A Season of Separation

Restoration waits for those on the path of repentance.

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As a father of many foster, three birth, and one adopted, I had my fair share of bellowing out the command, “go to your room,” due to their disobedience or misbehavior. The purpose of that consequence was to use the forced family separation as a time of reflection in hopes that repentance would follow. At the right time, I would make my way to their room, talk about what was done, reveal their error, chat with them about any further consequences, layout how they should have acted, and then explained what needed to be done on their part for reconciliation and restoration. From the moment I sent them to their room to the time when they were released, I was in complete control as the figure of authority; the one motivated by love that intentionally used the separation as a tool for their betterment. Would it have been appropriate for one of their siblings to open their door and set them free? Or, sneak into their room with a game and play? How about the entire family bringing up dessert and all having a grand time in their room while they were supposed to be separated? Of course not! Why? Because it was not their place to interfere; they lacked the authority to usurp dad’s path of reconciliation. But, consider what would have occurred if the mom and all the other children went to their room and played all day, even eating dinner with them? That child would not have experienced the lesson in separation and would have harbored harsh feelings toward the father as he was the only one perceived to be unfair.

There are times when our Heavenly Father operates in like manner, and through church discipline, sends a child to their “room” for introspection; as the first step on the path to repentance and reconciliation. Over the years, I have experienced a few occasions where a church member’s sins were confronted only to have them dig in deeper, refuse to repent, and ultimately walk away from the fellowship. Clearly, they were in sin; angry, immature, slanderous, spiteful, vindictive, and carnal, yet something inevitably occurs most of the time in the season of separation; their siblings interfere with God’s tool of restoration. From the comfort of their homes, and amid their sin, their brothers and sisters in Christ start to call, visit, send cards, all conveying the same message, “We love you, we miss you, please come back, the church needs you.” They continue to receive copies of the bulletins, the monthly financial statements, and a constant flow of gossip, all from their family members; words of affirmation, comfort, and concern from every member of their family except for their Father. The season of silence that God would have used to evoke feelings of isolation and loneliness, restoring the sinner in their relationship with God through repentance, has been hindered, stopped even, by the well-intentioned. Folks have essentially gone into the room of their disobedient sibling, set up a nice meal, and had a party while the Father watched with a grieved heart from the other room.

Sin separates, it always has, ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Right after they ate the forbidden fruit, they hid from God behind some bushes. When God came to the garden that day, he asked, “Where are you?”, not because He was terrible at playing Hide and Seek, nor did God lose His power of omniscience, instead because He wanted Adam and Even to acknowledge their season of separation, confess their sins and be restored (Gen. 3). Nothing stood in the path of God’s plan of reconciliation, and Adam and Eve were better for it. Even today, we are commanded to protect God’s season of separation when our Father is disciplining His children (Isa. 59:2, Mt. 18:15-17, I Cor. 5:1-13). 

In high school, I spent a weekend with a friend at his house. During that stay, my friend got into trouble with his dad, and while my friend was being yelled at, I injected something like, “It wasn’t all his fault…” I never finished that sentence for his dad looked at me sternly and said something like, “Don’t get in my way, this is MY son.” This was reinforced in boot camp years later as we all witnessed the mistake of getting between a drill instructor and the recruit he was correcting! How much more should we refrain from getting in God’s way? We lack the authority to usurp His plan of reconciliation; it is simply not our place. And, if we genuinely want the best for our brothers and sisters in Christ, as much as it pains us to hear the laments from their isolation, we must acknowledge our Father knows better and stay out of His way. 

Scripture: “This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” -Titus 1:13, ESV

Question: Do you know anyone that God has placed in a season of separation? Would you commit to praying for this person that God’s children would protect this time, that they would soon repent and be restored into the fellowship?

Prayer: Father, it is difficult to see someone we care about and love being disciplined. Please help me have the strength to trust you through the process. May I never interfere or stand in the way of your path of restoration. May the separated one miss the fellowship of their church family, the sweetness of your presence, the intimacy in prayer, and the power of your love enough to repent of their sins and be restored into your family. Thank you for caring enough to invest in our lives; you are a good Father. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

The Little Coal That Could

We all need each other, but most of all, we need God.

