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Friday, November 26, 2010


The Wedding Sand Ceremony is a more and more common way for a bride and groom to recognize that the two are becoming one flesh as Scripture says.  Often times it replaces the Unity Candle Ceremony at weddings.  The bride and groom each choose a color of sand that is appropriate for them.  That sand is kept in two individual glass containers.  At a certain time in the ceremony, many times during their vows, the bride and groom each pour a portion of their sand into a larger glass vessel.  More vows and more sand is poured until they have emptied their individual glass containers.  Uniquely the sand combines to make designs that illustrate both characters in one vessel representing their marriage relationship. 

Well during my stay in South Dakota I had some awesome biblical counseling.  During the three and a half weeks I had the most incredible experience of self discovery and realization of who I am in Christ and who He is in me, that I chose to have a sand ceremony between me and God.  As my counselor, Pat Karn, poured white sand in the vessel for God, I poured cobalt blue sand in the vessel and proclaimed that in Christ I am a new creature.  I’m loved, pursued, cherished and adored.  Everything I was searching for prior to my Spiritual Awakening was found through God’s Word and in His promises to me and forgiveness of my past, present and future sins!  The design that the two colors of sand made is a beautiful reminder of Jesus and me living in this earthly tent together.  We are told that we are the Bride of Christ. As Jesus did many symbolic things on this earth, my Sand Ceremony was symbolic of Jesus living in me and how I abide in Him.  The glass vessel I have on my bookshelf is an awesome reminder every day as I look at it, who I am in Christ and who He is in me!  I love the words of John the Baptist when he said…in John 3:30 talking about Jesus:
He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. 

May it be so!

*If you would like more information about the Sand Ceremony you can log on to

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

12. Epilogue

Yea, I regret big time that it took so long for the spiritual awakening in my life to take place.  Satan allowed the choices I made to destroy our family and many of my friendships.  I can’t say “the devil made me do it,” because that’s not factual.  He used my past to influence me and I made the choices in the flesh that hurt a lot of people.  One of the things my biblical counselor at Christian Life Ministries in South Dakota, Pat Karn, mentioned to me was to be aware that since I was now walking in the freedom of Christ, some people would still be angry with me and want me to continue to suffer.  

It is interesting to see the different ways many of the people affected by my choices have responded.  Some have come along side me and encouraged me during my self discovery, healing and growing process.  They have prayed for me and with me, given me meals, places to stay and monetary gifts as well as time.  Others continue to pray and remain friends, but somewhat at arms length.  Still others have completely written me out of their lives.  

As I have gone through the grieving, healing, and growth process, I know how I want to approach others who might go through the same thing.  I want to be there to lift them up, praying for them and being a spiritual encouragement for them in their awakening!

I still believe Satan would suffer a defeat if our family were to someday be restored.  Anytime God puts back together something Satan has torn apart, it becomes stronger and more effective for the Kingdom of Heaven.  As of this writing, that does not look likely.  But we serve a huge God and nothing is impossible for Him. 

If you have seen yourself in any of what you have read, please realize God’s promises for you when you choose Him!  It’s never too late to turn toward Christ and want to be more like Him.  Sometimes we make wrong choices and blessings are taken away, but God is always good!
Jeremiah 29: 11-14  For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”    

May God richly bless you!   

Saturday, November 20, 2010

11. Alpha And Omega

Revelation 22: 12-13  “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Three times in Revelation, Jesus tells us He is the Alpha and Omega which is the beginning and the end, or first and last.  Jesus was with God and was God in the beginning.  Before all creation, Jesus was!  The Omega is the end.  Since eternity has no end, Jesus will be with us all the way!

When my ex-wife and I got married back in 1979 there was a Christian song by a group called Candle.  It was called, “Alpha And Omega.”  I cannot find the song now for the life of me, but the lyrics were very simple.  We even added a verse specific to the wedding.  As I look back on my life without the spiritual awakening, there’s no way I could live what the song calls for.  These are the lyrics:

He is Alpha and Omega
The beginning and the end.
He’s behind me, He’s before me,
He’s ever my friend.
Wherever I go, whatever I do,
He is my source and my goal.

He is Alpha and Omega,
The beginning and the end.
He’s behind me, He’s before me,
He’s ever my friend.
Wherever I go, whatever I do,
Jesus is my source and my goal.

