Do You Get Distracted by the Enemy’s Noise?

noiseTHE WORD: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7

My study of the life of Gideon has taken me to an introspective place once again. I love these moments when God taps me on my shoulder and reminds me that I need to turn my face…my attention…back to Him.

I tend to be easily distracted by the obstacles that the enemy uses to derail me from God’s divine purpose. When I allow emotions to drown out His voice, I experience an unnecessary diversion. The distraction of the noise from the enemy’s camp sways me into seeking human approval for matters that God has already worked out. It’s so easy for me to get caught-up in the momentum of disappointments. Oh how frail my earthen vessel!

As always….You are amazing Papa God! When I made the decision to follow You, You promised to never leave or forsake me! When I go off track, You pursue me…and when You find me in the ditches…muddied and bruised, You lift me up, clean me up, and gently turn my face back to Your loving gaze! You remove my insecurities. You refuel me with Your courage and strength….an infusion of perseverance…and on Your way I go!

Yes…I sense a change in my trajectory up ahead….a life changer to be sure! I am trusting ABBA Father to keep me focused! I will cling to the Vine…there my source of strength will remain constant and sure. Papa God has already worked out the details. He will remove the obstacles and clear the way so that at the end of this life, HE will have been glorified…His purpose fulfilled. That is my desire!

Thank you Papa God…for it is your Spirit that resides in me. Help me to be consistent in my walk with You. You are the strength that I need. I want to be caught up in YOUR momentum! I praise and thank You for renewal this morning! In Jesus name…

Opportunity in the Opposition

sword (2)If you allow your perception of circumstances to trump God’s TRUTH, in essence you’ve allowed the enemy’s lies to become your reality.

“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” ~James 4:7, 10 NLT

“When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven. Then I said, ‘O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses. Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’” ~ Nehemiah 1:4-9

What can we learn from Nehemiah’s prayer?
1. He acknowledges the character of God. (1:5)
2. He confesses his sin (1:6-7)
3. He prays for an opportunity (1:11)

What obstacles do we face like Nehemiah?
1. He faced ridicule. (4:1-3)
2. He faced fatigue. (4:10)

What should we do when we face these obstacles? Here’s what we learn from Nehemiah…(4:4-5, 14, 15)
1. He relied on God.
2. He reorganized.
3. He told the people to fight with the sword in one hand and work with the other with Gods power.
4. They refused to quit.

There will be no opportunity without opposition. What is it in your life that Satan would love for you to give up on?

Your future is not determined by the opinions of others. Your future is in the hands of God. Pray as if it depends on God, and work as if it depends on you. Remember who you belong to!

In Nehemiah, chapter 8, Nehemiah assembled with a unified purpose. He and his fellow brothers and sisters made a commitment to live and learn in community. They made a commitment to confess their sins. Once you’ve confessed your sins and poured your heart out to God, don’t stay there…RISE UP! Look up and take our Savior’s hand! Don’t focus on your failures. Rely on God’s faithfulness! Anticipate His presence.

READ Nehemiah 6:1-6, 8-12, 15

What takes us off course? What is causing us to leave our commitments? Are you going to allow distractions to make you lose the purpose that God wants to fulfill in and through you? Are you making a 1st rate commitment to 10th rate stuff?

We need to apply laser like focus – know what you value and then live by your values. Define your non-negotiables.

The key components to success are prayer and the Word of God. Are you going to let the opinion (gossip) of others stop you from being all that God has called you to be?

Speak the truth in love. Be a part of the solution. Pray and ask God to strengthen you from the inside out. Don’t let the words of those that are trying to discourage or oppress you succeed. Our almighty God will deal with them. God is in control.

Are you allowing fear to paralyze you? It comes down to faith vs. fear! What are we allowing to win? Never give up on your passion. Yes, give up all those things that hinder your walk, but never, ever give up on God! He never gave up on you! Our life matters to God
I’ve got one shot! Am I living for an audience of ONE?

My Life as an International Drug Runner – Part FIVE

Curves for Women (2) I accepted the invitation to be the Ambassador of Kobare. I considered it to be an honor. The cost to build the church was about $3,500, including the land and the building. To be honest, my first thought was to write a check for the entire amount, and that would complete my assignment. But God nixed my plan. He told me this was an opportunity to see how he would bless my obedience…and the newly formed church at Kobare. He asked me to trust him to provide the money.

When I got back home, I began sharing the opportunity to invest in the Kobare mission with my family and friends. I received many good wishes for success, along with some investment checks. One of my friends that I shared the opportunity with, Pamalot, told me she worked for a lady who owned a couple of Curves for Women franchises who had been looking for a place to send money.

