R.O.C.K. (Who Are You Lord)?

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Before I dive into this acronym, I want to happily give credit where it’s due. This is NOT my original idea. In fact, the acronym was preached in my church (River of Life Assembly of God, 870 Savage Rd., Belleville, Mi 48111). So, the true credit goes to the author of the acronym; namely, Pastor J. Eddie Marcum. Pastor’s message was so powerful, that it caused me to really examine my personal relationship with the Lord. The basic principles behind the acronym were shared during his sermon. On my part, I wrote this piece based on some serious soul searching. My hope is that this post challenges you (dear reader) to search your own heart and honestly evaluate your relationship with the Lord. For the past few days, I’ve been asking myself a serious question:

“Who are you Lord?”

Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”

“Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah,” they answered.

“But,” Jesus retorted, “Who do you say that I am?”

Peter confidently replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Matthew 16:18 (NKJV) tells us that, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.'”

R – REVELATION

Simon–who was gifted with the new name, Peter, by the Lord–had received this truth by a revelation. In other words, the true nature of Jesus had been revealed to Peter by divine intervention on the part of GOD our Father. Peter hadn’t simply stumbled on the answer, on his own. He had to be shown who Jesus really is.

Family, in order for us to come into a deep relationship with the Lord, his true nature must be revealed to us. Sometimes we limit Jesus to being nothing more than our personal best friend. Sometimes we treat him as if he were our own personal genie, we call on when times are bad. I think these perspectives of the Lord are wrong. We all know a Christian brother or sister who constantly struggles to gain victory. Well…until there is a true understanding of just who Jesus really is, lasting victory is impossible. Sure, we might be able to suppress trouble areas of our lives for a time, but total victory can’t happen until we know who the Lord is and what he’s capable of doing in our lives. That’s why a wrong understanding of who he really is causes us to lack faith in what he can really do. We have to come to an understanding of who Jesus truly is. That revelation can’t come from your Pastor, your Mom, your Dad, or your best friend. They can all tell you what they may already know, but the revelation (for you) has to manifest in your heart. That revelation comes from God. He makes the true identity of Jesus personal for you.

O – OBEDIENCE

I’m going to go Old Testament for a moment here, so bare with me. When Saul was officially anointed first king of Israel, Samuel gave him specific instructions to obey the LORD. All he had to do was obey and things would go well for him. He didn’t, of course. Consequently, the kingdom of Israel was ripped from him and given over to another.

Christianity isn’t a lifestyle requiring a bunch of rules. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross gave us the ability to live in freedom. But don’t misunderstand; our freedom (as followers of Christ) should motivate us to obey God’s Word. Let me be clear: we are not bound by the law to perform certain tasks, or else. We are instead free to live without the chains that once bound us and because of the gratitude in our hearts, we ought to be moved to obey God’s Word.

Saul didn’t earn the title of king. It was given to him; a free gift of God. All he had to do to retain his title and secure his dynasty, was obey the LORD out of the love in his heart, for the LORD. But Saul felt pressured to live up to what he thought the people wanted him to be. His aim to please the people outweighed his love for the LORD, leading him to sin against GOD. Personally, I think he also developed the big-head syndrome. He began doing things the way he wanted, without consulting the LORD first.

Sometimes we do the same. We think to ourselves, “Eh, a little bit of this won’t hurt anybody.” That instantaneous choice to disobey God can have long lasting effects on our lives. How can we honestly expect Jesus to care for us, if we don’t care for him. Obedience to the Lord is not punishment. He wants us to be obedient, so that we might live in the fullness of him. Obedience to Jesus keeps us away from troubles we can’t see. His sight is long, while ours is very limited.

I know a young man who constantly struggles with the peer pressures of life. Whenever we talk, I usually hit him with the same questions. You would think after some time, he might catch the hint.

“Have you been reading your bible?”

“Have you been praying?”

“No” is always the answer. Yet…he can’t understand why he continues to trip over the same issues. I gotta tell you, this exasperates me, which leads to my greatest personal challenge of all.

