Peppy 1The Warner Brothers animated skunk Peppy Le Pew was one of my favorite cartoon characters as a kid.  You couldn’t help but laugh at the irony and feel a little sorry for the object of Peppy’s affection, a black and white female feline.  For obvious reasons, the cat wasn’t thrilled about getting too cozy with the skunk.  Oddly enough, I notice a lot of Christians who would never have a skunk for a pet have no problem living their lives with a skunky attitude.  Skunk or skunky attitude, the result is the same – people just don’t want to be around you…and who can blame them?

Peppy Le Pew with his unmistakable stench visited Hope Harbor today.  The origin of the aroma, powerful enough to knock you down upon entering the church office suite, was probably outside, but we could not rule out the possibility that the critter was somewhere in the building.  After a little investigation, a staff member (kudos to Rodney, aka “Skunk Man” – after all we are in Kentucky) discovered a dead skunk right next to one of our air conditioning units (the unit feeding the office complex).  The unit repeatedly sucked up and dispersed the skunk smell throughout the office every time it kicked on. 

Our attitude is a lot like the skunk odor.  First, like the skunk, individuals with a bad attitude rarely notice they are the source of the smell.  Second, people with bad attitudes fail to understand how easily it is to fill the air around them with negativity and pessimism.  Like the skunk, it’s amazing how much pollution can come from one person with a lousy attitude.  Third, once in the air, the foul smell is difficult to eliminate.  It’s always much wiser to prevent the skunk from spraying than to deal with the stink once it comes out.

We should monitor our lives daily for the condition of our attitudes.  Do you stink?  Are you the source of the smell?  Are you bombing others with your pungent attitude?  Are you stinking things up at work, in your home, or in your church?  The Apostle Paul said, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14, NIV). We can’t perpetuate the fragrance of Christ wherever we go if we are suppressing His essence with the foul odor of a bad attitude.  

Let me encourage you to “deskunk” your attitude on a daily basis.  First, skunk experts say bathing in tomato juice will neutralize the skunk smell.  As Christians, we know the key to removing any stench and stain is the blood of Jesus.  The moment you smell something coming from your heart that doesn’t belong there like bitterness, resentment, or sarcasm, be quick to repent and apply the blood to your life.  Like the skunk smell, there is not enough perfume to cover up the smell of a sinful attitude.  Second, dip your heart daily in God’s presence.  In the fullness of God’s presence is joy, not belligerence (Psalm 16:11).  The believer who fails to seek God often manifests that prayerlessness through a lousy attitude.  Third, wash your mind daily in the Word of God.  Saturating your thinking to line up with God’s Word is central to maintaining a godly and positive attitude and outlook on life.  Watch and see how much more attractive you’ll be when you smell like Jesus instead of Peppy!

Yet Another Lesson From A Six Pound (Seven Pound) Toy Poodle

IMG_0111When appreciated, loved, and properly cared for, dogs pretty much live a charmed life.  Doggie agenda for the day: wake up, stretch legs, go potty, drink a little water, run around the room, eat, sleep, chew toy, go potty, sleep some more, give kisses, cheer for the Cardinals, repeat, etc. Through the years I’ve learned a lot from the tough life of our six pound (um, more like seven pounds these days) blonde toy poodle, and I’ve shared those lessons within this blog (search “lessons from a six pound toy poodle”).

Recently my wife and I were talking about the calm and total trust our small poodle exhibits in her daily routine.  Princess (her AKC registered name, but I have bestowed a litany of other names upon her such as PeePoo, Purty Girl, Isopurty, Jelly Belly, BeeBoo, Fluffy Butt, you get the idea), for example, never has a thought about whether the food bowl will be filled, if she will have water to drink, if someone will be getting up to take her out (that would be me), or if she will get any attention (you have probably already discerned, PeePoo gets little attention around our house).  Her faith and trust level is particularly strong when it comes to scoring dog treats.  Like clockwork, sometime in the middle of the evening Princess will stake a place in the floor in front of me and wait with piercing eyes of longing for her daily fix of mini milk bones. She will wait patiently for a few moments before breaking into a pouty whine to remind me she’s there.  The whine then morphs into a series of short barks to get my attention as she longs to hear those two amazing and powerful words, “doggy treats?” It works every time (and it will work on every single person in the house before the night is over).

