Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fabulous Fathers

Let me began by giving a Shout-Out to all dads who are making a difference in the lives of their children. In these days where dead beat dads are common, good fathers should be celebrated and encouraged. And despite all the negative reports we hear in our community and demeaning fatherly figures on TV, there are a great deal of positive father figures to be recognized and appreciated. I call these: Fabulous Fathers. In fact, allow me to high light two fabulous fathers in the Bible.

Consider Abraham: Abraham (father of Isaac) is known as the father of many nations. As a man, he staggered not at the promises of God but believed God and was counted to be righteous. Yet even before the birth of his sons Isaac and Ishmael, Abraham served in a fatherly role to his nephew Lot.

When the land that they dwelt on was too small to hold both of their livestock, Abraham gave Lot first choice. He essentially said, you pick and I will take what is left. (Genesis 13:9) When Lot moved to Sodom and was taken captive by foreign Kings, it was Abraham who rescued him. Later when Sodom and Gomorrah was set to be destroyed for their wickedness, Abraham pleaded with God to show mercy.

Fabulous fathers help their children financially and are willing at times to place the need of their family/children before their own. Fabulous fathers are protectors and are quick to come to the rescue of their children when they are in trouble.

Consider the case of the Merciful Father of the Prodigal Son as shared by Jesus (Luke 15:11). After the younger son requested his inheritance and wasted it on riotous living, he came to himself while feeding the pigs and returned to his father’s house ashamed and humiliated.

But the Merciful father saw him afar off, ran to him, had compassion on him, kissed him, put the best robe on him, placed a ring on his finger, killed the fatted ram and threw a party for his youngest son. But when the oldest son came out of the field and saw that there was a party, he was upset. So the father came out to him and entreated him and told him all that he had was his (the oldest son).

Fabulous fathers celebrate the restoration of their children and do not hold grudges from past hurts or play mind games. In addition, these dads are able address and reconcile hurts between siblings and give fair treatment to all.

Finally, being able to make a baby does not make a man a father. But being involved in the lives of your children, providing for them financially, training them to treat people right and love God, and giving them good sound advice are keys to make any man not simply a good dad, but a fabulous father.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Salt Shakers

Matthew 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."

One of the primary traits of a Christian is to be a salt shaker. The main role of a salt shaker is to spread salt throughout the earth. In this passage, Christ could have referred to Born Again believers as gold, silver or any other precious stone. But he chose salt. Perhaps this is because of the impact that salt has on its surroundings. With more than 14,000 known uses, salt has direct and indirect affect on its environment.

From a Historical Perspective, the early Greeks placed great value on salt. In fact the saying “Not Worth his Salt” was taken from the Greeks as they once traded slaves for salt. The Romans also paid their soldiers with salt. They referred to the process as salarium, a word that proved to be the forerunner of the English word for salary. Not to be outdone, the Egyptians used salt in the preparation of Mummies.

Salt has also had a major role in the history of the Bible. In Leviticus 2:13 God commanded that the meat offering "shall be season with salt and with all the offerings unto God that salt shall be offered." In Genesis 19: 26 Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt when she turned back to look at Sodom.

And in 2 Kings 2:20 Elisha healed the waters of Jericho to conquer the bareness of the land by using salt. And of course there is Jesus who said "Salt is good." Luke 14:34 Therefore as Christians, we must be salt shakers and make a difference in our communities.

The following list 7 Ways that Christians are like Salt:

1. Salt has a healing component. Epson Salt is used to cure tired and sore feet. In warm water, salt can relieve sore and bruised gums. Just as we are healed through the stripes of Jesus Christ, as Christians, God gives us power to heal through the spoken word and through the laying on of hands (John 14:12).

2. Salt is a Preservative. It preserves its environment and keeps things from going rotten. As Christians, we must allow God to use us to prevent rottenness in our communities by lifting up the name of Jesus Christ (John 12:32).

3. Salt is a De-Icer. We use Rock Salt to melt snow and Ice off our roads. For each Believer, God has called us through his grace and mercy to bring love, peace and joy to a cold and Icy world. Christ said “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if you have love one for another.” (John 13:35)

4. Salt is used to season or transform food. It adds flavor. We often delay the start of our dinner for the addition of Salt. Therefore, Born Again believers must bring flavor and seek to transform their environment through actions, and words (Romans 12:1-2).