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A late hour knock on the door interrupted the preacher from his position before the fire in his den. Unwinding himself from the blanket, he slipped into his moccasins and headed for the door. The gust of wind that hurried the visitor inside was a reminder of the fire’s need; it was a windy winter night in London. The visitor was not unknown; he had been a member of the church for years but had absented himself from the fellowship as of late. With both men warming before the fire, the man tried to explain his disassociation from the church. “Preacher, I have been a Christian and faithful member of the church for years, but at this point in my life, I just don’t see any valid reasons for attending anymore.” While listening, the preacher removed the fire poker from the cast iron holder and started to stoke the coals. The visitor continued, “I have just experienced more hurt than help. I’ve seen hypocrisy, I’ve been judged, I don’t feel like I am being fed from the sermons anymore, the music needs help, and someone a few months ago even had me move for I was in her seat.” While the visitor spoke and the preacher stoked, they both looked intently upon the fire. “I just feel that God can be worshiped from my home through prayer, bible study, and even song,” the visitor explained. While he talked, the preacher pushed one coal away from the rest with the poker. While the man continued presenting his excuses and justifying his unbiblical behavior, they both watched the isolated coal lose its heat and transition from red to grey. Then, without a word, the preacher pushed that coal back in the group, and instantly it regained its warmth and red color, thriving and contributing to the fire once again. The man, eyes filled with tears, looked at the preacher and simply said, “see you Sunday,” as he gathered his things and made his way to the door.

There are certainly times when we feel like this man; some even put action to those feelings and withdraw from fellowship. We could all fill a sheet of paper with our excuses and justifications, the music that doesn’t stir us, the sermons that don’t fill us, the deacon’s that don’t visit with us, and the members that don’t love us. Yet, we are commanded to crucify our feelings and act on truth alone (Proverbs 12:15 and 28:26). So, what does God say about church attendance? Could we not worship Him at home by watching a sermon online, joining a virtual choir, and spending time in prayer and study? According to the bible, Jesus loved the church enough to die for her (Eph. 5:25), has a desire to marry her (II Cor. 11:2), empowered her to advance His love (Mt. 16:18), and will usher her into His presence when this life is over (Phil. 3:20). So, anyone that intentionally separates themselves from a group so loved and used by God is purposefully positioning themselves as an enemy of the cross (I John 4:20).

In my 25 years of pastoral experience, I have mostly found those “Christians” that forgo weekly fellowship and choose to worship at home are the most gospel useless, immature, and selfish people I’ve ever met. When we refuse to submit to the will of God for our lives through our local church membership, we fail in the areas of fellowship, collective worship and prayer, stewardship, discipleship, and practical love (II Cor. 6:1, Mt. 9:37-38). God does not bless those who disregard His will for their life, choosing to make their own way (I Sam. 15:22, John 14:15).

There is a good chance that if you are on the sidelines of the faith, not an active member of a local congregation, you have excellent reasons. I am not trying to minimize your pain or hurt; the truth is, I have been where you are. I am hoping you will prayerfully consider the words in this devotion, read each scriptural reference, and seek God’s will for your life concerning the body of Christ.

Scripture: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

Question: Will you be willing to evaluate your contributions as a member of the local church and, after prayer and reflection, ask God to use you in a greater capacity?

Prayer: Father, you know my heart and any reasons I have for either not being involved or not being used as much as you would desire through your church. I ask you to search my heart and reveal any sins of omission or commission that I may confess them all and be exposed to your grace and mercy. Please give me the mind to understand, the heart to desire, and the strength to follow through. May the primary goal of my life be to hear you say “well done” to me one day. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Everything Changed With A Sneeze!

In a world where change is a constant, there remains a God that ceases to change.

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You would think change is something humanity has learned to accept, especially considering everything changes, from our health to our jobs and from relationships to our neighborhoods. Yet amid the Coronavirus pandemic, we are all struggling; coupled with another election that will cause a drastic shift in policy and an administration marked with a leadership style diametrically opposed to what we experienced the past four years.  We watched from our den of excess; the world around us changed with but a sneeze. As my wife and I drove through a small town a few weeks ago, we grieved for every business that was boarded up or for sale. We talked about jobs once thought to be secure, health enjoyed, luxuries taken for granted, and retirement plans counted on, but everything changed with a sneeze. Everything but God.

Policies are amended, legislation introduced, laws created, and even our constitution is reinterpreted and reexamined, but the Word of God never changes. Political winds introduce change every election, but God remains on His throne. Culture may fund the millions of lives being ripped from the safety of the womb, but God still judges our spiritually bankrupt state. Laws may protect our bodies fulfilling the most perverse concoctions of our minds, yet God still demands holiness. Over a million people have died as a result of the COVID-19 virus, yet God’s door of death still ushers His children into His presence. Over 60 million are struggling to overcome a COVID-19 diagnosis, yet God continues to touch and heal as He has for thousands of years. Fear of the unknown continues to weigh on the hearts of many, causing more restless nights and doctor visits than ever, but God still speaks to those who listen, mends hearts that cry to Him, and offers peace that can’t be explained. Everything changes but God.

