the dry times and the dark times that the Word of God becomes most precious. The Bible is not filled with just poetry and prose but promises. Promises of His faithfulness. “…lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20). You are not alone. Cry out to Him right now. Look in the Bible and find the lit path in your dark time. Psalms 119:105  “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

God’s peace is found in the dark. Finding peace in the middle of the storm and finding peace in the middle of turmoil is unknown to some who may not know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord but God is able to bring a peace that calms the heart in the worst of the night. Don’t cry yourself to sleep – pray yourself to sleep. Philippians 4:7  “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Peace is mentioned over 400 times in scripture and you can find some peace in your darkness.

Comment below: Shout Out! of a dark time in your life when God gave you His presence, promise or His peace.

Atmosphere Changers

Nothing can change the attitude of people like changing the atmosphere around people. Atmosphere changers are the people who are able to go into a situation and turn the events around simply with their presence. The word, “preemptive” is an amazing word. It simply means the focus has been completely changed because of the unique profoundness of the moment. Take for instance, there is a large gathering of people, several friends you haven’t seen for a long time, you are enthralled with seeing old friends and meeting their children. Suddenly, a man with a gun enters the room, all attention is now diverted completely to him, he captures your thoughts and entire focus, he has preempted the gathering.

Atmosphere changers are preemptive – they change the attitudes around them by their demeanor, character, sweetness, smile, and the spirit around them. This is a work of God, the fruit of the Spirit, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Not a mushiness, not a softness, not a mellowness, but a goodness, a kindness, a Christlike Spirit that envelopes others because of their character.

Atmosphere changers are magnets. They draw people to them – they don’t repel. They possess a strong likability. They have acquired an interest, an attraction and a profound genuineness. People gather around them because they add value to those around them.

Atmosphere changers are expressive. They express love, concern and genuine care for others. They have found out how to life others up. They are an encourager. They write letters, make phone calls and hug necks.

Atmosphere changers know how to pray. The first person I ever came in contact with that was a definite atmosphere changer in my life was Sister Hanke. I was just 12 years old and she captured my attention, she was old, plump, wore wire rim glasses and floral print dresses. Her power was in her prayer. Prayer carried her through and it was noticeable. She always made it a point to come talk to me with a smile and let me know she was praying for me. Atmosphere changers are people who pray.

Home IPad Apps

Mostly my IPad has been used for travel and for business, I read, research, define, copy, learn and educate with my IPad nearly everyday of the week. We are beginning to discover the vast amount of apps that are designed for the home, in fact, I saw a clip board device that attached to your refrigerator to hold your IPad while you are in the kitchen. OK, I am hooked but not that bad.

Here are a few FREE apps that are helpful or even delightful for the family to use in the home. (I may mention children’s apps in a later post).

My Library: our local library has an IPad app for checking out books, movies, etc., researching with a vast list of books and even checking my account. Check with your local library for more information.

Living Social: a resource for coupons and special deals in your areas; this is not your buy four cans of green beans and get a fifth one free. This is more for events, shops and unique brands.

Lemon: Keep your receipts all in one place by simply scanning with your IPhone or Ipad. Define categories and save a lot of work come tax time.

Epicurious: A knock your socks off recipe book, even create a shopping list. Search for your favorite recipe plus categories for special events.

Instagram: Correct, fix and magically enhance your photos then share only with the people you choose.

Family Fun

The most bonding of all family events is having fun together. Laughing, throwing a ball, a picnic, vacation, surprise visit, birthday parties, and a long list of a lot more. We all stake our claim to busyness but we need some funny business going on in our family life.

Taking the children for a walk, a trip to the zoo, a children’s event, pizza or camping out in the living room are once in a lifetime events  children and families will remember forever. Take the camera or a video camera and get double the fun by doing popcorn and a video the following weekend. Turn off the TV, set your voicemail to pick up business after your trip out and have fun. One of the greatest investments we made was a condo on the lake that we frequent with our family. Skype the relatives that live a far distance from you and let the children visit with relatives you wouldn’t normally see very often.

Fun is spelled Forever – the time you will have will indelibly be etched in a child’s memory forever. Unique – the different, outlandish and sometimes, odd will make the most impact. Not expensive –  fun doesn’t have to cost very much. Look for the free or inexpensive family oriented events in your area. Make a list that can be referred to from time to time.

