2015: The Year of Praise update

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Praising God Today for…

  1. My new ministry:  I will join the Northwest Tampa Church of Christ as their preaching minister on March 1.  You can learn more about the church at http://www.tampachurch.org

  2. Stuff:  You know, God has blessed us all.  We have stuff.  I have clothes, a bed, a home, a car, and so much more.  As we prepare to sell our home, we’ve been able to bless others with so many things that we no longer use, need, or want.  Stuff is great, but let’s make sure we don’t get too attached!
  3. Friends:  God has blessed me with so many great relationships.  Today, I was reminded at our monthly preacher’s lunch that I have some great friends, who love me, care for me, and are genuinely concerned about our future in Tampa.

Remember – 2015 is the “Year of Praise” and we need to remember to praise God every day for the things He has done for us.

My Personal Connection to the Space Shuttle Challenger: Remembering That Tragic Day

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We were driving around Nashville in our old van.  It was a snow day.  Well, sort of.  It was one of those days when it snowed, but cleared up quickly.  We had moved into our new house just the year before.  My parents had been searching for wallpaper for the house.

We had the radio on in the van – loud enough to hear but not loud enough for us to really pay attention.  I was sitting in the back seat.  In between stores, as we were driving down the road, I faintly heard someone on the radio say “The space shuttle Challenger has exploded.”

I remember this day vividly for two reasons.  First of all – it was a major event in American history.  Tragedies such as this are things that scar your mind.  Assassinations, natural disasters, bombings, and other things such as this are the things you tell your children about in the manner of “I remember when…” or “I can remember where I was when…”

The second reason I remember this day was because of a personal connection to the shuttle.  One of the reasons the space shuttle Challenger was so important was because of the Teacher-in-Space program.  They were going to put a school teacher in space along with the other astronauts on the voyage.

One of my best friends in elementary school was Travis Fakes.  His mother was a teacher for Lebanon High School, and she qualified as one of two finalists for the state of Tennessee for the program.  Out of over 10,000 applications, she was in the top 100 of teacher candidates.

She did not make it to the top 10 – but I remember how shaken she was, and how shaken our community was when the explosion occurred.  Here’s a list of the top 100 or so candidates: http://www.worldspaceflight.com/bios/teacher.php

Tragedies like this are inevitable.  They have occurred all throughout history, and will continue to happen.  But, we continue to move forward.  The space program did not stop because of that tragic event.  It has had other tragedies occur as well.  But, the space program continues.

And now, I continue to have a connection to the space program through my brother-in-law, Philip Garton, who works for Boeing and has had his hand in helping with the International Space Station, and also with the new Orion program.

I praise God that He has given mankind a can-do attitude, a resolve to continue through struggles, and an ability to bounce back.

Tonight, pray for the families of those whose lives were taken on the Space Shuttle Challenger 29 years ago today.

I’ll Be Here For You. Sincerely, God.

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Today, I just couldn’t come up with anything better to post than the devotional from my wife’s daily devotional book she’s been reading.  I love how when she comes across one she things will impact me in a certain way, she sends it to me to read.

My family needed this today.

From the book “Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence” by Sarah Young

I AM WITH YOU AND FOR YOU . When you decide on a course of action that is in line with My will, nothing in heaven or on earth can stop you. You may encounter many obstacles as you move toward your goal, but don’t be discouraged— never give up! With My help, you can overcome any obstacle. Do not expect an easy path as you journey hand in hand with Me, but do remember that I, your very- present Helper , am omnipotent.

Much, much stress results from your wanting to make things happen before their times have come. One of the main ways I assert My sovereignty is in the timing of events. If you want to stay close to Me and do things My way, ask Me to show you the path forward moment by moment. Instead of dashing headlong toward your goal, let Me set the pace. Slow down, and enjoy the journey in My Presence. 

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? –ROMANS 8:31

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. PSALM 46:1–3 NKJV 

“For nothing is impossible with God.” LUKE 1:37

I Don’t Understand, God

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Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Sometimes, we need to be reminded that God is our Creator, the giver of life, the Master of all things.

