Thankful

“You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.” Psalm 86:5
Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

The holiday season is upon us. Thanksgiving is tomorrow whether I am ready or not. Its not that I’m not thankful it is because I am usually done with harvest by now. I did finally finish beans yesterday. Thanks to my Son-n-law and his friends I am also closer on corn because they combined corn for three days. Now, like I feared, they broke down bad enough to be done with that combine for this season. I feel bad because they experienced my kind of break down combining my corn.

I am thankful for God. I am thankful for who He is and His love and forgiveness to me. I am thankful for family and friends. My family and friends have held me up through the good and the bad. I am thankful for everything because God has blessed me with more than I need. Even in my struggle God has been there the whole time.

I pray for those who will be experiencing Thanksgiving for the first time without a loved one. I know that there will be a hole in that celebration. I am thankful for the memories that those loved ones leave behind. I ask is it better to have never known them or to know them well and loose them? The pain of their loss will last for a short time but the memories that they leave will be with us for a life time. I am thankful that God allowed them to grace my memories.

After my wife’s bout with cancer and my Dad’s stroke I realize that we can’t take for granted life. Live as if tomorrow will be the last. Don’t leave anything unsaid. My friend died serving the Lord and I pray that people will be able to say the same about me.

I am thankful for love. God didn’t leave us in our sin. He could have. Maybe even should have left us to our demise but instead He loved us to His own death through His Son Jesus Christ. I know that I’m not worthy of such love, but God sees worth in me. He sees worth in you too. How can we thank God who saved us from eternal damnation? We can thank God by living out His will. Stop living for self and start living for God.

Living God’s will is more a frame of mind or state of being than a job. It should be who we are. If we empty ourselves and allow God to fill us up with Him, then we will naturally shine God’s light everywhere we go. Everything we do we do the best we can do with Joy and thanksgiving. That is who I want to be, yet I am constantly stuck thinking about me. I too often fall into despair as I love throwing pity parties. In stead of being thankful for what I have I wonder why I don’t have more. Instead of being thankful for what God has done for me I wonder why He hasn’t treated me better. I ask why is He doing this to me instead of being thankful that He is helping me get through it.

This holiday season I hope that we all can find thankfulness. I pray that we can all let go of our desires and know and do God’s desires. I pray for joy and peace as we get to know God personally. Happy Thanksgiving!

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I Am Here

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Read this verse over and over. What is God whispering to you?

“I am here” is the whisper I hear this morning. God is always near but sometimes it takes a crushed spirit it realize it. How many times have I felt God when things are going great compared to when I am struggling? The answer to that question will explain a lot. When things are going well I may thank God in the beginning especially if it is right after a hard time, but if those good times continue for a period of time I will become complacent. Sometimes in the beginning of hard times I will wonder where God is but soon His presence is known and felt because there is nothing else to rely on.

Life is complicated. Life with sin is even more complicated. In our sin we want what we want. There is no thinking about God or others it is just me, myself and I. When we are in that condition we are far from God not because God has distanced Himself from us but because we have distanced ourselves from Him. The reality is we can’t escape God. I’ve tried to push Him away in the past. But it didn’t take long to realize how much I missed Him. Then I found out that He was never far from me.

There are reasons for the experiences we have. Some of them are consequences for our sin, for poor choices in life. Some experiences are there to steer us back to God. Some are there to give us experience so that we may better serve God. For example, my wife’s experience with cancer has made her a great person to talk to for those who get breast cancer. She has talked to many women that we know and that our friends know who are now going through what she did. She can answer questions, give them tips, and Bible verses that helped her get through it. She has found that God is using her because of what she went through.

Struggle is the result of the fall of man. Before Adam and Eve sin we were created perfect. But sin sent all of creation into darkness. At that moment God promised salvation in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ. As you experience the darkness of this world, know and look to the light of Jesus Christ. He is close. He is ready to hold you in His arms. To comfort your pain. To guide you step by step. He has a shoulder to cry on as well as to carry your burdens. Let Him have them. Take time to hear Him say “ I am here.”

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Perfect Peace

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Read this verse over and over. What is God whispering to you?

This morning God is reminding me that perfect peace flows from trust in Him. I’m still harvesting. I have a good day and then work on equipment the next. I have help this week but I’m already starting out with break downs. My Son-n-law and friends are starting corn with another combine. It is going to be great to have this help if all the equipment holds together. My luck says I will be working on stuff just to keep them going instead of having two combines running at the same time. I will trust that what happens is God’s plan. I just get frustrated that God’s plans don’t take what I want into consideration.

