Cell Phone Addiction

Full length of young men and women holding cellphoneActs 2:42 reminds us that the early Church was devoted to the teachings of the Apostles. Literally they could not get enough of the Word. The word “devoted” in the New Testament can be translated “addicted” meaning that they were addicted to the teachings of the Word of God. So many people today are addicted to the world (and the things of the world) and allergic to God. We should be addicted to the things of God and allergic to the world. With that it mind, I hope you enjoy this email I received from Teressa Poole Hill:

I wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phones? What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets? What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it? What if we flipped through it several times a day? What if we used it to receive messages from the text? What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it? What if we gave it to kids as gifts What if we used it as we traveled? What if we used it in case of an emergency? This is something to make you go…hmm…where is my Bible? Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phone, we don’t ever have to worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill! And no dropped calls!”

Thank A Vet

Iwo JimaLivingston, Illinois is typical of the thousands of small towns that dot the Midwest. When your neighbor says he’s going to the store he means just that – he’s going to the store because there probably isn’t more than one. My Dad grew up in this old coal mining town northeast of St. Louis, Missouri where the favorite pastimes were baseball and baseball. His uncle John (Jocko) Urban was a great ball player. He was known to be able to plant his foot up against the center field fence and throw the ball perfectly to the catcher without a bounce. His son Johnny was a prospect for the Minnesota Twins organization. 

During World War II, Livingston gave up its share of young men to the war effort and some, like Jocko, made it back alive after multiple battles and firefights. Jocko liked his beer and on one occasion while frequenting the tavern a young deputy decided Jocko had had enough to drink and approached a well-juiced WWII Vet to tell him so. In a flash this battle hardened American warrior had disarmed the officer, placed the gun to his temple and said something like, “Son, I’ve already killed dozens of men in battle. One more is not going to mean that much to me.” One can only imagine what Jocko had been through and what led to his strong reaction in the bar that day. Needless to say, the deputy stood down and Jocko went on drinking and today he is one of the oldest living WWII Vets alive in that area.

Our cities and towns are filled with men like Jocko who went to the front lines to defend our freedom, our interests, our values, and our way of life. We can only imagine the hardships and atrocities they had to endure and even if they physically survived the war, they still returned with mental and emotional scars that haunt them until they join their brothers in arms in death. This Memorial Day, find a Vet and give him or her a hug, handshake, or “thank you” for what he or she has done for this nation. And Jocko, thanks for serving your country with honor and distinction.

Why Is This Kid Smiling?

photoJust yesterday, it seems, this same kid was watching Barney and Winnie the Pooh videos and picking up dirt clods while he was suppose to be paying attention in the outfield of a tee-ball game. Tim was only two when we came to Murray to pastor. I’m at a loss for words trying to describe the feeling that all parents feel when they realize that years have just disappeared in front of their eyes. One day you wake up and your kid has turned 16 and has a driver’s permit (that’s why he’s smiling).

Like all parents who truly treasure their children, I would love to have slowed down the years a little but I’m glad about one thing. I’ve tried from the beginning to find the balance between ministry responsibility and the preeminent priority of being a husband and father. I’m so thankful I took the time to do the really important things with Tim like toss the baseball, throw the football, watch the Cards live (go Cards – sweep the Cubs), chase barracudas in the sea, torment the dogs, battle it out with air soft guns, play at Chuck E Cheese’s, and gorge ourselves on junk food on “bubby night.” 

I thank God Tim is a great son and excellent student, but most of all, he loves Jesus with all of his heart and strives to please Him daily. So, in the category of yet another milestone in the life of a teenage boy, Tim is currently working on his mandatory 60 hours driving time that would allow him to acquire a restricted driver’s license. Remember those years truly do fly by so enjoy every second and remember also that I warned you about Tim being on the road :).

There’s something on you – it’s the blessing!

HHC Henry County Building Permit

These are exciting days in the ministry of Hope Harbor Church. Nearly 18 months after the launch of HHC Henry County (Paris, Tennessee), we have secured a permit to begin the renovation of our miracle 7200 square foot ministry facility just off Highway 79 North in Paris. The church in Henry County, averaging nearly 80 people each Sunday morning, has become a source of hope and inspiration to many in difficult and troubled times. Because the renovation is limited to the interior, we are hopeful that the construction process can be completed for an early fall celebration and dedication.

Thank you for your continued prayer and for sowing financially into this amazing church planting effort. If you have a construction skill and would like to volunteer some time to help make this dream a reality please call Bill Barger at 270-753-6695. Hope Harbor Church…One Church in Many Locations!

The Hope Harbor Show on WSIL TV

imagesIn anticipation of moving North to establish our first Hope Harbor site in the State of Illinois (we wont hold the recent governor woes against them), we have begun broadcasting the Hope Harbor Show on WSIL TV channel 3 in Carbondale, Marion, and Harrisburg. Residents in Western Kentucky can also view the broadcast on that station. Our current broadcast time is 6:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings and has the potential of reaching several hundred thousand homes with the uncompromised Word of God. What an opportunity to reach the unreached and tell the untold that God is good and has goodness stored up for them (Psalm 31:19). Thanks for joining with us in prayer for God’s blessing on the outreach of television in Southern Illinois. God has great plans for this area and for Harrisburg and Saline County in particular. Our strategy is to use televison as a tool for launching new Hope Harbor sites, to provide a sense of connectivity from site to site, and to minister to the hurting with the hope that can only come from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Super Sunday at Hope Harbor

unity-picI’m still rejoicing over all the amazing testimonies from the service last night at Hope Harbor. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. We need to hear the word of God taught and preached but we also need to pause to reflect about how God has shown up and shown out to manifest what has been preached. When Jesus identified himself in Luke 4 as the anointed one mentioned by Isaiah, he emphasized that the anointing is for the purposes of (1) preaching about what God wants to do, and (2) demonstrating what has been preached.

It’s obvious that the anointed one has been busy and active in our midst. Individuals shared stories of supernatural provision, healing, emotinal restoration, and personal spiritual growth. Let’s all remember that we are all overcomers and we are taught in Scripture that we overcome (1) through the blood of the lamb – our covenant with the Father through the blood of Jesus Christ, (2) the word of our testimony – bearing witness to our personal salvation and the various ways that salvation impacts our lives, and (3) loving not our lives even unto death – living as though we were dead to self and allowing Jesus to live through us daily.

Keep those testimonies coming. Feel free to leave your comments here and tell us how God has been showing up and showing out in your life. God is good and we want to rejoice with you!

There’s something on you…you know…it’s the blessing!

Hope Harbor Internet Radio

hh-radio-promo-pic-1I’m excited to announce the launch of our 24 hour a day internet radio station, Hope Harbor Radio. Hosted, programmed, and produced by Tim Heinz, Hope Harbor Radio features the best in praise music, contemporary Christian music, inspirational devotions, interviews, and faith filled teaching. Your heart will be encouraged and your capacity to believe God will increase every time you listen. Hope Harbor Radio is available 24 hours a day no matter where you are in the world. How awesome is that?

Check out our internet radio by going online at http://www.hopeharborchurch.com and clicking the media button. Look for the internet radio tab and you’re there. Let us know what you think. You can request prayer, music, and even teaching topics by writing to Tim at theinz@mchsi.com. Hope Harbor Radio…all faith…all the time.

Great Job Trigg County

lc-cast-picHope Harbor Church Trigg County in Cadiz, Kentucky hosted the life-changing drama, Last Chance the first weekend in March. Around 50 individuals raised their hand to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. We are praising God for the impact of this ministry on the Trigg County community and on the volunteers who gave of their time and resources to make this powerful event a reality. Trigg County will never be the same. Thanks for your servant heart and thanks for praying for those who accepted Jesus that they will get plugged in to a local church and that they will grow in their faith and in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Great job HHC TC and thanks to the volunteers from the Murray and Paris sites for lending a helping hand!

Every Available Voice

picture1Last Saturday marked a milestone in the ministry of Hope Harbor Church as we began broadcasting the thirty minute Hope Harbor Show on WPSD Local 6, the NBC affiliate. We are thankful to God for the opportunity to present the uncompromised Word of God to the market served by WPSD (around 900,000 people). The broadcast is airing on Saturdays at noon following the Saturday morning cartoons (yea, I know). You can also view the broadcasts by going to our website www.hopeharborchurch.com  and clicking on the “HHC Media” tab. The broadcasts will be archived by broadcast date.

Reports have been coming in from around the area including of course the greater Paducah area, Calloway County, Christian County, Trigg County, Marshall County, even a Wal-Mart break room in Princeton, Kentucky. My prayer is that the revelation of what Jesus has done for all of us would explode in the hearts of every person viewing the broadcast. I thank you for your prayers as we launch out into this ministry. I know the Lord has great things to do in us and through us.

I want to say a special word of thanks to John Barrett our Associate Pastor for Creative Arts and Technology Pastor and Bill Barger our Associate Pastor for Multi-Site and Facilities Management for their leadership preparing our facilities and equipment to begin this broadcast ministry. I also want to thank our entire technology and maintenance teams for the outstanding work they have done to make this ministry a reality. You guys rock!

In the near future we will be looking to secure a regular time slot Sunday evenings to broadcast the Hope Harbor Show. In the meantime, thanks for watching on Saturdays and tell your family and friends throughout the region to watch. You can also catch the radio Hope Harbor Show on 89.7 FM, 88.1 FM, 90.1 FM (at 7:30 am M-F) and on 90.5 FM (at 6:30 am M-F) and on our website. You can also download the radio broadcast from our webstie.