(verse 3 added for the wedding)
He is Alpha and Omega,
The beginning and the end.
He’s behind us, He’s before us,
He’s ever our friend.
Wherever we go, whatever we do,
Jesus is our source and our goal.

It’s a very simple song, yet with profound meaning.  Again this all comes after my spiritual awakening.  No doubt that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega.  He is the beginning and the end. He says so!

He’s behind me.  I look at this in a couple of different ways.  It is Satan who tries to stand behind us, whispering in our ear and pushing us and prodding us into things that he wants us to do that are sin.  Yet Jesus is behind us fighting our battle and stepping in between Satan and us, slaying the devil’s ideas.  Jesus is behind me to encourage my walk forward.  The other way to look at that statement, “He’s behind me,” is that since He has been here since the beginning, He of course has been right there with me in the past.  Even the ugly things that I have done and evil choices I have made.  He has been there with me and in me as we have discussed. 

He’s before me.  He goes ahead of me and prepares the way.  He knows my day.  He knows what is coming, what situations I will confront, what conflict might arise.  He knows it ALL.  So He goes before me to prepare and pave the way.  Then it’s my responsibility to listen and be obedient to His call on my life. 

He’s ever my friend.  Well, you can’t deny that statement.  In fact we will never have a better friend in our lives.  There’s even an old Hymn that says “What a friend we have in Jesus.”  It’s amazing that He calls us His friend.  Another contemporary Christian song proclaims, “I am a friend of God!”  The creator of all things is MY friend and YOUR friend!  Just look what Jesus says in John 15 verse 14-17:
You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.  You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.  This is my command: Love each other.

Again I just have to allow my heart to commune with Him daily and hang out with Him. 

Wherever I go, whatever I do, Jesus is my source and my goal.  That is an all encompassing statement, wherever I go and whatever I do.  That’s pretty much everywhere and everything.  1st Corinthians 10:31 says:
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 

And the song says He, or Jesus is first my source.  That means He is the source of my strength, He is the source of my power, He allows me to be who He created me to be.  Secondly, He is my goal!  That is thee goal, to be more like Jesus in every possible way.  In relationships, in attitude, in thought, in action, in caring, in loving and in sharing.  The more we are like Jesus here on earth, the better prepared we will be when we meet Him face to face.

That simple song with such a profound message was a simple wedding song when we got married.  Today as I look at it, with a spiritual awakening, it is a call to live life each day in a more Christ like way. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

9. Happy Endings?

Psalm 128:  How joyful are those who fear the Lord, all who follow His ways!  You will enjoy the fruit of your labor.  How joyful and prosperous you will be!  Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home.  Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table.  That is the Lord’s blessing for those who fear Him.  May the Lord continually bless you from Zion.  May you see Jerusalem prosper as long as you liveMay you live to enjoy your grandchildren.  May Israel have peace!

I have thought a lot about what a happy ending to my story would look like.  As a human being, whenever there’s loss, a happy ending would include restoration and reconciliation.  So naturally after a divorce and separation from my family, a happy ending, to me, would have re-marriage to my ex-wife and the family restored. 

My failures also let down my Father in heaven.  But as God has taken a hold of me and awakened my spirit, He has delivered me, changed me and drawn me to Him in every part of my life, which constitutes a happy ending for sure!

We have all read books and seen movies that have a typical happy ending.  About four months after free falling to the bottom, at the request of several friends, I saw the movie “Fireproof.”  The movie deals with self centeredness, selfishness and addiction by a married man to a point that his marriage is near divorce.  After being confronted and challenged with a 40 day “Love Dare,” the man completely changes his life.  Through prayer and actions, his marriage is restored.  The end of the movie shows him at his office, which is a firehouse, and his wife shows up to surprise him and the scene becomes one of the happiest endings you can imagine.  I admit several times during the film tears flowed down my cheeks.

Yes a happy ending would include reconciliation of the people I love most in my life.  But a joyful life includes really knowing that I am different on the inside because of what Jesus has done and not because of who I am or what I’ve done.  And there is Peace in that! 

Being able to share my story with others about how God has continually shown Himself to me seems to encourage them as much as it reminds me that He is always there. 