So I called Susan, Pamalot’s boss, and told her about the work God had begun in Kobare, and about the need for a place to meet, and to worship. As we were talking, I remembered a picture I had taken following one of the crusades of a teenage boy wearing a tee shirt that had caught my eye. Although the name on the shirt only amused me at the time, now it made perfect sense. I emailed the picture to Susan.

The name on the shirt—Curves for Women! As you might imagine, the photo had the same effect on Susan it had on me, and she invested the remaining money we needed for the project. Within just a few weeks the land was purchased and the corrugated metal building was ready for worship. In my heart, I can hear the songs of praise to the beat of the hearts of the people of Kobare.

Pastor Todd at Sagebrush teaches that God will not ask us to do what he does not give us the passion…and the resources…to do. The fear I had as a kid that kept me from fully embracing the plan of my Father God eventually gave way to the passion he placed in my heart to trust him—really trust him—with my life. Now, I’m respectfully amused by how silly it is for us to resist such a great adventure that God has prepared for us to experience. It’s the adventure of becoming the person he designed us to be, and to live the life he designed us to live.

Part 5 of 5…Thank you for joining me on this great adventure!

My Life as an International Drug Runner – Part FOUR

Girl's handFollowing one of the crusade services, a young pastor-in-training asked me to walk with him to our next stop. I walked with him, even though I had no idea whatsoever where we were headed, or how long it would take us to get there. By this time it was dark, except for the full moon, which cast eerie and intriguing shadows on the path ahead of us. Of course, my active imagination pictured jungle animals about to pounce on us.

As we walked along the path, chatting about the goodness of God, and how he was blessing the crusade, the young man took my hand and held it as we walked. He shared with me how pleased he was that I had come all the way from The United States of America to be here. At first I was a little distracted from what he was saying by the thought he was holding my hand. But then it occurred to me how rare this opportunity was to be walking with a brother in Christ through the bush of Africa holding hands and by the light of the moon.

After we had walked several minutes, I could hear the chatter of people who had gathered at the home of one of the brothers. Some of the ladies were cooking in open pots that were situated over fires just outside the home, and other women were preparing food on makeshift tables. When it was time to eat, I was told that since I was the honored guest, I would go first. It was then I also learned that the head of the chicken that had been cooking in the pot would also be a gift to the honored guest. Another surprise.

Even with so many extraordinary experiences, there’s one thing about my adventure that comes to mind that warms my heart the most. It was just a couple more days until I would leave Africa, and I was sitting under a beautiful tree where we had set up for a Sunday morning service. The music was playing, and the people were singing and dancing. I noticed one little girl—maybe two or three years old—standing nearby. She had been looking at me rather intently for several minutes.

Lots of little kids had been looking curiously at me, simply because many of them had never before seen a white guy. Some kids actually cried when they saw me, thinking I was a ghost. But this little girl seemed different. She was curious. In stealth mode, I held my hand palm up on my lap. I continued to sing, pretending not to notice as she crept ever-so-slowly in my direction. My heart was warmed when she cautiously reached out her little hand, and placed it on mine. We connected. I remember the deep feeling of gratitude for yet another precious and priceless moment in time.

There was one final experience which, without a doubt, revealed the hand of God at work in a way that surpassed anything I could have dreamed up. Toward the end of the crusade, I was asked to be the “Ambassador to Kobare.” I was told that if I accepted the invitation, it would be my task to tell others about the wonderful things God had been doing there. And it would be my task to tell others that God needed people who would “invest” in the ongoing mission of Kobare. I was told we did not want contributions, because a contribution did not require follow-up. An investment, on the other hand, is tracked by the investor who has a personal interest in what’s happening with his or her investment. (Part 4 0f 5; to be continued…)

Just Another “Normal” Day?

Hands of service (1)THE WORD: “The Sovereign Lord has given me His words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning He wakens me and opens my understanding to His will.” ~Isaiah 50:4

Just another normal day ahead…or is it? Sometimes we start our day with a cup of coffee, a quick prayer, then head out the door, without giving much thought to the rest of the day. We get on with it and do what we normally do.

My challenge to myself and to you today is to stop and enjoy the presence of Papa God. Yes…stop. For a moment, recognize the amazing gift of His omnipresence in our lives! He is with me right now as I pen these words. He is there with you right now as you read them. What an amazing Creator we have! How majestic is His name!