C – COMPASSION

Family, I’ve got to be the least compassionate person I know. I’m not proud of it. My lack of compassion puts a huge stumbling block between the Lord and I. The problem is I see the block coming, as I continue this walk. Still, I stroll right up to it, and trip over it constantly! It took a long time for me to be able to admit this to myself, let alone others. It makes me feel sad; ashamed. But, lately, I’ve come to the realization that this is exactly why I need Jesus in my life.

You want to know what bible verse I’ve always struggled with? John 11:35. The shortest verse in the bible has always been the most complicated verse for me to take to heart. In my humanity, I also failed to understand why Jesus cried when he saw the others begin to cry, over the death of Lazarus. I figured, “C’mon, he knew exactly what he was gonna do all along!”

Jesus has compassion for me. Why else, and how else (for that matter) could he willingly die for me? He wept for Lazarus because of the compassion in his heart, for Martha and Mary’s pain. He defended the woman caught in adultery, because of the compassion he felt for her. Everything the Lord did for others, was done out of the compassion within his human heart.

He could have easily destroyed any of his attackers, at any time throughout his earthly ministry. He felt anger. He flipped tables. He cracked whips. He spoke a word, and a fig tree immediately withered! Jesus had every right to retaliate against his attackers, yet he chose to die for them.

This is a hard lesson for me to grasp. Even with the help of the Holt Spirit, I struggle. The young man I spoke of earlier, I constantly wrestle against the fleshy desire to wash my hands of him, in judgment. That’s what it is, family: Judgment.

My flesh says, “How long will you continue to put up with this boy? Just hit him over the head and let him drown in his own disobedience!”

Isn’t that ironic? I can easily judge his refusal to obey the Lord, while standing neck-deep in my own compassion-less judgment. This is NOT who the Lord is.

The “C” of the ROCK-acronym is my cross. I bear it everyday. I thank God for Pastor Eddie’s message, because today I recognize its importance in my walk with Christ. I can look across the landscape of my life and see instances where a lack of compassion has lain waste past relationships with old friends, put strain between my kids and I, even caused rifts in my marriage at times.  I realize the question of “Who are you Lord?” has a deep rooted meaning for me, because the blinders are coming off. I’m starting to see the relationship I thought I had, really isn’t what I believed it to be. How could it be? Jesus is all about compassion. I have to genuinely try to be more like him.

I hope this frees someone today. It’s freeing me, as we speak.

K – KINGDOM MINDED

Here’s where I go off sermon-topic. Pastor Eddie, as I  challenged myself with the acronym, the “K” hit me in a different way than what was originally preached.  That doesn’t lessen the significance of our need to bend our knees in prayer and worship to God, because the act of submission is vital to our relationship with the Lord. Kingdom Minded simply stuck in my mind as I thought this through.

I think when we try to understand who Jesus is and what he means to us individually, one of the things we must realize is that Jesus is all about advancing the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s the endgame for the Lord. He takes no interest in self gratification. He willingly became a servant in order to put the “kingdom Business” first and foremost.

I want to share something the Mrs. and I were actively trying to keep very private up until…now. We’re trusting in God to give us a new home. Fact is, our large family has outgrown our current home. The house we’re after literally contains the desires of our hearts, and we have been praying like we’ve never prayed before. The whole family is involved!

Today, the Mrs. sent a text message saying, “We need this house. I need to have a bible study. I have two ladies here (at work) that are experiencing some serious conflict about their religion.”

Amenities aside, my wife’s already committing the new house to God’s work. She’s thinking Kingdom-minded. And that’s the point. Sure we enjoy our stuff, but if we’re not using the gifts and the stuff to honor God,  what’s the point?  Colossians 3:23 (NKJV) says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord and not to men,”. Like Jesus, we need to be about the business of advancing God’s kingdom in all that we do: in church; at work; on the soccer field; in the movie theater; wherever we go and in whatever we find ourselves doing.

As a gamer, I sometimes find the occasional player with a biblical gamertag. I actively seek them out. When they find out “Dadski40plus”–I know; it sounds wack–is a believer, we usually break into kingdom conversation. Yep…even in the gaming world.

So, who is the R.O.C.K.?

R-Revelation

O-Obedience

C-Compassion

K-Kingdom Minded

Jesus embodies all of these attributes, because he lives and displays them for all time. Once we understand that, we realize who He really is.

