Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I love this holiday. I have more than I can name to be thankful for, but I always like to mention a few.
I am thankful for my wife. She is the girl of my dreams and the love of my life. Everything I ever wanted in a woman is fulfilled in her, except the fact that she does not fish or like baseball. (I have to keep her humble) Other than that, she is everything I could dream of in a wife.
I am thankful for my kids and grandkids. They are far from perfect, but, I still like them. None of them have become filthy rich yet so I will probably have to work until I am really old. I am still thankful for them.
I am thankful for my church. It is full of really weird people who remind me that God made none of us perfect. Some of them look weird and most of them act weird. They will make it possible for me to continue working as a pastor until I am really old.
I am thankful for the friends that I have. Really.
I am thankful for my salvation through Jesus Christ. I do not deserve what He did for me.
I think that is all I want to mention right now. There has been plenty that I did not mention for someone to get their feelings hurt because I did not mention them or what they did.
I want to close out this blog by telling you who I am thanking. Way too many people say that they are thankful, but don’t really think about who they are thankful too. In my case it is God. Not a god, but the one true living God. The one who forgave me, started fixing me, and will always love me. The God that gave me everything I mentioned above and everything I failed to mention. He made the turkeys that we will eat and the families that we will be hanging out with. He gave His Son to die in my place and His Spirit to guide me through this life. Without Him I am nothing but a body waiting to expire. With Him I am anything He wants me to be and even though this life is temporary, He has assured me of a life that will never end. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. That is who I am thanking. Not just during this great holiday, but everyday that He lets me live on this earth.
Thanks God! And Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I love this holiday. I have more than I can name to be thankful for, but I always like to mention a few.
This weekend is our second annual church camping trip. Our participation has doubled from last year and so the pressure is on to make it as much or more fun. I don’t think that this will be a problem. As I have said so many times before, I love the people of my church. They are weird, whacky, and fun to be around.
Last year we did our camping in late October and it just happened to be the coldest October in the history of the planet. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but it was cold. The low temps were in the 30’s, although my feet said that it was more like 20 below. But we had plenty of firewood, warm clothes, blankets and moonshine. Just kidding, we didn’t have any moonshine, but you would think that some of these people were drinking. There was way too much laughing and cutting up for that many people to be sober, right? Not this bunch. We are had rather be filled with the Spirit rather than strong drink.
So this year we moved the trip back a month and the weather is supposed to be perfect. Highs in the upper 70s and lows in the upper 50s. The rain has moved out and the sun is supposed to shine abundantly. We were a bit worried, as all this week it has rained several times very hard; I am talking inches of rain.
Something about camping just makes for a lot of fun. Fishing, making smores, singing around the campfire and hiking are just a few things that lend to the fun. My favorite thing is eating food cooked over a fire. Hopefully there will be some fresh fish this year. But what I look forward to the most is the fellowship with my friends and family and the worship on Sunday morning. Last year my friendship with those who went grew exponentially and I believe that this will happen again this year.
Worshiping around a campfire on Sunday morning with a bunch of friends is an awesome experience. This year I won’t have to try to play guitar with frost-bitten fingers. In fact, won’t have to play guitar at all. We are going to be treated to worship led by our international student that has invaded my house. He is an incredible musician and will be playing and singing. I have asked him to not only lead us in English but to sing a song in Korean. Why? Because God uses praise to speak to our hearts, not our ears. So the worship time will be very special. Then I get to preach with coffee in hand and still wearing my pajamas. No, not the sexy ones that you think I wear, those are for my favorite wife, who will be in her pajamas, and well, she makes them all look…never mind. Back to the preaching.
I love preach/teaching in an intimate atmosphere and being around a campfire is as good as that gets. God’s creation glorifies Him and puts the pressure on us to glorify Him. I am not sure what I will talk about, but it will be different from my normal preaching schedule this year. I want to be sure that we get a chance to experience worship and fellowship in a way that makes us all desire to be back next year with even more friends and family.
I love my church! I can’t wait to hang out with them and experience God’s fellowship with us.
This is another topic suggested by some of you when I asked for new blog ideas. What is that old saying? Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. Any way, I got it and will try to enlighten. Can anyone sense a chance for controversy or maybe dry humor? The complete suggestion was about demon possession and oppression. Because those words are long and difficult for me to type, I will blog about what I think you need to know about demons.