I am also excited to announce that 24 hour internet radio is coming soon to our web ministry. Our internet radio programming will feature the finest in faith-filled teaching, in house teaching, and awesome music. Be watching your enews for more details on this exciting venture to get the Word of God out on yet another voice.

Believe with us as we endeavor to get the good news out on every voice available to us as a ministry and remember there’s something on you…it’s the blessing…you are at the tipping point for a chain reaction of the blessing that when started cannot be stopped!

What If…

time-pic“Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone” (Colossians 4:5, NLT).

Ephesians 4:15-16 reminds us to “redeem the time because the days are evil.” The Amplified Bible says, “buying up each opportunity.” If the days are evil (and they are) then we need to definitely give some thought about how we are using our time. To “redeem” means to buy back, pay off, recover, discharge, make up for, make amends for, offset, or to obtain restoration. The goal of all believers should be to make the most of their lives or time. Consider three questions to help you evaluate your life and begin to truly make the most of every opportunity.

First, what if Jesus came back today? Romans 13:11-12 says, “Besides this you know what [a critical] hour this is, how it is high time now for you to wake up out of your sleep (rouse to reality). For salvation (final deliverance) is nearer to us now than when we first believed (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on Christ, the Messiah). The night is far gone and the day is almost here. Let us then drop (fling away) the works and deeds of darkness and put on the [full] armor of light” (AMP). If Jesus came back today (yes, think about it…if he truly came back today), would you be ready? Would you have completed your assignment on the earth  and done everything you were to do? Would you have gotten around to telling your family about Jesus, asked forgiveness for your failures, and made it a practice of forgiving those that have hurt you? The first key to making the most of your life is to discern the time. We must come to realize that we are in the last of the last days and as Jesus taught, since we can discern the natural seasons and the weather patterns, we must discern the time we are in and make the proper adjustments.

Second, what if you found out you were terminal? When people find out that they have a terminal disease they tend to rearrange their priorities and chart a different course for their remaining days. Some turn to carnal and natural pleasures and pursuits while others ponder and reflect on the eternal impact their lives have had. The truth is we all have a terminal disease and that disease is called sin. Unless we are on the earth when the rapture occurs, we will all go by way of the grave. Even though we believe and should strive to live and strong (see Psalm 91:16), we will still die at some point: “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then it vanishes” (James 4:14, NIV). What are you trading your precous time for and do these  time transactions impact eternity or only the here and now? The second key to making the most of our lives is to treasure the time because we can’t truly redeem the time or make the most of it if we do not know the true value of time. Unlike material things and even money itself, time cannot be borrowed from others, bought in a store, or manufactured in some factory.

Third, what if every person in the church was like you? Ouch! We are exhorted in 1 Timothy 4:15 (ESV) to “practice” and “immerse” ourselves in the things of God like the setting a good example, devotion to the Word of God, exhortation and teaching, and the proper stewardship of our spiritual gifts. What would the church look like and how would it function if each member of the church was just like you? What if they were as faithful as you and attended church like you? What if they served at your level, invited people to church like you, gave of their resources like you, worshipped like you, prayed like you, shared their faith like you? Honestly, how healthy (or unhealthy) would the local church be if the average believer was like you? The reality is that the Church is built one believer at a time and the quality of the believer affects the quality of the whole. The third key to making the most of our lives is to invest the time because we cannot redeem the time if we do not learn to give it away as an investment in the Kingdom of God.

Let’s make a decision from this day forward to truly redeem the time and make the most of our lives by discerning the time we are living in, by treasuring the time we have because it is limited, and by investing our time into furthering the gospel of Jesus Christ through the mission and ministry of our local churches. Let’s make the most of every opportunity and buy up opportunities to make a real difference for Jesus. What if we all learned to discern, treasure, and invest our time?

Last Chance

specialOnce again we have the opportunity as a ministry to make a real difference in one of the communities we serve. This March 1-3, 2009 we will be hosting and presenting the life-changing drama, Last Chance, featuring a cast and crew of 50 and some very unique stage and lighting effects. The drama examines the consequences of the personal choices we make to serve or not serve the Lord as we head into the last of the last days.

This Saturday (February 21st) the Trigg County will be meeting at HHC Trigg County building at 9:30 am to prepare to go into the community to distribute thousands of invitational tickets for the three night drama. I want to ask you to pray for the team and for the drama each night and also ask you to come over if you can to Trigg County this Saturday to help get the word out about this amazing evangelistic tool.

Also, if you enjoy using your acting or stage hand talents for the Lord, please email the church at h.harbor@mchsi.comand let us know of your interest. We’ll send you all the details about the big weekend. Thank you for helping to make this outreach a success and helping HHC Trigg County reach the unreached and tell the untold of their community.

Power Down

Some of us are technologically challenged. The extent of our computer savvy is turning on the machine and opening up an email program or web browser together with a few choice programs. Since we produce the Hope Harbor Radio Show in house, I’ve had to grow a little bit in my understanding.

Today, rather than running a CD of the program down to the radio station or dropping a copy in the mail, we simply upload the program on to our computer server and then the station logs in to download the programming for the week and then puts the show on the air. Occasionally, I will log in to upload the program and I’ll get a message that lets me know that the computer is laughing at me right now and completely unwilling to comply with my gentle mandate to receive the program even though the station is probably looking for it by now.

When all else fails around HHC from a technology standpoint, give John a call (even early in the morning – he loves that). The advice of the day from our computer sage – unplug the router and then plug it in again. Unplug the router and then plug it back in again? That’s the advice? That’s the counsel? To my amazement, shazam, it worked!

Perhaps we all can learn a little from our temperamental computer equipment. When we don’t seem to be working very well, unplug, power down, and spend some vital time with the Lord. Then when we plug back into the business and fray of our daily lives and ministry, we’ll be able to function with excellence and precision. Before we upload to the world we need to make sure we have properly downloaded what the Master wants us to receive.

I love computers….that’s my confession and I’m sticking to it.

Hope Harbor Church and WPSD TV

aud-upgrade1With the Lord moving at every site of Hope Harbor Church in unique ways (Trigg County and the drama Last Chance, Henry County with its new building project, and McCracken County now meeting at the Country Inn in Paducah) it’s also exciting to see the fresh, bold things happening right in Murray. The auditorium upgrade is nearly complete (see photo) and being made ready for services and for television broadcast.

I am thrilled, after believing God for almost eight years, to announce the time and day of our first broadcast on WPSD TV serving Western Kentucky and Southern Illinois. Make sure you tune in this Sataurday, February 21st at noon (right after all the cartoons – probably a good place for me). Pray with me for the touch of God’s Spirit on the broadcast and on the hearts of those that will be watching. Our first program must be complete (edited with intro and exit) and delivered to the station by Tuesday morning (February 17th) so there is much to do to get ready for this exciting day.

Please believe God with me for a regular broadcasting time slot for the Hope Harbor Show. We would particularly like to have a Sunday evening time slot to minister to folks as they are unwinding from the weekend and getting ready to get back to work. We have so much to thank God for HHC!

The Fruit of Self-Control

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, NIV).

“You should also know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control…” (2 Timothy 3:1-3, NLT)

To have self-control is to be in control of oneself. It is restraint exercised and control over one’s emotions, actions, and desires. A person with self-control possesses a dominion, might, power, and strength that only comes from self-discipline.

Without the fruit of self-control in our lives we are vulnerable and unprotected, destined to strike out in a foolish manner, disqualified for the blessing, defeated, anemic in prayer, and sowing toward a harvest we really do not want: “A man’s harvest in life depends entirely upon the seeds he has sown” (Galatians 6:7, PT). In fact, every failure to apply self-discipline is a seed that will produce adverse circumstances later in life.

We can consistently walk in a greater measure of self-control by increasing our personal knowledge of God, by taking charge over our feelings, by studying and applying the Proverbs daily (I recommend reading one Proverb every day), by resisting the urge to control everybody else, and by letting the Holy Spirit direct and guide our lives. The Bible very clearly teaches that if we will walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Romans 8:1, 9).

Even More Lessons From A Six Pound Toy Poodle

blog-peepoo-picI enjoy getting down on the floor and messing with the family pets. I’ve tormented Tim’s dog Bambi (aka Bam, Granbam, Hazobam, Bamalam, Bamster, you get the picture) for years trying to grab his feet while he tries furiously to withdraw the paw. He’s amazingly agile (even with diminished eyesight, although Kelli thinks he’s just a big faker – he seems to be aware of things he wants to be aware of – kind of like the listening skills and habits of teenagers).

I also enjoy tormenting Peepoo. She loves for me to grab an old sock (she’s a really cheap date) and let her chase after it, back and forth, back and forth until she’s so exhausted she just drops, red tongue hanging from her mouth. This past Christmas Kelli bought her and Bam a goody stocking filled with dog sized toys. One of Peepoo’s favorite toys is a blue and white rope, approximately 1. 5 inches think, knotted with tassels on the ends. I do basically the same thing with the rope that I do with the sock. She loves, however, to bite into the rope. I then begin to twirl her around and around letting the knot pivot between my thumb and index finger.

I’m amazed that she is able to hold on to the rope no matter how many times she twirls and no matter how dizzy she must be – such discipline and such dedication! I noticed that if I throw the rope down the hall after she finally lets go, she’ll chase the rope running sideways down the hall until she finds her prey and then she prances back  for more like royalty in a parade.

The other day we were doing the Peepoo rope twirl and chase when she set off to retrieve the rope. This time, however, her gait was more staggered than usual (impaired by excessive twirling) and with a thud and pathetic yelp she failed to negotiate the corner of the hallway. Dazed, she turned around as if to say, “what did you do to me?” Now, even though she still likes to play with the rope and even twirl a bit, she is extremely reluctant to follow anything I throw down the hall.

