Working & Walking

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Before I go into any actual devotional rhetoric, let me brag on our God for a moment. He is so faithful and awesome. The Lord always blesses me with pleasant surprises, helping me to glorify his name.

Earlier today (while at work), I trolled WordPress blogs for good reads and inspiration because my writing has been stunted this year. What can I say? I’m experiencing a dry spell, and the well could really use some replenishing. During my random searching, I discovered “When I’m With You…Whitney Ibe Blog!” and was instantly smitten by this brilliant blog created by a faithful sister in Christ. After reading a few of Whitney’s blogs, my spirit was willing…but my flesh proved to be weak. For the bulk of my lunch hour, I stared aimlessly at a blank Word screen trying to force a story into existence. Finally, I conceded defeat, shut down the blank document and went on about the business of my profession, wondering when a time would come when I could leave this line of work behind for something better suited toward writing for the Lord.

After work this evening, I stole away to my favorite prayer closet to spend time with the Lord. The iPod was plugged into the Bluetooth speaker. My bible was set on my bed. The sounds of rainstorms filled the air. I hit the floor, but at some point during my prayer-time, I dozed off. Personally, I think it was the thunder and rain pounding through the speaker. I awoke frustrated but determined to at least get my read so I sat up and stretched. Opening my bible to the next chapter of Acts, I never made it five verses into the chapter, before the Lord showed up with inspiration. I stopped reading, opened my laptop, and immediately began typing.

Acts 18:3-4 (NKJV) – “3So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. 4And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.”

The Apostle Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees. He was a learned man of Scripture. He was a former terrorist who had completely souled out to Jesus. He performed miracles of healing and even raised the dead during his missionary trips. He was…a tentmaker by trade. Family, pastor-brother Paul was a regular Joe with a day job! Yet, somehow he managed to consistently make it to church every week and preach with such boldness that he led Jews and Greeks to the Lord! Man, I really felt led to share this revelation because somebody out there is seriously questioning what God is doing in their life, in regards to the profession they find themselves in.

Throughout the New Testament, we see examples of Paul’s tremendous effectiveness for the kingdom of God. But these two verses in Acts also proved that Paul was merely a man who—just like us—needed to make a living. His tent-making profession may not have directly helped him to further God’s purposes, but it sure did help him eat, I’ll bet. And his day-job never hindered his ability to preach the Gospel and win souls to Christ. God blessed Paul with that specific skillset and profession, to help support himself.

Maybe your day job isn’t glamorous. Maybe you’re questioning the Lord’s purpose in positioning you right where you are, professionally. Maybe you’re frustrated with long hours or little pay—or both. Remember that God knows exactly where you are, and can use you in your profession. We simply have to live out our Christian walk, even on the job. Let me close this with a true story.

Last October, I was placed on a construction site as the Engineer’s site representative. I was to work closely with the site’s Superintendent—a feisty, foul-mouthed youngster with a loud personality and the girth to back up his temper. A few days into the project, I wondered what the Lord’s plan was for sticking me with this young man who, at first glance, shared nothing in common with me. But, as time and the project rolled by, I learned some things about my young friend. Frank had grown up Christian, and though his language might tell otherwise, he remembered a few things about scripture. I never had to pressure Frank, or hit him over the head with the bible. But, little by little, he grew curious about whatever he saw in my life.

Last week, Frank came to church with me, and fell in love with the Lord. He has a light in his eyes today that I’ve never seen before. Two days ago, he purchased a new study bible through Amazon, and seems excited about its arrival. For the last few days at work, we review his bible trivia app during lunchtime. Best of all, Frank is planning to shut the job down at 3PM this coming Friday, so that he and I can make it to church at 7PM, to celebrate good Friday!

I did nothing, family. This miracle’s glory belongs solely to God! I simply went to work every day. Paul held his day-job and still won souls for Christ. The Lord can use you for his purposes, right where you are. Some preachers are called to full-time ministry, but for us regular people, God provides a means of supporting ourselves in addition to the call on our lives. Never doubt where he has you. Maybe you are there to fulfill his purpose.

Saul

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I want to talk about Saul: the first anointed king of Israel. Before I can get into this interesting character study, let me give a little background for those who may not be familiar with this particular king. I think it’s important to get the gist of where he came from.