 

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The Power In Prayer

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I’m an action/fantasy-movie fan. I love all things Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Matrix involved. When I was 11 years old, I must’ve watched “The Neverending Story” dozens of times. My dad managed to record it on VHS tape. As I sit here writing, I’m thinking about opening a box of Junior Mints and watching the Blu ray now, like I don’t have to get up to go to work in the morning!

C’mon, be honest. I can’t be the only one.

There’s just something about the “fantastic” in the root of fantasy that takes me to another place. I’m a dreamer at heart. Always have been. My head is so far into the clouds, I swear sometimes I dream of flying and the feeling of weightless flight resounds as familiar within my body and soul.

I’m often amazed at how people can quickly accept the power of “The Force”–which is totally made up, by the way–but just as quickly reject the power of the living God. If you don’t know who Luke Skywalker is, you’ve either been in a coma since the early 70’s or you’re an alien visiting from outer space. If you’re an actual alien, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, you don’t truly exist. Everyone knows the fantasy lore of Luke. But, not everyone knows the actual history of Jesus: the only begotten son of God.

What I love most about fantasy is watching characters develop special powers, and then growing mature in the use of those powers. It’s kind of like when a baby Christian learns to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit–totally real life stuff here–and then matures in the use of those powers. Prayer is definitely one of those Spiritual gifts available to everyone.

Christians are often reminded of the “Power of Prayer” but when I think about prayer akin to fantasy movies, I marvel at the very real power in prayer. Prayer is not science fiction or fantasy. It’s very real; very accessible; very attainable and extremely powerful.

There was a time when Jesus sent out his disciples to heal the sick and cast out demons among the people. But they ran into a problem. They encountered a boy possessed by a stubborn demon. They had to go get Jesus to cast the demon. When the task was completed, by the Lord, his disciples asked (in Ennis-vernacular),

“Say man, we heal people and cast out all kinds of demons! How come we couldn’t cast this one out?”

Mark 9:29 (NIV) tells us that Jesus replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

Now, for my friends who struggle to believe in God, let me tell you that history supports the life and miracles of Jesus Christ as depicted in the scriptures. Yes. Actual history. I can’t make this stuff up. On top of that, I know personally what the power of prayer can do to breathe new life into a troubled marriage. I think prayer gets such a bad wrap when we start to talk about Spiritual things.

“Have you prayed about it?”

“What’s that gonna do?” *Sigh*  “Sure, I’ll give it a try.”

That’s usually how it’s received; as the last resort to problem resolution. What if we were a people who actually believed in the miracle work of prayer before a problem even exists? What if we were a people who prayed for the things we need, believed that God would give them to us, thanked him in advance, and then celebrated when the blessing showed up? I mean…doesn’t that sound like fantasy stuff?!

Except it’s real. It works. It happens all the time among the believing body of Christ.

In this social media saturated age, we are big on chain-challenges. So, I’m going to propose one this morning. I’m daring my readers, friends and family to take this Prayer Challenge. I challenge you to pick one thing–be it a desire, a need or one in the same–and focus on it. Be specific, now. Don’t be lazy about this. For the next 25 days, I challenge you to pray on that thing, need, or desire. Here’s where it gets difficult for some. I want you to set your heart on believing it will be done, in the name of Jesus. I want you to thank him, in advance, for seeing it done. And for 25 days, I want you to simply trust in him to make it happen.

The real power in fantasy, is not that we accept it’s actually real life, but that we choose to buy into its allure temporarily. The real power in prayer is not its temporary fulfillment, but concrete lasting affects in our lives (that’s a-ffects with an “a” scholars). Prayer really works. I dare you to try it. I’d like to hear what happens in your lives at the end of the month.

 

~Always~

 

Nowhere To Go, But Up-Chapter Two

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Chapter 2-The Letter

For most of his adult life, Chas did things his own way.  He rarely followed advice and often made decisions based on the proverbial gut-feeling.  Following his emotions at any given moment had a tendency to make life interesting for him.  Sometimes the process worked out in his favor, but there were times it did not.  There were days he wished a choice could be taken back; a do-over, if you will.  The chance to start all over again, had plagued his thoughts many nights.  The thought was particularly strong this morning, as he sat at the dining room table reading over the letter he had just written.


