Posted in My Journey

God Is My King

God is great. I have learned that. When I pray to him, I am talking to him and when I am reading his word, he is talking to me. That tender and intimate relationship will always be there. I have learned he will never leave me nor forsake me. I may fall in utter despair but he will be there to catch me. His love for me will never fail. I let him into my heart knowing he would change me, and as I see him changing me, I am falling more and more in love with him. He is my savior. He is my king.

My prayers have changed, too. No longer do I come near enough to his throne room with expectations. I now come into his throne room sometimes not having anything to say but to be in his presence. His peace overwhelms me. His glory lifts me from my trials and gives me hope. He is not a million miles away. He is here always ready to hold me in his bosom, to remove anything that might come between him and me. He is my fortress. He is my king.

I have learned to forgive. I have learned to let go. When I realized he would be willing to fight my battles for me, I surrendered to him. Hatred soon disappeared and love appeared. If he could give his son Jesus as a sacrifice for my sins (John 3:16), I can forgive others what they have done to me. My sins are worse. His righteousness clothes me and is my comfort. He leads me beside still waters. He is my shepherd. He is my king.

God listens. If you need help, try approaching God’s throne with no expectation other than to be in his presence. He is there always, waiting. He wants a relationship with you, even if you feel he is a million miles away.

Posted in My Journey

Forgive Always

We put up the Christmas tree this weekend. Everyone was there except my son, who landed in the hospital two weeks ago. We are still trying to understand what is going on with him. I am sure that whatever it is, the good doctors in town will provide a proper diagnosis soon. I guess the one positive thing I can take away from this experience is that the hospital is only four minutes away from our home. Yes, I timed it.

For my final post of 2017, before I go on hiatus, I wanted to talk a bit about forgiveness. I know I have written about this subject in the past, and I have preached about it, too. And I have written a book called When Forgiveness Is Enough regarding this topic. So, I would say, I am fully aware of the details and nuances concerning forgiveness, and of what it does to the person who is doing the forgiving.

Given it is the season to be merry I find I cannot be merry if I am harboring a grudge. More times than not, a grudge eats away at the very fabric of who we are and takes away from the enjoyment of whatever it is we are doing. I cannot say how important it is to let go of the past in order to move forward with the future. Part of that also is removing bitterness from our lives. As it says in Hebrews:

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Heb. 12:15 ESV throughout).

If we allow bitterness to infect our heart, that root will grow and spread to all our other relationships, ruining everything we have worked to build. The remedy is to let go of that root, dig it out of our hearts, and live lives free from the burden of bitterness, anger and resentment.

My sermon on forgiveness from November 5, 2017:

Yes, it is easy to say, but when has a hard thing been easy to do? The Apostle Luke has a solution we can take to heart:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28).

In other words, Luke says to do good, bless and pray for those who hate, curse and abuse us. That is tough to do, especially if some of us have experienced physical and sexual abuse. How can we forgive a predator?

As Christians, though, the act of forgiving another human being needs to be part of our nature. We cannot allow a root of bitterness to grow and fester until it is too late. We have to get rid of it, and replace vengeance with doing good. Only then will we become selfless as Christ Jesus, who gave himself on the cross as a sacrifice for the sin of the world, thereby saving us from sin’s penalty (Rom. 6:23).

That is the one message I would like to leave with you during this holiday season. Forgive, as you would like others to forgive you. In so doing, your reward will be great in heaven.

Posted in How-To Guides

How to Find Gladness in God

I will make this a short post, as I know everyone is busy, and time is limited to a few sound bites and perhaps several interesting quotes to carry us through the day.

Think about this for a minute: The universe is 13.7 billion years old. A light-year is the distance light travels in a single year, which is 6 trillion miles (9.5 trillion kilometers). This translates to a speed of 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) a second. The universe is 93 billion light-years in diameter and always expanding.

We live on Earth, third planet from a star called the Sun, in the Orion Arm, one of the spirals in the Milky Way galaxy. There are 100 billion stars in our galaxy, each of which may have planets of their own.

About 3 trillion galaxies populate the universe.

Each of us is one of 7 billion people who live here on this tiny planet.

Now I ask you this: Is it possible we are wrong to think God, the one who created the heavens and the earth, made a mistake when he sent Jesus to die for our sins?

After all, who are we who live on this insignificant planet called Earth, among the 100 billion planets in our galaxy, among the 3 trillion galaxies in the universe, that God should so love us in such a way as to sacrifice his only son so that we could share in the inheritance of all things?

It sounds crazy!

And yet, that is exactly what God has planned for every person who believes Jesus is his son. He wants us to inherit the universe and everything in it, just as it says in Romans 8:32“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (KJV)

So today, as we make our way through the events that shape our lives, let us consider God’s view on this: We may be one of 7 billion who live here, but his plan is to give us all things according to his promises and his love for us.

