KLOVE Radio Features – July 2019

Reality is My Friend

I’ve had lots of friends over the years. Some close, and some not so close. I’ve even made friends of enemies, both real and imagined. But one of the best friends I rarely recognized was a friend called “reality”. In retrospect, I realize that “reality” was the one friend who always had my best in mind. The first one to meet me in the morning, and the last one I’d think about at night. At the end of the day, “reality” was always the last one standing. “Reality” never sugar-coated my issues, never diluted my struggle, and refused to give in to my whining and whimpering. Having lived a long, full life, I realize that “reality” was the one friend I should have trusted more, and doubted less. Today, remember, reality is your friend!

Pick Up Your Mat

In John 5, Jesus approached a man who had been unable to walk for 38 years and asked, “Would you like to get well?” It seemed like a silly question and, yet, it pinpoints the real issue for each of us who need a healing. What do we really want? And what are we willing to do to get it? Jesus then gave the man three critical instructions: ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!’” (John 5:8, NLT) Three essential prerequisites for any of us to get whole: “Stand up!” Are you willing to move away from where you have been? “Pick up your mat!” Are you committed to never go back? And lastly, “Walk!” Will you do whatever is needed to get whole, even if you’ve never done it before? So, let me challenge you about whatever healing you need, will you, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!?”

Keep Walking – Don’t Stop

After landing in an airport, I began walking to baggage claim. As I did, it was necessary to pass through a set of security doors encased in glass. Proceeding forward, the next door would automatically open. Unsure, I stopped, and immediately heard an automated announcement, “Continue to walk forward. Do not stop!” It produced an eerie set of emotions. The exit doors were activated by my walking forward, but remained closed unless I did. It reminded me of my walk with Jesus. As I have walked forward in faith with Jesus, over these many years, new doors have continued to open. It left me with this indelible impression for my future: If I stop going forward in faith, new doors won’t open. And, even if doors seem closed, I need to keep walking forward in faith.

Moneyball and Misfit Toys

Do you feel inadequate and insufficient? Don’t despair! They can be helpful qualities when seen from God’s perspective. In “Moneyball,” a movie about the surprisingly successful 2002 Oakland A’s baseball team, the term “an island of misfit toys” is used to describe undervalued players the Oakland A’s could have purchased for their team. I couldn’t help but think that’s how many of us in the Body of Christ see ourselves: unseen and undervalued. We write ourselves off because of misfit dimensions in our lives, not realizing that these deficiencies are the very thing that keep us dependent upon God and make us fully usable to Him. If we will trust Him, they can even become the backdrop for our ultimate transformation. God’s Word promises, “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.” (Isaiah 40:29, NLT)

Confidence or Conviction?

What do people most want to hear in our voice if they are in need of healing: confidence or conviction? I believe conviction is infinitely more important than confidence. It empowers us to go forward, even when we feel like giving up. Lacking confidence but having conviction can still let God flow through us. But, if I merely ride the wave of personal confidence, I’ll eventually give up. Confidence will, in time, disappoint, while conviction will keep me doing the right thing, even if I have a momentary wrong response. Confidence is way too flippant a criteria to hang my future hopes of success. Would you like to cultivate confidence? Then, embrace God’s conviction about who He has called you to be and what He would like you to do. Confidence in Him will be the natural result of God-given conviction.

Truth Can Make You Angry

At one point in my life, before I surrendered to Jesus, I believed there were many paths to God. I remember how angry I got when a young Christian showed me John 14:6 in the Bible. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” At that moment, the truth didn’t make me free, it made me angry. Not an unusual response, when reality hits us like a bolt of lightning. One day, a Christian and a Muslim were sharing about the distinctions in their faith. The Christian said to him, “The difference between our God and your god is that your god wants you to die for him, and our God wanted to die for you.” Profoundly simple, yet extraordinarily true. Once again, this truth may either set someone free or, perhaps, just make them angry.

God’s Will is Our Reality GPS

Would you like your life to have a happy ending? I trust you would! Then, may I recommend, don’t write your own script. The more we write our own story, the less happy our ending is going to be. Better to commit to be a script-doer, not a script writer, and your life will turn out exceedingly, abundantly better than you could ever imagine. Likewise, I believe the best scripts begin and end with script-ture. God’s Word even promises, “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but God’s Word will last forever.” (Matthew 24:35) The Bible is like a reality GPS. It determines where we are, and only what is real will ultimately last. God alone defines reality. By aligning your life and thoughts with God’s forever Word, He will bring His reality to pass in your life.

God Guarantees Our Future

Are you looking forward to your future? If you are a follower of Jesus, you should be. The Bible says, “The desire of the righteous ends only in good…” (Proverbs 11:23, NIV) WOW! “…ONLY GOOD!” What a promise! Following God guarantees that we will not only have a blessed life, but a blessed future. No matter how your life may look at this moment, the God of happy endings never disappoints. His Word promises, “…it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32, ESV) And, “…he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, ESV) And lastly, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6, ESV)

God Delights in Us

Is it difficult to imagine that God is pleased with you? For many of us it is. We’ve all done things we regret. But is God as fixated as we sometimes are on what we’ve done wrong? Consider Psalm 18:19 (ESV). It states the almost inconceivable, “…(God) rescued me because He delighted in me.” This verse literally means, “God takes pleasure in me.” WOW! Even when I struggle with being pleased with myself, God still is. Not in everything I do. But everything He created me to be. If you and I could create our own children, and envision them to view us in any way possible, wouldn’t we want them to know that we are delighted with who they are? Not because they measured up to some impossible standard, but because we created them for the very purpose of delighting in them.