That’s just like leadership in general. It’s all about trust. If the people you lead believe that you genuinely have their best interests at heart even though their toes get stepped on occasionally and they too manage to hit the wall sometimes chasing dreams, they will follow and do their best to fulfill their part in God’s redemptive mission. As all of us accept God’s mandate to reach the unreached and tell the untold, and as we all strive to grow in our own leadership, let’s remember to look out after the Peepoos of the church when they tear down the hall running sideways with enthusiasm. Let’s prepare them properly and be available to sound the alarm when things are going sideways.

There’s something on you…it’s the blessing

Puzzle Pieces

hhc-mc-pic-11It’s hard to express just how thrilling it is to see Hope Harbor McCracken County coming together. We are now meeting on Wednesday nights at the Country Inn and Suites off of Interstate 24, Exit 4 in Paducah. I’ve been meeting with the team for months going over our vision and values and sharing principles of leadership in the multi-site church context. We’ve been blessed with an extraordinary team and I’m so pleased to be a part of it.

Last night (Wednesday, January 7), Kelli and I joined the team in Paducah to focus on team building. Together with new couples interested in the McCracken County work, our team listened to Kelli enthusiastically teach about teamwork and communication in ministry. The group is truly coming together and I fully expect immediate growth and development of this new church site.

The highlight of the evening was watching four teams try to best each other in putting together a child’s puzzle – a simple illustration of how quickly team dynamics come into play in any human endeavor and how we all need to work together to get the job done. The natural born leader will rise to command the other puzzle pushers. The detail person will be busy making sure the pieces are put down just right. The easy going team member will just comment on how much he likes the colors or the picture. Then there’s always one person that just smiles politely as if to say, “what’s up with the puzzle?”

Piece by piece the new HHC site in McCracken County is coming together and we expect the impact on the community to be truly amazing. As we progress in our multi-site efforts I want to remind everyone that there’s room on the HHC team for you. You just might be that missing piece we’re looking for. Thank you for stepping up to help us git r’ done in McCracken County and beyond. There’s something on you…and it’s the blessing!

 

 

Resolution Revolution

2009-picIt’s that time of the year. You know what I’m talking about. We get all fired up and motivated to change the world and decide to start with ourselves. Every wellness center and health club operator can tell you that the worst time to join the gym is the first couple of weeks in January when the resolution crowd pops in for their few days of exercise for the year. They’ll also tell you to just wait a few weeks. The masses will clear out just as fast as they came in.

The reason people never seem to follow through on their resolutions is because people know how to make resolutions but they do not know how to make quality decisions of dedication. There is a vast difference between making a quality life-changing decision and making the annual knee-jerk, heartless resolution. The term “resolution” itself indicates nothing more than the formal expression of our intentions. Intentions. Quality decisions of dedication, on the other hand, are about follow through and action. If you would like to convert your resolution into a quality, life-changing decision that will produce real results, follow these tips:

First, a quality decision is limited in scope. It’s impossible to fight on multiple fronts and expect success. It’s probably not a good idea to try to recover your high school weight, change your career, meet someone and get married, up your level of education, quit smoking, stop gossiping, become the next Billy Graham or Joyce Meyer, and get delivered from wii all in the same year. We need to limit our changes to 1-2 key areas and focus our faith and energy on bringing them to pass this year. It’s better to have victory in one or two areas than to experience defeat in ten areas.

Second, a quality decision is Word-based. John 1 tells us that in the beginning was the Word and that the Word was God and with God. This powerful truth that reveals the nature and eternity of Jesus Christ also reveals a very important life principle. If we are going to start anything in life, start or begin it with the Word. Find the place in the Bible where that area is discussed. You’ll be surprised how many life issues and challenges are actually addressed directly in the Word of God. Why is this so important? Because you need to approach substantial life change with faith in your heart and we know that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. When you feel like quitting, the Word that has the power to bring itself to pass in your life will spur you on.

Third, it is the action that separates the intentions of the resolution from the results of the quality decision. If you are truly serious this year and want to make the change you’ll need to understand that quality decisions require diligent action. The individual making the resolution may initially exert some energy or action in the direction of the resolution, but more often than not the enthusiasm wanes and he or she just drops the ball. Quality decisions require diligence and diligence is steady application toward any endeavor. It is constant effort exerted to accomplish something. Notice that diligence is continuing to work toward the goal day in and day out regardless of feelings or pronounced change.

Finally, a quality decision is one from which there is no retreat. You begin the journey with the mindset that quitting or throwing down the goal is not a possibility. A mindset (the resolution mindset) that says I may or may not complete this goal is doomed to failure from the beginning. You have to decide from the very beginning that you are going to see this thing through to the end regardless of the nature of the decision. If you limit the scope of the decision, base the decision on the Word, apply diligent action, and make up your mind that retreat is not an option, you’ll find yourself changed by this time next year.

More Lessons From A Six Pound Toy Poodle

img_0008We’ve been told by other dog owners that dogs will begin to ingest things like grass when they either have an upset stomach or if they are missing something vital from their diet. I can certify that PeePoo is well-fed and well-kept but she still enjoys strange and adventurous additions to her diet.

She started with grass and no matter how many times she throws up she returns to the same practice if left alone in the yard for more than a few moments (she kind of watches for us out of the corner of her eye so I know she knows better). Her suspicious eating habits then progressed to eating tinsel (her own special reason for liking Christmas). After a few dozen strands taken directly off the tree while standing on a stack of Christmas packages, she commenced with that oh so familiar sound  (a mixture of a choke and a gulp) and that familiar sight of Princess in the frog position abdomen ballooning until the tinsel ball came roaring back up.

She graduated to the big time recently when she discovered a bag of candy and chocolate on Tim’s bed and proceeded to rip open the bag to enjoy some Hershey’s Kisses (one of her favorites).  We were obviously concerned because unlike the pleasant buzz given to people after eating chocolate, the same chemical in chocolate poisons a dog. We confessed the blessing over PeePooh while I tried to ram my finger down her throat to induce vomiting. It seemed like whatever went down was going to stay down. Then in the middle of the night the chocolate bit back and I rushed to get her off the bed so she could once again pay the price for putting the wrong thing in her mouth. She threw up the chocolate (together with green foil and the little Hershey’s paper stem in the mix confirming and convicting her of the food crime).

I’ve often thought that Christians do the same thing. Despite the good food of the Word of God we insist on loading various poisons and toxins into our hearts and then wonder why we stay so sick and anemic spiritually. This year, let’s do things differently. Let’s be more careful about what we ingest spiritually. Let’s make sure that those thoughts and inputs square with the Word of God. Let’s have the discipline to walk away from the shiny and seemingly sweet philosophies of the world rather than swallowing what they think and promote. We really are what we eat and I encourage you this New Year to eat well!

I’m sure there will be more lessons from this six pound toy poodle in the future.

The Power of Hope

nativity-picThe world Jesus came into was not all that different from our own. People are people and they haven’t changed much in two thousand years. At the time of Jesus’ birth, Israel was occupied by a foreign power, there was political intrigue and upheaval, the people faced economic hardship, there was a national identity crisis, cultural confusion, and serious and overt religious suppression.

We could easily pull the same description from today’s newspaper or internet headlines. The world has always known how to spread and recycle hopelessness (lacking optimism and expecting disappointment – desperate, despairing, and bleak in its outlook). Fortunately, our hope is not in a government, a man, or an ecomony. No, our hope is in the person of Jesus Christ who builds into every heart an inner image of a white hot expectation that with Him we can expect great things ahead of us.

First, with Jesus we have hope for a fresh start. Who hasn’t made a mess of things from time to time. Lamentations 3:22-23 promises that the mercies of God are new every morning. This means that God never tires of helping his people out of messes that they create. It means that his commitment to alleviate our distres will never run dry. Every person that comes to Christ soon experiences the joy of a new positive outlook and fresh start in life.

Second, with Jesus we have hope for new strength. This world has a way of sapping even the strongest of us (and being a Christian does not shield us from growing weary and getting tired). The promise of Isaiah 40:31 is that if we will wait or hope in the Lord he would renew our strength. If we will learn to wait upon the Lord in his presence our strength, vigor, and vitality will be soon restored.

Third, with Jesus we have hope for a great future. Every believer should become familiar with Jeremiah 29:11 which reveals a God that is not for our hurt or destruction but for our well being. He truly has a futue and a hope for each of his children. It’s up to us to seek the Lord in prayer and his Word to discover the path he has for us in this life. But be sure he has a wonderful plan and path just for you!

Finally, with Jesus we have hope for His soon return. 1 John 3:2-3 explains how believers are purified as they long and expect the soon return of the one that came so long ago as a babe. That child grew in wisdom and stature with God and with man. That man – the God man – fully God and fully man – taught and ministered on this earth in great wisdom and power – he died for our sins, was raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven where he sits at the right hand of the Father and waits for the command of the Father to return to this earth again in victory and total dominion.

I encourage you this Christmas season to call out to the Lord if you’ve never met him or if you’ve made some mistakes and you find yourself feeling distant from God. He will accept you, brush you off, heal your hurts, restore your hope, and reveal to you the wonderful and bright future he has planned for you from the beginning of time.

The Fruit of Gentleness

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, NIV).

“It is not fancy hair, gold jewelry, or fine clothes that should make you beautiful. No, your beauty should come from within you-the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that will never be destroyed and is very precious to God” (1 Peter 3:3-4, NCV).

“Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The teaching that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NCV).

