Do Unto Others…a 2017 Challenge

How was 2016? A challenge? A blessing?

For some, it was a very tough year. Loss of a loved one, declining finances, emotional struggles, physical ailments and many more difficult circumstances left some grief, heartache and suffering. For some, all was really good…they can’t remember much suffering, no complaints from them. For most, I guess, it was a combination of both.

In every situation, I hope, all of us have found others that have come along and been there for us. Those are the ones I’d like to focus on.

Who lifted us up, when we fell?
Who helped us, during times we could not even help ourselves?
Who encouraged us, when we experienced disillusion and disappointment?
Who told us the truth, even when it hurt, but they loved us too much to not say it?
Who spoke to us words of affirmation, when we felt the whole world was condemning us?
Who forgave us, especially when we couldn’t forgive ourselves?
Who believed in us, when everyone else, including us, stopped believing in ourselves?
Who taught us new skills, as we struggled to move forward with our limitations?
Who told us we could do it, when circumstances and people around us were saying we could not?

In Matthew 7:12 we read: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you…” (NLT) The Bible states that on this one principle, all of the teaching of the law and the prophets revolve.

The Golden Rule…I’ve heard it so many times throughout my life. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The words ring so true in each one of our hearts and minds. As we think through the questions above, this simple but profound statement awakens a memory of the people who, in this last year and throughout our lives, were the ones that blessed us with the positive attitude and loving actions listed.

So, my challenge for you (and me) this new year is to go out and do unto others as many have done unto us. That we would…lift others up, encourage others, tell others the truth, speak words of affirmation to others, forgive others, believe in others, teach others what we know and tell others they can do it.

Enjoy making others feel the way we felt when others did these for us…what an awesome year it will be!

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Posted in New Year

Polling Place Prayer

A call to nationwide prayer!

polling-place

Election Day is a few weeks away and we need God more than ever! I plead with you to make prayer a priority during this important season of our nation’s life. Would you pray at your polling place this November 8th? Pray in person and quietly or in silence…this is not a picket but a prayer time! We are not asking God to take sides politically, but for Him to use our process and our participation in it for His honor and glory!

If you would share this on your social media pages and ask others to share, we could get the word out throughout this nation and experience God’s favor on us, individually and nationally.

Polling Place Prayer…showing up to vote for a Higher Purpose!

 

Posted in Election, Prayer

The Pulse…A lesson for all Christians

We grieve again…

The massacre in Orlando this past Sunday brought pain to so many – family, friends and to many of us. There is intense suffering and grief in so many hearts. It hurts deeply that so many lost their lives, many of them so young and with so much to live for, as I looked at their pictures and read their stories. A senseless act by a hate-driven individual has wrought destruction and despair. My heart goes out to all affected and afflicted.

We will take away many things from this and will talk about them for some time. The gun issue, security at clubs, follow-up on questionable individuals, the responsibility to alert authorities when threats are suspected. All of these and many more will be discussed, debated and determined over time. As I wept for the victims and horrors of this past week, I came across a lesson that I think might be hidden from many in the aftermath of this tragedy. It’s a lesson for all Christians everywhere. The lesson of practicing compassion and love.

Many have pointed the finger at Christians and our churches, accusing us of bigotry and intolerance. And, in some cases, rightly so. I believe that many of my brothers and sisters have given us, and God Himself, a bad name as they bad mouth and scorn gay individuals in our society. The hate that is sometimes seen, practiced by supposed Christ followers, is appalling to me.

I certainly understand that many who would call us Christians intolerant have, at least, two issues to deal with: first, the fact that we are all bundled into one intolerant group when someone says an unloving statement or performs an unkind act when, in fact, not all of us are like that; second, the realization that, even though some label us intolerant, we are also the recipients of intolerance by many of those same people that would label us as such.

But here is my bottom line today: if we are followers of Christ, and His teachings should guide our lives and His light should shine through us, then His example should be followed in all things. Was He not the one that touched lepers? Did He not give hope and a new life to a practicing prostitute? To the multiple divorcee, did He not extend grace? To a thief on the cross and for thieves in the marketplace, did He not die for him and dine with them also? Did He or did He not offer forgiveness to usurpers of power and religious hypocrites? As some only followed Him for food and miracles, did He not feed and heal? Wasn’t He respectful, kind, loving and compassionate to many “undeserving” individuals? And, last but not least, did He not have mercy on us, sinners accepted into His Kingdom through kindness and love?

I read a story yesterday that illustrates well what I’m talking about. Known for closing on Sundays, Chick-fil-a restaurants opened their doors, fired up the grills to make sandwiches and brewed tea, then served these to the people in line to donate blood and to law enforcement personnel. A company wrongly accused by some to be intolerant, showing love and compassion.

And the scores of churches that supported and helped, prayer vigils that were held and services that were conducted, even by many that would not approve of the lifestyle but that love and care for individuals made in the image of our God. In one church I heard off, a gay young man was overwhelmed by the fact that those he thought were against him were actually praying for him. Compassion and love have to be practiced, not just talked about.