The King of the universe is taking time to do life with us. He longs to take residence—to settle in—right dab smack in the middle of our hearts and lives. He longs to whisper in our ears each morning, to awaken our Spirit and instill within us His thoughts, His ways, His will throughout the day. He longs to unfold His purpose wherever we go, in whatever we do, with whomever we meet.

You see, it is not just another day. Our heavenly Father longs to make this an extraordinary day of opportunity, a day where we can extend kindness to a stranger, encourage our co-worker who is dealing with an illness, or simply take a few moments to encourage someone who is broken-hearted. He wants us to be His hands and feet. He wants to embody Himself in our being.

Will you let Him? Will you invite Him?

I’m looking at today in a different way….it’s going to be an extra-ordinary day…..because Papa God is with me wherever I go! I’m in the presence of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. A princess enjoying the day with her Daddy!

“For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building…Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” ~1 Corinthians 3:9, 16

“Thank you, Papa God, for waking us up this morning. Thank you for gifting us with another day of opportunity. Thank you for breathing into us your WORD! Help us to be mindful of your presence. As we get on with our day….this seemingly ordinary day…remind us to stop and recognize that this is a day of extraordinary opportunity. Quicken your Spirit within us and lead us as we go about your business. Along the way…as it is necessary…let us stop for those moments where you wish to speak to us. Whisper your will into our hearts and move us to compassion. Let those whispers be the sweet prompting we need to be your hands and feet. In Jesus name we ask and pray. Amen.”

My Life as an International Drug Runner – Part THREE

Kenyan MusiciansI’m not sure if it was planned, or if it was a spur-of-the-moment thing, but the mission leader decided to hold a crusade in a little village a few miles from where he lived. The village was called Kobare. I found out about the plan while we were on our way, driving to the crusade. That’s when I first suspected I might be the speaker for these crusades.

We drove to the village on a road that rattled our teeth. The driver took special care to avoid the two-feet deep ruts that could have broken an axle. When we finally arrived, a stage had already been constructed out of rough-sawn lumber. We sat up the sound equipment, which was powered by a generator chugging along in the background. It was raining, but no one complained, because it would not be raining unless God decided a little rain on the crusade would be a good idea.

I couldn’t tell if there was a scheduled starting time. It seemed a little arbitrary. But eventually, the worship team began to play their instruments…a keyboard and drums and tambourines. And they sang. I have never been so moved by music, partially because of the beauty of the sound, and possibly even more so because of the love and passion expressed on the faces of the musicians, sometimes wet from the rain. When it rained a little harder, the keyboardist threw a piece of plastic over the keyboard…and kept on playing.

The sound of the music attracted people from the surrounding bush—from miles around. The musicians played and sang for a couple of hours, which gave ample time to those who lived several miles away an opportunity to find the source of real soul music.

When several people had gathered – I’d estimate somewhere between 150 to 200 – I got “the nod,” and I made my way to the makeshift stage. The people were totally attentive, standing on their feet for hours. Even the children, many of whom lived without parents in communal groups in the bush, stood motionless, mesmerized by what they were experiencing.

Toward the end of the service, one of the worship team members offered an invitation to the people to accept Christ as their personal Savior, and dozens responded. The scene was beyond anything I had imagined. I thought my heart would burst, just to think my Lord had invited me here for a time such as this.

One day we arrived early in Kobare so we could do some “hut to hut” evangelism. We walked for several minutes between huts, seeking those who might be ready to hear about God’s love, and his desire to have a personal relationship with them. Most were friendly, and some even invited us in to their homes.

Kenyan Mom & KidsMy favorite home was a 10’ x 10’ one-room mud and straw hut that provided shelter for a mom and her three children. We had to bow down low to get through the doorway. The floor was clean-swept packed dirt.

Kenyan GirlThe next home we visited was a little fancier, complete with a concrete floor and metal roof. When we told the teenage girl who lived there the reason for our visit, she began to cry softly. She explained in Swahili that she had prayed earlier that morning that God would send someone who could tell her how she could know him. We knelt with her on the concrete floor as she prayed and received Christ as her Lord. As we left, the thought came to my mind that if this girl had been the only one to receive life in Christ on this trip, the assignment would have been worth everything it took to get there.
(Part 3 of a 5 part series…)

My Life as an International Drug Runner ~ Part TWO

Brake job (2)The next morning I flew to Kisumu. The director of the orphanage met me at the airport and drove me to his home, where I stayed with him and his family for the next several days. Other than camping, I had never been without running water and electricity for any length of time, but I thought it sounded like fun for a few days. And it was fun.

