Tuesday, March 19, 2019

40 Things God Has Taught Me

     Yesterday, a friend wrote on her blog "50 things I've learned in 50 years." It inspired me, and I asked permission (which she graciously granted) to write something similar, sharing what I have learned in 57 years of life. I feverishly began writing down thing after thing. Then, I started to notice a pattern; basically everything of importance in my life has been taught by God, and it hasn't been over 57 years, but over 24 years (since the day I was born again on Oct 27, 1994). While my life didn't "literally" begin on that day in October, it feels like it did. I was reborn, and began a "new" life. It was the day where God began His work to change me day by day to become more like Jesus (technically called "sanctification").

     Over those 24 years, God has taught me many lessons. These lessons have changed my life. Perhaps they can help you too. In looking at my giant list, I have decided to whittle it down to what I have called "40 Things God Has Taught Me." Has God "directly" taught me each of these "lessons?" I am not sure I can say that, but if not, I can say that they are the result of God's work in me. So, in no particular order, here is my list.


1. "Put Me (God) first in ALL that you do, and I will take care of you." (God spoke this to me at one of the lowest points of my life.)


2. "But by the grace of God I am what I am..." (1 Cor 15:10)(My favorite Bible verse.)


3. Work to leave a Godly legacy behind for generations that will follow you. (This was one of the main reasons I started JesusAlive.cc.)


4. God first, spouse second, children third (in that order).


5. Have a few close, trusted friends you can share everything about your life with. (Be accountable)


6. Good Quote: "If you were put on trial for your faith in Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" 


7. Arm yourself with a group of prayer warriors that you know will pray when you need them.


8. Even if no one else sees the good you are doing, God always sees it.


9. Commit your children to the Lord at conception (See: 1 Sam Ch. 1).


10. Pray for your children's future spouses as they are growing up.


11. No one likes to be around a complainer. God doesn't like it either (Phil 2:14)(2 Tim 2:16)(1 Cor 10:10). (More verses here.)


12. "Pray without ceasing" (1 Th 5:17). (This means that we should live in a continual state of prayer in our everyday lives. We should be praying all through the day. If you know how many times you have prayed in a day, you probably haven't done it.)


13. Don't compare yourself to others. God made you the way you are, with your own gifts.

14. Choose humility. Pray for God to crush a prideful attitude. God hates pride (Mt 23:12)(Prov 6:16-19)(Prov 16:18). (More verses here.)


15. Whatever you do, do it with excellence ("to the glory of God" - 1 Cor 10:31).


16. "You can destroy years of relationship or ministry with just one act of rebellion" (1).


17. You cannot change people. Leave that to God in prayer.


18. Do not place yourself in a situation where you will be tempted to sin. Flee temptation.


19. Write out your personal testimony of how you came to Christ, and share it. It can change lives.


20. Remember, that as Christians, an unbelieving world is watching everything you say and do.


21. The music you listen to, the t.v. shows you watch, and the video games you play will affect the way you think. Choose wisely. (See: Job 31:1)


22. Eventually, almost every person you spend time with will hurt you. Forgive! God commands it (Mt 6:14-15)(Mt 18:20-21)(Col 3:12-13). (See: Forgiving Others)

Quote: "A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers" (2).

23. Keep a journal of great things God has done in your life. Look at it when times are tough.


24. Keep a journal of encouraging things that people have said about you. Look at it when you are discouraged.


25. Set a goal so high that it can only be accomplished if God steps in.


26. "A man of God in the will of God is immortal until His work is done" (1). Remember this if you are fearful when doing God's work.

27. Have integrity. If you say you are going to do something, do it.

28. "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Yes, as "yourself") (Mt 19:19)(Mk 12:31.33)(Mt 22:39).


29. "New level, new devil" (3). If you make a move to draw closer to the Lord, expect a Satanic spiritual war to stop it. Press through!


30. "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28). Everything that happens to us as Christians has a purpose. God either causes or allows all things. He is totally in control. He will, in some way, work things out for our good.


31. Ask questions. (Check out how many questions Jesus asked in the Gospels.)


32. Lay up your treasures in Heaven, not on earth (Mt 6:19-20)(Mk 10:21)(Lk 12:33). Have an eternal mindset, not an earthly one.


33. Keep short accounts with God. When you sin, confess it, and repent: immediately. Do not let unconfessed sin keep you from a close relationship with God. (After you confess and repent, let it go.)


34. Guard your tongue (Prov 10:19)(Prov 15:4)(Prov 21:23)(Eph 4:29). Think before you speak. One insensitive "slip of the tongue" can cause lasting damage.


35. The Bible is God's direct Word to man. Read it! Study it! Cherish it!


36. Get connected to a good, Bible preaching local church. You need it, and they need you. Also, join a small group. It is the place to make deeper Christian relationships.


37. Find a good Christian mentor if at all possible. It will change your life. (I discuss this in another blog post.)


38. God has given each Christian at least one spiritual gift (usually several). Find yours, and use it to serve the Lord. You will rarely feel closer to God than when you are operating in your gift.