5. Salt is an odor eater. It removes the smell of odor from onion hands, and helps prevent odors in our shoes. We need to be a sweet smelling savor for our Lord. (Ephesians 5:2) In fact, God wants his people to be an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice that is well pleasing to God. (Philippians 4:18)

6. Salt is a Cleansing Agent. It cleans grease spots on rugs; whitens whites and brightens colors. As the blood of Jesus cleanses our souls, we must seek to have a cleansing affect on the world. And “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

7. Salt is a Distinguisher of Flames. As Christians we have the power through the shield of faith to quench all the fiery darts of the devil (Ephesians 6:16).

In conclusion, I am compelled to ask the question, How Salty are You? We must remember that salt must be spread and distributed. This is why Jesus told the disciples in Acts 1:8 that you will be witnesses not only in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria but in the uttermost parts of the earth after the Holy Ghost is come to give power. So as followers of Jesus, we must be more than simply hearers the word. We must go beyond knowing the Word. Christians must obey the Word of God and seek to spread the Gospel in not only what we say but in the manner in which we live. We are called to be salt shakers.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Benefit Package

Psalms 116:12 “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His Benefits."  A few months ago during what is referred to as open enrollment on my job, I had the opportunity to change my benefits. And as I carefully looked at the coverage, it occurred to me that being a Born Again believer in Christ gives us the opportunity to receive the greatest benefits package known to man.

This benefit package comes with a policy book known as the Bible which shows us how to access the benefits and abide by the coverage criteria. And the primary requirement is a willingness to accept Jesus Christ as one's personal Lord and savior. Hence, when we depart from this life, we are afforded the opportunity to receive the greatest benefit of all, eternal life through Jesus Christ

Besides everlasting life, the benefits of God are unsearchable, innumerable, and unmeasurable. From the hair on your head, to the blood in your veins, even down to the breath you take, the benefits of God are a wonderful gift to the world.

In fact, Psalms 68:19 puts it like this “Bless be the Lord who daily loadeth us with benefits.” Indeed God “makes the sun rise on the evil and the good and gives rain to the just and the unjust.” (Matt 5:45) Every day, every hour, every minute, every second is filled with benefits.
On a daily basis, blessings are distributed to us all.

So even in times of great difficulty and despair, we must not fail to remember the great benefit package in God. This is why Psalms 103:2 declares, “Bless the Lord oh my soul and forget not all his benefits.” Don’t categorize God into one area of your life. Let Him take full control so that you can reap all His benefits. Don’t forget how He saved you; healed you; delivered you. Don’t forget how he made away for you and opened doors for you. Remember from where He brought you. Forget not all His benefits.

And because of the awesomeness of this benefit package, we owe a debt to God. So the psalmist decrees “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits.” We must also ask ourselves this question. What can we say, do, give, or present to the Lord for His many blessings. Ultimately, every gift, talent, or treasure, in some manner needs to be presented back to God.

If we could survey just a few of the Bible leaders of old, each would have his own unique response to this question -What shall I render? If you ask Moses, he would say “whose on the Lord’s side.” If you inquired of Joshua, he would say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  If you posed this question to David, he would say, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

If you questioned Malachi, he would say, “Bring all the tithe into the storehouse that there may be meat in My house.” What shall I render? If you ask the Apostle Paul, he would say: “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The writer of Psalms 150 would respond with three words: "Praise the Lord."

Finally, our benefit package in God through Christ is unparalleled to what man offers. Our benefits are better than Prudential because Jesus is a rock in a weary land. He’s my rock, my sword and shield.

Our benefit package is better than All State knowing that you are in good hands with Jesus and nobody shall be able to pluck you out of his hand. These benefits are better than State Farm – Like a good neighbor Jesus is there. He is a very present help in the time of trouble.

Our benefits are better than Nationwide because Jesus is on your side. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Our benefits are better than Geico because In 15 seconds or less you can save your soul by switching to Jesus for salvation insurance. And serving the Lord is so easy a cave man can do it. Wow, what a great benefit package. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Weapons of Christian Warfare

II Corinthians 10:3-5 The apostle Paul wrote, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

Since the beginning of time, man has been at war for a variety of reasons. And while pursuing one’s enemies in war, mankind has relied on different types of weapons to fight. From the stone and stick to the sword and spear and from the bow and arrow to modern day times, weapons have always played a primary role in war.

Even in the spiritual realm, weapons are paramount in one’s walk with Christ. As Christians, we need weapons because we are in spiritual warfare. And Jesus outlines the strategy of the enemy in John 10:10 which says “ The enemy comes for no reason except to kill, steal and destroy but I come that you may have life and life more abundantly.” Moreover Paul writes in Ephesians 6: 12 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of generation, against spiritual host of wickedness in high places."

