In Faith, Love, and Work

Thank you, Shane, for writing this past week. This article was supposed to go out yesterday (Friday), but some glitch happened. So…here it is. Have a great weekend! God bless.


Who are we if we are Christians? We are those whom Jesus has added to His body as a result of our obedience to His gospel…having understood who we are and the need of salvation we have, confessed Jesus as our Lord and Savior, asking forgiveness from our sins, being baptized (literal meaning is immersion) in water symbolizing the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, and becoming a new spiritual being no longer slave to sin but to righteousness endeavoring to serve God faithfully with a repentant heart. We are, as Christians, family and brethren. As such, we should choose to rely on each other (Ephesians 4:16), agree to work together (Acts 9:26-28), be responsible/accountable to one another (Romans 12:4-8), love one another (Romans 12:9-10). This list is not all inclusive but communicates the idea we are in this together, should work for one another, look out for one another, love one another, etc.

There is benefit in choosing to be part of Christ’s body and the lives of your brethren. Chiefly, choosing this fellowship reassures us that we are in fact not alone!

“…knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”  (1 Peter 5:9; NKJV)

We are a community which is distinguished by faith, hope, and love. Paul recognizes this in his salutation to the Thessalonians, a body/family in Christ Jesus. “…remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor or love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ…” (1 Thessalonians 1:3; NKJV)

Each of these distinguishing marks of identity are outgoing…Faith – Towards GOD – Rests in the Past, Hope – Towards the Future – Looks to the Future, and Love – Toward Others – Works in the Present. Together they focus our lives and we find ourselves being drawn up towards GOD in faith, out towards others in love, and on towards His coming in hope!

Faith, hope and love sound like rather abstract qualities, but they have concrete, practical results.

Each is productive…when you sow there will be reaping! Faith works! Love labors! Hope endures!

“…how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 THESS1:9-10; NKJV)

When you chose first and choose daily to be a disciple of Jesus, this is who you are. If you are sowing the seeds of spiritual blessings daily this is who you are. If you choose to die to self and live for Jesus…this is who you are. We make these choices for our Lord and Savior and for the brothers and sisters we serve with in our journey from earth to heaven. We are not alone. Hold the line! Choose victory today!

Can you be courageous and afraid at the same time?

Today, please read this section from Judges 6. God called Gideon to deliver the oppressed Israelites from the mighty and powerful Midianites. Gideon was a man of great faith, but he also needed to have reassurance from God on multiple occasions. He also showed great courage, but at the same time he was very afraid. Is that possible – to be afraid and courageous at the same time?

Gideon showed us by his example that he had fear, but his courage and faith carried him past that fear. God called Gideon to destroy his father’s idols…think about that. You are going after a man’s religion, and not just any man, you are directly confronting the idols of your father. This was necessary for Gideon to do if he was going to lead the people of Israel against the Midianites.

Read the following excerpt from Judges 6:

Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and called it, The LORD Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites. That night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.” So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the LORD had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night. When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.
(Judges 6:24-32)

Men, please meditate upon this today. We have all kinds of fears, but that does not mean we lack faith or courage. It is what we do in the face of our fears that shows our faith and courage. Take a page today out of the life of Gideon. Face the fears; confront them in faith. Remember God is with you supporting you just like He was with Gideon.

The God Whose Plans Don’t Fit In A Sitcom

On a personal note: Thank you to all for your encouragement, prayers, and overwhelming support of my family as we walk through the recovery and healing process after our barn fire. God is good, all the time.

The God Whose Plans Don’t Fit In A Sitcom by Jason Hardin

I want to share with you a sermon that I watched this morning that I really needed. This sermon is by Jason Hardin, and it is called “The God Whose Plans Don’t Fit in a Sitcom.”

At the end of Jason’s sermon, he spoke of 4 conclusions that we can build our lives upon, and they were a blessing to me for sure.

  1. At pivotal moments in life, the people of God had no idea WHAT God was doing; some times neither will we.
  2. At many points in life, we won’t understand WHY God is allowing certain things to happen.
  3. And yet, the clear testimony of Scripture is that He knows perfectly what He is doing.
  4. Therefore, rather than being anxious about things we cannot change…let’s make sure to seek Him while He may be found.

I would add, I don’t know the what nor the why, but I know the WHO. Like the old song sings, “I don’t know about tomorrow, but I know Who holds my hand.”

And the Lord Remembered

And the Lord remembered Hannah (1 Samuel 1:19).

The Lord remembered Noah (Genesis 8:1).