‘Dawn,

I don’t like the idea of leaving a letter because it seems cliché.  In truth, I can’t look into your eyes, because the hurt is still too fresh.  This is the first time in months I’ve mustered the urge to write, and it seems strange to pick this letter as my outlet.  So be it; here it is.  I have to share my thoughts, in light of what I’ve recently discovered. 

Bad deeds have a way of coming back to get you, when you least expect them to show up.  No one is exempt.  Our sins always find us out. To that end, I suppose I should have expected karma to find me. I guess I always figured my payback would come sooner, while I was prepared.  

I don’t trust you anymore, Dawn.  You’ve shown your lack of respect for yourself as a woman and for our marriage. Our relationship; everything we’ve built together over the years; means less to you than your personal quest for excitement.  You don’t seem to be in any hurry to change whatever it is about yourself that hurts our marriage.  I mean, how could you be? Your adulteress behavior over the last few years says it all.  You don’t care about me and I’m so tired of being disappointed by you time and again.  With each incident, your words of apology become more and more transparent. 

 I wanted to believe that together we could change your ways if you put your all into it. But you’ve proven that to be a useless dream. 

I’m leaving you, Dawn.  I just can’t take it anymore.  By the time you read this note, I’ll be gone.  I need a few days to clear my head and put things into perspective. When I come back, we’ll need to sit down with the kids and explain the situation.    

I’m sorry that I couldn’t be the only man you needed in your life.  I wish you could have been the woman I thought you were becoming.  For what it’s worth, we did have good times and five beautiful children to share.  I’ll always love you for that. 

 I hope you find whatever it is you continue to look for.

~Me~’


“I hope you find whatever it is you continue to look for,” Chas whispered.

Reading the last line of the letter, seemed to solidify the finality of his decision. This was it.  This move would change the course of seven lives.  It would change everything for his family, and he would undoubtedly be viewed as the bad guy in the end. If only time were changeable. This might be different.

“I hate you for doing this to our family, Dawn.” He muttered.

As he scanned over the letter, Chas brushed tears from his damp stubble cheeks.  His heartbeat pounded in his throat and temples. He looked through the living room toward the monotonous tick tock of the old Grandfather clock, standing against the far wall. That clock had been given to them by his late mother as a wedding present, ten years ago.  Under normal circumstances, the ticking worked to sooth his senses whenever he was stressed.  But this morning was different. The ticking only drove home the reality of what was about to happen.  Lately, the clock served as a constant reminder of a failing marriage, and unhappy family.

Chas walked through the living room, and stood before the great clock.  The dial hands read a quarter after four in the morning. He switched on the lamp stand next to the clock, illuminating the small living room. Charles stared at his reflection in the clock tower’s glass doors. His usual tone body and sinewy arms seemed to slouch.  These days, he ate less and less, continually troubled with his marriage.  Dark patches encircled his deep set brown eyes.  He bald head and strong jaw showed three days of hair growth. The marriage was physically taking its toll on him.

“I’m withering away. This marriage is draining the life from me.”

Chas’s tired gaze shifted from the clock mirror, up the beige living room wall, to the huge Red Oak framed family portrait. The Smith family had taken this picture when things seemed to be going well.  A depressed smile glistened over his face as he looked at each of his 5 children.

Tomas looked so handsome that day, dressed in a lavender shirt, with matching tie; the ensemble accentuating his pale brown latin skin tone.  It was hard for Chas to believe his 17 year old step-son was about to start his senior year of high school.  The boy’s lean muscular frame filled the dark purple suit to perfection and, for the first time, Chas could see the young man Tomas was destined to become, looking into those huge intense almond colored eyes.

Nate, at 12 years old, showed wisdom beyond his years, within his deep set hazel-brown eyes.  Chas chuckled, remembering what the photographer had to do to actually get Nate to smile for this picture.  His eldest son’s skinny, light brown, freckled face had a shine that contrasted with the dark brown suit Dawn had chosen for the occasion.  Chas stared into the frozen gaze of Nate’s photographed eyes, and recognized the look from countless old photos of himself, at Nate’s age.