Stealing From Your Parents

Recently, I read a Bible verse that jogged my memory about a sin I committed over 50 years ago. Growing up, my father carried a lot of money in his wallet. And once, just once, as a teenager, I stole $100 out of it. Even as I say this, half a century later, I’m convicted about how wrong it was. Proverbs 28:24 (NLT) says, “Anyone who steals from his father and mother and says, ‘What’s wrong with that?’ is no better than a murderer.” Wow! I don’t fully understand it, but as I seek and receive God’s forgiveness, I want to let the full impact of these words seep into my heart. I never want to get to the place where I resist the conviction of God Spirit and, consequently, fail to receive His merciful kindness for my life.

Our Challenges Are Designed To Help Others

I believe each of us significantly underestimate how our challenges are designed to prepare us to help others. We can see this clearly in the life of Moses. Even though he was an Israelite by birth, he was raised as an Egyptian in Pharaoh’s household. Then, after committing murder while protecting another Israelite, he’s exiled to the wilderness for 40 years. Little did he know that these decades living in obscurity were preparation for an additional 40 years wandering with the nation of Israel. His forty years of rejection were actually 40 years of preparation. I realize more every day that the pain and struggles in my past are designed to be mined in order to help others. Have you seen this pattern in your own life? Realizing this will give you all the direction you need for your future!

Fear is a Lie

Would you like to have a life full of every blessing God intended for you? That’s not just your hope and desire, that’s His desire for you as well. Then here’s something you should do. Expand your faith and you’ll diminish your fear. Fear never lets you grow bigger than itself. Faith opens up infinite possibilities. Fear lies to you about what could happen. It cages you in. While faith broadens your horizons. Filling your heart and mind with the faith of God’s Word will choke out all fear of failure. Fear has was never been your friend, it was just the lie that kept you bound. Faith longs to be your lifelong companion, while fear has always been your enemy. Fear has no future and just wants to take you with it. Faith will last forever and will continue to expand throughout eternity.

 

 

KLOVE Radio Features – June 2019

Children, Your Father’s Home!”

My sister-in-law Kathy tells the story of a relationship she had with a man she was about to marry. It was a few weeks prior to their scheduled wedding. The invitations were printed and about to be mailed. A dinner was planned for her fiancé to meet important members of her family. Arriving an hour late, and intoxicated, her fiancé began to make excuses as to why. As he stood there leaning against a door, rambling about where he had been, Kathy, not yet a Christ-follower, had a distinct thought flash across her mind, “Children, your father’s home!” It was the wake-up call she needed. Kathy broke off the relationship, and has been happily married to my brother Victor for over 50 years. Don’t ignore the leadings of God; they are meant to preserve your life and future.

Solvents

Solvents seem like a miracle cure for an unsolvable problem. I’m always amazed at the solvents we can use to wipe away stains. Vinegar takes away grass stains. Soda eliminates grease. White wine eradicates red wine. Hydrogen peroxide removes blood. Baking soda erases coffee, and milk can clear up certain ink stains. But the most magnificent solvent of all is the One that washes away the greatest stain of all. It’s the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “…the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) Are you looking for a way to dissolve your sin problem? You have one, and only one, option. Let the sacrificial blood of Jesus, the God of the Universe, who alone died on the Cross for your sins, wash away the stain of sin from your eternal soul and spirit.

Shaming

A Christian friend told me about a time the Lord challenged him about not shaming people. Going to work as a young Christian, he would drive by an adult bookstore. He thought it would be funny to honk and wave when he saw a man getting out of his car. Invariably, upon hearing the horn and seeing someone waving, each man would hang his head in shame and scurry inside. After he did this a few times, the Lord reproved him, saying, “I didn’t call you to shame people.” From then on when he drove by, he prayed for each man instead of shaming them. The Message Bible says, “God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” (John 3:17)

Understanding is Overrated

When Manoah, the father of Samson, asked the angel who prophesied Samson‘s birth to tell him his name, the angel said, “You wouldn’t understand my name even if I told you.” Here is the angel’s answer in Judges 13:18, “Why do you ask my name?… It is too wonderful for you to understand.” A fascinating response! Yet, the older I get, the more I realize there are so many things God could tell me, but I wouldn’t understand them if I can’t first identify the authority He has when He speaks. Apparently, there are many times when my understanding is unnecessary and seemingly overrated. It’s true, since God promises us the peace that goes far beyond our understanding (Philippians 4:7), we should be unattached to completely understanding what is taking place in our lives.

Concerns That Never Happen

The other day I couldn’t find my glasses in order to see clearly to put in my contacts. As I processed this, I thought how difficult it must be for blind people to put in their contacts. Immediately, I realized what you probably have already… blind people don’t need contact lenses. HA! This embarrassing and funny realization was followed by God’s Spirit reminding me about the many things I am concerned about that never happen, and are actually just silly, unbelieving thoughts. As Jesus said to Martha when she was lacking faith, “…you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about.” (Luke 10:41-42, NLT) Jesus was the resurrection and the life, and was able to raise her brother Lazarus from the dead. What is your need? Remember, God is completely able.

Nothing to Complain About

Have you ever had a near-death experience? If you are a Christ-follower, then you certainly have. The Bible says, “…the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NLT) In 2 Samuel 19:28 (NASB), Mephibosheth, evil King Saul’s grandson, basically says to King David, “You spared my life; what right do I have to complain anymore?” That would be a good question for each of us to ponder. If we are awake to the desperateness of our spiritual reality, we know that God spared our life. So how can we complain about anything? God has given each of us: life, breath and every good thing. (Acts 17:25) Those of us who have received God’s free gift of forgiveness and eternal life should be the most grateful people who have ever lived.