Imagine how charmed our lives would be if we would learn to trust the Lord the way Princess trusts and expects us to take care of her.  She simply has no worries about her future in the Heinz household.  She does not sheepishly cower in shame or nonverbally apologize for boldly expecting her needs to be met.  There is no fretting about the future and no pining over the messes (and there have a been a few) of the past.  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about ANYTHING, but in EVERYTHING by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” If the Lord is watching the sparrow and taking care of the Poo, you can have complete confidence and peace that He will take care of you. 

Let Us Pray

I was recently studying Paul’s admonitions and requests to the churches at Colossae, Thessalonica, and Philippi to pray for him. From the deplorable condition of being chained like a criminal for preaching Christ, he pleaded for prayer from the church body for deliverance, boldness, and clarity of message. What an example to any man or woman of God called to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

Despite Paul’s cultural and educational pedigree, he knew that the ultimate key to his success was the anointing of the Holy Spirit made more prevalent in his life and ministry through the prayer of the saints of God. Like Paul, without this partnership prayer for spiritual leadership, we are all limited in our understanding, impact, and fruit. Think of it this way, if Paul, with all of his accomplishments, training, and giftings felt the need for prayer, how much more do we that minister in today’s generation need that prayer?

I want to encourage you to pray for your pastors and spiritual leaders.  I’ve listed some very powerful results that the saints can expect in the lives of their spiritual leaders when the churches consistently and passionately pray for them. A wise man once said that every failure in the believer’s life is a prayer failure…a failure to pray.

1.  Prayer empowers your pastor to live right. The enemy is doing everything he can to take down God-called men and women of God. Your faithful intercession for their personal lives will strengthen them with the resolve and wisdom to say “no” to ungodliness in every battle and temptation. 

2.  Prayer empowers your pastor to love right. Spiritual leaders are not exempt from the tendency to get hurt, put out, or offended. They are not much good to anyone if they allow a root of bitterness to grow in their hearts or if they lose their compassion for the flock of God. By praying that your leaders will maintain sensitivity of heart you will help ensure that they will, despite the many opportunities, reject offense and choose to walk in love no matter what they  go through. 

3.  Prayer empowers your pastor to listen right. It’s never been more critical for spiritual leadership to develop and maintain a hearing ear when it comes to the urgings, promptings, and direction of the Holy Spirit. There is so much spiritual chatter out there and this will only increase as the Day of the Lord draws near. With all this noise and distraction it is very important that you pray for your spiritual leaders to be ultra sensitive to the voice and guidance of the Holy Spirit. They cannot teach right if they cannot hear right.

4.  Prayer empowers your pastor to learn right. People today have an increasing interest and fascination with the supernatural and hidden or secret knowledge that will help them succeed in life. The problem is people are turning to influences that are actually thinly veiled doctrines of devils instead of seeking the Kingdom of God, the God of the Kingdom, and the revelation knowledge of that Kingdom. The primary responsibility of the spiritual leader is to receive revelation from the Word of God and share it with the people of God for their growth and development. Leaders cannot teach what they themselves have not learned.

5.  Prayer empowers your pastor to lead right. Spiritual leaders are required to make hundreds of decisions every week that affect the churches and organizations they serve. When spiritual leaders miss it, they take others down the wrong path with them. It is paramount that the body of Christ pray for their leaders to make biblical, wise, ethical, and strategic decisions. Like all believers, leaders will also make mistakes, but the number of mistakes can be drastically reduced if the people of God would pray for their spiritual leaders and confess the mind of Christ over them.

Let us pray…

Build Me a Sanctuary

“And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8).

God wanted his people to build Him a Sanctuary where He could dwell amongst His people.  God wanted to commune with His creation!  In order for God to dwell in His sanctuary the priests had to purify and cleanse the sanctuary.  There can be no sin; no, nothing unclean can live in the same place God lives.