When we look for help in this world, we always try to go to someone or something that can give us an answer, whether it be a Youtube how-to video, or someone we know that has experience with the problem we’re having.

In all matters though, God knows more. Therefore, HE should be the first person we go to with our concerns, our problems, and our distress.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart – Don’t have part of your heart trusting in yourself, others, or something else. You have to give it all to God. Don’t let there be an ounce of doubt.

Do not lean on your own understanding – When I try to figure things out all on my own, I usually don’t figure them out. I can ask the question over and over again – Why God, why? – but that’s not for me to try to figure out.

In all your ways acknowledge Him – God has to be a part of your everything. Your joys, your sorrows, your good times and bad.

He will make your paths straight – its a lot easier to see what’s ahead when you’re going straight. I want my path to lead right toward Heaven. I want my path to lead right toward making an impact for Him.

I praise God today for still working on me.

The Forgiveness Conundrum

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I’m a big believer in forgiveness. If you look at some of the strongest leaders in the Bible – they are people who experienced great sin, AND great forgiveness. All of us have the opportunity to be forgiven by God, like those spiritual giants in the Bible. David, Peter, Paul, just to name a few – did things that most of us would say “Maybe I can forgive them, but they’ll have to move on elsewhere for what they’ve done.”

And that’s the rub isn’t it? We want to forgive people, with conditions attached. I’ll forgive you, but you have to do this, this, and this.

I’m in the middle of a great book by Dennis McCallum entitled “Satan and His Kingdom: What the Bible Says and How it Matters to You.” In a chapter of the book entitled “Battling Satan Inside Your Church” the author gives a quote that smacked me upside the head. It says this:

“‘Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others’ (Colossians 3:13). Anyone means ‘everybody minus nobody.’ This is explicit language ruling out all excuses. Paul qualifies it even further, saying that our forgiveness should be ‘just as the Lord forgave you’ ( NASB ). And we know the forgiveness we receive in the finished work of Christ is absolute and all- encompassing. Even when our attitude is poor, Jesus’ death provides for our complete forgiveness.”

Wow. Let’s break this down a bit.

Anyone means “everybody minus nobody” – Don’t we tend to be more forgiving towards some and less forgiving towards others? They’ve never messed up before, so maybe I’ll be more lenient toward them. They really insulted my ego, so I’m not going to be as forgiving toward them. That’s not how it goes. Anybody means everybody minus nobody.

Our forgiveness should be “Just as the Lord forgave you.” – Jesus doesn’t say “I forgive you, but I can’t work with you any longer.” Jesus doesn’t say “I forgive you, but when judgement day comes, I’m going to put you in a different part of heaven because of what you did.” Jesus doesn’t say “I forgive but will never forget.” Thank goodness Jesus doesn’t put such conditions on his forgiveness. Jesus simply forgives, and moves on.

The forgiveness we receive is absolute and all-encompassing. – We really tend to have a problem with this don’t we? The conditions we place on our forgiveness take away the “absolute and all-encompassing” part, doesn’t it? We are completely forgiven. Can you completely forgive others?

Even when our attitude is poor, Jesus’ death provides for our complete forgiveness. – This tells me, that even if the person who offended you may not ask, may not care, or goes out and does the same thing again the next day – we provide forgiveness. If you go to the verse in Colossians 3:13 where it says “Make allowance for each other’s faults” you go in knowing this…WE WILL ALL MESS UP. We should anticipate it. We should expect it.

Think about the people who have wronged you. Have you forgiven them? How have you forgiven them? Are there self-imposed conditions attached? Is there a “I forgive but won’t forget” clause attached? Free yourself of those things – forgive, forget, move on. Not only will you bless their life in immeasurable ways, you may just do the same for yourself.

Today I praise God for forgiving me without condition. He just forgives.

When Saying Thank You Doesn’t Seem Like Its Enough

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“O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name!
I Chronicles 29:13

We’ve been teaching our little girl to say “thank you” pretty much ever since she was born. Its a simple phrase that brings about such great feelings when someone does something for you. Its a simple formula really: someone does anything for you = you saying thank you.

