SOMETIMES I LOSE MY FOCUS

A true story …

The Maestro was born in the northern city of Modena. His mother was a cigar factory worker, his father was a baker and amateur tenor. It was the amateur tenor part that most touched young Luciano Pavarotti. He loved hearing his dad sing, and he spent hours listening to the family’s collection of recordings of great tenors. Father and son sang along with the records at full volume. Mr. Pavarotti wouldn’t sing in public due to stage fright, but he did sing in the church choir. At age nine, Luciano joined him. The boy loved to sing — and people loved hearing him.

“Your voice touches me whenever you sing,” his mother said.

But the question of a career was vexing. In those days just after World War II, a musical career was risky. His mother suggested Luciano become an athletic instructor, while his father encouraged him to continue developing his voice. “But you will have to study very hard, Luciano,” he said. “Practice harder, and then maybe.”

Luciano continued his musical studies and also enrolled in a teacher’s college. After graduation, he asked his father, “Shall I be a teacher or a singer?” Read more

Sometimes I Feel Disconnected

 

Dad and mom were generous with the advice they offered as I was growing up …
They would often look at a situation and give me their viewpoint even when I was not looking for input
In hindsight they had a lot of wisdom which they were sharing when they thought it would help
Most times I really was not all that appreciative of their input
One tidbit of wisdom I always remember was from my dad – I remember it because I heard it so often
“You can do anything you set your mind to”
And that has proved true over the years since I first heard it
The other piece of advice came from my mom and dealt with my friends and those I chose to hang around with

Read more

The Power of a Vision!

The Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18) Without a blueprint, you can’t build a house; and without an idea of what kind of house you want, a blueprint can’t be drawn. The same is true when it comes to making plans for the future. If you don’t have a clear idea about where you want to go — and why you want to go there — it’s difficult to sustain any forward momentum in your life.

Without a dream, we float through life without ever catching the current. Many of us fill the majority of our hours with diversions and only a few with dreams. But our world is shaped by determined dreamers, by men and women of vision. Like them, you need a dream to achieve your goal. 

Brett Hagler is someone who knows the power of a dream. After battling cancer in high school, Brett entered his twenties determined to make the most of life wth lots of “gold, girls, and glory.”

“I bought into the false equation that material things were going to bring me fulfillment … it was the path to emptiness.”

With the help of a friend, Hagler turned to Christ. Shortly afterward, he visited Haiti and saw the devastation from the 2010 earthquake. Hagler was reading the New Testament at the time, and he noticed how Jesus had a strong “bent and heart for the poor.”

God gave Hagler a dream to establish a nonprofit company called New Story, a housing start-up that uses 3D printing machines to create homes. New Story can build a two-bedroom, one bath home in about 24 hours! Goldman Sachs calls Hagler one of the Top 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs as he seeks to combat global homelessness.

Today when Brett travels the country telling people about his story, he encourages audiences with a simple but powerful motto: dream big, but start small. That’s great advice!

I admire people who envision things not yet seen and do things not yet done. Imagineers open the door to the future and let us in. Their names fill the chapters of our history books: Alexander the Great, Nicolaus Copernicus, Leonardo Da Vinci, Christopher Columbus, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Neil Armstrong, Steve Jobs, Mary Anderson. 

Mary Anderson? Who’s she?

She was an ordinary woman who visited New York City during the winter of 1902. The snow and ice were coming down furiously, and when Mary hopped on a streetcar she noticed the driver had to keep the front window open because the windshield was covered with snow. Returning home, she envisioned a rubber device that would sweep back and forth over the windshield to keep it clear for driving. She invented the windshield wiper.

You see, everyone can have a vision — young and old, rich or poor, famous or obscure. No matter who you are, you need to be gazing into the future and asking God what He wants you to do next. 