The people I met were absolutely anxious for nothing. When I asked them why they seemed so content, they told me they believed that if God wanted them to have something more than what they already had, they would have it. If they didn’t have it, it was because God knew they didn’t need it, at least not now. I didn’t hear one word of complaint—not one—even though there were reasons to complain on more than one occasion.

One occasion to complain was when the rear brakes locked up on the SUV on our way back to Kisumu to pick up some supplies. The town was about 55 miles away. The solution? Drain the brake fluid…all of the brake fluid. It made sense, in a way, because without brake fluid there was no way the brakes could possibly lock up. Of course, that also meant we would not have brakes for the rest of the journey, but never mind that.

Keep in mind we had to travel several miles, down hills and around curves that tended to be scattered with people walking and riding bikes, and with little kids herding their cattle alongside the road. And I already mentioned the tanker trucks that flew up and down the roads with what appeared to be a reckless speed.

I asked if anyone ever got hit walking along the road. I was told it happened only on rare occasions. The reason: “People learn by experience to be alert.” So here we are, heading toward Kisumu with no brakes whatsoever. It was kind of like the rush of a wild Disney ride, without the assurance the ride would end well. No one else in the vehicle seemed concerned, so I settled in for the ride. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but notice how alert I was.

I had been told I would be asked to preach while I was there, so I had prepared a couple of messages. My first opportunity came the morning after I arrived, which was a Sunday. The service started with a very lively time of musical worship, followed by a lady pastor who preached from her heart of passion for about an hour or so. Then it was my turn.

My interpreter was doing a fine job (as far as I could tell) translating everything I said into Swahili. I was amazed at how he used the same tone and vocal inflections I used. I confess, a couple of times I threw in a little something extra just to see if he would get it. He didn’t miss a beat.

When I finished and sat back down, one of the leaders whispered to me that I wasn’t finished yet. I assured him that I was finished. He explained to me in hushed tones that many of the people had walked several miles through the bush and along the treacherous roads to hear from God, and they would be disappointed if I didn’t speak for at least a couple of hours.

I was amazed that God gave me a message—every time. It far exceeded anything I had anticipated, or had prepared for. I loved it, partially because it was so beyond me. There was something about the enthusiasm and receptiveness of the people that made it seem so natural. They showed up to hear from God, and they listened intently as he spoke to their hearts. (Part 2 of 5…to be continued…)

My Life as an International Drug Runner ~ Part ONE

African Children
The glimmering city lights of Nairobi were spectacular as the plane banked toward the runway. I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of the two-week adventure that lay ahead of me. I took a deep breath, and then exhaled slowly. I recalled the distant yet emotionally vivid memory of myself as an eight-year-old boy, holding on for dear life to the back of the pew in our little country church. It was the altar call, and I was scared to death I might get “the call.”

You might know what I’m talking about—the “missionary call to Africa” that happens when we commit to “give our all” to God. The altar calls demanded every ounce of strength I could muster to stand my ground, even though everything inside me wanted to be God’s little warrior. But I had to stand firm. I couldn’t risk full surrender, knowing it could mean the end of life as I knew it. I liked my life just the way it was. An assignment to some remote jungle in Africa, never to see my family or pony again, would ruin everything.

It didn’t help that the song leader, and everyone for that matter, always seemed so somber, like someone had just died, or was about to die, as they sang songs like I Surrender All, and I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go…Dear Lord!

Now here I am, about to land in Africa. My pulse quickens as I rehearsed my mission: Deliver thousands of dollars worth of drugs and medications to an orphanage near Kobare, north of Lake Victoria and a little north of the equator, not too far from Uganda. In essence, I’m an international drug runner, and I don’t know a soul where I’m going. I’ve never felt so alive in all my life.

My contact at the airport was an important police-type guy—the equivalent to our FBI, I was told. He spoke English, but I had to strain to understand him because of his heavy accent. I knew I was about to embark on an incredible adventure, but I didn’t expect it would begin so soon. The first real excitement began at customs, which brings me to the reason for this great adventure.

It seems that in the past when medications and drugs had been shipped to the orphanage, they tended to “shrink,” or disappear altogether, before they got to where they were supposed to end up. And since I’m always up for an adventure, I volunteered for the job of personally delivering them. I had about $8,000 worth of drugs and medical supplies stuffed into two bulging suitcases.

Back at customs, as I approached the armed guards, I was ordered to “Halt!” As I stopped to comply, my contact told me to keep walking. Now, keep in mind I had a difficult time understanding him, so I thought he said to keep walking, but I couldn’t be certain. When I looked at him to confirm what he had said, he told me to look straight ahead and keep walking, and he motioned briskly in the direction he wanted me to go.

