Sunday, October 9, 2016

Focused on heaven

The debate is tonight. Well, that's great. As millions of people tune in to see what the two candidates have to say, and which questions they will dodge, I wonder why our focus shifted. I say this not from some lofty peak of holiness, reigning down wisdom upon the masses. I say this as I caught myself drawn to watch the debate myself tonight. Ten minutes in, I realized that this is a colossal waste of time. Two people stand in opposition, not only to each other, but in all honesty, they stand in opposition to what values we hold dear. If our children acted like this, there would be consequences, repercussions they would not forget. I had to turn it off.

The election this year is a hot topic. I get it. The buildup has been astonishing and the impact of this election can have a great impact on the future of our nation. I believe we all should vote. However, watching the flood of posts on social media about the election, I believe we have lost focus. Satan has used this circus to distract Christians and Satan is winning. How can I say such things? Let's take a moment to look at Scripture.

Paul wrote to the Colossians, "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on things on the earth." (Colossians 3:1-2 NKJV) What does that tell us? Those who are followers of Christ are to focus on the eternal, with the eternal guiding the temporary. Regardless of who the next President of the United States may be, our job as Christians will not all. We will still be called to be the hands and the feet of Jesus Christ, proclaiming the coming of Christ, and reaching out to the lost souls who need salvation. We are to be focused on Jesus, consumed with Jesus, and pointing people to Jesus with every word we speak.

Yet, we are focused on politicians. We are listening intently to lies that are spun and neglecting to listen to the voice of truth, the voice of God who is calling out to us in the midst of this noisy season of nonsense. If we are truly raised with Christ, we understand that Presidents will come and go, but Christ remains! What Christ has done for each of us far exceeds anything that a politician can do for us. We can spend all day trying to defend these politicians but to what end? Neither of these candidates can save a soul.

It is beyond time for the church to refocus its attention in America. Throughout the world, we have Christians being tortured for what they believe. In the states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, we have people in despair after the hurricane unleashed its force on the coast. There are people trafficking other humans. There are children being beaten, abused, and going hungry. There are addicts looking for something to break the shackles of addiction. There are innumerable problems on this earth and the solution will not be spoken in the course of a debate. The solution is the cross and it is time for Christians to point people in the right direction. We are not to point to a Presidential candidate, we are to lead them to the King of kings. With such a focus, lives will be changed for eternity, which is a better focus for Christians than focusing on just the next four years.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Once Defeated, Once Defiant, Now Determined

Earlier in my life, my dreams were the motivation I needed to push me through each day. If I had nothing else, I had my dreams. Believing that vocalizing those dreams would assist in the realization of those dreams, I shared with many the dreams of my heart. When a negative response came, my reactions were limited to two choices. The negativity left me defeated or it made me defiant, setting the stage for an abandonment of a dream or a push to fulfill the dream simply to prove the negative source wrong. My reaction was based upon the individual who said it could not be done. If I respected them, I gave up. If they were less respectable in my eyes, I set out to prove them wrong.

I have grown older. Each day that passes leaves me less consumed with what others think and even less consumed with what is said. Perhaps it is experience that has led to such a shift in my thinking. Perhaps it is wisdom that has come with age. The twenty year old man is about to turn forty and rather than being defeated, I look at every challenge and every setback as a learning experience. The defiance of youth has given way to an understanding that I have nothing to prove to anyone else. A few years ago, I was told "You can't save the world." The words echoed in my ears for weeks, my emotions teetering between the despair of defeat and the defiant side that wanted to prove a point. The words rang in my ears each time I saw the person from whom the words flowed, each time I tried to lay down to sleep, and every time the dream resurrected from the ashes in my mind.

Driving served as my medication at the time but as I drove, trying to figure out what to do, the Lord reminded that those words held a truth, even if they were spoken from a mouth set on destruction. I didn't have to save the world and truthfully, I could not save the world. I don't have to save the world because salvation comes not from any man or woman, it comes from Jesus Christ. The Savior of the world had already come and incredibly, is coming again. I don't have to save the world. Such a recognition laid aside any feelings of being defeated because I share in the victory with Christ. The bitter rage of defiance subsided because I have nothing to prove as Christ proved that I was enough when He went to the cross for me.