This was a complicated act that had to be fulfilled by the Ancient Jews in order to have the presence of God dwelling amongst them. These rules and laws were impossible for us to continue to fulfill and God knew they would not last the test of time. He had to act in order to save His beloved creation. God knew we would fail in every way so He sent His Son. His word says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Understand this; God sent Himself in His Son. Colossians 2:9 says, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Why? God knew that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself.

We are no longer required to build a Temple made with wooden beams, or marble blocks, animal skins, and silver or gold but with flesh and bone.  We are His Temple!  We have become His abode where He dwells amongst us.  Is that possible?  Yes, it is. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). What then do you say to God when we are told that our body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit?

We look back to Exodus 25 and we see what God was doing.  He was preparing for us a way that He could dwell with us as His sanctuary.  This is the command He gave us and it is what lies behind the commandment “build Me a sanctuary.” These words teach us our relationship to God and what He expects of each of us.  What made this commandment so unique was God knew we would become His Temple, His “kings and priests” (Revelation 5:10).

In order for us to abide in him and him in us we must keep His temple, His sanctuaries clean from all sin.  God and sin cannot dwell together.  This is our daily challenge as we take up or own crosses in order to keep our temples clean so the Lord may dwell within His temple which is you.

My Question to you is this…Are you His Holy Temple, His king and His priest?  Or, are you just making it through life from Sunday to Sunday?  His Temple was a place He dwelt all day and all night.  Are you acting like a “king and priest” or are you acting just like the world?  What makes you different than those around you?  Can Christians and non-Christians notice something different about you and how much time you spend with the Lord?  Or, do you just blend into the crowd and become another unknown face?

When you dwell with the Lord He dwells with you.  IF you commune with Him, you become a partner and a friend and you experience His personality and His Nature.   In the end how much do you want to Tabernacle with the Lord in His Sanctuary or in His Temple? “It is written,” he said to them, ‘My house will be a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of robbers.’ ” (Luke 19:46) What does your house, abode, dwelling, Tabernacle, Sanctuary or Temple look like? Are you making your Temple “a house of Prayer” and a “Holy Mountain” or are you selling your goods in a market of thieves?

Today’s blog entry was written by Wayne Olin, one of our Hope Harbor faithful serving the United States Army in Korea.

Plugged In

My spiritual antenna is always way up because I am always looking to learn, to grow, and to seize upon an illustration from everyday life that will inspire and challenge us as believers. Often, these concepts just explode in my spirit unbeknownst to the individuals that often times casually share their experiences or insight. I am a life-long learner, and I just love it when I can learn something valuable and apply it in my life and also share it with others (end up in a sermon series, lol).

This morning in our staff prayer meeting one our team members shared that her washer just stopped working. The machine would not fill with water and she mused what the issue might be. Going to the Lord about the problem, she asked for wisdom about what to do to fix and resolve the situation rather than just writing the machine off. She felt in her heart that she needed to check the plug on the washer and when she did she found that the plug was partially unplugged.

Now think about that for a moment. The plug was most of the way in the socket, but because it was not fully plugged in, the power needed to run the washer was not able to get to the appliance. It’s pretty easy to assume that the constant vibrations from the machine (not unlike the spiritual turbulence we face daily) began to dislodge the plug from the wall socket. What a clear and powerful picture of our lives too often as Christians. If we are not fully plugged into the things of God it can have the same consequence as being completely unplugged. If we want His power, energy, inspiration, and wisdom flowing into our lives and giving us the enablement to get the job done, we simply must press all the way in and stay plugged in every single day of our lives.

As you celebrate the end of a calendar year and anticipate the hope of a fresh start in 2011, make sure you inspect your spiritual plug to see that it is fully engaged. Perhaps you were a little short on spiritual force and power this past year and you have some scars and disappointments to prove it. This next year does not have to be a repeat of last year. Make the adjustments and once plugged in properly through prayer, Bible study, worship, witnessing, service, don’t let anything sidetrack, distract, or seduce you away from the source of true power.