39. Be happy where you are, on the way to where God is taking you.


40. God loves you more than anyone ever will.


     I am sure I have missed some important ones. You probably can think of some I have missed too. Share them if you wish. Perhaps, I will go to 50 in the future.


Quotes:

(1) Taken from, or paraphrasing David Jeremiah
(2) Ruth Graham
(3) First heard from Joyce Meyer

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Standing Up In Front Of God


     I had only been a Christian for a short time. I was in the first church that I became a part of after being born again (testimony here). A lot of stuff was still new to me, after being set free from the rote traditions of the Lutheran church I grew up attending. One thing that they did in this new church was to "dedicate" babies and small children. 

     Churches that do this do so because they believe "infant baptism" is a not a Biblical concept. (I agree. The Bible shows that baptism should follow a decision for Christ, not precede it: i.e. Acts 2:38,41, Acts 8:12-13,36-38, Acts 16:14-15,30-34). However, some parents want to commit their child to the Lord, and to have others stand with them, and pray, as they raise the child. At the time, this a was pretty new thing to me. 

     So... a couple came forward with their son to make this commitment. The pastor asked "If anyone will commit to pray for this baby as he grows up, will you stand up?" Of course, everyone stood up, including me. A few more words were spoken, then we all sat down. Then, I started contemplating what I had just done. I had just stood up in front of God, and said "I will commit to pray for this boy AS HE GROWS UP." Not, "I will pray for this boy," which entails praying a time or two for him, but praying for him "AS HE GROWS UP!" I had committed to pray for this boy for years!

     I feel pretty confident that out of the 300 or so that stood up, I was the only one who thought of this. For several reasons, we left this church a few years later. However, I kept on praying for this boy occasionally over the years.

     As coincidence(?) would have it, about 20 years later, the couple who brought that baby forward for dedication began to attend our new church. My wife encouraged me to tell them what I had been doing, so I decided to do it. When I did, they were astounded. It turns out that he is doing very well. He is a Christian, and one thing he has been doing is medical missions. Praise God! I don't know if my prayers over the years played any part in that or not, but that is the best outcome I could ask for.

     My point in writing this though is not about my prayers, or their outcome. My point is that we need to pay attention to the commitments (vows) we make to God through our words (or actions my case). Making a vow or commitment to God is a BIG thing. God does not take it lightly (Deut 23:21)(Eccl 5:4-7) (I discuss this here). What are some examples? 

     Number one in my mind is our marriage vows. Many of us have made a vow before God to stay with our spouse "till death do us part." How many think of this before they divorce? People make vows to stop doing something (i.e. a habit), or to start doing something (i.e. read the Bible more). People make vows at salvation, baptism, when confirmed (as I did at one time), to stay a virgin until married, when they are in trouble and want God's help, and many more you can probably think of.

     The Bible tells us that it is best not to make vows at all (Mt 5:34-37)(James 5:12). But, if we do make one, God expects us to keep it. Failing to keep a vow is not an unforgivable sin, but failing to keep it can have consequences. Therefore, be VERY cautious about the words that you speak to God. You may be making a promise that you will be responsible to keep for years, or maybe even a lifetime.

(P.S. This came to me while shaving before the shower. See: Why The Name?)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Seeing God When My Dad Died

     Today would have been my dad's 82nd birthday. He died just over 3 years ago on July 15, 2015. As I have been thinking about him today, I remember how thankful I was (and still am) to God for how He worked in the midst of that terribly difficult time. About a week after the funeral, I made a post to my personal social media account. At that time, I did not have this blog. Therefore, today I want to re-post what I said here. 

     I want to re-post because this blog has many readers, especially from my ministry website, who never got to read what I posted more than 3 years ago. In addition, I have new friends who didn't get to read it either. Posting here will put it out there for many years to come. So, here it is.

     This post is to tell you that if you have given your life to Christ, God is ALWAYS there for you.This is especially true in the midst of our trials. It may be difficult to see sometimes, but if you look closely, you can find Him. This is what I did in the midst of my trial with my dad dying, and I saw God. Here is what God did.

     In the months before dad died, 3 amazing things happened:

1. After many years away, the year before my dad died, my brother and his family were able to move back to the city where my parents lived to help them. They were able to take care of many things for them over that year, including remodeling the house. It also gave my dad a chance to spend time with my brother, his wife, and his sons.

2. In March, 4 months before dad died, Mom had knee replacement surgery. Unfortunately, she had complications that kept her in the hospital for 38 days. However, dad was there every day to help her through it all. Then, he was there to help her when she got home, and to take her to her rehab appointments.

3. Two weeks before dad passed away, mom was able to start driving again.

     Now, here is what God did right before he died:

1. AMAZINGLY, my wife and I, and our youngest daughter had been up to visit my parents for the 4th of July from June 29-July 6. We had a GREAT week of fun with mom and dad. Just before heading to the airport to leave, I felt God very strongly prompting me to get a few good pictures of dad, so I did that.

2. Four days after we returned from vacation, dad became sick. Five days after that, he died.

3. His death was quick, and relatively painless. He is now resting in the arms of the Lord.


4. The month before he died, my younger daughter had moved back home temporarily to spend more time building her ministry. This being the case, she was able to travel with us for our vacation to visit them, and later for his funeral.