Isn’t that what we do. I will trust as long as it is what I want. That is why peace alludes us. We aren’t willing to give up our desires for God’s desires. We aren’t willing to trust God to the point of not desiring anything other than what He gives us. Every day I harvest at this time of year, is another day that I am behind on other work. We are getting no field work done so I will start planting season behind. I’ve got fence to fix so that we can turn cattle on stalk ground so instead we are feeding hay. If we have a bad winter this could cause a problem because we could run out of hay. I’ve still got record keeping to work on and the holidays are far from my mind because my mind has no room to think about it. It all snow balls from here.

I don’t like being behind. My OCD jumps into hyper drive as things are so out of order. It is hard to trust when your fears come true but that is what faith is all about. Even if the worst happens we trust that God will get us through. The even ifs are what scare me yet that is the times that God will carry us through. So, even if my week is all break downs, even if I’m still harvesting at Christmas, God is still God and I will trust in Him. When we finally come to that kind of trust we will experience perfect peace.

Can you trust the even ifs? Even if your health turns? Even if a loved one dies? Even if your job fails? Even if you miss a meal because of lack of money? Even if… (put in your own fears)? Trust isn’t about the things that we like or want. It is about those times that things don’t go as planned. The times when all we have is God to lean on. In those times we will know perfect peace if we lean on God and God alone.

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Made New

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds.” Ephesians 4:22-23

Read these verses over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

This morning the whisper I hear is “Made new.” To be made new or in this case could be translated to be renovated, is a change from the old. We are told in our verse that the old self is put off, in fact it says we were taught to put off our old self. Have you been taught to put off your old self?

To be honest I think this is where we, as a society and as a church community, are most lacking. We aren’t properly taught how to put off our old self. It means to deny our sinful nature. Yes, in church we are told to follow the ten commandments, but they aren’t put in relevant terms. How does that look in real life? It is easy to say don’t steal and don’t murder. But how do we Love God with all our heart mind and soul and love our neighbor as our self? What does that really look like in our everyday life. How does that work when we are in school or at work, at home, or out for the night? How do we avoid being corrupted by our deceitful desires?

In our society today, we are really good at making our outward appearances look good but on the inside, we are dirty. Our desires are of the heart. If our desires are corrupt and we allow them to control us our heart is corrupt which means, we can’t love God or neighbor. We are good at looking good. We do things to hide who we really are. Do you have to push back bad feelings and grit a smile around people because deep down there is a hate for them? Do you have to push back the urge to yell at someone when they speak to you because just the sound of their voice makes you mad? There is a deceitful desire that has corrupted you. These desires usually come from our pride. We can’t stand someone putting us down. We have to retaliate. How dare they judge us. Their so arrogant I have to put them in their place. If we allow these urges to control our thinking and don’t let them go they will corrupt us.

Putting off our old self means surrendering to God’s will. This means we don’t need to defend ourselves because the truth will come out. We don’t have to compete with other strong personalities. We can trust that God will defend us. We can trust that God is in control. There is nothing to fear so we can let our guard down. It isn’t easy. We aren’t born with it. It requires putting off our old self every time it tries to take over, which for me is constantly. The more we put off our old nature the easier it gets. The more we give into our deceitful desires the harder it will be to put them off. We can’t do this alone. We must ask and rely on God’s help. Spend time in prayer. Ask God to point out your deceitful desires and then help you to put them off. If we do this, we will be made new.

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Chains Broke

I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” John 8:34

Read this verse over and over. What is Jesus whispering to you?

This morning Jesus is reminding me that our chains are broke. First, we must understand our bondage. When we follow our sinful nature, we are doing what we know. The chains of sin keep us doing sin over and over. But Jesus broke those chains and, yet we remain in bondage to it. Now the chains that hold us are from our own mind. Our need for control is controlling us. We hold on to our sins instead of dropping the chains and following Jesus.

The last several days have been grueling. I had Sunday off but the four days prior and two days since I have put in very long days harvesting. I’m making a dent but still have around 3 weeks left. It is hard to find time to rest let alone spend time studying God’s word. Thank God I have Christian radio to help me focus. Spending that much time in a combine allows me to do some thinking but recently most of my thoughts are how am I going to get everything done. I pray a lot about keeping the combine together and working so I can keep going hard. But the combine is being pushed to its limits. Somethings I have control over but most of it is in God’s hands. So I keep praying, I keep combining when the weather allows it and I keep trusting that God will get me through this.

