Once Upon a Time in America

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One upon a time God blessed America

One upon a time America believed in God

One upon a time we believed His Son Jesus was the Savior of the world

One upon a time the Bible was the Word of God

One upon a time Ministers preached the Bible

One upon a time some things were sin

One upon a time people repented when they committed those sins

One upon a time the Ten Commandments were not offensive

One upon a time our colleges were established to train ministers

One upon a time people prayed at school, at sporting events, graduations, and even beside their beds at night

One upon a time boys were boys and girls were girls

One upon a time boys and girls grew up, fell in love, had sex and had babies, in that order

One upon a time “baby daddies” married “baby mommas”

One upon a time marriage was for life

One upon a time husbands loved there wives and wives respected their husbands

One upon a time Dads taught their sons how to be men and Moms taught their daughters how to be ladies

Once upon a time a man who didn’t work and provide for his family was not a man

One upon a time we knew that no one owes us anything, including the Government

One upon a time we just wanted to be free to make our own way

One upon a time our word was our bond and a handshake was our contract

One upon a time we were embarrassed when we were late or didn’t do a good job

One upon a time we obeyed laws and respected authority

One upon a time there were words that you were not supposed to say and some things you were not supposed to do

One upon a time singers really sang, musicians really played and comedians could make us laugh without being vulgar

Once upon a time you had to have talent to be a star

One upon a time you could watch the news to find out what really happened

One upon a time the whole family could watch TV together

One upon a time there were things we would die for

One upon a time there were ideals we sought to live up to

One upon a time we knew that life was a gift from God and that all life was sacred from the womb to the grave

One upon a time we believed that we would all stand before God one day and give an account for the way we had lived

One upon a time people came to America to become Americans

One upon a time God blessed America

One upon a time in a land far away…America was great

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Philippians 2:15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky .

Well, here we are, 2016. I am expecting and believing God for a great year. We are living in some amazing times and it will no doubt be an eventful year. In spite of the crazy times in which we find ourselves living, I truly believe God has great plans for His people in the midst of a troubled world.

I love the start of a new year because it offers great opportunities to reflect on the previous year and to make needed changes in our lives. Many of us use this time to make New Years resolutions. But sadly, although our enthusiasm may be high and our commitment real, we often fail. Trust me I have known the “agony of defeat.”

As I pondered my newest list of resolutions this year it struck me that perhaps we so often fail because we start at the wrong place. Invariably, we make commitments to change outward actions when maybe we should start on the inside. Matthew gives us a good hint as to where we might start.

Matt.6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

As I prayed about the new year the word that kept rolling around in my spirit was the word pure. The word pure means “without any extraneous and unnecessary elements.” What if in 2016 we got rid of all the unnecessary things in our lives? Things that aren’t making life better or drawing us closer to God. Unnecessary attitudes, habits, desires, thoughts.

Pure also means “free of any contamination.”

What if we got real honest with ourselves and admitted that some things we are doing are just wrong and we need to quit doing them. Now!

Hebrews 12:1 tell us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

Another definition of pure is be “perfectly in tune.” What if we just decided to get “in tune with God. What if we simply let Him be God and we just followed him and obeyed His word. What if we turned loose of the reins and let God lead us?  What if we just committed ourselves to being pure? Pure in body. Pure in mind. Pure in heart. Pure in spirit.

To be pure in body we must take control of what our body is doing.  It seems that under the guise of modernism, tolerance and a misunderstanding of grace that people are  allowing themselves to do things that God has said we are not to do. The Apostle Paul tells us in I Cor. 6:12 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you.” What he is basically saying it that just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Just because God doesn’t strike us down every time we sin does not mean that he approves and he certainly will not bless sinful behavior.

I Thessalonians 4:4 tells usthat each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable.” Friends, it matters what we do, where we go and how we act. God has called us to be pure in body.

To be pure in mind we must take control of how we think and what we think about.  What we fill our minds with affect our thinking. Ask yourself what do you think about. There is a powerful quote that says:

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

What we fill our minds with will determine what we become. We must renew our minds daily with God’s word and take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. We must take control of our thought life instead of letting our thoughts control us.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” What does it mean to be pure in heart?”The heart is where thoughts, desires, will, understanding, and character reside. So, to be pure in heart means to be blameless in who we actually are. A pure heart has no hypocrisy, no guile, no hidden motives. A pure heart is transparent and has a desire to please God in all things. It is more than a purity of behavior; it is a purity of soul.

The spirit is where things like unforgiveness, regret, jealousy, selfishness, anger, and malice can reside. To be pure in spirit we must allow the Spirit of Christ in us to set us free from these thing, to renew that childlike innocence and belief in our spirits.

