True Healing

I have begun teaching the Good Samaritan Network’s version of the Healing and Transformation Program. During this short time, I have seen men move from stone-faced introverted individuals to very sensitive and introspective people. Last week was a break-through of sorts. I began teaching principles of healing. As we began talking about the foundation and team necessary for restoration, one of the men exclaimed, “There is just no way! I am a terrible individual, a drunk, a man who has destroyed my family, my family can’t forgive me and I will never forgive myself.” If we are honest, we have all felt some version of that statement. The truth is his statement is just not true. However, there is a choice to be made. We can choose to wallow in our brokenness and misery or we can take action and seek God’s forgiveness.

God and only God, through His Son Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit can and will restore us. To prove this, I opened my Bible to Psalm 51, King David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and Nathan had revealed that he knew what David had done. I shared with my student, he like David was at a very important crossroads. Acknowledging past failures is not enough. We must repent of those failures and ask God to blot them out. Psalm 51:1-9 is a beautiful picture of someone who truly wants to be healed. David begged God, he was broken, there was no hope otherwise, he felt the separation, and knew that he must be forgiven. David was willing to take any measure to be forgiven and restored.

Like David and my student, I have felt that separation and at times have wondered if I could be restored. The good news is, God is a God of restoration. He is waiting like the prodigal’s father for us to repent and return to Him. The joy that comes with that restoration is indescribable. Only God can make a heart clean and pure. King David understood this forgiveness. After repentance, he asked God to create a pure heart and to renew his spirit. Can you see the progression? First we repent then we are able to receive the heart transplant;  the restoration from God. We can be fully restored because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. However, healing does not stop there.

Verses 15-19 tell the rest of the story. David repented, was restored, and moved forward by committing to teach others of God’s forgiveness. Too often, we sit and thank God for what He has done but never take the time to share what He has done with others. This world can be difficult, cruel, and evil. Without God’s restoration we are hopeless. Everyone is in need of restoration. Some, like me, need it more often than others. To see the brokenness, the hurt, the estranged families, should break our hearts. We should be compelled to repent and seek restoration. Likewise, we must be compelled to share the hope that is within us.

John 5 records the story of a paralyzed man sitting by the pool of Bethesda. Jesus asked the paralyzed man, “Do you want to be healed?” The man answered yes. Sadly, some answer this question with a resounding no. Some answer yes but their actions say no. While still others, answer yes, mean yes, and seek God’s forgiveness for their past. The real question is, do you want to be healed? Do you truly want to move forward in your life? Do you want to share that hope with others? If we truly understand the depths of our hopelessness, the abyss from where God retrieved us, and the restorative work of Christ, then we will seek to share that hope and new heart with everyone. God is a God of healing! Do you want to be healed?

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What Is The Plan?

4D8B8285-32F8-44CF-88AC-051223AB40B0I once had a friend who owed a parrot. He said his parrot would often walk out onto his perch, look around at the scattered bird seed and droppings in the cage, and exclaim, “What a Mess, what a mess, what a mess! I do the same thing at times. I look at many areas of my life that need improvement and think, what a mess! Maybe you do too. Truth be told, many are critical of both their past and present actions and think, what a mess!

I find solace in knowing that God has used and continues to use some of the most difficult and discouraging times to strengthen me. Maybe you are there now. Maybe a battle is raging and you cannot seem to get a grasp on the situation. Addiction, financial burdens, family struggles, employment, or physical and mental impairments can all be implements of destruction used by the enemy, or tools of construction used by God. The results depend on where you and I turn. The Bible says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in a time of need.” (Ps. 46:1)

The mess we see can lead to significant restoration if we know where to turn. Psalm 51 is one of my favorite scriptures because it recounts a time of both despair and restoration in King David’s life. David turned to God. He knew God was the only answer. God not only heard but also answered David’s prayer.

As I mused upon the many messes in my life today, I chose the tools of construction. I turned to God in prayer. May what He is building be a testament to the mighty God I serve. My prayer for you is that you will do the same. Will you turn to God? Will you allow him to mold you and make you? I hope you will! Keep looking up!

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Sometimes…

     Lord why do you reject me? Why do You hide Your face from me?  From my youth,
I have been afflicted and near death.  I suffer Your horrors; I am desperate.  Your wrath sweeps over me;  Your terrors destroy me.  They surround me like water all day long;  they close in on me from every side.  You have distanced loved one and neighbor from me; darkness is my only friend. Ps. 88:14-18

     Have you ever been there? You know, that place where nobody seems to care, where you follow God to places nobody wants to go, do things that nobody wants to do, and end up feeling that you are walking alone. Many today teach of God’s grace, mercy, love, and His benefits.  Those are all true, but sometimes God must take us to dark and lonely places. You must go to those places where you are uncomfortable and out of your element. I have found in my journey, it is during those difficult times that our Christian character is built. Like the psalmist I too have asked, “Why do you hide your face from me?”

     Honestly, the Christian walk is not one that is intended to be comfortable. Sometimes, we must do things for no other reason, other than God has called us to go. It is during those times, through obedience, that we learn that God’s grace is sufficient. Sometimes, I cry out asking why God has forsaken me. Sometimes I question whether the sacrifice is worth the effort. Then I’m reminded of a Savior who took on sin even though He knew no sin. He paid a ransom that He did not owe. So yes, it is all worth it!