As I have for most of my life, I will continue to uphold the standards spelled out in the Bible. All of the called out sins are wrong and all sins, both mine and yours, can be forgiven by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ. And, as the old adage says, the ground is level at the foot of the Cross. No one is turned away, gay and straight, rich and poor, homeless and home owners, healthy and sick, single and married, child and adult, employed and unemployed, lowly and mighty, Republican and Democrat…all of us can bring our individual sins with us, in a repentant manner, and find forgiveness.

When asked about the greatest commandment, Christ brought all the Scriptures down to two things – love God and love people. We might do well in practicing the second as we fulfill the first.

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Posted in Current events, Uncategorized

Is There Room for Him?

“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:1-7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬‬‬

Jesus ended up being born in a stable, a manger, because there was no room for Him… 

Some people missed out on the greatest event in human history – the birth of the God child, the second person of the Trinity. In a little town named Bethlehem…

The hotel owner had no room…

Other people, who could have come to help a pregnant girl and her family, had no room…

Later on in history,

King Herod had no room…

The soldiers, the ones that carried out the killing of all Jewish children under 2 years old, had no room…

Even later in His life,

His fellow nationals, the Jewish people, had no room for Him…

The religious people of His day did not have room for Him…

At the end of His earthly life,

The government leaders had no room for Him…

The people at large, the crowd that yelled “Crucify him”, had no room for Him…

How about today? 

Do people have room for Him? Does government? Do religious people? Our country?
Our churches?  Our society?

Maybe a more poignant question would be – Do I have room for Him…Jesus? 

Do you? 

Please, don’t miss out on the blessing, like so many have throughout history…make room for Him!


May you and your family have a Merry Christmas!

Posted in Christmas

Keeping It Together When the World Is Falling Apart

(A message shared with the congregation of Taft Street Baptist Church this past weekend, pastored by Albert Gerena, based on the book of Habakkuk…)

2015 has been a really tough year for me…health, family, work, ministry, the world…it has been tough!  Mind you, I’m not saying it has been devoid of blessings, just that it has been really tough.

Maybe someone can relate to that…it has been the toughest yet.  Or maybe it was just really tough.  Or maybe it seems like any other or perhaps it has been an OK or even and easy, carefree year for you.

One thing is for sure – our world is going mad!

I was deeply touched by the reporter killings back in August…I watched the video of the shooting.  The beheading of the Christians…the suicide bombers…the senseless killings in schools, a recruiting office, places of business and a church…biased media, Christian bashing and immoral laws passing.

Leaves me asking “Why?”  Do you ask yourself the same question?

Is there an answer to why all of this evil and suffering?  Could there be a way to overcome our feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, in the midst of all that is going wrong with the world?  Could there be something that God is trying to teach us to do or to be?

While I was thinking about the terrible state of the world a few months back, God reminded me of a passage…someone a long time ago had some of the same questions, during a horrible period in the world during his lifetime…a prophet named Habakkuk…some 2,700 years ago, he had the same questions.

I’ll read it in the New Living Translation, so it sounds like I’m reading my thoughts, maybe your thoughts:

“How long, O Lord, must I call for help?  But you do not listen!  “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save.  Must I forever see these evil deeds?  Why must I watch all this misery?  Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence.  I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight.  The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts.  The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.”  Habakkuk 1:2-4

What?  You had the same problems 2,700 years ago?  There is nothing new under the sun, said Solomon…so true.

So, what did God do about it?

“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded.  For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.”  Habakkuk 1:5 ESV

Can I tell you a secret?  God is going to do something awesome using the circumstances of our day…

Now, sometimes He lets it get worse before it gets better…I think the whole Bible is clear on that one.  In Habakkuk’s case, God brought the Babylonians and they ransacked Judah and also conquered the world.

Habakkuk then complaints again, questioning God abut His holiness…How can God let this happen?  Would He do anything to stop this madness?

God lets him know that there is more that he needs to learn, some things will happen after He takes care of everything…in the near future and the eternal future.  No one will get away with anything…God will have the last word!

Habakkuk learns his lesson and says this at the end of his book:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord;  I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”  Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV

But let’s backtrack and see what drove Habakkuk to that conclusion…there were some basic things he did that got him there.  How do you keep it all together when the world is falling apart?

1. He took his concerns to God (1:2-4)

“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?  Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?  Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.  So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth.  For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.”  Habakkuk 1:2-4 ESV

We complain that this is going wrong, the government doesn’t do this other, my wife or husband is like this, kids are a mess, my job is the pits…the list is long…do we take it to God?

Habakkuk was tired of seeing so much evil and suffering…so am I…you might be there too…but instead of complaining about it to each other, let’s take it to God and talk to Him about the issues.