Therefore, although we walk in the flesh, we must utilize a different strategy for spiritual warfare. As Christians, we get in trouble when we battle in the flesh. We say the wrong things, make bad decisions, and exclude God from the process when we war after the flesh. The flesh is carnal which pertains to or is characterized by the body and it’s passions and appetites. And carnality is not of God. So our weapons in Christ are not carnal. This means they are not based on deceit, lust, physicality, human knowledge or influence.

One should not underestimate the spiritual weapons of Christ because they are extremely potent or as the scripture says “mighty through God. . .” Hence, our spiritual weapons are not mighty through revenge, spite, or envy; and not through gifts, talents or worldly knowledge, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. The Greek explanation for pulling down (pros/kathairesis) describes moving towards demolition and the Greek word for stronghold is taken from the word ochuroma a military word meaning to fortify. This suggest that our spiritual weapons through Christ are able to totally demolish the strongholds or fortresses of Satan.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that our weapons are not carnal. So while I’m thankful for my academic training, and the influence of knowing people in a position of power, I recognize that the weapons of Christian warfare are not based on education or personal connections.

And while I am grateful for eloquence of speech, and the ability to articulate, I know that the weapons of our warfare are not based on fancy words. And even as it relates to brute physical strength or the science and technology of modern inventions, the weapons of our warfare are not based on gifts of man or modern science. While these things do offer advantages, ultimate victory comes from God.

So as you face your own struggles, let us remember the advice of the songwriters who said “hold your peace and let the Lord fight your battles.” And ask “Jesus to be a Fence all around you every day.” God is the maker and dispenser of the weapons of Christian warfare.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Power of Forgiveness

There is power in forgiveness, and as I reflect on the impact of Christ death, I am reminded of the gracious act of Jesus in forgiving his enemies while on the cross. In doing so- Jesus demonstrated not only grace but great power.

Likewise, as we continously go to God for forgiveness of our sin, we must also forgive others. In fact, when Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, he emphasized that we should ask God to “forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) In addition, Jesus states in Matthew 6:15 "But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive yoiur sins." No doubt some situations are very difficult to forgive: Personal hurts, betrayal, being lied on, and even criminal acts. But we need to learn forgiveness. The first step is to acknowledge the hurt. The second step is to surrender the will to get even. And lastly, we must forgive others as the third step in the process.

Nevertheless, we ought to be like Jesus and exercise forgiveness. Very often in life after a terrible harm has been done, many persons can’t move forward because they will not forgive. Don’t allow the thing that hurt you to create such bitterness through unforgiveness that it limits your ability to enjoy life.

In conclusion, I am reminded of the countless examples in the scripture that demonstrate forgiveness: Consider how Esau forgave Jacob and embraced him despite being robbed of his birthright (Genesis 33); or how Joseph forgave his brothers and eventually saved their lives, despite being robbed of his coat of many colors, thrown in a pit and sold into slavery in Egypt where he would later be falsely accused and sent to prison (Genesis 45, 50).

Let’s not forget how David forgave King Saul after Saul attempted multiple times to kill David. David had opportunities to kill Saul but instead spared his life. David would later honor Saul in his death (I Samuel 24-26, II Samuel 1)

Even in the early days of the church, we see forgiveness displayed by Stephen who forgave his persecutors as they stoned him to death while he kneeled down and asked God “not to lay this sin to their charge.” (Acts 7:59) And a short while later, the disciples led by Barnabus forgave Saul of Tarsus who formerly persecuted the Saints of God and was active in the stoning of Stephen.

And of course the ultimate act of forgiveness was displayed by Jesus Christ in his death on the Cross. Even though Jesus was betrayed, denied, lied upon, beaten, and nailed to a cross, we see the power of forgiveness when Jesus uttered these words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) There is power in forgiveness.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Keeper

God is a keeper. He will keep you if you want to be kept. Despite the technological advances of today, we are yet living in perilous times. But in the midst of all of our hardships, disappointments, despair and even temptations, it is good to know that we serve a God who is able to keep us. Here are five ways that God is able to keep and watch over His people.

Keep you from falling: “Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling. . .” (Jude 24) God can keep you from sin. And keep you from backsliding, preserve your reputation and keep you from going back to a life of sin. So in the midst of temptation, He’s able to keep you saved. I am reminded of Winans song of the 80s, “It’s good to know He’ll be there if ever I fall. But it’s better to know that I don’t have to fall at all.” The Lord can keep you from falling.