Sometimes there seems to be no answer. The situation seems hopeless and I begin to feel helpless. That is when I must lean even more on my only hope, the only one who is totally trustworthy. God is my strength, my only hope, and my  strong-tower. He makes a way when there is no way. For me, that is what it means to be a Christian! A deacon at a church I once attended said, “I got all my eggs in God’s basket.” That statement sums it up. Either we are all in with our Christian walk or we are playing church. A mature believer knows there is no other pathway. The choice is Jesus or the world. If it is Jesus, then the road becomes lonely and you begin to understand what a fair-weather friend is. Sometimes, darkness seems to be your only friend.

Sometimes, when the road is long and the journey is rough, we must stop and focus on the only hope. As the old hymn says, “My hope rests on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness; on Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Sometimes, it takes focus on not what God will do for you, but rather on what He has already done. The battles are rough, the road is often long, but the victory is sweet. And that victory, it has been won. You can’t lose. You will never be defeated if your fight is for God and His righteousness. Sometimes, you must remember why you are in the battle.

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The Journey

Abbie and I are spending a few days away at “Fish Tales” on St. George Island celebrating our wedding anniversary. We are thankful for friends that graciously gifted their beach home for a few days. As I looked out over the water this morning, I began to reminisce many of the memories we have created together over the last 28 years.

There have been many happy moments from the birth of our children and grandchild, to high school graduations, baptisms, new jobs, vacations, and so much more. There have also been times of struggle from death of friends and loved ones, to financial ruin, disagreements, and disappointments. Through all of this, I have been blessed to have a wife who has truly been with me for better or worse, for richer or poorer, and in sickness and health.

The last three years have been the most incredible part of the journey so far. Three years ago, we chose to be obedient to God’s call in our lives and to serve Him unconditionally and selflessly. We have learned that the more we surrender to God, the sweeter our fellowship wth Him becomes, as does the closeness of our relationship with each other.

Abbie’s worth is far beyond silver, gold, or rubies. She is the epitome of a Proverbs 31 woman. The person she married was a result of my parents and my upbringing but the man I have become, is in large part due to her dedication, love, and surrender. So, here is to the rest of the journey. I pray we finish strong, serve God without surrender, and love each other more each day than we did the day before.

Happy Anniversary, Abbie!

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Revival Is Coming

    Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” I believe that statement is just as relevant and true today as it was when Jesus spoke it. So why is the American church not on fire for Christ? Why have we bought into the idea that a church must be run like a business? Understand that this does not describe all churches but sadly many fall into this category.

    The church has become irrelevant because for decades we have left the call to be witnesses and have become focused on budgets, buildings, and baptisms. The budget has become the almighty god of the church, more and bigger buildings are the reason for existence, and baptisms are a nice addition if they happen but are not necessary for church growth. Little thought is given to the God who is able to provide, to the One who sent His Son, to true purpose of the church. In the eyes of many, the church is hamstrung by the amount of money that is received because they rely on themselves and not God. The modern church has a form of godliness but denies the power that is available through the Holy Spirit.

The exciting news is that as long as I have breath, I have a God given call to be a witness and so do you. The opportunities are still there! People like my Christian brothers and sisters in Baltimore are willing to sacrifice everything to advance the gospel. I have little time for budgets, buildings are useful tools, and baptisms are important only if it is an outward expression of an inward conversion. Another church awakening is needed and my prayer is that God will choose to bring revival to a lukewarm church in a way that has never been seen. Before this can happen; believers must repent, refocus, and serve our Lord without reservation. Let’s all join as believers to repent and call on our mighty God to bring revival. 

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The Night Before

As I read Mark 16 this evening, I began to wonder, what was the conversation of the two Marys and Salome? Were they sad but honored to have known Jesus? Were they keeping busy by preparing to anoint His body the next morning and in doing so keeping their minds focused on something other than His death?  It is all hard to imagine but scripture clearly shows that even during their time of despair and grieving they made preparation for the next day’s task.

As they approached the tomb, Mark 16:3 says, they were discussing who would roll the stone away from the tomb.  We are then told that as the three looked up, the stone had been rolled away.  They had been faithful even through their grief and showed up the next morning ready to anoint the Master’s body with spices. Even though they were not fully prepared, they took the necessary steps to be there the next morning. God provided and praise be to Him that the stone was rolled away.

Do you ever get caught asking, “who will do this or how can this happen?” Just like these three, I often find myself feeling the tug of the Holy Spirit but doubt that I can complete it. What I find though, is that He remains faithful. He removes the obstacles and He accomplishes His will with or without me. I have decided that I want Him to do things with me. I want Him to use me. I want to be obedient. What a beautiful picture of the open tomb. Not only was the stone rolled away but the tomb was empty!

As I prepare for Easter 2014, I’m thankful that he still rolls stones away but even more thankful that the tomb is empty. Because of the empty tomb, broken lives are still mended, addictions are broken, relationships are mended and all who turn to Him have hope. So, the question is not what were the three thinking the night before but rather what are you thinking the night before. Where will you be tomorrow. As for me, I will celebrate that the tomb is still empty and I still believe that all things are possible through Christ Jesus. May you experience the greatest Resurrection Day yet. He is risen! He is risen indeed!

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