It is very easy to become discouraged with all of the changes occurring in your life and culture. Johnson Oatman Jr was such a man with such a story. Johnson’s father was a talented singer, and he wanted nothing more than to fill dad’s shoes by serving God through music. Yet, he was never able to rise to the same talent level; thus, he resigned to work in the family business. Johnson never gave up on his musical dream though, and tried his hand at writing songs for others to sing, and very soon, his career took off. With a past littered of stories lamenting what he didn’t have, Johnson decided to focus on his blessings. One of his most famous songs revealed a heart of gratitude; Count Your Blessings, the chorus tells it all:

Count your many blessings; name them one by one. 
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

In this dark, sinful, and everchanging world in which we live, perhaps we should focus more on the Father of Lights; who never sins or changes. Tomorrow as you rise from the bed, many changes that flip your world upside down may greet you; however, God will still be with you. Your job may be in jeopardy, yet His provisions will continue to flow. The COVID virus might take your health or even your life, yet God still has the power over death and will send His Son to greet you at the Gates of Glory. Amid your struggle, grab a pen and paper and write down all of your blessings, with a focus on what will never change. Then, take time to thank God for His everchanging presence in your life; I am confident it will make a difference.

Scripture: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows”-James 1:17, ESV

Question: Would you be willing to make a list today that contains all of the never-changing blessings in your life and spend time in prayer thanking God for each item?

Prayer: Father, please have patience with me; I am so weak. With all that is going on in this world, I seem to focus on what is changing instead of that which never does. May I be purposeful in recognizing the benefits of being a Child of God. Thank you that you never change and that I can count on you no matter what. May those around me see a hope within me that leads them to you. Father, please reveal those in my life that are discouraged with all of the changes in our world that I may have the courage to share your never changing love. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Salt: A Little Dab Will Do You

What we say is not as important as how we make others feel.

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In a culture absent of mercy, Jesus shocked the assembled crowd with words like, “Blessed are the merciful” (Mt. 5:7), as He stood on the Mount of Beatitudes preaching what we know as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus spoke to a culture where mercy was not a popular concept thought to better society but rather a weakness to be eradicated. One Roman philosopher called mercy “the disease of the soul.” This was a culture where a father could give a “thumbs down” to his newborn if he thought the child ugly, too loud, or unhealthy, and the child would be put to death. A Roman citizen could kill and bury a slave without any consequence, and husbands could end the life of their spouse for any reason without retribution.

It was in this dark culture, void of mercy, that Jesus stated, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”  -Mt. 5:7, ESV  

And, let me point out, not much has changed from the culture of Roman history to our current American culture:

  • We are giving a “thumbs down” to 1.2 million unborn babies each year in America, mostly because of inconvience.  
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.

Mercy has always been foreign to the world and not rewarded by the world. Jesus made the lame to walk again, and He caused the blind to see. He rose the dead, brought hearing to the deaf, and reached out to the outcasts and the untouchables. He sought out the; tax collectors, degenerate, immoral, prostitutes, drunk, despised, and the rejected; Jesus was an advocate for the weak and an encourager for the bleak. So, after Jesus tells the crowd “what” to be, a distributer of mercy, He then tells them “how” to achieve that goal by being the “salt of the earth.”

A few years ago, thirteen-year-old Darci Lynne walked onto the stage of the twelfth season of America’s Got Talent. Her act? She explained to the judges that she desired to reignite the once-popular art of ventriloquism. Darci was nervous, even laughing for no reason, her hands shaking as her eyes darted around a full auditorium boasting thousands in attendance with millions more watching from home. When instructed by Simon Cowell to start, she composed herself, queued the music, and sang. From the first note, it was evident this girl was special; she captivated the crowds and the judges, and by the time she finished her performance, everyone-even Simon-was standing with shouts of acclamation and praise. Confetti fell from the ceiling, and lights darted all around the stage as one of the judges, her mom, and the host rushed up to surround her in celebration of her advancing to the next round. Darci didn’t have any words; she simply wept. As she took in all of the support through cheers and applause, the look on her face was enough to see what the power of encouragement could do. Darci ended up winning that season, and her first performance became the most viewed in the show’s history in just 30 hours. 