There is a direct correlation between walking in the fruit of gentleness and finding real rest. The more you develop gentleness the more rest and inner peace you will enjoy. Don’t bother trying to manufacture peace without first developing gentleness in your inner man.

Gentleness is to be even tempered, tranquil, balanced in spirit, humble in spirit. It means to, like Moses, possess power and strength with control. This individual will have passions that are under control. It is not weakness, but force handled responsibly. The gentle person knows when to react and how to react. The Greek indicates that it’s like a wild animal that has been tamed or a racehorse that has been disciplined to do exactly what the rider commands.

The development of gentleness in your life will prevent strife (Proverbs 15:11), increase your peace (Psalm 37:11), help you access God’s guidance (Psalm 25:9), increase your joy (Isaiah 29:19), stir revival in your heart (Isaiah 57:15), and mark you for favor and promotion (1 Peter 5:5-6).

One of the hardest things to do as a believer is to remain gentle when someone is always trying to push your buttons. When that person comes around I want to encourage you to: (1) Keep your mouth shut and do not react. Button pushers often criticize and attack out of their own insecurity and jealousy. Gentleness will enable you to remain quiet and not get in the way of God’s solution; (2) Let the Lord defend you to the button pusher. We don’t always realize it but every time you are unfairly attacked, God is aware of it and as a covenant keeping God will help if you will keep your big mouth out of it. I love that Scripture that says, “When a man’s ways are pleasing to God are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him (Proverbs 16:7); and (3) Pray for the welfare of the person. Only a truly meek and gentle person would pray for restoration for that person (instead of for vindication). Remember the promise of Scripture for the truly gentle believer: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”

The Fruit of Faithfulness

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, NIV).”

“Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel! The Lord has filed a lawsuit against you, saying: There is no faithfulness, no kindness, knowledge of God in your land” (Hosea 4:1, NLT).

Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit produced in the life of a yielded believer by the Holy Spirit. Faithfulness can be described as fidelity, loyalty, reliability, and dependability. Those that are faithful are dependable and can be trusted to be there in a pinch. They are like the North Star burning bright, burning constant, but unlike a shooting star that burns brightly for a while and then burns out. The faithful person obeys the word of God and Holy Spirit closely. They maintain a firm and unswerving loyalty to anyone united to them by promise or commitment.

In a day of broken covenants and promises throughout the world and even in the church, it is vital that true believers learn once again to develop the powerful force of faithfulness in their lives. The believer can be ever increasing in the revelation and practice of faithfulness by coming to three realizations about faithfulness.

First, we must realize how faithful God has been to us. God is the standard, the model, and the example of faithfulness for all of us. The Scripture says that “the unfailing love of the Lord never ends…great is his faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23, NLT). Psalm 33:4 declares, “For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.” God is boldly revealed in Scripture again and again as faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9; Psalm 25:10). The question is not whether God is going to be faithful and true to his word and character. The question is whether his people are going to follow his example. Fact #1 about faithfulness: God expects me to be faithful too!

Second, we must realize how rare faithfulness is these days and strive to be different-apply ourselves to being what is sorely lacking in the world and church today-constant, diligent, faithful. Proverbs 20:6 says, “Many a man claims to unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?” The word of God describes what it is like to depend on an unfaithful person: “Like a bad tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in times of trouble” (Proverbs 25:19, NIV). Faithfulness is a primary indication of spiritual maturity and lack of it indicates that a person is not growing up in the faith. We are to be faithful in prayer, dying to self, giving, serving, obeying God-we are to be faithful to our families, to our churches, and to God. Luke 8:18 sums up the heart of God on the dearth of faithfulness in this world: “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Fact #2 about faithfulness: Others depend on me to be faithful!

Finally, we need to realize how much God values and honors faithfulness: “Let love and faithfulness never leave you” (Proverbs 3:3, NIV). The Parable of the Talents teaches us that faithfulness is one of the keys to promotion in the kingdom of God. Paul admonished the Corinthians, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2, NIV). Proverbs 28:20 declares, “The faithful man will abound with blessings” (KJV). In fact, God promises his favor, empowerment, blessing, protection, revelation, and promotion to the faithful person-and since God is faithful to his promises, if we are faithful, we will be blessed. Fact #3 about faithfulness – We will be rewarded for our faithfulness!

The Miracle Girl

Amanda and Quinlyn
Amanda and Quinlyn

When long term Hope Harbor Church member Owen Moore headed out on an ambulance call October 29th he was shocked and surprised to find his 27 year old daughter-in-law Amanda collapsed at work and in cardiac arrest. Amanda was resuscitated and taken to Murray-Calloway County Hospital and later life flighted to Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. After evaluating her grim situation, the doctors determined that Amanda was suffering from an enlarged heart that on rare occasions manifests at the end of a pregnancy or up to five months after delivery. In a coma dealing with kidney failure and a heart with only 10% injection fraction (the amount of blood expelled from the heart muscle when contracting), the prognosis in the natural was not looking good. According to Owen, less than 1% of patients resuscitated outside of the hospital survive cardiac arrest.

Thank God we are not bound to the natural in situations like this. God’s people began to pray all over the country. The family even got word that someone placed a prayer for her at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. The turn around in Amanda’s situation is so amazing that personnel from the hospital have been popping into her room wanting to see “the miracle girl.” Today Amanda’s kidney function is normal and her percentage of blood expelled from the heart chamber is now at 50% (55% is considered normal). She is now in rehabilitation and has some hurdles to overcome but God’s mercy in her life is obvious.

I want to encourage you to believe God as well when you or someone you love is facing a health crisis. Remember the powerful words of the Psalmist: “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:2-3, NIV). We serve an amazing God who is still doing miracles today. Just ask the Moore family! I also want to encourage you to continue to pray for Amanda’s complete recovery and restoration. For more information about Amanda, please visit http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/amandamoore.

The Fruit of Goodness

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, NIV).”

Goodness is the quality in a person who is ruled by and aims at what is good. It is the propensity both to will and to do what is good. Goodness speaks of goodness in character and actions. Good is basically the absence of defect or flaw and presence of complete wholeness.

Our example and model of goodness is of course the Lord. Jesus was once called “good teacher” (Mark 10:17-18) to which he replied “no one is good except God alone.” But God has made a way through the ministry of the Holy Spirit to develop the goodness in his people. In this week’s article I want to share some key principles that foster the development of the fruit of goodness.

First, we need to learn the difference between good and evil. Isaiah 5:20, NCV says, “How terrible it will be for people who call good things bad and bad things good, who think darkness is light and light is darkness, who think sour is sweet and sweet is sour.” We are living in a cultural environment in this country where evil is accepted and good is lampooned. The believer must be careful not to buy into this distortion of reality.

Second, we need to realize that no one is good without God: “all have turned from God; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not even one!” (Psalm 14:3, NLT). The truth is, we are all natural born sinners. Any good in our lives is the result of the grace of God. To become good in any measure, we must have a fundamental change in our nature. This is only accomplished through faith in Jesus Christ and the life changing power in his shed blood.

Third, we need to fill our heart with good things. Everyday we have a choice what to put in our hearts through our eye gate, mouth gate, and ear gate. Psalm 119:9-11, NCV gives great insight into living pure and good lives in a dirty world: “How can a young man person live a pure life: By obeying your word.” If we allow evil in, it should be no surprise when evil comes out. “The good man from his inner good treasure flings forth good things, and the evil man out of his evil storehouse flings forth evil things” (Matthew 12:35, AMP). Let the words of D.L. Moody encourage you to fill your heart with what is wholesome: “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”

Fourth, we need to imitate the example of our heavenly Father. God is good and what he does is good (Psalm 119:68, NIV). Psalm 34:8, KJV declares the fundamental goodness of God: “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” God’s nature, behavior, decisions, actions, and motives are good all the time. God does not and will not do anything that he has revealed to man is morally wrong. Paul declared, “Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1, NIV).

Finally, we should develop the habit of doing what is good daily. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” God has ordained, appointed, and anointed his people to do what is good. He planned for us to do good all the days of our lives-that is to be consistently good. Remember that God’s grace is available to help us develop the habit of doing good: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8, KJV).

Ice Cream for the Soul

[I found this awesome article written by Chaplain Kevin Traughber, Western Baptist Hospital. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.]

Thank God for children saying grace! Last week I took my children to a restaurant. My six-year-old son asked if he could say grace. As we bowed our heads, he said, “God is good; God is great. Thank you for the food, and I would even thank you more if mom gets us ice cream for dessert. And Liberty and justice for all! Amen!”

Along with the laughter from the other customers nearby, I heard a woman remark, “That’s what’s wrong with this country. Kids today don’t even know how to pray. Asking God for ice cream! Why, I never!” Hearing this, my son burst into tears and asked me, “Did I do it wrong? Is God mad at me?”

As I held him and assured him that he had done a terrific job and God was certainly not mad at him, an elderly gentleman approached the table. He winked at my son and said, “I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer.”

“Really?” my son asked.

“Cross my heart,” the man replied. Then in a theatrical whisper, he added (indicating the woman whose remark had started this whole thing), “Too bad she never asks God for ice cream. A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes.”

Naturally I bought my kids ice cream at the end of the meal. My son stared at his for a moment and then did something I will remember for the rest of my life. He picked up his sundae and without a word, walked over and placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told her, “Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes; and my soul is good already.”

God help us to come to you as little children. Replenish our hearts and souls so that we might provide a little “ice cream” for others whose hearts and souls hurt. Amen.

 

The Fruit of Kindness

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, NIV).”

“Let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight” (Jeremiah 9:24-25, NIV).