5. Months before dad died, my older daughter had made plans to come home and visit us. This happened to fall two days after my dad died, so she was also able to travel with us to the funeral.


6. My wife, as a teacher, was off for the summer. Therefore, she was free to be gone as long as necessary.


     I am SO thankful for what God did in the midst of this, and honestly for all of 2015. It was one of the worst years of my life (I speak of this in my blog post from 3-3-18.). God got me through it all, and I don't know how I would have gotten through without Him. Whatever trial or trials you are facing, He will get you through as well. Look for Him in the midst. Look for the blessings. He is there: ALWAYS!

     If you have not given your life to the Lord, you can do so here.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Everyone Needs A Mentor

     I first met Paul in the year 2000. I had been a Christian for about 6 years. He was the same age as my parents, and was an elder in the first church I became involved in after I became a Christian. (I didn't go to church for quite a while after I became a Christian because of my painful church past. More details in my testimony.) The first Sunday I attended this new church, I ran to the alter for prayer when the time came. As I remember, he was the one who prayed with me.

     About two months later, my wife and I decided to start attending a church "small group." I didn't really know anything about what a "small group" was, but it seemed like something I should check out. It turned out that Paul was the leader of the small group we started going to. 

     There was something about Paul that drew me to him. He had a calming effect on me. He also seemed to take an interest in me. I was in the beginning of my walk with the Lord, and pretty immature, but I did have a fire for God. I wanted to grow, I wanted to learn. I think he sensed something in me. As time passed, Paul became my mentor.

     Our original small group eventually ended, but Paul invited those who wanted to keep going to meet at his house. We went, along with a few others. Paul continually kept encouraging me and pushing me closer to the Lord. He wanted to know about my life. He encouraged me to share my insights, and what I had been learning. (I had started my online 
ministry JesusAlive.cc around this time.) He brought me to a place where I could pray out loud in front of the group (very difficult for me). 

     I don't know why he did this, but Paul had a funny habit of keeping a prayer notebook. He would take prayer requests from everyone in the group, write them in the notebook, and then ask "who would like to pray for this?" When someone volunteered to pray, he would write their name next to the request in the notebook. No one ever really knew what was in that notebook, but it was kind of humorous.

     Paul struggled with a ringing in his ears. One night he brought it up as a prayer request. He wrote it down in the notebook, and said, "I want Steve to pray for this." I don't know exactly why he did that, and I am not sure that the ringing ever stopped after I prayed, but I have never forgotten that he wanted "me" to lead the prayer for his healing.

     There is a book called "The Five Love Languages" by Dr. Gary Chapman. In short, it is a book that shows what makes you feel loved the most, and how to best show love towards others. (I highly recommend it.) My "love language" is "words of affirmation." (Other "love languages" are physical touch, acts of service, gifts, and quality time.) In other words, when people "affirm" me by saying kind words or encouraging things to me, it shows me love. Paul was great at doing this. 

     For years, I have kept a notebook of encouraging words that people have spoken to me that I can look at when times get tough. Paul is in that book. On Jan 23, 2002 (yes, I also write dates), he said to me (paraphrasing), "You have a gift that very few people on this planet have, you have the gift of humility. It is so rare, and when you see it, you really recognize it, and it stands out, and you have it." Those words have meant more to me than perhaps any other words ever spoken to me. It is a continual prayer of mine that God would crush all pride in me, and that I would have a humble spirit. I am not at all sure I will ever be where I need to be in that, but those words from Paul encourage me to push on.

     As time went on, our church planted a new church in a neighboring city. Paul and his wife left to help them. We started at a new small group. It was also a great blessing, and many new friendships came out of it, but Paul wasn't there. I didn't see Paul much anymore. I would still reach out to him from time to time. I started a new job, he showed up and prayed for me. I sent him a message on Facebook asking him to pray, and shortly after the phone rang, and he prayed for me. But, we slowly drifted apart...

    In March of 2012, Paul died from cancer. Before he died, we had not spent quality time together in a long time. I truly regret that. I should have reached out more. I should have told him what he meant to me. Maybe it is odd, but as I write this 6 years after his passing, I find myself missing him more. I would love to tell him about how the ministry has grown, how God has opened doors for me, how God is using me and my family. I would love to share my studies in the Bible with Him. And, I would also like to tell him that I have no doubt I am where I am because of his prayers and encouragement.

     Christian friends, if you do not have a mentor, I encourage you to find one. Find someone older and wiser in age, and in Jesus, and ask them to take you under their wing. It can change your life!

Monday, August 27, 2018

What Did Jesus Do In His Free Time?

     I have often thought about this question, especially lately: "What Did Jesus Do In His Free Time?" Did He do things for "fun?" The Bible never really discusses this. I know He went to a wedding feast at least once (Jn 2:1-10), and He shared meals with people on quite a few occasions (i.e. Lk 5:27-32, Lk 7:36, Lk 19:1-9). What else could He have done? I really don't know the history of what people did for leisure in those times, but I suppose they could go for a hike, go to a lake and fish or swim, go for a horseback ride, do some gardening or wood carving, play a musical instrument, go to a play, or perhaps read a book (although I don't think there were many in those days).