I guess the first question to answer is do I believe in demons. The answer is yes. I raised three children and each one of them were evil. (Right about now, many are gasping at my cruelty…get over it) I believe in demons like most people do to one degree or another. I think more people believe in evil spirits than a God. Just look at stories through generations of humanity and how there has always been evil spirits in them. Most cultures have evil spirits that are blamed for what goes wrong. Ancient tribes in Africa and the Amazon, native American, and Island tribes all give place to evil spirits. Hollywood has always used evil spirits as plots to movies and today’s television programs are full of supernatural evil beings.
That is not why I believe in them. I believe in them because I believe in Jesus Christ and He believed in them. He did not just believe in them but He conquered them. He warned Christians against an ever-present battle between good and evil. What I find most funny is that when Christians start talking about evil spirits we are wacky but when someone says that they can speak to the dead, good and evil, they are deemed psychic and can even help solve crimes. People criticize Christians for believing in a Bible that claims the existence of good and evil but will flock to the theaters to see a movie about the same.
The Bible speaks clearly about demons being fallen angels and Satan being the leader. It talks about humans being overtaken by these demons and their every action controlled by them. It speaks of those who do not believe in God and Jesus being possessed to the point of their very souls being owned by them. It tells of people who are freed from this control but never totally surrendering to God and therefore being overtaken again. It tells us that Christians can yield their well-being to evil spirits and live in an oppressed state of being.
Possession has been glamorize by Hollywood. The Exorcism is a reminder of how enthralled we can be over such things. But it puts the emphasis on a man called a priest to free the girl from the demon and the emphasis should be on Jesus. Only He can free someone who is controlled by demons. Yes, He has given believers authority to cast out demons, but it is only under His power that we can do so and you don’t have to be a Catholic priest to do so.
Oppression is when a Christian does not yield to the Spirit of God and opens themselves up to control by evil spirits. I personally believe that once you are the child of God you can never be possessed by anyone other than God. But I also believe that God will allow us to be oppressed by evil if we are disobedient. (1 Corinthians 5:5- hand such a person over to Satan to destroy his corrupt nature so that his spiritual nature may be saved on the day of the Lord.) But I believe this oppression can be defeated by something as simple as repentance.
Either way you slice it, demons are not to be taken lightly. If you do not believe in God, they will twist your head around on your body and make you puke green stuff. If you do believe in God they will make you disobedient to God. Most importantly, they want to keep you from knowing Jesus Christ as your Savior. They want you to go to Hell. God does not.
The short book of Joel in the Old Testament is a great encouragement to those who may have fallen away from their relationship with God. With only 3 chapters of reading it is full of promised blessings to a nation of people who were far away from where they needed to be in their relationship with God as a people could get. Yet because God desires to love us and bless us, instead of wiping them out, He promises earthly and spiritual blessings for their return to Him.
Most church people know the book of Joel because Peter quoted this verse in his sermon on the day of Pentecost. Joel 2:28After this, I will pour my Spirit on everyone. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. Sadly we don’t read the rest of the three chapters to see what is happening. It is a great promise and exciting to hear that God is gonna pour out His Spirit on us, but somehow, whenever I hear this quoted in the church it is made to sound as if God was doing this because we were doing good things. The promise was made to a people who were in total rebellion and the Spirit of God is given to a bunch of people who still are disobedient and rebellious. We can only do the good things of God with His Spirit and without, we usually get into trouble.
God rejoices in our returning to Him. When we stray, God is grieved. He loves us and desires to have our fellowship. I am not talking about going to church on Sunday fellowship, but rather His desire to have us talk to Him and listen to Him and join Him in the work of making salvation and forgiveness available to anyone who will believe on a daily basis. Sadly though, the church rebels against God as much as Israel did in the Old Testament. But just like His passion to see Israel return to Him, God desires us to return and when we do, He blesses us with awesome love and forgiveness. Then He puts us back to sharing that love with others. That is why He pours out His Spirit on us and allows us to see glimpses of glory through dreams and visions.