  Sometimes I Feel Disconnected

Dad and Mom were generous with the advice they offered as I was growing up …

They would often look at a situation and give me their viewpoint even when I was not looking for input

In hindsight they had a lot of wisdom which they were sharing when they thought it would help

Most times I really was not all that appreciative of their input

One tidbit of wisdom I always remember was from my dad – I remember it because I heard it so often 

“You can do anything you set your mind to”

And that has proved true over the years since I first heard it

The other piece of advice came from my mom and dealt with my friends and those I chose to hang around with

“You are who you run with” she would say

Sometimes, I have to admit, I was not sure if she was approving of my buddies or encouraging me to find better replacements

This too was a powerfully wise statement that I should have listened to and taken more seriously than I did

Whether you’re a kid, a tween, a teenager, a young adult, or middle-aged, you will become like your closest friends

Trust me in this – trust my mom

Count on it – the company you keep determines who you become

When we connect with another person — we become a conduit for their values, beliefs, and decisions

We are affected by their behaviour, life-style, and morals

This is not just based on my mother’s advice and is not just some pop psychology gained from a self-help book…

In the Bible, Solomon wrote:

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20)

If you stick close to people who are wise, you’ll become wiser

If you hang out with people who are godly, you’re likely going to grow closer to God

If you become close friends with people who make good decisions, chances are you’ll make good decisions too

But the opposite is  dangerously true as well

If you hang out with the wrong crowd, you’ll likely end up doing stupid and dangerous things along with them

If the people you surround yourself with are passive, unmotivated people, you’ll likely do less, not more

If your best friends constantly ignore God, chances are you’re going to drift from Him as well

PERSONAL COMMENT:

When I reflect on my life, I realize I rarely got into trouble by myself

Almost every time I did something stupid or unwise, I was running around with people who were equally foolish

On the flip side of that coin,

I rarely succeeded at anything on my own

When I grew as a believer it was because someone was discipling me

When I grew as a leader it was because another leader was mentoring me

People speaking into my life – offering me valuable feedback and their hard-earned wisdom

When I am closest to God, I’m always simultaneously close to godly people as well

THE TRUTH: Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future

 Any success I have in life and ministry is the direct result of my connecting with the best, God-loving, wise people I could find

Anything good that I’ve done or am doing comes from God using the right people to influence me and make me better

I am who I am today because of the people I choose to connect with in the past 

You are too

The people you know determine the story your life will tell

The people you’re hanging out with today are shaping the person you will become tomorrow

When trouble hits and hard times happen other than a close family member most people either call a close friend

Or wish they had someone they could call

In those moments when bad news is received, we desperately need other people

We need someone who cares to be present with us

We need someone to listen to us vent – to hold us while we cry

We need trusted friends to love us and remind us of God’s peace and presence in the midst of life’s unexpected storms

And not only do we need this type of friend, we need to be this type of friend to others

The kind other people trust and respect, confide in and love to be around

But, regretfully, in our day and age of social media such connections are becoming rare

As a pastor, I often hear the secrets that people are afraid to tell anyone else

They tell me because they trust me

They tell me because they decide it’s safe because I am a pastor

People often bare their hearts to me because they just can’t keep it inside any longer and they have no one else in their lives they trust enough to keep their secrets and to help them overcome whatever they may be facing

And, that is a serious tragedy

Life today are messy — mine, yours, everyone’s

So, if we are going to connect with others, we have to help each other clean up some of the messes

That’s why it’s absolutely essential to have real friends – and the right friends in your life before your life derails in some way

Real friendships, though, take time, effort, focus and an emotional investment, which is part of what makes it so difficult for us to connect

Today it almost seems old-fashioned to hope for the kind of friendship that endures

The kind that sustains you through all the highs and lows of life 

In our fast-paced, mobile culture, we have become suburban nomads

It is just not reasonable to expect relationships to last for years and years

Plus, we now have all kinds of great ways we can stay in touch:

      • Texts
      • Emails
      • Instagram
      • Facebook
      • Twitter
      • What’sApp
      • Viber
      • And other social media

You can always Skype or FaceTime or Zoom with those long-distance friends, right?