     Then, I think about what we can do with our "free time," or for "fun" today. The list of things to do is almost endless. We can watch t.v., listen to music or the radio, get on the internet, go to a movie, play board games or video games, go to a ballgame, go for a car ride, read a book, go to a coffee shop, restaurant, or the mall, and SO much more.

     Did Jesus do the things that were available for recreation in His time. Would He do the things we can do for recreation if He was on Earth in our time? What is said, and is true, is that the Bible only records the things about Jesus and His life that we need to know about. Since the Bible doesn't talk about Jesus' childhood (other than one brief moment in Lk 2:41-50), His appearance (we do know a little which I speak of here), or even all of His miraculous signs (Jn 20:30-31), this means it isn't important. This includes what He did in His free time.


     So, why am I am thinking about this you might ask? Because, as I continue to grow in my walk with Jesus, I find that I am caring less and less about doing anything that isn't in some way directly connected to spending time with Jesus, or furthering His Kingdom. While many people go to a place to work each day, my days are generally spent in front of a computer screen, writing Bible Studies and answering Bible questions for my website. Many people think I am crazy when I tell them that, but I have felt strongly for many years that God has called me to that, and He has certainly blessed it, and provided.

     However, there comes a time each day when my brain can no longer focus. I cannot write any more. I must stop. It is my "free time." I can do anything at that point. You would think that I would want to get away from the Bible and ministering at that point, right? I should have some "fun." But, instead, the opposite is true. I want to find another way to spend time with God. Honestly, that is my "fun."

     Is there something wrong with me? Why is it that even when I do go to a ballgame or a restaurant with friends, all I want to do is talk about Jesus and the Bible? I want to hear about their life with Jesus, what He has done in their life, what they have learned about Him, their testimony. I want to go deep. (I know part of this has to do with being an introvert too, I HATE small talk!)

***Note: After I finished writing this blog, I was looking at some times that Jesus ate with others in the Bible, and it appears that He was all about ministry during meals. This is interesting, and makes me happy. Hopefully, it is also going to lead to a new study soon.

     This is why I want to know what Jesus did. The primary goal for all Christians in life is to become more and more like Jesus (Eph 4:13,15)(Phil 3:12-14)(2 Cor 3:17-18)(Rom 8:29). Is this what is happening? Is this part of what it means?

     Now, don't get me wrong. This does not mean that every moment of my life is all about God. I still enjoy watching my St. Louis Cardinals on t.v. when they are on (although usually with the sound muted or low so I can do something else). I play Words With Friends and Candy Crush sometimes. I have been to a few movies in recent times. But, my desire to do these things is becoming less and less. If it is between recreation, and doing something for the Lord, God's work is where I want to go (unless it is the playoffs, then I might have a dilemma, but God is still working on me.)

     All I know for sure is this; I am happy, I am at peace, I am content, and I am beyond thankful to be able to spend my days doing what I do. If God is displeased with where I am, I pray that He will reveal that to me. If people or friends are displeased, that makes me sad, but this who I am. I cannot hide it. I do not want to hide it. I beg God that this passion never dies, but only grows. I pray for friends that share this passion. And, for those in my life who have it, I am SO grateful for you!

P.S. I love these lyrics from the song "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus:"
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full, in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace"

Monday, June 25, 2018

A Thank You Is Great, But Encouragement Is Remembered

     Yesterday, I received some wonderful encouragement on my website ( https://jesusalive.cc ). After reading it, I got into the shower and felt lead to write a blog about it. My original title was "A Thank You For The Thank You's," and I wrote a whole blog on that. However, after I finished, I realized I missed a BIG point. So, this here my second attempt.

     The story began a few days ago. I received the following comment from a man regarding one of the studies I wrote for the website: "Thanks for the write up. I stumbled across it as I was writing something else. I(t) saved me a good deal of time in research. Many thanks, Stone." I replied back, You're welcome. Glad I could help. Thanks for taking the time to let me know it helped."

     I am always thankful when someone takes the time to thank me for something I have written, or to let me know it has helped them, I should also add it doesn't happen very often. JesusAlive gets around several thousand visitors a day. Out of those, I would say I get one or two "thank you's" a week. Honestly, I don't do what I do for the "thank you's." I would do what I do even if no one ever said "thanks." I don't do what I do to make money (although I am very thankful for those who give). I answer people's Bible questions, and write Bible studies to use my spiritual gift of teaching to impact and further the Kingdom of God. Ultimately, if I feel God is pleased, I am pleased.

     One thing I haven't shared very often is that I started JesusAlive for one primary reason: I wanted to leave a legacy for my children, their children, and generations to come. Have you ever wished you could have a conversation with your grandparents, great-grandparents, or maybe even a parent who is now deceased? Well, that was my goal. I wanted a place where they could go to learn from their parent, grandparent, uncle, or whatever I was to them, about the Bible, and to get Godly counsel. I figured people would come to the website and read the studies, but I honestly had no idea if it would ever go anywhere, However, I have been blessed and amazed to see God using it, and I give all thanks and glory to God!