Dominique’s awe-inspiring smile always melted Chas’s heart.  On bad days at the office, he would often look at smiling pictures of his 11 year-old daughter, to cheer himself up.  In the family portrait, her long silky hair draped down her back from a brown heirloom hair pendant; a gift from her late grandmother. The long brown dress she wore highlighted her brown skin color.

Jordynn, Chas’s 6 year-old daughter, looked absolutely beautiful the day of the family portrait.  Like Nate, her light brown skin tone seemed to glow against the contrast of the matching calf-length brown dress she and her older sister each wore.  Chas stared into the hazel-green eyes of his youngest daughter; glared at the dimpled smile of his baby-girl and had to choke back a fresh wave of tears.  She wouldn’t understand why Daddy had to leave, even if Dawn explained the situation using Crayola Crayons for display.

Hesitantly, Chas blinked and found himself staring into the dark brown eyes and innocent face of his little man: 3 year-old Zeek.  This handsome young fellow looked absolutely adorable dressed in a dark Purple pinstriped vest, with a light purple dress shirt, accented by a dark purple pinstriped clip-on tie.  Zeek’s light brown, ear to ear smile unexpectedly ripped the very air from Chas’s lungs.  For a moment, his knees unhinged as his weight threatened to tumble to the ground, looking at Zeek.  The little boy would never comprehend Daddy leaving the house forever.

Tears flowed freely down Chas’s cheeks, and clouded his vision.  For a brief moment, he reconsidered walking out the door while his family slept in their respective beds.  He hated the thought of his children thinking he had abandoned them, even for a few days.  Chas clamped his eyelids shut, forcing the salty tears to race down his streaked cheeks.  When he re-opened his eyes, he found himself staring into the photographed eyes of his wife, Dawn.

She was so happy, the day the family portrait had been taken.  Her dark hair had been freshly cut into a short teased bob with the dark red accents of her low curls sloping just above her ears.  The piercing stare of her green eyes always pierced Chas’s heart.  Dawn’s rosy cheeks combined with her peach colored, tanned skin worked miracles to accent the earth-tone ankle length dress she wore in the portrait.  Chas’s gaze traced the curve of her long neck, down the sightline of her C-cup breasts, down to her French manicured fingers resting across her folded left knee.  He traced the line of her shiny beautiful calf protruding out from the folds of her dress, down to her ankle.  How he had loved to watch this woman dress.  How he had once adored her.

Sorrow transformed into hatred as he envisioned Dawn willingly giving another man full access to those wonderful calves and ankles, that should have been his exclusively.  His brown eyes shot back up to Dawn’s frozen photographed stare.

“Thank you very much for destroying everything I’ve ever loved, Dawn.”

Chas glanced at the note.  Taking in a deep breath, he folded the note in half, then stuffed it into a blank white letter sized envelope, before sealing it.  Across the front, he scribed, ‘For You, From Me’.

Chas tucked the envelope into the bottom left corner of the Red Oak-framed family portrait; high enough out of the reach of their children.  He gently grasped the handles of the leather day bag sitting at his feet.  Taking a final look around the beige walls of the living room, Chas remembered all the plans he and his lovely wife had made for making this house a Christian home for their family.

“I’m sorry God.  I can’t do it anymore.  I just don’t have enough love to hold us both up, when she’s only giving a fraction of herself.  I quit.  Please forgive me.”

Opening the old wooden front door, he quietly dropped the leather day bag onto the concrete porch.  Turning around, Chas gave the living room one final glance over.  Despite what the written letter said, he had no real intentions of ever returning to this living room.  Chas gently closed the wooden door, stepped off the concrete porch, and took his first few steps into his new life alone.

Chas hopped behind the wheel of his pickup truck intent on driving downtown to the nearest motel.  So many emotions to sort through; so many tasks needed to be completed.  He had no idea of how to begin divorce proceedings.  The only surety was that divorce was inevitable.  While driving up the block, he envisioned memories of happier times: teaching Tomas to ride his bike, the birth of Nate, Dominique’s first tooth falling out, walks along the river front with Dawn; memories scattered through the past, blown apart by years of pain.  As Chas continued to drive, his mind eventually settled on the beginning.  He remembered computer class of 1991, and the day he first locked eyes with the emerald stare of the girl who would someday capture his heart.