Shane Grammer & Paradise Portraits

One of my favorite Bible verses is Isaiah 61:3 (NLT), “…(God) will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.” WOW! “Beauty for ashes!” There is perhaps no greater example of this than what God inspired someone to do in the aftermath of the horrific fire that destroyed almost all of Paradise, California. Shane Grammer, a gifted artist, now nicknamed, the “Artist of Hope,” used his God-given artistic gift to paint murals of hope on burned-out buildings in Paradise. Not because he was paid for it, or because it was possible for the paintings to have a long lifespan. But because those murals of hope would give people who lost everything, a glimpse into the possibility that they actually had a beautiful future. What can I do today to give someone hope?

Pleasure Forever

Do you like pleasure? All of us do! But, would it surprise you if I told you God wants to fill your life with pleasure, both now and forever? First, let me clarify one thing. Pleasure is not inherently bad. God created pleasure! The Bible says that at God’s “…right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) Wouldn’t the God who made sunsets and starry nights know all about beauty? Wouldn’t the Author of laughter know how to have the most fun? Wouldn’t the Prince of Peace know the best way to rest? Wouldn’t the Person who invented food know what foods tastes best? Wouldn’t the One Who is love know what relationships are most fulfilling? So, if you’re wanting to experience incomparable pleasure. Enjoy the pleasure of God’s presence. Pure pleasure, minus the guilt and regret.

Invisible and Insignificant

Do you feel invisible, insignificant? The only way any of us can truly feel valuable is to know that God sees us and cherishes us. I’ve never seen my liver, but I definitely appreciate it. I’ve never hugged my kidney, but I’m sure it deserves a hug. I’ve never told my heart, “I love you!”, but I love the fact my heart keeps beating. We may consider a part of our body unnecessary or of little importance, until we hurt it. We stub our toe, jam our finger. Suddenly, it’s all hands on deck. The unappreciated member is showered with attention. Americans say what is most important to them is “self-respect.” It sounds like a desperate cry to be noticed, valued and esteemed. The only Person who can meet that need is… God. If Jesus is your Lord, then you are part of Christ’s Body, and absolutely precious to Him.

Everyone Can Be Great

Would you like to be great? That’s a wonderful goal. No one wants you to be great more than God. And He’s done everything possible to fulfill that desire. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be great. Because greatness is determined by service. You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.” Jesus came to serve, not to be served. He was truly great! Now, He invites us to be great as well. All we have to do is follow His lead, serve and love others, with hearts filled with His grace and souls motivated by love. Jesus said, “The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12, NLT)

God Built You a House

A building contractor was going to retire. He was a man of integrity and had spent his life doing honest work. He went to his foreman, who worked for him for 25 years, and said, “I want to build one last house, and make it first class, and then, I’m going to retire.” The foreman was upset, believing the contractor was going to leave him with nothing for his future, and decided to rip his boss off. So he ordered second-class materials and falsified invoices. When the house was completed, the owner proudly toured the finished product. Shocking the foreman, the owner told him he wanted to reward the foreman for his faithful service, saying, “I built this house for you!” God’s heart has always been to build our lives with the best materials for our good. Trust God and give Him your best!

Leniency or Mercy

Would you like God to be lenient with you; to not hold you responsible for the sins you have committed? Sorry, He can’t be! If we deserved leniency, then leniency would be a matter of justice, not mercy. Mercy is only shown to the guilty. So, God can’t be lenient with you, but He does want to give you mercy. Mercy that you can’t earn and don’t deserve. If I killed the person you loved the most, is there anything I could do to deserve mercy from you? Probably not! The mercy would have to be in your heart, not because of any actions I could ever do. Jesus loved the un-lovable! He served the undeserving! And He honored the dis-honorable! All for love! All for us! Receive the mercy of Jesus. That’s all He’s offering you.

KLOVE Features February 2019

Life is a Jigsaw Puzzle

Are you struggling to see how your life fits? It’s probably because you want to understand it. What if I told you: life was more about acceptance than understanding? It’s more about rhyme than reason. More a jigsaw puzzle of one-of-a-kind pieces, than uniformed Legos. In our linear naivetes, we’re hoping it will all make sense, and soon. But, it’s really a waste of time, and the improper way to process life with a God Who is infinitely beyond our comprehension. The only real connection with this season of your life and the next is . . . God. The Bible says, “He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.” (Colossians 1:17, NLT) So, how can you make sense of life? Let God guide you, moment by moment, piece by piece, for He alone knows where you are going, and your greatest responsibility is to trust Him.

Older Married Couples Laugh More

If you believe older married couples are grumpier and more dissatisfied, you probably should think again. An extensive study shows that those married longer than 35 years are more tender than younger couples. They demonstrate more positive emotional behaviors as they age, and fewer negative ones. In particular, these spouses had more humor and affection and cut back on the amount of criticism and defensiveness they showed during their earlier years together. These results show that as we age, we become more focused on the positives in our lives and are far happier with one another in old age. It’s all the more reason to stick with your marriage partner during the tough times. Experiencing your senior years with a spouse may be your key to a happy future.

Wanting More is a Slippery Slope

Have you ever watched someone make a foolish mistake and it reminded you of yourself, at a low point in your own life? I was watching a TV show and saw a man, in front of his mother and millions of viewers, go from being guaranteed to win over $300,000 to winning $5. It was crushing to watch! Everyone in the room was yelling, “Take the $300,000!” but he just couldn’t stop himself from wanting more. “Wanting more!” What a slippery slope! Being grateful for what you already have is really the only way to ever experience the contentment that leads to God’s peace. I don’t have to experience the pain of foolish decisions I’ve seen others make, if I can just learn from them. “Jesus, teach me to love more… and want less!”