The concept of Bible kindness comes from Hebrew words such as hesed which means to bow the neck in courtesy as to an equal; to be gracious; to be sweet in disposition; to be loyal to covenant obligations; to be merciful and good. Without question, our God can be described as kind: “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9, NIV). Psalm 30:5 says, “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime” (NIV). God shows his covenant loyalty to us consistently and regularly.

It is important to note, however, that God expects this same type of covenant loyalty to be displayed to others. For example, God expects us to show kindness to the poor and the needy (Proverbs 14:31; 19:17). We should also show kindness to our brothers and sisters in the Lord (Ephesians 4:32). Believe it or not we are to show this same kindness even to our enemies (Luke 6:35; Proverbs 25:22). Finally, in a sweeping statement, Paul told Timothy to be kind to everyone: “The Lord’s servant must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone” (1 Timothy 2:24).

The story of the Good Samaritan really sheds light on what kindness means to God. There are three keys I want to share with you from this touching story about a man mugged on his way to the city of Jericho that will help us become a consistently kind person.

First, we must overcome the fear of involvement. The priest and the Levite in this story no doubt were concerned about the pronounced danger on the notorious road to Jericho known as the “bloody way.” They chose to close their heart to the need. They might have also been concerned about becoming “unclean” by interacting with the victim they saw there. Perhaps they were afraid of getting in over their heads. Regardless of the reason, we need to overcome the fear that keeps us from reaching out to the hurting and the lonely in this world with covenant kindness.

Second, we need to see through the eyes of compassion. Some people see hurting people as objects, impediments, or detours. Other people can see the need like Jesus. They are not detached, distant, or indifferent to the pain around them. A kind person cares about people. I urge you to never repress that urge to be kind. It did not come from you, but was the prompting of divine love by the Holy Spirit. Look through the eyes of compassion and you will want to take the time to be kind to hurting people when you become aware of the needs.

Finally, we need to take action and pay the price. The least likely to stop and help of the three that past along the way near the hurting man, the Samaritan, was willing to pay the price of inconvenience, time, effort, property, and money to make a difference. He shows a very different attitude than the previous two religious individuals. They reasoned: “what will happen if we help him?” The Samaritan reasoned wisely: “what will happen to the man if I don’t help him?” Let’s be willing to pay the price to show covenant kindness to others. After all, Jesus was willing to pay the ultimate price to show the covenant kindness of our heavenly Father!

The Power of Words and Gas Prices

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life],” Proverbs 18:21, AMP

Gas Prices Fall 60%
Gas Prices Fall 60%

One of our faith-filled Hope Harbor kids heard a lady say this week how glad she was that the gas prices have come down. He made sure she knew it was “because of Hope Harbor Church.” Stunned, the lady didn’t know what to say.

Well, we know what he meant. He understood that as a church we began to put faith pressure on the oil and gas situation with our words (as other churches have done throughout the country). So many people, including Christians, got into the really bad habit of talking about how bad prices are and how things are going to get worse. We just made the quality decision to speak faith-filled words and command those prices to come down in Jesus’ name.

We know now that God has honored the faith of thousands of believers and the gas prices just continue to plummet. In fact, our original faith goal of $2.89 by Christmas has been amended several times. In fact, the price has been dropping faster than we can declare a new price (but that’s just a coincidence).

Remember in challenging times to continue to speak the Word and not the circumstances. Remember that words are powerful and that we will rise or fall to the level of the confession of our mouths. Remember that your tongue is the deciding factor in your life. Change your words and you can change your life. No matter how fierce the storm or how serious the problem, your tongue can turn it. No storm or challenge or difficulty is so big that you, as a believer, cannot overcome it with God’s Word in your mouth. Your confession will control your ship in any storm, including an economic one.

Coming Home

Max the Gladiator

Pet owners understand something that people without pets cannot understand – our pets literally become part of the family. So when a precious pet goes missing it’s quite traumatic for the family and particularly that member of the family that most identifies with the animal (Tim’s Bambi likes to stress everyone out by charging through any open door and bolting like a convict during a prison break – but we always find him wandering blindly and aimlessly two doors down). The Klotz family has been believing God for the safe return of Max (Maximus Decimus Meridius) from “gladiator” fame who, as I understand it, has been missing for a couple of weeks. Having been raised with an adventurous tabby colored tom cat, I knew when I heard about Max (and saw his feline wanted posters all over the neighborhood) that he was probably out trying to sharpen his fighting skills and conquer the south end of the city of Murray. 

Max made his way home today to the delight of a very appreciative family (and a certain man of the house). I felt the same way when Tiger returned home after weeks and weeks of prowling around. I remember looking every night for Tiger to show up. I always thought he was alright but I could never be sure. Then one day he came prancing up the driveway, apparently laying waste to every rival cat in town that would dare challenge him (neighbors would tell me later that my cat was a bully to the other cats in the neighborhood – I can’t help it if they raised wimpy cats).

Following the Max saga reminds me of how the Father feels when one of his kids goes missing. The story of the Prodigal Son reveals the heart of God that longs for the return of his child. The return of a family pet pales in comparison to the exuberance and pleasure it brings the Lord when we get tired of catting around and return home where we belong, but thanks Max for reminding us of the Father’s love.

The Fruit of Patience

patience-pic1“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, NIV).” “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us. The Scriptures give us patience and encouragement so that we can have hope. Patience and encouragement come from God” (Romans 15:4-5, NCV).

Patience is a spiritual force and consequently is of a spiritual origin. We will never be able to muster up enough patience in the natural to deal with life’s challenges and opportunities. Patience, like the other fruit of the Spirit is developed through the word of God and through living contact with God through prayer. God is the both the source and example of patience.

Patience literally means “long-tempered.” The patient person does not become easily angered. When the patient person does become angry, it is always a controlled anger. Patience is not merely a passivity and resignation to the inevitable, but a source of power to maintain a word based confidence and cheerful endurance while waiting for a breakthrough or a turnaround. Since patience is a spiritual force and not just something we use to “grin and bear it” when times are hard, it accomplishes much in the life of the believer.

First, we can obtain Christian maturity and character through patience. James 1:3-4 teaches that patience produces perfection or maturity in the life of the believer. As we allow patience to under gird our faith, we begin to experience growth in the vital area of character formation.

Second, we can obtain a life of peace with other people through patience. The Bible teaches that we are to “be humble, gentle and patient…” (Ephesians 4:1-2). The believer is commanded in Scripture to stay out of strife with other people (2 Timothy 2:24). Believers that stay in strife also stay in defeat. It is impossible for our faith to produce results when we are violating the rule of love. The force of patience gives us the strength to stay in love even under direct provocation.

Third, we can obtain divine assistance when we are in trouble. The Psalmist said, “I waited patiently” and “the Lord heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1-3). Divine assistance such as deliverance, stability, and joy are made available to us when we maintain the fruit of patience in our lives.

Fourth, we can obtain the promises of God through patience. Hebrews 6:12 reminds us it is through faith and patience we inherit what has been promised. Many apparent “faith failures” are in actuality “patience failures.” Faith was never designed as a stand-alone spiritual force. Without the support of patience, many times people just simply give up on the promise ever coming to pass. They believe, but they have no patience to stabilize their faith for the long haul. We have the assurance that if we stand we will “receive all that he has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36).

Finally, with patience we can obtain our life dreams. The prophet Habakkuk declares, “But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed” (2:3, NLT). Godly dreams require godly pathways-and one of those pathways is patience. Patience will keep us steady, firm, and confident while we are waiting and working for our dreams to come true.

It’s Merry Christmas

christmas-2008The Christmas season is a time of great joy and a time that much of the world’s population pauses to reflect on the gift of God to the world, Jesus Christ and what he would accomplish on the cross for the world. It’s easy for the simple message of redemption and reconciliation to get lost in the hyper commercialism and secularization of Christmas. In fact, the agenda of the agnostic, atheist, and humanist to force Christmas to the background of American life is more prevalent today than ever (including a bus advertising campaign by the humanists that challenge the observer, “Why believe in a god…just be good for goodness’ sake”). The problem is that without a standard for goodness (the Lord and His Word) there is no way to define what is good. That’s why belief in God translates into practical goodness. [See the foxnews story at: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,450445,00.html]

It started years ago with the introduction of more and more secular images of the season: talking reindeer, likable animated snowmen, and jolly Santas showing up in schools, in storefronts, and all over the television set. The collective result of this flurry of secular images in our culture is a population that has become so detached from the reality of Christmas that “X” has replaced Christ in the greeting “Merry Christmas” and in schools and department stores the phrase is almost treated like profanity (the wonderful contribution of the politically correct thought police). They prefer to say, “Happy Holidays” and they now call Christmas Trees, “Holiday Trees” (barf). I just want to remind you that the correct greeting is “Merry Christmas,” and I encourage you to say it often. Say it in faith. Say it in joy. Say it to everyone you can. Remind your community that Christmas is about the coming of the anointed one.

Still, Christmas is one of the greatest outreach opportunities of the year. This year we will be presenting our Living Christmas Tree featuring a cast and crew of over 100 people. I invite you to volunteer to help with the set construction or tear down, or help with hospitality one or more nights of the production. Also, please help us spread the word to our community. With your help and the blessing of God we will see many come to Christ this December 5-7 and help make this their best Christmas yet. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Birthday Girl

So Excited About My Birthday
So Excited About My Birthday

I used to tell Kelli that by the time she turned 40 she would have been a wife for 21 years, a mother for 15 years and in full time ministry for 20 years. Keep in mind that this was a “far piece” down the road then. Now, it’s just around the corner (Sunday the 16th of November).