Supernatural Arrest

One of our members at Hope Harbor Church told me about an incident that occurred at the retail store where she works. It seems that a couple, who had recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, came to the store to spend the cash and gift cards presented to them in honor of their committed marriage. Apparently, having set her purse down briefly with all the cash and cards in it, someone decided to ruin their special time together by running off with her bag. What was meant to be a chance for this loving husband to bless his wife with some nice things turned into a shocking and heartbreaking nightmare.

The couple was obviously distraught. The elderly bride was sure her husband would have a heart attack over the stress and disappointment of the situation. The police were called, and true to protocol, advised that the credit card companies be contacted immediately to protect the couple from further losses. Leading the charge to not give up but trust God to restore the purse, the fast thinking and quick to believe employee challenged everyone to search for the bag and pray for the bag to be found, contents and all.

After searching for some time without finding the stolen purse, and to the astonishment of everyone, the police officer returned to his vehicle to find that the purse had been placed on top of his cruiser! It seems that the Holy Spirit, in response to the prayer and believing of God’s people, dealt severely with the perpetrator and “arrested” the thief Himself before he or she could take a dime or even get out of the parking lot.

The story reminds me of Saul’s encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus where he was headed to persecute, harass, and arrest Christians. But it was Saul, who would become the Apostle Paul, that was arrested that day by the power and grace of God. Thank God for His mercy that confronts, convicts, challenges, and changes the human heart. As Saul was transformed so many years ago, so our thief was supernaturally visited and arrested and just had to return the handbag to its rightful owner (or at least give it to the cops).

I want to encourage you if you have had something taken in your life to not give up but go to the Lord and believe God for full and complete restoration. Few people, even believers, would stop to ask the Lord to intervene and truly expect Him to do so in a similar situation. The Bible teaches that we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). Why not go to Him today and ask the Lord to work to restore what is broken or destroyed and return what has been taken? Don’t let your failure to ask be the reason you never see restoration in your life. He is no respecter of persons – but He does respect faith!

Mocha Poo (another lesson from a six pound poodle)

While enjoying our family dinner the other night I noticed that Peepoo had performed her K9 disappearing act once again. This usually means she has found something sweet, chewy, or chocolatey in the trash or conveniently left on someone’s bed or even night stand. Sure enough, Peepoo had dug through our bedroom trash and discovered an empty Starbucks cup with a few precious drops of “bottom of the cup” mocha chocolate and coffee.

I don’t think I’ve ever known a dog that had a keener sense of smell for chocolate or greater passion for scrounging up even a small taste of it. When it comes to chocolate, she really has a revelation of what it means to seek. What if we as believers sought the Lord the way the little fur ball seeks out the sweet stuff? What if our spiritual senses were so trained to pick up even the slightest indication of the Lord’s presence that beckons us to pursue Him?

The Bible declares boldly that we will find the Lord if we seek for Him with all our hearts (Jeremiah 29:12-13). Amos, speaking prophetically for the Lord, said, “Seek me and live” (Amos 5:4). This Scripture means that we are to seek and require the Lord as one requires food. Unlike the temporary buzz derived from varied pleasures, possessions, and legal stimulants like the cafe mocha (don’t say anything but I know a staff member at Hope Harbor Church that plans travel routes based on Starbucks locations), the Lord imparts eternal and ongoing life as we seek Him and connect with Him in vital living union and contact.

The key to perpetual and uninterrupted intimacy with God, spiritual growth, blessing, and well-being is seeking God fervently and consistently. To “seek” means to visit frequently, to inquire of, to quest for, search often for, learn from, resort to (what you always turn to), and hunger after (God will always fill us in direct proportion to our hunger). No one seeking God is ever turned away empty-handed. Isaiah 55:6 tells us to, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” When King Uzziah sought the Lord he was successful, but when he turned away in self-sufficiency, self-promotion, and human pride he lost everything (2 Chronicles 26).

I want to encourage you to make the Lord your number one vital need in your life from this day on. Vital means “pertaining to life” and includes such needs as oxygen, water, or food. Because Jesus is our life and literally the source of our life, we should seek the Lord more diligently than we would for any natural vital need. Take your cue from a six pound poodle who tirelessly pursues the source of even the slightest hint of chocolate in the air and go after the fragrance of the Lord’s presence like never before.