But few do and the connection is not the same … it lacks depth and the real personal, in-person touch

The relational impact of social media and technology has redefined the word friend

Once upon a time, even just a decade ago, when someone said they were your friend, you both understood what that meant:

          • You shared interests
          • Understood each other’s goals
          • Enjoyed doing life together
          • Shared holidays
          • Engaged in their life and embraced their issues

Things are no longer that simple

You can have dozens — even hundreds — of friends that you’ve never met IRL (in Real Life)

BBF — but not IRL

They may follow you on social media without really knowing who you are or what makes you tick

Today … the average person has more than 300 Facebook friends, but only one or two that they consider “close friends”

And, two out of three people say they have zero close fiends

Zero, nada, zip, zilch, goose egg, none at all — close friends

There are four reasons people have few friends – and definitely fewer friends than a few years ago…

      • People are working more – so fewer hours available to relate socially. So, any friendship is usually a working relationship
      • People are moving more frequently so geographical closeness is no longer a fact of life and close friendships don’t usually survive distance
      • People are getting divorced more often and so friends tend to side with one or the other in the break-up  and thus friendships are lost
      • People are talking more online and less in person and so filter out the ‘personal content’ to present only their best self – not their real self

As a result people are experiencing less and less personal intimacy

And true friendships are quickly fading and even disappearing altogether

The result of these major changes: 

    • We’re connected, yet feel lonelier than ever
    • Our connections are mostly surface level without personal depth
    • We prefer to control the relationships so let calls go to voice mail and then listen and answer only if we want to and when and if time allows
    • We honestly no longer know how to have a meaningful, fulfilling personal friendship
    • We live life an inch deep and a mile wide without engaging in or embracing the life of another person … so live friendless in the true meaning of the word “friend”

Poverty use to mean only one thing

Now sociologists are acknowledging a least three levels of poverty

            • Material poverty: the lack of basic needs
            • Spiritual poverty: the lack of eternal meaning
            • Relational poverty: the lack of intimate friendships

This third one seems to have taken many people by surprise

But if you think about it, you may realize that it’s true of you as well

Something is wrong

Something is missing

You might even acknowledge that it isn’t actually something but a someone

Most believers need to make a quality decision to connect

Because, believe it or not, you could be one friend away from changing direction

Remember my mom’s wisdom and advice: You are who you run with (hang around with)

When you decide to connect with people — you change the story you will tell one day

That has been true throughout history 

Just consider the man who wrote more than 1/3 of the New Testament – the apostle Paul

Paul wasn’t always a Christian

Before he was a follower of Jesus, he was Saul from a city called Tarsus

He was an angry guy who persecuted and killed Christians

But after taking the lives of those who believed that Jesus was raised from the dead, Paul became one of them himself

His transformation was so big, so radical, so life-changing that Saul-turned-Paul immediately wanted to tell others about Jesus

The problem was that no Christians trusted him, for obvious reasons

Luke – a doctor who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts put it simply:

Acts 9:26 “And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.”

You can’t blame the disciples for their skepticism

I wouldn’t want the guy who killed Christians last month leading my house church! Would you?

So Paul had a problem

He’d been transformed by the love and grace of Christ

Because of Jesus, Paul wanted to preach

He knew he was called by God to do so, but he didn’t have an ounce of credibility with the people who had been following Jesus for a long time

So Paul reached out to anyone who would give him a chance to share his newfound passion and love for Jesus

Little did Paul know that his decision to connect wouldn’t just change his story

it would add to God’s Word and change history

You see, Paul was one friend away from altering the course of his destiny

And that friend was a guy named Barnabas

Luke shows clearly how Barnabas lent Paul his credibility and put in a good word for him

Acts 9:27-28 “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.”

What happened?

Barnabas staked his reputation on Paul’s conversion being real, not just some Trojan horse ploy to infiltrate Jesus’ disciples

Barnabas vouched for his new friend’s faith in Christ, telling the other disciples about the passion Paul had when he preached about Jesus — something that is hard to fake

Because of Barnabas, the other disciples and leaders of the church gave Paul a chance

One friendship

One massive difference in Paul’s life

An even bigger difference in the world

You may be one friendship – one relationship – away from changing your destiny if you just decide to reach out and connect with the right people

You may be one connection away from changing the world

As you consider what it might mean to risk connecting with people

To reveal your heart

To reveal your real struggles

To reveal your thoughts and feelings

To reveal your crazy dreams

Consider the three types of friends everyone needs to reach their God-given potential and destiny

      • A friend to challenge you and bring out your best – the real you
      • A friend to help you find strength in God and to grow in your faith
      • A friend to tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it