When Jesus calls us the “salt of the earth,” he was undoubtedly speaking of us acting as a preservative in this rotting world, and as a spice to show the contrast between darkness and light. But salt has another benefit; as an advocate, enhancing everything it touches. Therefore, Jesus is calling us to bring out the best in those around us, to stand applauding in the audience for those on the stage of life. When you watch the videos of Darci’s performances after that first nervous entrance in 2017, you no longer see a shy and timid entertainer, rather someone with confidence and boldness, recognizing her talents and using them free of fear. What was responsible for bringing her from fear to fame? I am confident it was the support and praise she received. We all have the opportunity to make such a difference in others’ lives by being the salt.

There are so many in this world, believing they have nothing to offer, no talents to share, feeling worthless. God does not make junk. We must seek out the hopeless, reminding them of who they are in the eyes of God and encouraging them to walk boldly on the stage of life shining like the stars God designed them to be. 

Scripture: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” -Matthew 5:13-14, ESV

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” -I Thes. 5:11, ESV

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” -Heb. 10:24-25, ESV

Question: Can you think of someone that may be down and discouraged, someone that could use some “building up”? 

Prayer: Father, please bring my focus on someone that may need encouragement. Please give me the wisdom and discernment to recognize those around me in need of someone in their corner, cheering them on. I know you are calling me to make a difference in this world, may I strive to please you by encouraging others today. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Worth Your Weight?

Christians should be the life of every party.

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When Jesus stood before the crowds gathered on the Mount of Beatitudes and spoke of them being the salt of the earth, they knew that in addition to delaying the decay as a preservative; it meant for them to live as spice in a bland world.

Salt is used as a spice; to enhance the natural flavors of food or add flavor to an otherwise bland meal. For food that was bland or even food that may not have tasted that great, leaving a bitter aftertaste, salt could be added to mask the bad taste or give that bland meal an extra boost. Christians should be fun. Christians should be joyful. A Christian should be able to walk into a room full of down, depressed, disappointed, discouraged, bland, bitter people and provide a blast of mercy, grace, love, forgiveness, joy, peace, and power.

The truth is, there are only two kinds of people in this world; thermometer people and thermostat people. A thermometer reflects the environment’s temperature; it merely reacts to what is going on in a particular room. On the other hand, a thermostat regulates the temperature of the environment; it controls what is going on in a room. Perhaps the reason we have hundreds of churches in this country and yet are seemingly unable to delay the decay is because the majority of those in attendance are thermometer Christians; they are blending into this world and have become gospel useless.  

God calling us salt, means that He has empowered us to be thermostat Christians; Christians that go against the current, oppose the culture, and regulate the environment.

Years ago, I had the privilege to meet a lady who was involved in a terrible car accident, an accident that took her husband, legs, car, dog, and with the medical bills, she also lost her home. The nursing staff at the rehabilitation center told me they moved her into another room almost every day to encourage those who were depressed and discouraged in their recovery from knee and hip surgeries. That was one salty lady! That is the kind of person that God needs to do what He wants to be done in this world.  

I recently read an account of another salty ladyt:

“A distinguished Christian lady was recently spending a few weeks at a hotel at Long Branch, and an attempt was made to induce her to attend a dance, in order that the affair might have prestige bestowed by her presence, as she stood high in society. She declined all the importunities of her friends. Finally, an honorable senator tried to persuade her to attend, saying, “Miss B., this is quite a harmless affair, and we want to have the exceptional honor of your presence.” “Senator,” said the lady, “I cannot do it. I am a Christian. I never do anything during my summer vacation, or wherever I go, that will injure the influence I have over the girls of my Sunday School class.” The senator bowed, and said, “I honor you; if there were more Christians like you, more men like myself would become Christians.” While we don’t have control over being the salt, we hold the shaker and have full control over how salty we remain.

Dr. George Pentecost

My Grandfather used to say he wanted me to grow up to be the kind of man worth his weight in salt.  That is a good question; in the eyes of God, are you worth your weight in salt?

Scripture: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” -Matthew 5:13-14, ESV

Question: If you do an honest evaluation of how you navigate this world, are you a thermostat or thermometer? 

Prayer: Father, please give me the strength to not be conformed to this world but transformed through the renewing of my mind. May I recognize that change to those around me will only come when I allow you to flow through me. Please help me decrease while you increase. Father, I want you to look at my life and say, “well done” may that goal be on my mind today. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Delay the Decay!

Salt serves as a preservative, so should we.