Just before 1 Samuel 10, we find that the children of Israel basically grew bored with following the leadership of God’s appointed judges. They wanted to be like all the other surrounding peoples and nations, who were ruled by kings. I guess they figured, “If a king is good enough for them, it’s good enough for us too”. The children of Israel took their petition to their recognized spiritual leader, Samuel. Now, Samuel never did anything without consulting God first, and this petition was a pretty big deal. Essentially, they were making a decision to follow the leadership of a man, over the leadership of God Almighty. But God took it all in stride.

“Sam,” I imagine God saying. “Don’t worry about it. It’s cool. They’re not turning away from you; they’re turning away from me. You’re in the clear. So, I’m gonna give ’em what they want. But…you be sure to explain to them exactly what kind of man they are about to get. Be sure to remind them that they asked for him.”

This kind of reminds me of a certain presidential election. I’m just sayin’…

To make a long story short, Samuel–led by God–chooses and anoints Saul, son of Kish, to be crowned the first king of Israel. Saul was handsome; he was strong and he was tall. Think…DuWayne “The Rock” Johnson; but with hair. The people were elated!

But Saul had some issues. He wasn’t very uhmm…disciplined. Saul loved the Lord (or so he claimed). He just had a problem with following the Lord’s commands to the letter. He would blatantly disregard the instruction of Samuel–who, by the way, was God’s representative of the day–to worship God in whatever way he saw fit. Not surprisingly, God eventually removed his presence from Saul.

Saul’s wishy-washy faith and obedience reminds me of how we sometimes behave, today. We like to serve God in our own special ways, totally disregarding his plans and his guidance. And then, just as Saul did, we grow jealous and agitated over those who seem to be blessed instead of us.

Did you know Saul grew so jealous of David, that he literally tried to pin him to the wall, with a spear…twice?

#HATER

We really cannot serve God any old willy-nilly way, and expect him to honor and bless us. It just doesn’t work that way. Think of it like this: you charge your 11-year old son with the responsibility of cleaning the kitchen five nights out of the week, for $5.00 at the end of the week. This kid washes a single dish and one fork on Monday, but expects to be paid $5.00 on Saturday! Sounds insane, right? That’s how we treat God; exactly how Saul did.

I propose a change. If we want to hear from God, and receive his blessings, we need to get to know him. That’s what relationships are for. You get to know a person; come to understand what their wants and needs are; and then cater to those needs or wants. God loves us, and wants the best for us. We simply have to follow him whole heartedly. That’s really not a hard thing to do, when we remove our selfish tendencies and lethargy. When we follow God, the way he wants us to follow him, watch out! The blessings come suddenly and often.

 

Marriage (Excerpt)

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Genesis 2:24 (NKJV) – “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh.”

From the beginning, God intended for one man to join with one woman, and for the two to become something new and whole entirely. This is what biblical marriage looks like, as ordained by our Heavenly Father. The first family—Adam and Eve—were created to compliment one another unabashedly. In fact, verse 25 of Genesis chapter 2 states, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” The first union should have been perfect, if not for human nature. Adam and Eve’s fall from grace ushered sin into the entire world, and erased perfection from marriage.

Today, television and movie screens paint marriage in many different facets, ranging from the perfect high school sweethearts who live out perfect lives in the west, to the perfectly prearranged middle-eastern marriages that survive lifetimes without trials. While such tales make for interesting entertainment, the truth of marriage is seldom a smooth-sailing route.

Marriage is work. Make no mistake about it, the happy-ending romantic dramas displayed for our entertainment usually oversimplify the complexity of the union between a man and woman. Real marriages often face insecurities, incompatibilities, compromises, deceitful choices and silent moments; all of which are firey darts shot for one very specific purpose. Sin constantly wants to destroy biblical marriage. If your marriage in under fire, take comfort in the fact that you are never alone. Anything worth having, must be fought for.

The Story of US (Prelude)

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Everyone has a story to tell. As long as we live and breathe, we are someone’s story: God’s. Perhaps you live a life of nonstop adventure, where every event is a celebration. Or, like many of us, maybe you live a simple life of Monday-Friday workdays, grocery store shopping and weekend Netflix. Maybe you’re the life of every party, or maybe you constantly fly under the popularity radar and that’s just the way you like it. No matter where you may fall on the “interest” scale, rest assured: you have a story to tell.