To illustrate these three types, let’s look at the life of David in the Old Testament to see the people that God used two make him the man God wanted him to be…

Listen: Everyone needs a good, close friend who makes them better, and makes them want to be better

1> A friend to challenge you and bring out your best – the real you

You don’t need to know much about David’s life to know he was far from perfect

But even with all his mistakes, sins, and shortcomings, David was still described as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22)

If you study David’s life, it becomes clear that the right people at the right time helped him become the right man

Although David had many people who made him better, I’d like to start with Samuel

During the time when God rejected Saul as the king (different than the New Testament Saul who became Paul) God chose Samuel the prophet to identify and anoint the next king of Israel

When Samuel visited the house of Ben Jesse (David’s dad), he saw an obvious candidate

The oldest son was strong, handsome, and qualified

Samuel thought that surely this man was God’s chosen king

But God told him not to consider this son’s stature, because God doesn’t look at the same things people look at

Most people judge others by their appearance, but God looks past their appearance and into their heart (1 Samuel 16:7)

When all the obvious sons turned out not to be God’s chosen one, they finally called in the least likely one, the youngest, who was out tending sheep

And God spoke to Samuel and said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one” (1 Samuel 16:12)

Everyone who have been shocked by this announcement

David was just a kid, and a little rough around the edges, camping next to his family’s flock of sheep

There wasn’t a single person in David’s family who would have picked him as the next king

But God used one man, Samuel, to help David see that God’s will for his life was more significant than anyone could have imagined

Samuel made David better — much better

The prophet helped David see himself the way God saw him — as a leader, warrior, poet, and king

He wasn’t just some kid, cut out for nothing more than wrangling sheep his whole life

Samuel told David, “You’re the one! God has chosen you!”

God had a glorious plan, and Samuel helped David glimpse it

Everyone needs a friend who makes them better

A person who encourages you to be the best you that you can be — the person God created you to be

Walk with the wise and grow wise

David’s son Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said,

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27:17)

Instead of hanging out with people who dull your skills or put down your dreams

It’s time to start finding friends who make you sharper

If you connect with someone who makes you better today, the stories you tell tomorrow will become even more meaningful to you and others

Question: Who sees you, the real person inside you, the way God sees you?

2> A friend to help you find strength in God and to grow in your faith

This second type of friend can help you find strength beyond yourself in the midst of temptation and weakness

Just as Samuel helped David see that God wanted to do more in his life than he ever imagined

A guy named Jonathan helped David find strength in God when he needed it most

David was chosen to be the next king, but God didn’t promote him to the throne immediately

God still had a lot to do before He replaced Saul with David

First, David became a war hero, winning the hearts of thousands

David was so effective on the battlefield that women danced in the streets singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens off thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7)

You can just imagine how jealous that made an already insecure king.

Feeling threatened by David’s rising popularity, King Saul plotted to take David’s life

David was forced to flee to the mountains to hide from the raging monarch’s posse

There, in David’s darkest moments, God sent him an unlikely friend to help him find spiritual strength

King Saul’s own son Jonathan recognized the error in his father’s ways and stood faithfully by his friend David

Here’s how Samuel describes the courageous show of support:

1 Samuel 23:15-16 “While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.” (NIV)

I love that simple phrase, which describes so clearly one of the key ways Jonathan served David: he “helped him find strength in God.”

There may not be a more valuable gesture one friend can make to another than pointing them toward God, encouraging them, to seek His power, loving them towards God’s unending strength

Who helps you to find strength in God?

If you don’t have anyone, it’s time for you to connect with someone who can help

God already has that person ready for you

It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help

It’s a sign of wisdom

Everyone needs a friend who helps them get better (#1)

And we all need someone to help us find strength in God (#2)

3> A friend to tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it

The third type of friend that we must have is one who will tell us the truth — the whole truth, God’s truth, the truth that brings a reality check into your life

A truth: the more successful and established you become, the more you need this person in your life and, oddly, the harder they are to find

“Established” = Married, steady job, house, decent income, vehicle

King David discovered this the hard way

During the season when kings were suppose to be at war, David decided to stay home rather than go to battle

One night he was out on his rooftop when he saw his neighbour’s wife, Bathsheba, bathing outside her house

His selfish lusts spoke louder than his wisdom, so the king sent someone to bring the woman to him

What’s interesting is that whomever King David sent to get Bathsheba had to know that she was married to Uriah, one of David’s closest friends and one of Israel’s greatest war heroes.