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When Jesus says that Christians are the salt of the earth, He’s talking to a group of people that did not have an appliance store on the corner with wall to wall refrigerators for sale. The only method of preserving meat and fish was to cover the food with salt to delay the decay. From the moment a fish was caught or a lamb slaughtered, it started to decompose, and while that decay couldn’t be stopped, it could be delayed. So, salt was used to slow that decay. This world has been in a state of decay since Adam and Eve yielded to temptation in the Garden of Eden, and while God is not charging us with stopping that decay, He is calling us to delay it.  This may surprise you, but for me, the shocking news is not that sin is so prevalent, our culture so wicked, media so perverse, politics so corrupt, and government so immoral. It does not shock me that sinners’ sin; in fact, I expect it (John 8:34). What is shocking and saddening to our Father is that very few Christians are slowing the process.

Haddon Robinson tells the story about the French culture of the early 1700s in the process of decay.  The King had a motto: “After me, the deluge.” He was right; it was a prophetic voice. That’s precisely what happened, and the French Revolution ripped France apart. Just 20 miles across the channel, the English culture had the same rot. Historians have described at length the moral corruption of English culture. And yet, England did not go through a revolution. Why? Why was it spared? Was it their large Navy or their suave diplomats? Their honest politicians or their tough police force? No. As the historian and American President Woodrow Wilson put it, the country was spared because, in 1703, John Wesley was born in England. Wesley, a follower of Jesus, theologian, and evangelist who lived out the Beatitudes, proclaimed the gospel, spread his salt, and delayed the decay. Wesley founded what we know as the Methodist church, which, to date, celebrates over 130 million adherents in over 130 countries.

Our culture is so wicked, media so perverse, politics so corrupt, and government so immoral it should not surprise nor shock you to know that America is at the lowest moral state in its history.  What is shocking and saddening to our Father is that very few Christians are slowing the process!  

May we all be challenged today, to step up like those that have gone on before us, and start spreading the salt, delaying the decay and being the preservative that God has called and empowered us to be.  Let me put it this way; I believe that until the rapture occurs, we are to be faithful at holding the doors of grace open by the words we give and the lives we live by being the salt

What has been going on the past hundred years?  Well, for the first hundred and fifty years in America, we enjoyed living in the shade of the spiritual tree that had been planted by our forefathers and sailing on the winds of spiritual giants we called leaders.  Then in the 1950’s we got complacent, lazy, and took for granted our freedoms.  We stopped fighting, slacked in our praying, and became lax in our church attendance.  

  • In 1961 in Maryland, the Supreme Court ruled their constitution that required all those in public office to believe in God’s existence was unconstitutional.  
  • In 1962 the Supreme Court prohibited prayer in public schools.
  • In 1963 the Bible was banned from public schools.
  • In 1973 abortion was made legal
  • In 1993 traditional, Biblical marriage was challenged in Hawaii.
  • Now we are seeing the legalization of marijuana and so many other laws that run counter our Lord and His Word.

The effects of these pivotal moments in our history have had adverse impacts that resonate to this day with: 

Young People

1. For 15 years before 1963, pregnancies in girls ages 15 through 19 years had been no more than 15 per thousand; after 1963, pregnancies increased by 187%. 

2. For younger girls, ages 10 to 14 years, pregnancies since 1963 are up 553%.

3. Before 1963, sexually transmitted diseases among students were 400 per 100,000. Since 1963, they are up 226%.


The Family

1. Before 1963, divorce rates had been declining for 15 years. After 1963 divorces increased 300% each year for the next 15 years.

2. Since 1963 unmarried people living together is up 353%

3. Since 1963, single parent families are up 140%.

4. Since 1963, single parent families with children are up 160%.


Education

1. SAT scores rapidly declined after 1962, even though the same test has been used since 1941.

2. In 1974-75, the rate of decline of the SAT scores decreased, even though they continued to decline. That was when there was an explosion of private religious schools. There were only 1000 Christian schools in America in 1965. Between 1974 to 1984 they increased to 32,000. 

What is my point?

The same power possessed by Wesley, and many others, used to delay the decay is the same power that we say we are possessed with. I think a hundred years is long enough for the devil to roam around our country like he owns the joint. It is time for us to get so excited about our salvation and serious about the mission that we demonstrate to this unbelieving and sinful world that we have the power within us to change this world around us by spreading our salt and delaying the decay until Jesus comes for us!  I still believe America is a country worth fighting for, how about you?

Scripture: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” -Matthew 5:13-14, ESV

Question: Are you willing to elevate your service to God today? Perhaps tonight, write down specific ways in which you can be an agent of change for Jesus.