A Little Rough Going In

As my wife and I were on a plane, a flight attendant said over the P.A., “We’re going to tidy up the cabin a few minutes early tonight, because it’s going to be a little rough going in.” Hmm? “Tidy up…it’s going to be a little rough going in.” Immediately, God’s Spirit reminded me of the season we are in. It seems everything in the world around us that can be shaken, is being shaken. Though we can lose sight of it, we are also speeding closer to the challenging end of the age. And so, taking that sentence from the flight attendant as a prophetic encouragement, “Tidy up your heart, Francis; it’s going to be a little rough going in.” Perhaps, you should take this encouragement to heart as well?

Pray Without Ceasing

When the Bible says, “Pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NKJV) is it perhaps overstating the goal, or should we take this biblical admonition literally? How could anyone “Pray without ceasing”? The Passion Translation phrases this verse in a different way. It says, “Make your life a prayer.” WOW! “Pray without ceasing” morphs into “Make your life a prayer.” I like that! It reminds me that God intended prayer to be a way for me to have an intimate relationship with Him; a constant communion, not a periodic S.O.S. Prayer is not meant for when I’m in trouble, but to keep me continually in touch with my Creator. God’s saying, “Make prayer your first response, not your last resort.” It’s really the best and, frankly, only, way to truly live.

Counterintuitive Leadings

My wife was driving the two of us in traffic when my phone’s GPS recommended we turn off onto a highway going in the opposite direction. Since I’d followed my GPS on this route before during rush hour, I had complete faith that doing what seemed crazy was actually the right thing to do. Trusting my past experience, my wife turned off and we soon found ourselves sailing all the way home without traffic. “Trust” had been the difference maker. Many times, in life, God’s leadings are counterintuitive. He tells us to do something that may even seem illogical. At that moment, we should remember the scripture, “Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on him to guide you, and he will lead you in every decision you make.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, TPT)

Don’t Go “Blank” in My Yard

My wife and I were walking our dog in a new, nearby housing complex. As we walked past one particular house, the owner poked his head out of his 2nd story window and yelled, “Don’t let your dog go ‘blank’ in my yard.” We looked up and waved, but thought, “We had no intention of our dog going ‘blank’ in your yard.” Walking on, we laughed that someone would be that paranoid. Now, months later, his front yard has no animal waste in it, but his visible back yard is loaded. Jesus said, “First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5, NLT) One of the greatest ironies in life is how easily we can be filled with judgment for someone else but want only mercy for ourselves.

Five Loaf Faith or 5000 People Faith

In the Gospels, Jesus challenged His disciples to feed a hungry multitude of many thousands of people. At first, Christ’s followers responded with cynical unbelief, saying, “With what?” But as He guided the faith process, five loaves multiplied to feed five thousand. It made me think, do I have “five loaf faith” or “five thousand people faith”? The disciples had finite, limited, restricted, fixed faith. Jesus had boundless, unlimited, never-ending, infinite faith. The disciples had their eyes on what they could do, saying, “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!” (Mark 6:37, NLT) Jesus had His eyes on what His Father could do. It made me think, what do I have? Faith limited to what I see or faith unlimited and connected to what I believe?

What Amazes God?

Not many things amazed Jesus when He was on this Earth. Not many! But, one thing stood out, and frankly still amazes me today. The Bible says, “…because of their unbelief, (Jesus) couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them…he was amazed at their unbelief.” (Mark 6:5, NLT) Wow! “Jesus was amazed at their unbelief.” On Earth, we can easily understand why it would be hard to believe for a supernatural miracle. But, in Heaven, beyond the blindness of Earth, unbelief is the most ridiculous thought imaginable. So, what thoughts am I thinking? Thoughts that believe God is powerless to do what He’s promised to do, or faith-filled, eternal thoughts that believe God for every miracle He ever intended to take place on Earth?

Who Are You Looking To?

One day, every one we are looking to will be gone, except One. On the Mount of Transfiguration, the disciples were enamored when Moses and Elijah appeared to them. (Mark 9) But sooner than they had hoped for, these two giant patriarchs were gone, and all they were left with was…Jesus. Sooner than we know, everyone we are looking to on Earth will be gone. Everyone, except Jesus. So, build your life centered on a relationship with the only One who will be left standing, the God of the Universe, the Lord Jesus Christ. For, in the end, your relationship with Him will be all that matters. As the Bible says, “For in him we live and move and exist.” (Acts 17:28, NLT) “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:22, NKJV)

Luis Palau and Heaven

Recently, I had the privilege of hearing the great evangelist Luis Palau give a sermon on “Heaven”. He has been battling stage four lung cancer for over a year. With much effort and discomfort, he shared so beautifully about Heaven, as he and each of us who have allowed Jesus to be the Lord of our lives are preparing for our eventual home. At one point, as he was nearing the close of the message, he said, “I’ve got to go on. My time is short.” How true…for all of us. Wherever we are, whatever challenges we are facing, we’ve got to go on, because our time on Earth is short. Eternity is in our hearts. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Heaven is calling us. As Luis went on to say, “I’ve got my ticket. I just don’t know when the plane is leaving.”