One area that God has restored in ways I could never have dreamed of is my work in ministry.  Previous to bottoming out, we had a small group that met at our home, and I was on the drama team and sound team at church.  Those ministries had been removed because of my sin.  After two years of healing and growth service in the church has been restored!  PLUS I work for a national radio ministry that reaches millions of people a week.  Never did I think it would be possible to be a part of God’s Kingdom work to that degree! That is incredible evidence that He restores!

So let’s look at the happy ending of Psalm 128.  It closes with the words “May Israel have peace!”  Two words in this four word sentence have major significance.  Those words are “Israel” and “peace.”  In the Old Testament the people of Israel were God’s chosen people.  He freed them from the slavery in Egypt and led them to the Promised Land.  Their deliverance though didn’t come without a lot of detours, wandering and disobedience.  But God’s chosen people finally did make it to the Promised Land. 

After Jesus came, taught and gave His life for all men, women and children, we became Israel.  All who have accepted Christ as Lord are now God’s people.  So may all of God’s people have peace.

Once again peace is a word that doesn’t really mean free from conflict.  When you look up the synonyms of peace you find…calm, quiet, stillness, tranquility, silence, harmony and serenity.  Peace is an inner feeling.  I like the word content.  Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13
 “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” 

He’s talking about how the gifts of the Philippians have helped him, but he has learned to be content or at peace with whatever he has or doesn’t have.
Just before talking about the gifts, Paul encourages the Philippians to keep their eyes and minds on Christ to receive His peace when he says in verses 8 and 9 of chapter 4,
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing.  Then the God of peace will be with you.” 

I can’t think of a better way to be at peace with or content with life’s circumstances than to keep my thoughts on what is true, and honorable and right and pure and lovely and admirable. 

Remember life cannot be about performance!  Especially not the Christian life.  If you base it on performance, you will be extremely disappointed and probably angry at God most of the time.  It goes back to the condition of the heart.  How is your relationship with your Heavenly Father?  Does Jesus lead your life everyday?  I’m not talking about Sunday morning and, or Wednesday night.  I’m talking about every single day!  At home, at work, at school, on the road…everywhere!  It seems as though most of us, when we get into the driver’s seat of a car, become a different creature.  Why is that?  Because we want control.  It’s all about “me.”  When somebody won’t speed up, they’re preventing “me” from getting where I need to be sooner.  If they pull in front of me, they are hindering “me.”  Behind the wheel of a car, it’s always all about me.  How about saying a prayer before we get going.  Start the engine and say, “Lord, you know the kind of person I am.  You know the frustration I have when I’m driving and others aren’t driving up to my expectations.  Help me let go and let You take us on this trip.  Keep us safe and let me have no expectations of other drivers.  Jesus You take my heart and my attitude.”  I think that could make a huge difference in our character even in the everyday life of driving to work, or wherever we may go. 

It’s my belief that we cannot be a successful man or woman of God unless we give Him our entire life!  Offer up our physical, emotional, spiritual life along with our thought life.  He must have all of me and all of you to be able to bless us the way He wants to!

And He does want to bless His people in a big way!  One of the hardest things about the written word is you can’t hear the tone of voice I am using.  I am saying these things with so much love, but I’m saying these things very emphatically…please don’t wait until you have to hit bottom, to look up and see how much God wants all of you and wants to bless all of you.

Notice the last thing in the psalm.  “May Israel have peace!”  It’s an exclamation point.  That wasn’t put there on accident or per chance.  He wants you to have that peace that only He can give!  The psalmist couldn’t say it with any more emotion than that.

Friday, November 12, 2010

8. Grandparental Love

Psalm 128:  How joyful are those who fear the Lord, all who follow His ways!  You will enjoy the fruit of your labor.  How joyful and prosperous you will be!  Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home.  Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table.  That is the Lord’s blessing for those who fear Him.  May the Lord continually bless you from Zion.  May you see Jerusalem prosper as long as you live.  May you live to enjoy your grandchildren.  May Israel have peace!

Grandchildren are a product of your child and the child of another family.  I became a grandfather at 50 years of age when my youngest daughter and her husband gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.  This was before my tumble to the bottom.  I met my granddaughter when she was just five weeks old.  I have a picture of me holding her and bending over to kiss her cheek.  What joy it brings me today to look at that photograph and see that tiny, fragile life in my arms, and to know the complete unconditional love I have for that baby.  