God is worthy of praise because He “remembered us in our lowly state, for His mercy endures forever” (Psalms 136:23).

The above verses are so comforting. “And the Lord remembered…” God loves His children. He remembers His promises. God never leaves us nor forsakes us. That is a fact, but in the midst of pain, look at what God’s people sometimes wonder. Watch as they go through the process of despair to hope. These Holy Spirit-given passages are there for us today to help us go through the same process with God (and to help others do the same).

I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a breaking of my bones, my enemies reproach me, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God (Psalms 42:9-11).

To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph. I cried out to God with my voice–To God with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search. Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah. And I said, “This is my anguish; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the works of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You, they were afraid; the depths also trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about. The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, and Your footsteps were not known. You led Your people like a flock By the hand of Moses and Aaron (Psalms 77:1-20).

Here is one final passage from Isaiah. Notice how God’s people feel, and how God helps them (and us) to see the reality. He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted. But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me” (Isaiah 49:13-16).

They Are New Every Morning

Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him (Lamentations 3:19-25).

Many of you reading this already have heard that last Tuesday night our family suffered a tragedy in that our barn and riding arena burned down, and we lost our horses, sheep, goats and chickens. The family and our house is safe, praise God. But the pain we are experiencing is just hard to put into words. We certainly welcome your continued prayers to God on our behalf as we walk through this trial and seek healing and comfort. The outpouring of love and support from neighbors, the church family and from friends around the country has been overwhelming. God is good, and His love is seen in the people He has made in His image.

They Are New Every Morning

The picture I have attached to this post is of the sun beginning to rise on Friday morning. You know the sun rises every morning? Even when there is devastation and pain, the sun rises every morning. Seeing the sunrise made me think of the above passage in Lamentations written by Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was standing in the midst of Jerusalem after its destruction. An entire city including the temple Solomon built for Israel to worship the Lord their God was destroyed and burned. I can only begin to imagine the devastation he saw. I can only begin to imagine the deep pain Jeremiah experienced as he surveyed the carnage. Fires take a long time to go out. The smells and sights are things you will never remove from your mind. Worse than that for Jeremiah was that he preached for decades warning of this event, yet the people did not listen nor repent. The book of Lamentations is structured such in the Hebrew that Jeremiah is literally weeping from A to Z.

Yet in the midst of all that pain, Jeremiah called to his mind some very important qualities of God. When we are in the depths our pain, we must also call to mind these qualities of God. I will leave you with these hopeful phrases from Lamentations 3.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.

His mercies never come to an end.

They are new every morning.

Great is Your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul.

Therefore I will hope in Him.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.

What about Grief?

A dear friend, who has just gone through a tragic loss, said to me, “I need to be strong but I feel so much grief.”  Deep sorrow and anguish is a natural response to significant loss or suffering but is it a contrast to strength?  As men, we often make the mistake of believing that strength is suppressing our grief and not allowing it to be seen.  When we do this we not only cause ourselves harm but we are also missing an opportunity to positively impact the family of God.  We need to redefine our definition of strength.

Please read the text below from II Corinthians 1:3-11 and consider some observations.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11 you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.

  • “…just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” (5): There is a direct correlation between the suffering and grief we experience and the comfort we experience in Christ.  To deny the grief is to deny the comfort of Christ.
  • “…we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength…so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises from the dead” (8-9): There is a lesson to be learned in all suffering and grief.  The pain of grief should be a reminder that we are not adequate, in and of ourselves, to handle the ups and downs of this life.  The grief should be a reminder of our lack of control.  To deny the grief is to deny God’s strength.
  • “…He on whom we have set our hope.” (10): Suffering and grief should remind us of the temporary nature of this life.  Properly embracing the grief will force us to place our hope in God, the only stable foundation we have in this world.  To deny the grief is to misplace our hope.
  • “…who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us…” (10): Allowing grief to turn our eyes towards God will strengthen our faith.  As we leave one storm behind us and head towards the next, we will be secure in the knowledge that He has delivered us and will deliver us again.  To deny our grief is to head towards the future unprepared.
  • “…who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction” (4): Suppressing our pain and grief is ultimately selfish.  We do not live in a vacuum and every tragedy and every hardship is an opportunity to be shaped and molded into a useful instrument for God.  God is preparing you because somewhere out there someone needs comforted.  To deny our grief is to fail our brothers.
  • “…so that thanks may be given my many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.” (11): Worst of all, when we fail to embrace our grief and refuse to allow God to use us we are robbing Him of the thanks that He deserves.  In a way, we are stealing His glory.  Allowing others to see our pain provides them opportunity to be involved in prayer and encouragement and when we have come through the storm God will be glorified.   To deny our grief is to deny God His glory.