I’m Too Big a Sinner

Do you feel like you are too big a sinner for Jesus to accept you? That’s understandable. He’s God—perfect, holy, you know, not like you and me. Well, the Apostle Peter felt the same way. In Luke 5, after Jesus did a miracle, Peter “…fell to his knees before Jesus and said, ‘Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.’” We can all feel that way: unworthy and unholy. But we can also be so fixated on our sinfulness, that we lose sight of His willingness to forgive and accept us. The Bible assures those who have received what Jesus accomplished when He died and rose again, “you were washed [by the atoning sacrifice of Christ], you were sanctified [set apart for God, and made holy], you were justified [declared free of guilt] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 6:11, AMP)

 

 

KLOVE Features January 2019

Be Careful What You’re Chasing

Close friends of ours have grandchildren who were recently chasing an animal around the back yard. Their father went out to investigate and found it was a four-foot long rattlesnake. Needless to say, he yelled for them to get back and then proceeded to kill the snake. It reminded me of the things we pursue, the shiny objects that fascinate us, and frankly, what can kill us if we chase after it without really understanding what it is. The Bible warns us to not be deceived, Paul writes, “…I’m afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s clever lies, your thoughts may be corrupted, and you may lose your single-hearted devotion and pure love for Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3, TPT) Don’t spend your life chasing what appears to be enchanting and ends up putting you in chains.

Because of the Way You Treated Us

George and Harriet Walker were missionaries in a remote area of New Guinea for 18 years. It took them three years to learn the language sufficiently in order to tell the people the gospel story of what Jesus had done for them. The tribe had no written language and were so violent that only four men had never killed someone. When they finished the translation and told the tribe the good news, most of the people in the tribe accepted Jesus as Lord. Why? The tribe leaders confided in the missionaries, “Because of the way you treated us, we would have believed any story you told us as the truth.” WOW! Once again, we see the undeniable reality: how we treat others will be the determining factor on whether our lives are believable or not.

Fighting Back

As I was praying in a hospital waiting room for a niece battling cancer, a news bulletin came on the TV saying there was a sighting of a mountain lion within our city limits. The report said if attacked by the lion, fight back. Immediately, I thought of the scripture, “Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, NLT) We must fight to live and not allow the enemy of our soul and spirit to destroy us. Though the weapons of our warfare are not natural, they are mighty in the Spirit realm. Therefore, I will follow the Bible’s admonition, “…humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7, NLT) Remember, when you are attacked, fight back!

Repackaged Deception

We always end up looking like what we believe…for better or worse. So, make sure what you believe has an eternal shelf life and not just the fad of the moment. There will always be someone coming over the hill with the next “new” deception. But if you look closely, it’s just a remake of a tired thought from a past generation. The Bible warns us, “…do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.” (1 John 4:1, NLT) Repackaged deception will still kill you. Likewise, genuine truth has no expiration date. Anchor your beliefs on God’s eternal Word and not the flimsy whims of man and you’ll experience the true liberation God always intended.

Healthy Spaces and Safe Places

There has never been an age that continually assaults minds and senses more intensely than this age. Each of us are bombarded with a sensory overload of saturating media stimulation. We are so inundated, we may eventually become indoctrinated and turned into cultural clones. World-lings…conformed to the image of this fallen planet and trapped in the confines of shallow Earth’s dead-end thinking. Unless you and I find healthy spaces and safe places to take mental, emotional and spiritual refuge for ourselves and our families, we may miss God’s original intention: to make us like Him. Will we, and our children, become liberated or held captive to the enemy’s plan to steal, kill and destroy, or God’s desire to heal, fill and restore? Find a safe place to anchor your heart and mind to the God who loves you so very much.

The Secret to Resurrection Life

Want to know the secret to experiencing the resurrection life Jesus promised? The Bible provides a surefire way. Paul the Apostle had so many difficulties, he thought he might die. He wrote, “All of the hardships we passed through crushed us beyond our ability to endure, and we were so completely overwhelmed that we were about to give up entirely…It has taught us to lose all faith in ourselves and to place our trust in the God who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8,9, TPT) The only thing that can rescue us from our futile attempts to save ourselves is experiencing so many challenges they pry our fingers from holding on to the false hope of the world’s empty promises. Learn to embrace by faith the eternal truths found in God’s Word alone. Lose your faith in yourself; trust God and truly live.

The God of Fire

We are all aware of the benefits and dangers of fire. It can warm you, feed you, or destroy all you have. Fire can spread so quickly, it brings life or death in a flash. So, throughout the Bible when God showed up with fire, it immediately got people’s attention. With Moses, His presence came with fire in a burning bush. With the Israelites, it was a pillar of fire hovering over the Tabernacle where His presence dwelt. And with the first Christians, God baptized them in the Holy Spirit with tongues of fire. Each of these believers became individual tabernacles, holy temples of Jesus’ body in which His Spirit lived. So, the challenge for those of us who have experienced His fiery presence is to continue to receive the fire of God’s benefits and not His judgment, which will likewise come with…fire.

God’s Miracle Handoffs

Each of us can get discouraged by the direction of the planet. At times, it seems the world is so out of control we wonder if the next generation will be able to handle the pressures they’ll face. That’s when I remind myself about God’s miracle handoffs in the Bible. Just when you think we’re finished, God brings the right person to meet the need. Noah built an ark when all humanity had been corrupted. Moses led the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt. David slew the giant. Samson delivered the Israelites from the oppressive Philistines. Esther courageously interceded before the King for her people. And Paul the Apostle, the former persecutor of Christ-followers, became a model Christian himself. So, while you’re pondering the world’s demise, never forget, “God’s will…will be done, on Earth just as it is in Heaven.”

Learning to Celebrate

In the Bible, when God wanted His people to remember what He’d done for them, He established Feasts. The Feast of Passover celebrated the Israelites rescue from the Death Angel in Egypt. It reminds us of Christ’s crucifixion. The Feast of First Fruits acknowledged a harvest and celebrates Christ’s resurrection. In the past, God’s people made altars and built landmarks to celebrate what He had done for them. It focused on what God “was” doing in their lives, and not what wasn’t happening. Actually, God gives more to those who celebrate what He’s already given them. As Jesus said, “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance…” (Matthew 13:12, ESV) We can’t expect more from God if we don’t appreciate what He’s already done. Learn to celebrate with God and your life will become a continual feast.