Obediently, I kept walking. Now the customs guys were shouting at me to halt. I thought, Wow, I could get shot in the back, right at the start of my wonderful adventure! But I continued walking as bravely as I could, with my shoulders hunched a little, just in case they decided to open fire.

When we made it outside—alive—I asked my contact what would have happened if I had stopped. He told me they would have taken what they wanted and then charged me a “fee” to keep the rest. He gave me a brief lesson about the corruption of the government, and how he would look after me—at least until I got out of Nairobi. (Part I of 5…to be continued…)

Baby ‘n the Bathwater

baby and bathwaterFrom my vantage point, much of the craziness in our country that’s driving us to the edge of destruction is our tendency to do things our way rather than God’s way.

Many “social programs” are caught up in this debacle. (No, I’m not “against” social programs. I personally know many folks who have poured themselves into helping people through these programs. And I was grateful for food stamps when I was going to school and working five part-time jobs to support my family in the ‘70s.)

But to my knowledge, God never said the government should take care of the people. God instructed the people to take care of the people. In the end, Jesus does not say, “I was hungry, naked and imprisoned, and the government took care of my needs.”

Unfortunately, we’re so tapped out by our government mis-spending our money, we don’t have much left to do what we’re called to do. I can’t help but wonder how our society might be healthier if we actually took care of our own–within our own families and communities. With a more personal approach, we would know if someone actually needed help, or if they were simply refusing to take responsibility for their lives.

(Can we agree we see both of these scenarios being played out in the “system”? We can all think of some who actually need help, and we can also think of some who truly are conning the system.)

If at all possible, I believe everyone needs to give something back in exchange for what they receive. Not because we need to get something back, but because we all need to give something back. Even if all we have to offer is gratitude. Or a helping hand to another person.

When I read some of the comments that are lobbed – or spiked – back and forth about these issues, it seems that many of the skirmishes seem to be triggered when one person exaggerates his point in order to dismiss another’s opposing point. In many cases, it’s not “either/or.” It’s “both/and.”
It’s like choosing up sides on the playground. It’s childish behavior.

And it’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The baby is God’s instruction that we take care of those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Let’s be sensible about what needs to happen with the bathwater.

And let’s look for an opportunity today to personally make a difference in the life of someone who needs a bit of “social” encouragement – with whatever we have may have to offer…in Jesus’ name.

The Tears of a Man

tears of a manJesus demonstrated how to be a wholly integrated, multifaceted human being. In the typical ways men are men, Jesus was a man. He worked in his earthly dad’s carpenter shop, possibly building carts and furniture and other things common to day-to-day life at that time. Wouldn’t it be a treat to have something built by Jesus, even if it was just a simple wooden trinket? Just to know the hands of the Carpenter shaped it to be what he wanted it to be would make it a treasure too valuable to imagine. Amazingly, he has given us exactly that—something formed by the hands of the Master. He has given us us. We are a “treasure in an earthen vessel” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

And Jesus fixed stuff. That’s what some men are inclined to do. Granted, some of our solutions complicate the matter, but never mind that. We mean well. Jesus demonstrated his strength by fixing things that needed to be fixed. For instance, he once cleared the temple with a whip he made when things had gone off track from the will of his Father.

Jesus also demonstrated characteristics we typically attribute to women. A couple of days after his friend Lazarus died, Jesus showed up to be with Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary. Their hearts were broken, and they expressed the “if only” we can all relate to. Mary fell at Jesus’ feet… “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). She obviously had faith to believe that if Jesus had been there when he was supposed to be there, her brother would still be alive. What she did not yet realize was that Jesus was not limited to healing just the living.

Jesus listened carefully and compassionately to his friends’ sorrow. I imagine his eyes were studying their eyes as sadness poured out in their tears. We know he took them seriously because he was moved to do something about what he felt. That’s what real compassion does—it motivates us to do something in response to what we feel.

If we had the power to fix the situation, most of us guys would have skipped what Jesus did next. We like to go straight to the solution, blow right past the emotion. But he didn’t blow past the emotion. He wept. As I said, many of us guys would have deleted that scene from the story. But in order for men to be holy the way we are designed to be holy, we need to become whole men. Jesus set the example for what a real man is like. A real man is not only concerned with fixing the situation, but he also takes time to feel the emotional impact of his friends’ sadness.

~Excerpt from Holy Libido

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