Let’s be honest, we live in a very crude and vulgar culture and as we walk through this world on a daily basis some of that dirt inevitably sticks to us. Just like the great King David who God Himself described as a man after His own heart failed at times, we too sometimes fail. But, when we do, let us also be like David and humbly cry out to a merciful God. The only way we can be truly pure in heart is to give our lives to Jesus and ask Him cleanse and empower us to walk in newness and purity.

Psalm 51….2 Wash me clean from my guilt.
    Purify me from my sin.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.

What could God do in us and through us this year if God imputed and God created purity in our lives was our resolution and our desire?

 

I Still Believe in Fairy Tales

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We are living in perilous times. Every day we read about new atrocities happening around the globe and sometimes in our very own communities. The institutions and systems we once trusted in seem to be crumbling right before our eyes. And all the while, the sacred and true things that could shine as rays of hope in a dark world are mocked and degraded.

What we are left with is a culture that has become desensitized  and cynical.We live in a world where even the holiest of holies, the creator of all things, God Himself, is often treated like a fictional character and his Holy Word likened to fables.  Sadly this cynical and unbelieving attitude can also be found sitting on church pews and even behind pulpits. Our world has changed. Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.

I saw as sign once that read, “You live what you really believe.” I wonder sometimes if we would live the way we do if we “really believed” what God’s word says. Do we really believe that God is a holy God and that he has clearly said that some things are sin. Have we even bothered to check and see what He has said about the hot button issues of our day like abortion, immorality, marriage, and homosexuality just to name a few? Have we become so jaded and cynical that we have downgraded our GOD to simply god. Do we still believe in an all powerful miracle working GOD that can do anything or have relegated Him to a fictional bearded old guy riding around on a cloud, oblivious and out of touch with mankind. Is the Bible still the book of all books, the sacred text, the very Word of God or just a cleverly concocted manuscript filled with entertaining stories and fables. If actions prove anything we would have to conclude that, to many it is all just a fairy tale.

Call me childlike in my faith if you will but I still believe that Adam and Eve had a good gig going on until they went to snacking on junk food. I still believe Noah built a big boat. I still believe the honeymoon wasn’t over for an old man and woman named Abe and Sarah. I still believe Moses wasn’t kidding. I still believe Samson was one “bad” dude. I still believe David proved that “the bigger they are the harder they fall.” I still believe that a teenage girl had a baby before she ever had sex. I still believe that baby could grow into a man and never sin. I still believe that man healed the sick, opened blind eyes, fed the hungry and raised the dead. I still believe that that man was beaten, mocked, spat upon and crucified. I still believe He died and they placed Him in a borrowed tomb and on the third day he arose and He is alive today! I believe this man’s name is Jesus and He is God. I still believe Jesus loves me.

I also believe a few other things that might seem strange to some. I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. Marriage is meant to be for life. You should not have sex before you are married. Men should work. Friends should be faithful. You should always tell the truth. Honesty is not the best policy it is the only acceptable policy. I believe in freedom of choice. It is your choice to have sex or not. If you choose to have sex and you get pregnant you can choose the babies name. Then you can get busy being a mom and a dad. I believe human courts can’t overturn God’s decisions. I believe that Jesus is the only Savior of the world and he will forgive and save anyone who will call upon His name in faith.

Many today would say that I am unhinged and delusional, a simpleton living in an imaginary world, a world of fairy tales. If that is what people want to think of me than let me once and for all set the record straight.

I still believe in fairy tales.

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT)  The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.

Beauty for Ashes

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Around this time last year my life was going into a tailspin. Everything seemed to be unraveling right before my eyes. Leaders in whom I had trusted conspired against me. Colleagues that I had labored along side of walked away from me. People that I had considered friends betrayed me. In a matter of weeks I would find myself without a church, without any means of financial support for my family and without clear direction from the Lord as to what I should do. Hurt, bitter, confused and just plain old tired.

Through it all God was with us. Through it all He had a plan. (Jeremiah 29:11)

In less than a year God has given us a new church family that I dearly love. Souls Refuge Church is more than a congregation, it is a family that God is building. It is a place where all are welcome and all can come to know Jesus. I love this Church!

He has provided us an awesome building to worship in. It is debt free and it belongs to Him.

He has given Kim and I a new business. (shameless plug)Kims Creations – Flowers, Gifts and More. Find us on Facebook or at KimsCreationsFlowers.com 🙂

He has given us a new home that we will use for His glory.

I do not have the time or the words to fully detail all he has done this year. I stand in awe.

I write this with admiration for my wonderful wife Kim. She weathered the storm with grace and dignity. She held onto her faith and her family. She stood beside me through it all as Christ stood beside her.

I write this as a proud Dad. My girls could have allowed the unchristian like actions of some to diminish their faith. They stood strong and pressed on.