The Broad and Narrow Gates

When Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many,” (Matthew 7:13, ESV) did He have it backwards? A trending philosophy teaches, “Enter the broad gate. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are few.” “…God doesn’t want anyone to be destroyed but wants everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:9, NLT) But, as Jesus unapologetically proclaimed, “There is only forgiveness of sins for all who repent.” (Luke 24:47, NLT) As repentance means “to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness,” following Jesus means trusting in what He knows is true more than what a lost culture claims are “new and improved truth.”

The “I Quit” Mindset

There were many things I disliked about my childhood. One summer, at 16 years old, I travelled 2 ½ hours, every day, each way, to and from a mindless job on Wall Street because my father wanted me to become a stock broker. I took a 4:17AM smoke-filled bus to go to a job I hated. But something was being worked into me that now seems invaluable. It’s called discipline. I still don’t like the word, but it was one of the greatest developers of character in my life. I’m always amazed at the number of young men, lacking self-discipline, who join the army to get it beat into them. In this “I Quit” generation, where many only embrace what tastes and feels good. God raise up an army of warriors, brave men and women who’ll become the disciplined disciples that will turn this world upside down for You!

Picking Up Pennies

There’s a big difference between being stuck in lifeless traditions and cultivating life-giving habits. When I first became a Christ-follower, many years ago, I made a habit of picking up pennies that had been displaced or discarded. It had two values. Though it might sound silly now, back then even a penny had some value. Secondly, it was a habit that allowed me to appreciate every morsel God provided; to take nothing for granted. Recently, nearly a half century later, I found myself walking by pennies. They seemed worthless. Then God’s Spirit challenged me that it wasn’t a lifeless tradition, but a healthy habit encouraging me to bend down and appreciate all that God had graciously provided for my once bankrupt life. What tradition have you discarded that God wants to reestablish as a living life-giving, God-honoring habit?

 

 

 

 

 

KLOVE Features December 2018

Facing Your Fears

Until we find our true identity, we won’t be able to face our greatest fears. The patriarch Jacob had been estranged from his brother Esau for decades, ever since Jacob cheated him out of his birthright and blessing. So, the idea of meeting his twin again was terrifying. Knowing he would see Esau the next day, Jacob tossed and turned all night, wrestling with God. Only after Jacob fully submitted to God’s plan for his life could Jacob then face what he feared most. So, too, with each of us. We must see ourselves the way God sees us before we can face our fears. As the psalmist wrote, “…if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive…” (Psalm 124:2-3, ESV)

Do Ends Justify the Means?

Do the ends ever justify the means? Haven’t we all done something bad in order to achieve what we rationalized was an ultimate good? This, one of the great tests in life, is at best fuzzy math. In John 11, Jewish leaders expressed their intention to kill Jesus for the good of the nation. Both their end goal and the means to do it were wrong. They would ultimately kill Jesus thinking they were doing God a favor. How many decisions have I embraced that were birthed in deception, resulting in a wrong that I have since deeply regretted. I now clearly see my willingness to allow an end to justify a deceptive means was a serious error in judgment. May we each discern that the steps we take to achieve something, are as important as what we hope to accomplish.

Your Ceiling is Our Floor

A few years ago, as my twin daughters, Deborah and Havilah, were coming into their own as leaders, they shared these memorable words with me. “Dad, your ceiling is our floor.” At first, it took me back. Could they pull it off? How would I feel if they did? Within a few moments after hearing them say it, I’d done the math. Not only would I be delighted for them to exceed every aspect of my life, I was now further commissioned to help them accomplish just that. Years have gone by, and their amazing lives have taken off. With godly husbands and beautiful children, I am most often referred to as Havilah or Deborah’s Dad. It blesses me beyond words as I realize my wife, Suzie and I have lived long enough to experience the joy of our ceiling truly becoming their floor.

Follow Fruit vs. Gifts

God desires that we manifest the fruit of the Spirit: His love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as we minister in the gifts of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) Some people want the fruit of the Spirit but shy away from His gifts. Others get enthused about the gifts and manifest little fruit. We need both and should desire both. James’ epistle touches on a similar dichotomy between faith and works, using this argument: “You show me your faith without works, and I’ll show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18) Here’s a parallel commentary: “You show me your love without gifts, and I’ll show you God’s love with His gifts.” Fruit and gifts aren’t meant to compete with one another; they are meant to be God’s divine compliment. “Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts…” (1 Corinthians 14:1, NRSV)

Final Words

We can find out what’s in a person’s heart by examining their final words. Christ’s last sentence was very telling. “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34, NLT) As were Stephen’s, the first Christian martyr, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” (Acts 7:60, NLT). Our final words are, likewise, important, not just at the end of our lives, but at the end of every conversation. Do we win the argument, and yet lose a friend? The social mediums are the perfect proving ground for what’s in our heart. Were our final words filled with love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness, or judgment, condescension, condemnation and shame? Is our motive to help or to hurt? Whatever’s in my heart will eventually come out of my mouth. May I continue to guard my heart with all diligence for out of it proceeds my life. (Proverbs 4:23)

Old, Tired Voices

There will always be old, tired voices in our head telling us to follow them instead of following God. In Acts chapter 5, the disciples disobeyed the religious leaders in their day and continued to preach the gospel under penalty of death. The High Priest demanded, “Didn’t we tell you never again to preach about this Jesus?” (Acts 5:28, TLB) At some point, we have to be courageous enough to reject the lies of past lifeless traditions, in exchange for the truth of future life-giving obedience. What old, tired voices are in your head, on the airwaves, and around you, saying, “Didn’t we tell you to do it this way, and say what I say?” But don’t listen to them. Let the still, small voice of God’s Word and Spirit be your guiding light. For, in the end, what God thinks is all that matters.