A new vision, a new way of life arose in those moments. The man I saw in the mirror was not beaten down and defeated, nor was he angry and defiant. The cross brought me to a place of determination. He became the driving force, where my life was no longer focused on what others said or thought but was solely based on what Christ had done. With such clarity, with a new definition of life, I was determined to live for Him, proclaim His name, and give all of myself for Him as He gave Himself for me. Christ set His face to Jerusalem to go to a cross for all I had done. Now, I set my face to the cross, determined to tell of all He has done.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Being Lost, I was Found

I spent the day driving to Wilmington, North Carolina, having to take care of some items at the coast. As I drove, I thought deeply about where my life was heading, where I have been, and what I have failed to accomplish. Driving to Wilmington meant I would pass by the exit I took for five solid years while I was in college - exit 341, Highway 55. As I came upon the exit, the car steered itself off the exit and I drove out to the place that had taught me so much and continues to be a part of my pulse, though I am sixteen years removed from being a student.
I drove that familiar road and thought about how quickly time had passed. I am nearly forty. I was in my late teens and early twenties when that road was my weekly drive. I continue to feel like that young man who was filled with hopes and dreams but those days, the days of college, are becoming increasingly blurry with each passing year. I drove on to Wilmington, remembering the faces, the times, and the hope that great things would come as life progressed. I realized that life had gotten complicated, achievements were less than I thought they would be, and my level of frustration heightened with each revelation of that which had not been done.
After checking into my hotel, I drove to find something to eat. Yes, when you feel like you have come up short in life, eating is a great distraction. Trying to find something quick to eat, I ended up lost in a city I am not familiar with in the least. I was lost, but it turned out to be a great misadventure. As I listened to Christian radio, a man came on the radio and talked about procrastination. He went on to say, "Turn off that inane television program tonight and write the book you were meant to write." He added a few more examples, but I couldn't get past the first one. Had I not gotten lost, I would not have heard those words. Had I known where I was going, I would have likely been in my room or at a restaurant. My belief, however, is that God wanted me to hear those words, so he allowed me to wander around in Wilmington, a lot lost, to hear something He was trying to tell me for months.
Procrastination is a way of life for many of us. We struggle to prioritize and lack motivation. We quit. We give up. We start in on something new, filing back that which we never finished for a rainy day. We get wrapped up in the inane until it drives us insane. So where did it lead? I went to the Bible for the answer to getting beyond the complacent, to stop procrastinating and accomplish what God has called me to do. Here are some motivational verses I found when we think about procrastinating:
James 4:14 - "You don't even know what tomorrow will bring - what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes." (James 4:14 HCSB)
Psalm 39:4 - "Lord, reveal to me the end of my life and the number of my days. Let me know how short-lived I am." (Psalm 39:4 HCSB)
Psalm 78:39 - "He remembered that they were only flesh, a wind that passes and does not return." (Psalm 78:39 HCSB)
We are not guaranteed the next moment, so what are we to do? We are to do all that God has called us to do. For writers, that means we are to write!

