A Firm Foundation

Matthew 7:24-27 (NASB): “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

As we enter a New Year, I hear many people expressing concern and anxiety over what 2017 will bring. At the same time, I am also encouraged by others who are looking forward to this New Year, connected with their belief in God’s absolute power and authority over the entire earth. God is in control of all creation, and He promises to always be with us, in both good moments and during difficult times. Are you willing to place your complete faith and trust in God instead of the things of this world? Don’t allow the news media or society to shape your beliefs and the way you approach each day. Begin each day by turning to God, through his Word and prayer, and trust that God will direct your steps.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to not only “hear” His words but to “act” upon them. As people of faith, we certainly must have Christ as the foundation of our lives. What foundation is your life built upon? Will it withstand the many difficulties and troubles of life that will come your way this year? If the way you live your life is built around your faith and trust in God, then you are on a solid foundation. Your life is built on the rock and not on the sand. When troubles come your way  – and they most assuredly will – you will be able to withstand those momentary difficulties, and your faith and trust in God will be greater. You will emerge from those trials with a stronger and more complete faith. God will not let you fall!

However, if the foundation of your life is shallow, and built upon the sand, you are destined for trouble. When the many storms of daily life come your way, you will not be able to withstand those difficulties and your fall will be great. People like this-  look to the “world” – to satisfy their longings, and their trust is placed in the things of this world instead of the creator of the universe. So when things begin to go wrong for them, they lack the foundation to effectively cope with their problems. They have failed to pay attention to the words of Christ and have instead followed society’s guidance and “wisdom.”

So I urge you to commit to begin, or to continue, building up the foundation of your very life upon the rock of God and Christ. The storms of life will most certainly come your way this year, and you must have a strong foundation, in order to withstand these difficult and trying moments of life. Will you be “wise” and build your foundation upon the rock, or will you be “foolish” and build the foundation of your very life upon the sand? The choice is yours and I urge you to choose the foundation that is built upon the rock.

 

Grateful or Grumbling?

I have been teaching the Book of Exodus in Sunday school, and for the last several weeks, we have seen how the people grumbled against Moses and Aaron concerning their lack of water and food. In fact, the people longed to be slaves again in Egypt instead of placing their trust in God and entering the Promised Land. The people are momentarily satisfied when God gives them water and food, but they soon go back to grumbling after God has provided for them. They demonstrate no sign of gratitude and their faith in God is also found to be lacking.

Exodus 14:11: Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?

Exodus 15:24: “So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”

Exodus 16:2: The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.

Exodus 17:2-3: Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

As we begin a New Year, we often reflect on what changes we want to make in ourselves and we often make resolutions on what we can do better. I am not big on making resolutions, just for the sake of making them. So often, I fall short of any resolutions I make before the month of January ends. This year, I am going to attempt to be more grateful of the many things that God has blessed me with. Too often, we focus on what we lack or the events of life that don’t go our way. If we would only become more focused and grateful for the many blessings and the good things in our lives, we would draw closer to realizing God’s perfect design for our lives.

Does God Still Speak Through Dreams?

Job 33:14-18(NIV): For God does speak—now one way, now another—  though no one perceives it.

15 In a dream, in a vision of the night,

when deep sleep falls on people

as they slumber in their beds,

16 he may speak in their ears

and terrify them with warnings,

17 to turn them from wrongdoing

and keep them from pride,

18 to preserve them from the pit,

their lives from perishing by the sword.

Throughout the Bible, we find that God uses dreams to give warnings, to reveal prophesy, to encourage, and to provide reassurance. In Matthew’s Gospel, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, reassuring him to take Mary as his wife. The angel also reveals prophesy to Joseph, telling him that the child Mary is carrying, is Jesus, the Messiah. Later, the same angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream, warning him to take the baby Jesus and his mother and escape to Egypt. God has always used dreams as a way to connect with us here on earth and I believe that God still does that today.

Morton Kelsey in his book: Dreams: A Way to Listen to God has this to say about dreams: “In order to deal with the topic of dreams and their meaning, it is necessary to deal with the question of our knowledge of God. Can men and women experience God and the realm of the Spirit? If it is absurd to believe that human beings can be reached and touched by the dynamism that lies at the heart of the universe, then dreams have little or no religious meaning. Then dreams may be at most a help in unraveling the tangled web of one’s personal life, but they have little or no meaning beyond this. If, however, humankind is open to another dimension of reality, then the dream may be one of the most common avenues through which God reaches out to us. Then dreams should be taken very seriously.”

“Many of the great religions of our human race have maintained that humans can experience God. Sometimes it seems that heaven opens itself to us – our hearts open themselves to heaven – something happens, and we recognize the living God. It is a numinous experience, an encounter with the Holy, a frightening experience in which we glance not only at the depth of our own being, but also at the depth of reality.”