Commas Instead of Periods

Many times in life we put a period at the end of an experience. We’re done! Or, we think God or someone else must be finished with us as well. Once again, all that’s really happened is we’ve given up too soon. I’ve found that God uses far more commas to punctuate my life experience than periods. With each comma, God’s saying, you’re not done yet, keep believing, keep going forward. Likewise, on other occasions, I place a question mark, dripping with unbelief, on what God wants to put an exclamation point, loaded with faith. I’ve believed the debt is too much, the sickness is too great, I’m too old, too young, too poor, too far gone. Whatever! God is bigger! He is greater! Today, add more commas, and watch the God of happy endings turn your question marks into exclamation points.

Prodigal Son or Running Father

One of Christ’s most memorable stories is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It moves each of us deeply when we consider the heart of a father being willing to accept a rebellious son back into the family with unconditional love. But I was stunned and blessed to learn that in some nations this unforgettable story is not called the “Prodigal Son,” but the “Running Father.” WOW! When I heard that, it took the parable to another level. We don’t have to come into the presence of God as “rejected servants,” but as “fully accepted sons & daughters.” Our storyline doesn’t center our feeble attempt to reach out to God, but His abandoned, all-in love to rescue and accept us. “Come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Returning to Hurt Places

Sometimes, if we are willing to go back to places where we have been hurt, God has surprises waiting for us. Paul the Apostle had been stoned and left for dead in the city of Lystra. But after a while, God put it on his heart to return and see how the believers in Lystra were doing. Because of his willingness to return to a place where people hated him so much that they tried to kill him, it was on this return trip that he met Timothy, a great man of God, who would become a son in the faith to Paul. Are you and I willing to return to places we’ve been hurt, perhaps even to people who have hurt us? If God asks us to, we should go. We may be shocked and blessed to find something or someone special waiting for us there.

Depending Upon God

Do you ever get a little tired of depending upon God? I know I sometimes do. But that’s when I have to reconsider my response to life and remind myself that I will be depending upon God, both now and forever. As the Bible says, “For in Him (in God alone) we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28, KJV) God will never create circumstances where we no longer need Him. This dependency is for our good and is designed to continually draw us into a closer relationship with our Creator. Only then can we become more like Him: which is the very purpose for our existence. As God is the same yesterday, today and forever, so we will be learning to trust in Him and His best for us, for all eternity.

Discovering Who You Are

Our maturity level is determined as much by what attracts us as it does by what distracts us. Only the God of Heaven can reveal our true identity in life. We discover our purpose for God creating us when we worship Him and wash our minds and hearts with His Word. If we don’t find our true self by looking into God’s heart, we will be seduced by the shallow fascinations of this world. Only then will we find that we’ve been chasing after an identity God never intended for us. Today, spend some time worshiping Jesus and let His Spirit and Word wash over your parched soul. You will continue to see who you are really meant to be and find the fulfillment God has always intended for you.

Meeting Perry Como

My twin brother and I were shuffled off to camp for two months every summer from five years old till 14. Our father was immersed in politics. Each night at camp, after lights out, a scratchy phonograph record played the “Our Father” prayer, sung by Perry Como, over loud speakers. It comforted me on hundreds of lonely nights. When I was15, on the verge of becoming an atheist, I was a guest at a private golf course. Walking into a tiny, two-sink restroom, I found Perry Como washing up at the next sink. I was stunned, and so wanted to tell him, “You sang me to sleep 500 nights during my childhood!” But I just couldn’t pull it off. Now, 50 years later, it comforts me to think that God created that special memory in my childhood. Did you see God at work growing up? If not, look again.

 

 

 

 

KLOVE Features December 2017

Priceless

It seems everything on Earth is either increasing or decreasing in value. A watch that once belonged to Paul Newman recently sold for $17 million. While a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci sold for $266 million. What about in Heaven? What is our value to God? Would it surprise you if I said it is impossible for us to become more or less valuable to God? From His vantage point, as our Creator, our value is fixed and unchangeable. We are priceless to Him! And if we could ever actually believe this, it would change our lives. We’d never again give into hopelessness and despair. We’d realize we are so precious to God, He’d do everything possible to forgive and heal our past, establish our present, and preserve our future. That’s why Jesus came!

Meekness

When Jesus said the meek will inherit the Earth, in Matthew 5:5, what did He mean? We are meek toward God when we accept His dealings with us as good, without disputing or resisting them. We are not passive; we are passionately focused and surrendered. In the Old Testament, the meek were those who totally relied on God rather than upon their own strength to defend themselves against injustice. Therefore, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is even using them to purify His followers, and that He will deliver us in His perfect time. Down through the ages, Christian martyrs were neither helpless nor hopeless, but fully trusting in the God who held their lives and future in His trustworthy hands.