I write this in gratitude to friends and family who stood beside us. He used many of you reading this right now to help us through a very difficult time and help bring His plans to fruition.

I do not write this to gripe or to gloat. I write this to glorify Him.

I pray for those who have wronged me. I forgive them and I pray that they find a place of repentance, as I have so many times.

I write this in humility. On my best day I am unworthy of the least of His blessings. Thank you for loving me Jesus.

I write this in reverence to God and somewhat fearfully. Lord help me to be a good and faithful steward over the many blessings you have bestowed upon me.

I write this to tell the world that God is good, God is great…To God be the glory.

Isaiah 61:3 To appoint to them that mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

Thirsty?

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I read recently that an estimated 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Their bodies are not getting the water they need. Is it any wonder so many feel tired and sluggish. The body needs water to function properly.

Sounds like we are living in a thirsty society. Many are physically thirsty, but I believe even more are spiritually thirsty.

In the Gospel of John we read the story of Jesus and his encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well.

John 4: 4 He had to go through Samaria on the way. 5 Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. 7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” 8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.[b] She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

In this story Jesus is not just looking for a free glass of water. He is trying to get this woman to see her need, her spiritual thirst. He was telling her that He was the only thing that would satisfy her thirsty soul . He was the living water.

In John 7:37-38 Jesus invites us all to come and get a drink of this soul satisfying water.

John 7: 37-38 ……Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

This scripture also tells me that after we have come to know Christ we should become a source where people can find the living water that they need.

Perhaps our society itself is so spiritually thirsty, in part, because so many Christians are themselves “spiritually dehydrated.” Before we can refresh others we must get a big drink of Jesus for ourselves.  We must make it a point each day to thoroughly hydrate our souls by spending time with Jesus in the Word and prayer.

Isaiah 12:3  With joy you will draw water
    from the wells of salvation.

Friends, don’t go around tired and spiritually dehydrated. Start your day with a big glass of Jesus and then go out and give a thirsty world a drink.

I Love This… Bar???

man_at_bar-300x225Just a few miles down the road from my house is a little bar. It is not a restaurant/bar, it is a bar, a place that serves drinks for thirsty people. When I pass by this bar it is usually always packed. When I pass by churches they are usually not.

I wonder why the bars seem to have an easier time putting people on the barstool than we do in the pew. Is it just because they serve alcohol? Or, are the people frequenting the local bar actually looking for more than just a a strong drink. Perhaps the words to a popular country song by Toby Keith can give us some insight. Toby writes:

“I Love This Bar”

We got winners, we got losers

Chain smokers and boozers

And we got yuppies, we got bikers

We got thirsty hitchhikers

And the girls next door dress up like movie stars

 Hmm, hmm, hmm I love this bar

We got cowboys, we got truckers

Broken-hearted fools and suckers

And we got hustlers, we got fighters

Early birds and all-nighters

And the veterans talk about their battle scars

 I’ve seen short skirts, we got high-techs

Blue-collar boys and rednecks

And we got lovers, lots of lookers

And I’ve even seen dancing girls and hookers

[Chorus:]

I love this bar

It’s my kind of place

Just walkin’ through the front door

Puts a big smile on my face

It ain’t too far, come as you are

Hmm, hmm, hmm I love this bar

I’ve seen short skirts, we got high-techs

Blue-collar boys and rednecks

And we got lovers, lots of lookers

And I’ve even seen dancing girls and hookers

 What this song tells me is that the bar is perceived as a place where regardless of who you are, regardless of your station in life, regardless of your baggage or past mistakes you are welcome. It is a place where You can be honest about who you are including all the your warts and scars…and you will still be welcomed and accepted.

It occurred  to me that the church has allowed the local bar to steal our identity.

 Rev. 22:17 says, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

 It seems that world is selling some things that we should be giving away freely…love, acceptance, a place to belong.

 My vision for Souls Refuge Church is to one day stand in the pulpit and look across the congregation and be able to say,

 “We got winners, we got losers

Chain smokers and boozers

And we got yuppies, we got bikers

We got thirsty hitchhikers

 We got cowboys, we got truckers

Broken-hearted fools and suckers

And we got hustlers, we got fighters

Early birds and all-nighters

And the veterans talk about their battle scars

 Blue-collar boys and rednecks

And we got lovers, lots of lookers

And I’ve even seen dancing girls and hookers”

 Each and every one accepted, each and every one loved and each and every one given the opportunity to come to know Christ and find a brand new life. Everyone offered a free drink from the water of life, Jesus.

I want everyone of them to walk out the front door of Souls Refuge Church singing…

I love this church

It’s my kind of place

Just walkin’ through the front door

Puts a big smile on my face

It ain’t too far, come as you are

Hmm, hmm, hmm I love this church