     But, back to my point, when "Stone" thanked me, I appreciated it. However, to be honest, after a few days, I probably wouldn't have thought about it again. But, "Stone" didn't stop there. When someone makes a comment on the site, I receive an email letting me know. In return, when I respond, they receive an email. Stone received that email. Here was his response:

"I almost let your thanks slide into the trash bin, but it weighed on my mind a bit, You made me feel like I was the only guy to respond or at least you only got a few, which being real honest, in today's society, being courteous in response to someone helping seems to be rare. Don't be discouraged if not too many people respond to your work. This is what came to my mind shortly after I read your comments." He then posted (Lk 17:11-19)(read this!), and followed it with: "Believe not for a minute your words do not reach out and touch many more lives than you know. Because of those like you who reach out to others, even ones you don't know, we all have the ability to accept the Son and become children of the One true God. Even barbarians like me, saved by grace. Thanks again, Stone"

     What a GREAT encouragement! Again, while appreciated his first "thank you," the follow-up encouragement is what I am going to remember. I believe this is a lesson for all of us. Hopefully, as we go through our day, we "thank" people for various things: the waiter who serves us, the person who holds the door for us, the delivery person who drops off a package, etc... At some point, we usually offer "thanks" to those who are feeding into our lives, who are encouraging us, who are blessing us, who are listening to us when we need to talk.

     However, how often do we go beyond this? How often do we take the time to offer some serious encouragement, a compliment they will remember? THIS is what can really change a life!

     I will share one more personal thing about me. My "love language" is "words of affirmation." In short, the primary way I feel love from someone is through compliments or encouragement. I didn't choose this for my love language, and probably wouldn't have if given a choice, but it was how I was created. I should also add that it is a terrible love language to have when working in ministry, especially when your primary ministry is writing studies to share online with nameless and faceless people.

     Working in ministry can sometimes be discouraging, and I am no exception. You might also be surprised to learn that I have a notebook, and I often write out or print out encouraging letters and thank you's I get. When times of discouragement come, I can read these. So, in closing, I want to say "THANK YOU" to each of you who have offered me a "thank you," or encouragement, or a compliment face to face, in a letter/card, on the website, or on social media sites where JesusAlive has a page. What you have written or said may well be in my notebook 😊. May we all go beyond the simple "thank you" to offer words that might be life-changing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Note To "Christians" Who Hate Donald Trump

     I write this just a few days after yet another famous actor spewed out his hatred of President Donald Trump at a Hollywood awards ceremony. For this speech, he received a rousing ovation from his fellow colleagues. In my lifetime, I have never seen such hatred poured out upon any President (or perhaps any person at all). We see this unrelenting hatred displayed daily on the news, on late night t.v. shows, in our newspapers, on social media, and more.

     None of this is really that surprising. However, what IS surprising is the number of people who call themselves "Christians" who are displaying this same hate. We should expect "hatred" from those who are not Christian. If a person is not a Christian, they belong to Satan (Eph 2:2)(Col 1:13)(1 Jn 5:19)(2 Tim 2:26), and Satan "is" hate. He hates God, he hates Christians, and in fact, hates everyone (see: 1 Pet 5:8, Jn 10:10, 2 Cor 4:4, Rev 12:10). In turn, those who belong to him have this same hatred within them.

     However, a Christian is the opposite. How many of you remember this old Christian song: "And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, Yeah, they'll know we are Christians by our love?" Love defines a Christian. It becomes a part of our DNA when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. It defined the life of Jesus while on Earth. Notice His words in (Mt 5:43-45): "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. (44) But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (45) That ye may be children of your Father which is in heaven..." 

     Jesus carried this love for His enemies all the way to the cross, praying for those who had put him there (Lk 23:34).

     Putting it bluntly, the Bible is clear that one cannot "hate" AND be a Christian.

(1 Jn 4:7-11)(NASB) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. (8) The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (9) By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. (10) In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (11) Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another. (Also see: 1 Jn 2:9-11, 3:10,14-15)

     I was not a fan of former President Obama. In fact, I believe he took a stronger stand against Biblical principles (i.e. supporting same-sex marriage, abortion), than any President in history. (And, godless Hollywood loved him for it). Did I "hate" President Obama because of this? Did I take every opportunity I could to attack him? Did I make fun of his personal appearance (as many do of Trump)? No.... I prayed for him. The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders (1 Tim 2:1-3). (Note: It is virtually impossible to sincerely pray for a person you have hatred towards.) In fact, I wish I could have had a chance while he was in office (or even now) to sit down with him and share what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. To show him how Jesus could transform his life. 

     We can "hate" things that the Bible calls sin (I speak of this here), but we cannot "hate" the person who practices them. While I vehemently disagreed with President Obama and most of his decisions, I cannot hate him.While you may disagree with things that President Trump says (some things he says makes me bristle), or does, or his policies, a "Christian" cannot hate him. Do you believe that you "don't really" hate him? I urge you to consider your words. I urge you to consider what you post on social media. The Bible tells us that the words that come out of our mouth show what is in our heart:

(Mt 15:18) But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth the heart; and they defile a man.
(Mt 12:34) O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
(Lk 6:45) A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
(Prov 23:7) For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he...