If that is not something that brings gladness to your heart, then look toward the night sky for your inheritance.

Posted in How-To Guides

3 Steps to Being Happy with What You Have

What is happiness? Is happiness attainable? Is it something I can give to someone else? In other words, can I make someone else happy? Or, do I need something—whatever it is—to make me happy?

These questions I will try to answer with this short article about being happy with what you have.

1. Throw Away Envy and Ambition

Remember how you felt when you received that shiny new phone for Christmas? You had resolved that nothing in the world could ever take away your happiness.

That is, until you saw someone else using the upgraded version. Now, you want one, too.

Envy and jealousy are like poison to happiness. No matter what, someone will always have it better.

The best way to fight the urge to compare oneself with another is to take life one day at a time. Satisfaction comes from realizing today’s problems and successes are for today. As the cliché goes, tomorrow is another day—another day to fail, another day to succeed.

As I believe Jesus is the son of God, I also look to the bible for wisdom. James 3:16 says, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” NIV.

There is nothing wrong with planning. Wise stewards plan. But if planning leads to wanting to be better than others, then there will be no happiness.

Throw away envy and ambition and allow happiness to flood your heart and your mind.

2. Stop Humanizing God

There was a time in my life that I used to think God did not know what he was doing. I saw all the misery around the world, the pain people suffered and I did not believe God could ever fix this mess.

It was too great, even for him.

Thinking that way led me to invalidate God and ask that if he could not fix the world, how could he fix me? In a sense, I humanized God.

Making God equal with me made the thought of his inaction bearable.

I was wrong. Once I began to know God and to learn why he did the things he did, by reading his word, praying, going to church, I learned about real happiness.

I learned God does things in his own time. He allows things to happen because it suits his plan. I may not understand it all, but I know his decisions will make sense to me eventually.

Having the faith that God will work things for the best is my reassurance he loves me and is greater than me or anyone else. I may be a sinner, I may stumble and fall, but he will never leave me. He has never left me, nor will he ever.

That reassurance is another layer to my happiness.

3. Be Grateful

Have you ever exercised and found yourself exhausted to the point that you would give anything for a glass of water? Think about how it felt when you finally took that first gulp.

Satisfying. Thirst-quenching. Happiness.

For a single moment in time, nothing else really mattered. The neighbors could have been bickering, your car payment could have been late and your dog could have suddenly developed a case of worms.

But, for that moment—you were grateful.

Imagine carrying that grateful feeling throughout the day—all the time.

You would not complain about the noisy passenger on the train next to you. You would give food to the homeless sitting at the street corner. You would forgive those who had done you wrong.

Your life, as you know it, would change all because you were grateful with what you had.

You would not worry about money. You would not worry about peace. You would not worry about anything, really

When you are grateful, everything else falls into place.

When you are grateful—there is no reason to be unhappy.

Posted in How-To Guides

How to Love Unconditionally

What does unconditional love mean? How does it apply to those people who have harmed us? We could easily dismiss them and move forward. That is a realistic choice.

But how different would that make us from everyone else?

Would it not be more constructive to love our enemies in spite of their hatred toward us.

The high road is a far better road on which to travel.

Of course, we could never reach this decision without some help.

Love God

I recently read in the bible a reminder of what it means to love unconditionally.

Matthew 22:37-39 says, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (NIV).

To love God—to really love God—means to do his will. His will is for us to worship him with joy and gladness in our heart.

And why not?

He sustains all things, great and small. His power infuses life in the largest of galaxies to the tiniest of particles. He set laws in motion for us to experience the wildest of sunsets to the most incredible of sunrises. His hand glides over the oceans imbuing his strength to the deep, so as we may marvel at his glorious handiwork.

When I kneel before him, I give him praise for his wonderful majesty over my life.

I would not be breathing, if it were not for him.

I learned unconditional love by his love for me. I did not ask God to love me. He does it because that is who he is.

God is love.

Once I learned that, loving others came easy.

Love Others

Oh, what a world it would be if there were no more wars. Oh, what a life it would be if we could only resolve hatred in our hearts instead of on the battlefield.

When we reach that point in our lives that it makes more sense to allow God to work in us than to take matters into our own hands, that is when we finally allow love to work his will in our relationships.

God is love.

If God lives in us, it is easy to let a slight pass. It is easy to say to those emboldened to offend us, “I forgive you.” It is easy to see the other person’s point of view. It is easy to understand their actions. It is easy to fall asleep at night and not hold on to things for the next day. It is easy to make amends with those who do not want to make amends.

It is easy because unconditional love does not hurt, destroy, ridicule, hate, put down, torment, or devastate.

Unconditional love is just that.

Love.

Posted in Bible Studies, My Journey

There Is Hope

I would like to take a few minutes to talk about something that has been a weight on my heart for quite some time. Many of you may want to skim through this post to get to the point, but I know that if you read every word and listen to what I have to say, God will truly bless you.