Let’s get started this weekend.

Family Prayer

When our children were preschoolers we would have a regular scheduled time for prayer and Bible story time. Each evening the children would climb on the couch for daddy to tell a story, take prayer requests and pray with each one. Later on when my children grew to be teens, praying together as a family was a directive for their relationships, school work and other pursuits. Now, my children are married and have children of their own, what a great delight to know they pray with their children each night before bedtime.

The Gospels record Jesus inviting the children to come to Him. Family prayer has many benefits but let me name just a few:

It is a great time for the family to talk about pressing issues. Families don’t get enough time to have meaningful conversations about moral, economical or relational subjects and the time of Family Prayer can open up discussion of these vital topics. It is found among teens, they will follow whoever listens to them.

It is a great time to express our love for each other. My wife and I would often thank Jesus for each other while praying, reinforcing our love and commitment to each other at our family time of prayer. Holding the children in your lap and praying a blessing over them not only has biblical roots but can open the door for your child to receive what God has in store for each child.

It is a great time to uncover the purpose for each child. Each person has a unique calling and purpose for life. Family prayer time can investigate the gifts of each child and expose them to various callings for their life.

It is a great time to pray for their protection. Each time you send your child into the public school you risk not seeing that child return in the same spirit. We must pray protection over their body, mind and spirit. The Israel customs were full of symbolism and in Exodus the description of putting blood on the doorposts to protect the family from the death angel, reminds us to plead the blood over our children for their protection in an evil world.

It is a great time to memorize the Word of God together. With all the functions, activities and events of the local church, there is nothing as powerful as the family memorizing the Word of God together. En-grafting the Word of God in our mind and life is an awesome insurance for the lives of our children. Deuteronomy  6:7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

Family Dinner

The family dinner table is often a lost art. In the black and white days, “Leave it to Beaver,” the popular TV show of the 50’s, the Cleaver family met regularly for the dinner meal. Today times have changed; parents work overtime at the job, run off to take the kids to soccer practice and a myriad of other hobbies, interests and responsibilities consume the evening hours.

Strong families have strong values. Coming together regularly may sound nostalgic, old-fashioned or even of the Puritan era but research shows families who take time to be together “on purpose” will survive the storms of family life.

The National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) study shows, that families who eat together are most likely to do well in school, eat nutritious foods, practice good tables matters and the report included, that table dinners with the family has an impact on delaying sexual activity. Plus, teens are less likely to smoke, do drugs, drink alcohol, be depressed or consider suicide. I realize many other reasons for this family improvement can be factored in to this equation but the matter is resolved, families who have a regular time of meeting around the dinner table show improvement in several life choices.

Straying from negative subjects is of extreme importance when eating. Turning all cell phones on silent and having a set time for dinner so the entire family can participate are of great value. So let’s pull the recipe book out, carve out some delicious meals for the weekly menu, turn the TV off and enjoy a family time together around the dinner table.

“Who Needs a Miracle!”

“I need a Miracle!” We have heard more than once from a desperate soul crying out for a Divine intervention in their lives. But does God do miracles anymore? There certainly is a great need; a pastor facing cancer, friends whose 3-year-old passed away this week, a baby in Kentucky fighting for its life, and many, many more.

Miracles aren’t always big. My daughter testified of her burning eye she had accidentally scratched and after prayer, the burn succeeded and the pain quit. If God does miracles, you might ask, then why don’t we see more? Good questions and frankly, I don’t have all the answers but here are four things I know about miracles.

First, miracles happen to those who expect them.  Dr Thomas Lindberg, Senior Pastor of First Assembly of God Church of Memphis, writes, “God does not send miracles merely where they are needed; God sends miracles where they are expected.” When Moses put his rod down into the Jordan River he fully expected God to do something. In fact, all through the Gospels, people cried out to Jesus, they knew He could perform a miracle and not one left disappointed.

Secondly, miracles happen when all other means of an answer are swept away.  Our deficiency is God’s sufficiency. Our lack is His opportunity. When we have no one else to turn to, nowhere else to go and no more answers – Jesus shows up in magnificent splendor and does the impossible. Miracles don’t happen so we can be arrogant with our own self-righteousness, our abilities or our wealth but He shows up to the beggar, the blind, the broke and the berated.