     I urge ALL who call themselves Christians to examine themselves (2 Cor 13:5). Do your words and actions show love? Do they reflect Jesus? If they don't, perhaps you need to consider if you truly have a personal, saving relationship with Jesus.

(Eph 4:29) Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

*** P.S. This blog applies not only to "Christians" who hate Donald Trump, but who "hate" any person.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Till Death Do Us Visit?

     I woke up this morning thinking about a t.v. commercial that I saw several years ago that I think was the greatest commercial I have ever seen. I don't remember who ran the commercial, or all of the details of it, but here is what I do remember.

     In this commercial, there is an image of a very old man who is seen calling his family one by one, and asking them to come to his house for dinner on a holiday (I think Thanksgiving). One by one, you can see the family members on the other end of the phone at work and home shaking their heads "no," they just can't make it. Then, it cuts to the old man sitting at a big table eating alone on the holiday. Then, it shows the same thing happening again the following year. Then, one more year.

     The following year, around the same time, we see the family members getting a call that the old man has died. We see the family members crying and devastated. Then, it cuts to all of the family coming through the door of the old man's house, and gathering in front of the "big table" where he had invited them all to come year after year. Their looks of grief are evident. Then, suddenly, from out of the kitchen, the old man slowly walks. The family is stunned. Smiles appear on their faces, and they are overjoyed! Then, it cuts to them all sitting around the "big table" eating and laughing, and looking at the old man lovingly.

     What a great message! Now, I ask you to consider this, does this apply to YOU? Speaking for myself, I have family, but especially friends that, if I died tomorrow, I have no doubt they would go to great lengths to come to my funeral to "pay their respects." However, I cannot count the number of times I have asked these same friends "out to coffee" (I don't drink coffee, but you get the idea), or to get together for lunch or dinner, or to meet up at church and do something after, or come to my "small group" some night so we can fellowship, etc..., and have been told "no," I just can't make it, or, not now, but maybe soon.

     I am also constantly amazed when I find out that friends or relatives are visiting my city, or are in the area, from another city or state and they don't even bother to try to meet up for a quick get-together. In addition, there have been friends that I found out are coming, and I have offered to briefly meet up with them, only to be rebuffed. On the other hand, there are times when I know I will be visiting a place where I have family or friends (i.e. my old hometown), and when I offer to meet up, they are also are "too busy." "Maybe next time."

     Look, I know that life is busy, and it isn't always possible to get-together. Many don't have a lot of free time today. But, if you are one who would make the time to attend my funeral if I die, can't you make some time to get together while I am still alive? While I appreciate that you would come to my funeral to "pay your respects," it really won't matter much to me then, because I will be dead. Visiting while I am alive will be much more fun.

     P.S. To those family and friends who do take the time to meet up regularly, thanks! I love you! (And, I love you who don't too, and I miss you!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My Old Friend "Skeet"

     I don't know exactly why, but for quite a while now, I wake up in the middle of the night, use the bathroom, then lay back down and something comes into my head that I can't stop thinking about and it keeps me from going back to sleep for an hour or more. The other night, that thought was an old friend from high school. As I was "in the shower" just a bit ago, thoughts again flooded my mind about him, so (as you know by now) he is my topic.

     "Skeet" was short for "Skeeter." I don't know how he get that nickname. I was "Bird," I because when I ran track and cross-country, I looked like a bird when it runs (because of my short legs). As I remember, we first met because we ran track together. As I talk about in more detail in my testimony, I was introverted, not very outgoing, and socially awkward in high school. I didn't have a lot of friends, but Skeet was one of them.

     Skeet was a very troubled young man. His home life was a mess. I could list all of the things he was dealing with that I remember, but I won't. Skeet brought much of that into our friendship. He did a lot of crazy and dangerous things. He was the first person I ever knew who was a cutter. He would cut symbols into his skin with a sharp object. He was a drinker, drag-racer, and womanizer. He was sometimes violent. I still have a scar over my eye where he jabbed me with a pool cue because I beat him in a game (he meant to just get close, but connected instead).

     However, while not exactly a good influence, he tried to be a good friend too. He stood with me when two hockey players wanted to beat me up because I was close to the girlfriend of one of them. He got me home safely one night when I drank too much. He would sneak me free food when I went to the restaurant he worked at. He would cheer me on when I was running. (One of my favorite old pictures is me running, and him screaming encouragement as I passed him.) In one track meet, Skeet, I, and two others set a Frosh / Soph school record in the 3200 meter relay. In short, Skeet was there for me when few other people were.

     When high school ended, I headed off to college in another state, and Skeet moved with his family to another city. As I remember, we talked on the phone off and on a few times over the years which followed, but we were not really close anymore. However, we did agree to meet up in our old hometown when I was going to be home during a break from college. My future wife (or maybe wife, I can't remember) and I met up with him at a local bowling alley and we had a few beers while playing pool (I don't drink anymore). We talked for quite a while, but I can't remember much of what we talked about. I do remember him talking about fathering a child, and he was concerned about her. I also remember that he seemed very sad and depressed. It was nice to see him though, and as we parted, I hoped we could get together again in the near future.