I want to stretch your imagination a bit.  There’s no doubt that I love all three of my children unconditionally and wish for them every bit of God’s blessings.  Their mother and I had the responsibility of bringing all three of them up in our home.  My ex-wife was, and is, an incredible mother and I give her all kinds of credit for the creative ways she helped our children in their growth.  But once they are adults, you have to pretty much let them spread their wings and fly.  Though, you will never stop being a parent.  Biologically, they will always be our kids!  They will always be welcome in our lives.  But at the time they venture out on their own, watching them from afar is probably the best way to go.  Jesus Christ is God’s only Son, sent to earth to teach and bring others to Himself.  Then He died on the cross to save us from our sins, and was resurrected so that we might spend eternity with Him.  Jesus is our redeemer, our mediator to God.  Here’s where I want to stretch your imagination. Try to look at God the Father as a Grandfather.  And Jesus as our leader or Father figure.  Today I can hold my adult children, tell them I love them and that I will always be there for them.  And that’s the truth.  Our Heavenly Father tells us the same thing.  But when I get to hold my granddaughter, she has to be given to me from my daughter.  Then I can hold her, love on her and tell her Papa will always be there for her.  Again, that’s the complete truth.  But then I give her back to my daughter.

I can see the picture where I am holding my fragile, beautiful granddaughter.  As I lean down to kiss her, I can see God leaning down to hold me and kiss me with all His affection, but then give me back to Jesus to be led by Him to become more like Him.  In the same way, my daughter and her husband have the responsibility to take my granddaughter and lead her in life.  And I pray that they will raise her to be like Christ. 
So let’s re-cap this imagination stretching exercise.  I’m a grandfather, and my grandkids call me Papa…God, my Heavenly Father is my Papa.  I am definitely not equating myself to God, just a parallel for this exercise.  Jesus is God’s only Son loved by God with all His heart.  Separate for a moment that Jesus is God.  My daughter is loved by me with all my heart.  I am Jesus’ child to be led, taught, nurtured and loved by Him.  He shows me to the Heavenly Father, or Papa, and Papa loves on me and holds me.  Then He gives me back to Jesus so that Christ can continue His work in me.  As I am shown my granddaughter, I get to love on her and hold her.  Then I give her back to her parents so that they can continue their work in her life. 

That’s the closest I can come to explaining grandparental love.  So far I have two grandchildren.  Both of them granddaughters from my youngest daughter and I cherish the time I get to spend with them.  As the years pass by I look forward to spending more time with them and any other grandchildren I am blessed with.  That’s how I can enjoy them.  Love on them, give them special treatment, pray for them and let them know Papa will always be there for them.  Then give them back to their parents so they can continue the work that God has called them to in the lives of their children.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

7. Blessing From Zion; Prosperity In Jerusalem

Psalm 128:  How joyful are those who fear the Lord, all who follow His ways!  You will enjoy the fruit of your labor.  How joyful and prosperous you will be!  Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home.  Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table.  That is the Lord’s blessing for those who fear Him.  May the Lord continually bless you from Zion.  May you see Jerusalem prosper as long as you live.  May you live to enjoy your grandchildren.  May Israel have peace!

It is so hard to imagine God’s omniscience and omnipresence.  It is another of those infinite things that we humans can’t really wrap our finite minds around.  In the Old Testament, Zion was where God resided so to speak.  In Psalm 76 we are told where He is honored, where His name is great and where He lives and makes His home.
Psalm 76: 1,2 God is honored in Judah; his name is great in Israel.  Jerusalem is where he lives;  Mount Zion is his home.

So to be blessed from Zion, is to be blessed from where God resides.  As we’ve talked about more than once, He lives in you!  Then maybe we can read that statement this way, may the Lord continually bless you from your life and in your life! 