Prayer: Father, I don’t want to sit on the sidelines while this country continues to decay spiritually; I want to slow that process. The longer we have until your return, the more souls we can claim for you; that is your will that none should perish. Please reveal to me specific ways to make a difference and change someone’s eternal direction. Please give me the strength to remain pure, the focus to stay on mission, the courage to speak up in love, and the faith to believe you’re not done with our country. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Salty Sailor: Part One

God’s Salty Soldier.

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Standing on the Mount of Beatitudes, Jesus had just finished His Sermon on the Mount where He preached eight concise statements of the faith: Blessed are the poor, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting, merciful, pure, peacemakers, and the persecuted. Then, Jesus said something a little odd and has been discussed by theologians and scholars since, He said, “You are the salt of the earth” (Mt. 5:13a, ESV). Over the next six days, we will discuss aspects of this powerful statement as we look at the purpose of salt, the power in salt, and the problem of salt.

Before we dig into what salt does, let’s unpack the first word Jesus used in His declaration, “You,” which is both emphatic and plural.  What do I mean by emphatic?  Jesus is putting emphasis on this word to highlight and elevate it more than the others.  So, what He is saying is that being the salt is not a choice you have. When you surrender to the cross and become a follower of Jesus Christ, you ARE the salt. The Christian, the true believer, does not just “do” or “give out” love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. When one surrenders to Christ and is named a Child of the King, they BECOME love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness! Don’t miss this. “You are the salt of the earth,” not you can be or should be but ARE.  It is not something you do, something you give, or something you show; it is who you are, who you have been transformed to BE the salt. 

And, this word is plural.  If Jesus preached this in the south, He would say, “Y’all are the salt!” It is plural, meaning when we come together in unity can we accomplish the seemingly impossible task of changing the world. We can’t do this on our own any more than a grain of salt applied to a 50-gallon drum of water can be tasted. This text alone shatters the concept that a Christian does not need the church but can somehow manage through this life alone; staying at home, watching a television evangelist, and live a victorious, Christ-honoring life.  Oh, friend, the word “you” is plural because Jesus designed us to need each other.

As a society, we have become quite proficient in the art of classification, lumping individuals and groups into rooms built with bricks of our preconceived notions and walls of our biases. We tend to gravitate to those as much “like” us as possible and distance ourselves from those we find less commonality. If you look to your neighbor or co-worker, and after evaluation, determine there is nothing they can offer you, you have missed the mark. We must get beyond the superficial, breakthrough our biased, judgmental walls, and get to know them so that we can love them and get to the point where we submit to needing them (Prov. 27:17). Until this happens, you will never realize your full gospel potential.

Lastly, what was salt to the folks in Jesus’ day? It was precious. In fact, in certain times and instances, Roman soldiers were paid in salt. They would work, labor, sweat, bleed, and even fight to risk their very lives and then be paid their wages in salt. It was that precious; even traded for gold-ounce for ounce-during certain times in history. We get our English word salary from the Latin word for salt. What does this mean? Jesus is calling us His salt. We are precious to our Father! Don’t you dare buy into the lie of the devil that you are worthless, defined by your past scares, hurts, decisions, and sins. You may be a nobody, Moses was, he spent 40 years in Egypt learning he was a somebody, 40 years on the backside of the wilderness believing he was a nobody then the next forty years following a God that showed him He could use that nobody. You may be a nobody but consider this: God specializes in taking a nobody, making them a somebody to show everybody that He can do THAT with anybody! You are precious in the eyes of God. You are His Salty Soldier!

Scripture: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” -Matthew 5:13-14, ESV

Question: Have you ever considered your value in the eyes of God?

Prayer: Father, please remind me that I am precious in your sight; created for a purpose. Please help me be open to your Word and that over the next few days, may you reveal to me what your purpose is for my life. Thank you for considering me precious, and may your opinion of me encourage me to live my best for you today. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

A Storm of Blessing is Approaching!

P.U.S.H. Pray Until Something Happens.

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The prophet Elijah had just singlehandedly vanquished the Nation of Israel of 450 false prophets, demonstrating the power of God could be trusted over the fear of man, which ushered in a revival. Standing on Mount Carmel, like a tall cedar that had weathered the storm-full of faith and power-before the vile king of Israel Ahab, he looked to the sky for rain. With blood still dripping from his sword, a reminder of how quickly God responded to those who feared Him, he remembered God’s promise; that rain would break the drought that had plagued the land for three years. Elijah prayed to God for rain, then sent his servant to a clearing to look for the storm clouds only to have him back, reporting the skies were clear. Elijah had mocked and verbally berated Baal’s false prophets just a few hours prior when they cried a request to their gods only to be met with silence; now, he is experiencing the same thing. So, Elijah prayed and sent his servant out again, only to have him return with the same discouraging news; no clouds. This routine continued four more times with the same results; Elijah would petition God for rain, send out his servant, who would report clear skies with no rain in sight.