With just a few days before Kelli’s 40th birthday, I want to share a little bit about her extraordinary journey. She married me at 18 (after all this is Kentucky) and followed me to graduate school. I worked 40 hours, carried 12 graduate hours, and Kelli worked at Burger King and other places to help make ends meet. The first night she came home from the BK job I let her know she smelled like a Whopper. Our tax return that year showed that we grossed just over $3,000 but we would have told you we were rich and having the time of our lives getting ready for future ministry.

Amazingly she was only 20 years old when we accepted our first full time assignment in ministry serving as youth and associate pastors in Savannah, Georgia. She was only 22 when we assumed our first responsibility as senior pastors in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. The ladies from that church said they wanted to lock her up in a cage because they were concerned that folks would “eat you alive.” She was just 26 when we moved to Murray to serve in our present capacity. Only the grace of God and Kelli’s phenomenal love for God and character could explain how someone so young could handle the complexities and pressures that come with modern pastoral ministry (let alone the challenges of dealing with type “rabbit” pastor husband).

After we moved to Murray, Kelli decided to return to school to pursue her degree at Murray State University. Immediately after completing her bachelors in public relations she began pursuing a masters in organizational communication. It’s never easy for a non-traditional student to return to college. It’s even more difficult to pull this off while being a wife, mother, and while serving in full time ministry. Since then she has served as a workplace trainer and college lecturer teaching courses in public speaking and group processes.

I’m very proud of her accomplishments and so very thankful for her partnership in this ministry. She has served the Church in the most profound ways but most of all by ministering to me and my son. Thank you for joining me this week in wishing her a most blessed birthday. I would like to open the comments on this posting for you to share an encouraging word for her. I know that would mean so much to her. Kelli, Tim and I love you and appreciate you more than you will ever know. Happy [blessed beyond measure] Birthday!

 

The Fruit of Peace

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, NIV).”

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” (Philippians 4:6-7, MES).

The word “worry” comes from the German word wergen, which means, “to choke.” Many people in our nation are literally choking under the pressure and weight of anxiety and worry. Anxiety disorders are said to be the current #1 health problem for women and #2 health problem for men in America. Nearly thirty million Americans claim to be stressed out and eighteen million are currently using antidepressants like Prozak.

The Bible promise of peace stands in stark contrast to the emotional and mental turmoil so many live with daily. Peace is a general, abiding sense of well being in our lives. It is tranquility, serenity, and rest of spirit, soul, and body based on the consciousness of a right relationship with God. Peace, then, comes from the inside out and overflows out of the heart to impact the rest of our lives. Peace is more than just the absence of strife, war, or turmoil. The spiritual fruit of peace is real spiritual power to produce genuine whole-ness in one’s life-nothing missing, nothing broken-soundness in every area of life.

The development of the fruit of peace in our lives will lead to great Bible promises such as victory (John 16:33); stability (Philippians 4:7); direction (Colossians 3:15); health (Proverbs 14:30); and prosperity (Job 22:21). We all know what it is like to live life without the peace of God. We can develop of farm this powerful and precious fruit of the Spirit by making to profound changes in our lives:

First, we need to change what we have been living for. Isaiah 9:6 describes Jesus as the “Prince of Peace.” The Lord himself is the giver of peace. He said in John 14:27, LB, “I am leaving you with a gift-peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”  There is no way to tap into Bible peace without making Jesus the focus of our lives-the one we live for daily. Many people call themselves Christians while actually living for themselves, some carnal goal, or for some other person. The only way to walk in this great peace is to walk with the key to true peace-Jesus!

Second, we need to change what we have been thinking about. Our lives tend to go in the direction of our most dominant thoughts and meditations. Colossians 3:1-2 exhorts, “Let haven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.” The Bible promises perfect peace for people that keep their minds focused on God (Isaiah 26:3) and great peace for people that love the word of God (Psalm 119:165). Our peace (or lack of it) is directly affected by the quality and content of our thought lives. Real Bible peace comes when I learn to habitually think the thoughts of God.

Offense Factory

offense-picJames 1:19 admonishes the believer to be “slow to take offense.” Notice that offense doesn’t just come on us out of nowhere. Offense is something that we have to allow to rise up in our hearts and we receive it, or take it.  Proverbs 19:11 says, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” In other words, it is to a man’s great benefit to handle offense correctly and biblically.

The problem with offense is that the consequences are so severe for the believer: it stops our revelation; it stops our healing; it stops our sowing and reaping; it stops commitment; it stops teachability; it stops effective prayer; it stops our development and our fruit bearing; it stops the anointing; it stops our influence; and it stops our blessing.

We see the impact of offense clearly demonstrated in the ministry of Jesus when he returned to his hometown. The people responded with a familiar spirit (an attitude that does not honor the gift of a God in a person because the person was known before the gift began to manifest) saying, “Isn’t this the carpenter. Isn’t this Mary’s son…” (Mark 6:3). The result was that “they took offense” at him and the Bible says, “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith” (vv. 3-6). The taking of offense is directly connected to unbelief and that offense stops the flow of God’s life-changing anointing.

I’ve discovered that more and more people are becoming aware of the destructive impact of offense in their lives and are allowing the Lord to work in them to root out its influence whenever it rears its ugly head. I’ve discovered that there are varying levels and degrees of offense taking. The important thing is that we identify where we are today and keep moving forward in the Lord to the point where we can live offense free.

The first level of offense (and our ultimate goal) is “no tolerance for offense.” This mature believer has learned to walk in love, mercy and forgiveness. They understand the value of not allowing offense to take root in any area of their lives. The second level of offense is “resistant to offense.” Still growing, this person has realized the problem and they resist its presence in their lives. The third level is “yielding to offense.” This person might sense the problem and danger but ultimately (and consistently) yields to offense in the end. The fourth level is “quick to take offense.” This is the person that is easily hurt and offended over every little thing that comes down the pike. People like this are often up to their ears in offense, anger, and recrimination before they realize what’s happening. I find a lot of people in the body of Christ like this. the fifth level is “looking for offense. This individual seems to almost relish the idea of offense not understanding what they are giving up for the luxury of being mad. They scan the horizon, the workplace, the church, the living room looking for a reason to go off on someone (and they frequently do). We will always find a reason to get offended if we are looking for one. The last and almost comical level (if it were not so sad) is the “manufacturing offense” level. This person looks hard for a reason to get offended, but cannot find anything legitimate to take offense over so they do what any totally defeated person would do – they create or manufacture a reason to be offended.

1 Peter 4:8, says that “love covers over a multitude of sins.” As believers we should be manufacturers of love and mercy rather than anger and offense. You will always have many opportunities throughout the week to get offended. I recommend you not take them. I encourage you to shut down the offense factory in your life for good. When you see the great benefits of walking consistently in love and mercy you’ll be glad you did.

Honor the King (but honor the Word more)

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4, KJV).

“Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17, KJV).

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the 2008 Presidential election and the consequences of the decision of the American people on our future. As an individual American with strong values and convictions I could take this opportunity to decry the western European neo-socialism voted into power yesterday. I could bemoan the even greater threat the unborn will face with a chief executive with radical abortion views and a Senate Judiciary Committee controlled by individuals that are openly committed to picking Supreme Court Justices based on an ideology rather than qualifications. I could express my disappointment that the American electorate once again, like the election of 1992, voted on the basis of perceived economic expediency rather than on moral conviction. Finally, I could rant about the complete and total breakdown of journalistic integrity by most of the media in this nation. The double standard and bias were so obvious that it made me laugh out loud in disgust and talk to my television set on more than one occasion.

But I’m going to resist that temptation and take this opportunity to help believers respond biblically to the reality of the election of an administration that does not represent their values or interests. First, we should all be glad that racism has taken a huge punch in the face during this election cycle. From Obama’s Democratic caucus win in Iowa to the support he received among white voters from Maine to Colorado to North Carolina in the general election, it is clear that Dr. King’s dream that individuals be judged by their character and not their skin color is much closer to being realized than ever before. Second, we should all be thankful for the amazing way this nation transfers power. Come January, one administration with access to unbelievable resources and influence will peacefully and deliberately hand that power over to a new administration. This special transition, literally the envy of the entire world, is cause for all Americans to be very proud of their democracy. Third, regardless of who we voted for, the Scripture is very plain. We have the responsibility to “honor” our leadership (even though the previous President has been shown contempt beyond comprehension) and pray for those in authority. Our job now is to pray for the new President and believe that he will act in the nation’s best interest and in a manner consistent with the wisdom of the Scriptures. Our ability to live quiet and peaceable lives and achieve success in our primary mandate to share the gospel depends on true Christians in the United States standing in the gap for our leadership.

Don’t get me wrong though. When this administration veers down a path of contempt for the laws of God I will raise my voice through any means available to challenge that direction. I will not sit idly by (nor should you) if the new Department of Education attempts to nationalize the use of pro-homosexual materials in our nations elementary schools. I will speak up against the barbaric practice of partial birth abortion used erroneously in the name of the mother’s health and the expansion of abortion in this nation in general. I will not hold my peace if our State Department moves to alienate and pressure Israel to accept yet another false peace brokered at the expense of even more covenant land. After all, I did not surrender my citizenship the day I gave my life to Jesus Christ and I have every intention of doing my civic duty to bring some moral accountability to an administration that will have unprecedented political pressure to govern from the extreme left.

The Fruit of Joy

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law”       (Galatians 5:22, NIV).”