“Once we have been touched by God this way, we know that the universe does make sense and our lives hold a place in it. Then we may attempt without fear, even with a new power, to go out into the world and go our way in it. Then doors open to us and strange things happen.” (Source used: Dreams: A Way to Listen to God by Morton Kelsey).

In my 52 years, I have had two dreams which I know were directly from God. I shared the first one on this blog about five years ago and it occurred when I was about 40 years old. The second dream occurred about three weeks ago and I am still coming to terms with its meaning. I will tell you that this second dream was very powerful and also immensely comforting. I look forward to writing about it over the course of the next few days.

I wrote the following about my first dream, which occurred about 12 years ago, as I was struggling with my calling into ministry.

This was my dream: I remember floating through the air for some period of time. Below me I could tell that I was approaching some kind of village or town , but it seemed far away. As I slowly began to get closer, I could see many people down below and they were all dressed in dark clothing. I saw a group of men and they all had on dark suits and white shirts but they were not wearing ties. I began to sense something familiar about this place or these people, but I was not sure what that feeling of familiarity was.

Continuing to “float” through the air, it seemed that I was finally getting closer to this group of men. In the distance I could make out a few buildings and I realized that one of them was an old country church. There seemed to be a lot of activity around that church.

All of a sudden, I was there, with that group of men. It seemed that I had traveled several miles in a matter of seconds and I came up behind this one man. It seemed like I was going to crash into this man when he turned very abruptly to me and said, “you will be a pastor.” The man that spoke to me was my grandfather, who had died while I was a high school senior in 1981. I woke up immediately and was both terrified and comforted.

I got up out of bed and I was very shaken at the sudden and abrupt ending to my dream. I knew at that moment that God had spoken to me through a dream and I believed that my personal struggle with my calling was over. I told God that I would accept this calling and would dedicate myself to following His will for my life.

A.J. Gordon, a late 19th century Baptist minister wrote this about his own powerful dream from God: “It was a vision of the deepest reality. Apparently we are most awake to God when we are asleep to the world.” (A.J. Gordon, How Christ Came to Church: A Spiritual Autobiography).

I believe that God continues to reach out and communicate to people in many different ways, including dreams. In the still and quietness of the night, God can come to us and speak into our hearts and minds. He can provide reassurance, comfort, wisdom, warnings, and even prophecy. If you believe in God and in His power to communicate, then you open yourself up to the possibility that our all- knowing and all- powerful God can reach down from heaven to touch the lives of mere mortals.

 

 

 

 

Living To Please God

Matthew 16:24-27(NIV): Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

Our society is completed infatuated with celebrity and many other entertainment idols. More people will read entertainment magazines or follow celebrities on Twitter, instead of spending daily time in the word, listening for God. They won’t even open up their Bible during the week and they wonder why their life is not what it should be. God can and does speak to us through His Word and through the Holy Spirit.  However, God gives us the free will to decide if we will follow His ways or the ways of the world.

Many in our world long for more and more material possessions and yet those things never satisfy for very long. We tend to define ourselves by the material things of life and we measure success by what we have managed to accumulate. God judges success quite differently. God looks inside us, at our heart, and He judges us based on how we follow and obey Him in being the very presence of Christ to a lost and perishing world.  God views us differently than the world does. God doesn’t judge a person based on their appearance or their standing in the world – God looks at the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7: But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 

It seems that so many people today are consumed with themselves. We take selfies to bring attention to ourselves and we go to social media to let everyone know our most random thoughts and feelings. Many in our world today have become prideful, instead of being humble, and thinking about serving and putting the needs of others first. The things of this world only seek to pull us away from God and from time spent in listening and praying to Him. And that’s not surprising, because who is the ruler of this world – The spirit of the air? Ephesians 2:1-2: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

Begin today by living to please God and seeking Him daily, instead of the material and temporary things of this world. Pay special attention to those around you that God places in your life. Try to be more humble and focus your attention on those around you and less on yourself. Strive to put the needs of others first, instead of yourself. And most importantly, we are to take up our cross daily in order to follow Jesus. Will you live to please God or to please other people? Ask God to open the eyes of your heart so that you may live only to please and bring glory to God.

 

 

Giving Thanks to God

Psalm 100 (NIV)

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

2     Worship the Lord with gladness;

    come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the Lord is God.

    It is he who made us, and we are his;

    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving

    and his courts with praise;

    give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

This is a very special Psalm to me for several reasons. First of all, Psalm 100 helps me to remember how I should first approach God – by always giving thanks. God is so very worthy of all our praise and we should begin our prayers to God by continually giving thanks for our many blessings. Do you begin your prayer time with God by giving thanks to God or do you immediately ask God for what you think you want or need? If you are like me, you also try to “help” God by telling him how to best accomplish those wants and needs. Remember that God knows what we need before we even ask. Focus on beginning your prayer time with God by simply giving thanks for all that God has done for you and for all that God will do for you.