This year has been good to me. I found God again, I returned to church, and I have a whole new set of people of whom I now count as my friends. I have learned all about forgiveness, love and joy beyond that which is superficial. I am also able to worship God with arms spread wide toward the heavens, much as I have read David had done countless occasions when he praised God.

Consequently, I have also made changes in my life that I could not have made had I not received the Holy Spirit earlier this fall to help me with my daily walk with the most high God.

Now, it may seem obvious that I would want to talk about how God has changed my life, given how I used to write about horror and all its variations, however, at this time, I do not feel God is leading me to do that. I am sure there will be a period in my life when I will have the opportunity to talk all about my change from being self-centered to thinking about others. I just feel now is not that time.

Therefore, if I am not going to talk about what is on everyone’s mind, why even write this post at all?

A Calling from God

With the Holy Spirit leading me, I believe God has a plan for each person reading this post today. He has never been shy to reveal to me what his intentions are concerning my life. Somehow, I believe, some of you need to hear these words. Perhaps he is also revealing to you through me your calling to reach out to him for comfort.

I know life is hard. Life is tough—especially now. For some of you, Christmas is a dark time of year. The lights mask the loneliness you feel when everyone is telling you that you ought to be joyful. Yet, how can you feel joy if nothing exists in your heart but emptiness? Yes, the gifts are aplenty, the food is delicious, and the company you entertain during the holidays may make it seem as if you lead a fulfilling life. Still, the emptiness remains.

Conversely, some of you may not even have enough money to purchase the simple necessities, let alone a gift for someone. Your families may also be broken, which makes getting together a chore, rather than a delight.

I am here to tell you there is hope (Eph. 1:11-12).

God Comforts the Brokenhearted

God is love (1 John 4:16). He is here for those who are looking for comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-4). He is here to heal the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18). He is here never to let you go. He really, really does love you, in spite of it all. You may feel that you have done the worst thing in the world, but if you come before God and sincerely confess your wrongs, he will forgive you (Acts 2:38). He always does. All he wants is to have a relationship with you.

Forget about not feeling worthy. Forget about the guilt. Allow God to give you wings so that you can fly (Isa. 40:31). Allow his light to flood the darkness and provide you the freedom to escape your troubles (John 8:12).

There is no other God than he (Deut. 4:35). He created the heavens and the earth (Isaiah 42:5). He set the earth on its foundations (Job 38:4-6) and separated the day from the night (Gen. 1:5). He made everything under the sun (Isaiah 44:24) and breathed life into our lungs (Gen. 2:7). He is the awesome God. And his life lives in every one of us who believes (John 3:16). His mercy is just and his righteousness endures forever (Ps. 111:2-3).

In the good and the bad, all glory goes to God.

Somehow, and you know who you are, you needed to hear this.

Posted in Bible Studies, My Journey

The Bible: Cover to Cover

When I set out to read the bible from cover to cover last year, I did not know I would be in for a few surprises.

For instance, I had no idea that Job lived before Abraham, in spite of the fact that the Book of Job is located several hundred pages after Genesis. In addition, it was a revelation to me that after the flood, God declared that all animals would fear humans (Gen. 9:2 ESV throughout). And the thought that an honorable man such as Jabez, whose name meant “man of sorrow” or “borne out of pain”, had two verses written about him to demonstrate God’s blessings over his life (1 Chr. 4:9-10), left me wondering what else in the bible have I yet to discover?

The reading plan I used to accomplish this feat is part of the Olive Tree Bible Study app, which resides on my phone and on my tablet. I simply chose a chronological reading plan that consisted of the English Standard Version (ESV). When I travelled, I read it on my phone, sync’d it with my Olive Tree account, then, when I returned home, I picked it up from where I left off on my tablet. Even today, it makes for a seamless experience.

Choosing to read the bible chronologically has its advantages, too. I gained an incredible amount of insight into historical events when reading about the same story through two different accounts. I did not have to understand why certain things happened the way they did because the context remained the same throughout. The chronological reading plan is especially helpful when working through the Books of Kings and the Books of Chronicles, as the reign of kings can be quite confusing when studying it in a non-linear fashion.

All history aside, though, my favorite part of the bible is the gospels. In the gospels Jesus talks about how to get along with others (Mat. 5:43-48), how to have a relationship with God (Mat. 6:5-15), and what the ultimate goal for believers should be (Mat. 6:19-21).

And, of course, one of my favorite verses I cling to comes from the gospels:

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

In its basic form, it means that whatever I give is what comes back to me. I can attest that this principle works every single time I use it—and it does not apply to money only.

Anyway, I learned all these things in my first year reading the bible from cover to cover. I am hoping after having read the New International Version (NIV) this year, I will have something more to say about the experience.

In the meantime, I will quote this verse as my last thought for this post: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10).