Almost every single day I will be able to see or feel or experience a blessing from God in my life.  It may be as simple as keeping me safe through the day or as intricate as working in my attitude and heart to remind me He is there!  When I go through a dry period where I don’t hear from Him, I’ll simply ask Him a question.  Something like, Lord I know you are right here and are always with me, and You are always working.  I know that!  But I’m not hearing from you.  Would you please show me or remind me in some way that you are there?  It’s amazing that when I allow MY sensors to be looking for Him, I will end up seeing Him.  From His beautiful creation that we live in to situations and people He uses to let me see that He is still at work. 

In the “Sermon On The Mount,” Jesus would often say, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  I think that message can help us to remind ourselves, that He is speaking and we need to be opening our “spiritual ears” to hear or see Him.

The writer of Hebrews, in verses 22 – 24 of chapter 12 reminds us that we are already citizens of the heavenlies by accepting Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives.  And we are with the Father through our mediator Jesus, who is there now with us! 

No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.

Talk about difficult to wrap your mind around, but how exciting to realize He is blessing us from Zion or the heavenly Jerusalem.  In Revelation 21 verses 1-4 John talks about the New Jerusalem that we are already a part of. 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.*  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

That, my friends, is what we all have waiting for us!  And that will be for eternity!  Our lives here on earth are just a blink of an eye and are only to prepare us for the experience in the New Jerusalem to spend forever with our Lord Jesus.  My spirit looks forward to that time!  So the New Jerusalem WILL prosper for eternity which is as long as I’ll live.  That is an exciting promise and blessing of God.

So why do we still go through the things we do?  Hurting ourselves, hurting others, not being obedient to God’s Word?  The answer is…the flesh!  From the moment we are born alive as physical beings, the flesh has its own sinful desires and our soul has not yet come alive.  It is when we finally have an awakening of the spirit, and an experience with our Heavenly Father, that everything God does and says starts to make sense.  We can be aware of Christ and even claim Jesus as our Savior…but until we actually crucify our flesh, die to that selfish earthly desire and allow our spirit to commune with the Living God and make Him Lord, then He will be able to effectively get our attention and use our lives to His Glory.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

6. The Lord’s Blessings

Psalm 128:  How joyful are those who fear the Lord, all who follow His ways!  You will enjoy the fruit of your labor.  How joyful and prosperous you will be!  Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home.  Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table.  That is the Lord’s blessing for those who fear Him.  May the Lord continually bless you from Zion.  May you see Jerusalem prosper as long as you live.  May you live to enjoy your grandchildren.  May Israel have peace!

We have talked already about fear and awe.  There are lots of real fears that I have had in the past including the fear of failure.  That has probably been my greatest fear in life.  And that goes back to performance based living.  The fear of failure was pretty much in every part of my life.  Fear of failing at marriage, parenting, friendship, my job, and living a Christ like life.  And as I feared it…I lived it.  I set myself up for failure in that fear.

Other fears I had include the fear of the unknown, fear of heights, and the fear of being found out. 

As a kid growing up I feared my parents’ wrath.  That’s why I wanted to “perform” in positive ways.  When I was out playing at the neighbor’s house down the street, I remember mom would call me home.  We lived in a pretty quiet neighborhood, so I heard her most of the time.  On those rare occasions that I didn’t hear her, she would yell a few minutes later and call me by my first and middle name.  When that happened, there was no messing around…I headed home right then and there!  If I didn’t hear mom a second time, dad would come out to the front porch and yell my name.  If and when that happened, I was already in trouble and it was time to high tail it home.  That was out of fear of wrath.  There was respect, but more fear of misbehaving and punishment.

As a side note about my fear of heights, and an example of God’s sense of humor, one of the first jobs I had after my experience hitting bottom was helping part time at a roofing company.  It was my job to climb on roofs and take measurements.  The first roof I climbed on was a two story building at an elementary school.  I couldn’t help but laugh as God conquers things in my life one at a time.  I’m still not crazy about heights, but I don’t have the fear that I once had.