But since the messenger was on the king’s payroll (and he might have been afraid of losing more than just his job), the guy did exactly as he was told

He summoned the woman to the king’s palace

And if you don’t know the story, well, one thing led to another, and Bathsheba ended up pregnant

Recognizing that this could become a scandal, David tried to get control of the situation

He called her husband home, figuring Uriah would sleep with his wife and then assume the baby was his

But when Uriah refused to enjoy intimacy with his wife while his men were still on the battlefield, David changed his tactics.

He issued the order to move his friend to the front line where he was sure to be killed.

And he was!

Unfortunately, everyone in the king’s court was too afraid to tell David the truth.

So God sent a man who cared enough to help David see the way back to the right path

The prophet Nathan met with David and told him a story that went something like this:

“Once upon a time there were two men. One was very rich and the other very poor. The rich guy had an unlimited number of sheep and wealth. The poor guy had almost nothing and only one lamb, who was almost like a pet to him and his family. When the rich man had a guest come to town, he took the poor man’s lamb and had it butchered for their meal.”

When David heard the story, he was beside himself with anger

David ranted, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity” (2 Samuel 12:5-6)

Fortunately, Nathan loved David enough to tell him the truth

“Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!’” (2 Samuel 12:7)

That was enough to jolt King David out of his denial and bring him to his knees in repentance before God

Many people around us tell us the things we want to hear, rather than helping us to see the truth

And the more established we become, the more difficult it is to find people who have our best interests at heart

That’s one reason we must connect with people who love us enough to be blatantly honest and “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

David’s son Solomon wisely said, “An open rebuke is better than hidden love. Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy” (Proverbs 27:5-6 NLT)

When was the last time a friend loved you enough to tell you the truth and even give you an open rebuke?

Has someone loved you enough to offer helpful correction?

If not, you might be missing one or two very important relationships that could help you grow, thrive, and succeed

Everyone needs people in their lives who will candidly tell them the truth

Maybe you need to connect with someone who is willing to show you what you need to see so you can become the person you are suppose to be

Which kind of friend do you need most in your life right now?

      • Someone who helps you get better?
      • Someone who helps you draw closer to God?
      • Someone who tells you the truth about yourself?

Hopefully you would agree with my Mom that you become like those you run with (hang out with)

Many sociologists say that you eventually become the average of your five closest friends

Your morals will be similar to your five closest buddies’ morals

Your finances will look a lot like those of the people you spend the most time with

Your spiritual passion (or lack of it) will be similar to those who have the most influence in your life

Keeping this in mind, ask yourself, “Who am I becoming?”

Be honest

Be Nathan for yourself

Is one or more of your closest friends battling with dangerous addictions?

 

Are they struggling financially?

Living risky lives?

Making bad decisions?

Are their relationships toxic?

If so, you’re either right there with them or on your way

On the other hand, are you surrounded by people who know and love Christ deeply?

Are they blessed and generous?

Do they have positive, faith-filled perspectives on life and on the future?

Are their relationships thriving?

Are they using their influence to help make the world a better place?

If so, praise God!

You’re likely seeing many of those same blessings in your life as well

You have so much to give to others who want to connect and discover all that God has in store for them

Regardless of where you see yourself, I encourage you to take an inventory of your friendships (relationships)

Which of your friends are close enough to you, intimate enough with you, that you would want them to speak at your funeral someday?

Who would you want describing the special, close bond you shared and telling others about how you helped each other love and serve the Lord more completely?

It’s not too late to connect (or reconnect) with someone who will change your destiny

Your decision to connect will change the story you tell one day

 

 

Sometimes I Suck At Handling Criticism

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-suck-at-handling-criticism/

The truth is, I suck at handling criticism — especially nitpicking, ignorance-based, selfishly motivated, unjustified criticism. 

Alright, I admit it — Sometimes I suck at handling any kind of criticism. 

At my age you would think I should be able to rise above it. 

I hate the way it always gets to me. 

This confession reveals one of my greatest character flaws: I probably care too much about what people think. 