2. He looked for answers from God (1:12-17)

“Are you not from everlasting,  O Lord my God, my Holy One?  We shall not die.  O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.  You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?  You make mankind like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler.  He brings all of them up with a hook; he drags them out with his net; he gathers them in his dragnet; so he rejoices and is glad.  Therefore he sacrifices to his net and makes offerings to his dragnet; for by them he lives in luxury, and his food is rich.  Is he then to keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever?”  Habakkuk 1:12-17 ESV

Whatever You are doing, God, I think its weird and it goes against who You really are…and he continued to ask God – Why?

Ask God, seek His answers:

When you can’t understand His plan…

When you don’t see a reason for it…

When it doesn’t make any sense…

When you think He has made a mistake…

When it seems like He has fallen asleep…

Ask God!  Seek answers!

3. He actively waited (2:1)

“I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.”  Habakkuk 2:1 ESV

I will watch at my post…I’ll be the sentinel…I will stand firm…I will be vigilant…I will wait for an answer…I will respond to that answer.

Actively waiting…

I’ll do what I can do and God will take care of doing what I cannot do…

I’ll do the possible, God will do the impossible…

I’ll do the natural, God will do the supernatural…

Lazarus’ resurrection in John 11 – resurrecting Lazarus was up to God…but Jesus asked others to move the stone and to take off his bandages afterwards.

We do what we can do and God does what we cannot do!

“Be still, and know that I am God…”  Psalm 46:10 ESV

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…”  Psalm 37:7 ESV

“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”  Exodus 14:14 ESV

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  1 Peter 5:6-11 ESV

4. He recognized God’s sovereignty (3:17-19)

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”  Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV

Habakkuk learned the lesson…Which was that main lesson?  God is sovereign!  Noticed his use of God, the Lord in verse 19.

He had gone through the same list that you and I probably go through:

Why?  It’s Ok to ask…

What for?  Is there a lesson here for me?

Why not me?  What makes me so special that I would not go through trials and hardships?

Who is with me?   In everything that I go through, He is with me!

There is no panic in heaven, only plans…there is no desperation there, only a perfect design.

5. He reacted with joy (3:18)

“…yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”  Habakkuk 3:18 ESV

The fitting reaction…I will rejoice and have joy in Jehovah…not in the circumstances but in the Sovereign Lord of the Universe, the Lord of Hosts, the God Almighty.

He understood what God told us through Nehemiah – “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…

Let us…

Take our concerns to God

Look for answers from God

Actively wait

Recognize God’s sovereignty

React with joy

Remember…God is up to something great!

“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded.  For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.”  Habakkuk 1:5 ESV

Maybe He wants to do that great work in and through us!

Posted in Uncategorized

Commitment, 33 years and counting

Today is my wedding anniversary…33 years and counting. I can say the “secret” is something called commitment. Commitment to:

• The love I said I had – I have to continue to find it, express it and show it

• Her needs and not my own – love is all about the other person, not me

• Looking for ways to serve her – sacrificially and unselfishly

• Searching for solutions and not just the problem

• My role as husband – we are equal persons with different roles

• Obeying God
And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6 NKJV)

• Fight for my marriage – times are hard, temptations are everywhere, it’s easy to give up…fight!

I know it’s hard. I see it every day, listen to the accounts of people in relationships…I understand. It doesn’t have to be, but I understand divorce. I have also seen the pain it causes. And the pain of any good relationship that breaks up. I know that, in some extreme cases, it is unavoidable and at times best. But it is not the plan from the beginning.

In marriage, as in everything in life, commitment is the key.

(From Thursday Morning B.R.E.W. For 6/5/14)

Posted in Uncategorized

National Day of Prayer 2014

My Father,

We are so privileged to have the opportunity to come before you today and intercede for others and plead for ourselves.

Forgive us for being self focused and thinking that we can help ourselves, when all along we need You, your grace and power in our lives to overcome.

Watch over our nation. Guide our government officials as they make decisions…May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give them wisdom, clarity and an others focused mentality.

Guard our communities and the families that make them up. Protect the ones that can’t protect themselves, especially the little ones. Provide for the homeless, heal the sick, diminish the violence and empower us to love one another. Watch over our first responders and keep them safe.

Put a hedge of protection around each pastor and their families. May the ministers in the spiritual front lines be true to You always. May we be totally surrendered to Your will and way in our lives so we can guide others to do the same.

As our military provides and guards the liberty we enjoy in this land of the free, may they feel Your presence and constant watch. May peace prevail, first in their own hearts and then in the places where they serve. May they come home safe.

Guide our corporate leaders in America to cherish integrity and character. May they be servants that follow Your example. Thank you for the ones You have raised up to be Your voice in this vast mission field that is corporate America.

Lastly, but in first place, change us to be more like Your Son. Allow us the privilege to embrace and emulate His character. May we be people that love You and others as our top priorities. Fills us with You and let our joy be complete.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

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Posted in Prayer