Before hitting the bottom in life and my spiritual awakening, I didn’t have the fear of the wrath of God.  I knew that as a believer in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, I was going to spend eternity with Him.  But I didn’t allow Him to change me on the inside.  I guess you can say that I thought I had a get out of “hell” free card.  So instead, I kept living a life of failure.  As we talked about earlier, I failed in my relationship with Him, in my marriage, at parenting, in my ministries and my friendships.  There were times that I remember telling my wife that I didn’t deserve her and that I felt like a failure.  She had no idea why I would say something like that and would do her best to encourage me.  It was only after hitting the bottom and had that spiritual awakening that I realized there was a strength that I always had available to me in Christ, but previously had no idea how to tap into it.  There are circumstances that I have to live out due to the choices I made.  That can be called the wrath of God or can be looked at as God’s amazing pursuit of me.  He loved me so much that He didn’t want me to continue living the way I was.  He had, and has, a better plan!  I had allowed the enemy to use me and my fears for his success.  Unfortunately, Satan won a battle in my life for a long time.  His ultimate victory in my life was the destruction of my marriage and family.  My friendships were altered, ministries were put on hold and for a while and my spirit was crushed. 

Let’s go back to the first part of this verse.  “That is the Lord’s blessing…”  What is the Lord’s blessing?  To enjoy the fruit of your labor, be joyful and prosperous, that your wife will be a fruitful grapevine and your kids like vigorous young olive trees.  Men it doesn’t get any better than that here on earth!  And all you have to do is be in awe of the Lord and follow His ways.  Allow God to awaken your spirit.  Is that a promise of a trouble free existence?  No!  What it is a promise of is that, as you give all that you are and all that you have to Him and serve your family, He is there encouraging you and going through it all with you.  And remember it’s not by your strength that you will be able to make it.  In fact, we are reminded of that several times in scripture.  In John 15:5, for example, Jesus tells us that He is vine and we are the branches and then answers the question, what can we do apart from Him?
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit (aka blessing). For apart from me you can do nothing.”      

I hope you are hearing my passion in this because God has so much He wants to give you, if you let Him. 

A lot of people think that because a neighbor, friend or family member has financial freedom, or toys, or a big home, that God has really blessed them.  Possibly true, but not necessarily, and probably more times than not, God is not a factor in what they “have.”  There are those followers of Christ who have been blessed by God financially and materially.  But when we see their “stuff” and the envy and jealousy kicks in we ask…why not me?  “Stuff” does not bring joy and happiness.  You say, “Yea well try me.”  Here’s what “stuff” brings…responsibility, maintenance, and possibly a fear of losing it.  Now, before you start sending letters telling me, well God has blessed you with “stuff,” I do realize that hard work can lead to being blessed by God with stuff.  Then it is up to you how you use it for His glory. 

I want to tell you about a family who has been blessed by God with stuff and how they have used it to God’s glory!  Kevin and Maria Harbert are owners of the company SandSational Sparkle.  They sell colored sand to be used in Sand Ceremonies at weddings.  They also sell containers and other items related to a wedding ceremony or reception.  If you would like to know more about the Sand Ceremony there will be a special post a little later titled “Sand Ceremony.”  Anyway, the Lord has blessed their business and lives.  I have known Kevin and Maria for about 25 years.  In an incredible God story, after my tumble to the bottom, they contacted me to visit them and a counselor at Christian Life Ministries in their area.  I did not have a job or steady income, so I wouldn’t be able to make the trip.  Their response was the perfect example of Christ working through them.  They flew me out from California to South Dakota at their cost, allowed me to stay in their home, drove me to the counseling appointments (one hour each way), paid for the counseling and supplies, fed me, and paid for most everything during my three and a half week stay.  Then they blessed me with a cash gift as I left.  I don’t know how many thousands of dollars they ended up spending on me, but it was the most significant life changing month in all of my then 51 years on earth!  What an investment they made!  They used what God has blessed them with to bring enrichment and a stronghold of God in the life of a Brother in Christ.  It was also a wonderful bonding time with the family.  Their teenage daughter Paige was also an example of Christ as she made room for me, encouraged me and really made me feel like a part of the family.  The following year I was blessed by the family again as they flew me back to South Dakota to be a part of Paige’s high school graduation Blessing Service at their home.  They understand their purpose for what God blesses them with.  I have experienced it first hand, more than once.  I praise God for His blessing on their lives, as they blessed me with their fruit.  Does all of that make sense?  In other words, use what God has blessed you with to bless others.  You are Blessed to Bless!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

5. Family Fruit

Psalm 128:  How joyful are those who fear the Lord, all who follow His ways!  You will enjoy the fruit of your labor.  How joyful and prosperous you will be!  Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home.  Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table.  That is the Lord’s blessing for those who fear Him.  May the Lord continually bless you from Zion.  May you see Jerusalem prosper as long as you live.  May you live to enjoy your grandchildren.  May Israel have peace!