I know I should be consumed with pleasing God, but I’m often consumed with the impossible – trying to please other people. 

I know it’s wrong, but it’s the truth.  Read more

I’m Getting Older

Just read the book Keep Moving by Dick Van Dyke. He is an ageless optimist that always sees tomorrow as fresh and new and a gift to embrace as he moves forward into whatever the day may have for him. He is 94 years old, but he doesn’t know it. In the book he recalled filming a Disney movie. He was performing a dance scene when he suddenly felt the back of his leg snap like a rubber band. His injury grew worse, and he saw a doctor who took a bunch of X-rays.

After studying them intensely, the doctor looked at Van Dyke and said, “You’re covered with arthritis from head to foot. I’m surprised you could dance. I’ve never seen so much arthritis in a single person.”

“What about a married person?” Asked Dick, ever the comedian.

“Married or single, you’re literally suffused with arthritis,” said the doctor.

“What about the pain in my leg?”

“It’s the arthritis,” the doctor answered, chiding him and telling him it was no joking matter. The doctor predicted Van Dyke would be using a walker if not a wheelchair within five years.

Dick was scared so badly he did something rash. He stood up in the examining room and started tapping his toes, then shuffling around, then dancing, “as if proving to myself I could still order my body to do a soft shoe anytime I wanted.”

The doctor looked at him in shock.

“That was 1967,” said Dick. “I was forty years old. And I have not stopped moving ever since. Nor do I plan to hit the stop button anytime soon…As a card-carrying the-glass-is-half-full optimist, I’m going to … declare that old age doesn’t have to be a dreary weather report. In 99.9 percent of the stories I have heard it is better than the alternative, if only because you get to see what happens next. How can you not be curious?”

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am ready to die and willing to live, but in either case I can’t wait to see what God will do next. How can you not be curious? The Bible says, “For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be” (Romans 5:2 TLB).

As I finish off my 73 year of life and look forward to a fantastic 74th year and beyond – way beyond, God willing – I recognize that I need to keep moving forward. I need to remain enthusiastic about life, excited about what God is doing, and anticipating what He is planning to do tomorrow and the next day and the next… I believe that I must be constantly growing and changing, moving forward into what could be, who I will be. The fullness of God’s plan and purpose for my life – my whole life. I am curious about what the future will bring as God continues to move and I continue to enjoy today and reach out for tomorrow.

Every morning I remind myself that “this is the day that the Lord has made” and that He gives this day to me as a gift to be embraced and lived to its fullest. 

Every morning I pray that the Lord would use me to glorify His Name and make His love known to someone during the day.

Every morning I read His Word to feed my spirit so I can enter the day having spent time with the Lord and having heard Him speak through the Word or directly to my spirit.

Every day I do my best to not waste time or simply spend time. I want to invest the time that He has so graciously gifted me with.

Every day I enjoy what I have to do and all that needs to be accomplished and am thankful to be working with Him in His Kingdom even when I am in the world doing regular life. 

And, every day, I dream of what is to come and plan how to take the first steps toward the future He has laid out for me. 

Yup! I am getting older. But inside I am still just 19.

Spreading the Word of God

A true story…

Have you heard of Jack Murphy? He was one of the most notorious jewel thieves in the history of the united States. He was a gifted man on many levels — a musician, an actor, an artist, a surfer. He was born in Oceanside, California: then his family moved to Pittsburgh, where he played violin with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and also won a tennis scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh.

Unknown to everyone, he was also a cat burglar. On October 29, 1964, he pulled off one of the greatest heists in American history, stealing twenty-four precious gens from J.P. Morgan’s prized collection at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The stolen gems included the Star of India, the Eagle Diamond, and the DeLong Star Ruby.

Three days later, Murphy and his accomplices were arrested. The story goes from bad to worse, and Murphy ended up sentenced to 2,244 years in prison. One day some men came to minister to the prisoners. Football stars All Glass and Roger Staubach shared the gospel with Murph the Surf, as he was known, and he was intrigued.

Later a Christian worker who faithfully visited the prison followed up with a personal message from Scripture, and Murphy gave his life to Christ. Murphy was eventually released, and in the years since he’s visited hundreds of prisons with the message of the gospel. His story was written up as part of a book called God’s Prison Gang.