Isaiah 51:11 declares that those set free by the Lord will be overtaken with joy and that sorrow would flee! Psalm 30:11 says that our mourning will be turned to dancing. Romans 14:17 declares: “The kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking, but about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

The nature of joy is very different from the nature of happiness. Unlike joy, which is a spiritual force, happiness is simply an emotional reaction to present life circumstances. Joy resides in the spirit, the inner man, of the believer and is deposited there through our relationship with the Lord and our habit of maintaining living contact with Him. Joy can be described as cheerful, calm delight. Christians with joy have learned to habitually rejoice, brighten up, or twirl about – all meanings of the biblical word for joy. Our cheerful, calm delight spills out of our hearts in the form of rejoicing even if nothing is going right or if nothing seems to be changing for the better.

The force of joy is powerful and produces much in the life of the believer. First, joy brings strength. In fact, “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). This verse means that the joy of the Lord is our fortified place, a fort, and a defense. As long as our joy is strong our lives are well defended. When the joy drops, so does our protection.

Second, joy brings restoration. Like many of you, I tend to rejoice after something has been fixed or restored. James 1:2-5 tells us to “count it all joy” when we are facing various challenges. Jeremiah 33:10-11 instructs us that joy has a voice. In other words, it is quite impossible to hide joy because it is expressed verbally as well as sensed internally. We cannot wait until something is fixed or restored to rejoice in the Lord. In fact, Scripture indicates that rejoicing precedes or facilitates restoration (Joel 2:23-24).

There are many biblical blessings available to the believer for the consistent production of joy: (1) God’s grace – the fact that our sin is not counted against us. Celebrate the grace of God and joy will come; (2) God’s word – the entrance of the word into our hearts on any matter brings great joy. Pick up the Bible today and read it; (3) God’s lifestyle – the pure live a life of joy rather than torment and regret. Live your life without compromise; (4) God’s agenda – seeking and saving the lost brings us great joy. Bring someone to Jesus this week; (5) God’s presence – the presence of the Holy Spirit is a wellspring of joy for the believer. Camp out in the presence of God; and (6) God’s answer to prayer – our joy is made complete, mature, and full when we realize our God is a God that answers prayer. Keep on believing and receiving from God through prayer.

Don’t let anything get your joy. It is too valuable and too powerful a spiritual force to live without. The moment you sense your joy level dropping, take some of the above steps immediately and watch God restore your joy and all the benefits associated with joy!

Precious Human Life

[Kelli will be contributing to my blog on a regular basis. I hope you enjoy her inspirational first article. God bless you – Pastor Art]

 WHY I BELIEVE THAT ALL HUMAN LIFE IS PRECIOUS & SACRED TO GOD  

tim-and-kel-disney-12
Tim and Mom at Disney

 

One of my favorite passages of scripture is found in the book of Jeremiah.  It says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;” (Jer. 1:5 NIV).  Another favorite passage is found in the book of Psalms.  It reads, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”  (Psalm 139:13-16, NIV).

 

As I approach my 40th birthday, I have been looking back over my life.  Have I reached my God-given potential?  Have I accomplished the things that God wants me to accomplish?  Has my life been pleasing to Him? 

 

On November 16, 1968, I was born out of wed-lock to a teen-aged, high school drop-out.  I don’t know the circumstances surrounding my birth, but I do know that it couldn’t have been easy for my mother.  She must have suffered much shame & ridicule for being pregnant, and then choosing to raise me as a single mother.  She never received any assistance from my father.  In fact, I’ve never met the man. 

 

Growing up, I struggled with low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness.  I always wondered, “God, why did you make me?  My parents didn’t plan me.  Do you love me and have a purpose for me?”  It was when I found these scriptures that I began to realize that God did love me, and that He had a purpose for my life. 

 

You see, God loves each and every one of us.  It doesn’t matter if your parents planned you or not.  GOD DID!!!!!  God has a plan for each of us.

 

Our son’s story is very similar.  When my husband and I got married, we were unable to conceive.  After praying for a child for almost six years, God gave us our son Timothy.  Timothy was born in a similar situation, and his mother lovingly chose to give him up for adoption.  I thank God so much for this self-less young woman.  Because of her, we are able to experience the love and joy of watching our son grow into a mighty man of God.  He is our precious, special, chosen gift from God.

 

As we were following the buses and police escort out of town on our way to the state band competitions this past weekend, I started to cry.  I wasn’t crying from sadness, but from an overwhelming sense of joy and gladness.  My heart swelled with love and pride for my Timothy.

 

No, neither Timothy nor I was planned by our parents, but God had a plan for each of us.  I want to leave you with one last scripture.  It is found in the book of Jeremiah.  It says, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”  (Jer. 29:11, NIV).

 

As you exercise your right to vote, remember that all human life is precious and sacred to God. 

 

tim-band-20076
Tim at MSU Festival of Champions

 

Snack Cakes and Skunks

tim-drumI have been blessed with the greatest parents in the world. They always encouraged and supported all four of their children. They knew what some parents and loved ones do not – showing up to support your kids in their activites communicates love and builds their self-confidence and security.

As we head to the Kentucky State Band Championships with Tim and the Calloway County Laker Band, I can’t help but think about the many times my parents were there to support me.  I remember my parents standing on the pool deck watching me win another race or set another record. I remember my Dad watching every pitch I threw on my way to another baseball victory.  One of my most vivid memories growing up was the daily 5:30 am commute to Carbondale, IL for swimming practice. Dad woke my brothers and me, got us in the front seat of our Chrysler, turned on the heater, handed us a Hostess Ding Dong, and then headed out in to the cold, dark morning so that his kids could participate in a quality swim program.  Fifteen minutes into the drive and the heater was still blowing cold, skunk tainted air.

As a pastor and as a band parent I am sad to say that many kids never have their parents or loved ones show up to cheer them on. Sitting in the bleachers waiting for my son’s band to perform I overhead a band member from another school say, “I wish my mom loved me enough to see me perform.”  I remember thinking, “Every kid should have someone here.” Nothing builds self-confidence and a sense of worth in your children like being there for them. Regardless of the activity, interest, or pursuit, make the support of your children one of your highest priorities in life. No parent can be there for everything, but for your kid’s sake, make that extra special effort to at least attend some of their activities.

Brand New Tampa Bay Rays Fan

Congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies, the 2008 World Series Champions. They finished strong and deserve to wear the crown (until spring training and everyone basically forgets who even played in the series). The surprise of the season, however, was Tampa Bay – a surprise because they had a winning record; a surprise that they would embarrass the Yankees and the Red Sox; a surprise that they would drop the word “Devil” from their team name and become just the “Rays” (and that it would matter all that much); a surprise that they would do something to spruce up that depressing ballpark; a surprise that they would finally put the right management and coaching team to together to become the turn around franchise of the year.

My family and I enjoy vacationing in the Tampa area and try to take in a Tampa Bay ballgame if they happen to be in town. Not too long ago, watching a Tampa Bay game was like watching some bored girl in your language arts class in middle school scratch her fingernails on the chalkboard. Tim and I went to see the Yankees take on Tampa Bay a few years ago (we thought it would be fun to see some great players like Derek Jeter play the game). We picked up our tickets at the Will Call window and went inside Tropicana Field (what a field would look like if Salvador Dali designed a ballpark) to find our seats. We sat next to some retired season ticket holders (a rarity at the time – season ticket holders – not retirees) and settled in for some boiled peanuts while we waited for the Yankee exhibition to begin. I couldn’t help but notice that the park was about seventy percent empty and mentioned to my Pinellas County native on my left, “Is it always this bad?” He cut his eyes at me and replied with a gruff voice, “Yes!”

Boy what a difference a year or two can make. We returned to the ballpark this past summer to find major changes in the stadium and major ticket price increases (I guess they can do that when a team starts winning). We enthusiastically watched the Rays route the Blue Jays (even with two of my favorite former Cards players on the Toronto roster). The other noticeable change – fans – thousands and thousands of them filling and rocking the ballpark like I’d never seen.

I’ll always be a Cards fan, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to have a favorite team from the American League as well. Watching the Rays transformational season reminds me of what people can do in life with the right attitude, a commitment to make some tough choices, and a willingness to work hard for what you want. Don’t tell anyone, but I might just buy myself a Tampa Bay Rays jersey or jacket for Christmas and wear it to Busch stadium next year to watch the Cards. You never know – it might just inspire them a bit. Congratulations Rays on a great season!

The Fruit of Love

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, NIV).

 

Jesus said, “I chose you to go produce fruit that will last” (John 15:16, NLT). The Apostle Paul told the Colossian believers: “You will produce fruit in every good work and grow in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10, NCV). It is the Lord’s will that every believer bear fruit in four important categories: (1) the fruit of a fully devoted follower of Christ; (2) the fruit of the work of the anointing; (3) the fruit of the blessing of God; and (4) the fruit of the character forces of God (the fruit of the Spirit). For the next nine weeks in this column I will be discussing how to develop or “farm” the last category in the believer’s life—the fruit of the Spirit.

 

The first and most important character force of God or fruit of the Spirit is love. Paul admonishes the believer: “May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love” (Ephesians 3:17-18, NLT). God wants us to be thoroughly rooted and grounded in the force of love—that is to grow up and mature in the love of God.

 

The fruit of love, like the other fruit of the Spirit, is actually a spiritual force that when applied to the life of the believer accomplishes much. First, love gives the world a glimpse of God. Second, love frees the believer from fear. It is impossible to walk in perfected love and continue to dwell in fear. Third, love activates one’s faith. In fact, our faith is energized and empowered by love and limited and stunted when love is not employed. Fourth, love covers all wrongs. Love is forgiving, gracious, and kind when people fail. Finally, love marks you as a genuine Christian. Jesus said the test of our true discipleship is whether we have love one toward another (John 13:35).