Sin is something that I feel myself thinking about a lot. What is sin and how can we be free from it? The bottom line is sin is anything done in our own will instead of God’s will. When we live without thought of God we are in the darkness of sin. When we live for God we live in grace where the chains of sin are broken, and we are free of that weight. Jesus broke the chains of sin giving us the ability to live in grace. This is not earned but freely given. We just have to accept it and allow our sinful nature to depart so that God can fill us with His Love and mercy. It’s not easy. We know sin. It is part of us. Letting a part of us go to be replaced by something we don’t know is hard. It requires trust.

Jesus is calling us to let go of the chains. They are broke, but we keep holding on to them. Now we feel in control. Even though these chains hurt we still hold on because it is what we know. Our pain is our comfort. Our misery is a friend. Until we let go we will never know what life without pain and misery is. I’m not saying nothing bad will ever happen. I’m saying that when we let go of the chains of sin we will experience what life is really like. What eternal life with our Savior is. Life in grace is so different than life in sin. It is truly like light and darkness. There is that much difference in how it feels. Will you let go of the chains? Will you allow Jesus to show us new life? He broke the chains so that we can live free with Him.

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Hear Me

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20

Read this verse over and over. What is Jesus whispering to you?

This morning I hear Jesus whisper “Hear Me.” Our verse is often used to try to get the attention of those who do not believe but Jesus is speaking to believers. Our verse comes at the end of His message to the seven churches. This is not just to seven churches but to all believers. It is a call to let Jesus in your hearts and stop trying to control God.

In our humanness we often hear what we want to hear and let the other stuff go in one ear and out the other. There is some tough stuff said to these seven churches. All of these churches died out not long after this message was delivered. Some lasted longer than the others but the important thing to realize is none of us is immune from sin and falling away. If we stop hearing Jesus, we will fall. If we don’t let Jesus in our whole heart, we will lose. If we never have that personal relationship with Him, He will say at the end “I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23)

We like to think that Heaven is easy to get into. In reality, it is very exclusive. The Bible is very clear that the only way in is through Jesus. Jesus warns us that just saying His name is not enough. He warns that just thinking we are saved isn’t enough. We need a personal relationship with Him. There will be many who expect to be saved who aren’t and many who think they are lost but are welcomed. The devil is a liar. He will do and say whatever it takes to keep us from Jesus. He will tell the zealous that it is about being good enough. He will tell the humble that they can never be good enough. He will push those who call themselves Christians to make it about our personal preferences. He will get us to judge one and other and say things that will hurt even while we try to help. He will do whatever it takes to make about me instead of love of God and neighbor.

I’m not trying to scare you. Jesus is reminding me that there is more. More to life than just living. It isn’t about doing what I want. It isn’t about my pleasure. It is about Love. Loving God with all our heart, mind and soul and loving our neighbor as our selves. The only way to do this is if we let Jesus into our whole heart. Don’t keep Him in just one room of our heart but let Him in all of it. This means hearing His knock as He tries to open each door. It isn’t easy. In fact, it may be the hardest thing you have ever done. We must force ourselves to be still and hear Him. Then we must force ourselves to listen to His call. To open that door that we have kept shut to everyone.

I will be honest. Jesus has knocked on doors that I didn’t know I had. It is hard to open when you can’t find them. But when I was still, and I concentrated on hearing Jesus, I could follow the sound through my soul and open the door. My in most being tried to fight me the whole way. Those doors were locked for a reason and I had blocked them out of my mind so as to never open them.

Jesus loves us so much that He will stop at nothing to try to have a personal relationship with us. But He can only go so far. We must hear Him. We must let Him in. We must trust Him enough to let Him have all of us. The good and the bad. I wanted to only give Him my good because that is what I thought He wanted but God wants your bad even more. I tried to hide my bad, but we can’t hide from God. I thought if I locked my bad away behind a door in my heart, that would be good enough but that bad will only taint the good. We must give it all. Don’t hold on to the bad. Let it go so God can fill it with good. Jesus is at the door knocking. Will you hear Him? Will you let Him in?

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Life is More

Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

Read this verse over and over. What is Jesus whispering to you?

This morning Jesus is reminding me that life is more. It is easy to turn life into the pursuit of possessions. Look around you, why do people do what they do? It starts out as trying to provide for you and your family but eventually we find ourselves doing more and more, getting busier and busier to earn more money to pay for more stuff. Soon our purpose is to acquire possessions. Life is More!

Our purpose is to Love God with all our heart, mind and soul and love our neighbor as our selves. It is about love. It is about others. It is about God. The devil distracts us with stuff. I am guilty. I like stuff. I’m always wanting the next great thing. I try to justify it by telling myself I need it. Even better if I can say I need it to serve God. My ministry is music and this blog. I can find all kinds of things that I can use for this. Most of it is probably over the top and not necessary.

Our pursuit of things can become extreme in a hurry. Why do you do the things you do? Who is it for? What is it for? Who is your master?