The story doesn’t end there. In California, a man named Mike Larson grew up in an abusive home, which led to an unstable life. He became enslaved to raging drug abuse. He lost every job and every meaningful relationship. One day he broke into a doctor’s house looking for drugs, and he was arrested and thrown into prison.

While Mike was in solitary confinement, a prison guard handed him a book entitled God’s Prison Gang, featuring stories of prisoners who came to Christ while behind bars. As Mike read Jack Murphy’s story, he decided to leave his life of crime forever.

Upon his release, Mike decided to get a tattoo. The artist drawing the tattoo invited Mike to church with him and also urged Mike to join his motorcycle gang — but there was an unusual requirement. You had to bring along a biker vest with a notepad, a pen, and a pocket Bible.

When Mike lost his Bible, he tried to hide the fact that he didn’t have one. But it bothered him so much that one day he literally yelled out to God to give him a Bible.

Later that day Mike drove to a pizza restaurant where a man got out of his car, came over, and gave him a Bible — just like that, and then drove away. The man was a Gideon, and then and there Mike broke down in tears. He couldn’t believe God had answered his prayer, and that led to his giving his heart totally to Jesus Christ. 

Today Mike is a California pastor leading his church to invest itself in winning others to Christ.

Think of the chain reaction: from famous athletes, to a diamond thief, to a prison guard, to a tattoo artist, to a nameless Gideon — all leading to a man now preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and winning others to the Lord as well as training and releasing his church to do the same.

God is truly amazing. Truly amazing. His ways are far above and beyond our ways. Amazing. Simply amazing!

 

Sometimes I’m My Own Worst Enemy

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-am-my-own-worst-enemy/

 

Most weeks everyone of us faces a number of demands upon our life

Events, relationships, circumstances, and situations that demand our time and attention

But, at the same time, there is a personal and private side of life that also needs you to invest some time and effort into it on a regular basis

This is our inner life that deals with the soul and spirit realm – the essence of who we are

But the demands of life can be fairly heavy, consistent, and demanding so we put our soul aside in order to carry on with the demands of life

We all do it

Life goes on, despite our personal struggles

Read more

Knowing and Experiencing God’s Love

With Covid-19 continuing now into its second year we are seeing more signs of people losing hope. The loss of hope around us today is rampant, and it’s lethal. It touches families all around the globe in ways hard to comprehend; and I believe it stems for a growing ignorance or even rejection of God’s love.

We need, even as believers, to revisit Romans 8: 38-39 which says, 

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Consider the reasons for having hope packed into this passage. Not only is God real but He loves us. And not only does God love us, but nothing we might experience can separate us from His love. Country music singer Carrie Underwood commented on this passage: “I love all the commas in these verses — neither death, nor life, not angels, nor demons. It’s so powerful.”

The ten things Paul lists in these verses could each be a potential barrier between you and God. But Paul says, with absolute assurance, that none of them can separate you from God’s love.  That should bring us hope!

The powerful words in Romans 8 about God’s love are reinforced by a blessing Paul offers toward the end of that same book. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Take a moment to say that verse aloud but make one little change. Turn it into a prayer that’s personal to you: “Now may the God of hope fill me with all joy and peace in believing, so that I may about in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

It might be good for you to pray those words aloud every morning, every noontime, and every evening until you know them by heart. That prayer can adjust your mindset in any given season of life, deepen your core convictions, and strengthen your belief. Might even permanently change your life.

I encourage you to make this a regular prayer — maybe for the next month or maybe for years to come: “Now may the God of hope fill me with all joy and peace in believing, so that I may about in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

God loves you and wants you to overflow with hope and optimism! Never forget that. Let that conviction dwell in the very core of your being.

In his book, The Wisdom of Tenderness, Brennan Manning tells the story of Edward Farrell, a man who decided to travel from his hometown of Detroit to visit Ireland, where he would celebrate his uncle’s eightieth birthday. Early on the morning of his uncle’s birthday, they went for a walk along the shores of Lake Killarney. As the sun rose, his uncle turned and stared straight into the breaking light. For twenty minutes they stood there is silence, and then his elderly uncle began to skip along the shoreline, a radiant smile on his face.