This is an awesome picture that is painted with words.  Keep in mind this is for the Godly man who fears the Lord and follows His ways.  The two different kinds of fruit represented include grapes and olives.  The wife is depicted to be like a fruitful grapevine.  I find it interesting that a grapevine has lots of branches that go in all directions while producing a delicious sweet fruit that can be used for eating, juiced for drinking, or fermented for wine.  Like a grapevine a woman can be fruitful in lots of areas in life.  In our marriage I have to give my ex-wife incredible credit.  She was a wife, a mother, a teacher, a friend, and she was involved in women’s ministries at church.  And she did everything well.  She was a fruitful grapevine in spite of my foolishness and lack of commitment.  Her heart was and is in tune with her God.  My wife brought a sweetness to our family that could only have been from a blessed woman committed to a relationship with her Lord and her family. 
I mention all of this to say that I can only imagine what God could have done through our marriage if my heart had been as in tune with God and my wife the same way.  The hard learned lesson for me here is in order for that grapevine to be flourishing, it needs watering.  The challenge men is for us to make sure the grapevine in our life remains nourished with the love that will keep her thriving in our relationship and our home.  The old saying is that it takes two, but in a healthy marriage it takes three, Husband, Wife and the Triune God.  The grapevine was created to produce grapes and its vine branches spread out.  As the grapevine is fruitful and flourishing she, the wife, is productive, rich, abundant, rewarding, and successful.  Bottom line is that she is doing all that she has been created to do. 

A vigorous young olive tree is strong!  Olive trees in general are robust.  The first sign to Noah that the flood waters were receding was that a dove brought an olive branch to the ark.  The garden of Gethsemane was an olive grove full of trees.  Oil from olives was used for anointing, cooking, fuel for lanterns and as an offering many times combined with flour. 

As a child I remember our next door neighbor had 3 big strong olive trees.  This neighbor family was good friends with our family.  They had three daughters with the youngest about 4 years older than me and in fact the girls would often babysit my sister and me.  Once a year both families would get together to pick olives.  It was tedious work and you had to watch out where you stepped because if the olives came out of the tree and you stepped on them, they would stain your shoes and anywhere else you walked.  Once all the olives were picked they were taken to a location to be cured.  Not that they were sick or anything, but they would be soaked in a salted solution.  When they came back…it made all the work worthwhile!  They were very tasty as long as you didn’t eat too many.  I think the Holy Spirit can do that in our own life as well.  As we allow the Spirit to soak in our lives and be that “salted solution,” our flavor to the Father becomes that much better.  Plus we can be a better example of Him to those we come in contact with.  To me it’s another example of the Spiritual awakening I’m talking about.  As an olive has a bitter and unpleasant flavor right off the tree, we too have a bitter and unpleasant nature in our fleshly life.  When the Holy Spirit comes in and “cures” us, like that cured olive in the salted solution, we can be a wonderful taste of God in this world.    

Romans 11 talks about the family tree of Abraham and how that tree was the chosen “tree” of God.  But some of the Israelites, Abraham’s descendants, broke away from God not believing that Jesus Christ was the messiah.  At the same time the Gentiles were made right with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  As the Gentiles believed that Jesus was God’s Son, they became a part of God’s family.  As chapter 11 verse 17 puts it…
 But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.

How awesome to receive the blessing God promised Abraham!  Men, we have the responsibility to be that example of Christ for our kids.  To be the spiritual leaders that they, our children, want to grow up and be like.  So instead of the sentence, “he/she is just like their father,” being derogatory, it would be an incredible statement of praise!  They would want to be olive branches strong and mighty in the family tree.  Women, in your role as the fruitful grapevine, you can come along side your husband and strongly support him in his walk with Christ.  His roots need nourishment and watering just like the fruitful grapevine that you are. 