The Apostle Paul writes, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  Paul didn’t list any exclusions or exceptions for giving thanks; rather he said to give thanks in ALL circumstances. That is a difficult concept for many people to grasp but it is one that we should strive to follow, if we truly trust God and believe that “we are his people.” We must remember that “the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” God will take care of those who are faithful, trusting, obedient, and thankful.

Also, this Psalm of grateful praise helps me to remember a very special Christian lady who passed away several years ago. This was her favorite scripture and I was honored to use this text at her funeral service. She taught many of us how to be thankful for what we have and how to begin our prayer time with God, by giving thanks for God’s mighty hand upon our lives. Being thankful to God was her message to everyone she came into contact with. Her deep faith and trust in God was so evident, that it encouraged many others to be more intentional about first approaching God with grateful praise.

I encourage you to make this Thanksgiving Day (and every day) a day of praise and thanks to God. Take the time to slow down and reflect upon the many blessings that God has given you. Even in difficult times, we can be thankful of God’s presence with us and his help in dealing with and overcoming life’s challenging moments. As we approach the Christmas season and the buying frenzy that it has become, take the time to begin each day by first giving thanks to your creator God for your many blessings.

 

Meditating on God’s Word

Joshua 1:7-8 (NASB): Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

Ask yourself an honest question: How often do you open up your Bible and read it? Most of us probably pick up our phone, or use our laptop or I-pad, to read or look at something other than the Bible. It’s not our fault, right? There are so many other things that compete for our time and our attention. We live in a fast paced world where we want to do anything other than to be still. You may promise God that “one day when things slow down” or when “I get in a better place,” I will sit down and be still and read my Bible and listen for you God.

Well, time passes and your daily pace of life doesn’t slow down. You find your life becoming increasingly difficult and perplexing, and you wonder why. You continue to wait for that “better place” in your life to listen for God. The truth is – you will never get to that “better place” in your life unless you allow God to lead you to it. And God can lead you there through His Word. You will not find that “better place” until you find and follow and obey God. If you are struggling with life at this very moment, you need to immerse yourself in the Word of God. And how often should you open up your Bible and read it? The book of Joshua tells us that we are to not only read the Bible – but meditate upon it – day and night!

I know what you’re thinking: I just don’t have enough time to spend meditating day and night upon the Bible. If that is your response then I would say this to you. You have 24 hours in a day – you can find plenty of time to meditate on scripture – IF it is important to you in your daily walk with God. The Bible can guide you to many truths that could help you with specific circumstances that you will face in the day or days ahead. God, through the Holy Spirit, can speak to you through daily time in the word and can guide you into making the right decisions that you are confronted with in your daily life. With so much uncertainty in the world today, you simply cannot afford – not to connect with God – on a daily basis, by meditating upon His Word.

 

 

 

God’s Strength or Self-Pity

2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV): For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

Isaiah 41:10 (NIV): So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

My week thus far has been tiring, stressful and has drained almost all of my energy. I feel my physical body getting tired and weak, and I find it takes more time to recover after a long and exhausting day. This week I have been forced to face physical limitations and that is something that I am having difficulty dealing with. So I came home this afternoon, content to wallow in self-pity and complain about my 52 year old body. (This was a week after my yearly checkup which was outstanding).

I began the morning praying to God for strength for the day and receiving it, but I wanted more. I wanted more time in the day, more energy, less physical limitations and more strength like I had 20 years ago. God must have laughed at my silly prayer – asking for more of my own strength. But I am human – and a man – and I should always be strong on my own! Well God said – “Darryl, you are so wrong. I am your strength! You should know that by now.”

So I just had to get still before God, stop complaining, and let God give me an attitude adjustment. I opened my Bible and began to read and search for scripture on God’s mighty strength. And by the way, there’s a lot of scripture on God’s mighty strength, in case you didn’t already know. I also began to listen to inspirational Christian songs that would help me to get in the right place with God, to be still, and to listen to Him.

Through this quiet time with God in the middle of a hard and difficult week, I found just what I needed to continue on. The God that I worship, praise, and serve is at this very moment searching throughout the earth for his people who are seeking him and committing their hearts to him. And he will graciously give us the strength we need for each day, in order that we will continue to rely upon him and look to him daily for renewed strength. I will trust and depend upon God for what is needed for each day –  and so must you!

Close your eyes and get still before God and listen to this beautiful song  from Hillsong United. Draw your daily strength from our mighty, powerful and strong God.