Our verse in Luke is from a conversation with a couple of brothers. The one asks Jesus to tell His brother to divide the inheritance with him. Jesus answers with our verse then tells a parable of a rich man who had a great year with the farm and stored it all thinking he could now live a life of luxury. He had it made. He had new barns full of his abundant crop for many years, so he could eat, drink, and be merry. But his life was taken from him that very night. “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (vs 21).

Our purpose is to serve God not self. Life is more than our pursuit of pleasure and luxury. Instead it is to be a life of service. Use your time, talent, and money to serve God. Then you will know joy and peace. You will know that life is more. You will experience the more of life.

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Stay Connected

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4

Read this verse over and over. What is Jesus whispering to you?

The whisper I hear is stay connected. Take time to read John 15:1-17. Our source of life is from Jesus. Outside of Jesus we are dead. Right now, I feel like life is being sucked out of me. Some of that happens as I pour myself out for the sake of Christ, to help others know Him, but part of pouring yourself out is letting Jesus fill you back up. If we close our selves off to His love, we are emptied out and never filled. That is my struggle now. I have closed off to protect my feelings and in doing so I have shut Jesus out too.

To stay connected we have to be open. Open to receive the nutrients from the vine. This means letting go of the things that are pulling us away. At the moment I am still mourning the loss of a friend. As I hold on to his life I am being pulled away from the life that God has for me. It is natural to hurt when we lose loved ones. But we must allow them to go so we may stay. We must keep their memories while letting go of their presence. This means we must allow ourselves to grieve and mourn. Letting the pain out so God can fill us with His love. If we hold on to the pain, that is the fruit we will bear. If we stay connected to God’s love, we will bear the fruit of love. This is true for all hurt and pain.

Part of the process is being surrounded by love. We must allow our family and friends in. We must be around those who support us and make us laugh. We must stay connected. Hold on to Jesus and let everything else go.

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Broken

“I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” Psalms 9:2
Read this verse over and over What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

I am broken. It is hard to write this morning as I mourn the loss of a friend. The bass player in our group Building Bridges went to his heavenly home yesterday. He was unloading his equipment to play at the juvenile facility that we go to on the first Sunday nights of each month. He died serving the Lord. I feel for his family.

I rejoice knowing that he is with our Lord, maybe even playing base in the heavenly band. One day we will meet again. It is hard to put to words what I’m experiencing right now. Sunday’s are emotionally, physically and spiritually draining for me as I lead worship at our new service. Then to go through this loss it just takes everything out of me.

This morning our verse comes from a psalm of David. It is interesting that this psalm is one that comes with instructions. In the beginning of this Psalm are the words “nasah ben” the words are translated “for the director of music. To the tune of ‘death of the son.” This is an interesting tune for a psalm of praise. The tune is lost to history.

We all mourn in different ways, but it is important that in our mourning we don’t forget God. We can turn to the Psalms to see how David mourned. He lost his best friend in battle and he lost a son just after birth. He lived in exile from a king who wanted to kill him. Through all his pain and struggle he turned to God. Sometimes he wailed in anger and disbelief. But always turned to praise by the end of the psalm. Jesus even quoted a psalm on the cross “O Lord why have you forsaken me.”

In our mourning we should not withhold from God. Spill out all our emotion to Him. He has big shoulders. He wants us to share our pain so that He can carry it for us. It is important that we don’t hold it in. Cry in His arms. Know that He is holding us right now.

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Toasted, not Burnt

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:1-2

Read theses verses over and over. What is God whispering to you?

I’m feeling toasted, not burnt this morning. Yesterday I was finally able to get back into the field. It wasn’t as big of a day as I was hoping for, but I am officially closer to finish than I was. Our verse is a promise from God. He has summoned us by name. We are His. Because we are His we will not be set ablaze, the water will not sweep over us. But it doesn’t say we won’t experience floods or fires. In fact, it promises that we will pass through waters, and walk through fire.

The king of liars has spread the idea that life should never have bad things in it. The devil has convinced us that we don’t deserve struggle, that a good God would never allow hurt or pain. What he fails to mention is he is the cause of all of our struggles. When he seduced Adam and Eve to sin everything changed. Now he continues to pull and push us to sin. He will lie and say God did this to you. He will lie and make you question God. Don’t fall for it. The devil is the culprit. Our sin causes more strife. There is no joy in sin, only heart ache and loneliness.

Now that we know the truth, let us pass through the waters together. Let us join hands and walk through the fire. With the help of God, we will get wet, but we will not drown. We will be toasted, but we will not burn. While we go through it we will not be alone.

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