Third, miracles happen when you pray. Prayer is the key to unlock heaven’s resources. Prayer puts me in the place where we are able to trust Him. Prayer melts my heart, soothes my fears and enables me to place my hand in His hand. Faith moves mountains but prayer moves God. Persistent, fervent and heartfelt prayer turns circumstances around and breaks the bonds of the enemy.

Last, miracles don’t always happen the way I prayed it. My thoughts and God’s thought don’t always line up. He is infinite and I am finite. He is strong and I am weak. He is omniscient and I know very little. God started working things out weeks ago so we could have answers to our prayers today. However, God decides to answer my prayers I must trust He will answer when I pray, even though the answer may not come the way I expected.

Stressed Out? This is for you!

A recent Gallup poll notes that over 80 percent of Americans feel stressed out at least some of the time and nearly half noting those feelings frequently. Stress is found at jobs, homes, and while driving. Life is supposedly easier and more efficient but has become more complex. American Psychological Association reports the top cause of stress is Money, followed by work and thirdly by the economy. We hear it on the news, collapse. foreclosures, ruin, and the uncertainty is beginning to take its toll on us. With 290 million people owning a TV we are constantly bombarded with bad news, this barrage of negative information is having tremendous effects on the souls and minds of men and women.

After a Doctor’s visit, a friend of mine told me his bronchitis was  not clearing up and the doctor had prescribed a double dosage of the medicine he was taking. As a result of bad news slapping us in the face day after day we need a double dosage to correct the stress. Stress can cause headaches, muscle cramps, stomach problems, anger, and a host of other problems. Many times relationships are put to the test because of the stress around them.

We need a double dosage to relieve the stress of today.

First, double dosage your prayer. One preacher asked the question, “Is your prayer life adequate for the pressures you are facing?” Simply question but a difficult one to answer. But increasing the amount of time may not be the best answer; maybe creating a more fervent and heartfelt prayer is a better answer. Praying until God’s presence begins to soothe your doubts and fears. Inviting God into your todays and tomorrows is the beginning of a peaceful present. As Grace Hansen said, “Don’t be afraid your life will end, be afraid that it will never begin.”

Secondly, double dosage your Bible reading. Begin today with the three M’s; Memorize, Meditate, Make it your own. By taking the word of God and bringing it into your life, you are diluting the power of the world and increasing the power of the Spirit.  Look at James 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. The antidote for filthiness and naughtiness is to “engraft” the Word of God. “Engraft” means implanted, to “make it your own,” to make it personal. Bring the Word of God into your own life.

Thirdly, double dosage your faith. The quicker you get rid of the thing that weighs you down the better you will feel. That’s why , 1 Peter 5:7 says, Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. “Cast” means to throw away, God encourages us to throw away our worry and anxieties because He cares for us. His concern for you and His care for you is deeper than anyone else you can depend on. The word “careth” in this scripture implies that God “continues to care” for you – He never quits. Leave your stress in the hands of Jesus and watch the strength of the stress disappear.

 

Rating Children’s Movies

In the reinvention stage several black and white classical themes and characters are being recreated into culturally relevant pseudo movies. These cartoon character movies are aimed at children, ages 7 to 14, but characterize demonic, anti-God and sexual innuendoes aimed at diverting, de-sensitizing and perverting.

According to a Christian publication, in one children’s movie, rated PG, there was 1 sexual verbiage, 5 profanities, and twice disrespected God with a laugh and a sneer. Focus on the Family reports a recent pirate cartoon includes 5 curse words, including taking the name of the Lord God in vain plus, several sexual allusions, including a nudist boat, (though all is covered by camera angle) and an island where the women are covered only by their long hair and flowers.

Without being thought a prude, old-fashioned, negative or “holy Joe” let me contend for the children. While it is most impossible to cover the “little ones” eyes every time they go into the grocery store it is most possible to shield our children from the entertainment that introduces crude language, amoral sexual behavior and other “innocent(?)” attacks on moral standards of the Christian family.

This is no longer the clean humor of Porky Pig, Mickey Mouse or Clifford the Dog. Cartoon or otherwise, PG rating or not, we must guard the hearts of children and maintain their innocence as long as possible. And in the popular Facebook language, “Just sayin….”