Grief is a powerful force in our lives.  We can suppress it and render ourselves useless in His kingdom.  We can succumb to it and allow it to cloud our vision and erode our hope.  Or we can embrace it, be trained by it, and become effective tools in the hands of our Creator.  It is our choice.

Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him

Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him (Genesis 40:23).

Joseph had quite a list of reasons to be angry at God and life. He certainly could have walked around bitterly with a chip on his shoulder.

Think of what happened in 13 years for Joseph. At 17 years old, he was sold to merchants and slave traders by his own brothers. After things in Egypt were starting to look up for him, he was falsely accused of attempted rape and unjustly imprisoned. Again, things were going well for Joseph, even while in prison. After some time in prison, he interpreted dreams for Pharaoh’s butler and baker. He asked the butler to remember him when the butler was restored to his position. Now to add insult to injury, he is forgotten…for two years (Genesis 41:1,9). Hated, betrayed, abandoned, sold, enslaved, framed, imprisoned, forgotten…sure sounds like a raw deal for over a decade, right?

Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him

Personally, I find it simply amazing that Joseph carried himself the way he did in spite of all the adversity. We don’t see Joseph being bitter. Joseph didn’t shake his fist at God and walk away from Him. He didn’t turn inward and self-centered, only concerned with taking care of number one. There is no indication that he lived his life in hatred and bitterness toward those who did him wrong. He wasn’t plotting his revenge.

What we do see in Joseph is a continual understanding and acknowledgement of the Lord’s presence in his life. When tempted to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife, he knew this sin would be against God (Gen. 39:9). While interpreting dreams, he gave glory to God as the one who gave him the ability (Gen. 40:8; 41:16,25,28,32). As he was working, whether in Potiphar’s house, or in prison or second in command to Pharoah, the “Lord was with him” (Gen. 39:2,21). Joseph worked for God, not for man.

Because of the way Joseph lived and talked, those around him noticed that God was with him. Potiphar knew that the Lord had blessed his house because of Joseph (Gen. 39:3-6). Even the keeper of the prison saw this in Joseph (Gen. 39:21). Pharoah himself witnessed the presence of God in Joseph’s life (Gen. 41:38-39).

Am I in God’s place?

Finally, look at Joseph’s attitude toward God and how that affected his attitude toward his brothers.

But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them (Genesis 50:19-21).

How do you and I respond when facing life’s difficulties? We are all dealt a rough hand at times, so let us consider the wonderful example of Joseph. Let us remember that God’s presence is with us. Work for Him, not for man. May we have forgiveness, not bitterness, in our hearts. Remember, like Joseph, that we are not in God’s place. Let’s give glory to Him, and be thankful in all things.

What is Your Giant?

Men, what is your giant? I’ve had several people respond to that question over the years with, “What do you mean “giant” singular, I have giants plural!”

Yesterday, I preached about David and Goliath, and I used a visual to illustrate the height difference between David and Goliath. I used my son, Jonathan, and my great friend, Shane. Shane stands about 6’3″ and Jonathan is around 3’10”. As you can see in the picture, Shane just looks massive in comparison to Jonathan. Imagine how a roughly 9’6″ beast of a man in full battle armor looked in comparison to the average Jewish male.

Intimidating! For 40 days and 40 nights, Israel was dismayed and greatly afraid because of the taunting of Goliath. No one, not even King Saul, would dare face him.

Yet, here comes this young shepherd from Bethlehem with a sling and 5 smooth stones. “Whack!” the Giant goes down in defeat. So, who was the real giant in this account? Was it not David? I’ve always heard that dynamite comes in small packages, and when it comes to faith, David nor God cared how big and intimidating Goliath was.

Look at the words of David:

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17:45-47).

We also sang the song, “The battle belongs to the Lord,” which ties in beautifully to this passage. I encourage you to listen to the words of the song today.

What is your Giant (or Giants)?

Whether it is lust, envy, pride, anger, materialism, bitterness, dishonesty, fear, or anxiety, with God’s power we can overcome! That doesn’t mean that in one mighty blow we will forever defeat the giants in our life. This battle of ours is not against flesh and blood, but against Satan himself (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). It is a constant battle, day by day, sometimes minute by minute. But do not focus on the Giant, focus on the Lord who defeated all “giants” at the cross. Remember that Satan is already defeated…read the end of the book, Jesus is going to cast him into the lake of fire.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death (Revelation 12:11).