What? You are not having those visions of glory? You are not feeling the love? Could it be that you are more concerned with you than with God? Could it be that you want God as your back-up plan in case you fail? I occasionally see a bumper sticker that says, God is my co-pilot. God doesn’t want to be your second in command. He wants to be first. Matthew 6:33 But first, be concerned about his kingdom and what has his approval. Then all these things will be provided for you. When we put God first, then we can have the blessings. When we put Him anywhere but first, we can only have the warning of correction if we don’t change our ways, but God always shows the promise of how much it is worth the change to seek Him first and all else after that.
I desire visions of glory. How ’bout you?
I went to see a friend today that just had a triple bypass heart operation. He was doing remarkably well for someone who 4 days ago had his chest cracked open. I laughed because I drove about 40 minutes, and only stayed about 2 minutes because he said he was hungry and sleepy, then had to run in the rain back to my truck to drive 40 minutes back. But it was a great use of my time to see an answered prayer face to face.
The human heart is an amazing organ. It pumps blood 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year for on average, almost 80 years. When something goes wrong with it we know it. We get tired, short of breath, and often feel pains like we have never felt before. What my friend had was what is most common for heart problems and that is blocked arteries that supply blood to the thing that pumps the blood. When this happens there are a couple of things that can happen. In the best cases, we can change our diet and exercise, and start taking some medications to help clear things out. A little worse and you get to have a roto rooter job done on the arteries and have stents put in to open them up. This too usually comes with diet and exercise changes and some meds. The last and most severe cases get the ol’ bypass operation. This is where they crack open your chest, clip some spare parts from other locations and install them in the heart to get the blood flowing again. Once this takes place they again tell you to change your diet, exercise and take some meds. With advances in medicine, most people are living 20 or more years after this procedure and regaining their health to a level that was better than before. Incredible!
The human heart is not only the amazing organ that keeps us alive but has also become the symbolic place of our emotions and our conscious. We ‘wear our hearts on our sleeves’ if we show emotions to easily for some and we are quick to say that ‘God knows our hearts’ when talking about our intentions to do good. God is called the Great Physician because He can physically heal our bodies when doctors say there is no hope, but what He does to our heart that we claim controls our inner being is even more amazing.
I have had a bad heart since I was born. The organ is fine, but the inner me is really in need of some help. My condition fluctuates from one degree to the other, but either way, without the help of the Great Physician, I would be dead. When I was about 20 years old I realized that my heart was really bad and God actually gave me a transplant. He put in me a new heart that He had designed to overcome my sin problems. He told me that if I would eat right and exercise that I would have no problems but if I ever decided to go back to my old habits, I would have problems. He restores the blood flow that gives life. That blood is the blood of Jesus. My diet is the word of God and the exercise is my faith of which I need to walk daily with.
There have been times when I ignored the Doctor’s orders and went back to eating the same old junk I use too and I have needed the bypass. It was painful and even embarrassing to think that I messed it up so bad. But I regained my spiritual health and started eating better and exercising and things went good. He restored the blood flow and sin was no longer clogging the way to my heart.
Today, there are still times that I have to allow the doctor to check me out and He usually fusses if I am straying off my diet and exercise. He prescribed a daily dose of His word to me back when I got my transplant and it is usually when I don’t take it like I should that the problems start-up. But every time that I get back on my daily routine that was prescribed, I feel better and my heart feels good.
The doctor really gets great joy when he sees a patient years after an operation and the patient is doing well. I don’t think anything is more disappointing to them than to see a person waste such a wonderful opportunity get their lives back. The doctor can only do so much, we must take responsibility for following His prescription for good health.
Every day now I check in with my Doctor. He is great in that He never gets tired of my calls. He never stops encouraging me to live the lifestyle that He prescribes and promises that no matter how much damage I do, He can fix it if I will let Him. The old part of me still desires the stuff that messes me up, but the more I stick to His plan the better my heart really is.
I hope that you never have to experience a heart bypass, but if you do, be encouraged that it will work and your heart will get better. I hope that everyone will let the Great Physician replace your old heart with a new one and that you to can have a life that is eternal. But don’t ever try to crack your own chest open and do it yourself. You will die. And you know what? You can’t fix your spiritual heart either and that death is forever. See the Doctor and get it done right
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stubborn hearts and give you obedient hearts.
27 I will put my Spirit in you. I will enable you to live by my laws, and you will obey my rules.
28 Then you will live in the land that I gave your ancestors. You will be my people, and I will be your God.