Flying on Instruments

A friend of mine who is a pilot said he is required to fly “instruments only” at night or when in the clouds. In those situations, he’s not allowed to fly under “visual flight rules.” This is compulsory because the sensors in the brain will at times disorient pilots from keeping the plane level. One day, while flying in the clouds and looking at his instruments, they indicated his plane was pitched up as if it was ascending, while another instrument showed he was descending at a thousand feet a minute. At that moment, if he had followed his instincts, he would have pulled back, stalled the plane, and probably crashed. Following his instruments saved his life. Following the truth of God’s Word, and not our feelings, will save our lives as well. “For we walk by faith (in God’s Word), not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7, NKJV)

The End of Your Movie

Have you ever had someone tell you about their favorite movie, and they said, “Oh, you’re going love the end!” And they are a trustworthy person; fully believable, and not prone to exaggeration. Then you watch the movie and you can’t wait for the ending. No matter how difficult certain portions of the movie may be, you can’t wait to see what happens at the end. What if I told you that’s exactly the script God has written for your life. Your movie has the best ending ever! If you’ll just trust Jesus…follow Him…and believe in Him, more than the challenges you face, you’ll see God is the greatest Script Writer of all time, and you are one of the stars in His movie. “Those who are wise…will shine like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3, NIV)

An Honest Assessment from Friends

When I was a young Christian, it took two friends two hours to provide some objectivity as to how I was wired. They were primarily trying to alert me to the fact that I was very, very intense. It wasn’t a negative critique. It was just a helpful assessment of how God made me. Do you know how you are wired: your temperament, personality, giftings, passions, even your vulnerabilities and weaknesses? I’ve looked back on that conversation, now decades later, and realized, with a much fuller appreciation, that my friends were trying to help me, to give me a healthy grid for the rest of my life. Ask some friends who love you, people you trust, to give you an honest assessment of who you are. If you can hear them, it will change your life.

The Worst Commercial Airline Disaster

In the early days of commercial aviation, the captain had the final say, and it was unacceptable to challenge his or her decision-making. This led to many crashes. The worst commercial airline disaster in aviation history occurred in 1977, when two Boeing 747 passenger airliners collided on the runway of Tenerife Airport, because dense fog kept the pilots and control tower from seeing one another. At that time, the co-pilot’s inability to challenge the pilot’s decision-making led to 583 fatalities. Commercial airlines now require a pilot and a co-pilot to share responsibilities, with the co-pilot being able to advise the pilot in the event his decision-making is skewed. This speaks to me of accountability. Who in your life would be able to challenge your decision-making and spare you and others much pain and regret?

The Hand You Are Dealt

All of us process life differently. I’m intense; my wife Suzie is relaxed. I had a difficult childhood, lost in an oppressive boarding school. She had a marvelous one, surrounded by her happy family. I’ve forgiven her! HA! Our nature and nurture experiences are completely different, but I’m not going to wince, whine or wobble about the hand I was dealt. Even though I don’t wake up each morning to low-hanging hope, I’ve learned to climb the tree of worship and the Word in order to live an abundant life. None of our foundations disqualify us or establish us. It’s what we do with the hand we are dealt. None of us have been short-changed. We have each been lavishly overpaid. When you accept this fact, you finally arrive at a new level of trust.

My Father

When my father was just eight years old, after the death of his own father, he immigrated from Sicily to New York City. As a young boy, he shined shoes to make money, living in a one-room apartment with his mother, brothers and sister. He’d sit in a corner to study, and went to the top of his class in college and law school, becoming a famous political figure: a U. S. Congressman for five terms, and a New York State Supreme Court Justice. Presidents courted his favor; he was knighted by the Pope, and had his picture on the front page of the New York Times when he died. But when he left home, that final day, he was a frustrated, unfulfilled man. It made an indelible impression on me, that without God, no achievement can ever fulfill us.

Climbing a Goal Post

When I was 19, I went to a football game with my twin brother, Joseph, between Rutgers and Princeton. Since Joseph attended Rutgers, when his team won I was elated. Sadly, though, I was drunk and out of control. Shimmying up a goalpost, I had the top of the 32-foot pole under my stomach as hundreds of people below began to tear it down. Suddenly, the heavy metal pole snapped, stopping just four feet from the ground, and violently shaking me off. Completely dazed, a stranger walked up and said, “You’re an idiot!”  Until then, I didn’t know who I was. Now, at last I had clarity. I was an idiot! HA! How many of us climb the imaginary goalposts of shallow recognition, not realizing we’ll soon fall? My Creator best defines who I am. I will gaze into His eyes to see my true reflection.

The Privilege of God-given Abilities

I have a friend who is a surgeon. He takes his job so seriously, he describes it in this way: “I get the privilege of people trusting me so completely, they allow me to place them unconscious, take a scalpel, and operate on them, believing it is for their benefit. I am so conscientious about the stewardship I’ve been given, that when I walk through the hospital I am continually reminded of the honor God has granted me. Even after doing this for 30 years, I’m still amazed this is what I am privileged to do.” How revealing! Perhaps the reason we are each given unique gifts and graces is because God wants us to see them as a privilege and not a burden. What responsibility has God given you, and are you taking it seriously?

God’s Spared Her Sons Life

A military Mom’s son was stationed in Iraq. She told me with tears how God had protected him. He was the only medic in his unit, when a Suburban filled with explosives wiped out an entire block. Knocked unconscious, when he woke up, having no idea how long he’d been out, he routinely began to administer first aid to those around him. On another occasion, his life was spared. A bomb landed just a few feet from him, shaking the ground, but didn’t explode. Even after all of these near-death experiences, her son has not yet surrendered his life to Jesus, but she is absolutely believing he will. As this year comes to an end, who are you praying for and believing will come to their spiritual senses, allowing Jesus to rescue their lives?

God’s Special Gift for You

I have a quirky doctor friend who has no interest in eating food. He literally says, “I am never hungry!” Going so far as to admit, “If there was a pill I could take that would provide all of the nourishment I would need for any given day, I would take it, and never go through the process of eating food.” One of the unusual aspects of his food connection is that he does have one absolute craving: chocolate, and considers this God’s silver lining, a special blessing from God over his life, allowing him this singular indulgence. He smiles and laughs when he talks about this, and considers it God’s special gift to him. Have you discovered an exceptional gift God the Father has given you? It will make you smile when you do.