My wife and I just celebrated our 15th year of marriage, this past August. We are the parents of 5 children, ages 10 to 24. For the most part, we live seemingly normal lives of carpooling, school days, work days and church. We don’t drink alcohol. We’re non-smokers. We don’t party hard on the weekends. We haven’t experienced a genuine family vacation…ever. We drive a 10 year old Dodge Grand Caravan and a two year old Ford Fiesta. Together, our large family cram into a three bedroom home with one bathroom. Uh, did I mention that there are three women in the family? One bathroom can be quite challenging at times. On the surface our lives may seem dull, simply existing one day at a time. Perfectly harmless.

But then, you don’t really know us, do you?

You might not believe some of the things we’ve experienced individually and together. You might be shocked to discover that addictions and abuses have affected our family in ways that might end other relationships, if not for the grace of the Lord. You might deny the fact that Misty and I can each truthfully say, “I might not be here, if it weren’t for God”. You may even question the validity of our Christianity after discovering some of the things we’ve done, and continue to struggle with.

For years, we’ve tried to bury a past that would have left us a broken and splintered family. Some mistakes of our youth continue to resonate in our present. Past deeds haunt and hinder our future. But we know today that the God we serve can, and often does, grant us his grace and mercy. He supplies for our needs and also makes a way for us to break through. The more we grow in the Lord, the more I see the time approaching, where we will face our past together and share our stories with the world.

People are hurting. Individuals and couples alike are facing difficult situations daily; carrying secret pain that cannot be reconciled no matter how hard they may try. Our time to share is now. We want people to know, no matter how dark your situation may look, God can restore. God is the healer. Through him, all things are possible, especially redemption. I know personally.

This October, we’re stepping out on faith. Together, Misty and I will begin the journey of writing our story, in the hopes that it may one day inspire and encourage others who may be going through some of the experiences we’ve endured together. It will be painful, because it means facing demons, answering hard questions all while reaffirming our forgiveness of one another. No one is beyond God’s grace and mercy.If he continues to restore and strengthen us, just maybe our story will encourage someone out there to seek his face. We’re ready to share. Are you ready to experience our story?

 

C.A.N.C.E.R.

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The world is imperfect. It is flawed. No matter how strong you think you are, no one hits as hard as the world. You can spend hours in the gym, strengthening your muscles for years, only to be floored by a debilitating disease within months of a diagnosis.

The world is unfair. It is cruel. Why do good people suffer while seemingly wicked folk prosper? Some days you can give everything you’ve got and still come up short and disappointed. Sometimes our best efforts just aren’t good enough to capture a respite in the never ending struggles of life.

My bible tells me that Adam and Eve ushered sin and death into the world with a single act of disobedience. For a long time, I struggled accepting that fact as an adequate excuse for God allowing cancer to claim the life of my mother. In truth, I didn’t want to hear a single word spoken about God, when she died. I blamed him. He was the cause of her suffering, and the author of my family’s pain.

You can’t really explain what its like to watch a loved one die an agonizing death to cancer. To say something superficial like, “It’s like watching them be eaten away, from the inside out,” just doesn’t bring it home for those who have never experienced it personally. You have to be there. You have to see the life literally drain from their eyes, a little more each day. You have to be there, during the Chemo-sessions, to know fire rages through their bones and there isn’t a damned thing you can do to stop it. You have to sit there next to them, holding a hollowed hand, as they struggle unconsciously grasping at the last raspy breaths of life, the day before the inevitable. Then you’ll know the secret rage at a God who would allow such sin to exist in the first place.

Ironically, cancer turned out to be the driving force that would force me to face God. I spit at him; called him names and ultimately asked that all important question. I asked the only question that really mattered.

“Why would you do this?”

When his answer consistently replied, “I love you,” man did I ever get pissed off! What kind of answer was that?! I needed to know! I deserved to know! My Dad, sister and brother needed an answer! ‘I love you’ was unacceptable! My rage intensified.

But…I realize now…that God is love. Sometimes we simply have to accept his decision not to tell us his reasoning, and trust that all things work out for good…even when we can’t understand why. Eventually, God broke through my pain. I can’t even begin to tell you how he took my rage and changed it into a love that I had never known before. I don’t have the secret formula. But, I know he took all of the anger and hurt I harbored inside, and replaced it with peace in understanding that he is in control.

Watching my Momma die was one of the toughest experiences I’ve had to endure. But in her death, God gave me a new life to live. I know somehow that …cancer and I will cross paths again. I can’t explain that to you. But…I know it. The next time we meet, I’ll have God in my life to help me deal with its presence. While I’m not looking forward to the inevitable reunion, I have faith that God will see me through it.