Keep your stuff: “Except the Lord build the house they labor in vain who build it. Except the Lord keep the city the watchman waits in vain.” (Psalms 127:1) I’m thankful for policeman, door locks, security systems, and alarms which are all good, but the Lord is the ultimate keeper. I can remember a number of occasions when I have left my garage door open having left my home, left my credit card at the restuarant, left the windows rolled down in my car in an unfamiliar neighborhood but God kept my stuff. So I am a witness that if you trust Him, he will keep, watch over and protect your property and personal items.

Keep you in your right mind: “Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusts in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3). When all around you is going crazy, God will give you peace in the midst of the storm as you keep your mind focused on God.

Keep you from evil: “But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3) Even in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death, there is no need to fear because God will protect and keep you from dangers seen and unseen.

Keep you in all your ways
: “For He shall give his angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways.” (Psalms 91:11) It matters not if you are at home, work, school, church, in your car, or performing various social functions and activities, God is able to keep you in all your ways as he gives His angels charge to watch over you. Indeed the gospel singer Andrae Crouch was right when he said “Got me some angels day and night watching over me.”

Without question, there are thousands of ways that God can keep and provide for His people. No wonder the psalmist David wrote, “I have been young, and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread.” (Psalms 37:25)

As I conclude, I am reminded of the words of an old gospel song that says-“Just another day that the Lord has kept me. He has kept me from all evil with my mind stayed on Him. Just another day that the Lord has kept me.” So as we rejoice in the Savior, let us also rejoice in the fact that He is - The Keeper.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Finish It

Finishing is better than starting. . . (Ecclesiastes 7:8 New Living Translation)
As we approach the beginning of a new year, allow me to stress the importance of finishing what you start and completing whatever you begin. Just think of how much better society would be as a whole if people would simply finish what they started.
Just imagine how many additional books would be written, or businesses established, jobs created, degrees bestowed or inventions made if more people simply finished.

Consider how much more stable our communities, families, marriages, and children would be if as a whole we finished what we started. What if more dads would finish being fathers beyond inception. What if more married couples would finish their vows and stayed together “as long as they both shall live.”

Even in Sports, the teams that are successful perform their best at the end of the game. The victorious team is usually the team with a strong finish. And I am reminded of my high school days playing basketball. Often in practice while running fast break drills, players would sometimes attempt to be too cute with their passes and turn the ball over, or too fancy with their shots and miss the basket. And coach would yell- Finish it.

Consider the case of Derek Redmond the Olympic Sprinter from Britain who participated in the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain. Half way through his qualifying match after leading most of the race of the 400 meter run, he hears a pop in his right hamstring, pulls up lame and then falls to the ground in agony. Then, in a moment that will live forever in the minds of millions, as the medical crew arrives with a stretcher, Redmond lifts himself to his feet, waves off the medical crew and begins hobbling down the track for the last 120 meters of the race.

One hurtful step at a time, his face twisted with pain and tears, Redmond limps onward to finish the race, as the Olympic crowd watches. Suddenly, out of stands a man (later identified as Redman’s father) jumps over the railing, runs onto the track, fights through security and wraps his arm around Redman’s waist and tells him, “We’ll finish together.” Redman puts his arms around his father's shoulders and sobs. Together, arm in arm, father and son, with 65,000 people cheering, clapping and crying, walked toward the finish line. As they approached the finish line, and with the crowd in an absolute frenzy, Redman’s dad releases the grip he has on his son, so Redman could cross the finish line by himself. Redman did not win a medal at the Barcelona Olympics, but he finished.

While Redman’s story is inspiring, the greatest example of finishing something can be found in Jesus Christ. He is known as the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). In fact, he told the multitude “ until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matt 5:18 NIV)

Jesus had the greatest destiny and most significant purpose of anyone who ever walked the face of the earth. His goal was to seek and to save that which was lost and to bear the sins of the world. In fact, Christ’s will to finish was so strong that that in John 6:39 he says “this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day."

And as his ministry on earth came to a close, he was lied upon, denied and betrayed by his disciples. He suffered the mockery of trial and was beaten, spit upon, and rejected by men. He was made to carry a rugged cross, and was crucified between two thieves where they pierced him in his side, placed a crown of thorns on his head, and gambled for his robe. In three days he would rise again having conquered death, hell and the grave but before he could ascend to the Father he had to close out what he started. So with the weight of the whole world bearing down, he uttered these last words before he hung his head between the locks of his shoulders and died: "It is Finished." And because Christ finished, we have access to everlasting life, peace, joy and the power to finish not just in our spiritual walk but even in our everyday activities.

So as we approach a new year, my advice is the same to those who are multi-taskers as it is for procrastinators. For those who are contemplating starting business, obtaining a degree, writing a book, pursuing educational goals or starting a ministry, I offer this counsel that can be summed up in two words: Finish It.