Its good for us to say thank you to God also. After all, who has done more for any of us than God? Sure, there may be days, weeks, months, or even years where things seem to have only gone poorly or the wrong way. However, God continues to stand by our side.

The interesting thing about this passage is what it says in the verses beyond it. It says this:

13 “O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name! 14 But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! 15 We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.

David recognizes that our time here is short. What possible good could it do to thank God, when we are just a mere blip on the radar of the universe? The simple answer is that God loves that blip. Even if you feel like you are here for a moment and then gone, or if you feel like there’s no way you can matter to God in the grand scheme of things – understand that God loves each and every one of HIS children. And for that we owe Him thanks AND praise.

Today, take time to just make a simple list of things to thank God for in your life.

Want to be Stronger in just 1 day? Read this!

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The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.
This is my God, and I will praise him—
my father’s God, and I will exalt him!

Exodus 15:2 (NLT)

What things has God given you victory over, and what things do you still need to conquer?

We must remember to praise God during the times of conquering, and the times we are being conquered. That means when things are going well, and when things pretty much stink.

One other thing we have to remember is to let God fight for us. We can’t do it alone. He provides the strength, He provides the victory. Let God be your strength today.

2015: A Year of Praise

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As 2015 begins, I want to remind myself, my family, my friends, all of us – that God is awesome and worthy of our praise. You see, 2014 wasn’t the best year for us on many levels. I wrote about a major milestone in our lives which began an unexpected transition about 3 months ago. Through this time, we’ve learned we have some truly great friends, family, and even realized how large the Kingdom is by having complete strangers hold us close to them and their prayers.

I’m not the first to go through a rough end of a year, and I won’t be the last. My problems are petty compared to most, but they are my reality. One thing I have to remember through all of this is that I not blame God, but rather, praise Him. Its time to come back to the heart of worship. I declare 2015 as the year of praise to our Lord.

In I Chronicles 15, David brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. At the end of the chapter we read of David shedding some garments and dancing in the streets because of his jubilation, and while this upsets the daughter of Saul, it set forth a motion of worship that would seemingly be unequal in its day to God and His Glory!

You see, the Israelites worship had become, well, non-existent. David was bringing it back. Can you imagine what your life would be like without worship? The temple was not there, and David set up a sort of “temporary worship place” with the Ark. In I Chronicles 16, the Ark is placed, and David, the original “worship leader”, led the nation in worship to God. After this, David assigned specific tasks to several of the Levite nation, in order to establish an ongoing worship session, as they were to play their instruments before the Lord “regularly”.

What follows is a song of praise, taken from various verses in Psalm 96, 105, and 106. In this song of praise – we find a few things for us to take notice of:

1. If you consider yourself a Christian, you need to be offering praise to God. You can sing, you can tell others about what God has done for you, you can “tell of all His wonderful Acts.” (verses 8, 9)

2. You can rejoice proudly in His name. Be proud to wear the name of God. Look to the Lord for strength. (verses 10, 11)

3. We can remember what He does for people who belong to Him. (verses 12-22)

4. We can know that if we don’t praise Him, the earth certainly will – all the earth will Praise Him. (verses 23-27, 31-33)

5. We can know that whatever the world may dream up, think of, and try to pass of as “true” that the world is firmly established and cannot be moved. There is no good that will come to those who reject the Lord, so we should ascribe to Him. (verses 28-30)

6. Everyone should praise God, and everyone should seek Him as their Savior. (verses 31-36)

After this worship service, David assigns permanent positions to several of the priests. What does that mean for us? When we are done offering worship, perhaps we should not just consider things done for the week. Perhaps you have a permanent place of worship you can find yourself in if you just look. The last few verses of this chapter tell me a few things too. Read verses 37-43, and then consider:

Worship is not ever finished.

We all have talents to use for God.

Make your friends and your family part of your worship (verse 43).

2015 has just begun. Its not even close to being over. You have talents that you can use for God. Find them, use them. And finally, make sure you include those you love in your worship.

May 2015 be the year of praise to our Lord.