Monday, July 18, 2016

A head full of junk

I awoke at four this morning, my head full of junk, sinus pressure and drainage signs that today was destined to be a long day. I drug myself out of bed a few hours later following a phone call where I assume the person on the other end was still trying to piece together what I had said. I wanted to stay there, to lay in bed, to remain motionless, but there is no time to lay around. There is forever work to be done. I began my day but the overwhelming fog of the mind rendered me nearly useless. Each year, July and August brings about a few instances where I feel rotten so, in full disclosure, I was not caught completely off-guard by awakening to such an existence.
As I drove to begin my day, I thought about how our heads get filled with all the wrong things. We absorb an abundance of the world in our minds and then, we are rendered nearly motionless. The television fills our minds with images and propaganda that is anything but what the Lord wants us to be our focus. The radio is just as bad. The internet provides us with ample poison to alter our minds for a lifetime. We become focused on the worldly and our hearts and souls begin to yearn for something more while our minds remain immersed in the world. Life becomes hopeless when our heads are full of junk.
Scripture implores us to remain focused on the Lord. Look at what the Bible says about the world. John wrote, "Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one's lifestyle - is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God's will remains forever." (1 John 2:15-17 HCSB) Too often, we commit ourselves and our minds to the things of the world and become less focused on the Lord.
Paul wrote to the Colossians, "Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth." (Colossians 3:2 HCSB) The mind is to be protected and to be focused. Our minds will dictate the direction of our lives. If we get something in our minds and allow it to root itself, that will manifest itself in various ways. For instance, those who look to get rich fail to look at life without seeing where wealth is to be gained. If our minds are set on the things of God, we will constantly look to be the hands and feet of Christ wherever we go.
The ultimate verse on this topic, outside of the greatest commandment where Jesus says that we are to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, and soul, is found in Romans. Paul wrote, "Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2 HCSB) Rather than conforming to the mindset of this age, a mindset of self and worldly passion, we are called to be transformed by a renewal of the mind.
I am going to take some medicine to clear out the sinus junk in my head. For us, as believers, we need Scripture to clear out all the other junk that has accumulated in our minds over time, being refocused and transformed by the Lord and by His Word.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Why Do I Write?

As I attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference this year, a question was posed during the week that led to my pondering of such a question.  Had I never thought of the question before?  Was the question one that rattled me to my core in such a way that the world stopped turning as I stood frozen in time, unable to think of anything other than the question that had been tossed into my atmosphere?  No angelic host appeared nor did any radiant light.  In fact, I received the question, filed it into a compartment in my mind, and walked on to my next appointment.  In the filing however, the question was marked as one that I must answer.
The question was simply this - "Why do you write?"  I am sure that at some point in the decade that has passed since I stepped out in faith to write I have asked myself that question but never truly investigated my motives.  Is there a rush of adrenaline that comes when one sees his/her name in a magazine or newspaper or on the cover of a book?  Yes, there is a great rush of adrenaline.  My column in my local newspaper sends me scurrying the first of each month to grab copies and distribute them to friends and family members.  The euphoria of a printed piece, however, is not enough motive to go through the grueling process of writing.
In my consideration of the question posed, I examined myself to see if my motive was strictly financially driven. My past includes a time of making choices completely driven by money.  I worked three jobs at one point, a full-time position with two part-time jobs to supplement my income.  In today's culture and given that two year period of exhaustive laboring, money can drive us to do many things, but even money could not be the motivation because I have, in my early days and even today in some instances, written for no payment at all.  Should professional writers do such a thing?  I suppose not but I will admit that I have indeed written for nothing more than a published credit.  I had eliminated two possible reasons for writing.
I moved on to what could possibly be the next reason.  Do I write because I have nothing else to do?  This, too, could be a plausible reason if not for the life that I live.  I am a Senior Pastor and though some believe that is simply a one-day-per-week vocation, I can assure you the hours are more numerous than forty each week.  When I am home, I have a wonderful wife, Crystal, and two little girls who need my attention, Cheyenne Rose and Autumn Grace.  By the time a day has concluded with its responsibilities, the clock has announced that ten o'clock has passed and tomorrow brings a day filled with appointments.  Regardless, my eyes will not rest until something has been written for the day.  The need to write definitely does not arise from a life devoid of activities.
I drove to Asheville one evening, needing a walk to find inspiration and needing fresh air to clear my mind.  Upon returning to Ridgecrest, I exited the interstate as darkness had fallen to the point where the mountains were simply darker shades drawn in the night sky.  To my left, the question was answered though I was not pondering the question at that moment.  The illuminated cross, the very one I had seen many times before, answered the question.  My desire to write is to make Him known, whether it be in a newspaper, magazine, a blog, or a book.  I write for the glory of the Lord, that others will know Him and that, perhaps, He will use me for His glory.
As the apostle John wrote in 1 John, "that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full." (1 John 1:3-4 NKJV)  To write that others may have fellowship, not only with us but with Christ the Lord, is the reason to write for me.  The simple question turned out to have a much deeper answer than I had anticipated, but the answer was found in the shadow of the cross.  Why do I write?  I write so that a lost and broken world finds the answers it needs at the foot of the cross of Christ.