How would King Ahab interpret this period of perceived silence from God in response to Elijah’s prayer? Would the wicked King Ahab think that the past victory was a fluke, a flash in the pan event, and become empowered enough to boldly attack his now weakened adversary? What did the Nation of Israel think of this silence of God? Perhaps God was done with Elijah, moving on to someone stronger, younger, better equipped to lead them, and closer to God to advise them? What about Elijah’s servant? Could he start to doubt Elijah’s power, or even worse, consider that God Himself might be asleep, overworked, or too busy to care about His people anymore? Most importantly, what was going through the mind and heart of Elijah? In his past, Elijah would call out to God with immediate results; the dead were raised, food was supplied, fire came down from heaven, but now, nothing. But, Elijah did something that many would not; he continued to trust God and pray anyway. After he prayed for the seventh time, he sent his servant out, who came back with some great news, a storm cloud could be seen on the horizon, rain was coming! The draught would soon be over; crops would again grow, livestock would be saved, the spread of disease slow, and hope would be restored. The storm of blessing had arrived!

I may be stepping out on presumption a little, but I would guess there have been times in your life when God responded to your prayer request with a sense of urgency; you prayed, and God moved. There can be no better example of this than when you prayed for salvation; you asked God to forgive you and be the Lord of your life, and instantly your burden was lifted, and you were adopted! Conversely, I am confident there have been times in your life when you have prayed only to be met with silence; no clouds appearing on the horizon. If we can learn anything from this story recorded in the book of Kings, it is this; faith that is strong enough to persevere is a faith that will see an end to the lengthy draught of God’s blessings. A faith that trusts the storms of blessings will break over the horizon one day is a faith that continues to believe enough to pray until something happens.

Scripture: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” -Psm. 37:7, ESV

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” -Psm. 27:14, ESV

Question: Have you ever given up praying for something? Would you be willing to admit that perhaps you gave up too soon in light of our story?

Nugget: Elijah’s prayer was answered on the seventh request. The number seven in scripture represents completion; in other words, God’s timing was perfect!

Prayer: Father, I never want to give up on you. Please help me recognize that the voices around me are the loudest during the seasons of silence, encouraging me to quit; that you are too busy, have moved on, or are dead. Please give me the faith to believe, the strength to continue, the attention to focus, and the boldness to walk in a dark culture that doubts you. May I learn to dance in the rain before it arrives, enjoying your presence while I wait for an answer. Thank you for knowing what is best for me and holding out for the perfect time to send your showers of blessings. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Our Father’s World

You are not just in God’s world; you are God’s world.

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When things were no longer working out living in my parent’s home, my Grandparents decided to drive from New Jersey to Boston, pick me up, move me to Florida, and raise me as their own. At that point in my life, self-esteem was not even a blip on the radar of my life; thus, this twelve-year-old boy never made eye contact with anyone, and my head remained down, even while walking. While others around me perceived such behavior as rude, my Grandmother saw through the outward appearances; knowing my story, she attributed my behavior to years of being emotionally broken down. From teachers to police officers and guidance counselors to Cub Scout leaders, I had been rejected for years, with some adult influences in my life even prophesying about my worthless future. The result? I believed it all; I was no good, a bad seed, a worthless piece of garbage that no one wanted, and one that would never amount to anything good.

One day that all changed. After my Grandmother and I had passed a few cheerful walkers on the golf cart trail, people I never looked up to greet; she had enough. Her brisk walk came to an abrupt halt, I bumped into her backside, and she wrapped her hands around my face, lifted my head to make eye contact, and shared her heart with words new to my ears. “Tom,” she started, with tears in her eyes, “I love you. Your Grandfather and I uprooted our entire lives for you, left our home, and traveled far because we care about you. No matter what you have been told in the past, it is time for you to hear the truth; you are special and are loved”. With that, her voice turned stern, and she admonished me with, “So, knowing you are special, pick your head up, put your chest out, and walk with pride, you are loved!”. While I don’t think her words had the full effect that day, I know it was the turning point that inspired me on my journey of worth.