After catching up with him., Edward asked, “Uncle Seamus, you look very happy. Do you want to tell me why?”

“Yes, lad,” the old man said, tears washing down his face. “You see, the Father is very fond of me. Ah, me Father is so very fond of me.”

In that moment Uncle Seamus experienced how much he was loved by his Father in Heaven, an overwhelming sense of joy flooded his heart. And he began to dance along the shoreline.

Have you ever had a moment like that? Have you ever awakened and said, “He really does love me”? Do you know what it means to overflow with hope and optimism? Paul, did, and you can too. Hope and optimism can become your habitual attitude because you have encountered and experienced the love that God has for you and as a result you live with tremendous hope. 

A Display of Raw Power

There is nothing quite as awe-inspiring as a display of raw power. If you have witnessed any of the following, especially in person, you know what I’m talking about:

    • With a deafening roar and a gush of flames, two rocket boosters release more than six million pounds of thrust, defying gravity and hurtling the space shuttle into orbit.
    • Muscles rippling and hooves flying, a thoroughbred horse sprints away from the pack in the homestretch to win the Kentucky Derby by three lengths.
    • A symphony orchestra charges through the pulse-pounding climax of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” complete with cannon fire and a sky full of fireworks.
    • Tons of strategically placed explosives detonate with such precision that a forty-story skyscraper of concrete and steel is reduced to rubble in seconds 

Breathless at sights and sounds of power like this, all we can utter is “wow!”

But our awe is short-lived, isn’t it. In less than two minutes, the flaming rocket boosters are spent and jettisoned. Crossing the finish line, the thoroughbred slows to a gallop then to a harmless trot. And once the condemned building collapses into a cloud of dust, the spectators go home. That’s the way it is: Most explosions of power cannot be maintained indefinitely. Other forces at work, such as gravity, friction, limited capacity, fatigue, etc., eventually tame the outburst, quiet the thunder, and cool the flames.

Sir Issac Newton, the famous seventeenth-century mathematician and physicist, discovered a law of motion that helps explain some of these realities. It’s called Newton’s first law of motion. The second part of this law states: “An object in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

In other words, It it were not for fatigue, last year’s Kentucky Derby champion might be still racing around the track and Lance Armstrong could race his bike through the Alps twenty-four hours a day. The point is this: There are a lot of forces at work that can diminish, dissipate, deflect, detour, discourage, or destroy unleashed power.

Any forward motion will encounter resistance — including your forward motion. There simply haven’t been any great causes in history that didn’t struggle against opposition. They would not have been great movements otherwise.

So, today would be a good day to take stock….

      • Is there a real passion in your heart – a fire in your bones – for the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of that Kingdom?
      • Have you discovered God’s purpose for your life? The specific and unique purpose He has for you which, we must remember is built upon the generic purpose of all believers to “follow Me and I will make you fishers of men”?
      • Have you accepted that call upon your life to follow Him and do what He has called you to do regardless of the cost or the inconvenience?
      • Have you received His two promises made to all His disciples – His presence and His power?
        • If you have a deep, daily walk with Jesus where your level of intimacy is good and getting better … then you are experiencing His presence
        • If you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and have chosen to move in the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit … then you are experiencing and walking in His power

Good. Then now all you need is the boldness and courage to go on. To move forward as an irresistible force in life and ministry. Take the first step. Step out in faith. You don’t need to understand all the ins and outs of what the Lord is asking you to do. You need to simply trust Him and take that first step in the direction He has called you to go. Leave the details to Him. If you will stand up and step out then He will show up and show off.

Mark 16:20 “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”

There you see it … the disciples have just been told to take the world for Jesus — spread the Kingdom to every corner of the known world. They really had little to no clue how they were going to accomplish that. They were short on the details. And, now Jesus has ascended into Heaven and even He will no longer be available to help them or answer their many questions. But they stepped our in faith and He showed up – His presence and His power were there and event in their everyday lives. 

In spite of the circumstances and situations we are to trust Him, stand up and step out in faith. He will show up (presence) and back up His Word with miracles, signs, and wonders (power).

What is stopping you? It is time for true believers to stand up and step out and experience His presence and His lower.