 

 

A Gentle Answer

Proverbs 15:1 (NASB): A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Have you ever had one of those weeks where it seems that you face a barrage of harsh words or comments? And as you endure and are exposed to those comments, what is your response? You go about your day trying to glorify God in all that you do and you are met with so much resistance and with words that often hurt very deeply. Again, what is your response? Instead of responding out of anger, try responding with a gentle answer. A gentle answer will help to cleanse you of any bitterness or vengeance that you may have.

The word “harsh” literally can be defined as “painful.”  We all know how painful certain words can be and we also know the power that hurtful words can have on us – IF we allow them to. We can certainly make the choice to allow those words to hurt us and ruin our day. We can also make the choice to ask God for peace in dealing with those words and for forgiveness for the person who uttered those words. We can either wallow in our misery and vengeance or we can ask God to clear our mind of those negative thoughts and live out our daily life to the fullest.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10 NASB).  God wants us to live a full life that gives complete honor and glory to him and to our Savior, Christ Jesus. The best way to do that is to forgive, and to show love, mercy, and compassion to everyone we encounter. May the peace of Christ and the mercy of God be with you today!

My Trust Is In God

I absolutely love this song from Lauren Daigle entitled, “Trust In You.” I debated whether or not to only post the song because the lyrics about trusting in God are just so perfect. So I decided to only include some scripture from the Book of Psalm, so that you can listen to the song and the lyrics, and then meditate on the scripture. I truly hope this song and the scripture blesses you as much as it did me this morning.

Psalm 9:10 NIV: Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

  • God is faithful to those who love him and trust in him. This doesn’t imply that we will not face difficulties or disappointments in life, because we certainly will. This scripture reminds us that God is always present with us in good times and in difficult times and he will guide us through those trying times if we will only trust him.

Psalm 22:4 NIV: In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.

Do you trust God to deliver you from whatever circumstances you find yourself in?

Psalm 25:1 NIV: In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.

  • Do you trust God with your very life and allow him to help you navigate the many uncertain decisions and challenging moments that everyday life sends your way? Do you trust God even when there is not an answer to your prayers or the answer is no?

Psalm 49:6 NIV: those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?

  • Do you place your trust in your bank account or material goods or do you trust in God for things that are eternal? The things of this world will pass away but the promises of God are eternal.

Psalm 62:8 NIV: Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

  • Whatever life sends your way – trust in God – and look to him as your safe haven from the worries, fears, and uncertainty of this world. Pray and talk to God and tell him your worries and fears and allow his loving presence and mercy to overwhelm you and wash away your doubts and fears.

 

Doing The Very Next Thing

My son-in-law John sent me a message telling me about this song from Casting Crowns called, “The Very Next Thing,” and he suggested that I do a devotional on this topic. Immediately, I loved this idea of doing the very next thing that God places in front of you. So often we focus on long-term goals and we miss out on so many opportunities that are placed directly in our path. If we would only slow down and pay attention to those many divinely appointed moments that we so often overlook and miss out upon, because our eyes are fixed so far ahead. God often speaks and works through us in the many common moments of life.

In the Great Commission, Jesus emphasized this to his disciples. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). In other words, as you go, make disciples! Jesus didn’t say, “Make disciples from the comfort of your sofa at home or your pew at church, instead, we are commanded to pay attention to the people and the circumstances that God puts in our path and we are to faithfully disciple and show love and compassion to others. As you go and do the very next thing – be faithful to God and by showing the love of Christ, you can lead people to Christ and make disciples.

We have so many opportunities each day to do the very next thing that God places before us. My question to you is will you strive to be mindful of the very next thing placed before you and take advantage of those opportunities? As you go to school, to work, to the gym, to the grocery or drug store, will you look for the very next thing God is asking you to do and be faithful and do it? There are so many people who could benefit from you doing the very next thing that God is calling you to do and you could make such a huge difference in the life of someone who needs to be pointed to the love and compassion of Christ.

One of my favorite parts of scripture is when Jesus ascends back into heaven in the book of Acts. Jesus was speaking to his disciples and suddenly he was “taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight” (Acts 1:9). So the disciples are standing there, “looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10-11).

The two men (angels) dressed in white were calling the disciples to take their attention away from the sky and turn their attention to the earth where there was plenty of work still to be accomplished. They also had to be reminded of their obedience to doing the very next thing that God would place before them. And that is a great example for us today. We so often look ahead and imagine the great things God would have us to do when God is simply saying – just be faithful and do well the very next thing that I place in your path. More often than not, these divinely appointed experiences will be something that you would not have normally felt compelled to do, in your daily walk with God. So let the Holy Spirit guide you and lead you into doing the very next thing that God asks you to do. If you do, you will be blessed and you will also be a blessing to others – as you do the very next thing.

My Daily Journey With God in Athens Ga.