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD

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

Habakkuk was deeply distressed about the immoral state of his nation. He was certainly justified in these feelings. In his distress he cried out to the Lord, but the answers he received from the Lord were not comforting at first. God would deal with the sin of Judah, but he would use the Chaldeans (Babylonians) to do it. “Wait a minute,” Habakkuk thinks, “how can a righteous and holy God use such a wicked and violent nation to punish His own people?” That is not the answer he was expecting…at all!

Through his conversation with God, we see the true character of Habakkuk shine as he is refined by God.

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD

Question: How can a man rejoice in the midst of wickedness, chaos and pending doom?

Habakkuk was told by the Lord that the righteous man “shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). “Trust Me,” God is saying. Trust His nature, His motives and His promises. Know and assume that God will always do the right thing, even if it doesn’t make sense to you and me.

Regardless of what happens around me, Habakkuk had to wait quietly for the day of distress (Habakkuk 3:16). There is a value to silence. The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before him (Habakkuk 2:10). You know, this time of judgment was going to come whether or not Habakkuk had the right attitude! God was going to bring punishment upon Judah by Babylon and then He would destroy Babylon.

The purposes of God will be accomplished, so let us trust that God will always do the right thing. Let us also quiet our minds knowing that God will always take care of His people. We are “sealed” and “marked,” God knows those who are His (2 Timothy 2:19). If you are a follower of God, you won’t get lost in the sauce.

So if the economy tanks and the nation crumbles (no produce, flocks and herds lost), yet we will rejoice in the Lord. The Lord and only the Lord is our strength. If my focus is on the material, then I will never develop true joy.

What Habakkuk learned long ago is what we as God’s men today must get straight in our heads. Especially now in America.

If David Took a Selfie in Gath

1 Samuel 21 was not one of David’s finer moments. I began to think, “If David took a selfie in Gath, what would it look like?”

Well, take a minute to read 1 Samuel 21:10-15.

Then David arose and fled that day from Saul, and went to Achish king of Gath. But the servants of Achish said to him, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of this one as they danced, saying, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands’?” David took these words to heart and greatly feared Achish king of Gath. So he disguised his sanity before them, and acted insanely in their hands, and scribbled on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva run down into his beard. Then Achish said to his servants, “Behold, you see the man behaving as a madman. Why do you bring him to me? “Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this one to act the madman in my presence? Shall this one come into my house?” (1 Samuel 21:10-15).

This is the giant-killer! Here stands the future anointed king of Israel. He is called a mighty warrior (1 Sam. 16:18) who has slain his 10,000’s (1 Sam. 18:7). Can you picture David like this? He “disguised his sanity,” and let “his saliva run down into his beard.” He is “scribbling on the doors of the gate,” “acting insanely.” I do not believe that is the image that most Bible students have when they think of King David!

But even David had his moments…the moments you certainly do not want to capture with a selfie! I don’t think he’d post this on Instagram or Facebook!

What is incredibly fascinating to me and insightful is to read Psalm 56, which the text says was written during this very CRAZY time in David’s life. Please read the whole Psalm today, but I will just put an excerpt of it here for you.

For the choir director; according to Jonath elem rehokim. A Mikhtam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath. Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me; fighting all day long he oppresses me. My foes have trampled upon me all day long, for they are many who fight proudly against me. When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? (Psalms 56:1-4)

You see if you only read 1 Samuel 21 then you don’t see Psalm 56, and vice versa. If you only read Psalm 56 and do not place it back in the historical context of what David was going through, you will think David always had it all together. And you would be flat-out wrong. David didn’t start with the mindset of Psalm 56, but he by faith eventually arrived there. But it was an ugly and embarrassing process along the way.

This is the part that sometimes Christians, especially Christian men, don’t like to talk about. Growth is not binary. We are not just light-switched from pagan to Paul in the blink of an eye! Spiritual growth can just simply look ugly at times on the exterior, but with God’s help we are strengthened. We are perfected in our faith and solidified in our trust in Him.

I am so glad the Holy Spirit recorded this very embarrassing moment in the life of the mighty David, because it gives me hope when I have the same kinds of moments! God was still David’s loving and patient Lord even when the spit was running down his beard. We can say all day that “David should have…” but he didn’t. And God loved him through that growth process until his faith was strengthened.

So, do you have those falling-apart moments in your life that you certainly wouldn’t want to capture with a selfie? Well then, so did David.