As I live life day by day, I see only one way to live it.  For me, that is spending the first part of every day in a quiet time with God, praying, reading His Word, journaling and refreshing my spirit.  Then taking the Lord with me everywhere I go and maintaining communication with Him throughout the day.  As we talked about earlier, I am the temple of the Lord and He lives in me, so wherever I am, there He is also.  So why not have fellowship all day long?!  I have found that to be essential in my walk with Christ.  To spend time with Him all day…everyday!  He truly wants to be your best friend.  In my spiritual awakening I believe that a daily commitment to Him would help you to be the husband to the fruitful grapevine and the daddy to the vigorous young olive trees that you are called to be.  Your roots as Spiritual leader in your family will go deeper and you will receive all the blessings that are talked about in Psalm 128.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

4. God’s Rewards

Psalm 128: How joyful are those who fear the Lord, all who follow His ways!  You will enjoy the fruit of your labor.  How joyful and prosperous you will be!  Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home.  Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table.  That is the Lord’s blessing for those who fear Him.  May the Lord continually bless you from Zion.  May you see Jerusalem prosper as long as you live.  May you live to enjoy your grandchildren.  May Israel have peace!

Now you’re talking…enjoying the fruit of labor and being prosperous.  But before you get too excited and start looking at possibilities that are not promised, let’s look at what the Psalmist is actually saying. 

As a farmer enjoys the fruit of his or her labor, they reap the harvest that they have planted.  Nowhere in the Bible is there a promise of financial prosperity and abundance of physical wealth.  I myself have wanted to see that promise and prepare myself for those rewards.  Especially when I found myself with a few dollars in the bank, a room to live in as provided by a friend and no prospect for work.  Believe me I was ready, willing and able to accept the physical and financial prosperity that I would find in the pages of the Bible.  There was no such promise.  Believe it or not, there was something much more valuable that I found.  I found God’s provisions for me.   

The challenge is to see wealth, riches, success and abundance, versus necessities, requirements and enough.  There are people, including followers of Christ, who have been blessed big by physical wealth and possessions.  They are responsible to the Lord as to how they use their riches for the glory of God.  But to be consumed by misperceived notions that God says that when you follow all His ways, you will be monetarily wealthy…I believe is damaging to you. 

Unless you are a farmer, the fruit of your labor isn’t necessarily actual fruit.  The fruit of your labor in the workforce is your paycheck.  Now depending on choices you have made, that paycheck can be a step to prosperity, or can be a step in the opposite direction.

I remember as a kid I had chores to do.  They included cleaning up after the dog and burying it out in what dad called our back 40.  It was about a 10 foot by 20 foot garden area.  Once a week I would clean up after the dog, then mow the lawn and put the clippings out by the back fence.  My sister and I also had to do dishes after dinner and I had to keep my room clean.  During the fall I had to rake leaves too.  For my efforts I received $3.50 a week.  That was the fruit of my labor and to a kid that was riches!  I really didn’t enjoy the work, but I really enjoyed getting my allowance.  My parents loved me to a point of asking me to be responsible for certain jobs or chores, and in return I got paid!
God says He loves us so much that He provides.  Some of you might be asking, what does He provide?  That would open the door for me to sarcastically say…well how about air to breathe for one, water to sustain life.  Okay, enough of my sarcasm, but the elements of life are here on the earth that He created!  In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus is teaching about how valuable we are to God.  And we shouldn’t worry about the necessities of life.  Verse 25 starts off with Jesus saying;
"That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?"
 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing,  yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God* above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today."

So our joy and prosperity comes from having what we need and that comes from the Father.  Enjoy the fruit of your labor.  In Colossians 3 we are told to dedicate our labor, whatever that is, to the Lord. Verses 23 and 24 say: “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.”

That inheritance is much much better than any allowance you or I may have received.  You’ll be surprised how different you will feel at work.  I know I was!  Whether you currently work for an employer you don’t respect or have all the admiration in the world for, or you are self employed, we are instructed to take the hours we are at work and turn them over to the Master we are truly serving and let Him work through us.  I believe that will bring true joy into your life.  The pit of the fruit will be much smaller…and the fruit will be that much sweeter.

In Psalm 34 David sings about how to live a life that is long and prosperous.  Verse 12 starts out asking the question: 
Does anyone want to live a life
that is long and prosperous?
Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies!
Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
The true prosperity you will receive by living Christ like will be the joy God puts in your heart.  That will be your wealth.  Allow His love to flood every part of you.