 

There are three major keys for walking in love. First, decide to obey the command to love God and others. Love is not an option for us—we are told to love God, one another, our enemies, our neighbors, and our spouses unconditionally. It is no surprise that the greatest command is to keep the “greatest of these” called love. Love is a choice!

 

The second key for walking in the love of God is to develop the characteristics of the love walk: “So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always ‘me first,’ doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end” (1 Corinthians 13:3-7, MES). Love conducts itself in very specific ways. There are parameters and behaviors of love. In other words, love is not just a state of mind or a theological truth, or feeling. Love is a lifestyle (and full time job)!

 

The third key for walking in the love of God is to declare your love for God and for others. People need to hear that we love them. While individuals clearly have “love languages” (ways they like love communicated to them such as words of affirmation, meaningful touch, acts of service, receiving of gifts, and quality time), everyone from time to time needs to hear our love verbally declared to them. Words are very powerful. They are like containers that hold and transport things. Verbally expressing love to someone releases spiritual power in the life of the one that receives it. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Love is a word. Learn to speak it!

Voting the Economy, Emotion, or Ethics

Next Tuesday our nation will go to the polls to select the next President of the United States. There is no question that change is coming regardless of who is elected. The tension for the true born again believer in Jesus Christ in any election is deciding first and foremost what will be the primary basis of their vote.

Many people will cast a vote simply on the condition of the economy and the perceived impact the election will have on their personal financial situation. Others will vote out of emotion using their vote to make a statement about how they feel about the direction of the country in general and those they perceive to be most responsible for the situation.

But is there a basis for voting that transcends the economy and the emotional state of the voter? Should the believer look beyond personal benefit and individual anxiety over the state of affairs in our nation to cast a vote based on say, ethical or moral grounds? I believe the answer is yes.

One of the simplest ways to evaluate candidates from a moral perspective is to take the platforms from the major national candidates and lay them side by side next to the Ten Commandments and go right down the line to see how the respective platforms square with God’s timeless ethical standard. In addition to an honest evaluation of the party platforms in comparison to the morality of the Ten Commandments, a Christian should also consider important contemporary issues like abortion, the integrity of marriage, and the security of the State of Israel when deciding who to vote for.

The 2008 Presidential election will be a turning point not so much for the historical nature of the candidates such as the first major party African-American Presidential candidate or the first woman Vice-Presidential candidate nominated by the GOP, but for the huge cultural shift the election will reinforce. The Christian should remember that every matter is really a Lordship matter and our votes should be cast based on what we sense the Lord saying to us through His Word rather than what our party affiliation, our self-interests, or our emotions such as fear or anger would indicate.

I encourage you to fast and pray for the upcoming election and the ramifications of America’s decision. Seek God’s face before Tuesday and then cast your vote with a clear conscience knowing that you voted based on the ethics of the Word and not the economy or your emotions.

Blessed To Be A Blessing

“I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless him who blesses you. And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”  (Genesis 12:2-3, NKJV)

The blessing of God is the most powerful manifestation of God in the earth. In fact, from the beginning in Genesis 1 God revealed His perfect will that man should be blessed: “He blessed them and said…” (1:28). In fact the very first words that struck the human ear were the words of the blessing. If it was ever God’s will to bless His people it is still His will to bless His people.

By declaring the blessing over man, God gave him the ability to succeed, prosper, bear much fruit, and enjoy longeviity. The blessing was tied to man’s relationship and faithfulness to God including keeping to the Word of God (Deuteronomy 28:1-2). If we keep His Word, the blessing literally comes up on us and overtakes us.

That said, it is important to understand that the blessing has a mission and a mandate. If we accept the blessing, we also have to accept the assignment (like Abraham) to be a blessing. Our job is to empower others to prosper and succeed like God has empowered us. Make an extra special effort today to find someone and bless their life today. Find a way to empower them today to prosper and succeed. As you do, the blessing will continue to abide and work in your own life and family.

The blessing is working in you now!

Lessons From A Six Pound Toy Poodle

I really didn’t want another dog, but it was Kelli’s birthday and after looking at me with those dark puppy dog eyes of her own (the eyes I fell in love with years ago), I couldn’t resist. We answered an ad in the paper and headed out to Springfield, TN to inspect a small litter of three poodle pups. Kelli was immediately drawn to the smallest pup in the litter, a reserved and intimidated cinnamon colored pooch that didn’t seem to care too much if she was picked or not.

On the way home the poodle pup shook the entire time on the road and occasionally looked up at Kelli as if to say, “help!” At home, it didn’t take long for Princess (Kelli’s official name for the fluff ball) to get to know the other animal of the house and discover the wonderful value of having a friend with a built in chew toy attached to his rear. Princess adjusted rather quickly to her new surroundings, began to grow and get very attached to the family.

When I get to really liking someone (or some thing), I will typically begin to tease and come up with a tiring list of nick names. Princess very quickly became PeePoo (until she began to have routine accidents due to my momentary lapse of the revelation of the power of words), then I renamed her affectionately, Nopeenopoo. I also called her Pretty Girl (pronounced “purty” girl), Mocha Poo and Coca Poo (for her propensity for three dollar cups of coffee and drops of Coke left in a bottle), Jelly Belly (you wouldn’t believe me if I told you), Isopurty, etc. (you get the idea). Watching her follow me around and to bed, I realized the feelings were mutual.

So, what can you learn from a six pound poodle named Peepoo? First, just be yourself. If they don’t like you (or want you), they’re the ones missing out. I couldn’t imagine now missing Princess digging gum out of the trash after everyone leaves the room, plopping on the couch, and doing her best to figure out how to keep that gum in her mouth long enough to derive any pleasure from it and quickly before the contraband is confiscated.

Second, like all dogs with a terrible sense of time, Princess will greet you with unbridled tail wagging, cries, and a strange little circular dance until you recognize that royalty has entered the room – even if you’ve only been out of the house for ten minutes. What if we all treated the people in our lives like that? Surely with the love of God in our hearts we can at least follow the example of a six pound wonder!

More lessons from a six pound toy poodle with twenty nick names later…

The Fruit Tree

Christians are expected to do more than just live their lives and one day enter the glory and splendor of heaven. While on earth, we are expected to bear much fruit, and fruit that will stand the test of time (John 15:16). God desires that we live a life that honors and pleases him, producing fruit in every good work (Colossians 1:9-10).

There are several types of fruit flowing out of the life of a genuine believer such as the fruit of full devotion to the Lord, the fruit of the work of the anointing, the fruit of the blessing of God, and the fruit of the character forces of God, commonly known as the fruit of the Spirit. All of these areas of fruitfulness are important, but no fruit impacts the daily influence of the believer more than the development of the fruit of the Spirit. People and circumstances are forever changed when the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – is released in our lives. There are three insights I want to share to help you develop the fruit of the Spirit in your daily life.

First, stay away from tree poison. It is impossible to bear much fruit when we allow ourselves to be influenced by the wicked, the sinners, or the scoffers. Avoid poisonous beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and people (Psalm 1:1). Keep this principle from Proverbs in mind daily: “The godly are like trees that bear life-giving fruit, and those who save lives are wise”(11:30).

Second, stay rooted and grounded in the word of God. No tree can survive and bear fruit unless it is well grounded. We are to delight ourselves in the word – to stay in it diligently and apply it to our own lives daily (Palm 1:2). Our spiritual roots are to go down deep in the Lord and his word so that our lives can be built on him (Colossians
2:6-7). The tree is enriched by the nutrients picked up in the soil by its root system. The tree is also made strong and stable by the network of roots below the surface of the ground. Like a tree, the believer is also nourished, strengthened, and stabilized by its root system.

Third, stay near the river. Psalm 1:3 teach that the blessed person is planted like a tree by streams of water. This well placed tree bears fruit in season, does not wither away, and prospers perpetually. Like natural trees, believers will bear much fruit and prosper if they stay near the living water of the Holy Spirit through daily fellowship in the presence of God.

God has appointed us to bear fruit and fruit that will remain. Make up your mind today to be a fruitful tree by staying away from tree poison, by staying rooted and grounded in the word of God, and by staying near the river of God’s presence daily. As you apply these principles you will steadily become a prosperous fruit tree. So don’t be surprised when the lonely and hurting begin stopping by to pick some of your fruit!

Next Year

The season started with such promise and then everything seemed to fall apart. To add insult to injury, I had to watch with horrified Cards fans as the Cubs took the pennant (although we all knew they would end up choking anyway in post season). I wonder which fan the Cubs will blame this year for their implosion?

No Sin Too Big

Join us at HHC this Sunday morning as we are reminded that God is bigger than any sin we have every committed or will ever commit. Discover several powerful principles for overcoming that big or stubborn sin area in your life – this week at the Harbor! This would be a great time for you to invite someone that is struggling with a major sin issue or life controlling problem. I encourage you to check out our brand new 9:00 am “HHC Classic” service (Murray only) featuring an intimate and powerful time of worship. Our 10:30 am “HHC Rock” service is more powerful than ever and features the cutting edge worship experience you’ve come to love. Either service, we look forward to seeing you this Sunday at the Harbor!

Big God for Big Problems

One Old Testament name for our God is El Elyon. This name means the Most High God, the biggest of the big, the strongest of the strong, or the God that is higher than any person, any thing, and any other god. It’s comforting and reassuring to know that no problem or challenge can stand if we are in covenant with the Most High God. Remember to (1) look to the big God and not to a little imposter, (2) magnify the Lord and not the problem, and (3) focus on God’s abilities and not your limitations.

We would love to hear your story about how the Most High God came through in your life! Add your story by making a comment.