Nowhere To Go, But Up-Chapter One

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I’m starting my new book. While the tale is fiction, a lot of it is based on true events. I’d like to share the first few chapters, just to through feelers out. Feel free to tell me what you think.


Chapter 1 – Losing Sleep

The bedside digital clock read 4:16 AM, when Dawn felt a shift in the bed.  She feigned sleep, taking labored deep breathes; her back turned against her husband.  Dawn could feel him staring through the darkness; could feel his accusing eyes glowering at her.  She knew he had spent the entire night lying awake.

Another shift in the bed, and Chas was now crossing the room to his dresser.  She heard the customary progression of open and shut drawers as her husband dressed for another day’s work.  But another glance at the clock assured her that he was at least an hour too early for that.  She started to question his intensions, but decided to remain quiet.

For every arguement they shared over the past few years, Chas had never looked at her the way he did yesterday.  It was as if she looked into her husband’s eyes and saw hatred personified, staring back at her. Dawn forced herself to mimic heavy, steady breaths as if enveloped in deep sleep.  She listened for any signs that her husband might attack her, just in case she would have to defend herself.  In all the years they had been together, Chas never once laid an angry hand on her.  But one could never be too sure when the first time might come.  After all, she’d seen her mother beaten by men, as a child.  In general, men couldn’t be completely trusted. Why should her husband be any different? He was a man, after all.

Dawn waited until she heard Chas tread down the bedroom steps before sitting up, propping her back against the headboard.  Staring across the pitch-black room, she replayed the events of the early evening in her mind: how Chas had screamed, in front of the children and how she had slandered him as if they were the only two people in the room.  Who gave him the right to question her whereabouts?  He had no right to demand any explanation on who she had spent the evening with.  She told herself these things, but deep down, her soul ached.

Dawn reached for her cell phone charging next to the clock.  A few quick taps along the screen brought up the name she searched for.  Fingers furiously tapping away, she typed out a message.

‘I can’t see you again.  It’s over. Please don’t call me anymore.  Have to do what’s right for my kids.’

“Yeah,” she whispered as she punched the SEND button. “They need me more than anyone else. What are you doing, girl?”

Dawn placed the phone back onto the table.  Drawing her knees up to her chin, she began to butt the heels of both hands against her forehead.

“Why do you keep doing this? You have to stop, before it’s too late,” she whispered through tears.

She lay down snuggling Chas’s pillow under her nose, taking in the scent of her husband.  It suddenly struck her funny, how much she hated the Old Spice. But at the moment, it smelled like home and security.  It smelled like Chas.

She slowly breathed in the pillow and remembered the first kiss they had shared.  Chas had worn enough Old Spice to make her eyes water, but she had endured the overbearing aftershave to share that special moment.  She had once adored him, and then…something happened.  What? She couldn’t remember.  Her mind sifted through miscellaneous memories of times shared, both good and bad. Yet, there was no one clear turning point buried in the recesses of her mind.

“What happened?” Dawn whispered.

As tears soaked the pillow case, Dawn’s memory shifted to a time before the children; before the marriage.  She remembered Chas away at college.  She recalled a surprise visit; remembered driving two and a half hours in the dead of Michigan winter, to see him.  In her mind, she saw the look of total astonishment on the face of Chas’s roommate, as she strolled through the front door of the apartment.  Dawn remembered the blissful feeling of comfort walking down the short hallway toward Chas’s room.  Her plan had been to simply undress, and spend a romantic evening with her love. She remembered turning the door knob, smiling giddy, only to find him cuddling with another woman under his bed sheets.

And then…suddenly…there it was. The image forever burned into her psyche like a black and white photograph. Dawn opened her bleary eyes as her breath caught in her throat.  Through the darkness of the bedroom, she could still see the look on Chas’s face, the night she had caught him with another woman.  It was as clear as if the whole event happened yesterday.

“I never forgave him for that,” she whispered. “…and that was it.  That’s when it turned. He turned out to be just another lying man, and I never forgave him for it. Lord help me, I still don’t. I don’t know how.”

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.