Nine years later, at the age of 21, I sat in the back row of a church, searching for something missing in my life. To this day, I don’t remember the sermon or the songs, but the message was clear, there was a God, and He loved me. Yet, as I surveyed my life, full of sin and rebellion, I wrestled to believe that God could truly love someone like me, yet, when the sermon was over, I made my way down to the altar, hoping it could be true. That 30-40-foot journey passed as in slow motion as I cried out to God, “My father left me, my mom didn’t want me, inside I am angry, hurting, and lonely; I am falling apart, could you God, love someone like me.” I was interrupted, when, like my Grandmother years before, God stopped me abruptly and had some words of His own. Speaking to my heart, He said something like, “I love you. I uprooted my entire life, left my home, and traveled far because I care about you. No matter what you have been told in the past, it is time for you to hear the truth; you are special and are loved”. Upon my arrival at the altar, my tears of pain turned to tears of praise as I celebrated a Father that loved, adopted, and promised never to leave me; I have been enjoying that love ever since. Everything changes when we realize that we don’t just live in God’s world; we are His world.

Scripture: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” -Jeremiah 1:5a, ESV

Scripture: “Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” -Luke 12:7b, ESV

Scripture: “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” -Psalm 139:13, ESV

Scripture: “Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you” -Isaiah 43:4a, ESV

Scripture: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” -Zephaniah 3:17

Question: When was the last time you thought about the love that God has for you? Have you ever surrendered to that love by actively pursuing Christ in your life? The last question, I promise, will you be willing to read each of the above scripture and talk to God about how they make you feel today?

Prayer: Father, there are times that I become so overwhelmed with the voices around me, even those from within, that I start to believe them. Times when I feel my best days are behind me, that I am alone, unloved, and forgotten. Please place your loving arms around me, reminding me of your love. May the message of what you did in demonstrating your love toward me never get old but encourage my heart every moment of every day. Thank you that I don’t just live in your world, but am your world, undeserving, but grateful. Thank you for changing me through your love. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Love, Exciting and New

When we fall in love with the love of God, everything changes for the better.

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People and things have come and gone from favorite cars to good friends and loving pets to the hair on my head throughout my life. The other day as I took stock of my current circumstances, it dawned on me afresh and new something that has never left, that had remained even when I didn’t deserve its presence in my life; the love of God. 

So, in my attempt to articulate this love and its persistent presence in my undeserving life, I decided to write a poem or Christian rap if you want to have someone lay down a beat while you read aloud. Here we go;

The Love of God
 
It’s a love that takes you higher than a kite 
Because its origin is supernatural might
 
Goes deeper than our woes and the bruises from enemies blows
It’s a love that covers our very scars and delivers us from the Friday night bars
 
That reaches down to our sin and feeble frame and removes all our guilt and even our shame
It’s a love that speaks to our heart even when we are falling apart 
 
It’s a love that when cancer is fresh in our sight that shouts to our hearts, it will be alright
It’s a love that hears our cries from the valley to the alley, under the spire, or in the mire
It’s a love that stays put when we are left, let go, let down, let loose, and spun around
It’s a love that overcomes, overtakes, overwhelms, and remakes
It’s a love that fills in the cuts, covers the scars, heals the hurt, and catches our tears in jars
 
And, it is this love that will never fail, never bail, designed to eternally sail
Into our minds, our hearts, our dreams through our smiles, and our screams
Breaking our chains, changing our names, busting us out, replacing our doubt, countering the devils lie that we are lost and will die because this love will propel us like wings as we launch into the sky to be with our Lord and Savior in our mansion on high
 
As I wrap this thing up like Jared in a Subway store, please consider the reason for this spiritual esprit de corps: that it is you, through it all, that God chose, so let His love cover you from your head to your toes
 
With a warning for those that may reject because they think they are too smart; this love doesn’t come from a book in a nook but from the throne of God’s own heart
 
So, when your life feels like a salad tossed, think back to this message and consider the cross

Scripture: “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” -I Cor. 13:8-13, ESV

Question: Do you ever find yourself spending more time focused on what you don’t have instead of what you do?

Prayer: Father, help me see how, through it all, your love has prevailed in my life. Even when I mess up or purposefully walk paths that lead away from you, your love remains an active force in my life. Your love freely gives patience, longsuffering, kindness, grace, and mercy. Thank you for the life-changing love that rescued my very soul from a deserving separation and continues to inspire me to be better. Help me spend time rejoicing in this supernatural love, and may I allow that love to excite my life and propel me to be more for you. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.