     I had no idea that that would be the last time I would see him. Shortly afterwards, he committed suicide.... When I found out, I don't remember my exact emotions, or how long they lasted, but I was definitely saddened. However, again as I speak of in my testimony, I was dealing with my own problems and struggles. I even had those same thoughts about not wanting to live a few times. So, my life moved on from that sadness.

     Anyway, fast forward about 12 years, and I became a born-again Christian. My whole life changed, and many of my past struggles came to an end (over time). Now, I am sometimes left thinking "what if." I know that I came to Christ at exactly the time God knew I would, but "what if" it had been earlier. Or, what if I could go back in a time machine? I SOOO wish I could tell him what I know now. How Christ can totally change and transform your life. That you can have the "peace from God that passes all understanding." It is the good news that I wish I someone had told me back then.

     Obviously, I can't go back and change the past. But, I can learn from it, and I can tell you.There are many people out there today just like Skeet, and you may be friends with them. Or, perhaps, you just know them casually. Or, perhaps I am speaking to you. Jesus Christ changes lives! Surrendering your life to Jesus does not mean that all problems disappear, however, you do have someone walking with you through them, and that someone is GOD in the form of the Holy Spirit. He comes to live inside of each person when they accept Jesus' payment for their sin. You can pray to Him, fellowship with Him, worship Him, and one day you will dwell with Him. He will change your life! If you want to know how to do this, please go here: here

     Don't wait, do it now! I can't undo what was done, but I can try to help others who are struggling in the here and now, and I will! I plead with you to do so as well. You don't ever want to live with the regret: "If only I had said...."

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Fiery Preacher From Peoria

     As I was in the shower, I began to think about writing a new blog. As I pondered what to write on, I felt lead ("God In The Shower") that I should write about the church service I attended last Sunday. I was visiting my hometown in Peoria, and attended a church called Riverside Community Church. I first went to this church during Christmas Eve after strongly feeling that God was leading me to go. The pastor is an older, kindly, unassuming looking man, with a British accent, who if you asked someone "describe what your perfect grandfather would look like," it would be him. What I am trying to say is that you would not expect the words he preaches to come out of him.

     After that first service in December, I left church with a fire that I hadn't had in a while. It was awesome! This church is set in the downtown area of Peoria, in the midst of the poor, downtrodden, homeless, and gangs. They are working to change lives in the name of Jesus. The day I was there, the pastor laid out the Gospel perfectly, and at the end offered people a chance to come forward and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. It looked like around 25 people accepted! I was so moved by what I witnessed that I have been watching the streaming service almost weekly now in Florida (after going to my church here).

     Anyway, last Sunday was the second time I have been to Riverside in person. The pastor preached a lot on Hell. One of my top complaints about the "church" today is that no one ever seems to preach on Hell anymore. So many churches are all about being "positive," and talking about the love of God (seeker friendly) rather than God's judgment, and the punishment that will one day come if one does not accept the payment of Jesus for one's sins.

     It was during this sermon that the pastor taught me something that seemed so obvious that I was astounded I had never seen it before in my years of reading the Bible and writing Bible Studies. (I LOVE it when that happens!) Rather than explain in my words, let me quote him (this may not be perfectly quoted).

     "When Christ bore our sins, He entered into the judgment for our sins. Christ endured Hell on the cross. The clearest revelation of Hell is given in the cross. It is what Jesus went through in these (final) 3 hours (on the cross)." He then shared 6 dimensions:

1. He is in conscious suffering.
2. He is in the blackest darkness.
3. He is surrounded by demonic powers.
4. He is bearing sin on the cross.
5. He is under the judgment of God.
6. He is separated from the love of God.
(He followed #6. saying, "There is a love of God, I could have known His love forever, but now it's beyond our reach, and we're lost forever, cut off from the love of God.")

     So, there you have it. A perfect description of Hell, suffered by Jesus on the cross. All Biblical (I give verses here: https://jesusalive.cc/ques207.htm ), and I missed it. You may have missed it too, so I share it with you. Thanks Pastor John!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

"What If...?"

     Why does God allow suffering? I discuss this here. In that study, I speak about both Christians and non-Christians. However, for this post, I want to focus on Christians.

     As I say in the study, there are many reasons why God allows (or causes: see below) Christians to suffer and face trials. Here are a few: to bring people to repentance and submission, to deepen our faith, to help us know Him in a better and more intimate way, to get us to lean on Him more, to make us stronger, to give us more joy and peace as we see Him work in our trials, to use us to help others with similar trials, and more...

     All of these things are certainly true, and we can find many examples in the Bible. However, I feel like God has shown me something regarding this. When do we most often turn to God? Isn't it when we face trials, have problems, or need something from Him? On the flip side of this, when do we least often to turn to God? Isn't it when things are going well, when we aren't sick, or when we don't really need anything?

     In 2015, I had one of the worst years of my life. My dad died, my mother was in the hospital for 30 days and almost died, my favorite aunt died, and her son (my cousin) committed suicide a few days later. My wife had shingles, I had chronic gout and was diagnosed with "fatty liver," one daughter had health issues and ended up in the E.R. 3 times, the other daughter moved over 600 miles away, another cousin was diagnosed with cancer (and died in 2016), and a few more. In the midst of these trials, I did see God work over and over, and I am forever thankful for it. These trials did do many of the positive things that I listed above.

     However, in 2017 I had perhaps the best year of my life. What a great year! My family enjoyed good health, my ministry at jesusalive.cc had substantial growth, I made some new and wonderful friendships, primarily through the two Bible studies I teach (and I was privileged to baptize 3 people in one of them), and a third day of fellowship and study with a Christian brother one to one came to pass (perhaps more on this in a future blog). In addition to these, I got to spend more time praying, studying, and sharing God's Word than perhaps at any other time in my life.

     I can say that while I did indeed draw closer to the Lord in 2015 as a result of seeing Him work through my trials, I ended 2017 feeling closer to the Lord than perhaps I ever have, even though I had few trials. Then, the thought came to me! "WHAT IF" in those times when things are going well we were to seek God, pray to Him, spend time with Him, and get into His word MORE than when we do when we are facing the bad times? 

     I often say this: "If God is in charge of all things, then one of two things must be true regarding trials, God either causes the trial we face, or He allows the trial we face" (there are examples of both in the Bible). As I mentioned above, the point of many of these trials is to draw us closer to Him in some way. However, if we would draw closer to Him, and seek Him as much (or more) in the good times as in the bad, isn't it possible that God may not need to use as many trials to get our attention? Just a thought...

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Billy Graham

     Yesterday, Evangelist/Pastor Billy Graham died. As I speak of in "My Testimony" , I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at a Billy Graham Crusade on Oct 27, 1994 in Atlanta, Georgia. Of course, this totally altered the course of my life, however, it was far more than I expected. It was also during that Crusade that I felt like God gave me a sign that He was going to use me in some powerful way. What has happened since has been nothing short of amazing. (I will not go into details on that, but it is in my testimony.)

     In addition to my salvation, Billy Graham changed my life in other ways as well. After that Crusade, I returned home and ordered and read every tract that was available from Billy Graham's sermons (like 300). I later read his autobiography "Just As I Am" which was amazing and very inspiring, and moved me to go deeper in my walk. My wife and I attended 3 other Billy Graham Crusades in the years that followed in San Antonio, Charlotte, and Jacksonville, each as powerful as the first. One of the few magazines that I read on a regular basis is "Decision" magazine which is put out by the Billy Graham Association. Last year, my daughter and I visited the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte which was also quite moving, and I highly recommend you visit at some time (especially if you have never given your life to Christ).

     The Bible speaks about "laying up treasures in Heaven" (Mt 6:19-20)(Mt 19:21). If any man in recent times has laid up these treasures, I believe it was Billy Graham. These are rewards that perhaps may last for eternity (I speak of this more here). Billy Graham's life should be an example to us all. An example of how to lay up treasure in Heaven. So many (Christians) today live for the "here and now" rather than thinking from an eternal perspective. So many want immediate gratification rather than delayed rewards. We so often fail to put God before self in EVERY situation. Billy Graham's life was the opposite, dedicated to God before self.

     I remember hearing Billy Graham once say that one day he hoped to hear God say to him, "Well done good and faithful servant," but he did not expect that God would say that to him. I believe he was wrong, and God has spoken those very words to him. Those are words ALL Christians should long to hear one day. It is what I am striving for.

     So, as you can see, Billy Graham played a HUGE part in where I am in my walk with the Lord today. Thank you Billy Graham! You have won the race!     

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Why The Name?

    I have had a desire to write a blog for a long time, however I have been reluctant to do so because I do not wish to take time away from my primary website jesusalive.cc. But, this morning, I woke up very early (for me) and could not go back to sleep feeling led by God to get started on this. So, here we go!

    Why the name: God In The Shower? A number of Christians claim to hear from God continually. I am not one of them. When God wants to direct me, He seems to go a different route. He gives me signs. This has happened over and over. In fact, I do what I do on JesusAlive because God has confirmed time and time again through signs that it is what He wants me to do.

     However, for some odd reason, which only God knows, the times when I feel like God is speaking to me the clearest are often when I am in the shower. I am not saying that I clearly hear an audible voice or anything like that, but I feel like God shows me different things. I have come up with new studies to write, things to add to studies, people I need to reach out to, things I need to pray about, and more. Is this God? I don't know "for sure," but I believe it is.

     As I say on the homepage of JesusAlive, the mission of my website is: "witnessing to those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and discipling those who do, but are seeking help in their daily walk." I have written hundreds of studies to help those coming to the website. However, the website is not really a place to share day to day things concerning my walk with the Lord, and what He is showing me. So, that is why I am here. 

     I am on a mission to look for God in ALL areas of my life. I know He is always there, and I don't want to miss ANYTHING. As He moves, and shows me things (including in the shower), I want to share that with you. Prayerfully, it will encourage you to look more closely for God's hand and direction in your own life. May God bless and direct the words that will follow.

40 Things God Has Taught Me

     Yesterday, a friend wrote on her  blog  "50 things I've learned in 50 years." It inspired me, and I asked permission (whi...