The Silent Killer

I have been going to the gym for over a year now. I really needed to start exercising and had received a free monthly pass in the mail and decided to try it. I joined a class that I really like and it has made this journey more enjoyable. I will admit that while I am very committed most weeks, there are some weeks I barely make it at all. Thank God I have an accountability partner or it would be even worse (Shout out to Dave).

 

I have found that if I miss a few days and then go back for a grueling workout, virtually every muscle in my body hurts. I am always amazed when this happens. How can I miss 4 days and my muscles act like I have never worked them at all? If you have ever worked out regularly, you know what I mean.

 

This is a principle that applies to our relationships as well. Sometimes we ignore others—unconsciously or consciously—and then find out its glitchy, irritable or even painful reconnecting.

 

The number one cause of death to a relationship isn’t the BIG disappointment or betrayal—though those do kill plenty of relationships—but when we simply stop intentionally investing in those we love. Think about all the “friends” you have had over the years that are no longer in your life. How many did you formally notify that they wouldn’t make the cut for the next season in your life? Now, how many of those just faded out of sight because they weren’t maintained?

 

A friend once said to me, “I am low maintenance, but, I am not NO MAINTENANCE”. Let’s not let the relationships we love and cherish die because we did not make them a priority investment. For more on this subject visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HS26NTJ9XGs

 

 

 

 

Stepping Out From the Shadows

You may be reading this as a blog, but I am writing it as a declaration. I am putting a stake in the ground right here—right now; sealing a turning point moment with this writing. I hope it inspires you to do the same. Every dream demands a response. This is my first step.

 

Recently, I wrote a personal mission statement. It included my mission, my vision, what I am called to do, and whom I am called to serve. It was invigorating to find this kind of clarity. Knowing who I am—and who I am not—has brought a dose of energy and excitement that I have lacked for years. I used the book, “The Path” by Laurie Beth Jones as a guide. It gave me excellent exercises and examples of how to hone down my personal experiences and desires into a clear and unique vision for my life.

 

After walking through the exercises of writing a mission statement, Laurie then explains “making yourself visible”. She states that the Laws of Attraction that exist in creation rely on visibility. Male bullfrogs croak loudly. Male Peacocks show off their plume. They step out of the shadows and announce to the world, “I am here”. Obviously, not everyone is attracted to this announcement; it will actually repel some. But, your bold step out of the shadows will also call out those that were destined to journey with you.

 

So, I am clear on who I am. I am clear on why I am here. I am clear on whom I was created to serve. Today, I step out of the shadows and make myself visible! I hope you will do the same. For more on this subject visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZ_H4iIMHg8&t=1045s

 

What are You Holding Out of the Water?

Take a moment and try to recollect your history classes—do you remember who Charlemagne was? Yes, that’s right—he lead a people known as the Franks during the Middle Ages and was one of the great conquerors of Europe. He ruled much of France, Germany, and the Low Countries. Not only did he expand his kingdom but he did so in the name of the Lord and mandated that his soldiers be baptized into the church. In several incidents, whole armies were plunged into a river so that they became God’s servants before they went into battle. But, there was one practice about Charlemagne’s baptism that was different than the way others have done it. He allowed his soldiers to hold their sword out of the water so they were free to be as “un-Christian” with that hand (and sword) as they desired.

 

Fast forward to the present day. I do not know of one pastor or priest that would willingly allow a candidate for baptism to do such a thing. Unfortunately, it still happens all the time, it just happens invisibly in the heart of the believer. Baptism is one of the outward signs of an inward covenant between God and us. A covenant is when one says to God that you exchange all you are, for all He is. How abhorrent it must seem to God when He open-handedly died on the cross for us, yet we hold something out of the water, un-surrendered to Him.

 

In the midst of teaching a sermon series on Generosity, I became cognizant of how many Christians say God is first in their lives, yet hold their wallets up out of the water. I don’t want you to think I desire their money, or them to give to anything I am leading. I want them to know the freedom that comes in receiving everything God has for them from where He is leading.

 

The Bible makes this statement:

 

Matthew 6: 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. NKJV

 

Mammon is the demi-god (god like, but not God) of self-sufficiency—a worldly system meant to replace our need of God. The Bible clearly says we can’t serve this god of self-sufficiency and Jesus. It has to be one or the other. So, when we get baptized and receive EVERYTHING that God has for us, but then hold back in any area—like our wallet—we limit the relationship God wants to have with us, a relationship where He is our all in all.

 

Maybe you surrendered your wallet but held up out of the water your spouse, kids, or career? I want to say, “It just isn’t worth it”. Whatever you are holding on to (or is holding on to you) isn’t as fulfilling as what He wants to exchange you forit! For more on this subject please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slyS_0SkeNQ

 

Could One Thought Change Your Life?

While I acknowledge reading scripture slowly and meditating upon it has its benefits, I have found reading large chunks of scripture—roughly 10 to 20 chapters a day—helpful in getting an overall perspective of the Word.

 

As I come upon a story I have read dozens of times, a question will pop in my head—this is one of the ways that God speaks to me—He makes me very curious about something so I will dig, then He shows me something new and exciting.

 

Here is an example;

 

Mark 5: 25-29 Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction.  NKJV

 

She said, “If only I can touch the hem of His garments I will be healed”. Where did she get that thought? She didn’t get it from the Torah. She didn’t learn that from the Prophets. No Rabbi was teaching that in the synagogues. She had a Divine God thought that forever changed her life.

 

There’s more. In the next chapter, Jesus is travelling to other villages and the people began approaching Jesus in a brand new way. Here it is:

 

Mark 6: 56 Wherever He entered into villages, cities, or in the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well. NKJV

 

In Mark chapter 5 the woman is healed because of this one thought. Others heard about it, and in Mark chapter 6 a movement is started.

 

Get alone with God. In the quiet and rest, take time to let the Lord speak to you. Let God give you a thought that will change your life and start a movement! For more on this subject visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrCtz58vY5Q.

 

 

Does God Love Us All The Same?

It took me a long time to grasp the notion that God loved and enjoyed me, and that He derived a level of pleasure in my existence. I had always thought that He was disappointed and frustrated with me. At best, I surmised, He tolerated me. But, over time, He wore me down and convinced me of His overwhelming love for me. The people that are part of my daily life have heard me say more than a few times, “I am God’s favorite, He loves me the most!” Though in my thinking, we were all tied for first. After all, God loved us all the same.

 

I was recently challenged on that opinion while on a recent ministry trip to Greece. My friend, Gail Stathis, had been discussing this subject the week before I arrived and it was fresh in everyone’s mind. So, when I came along and said that God loves all of us the same, it provoked a challenging conversation about the love of God.

 

Gail had stated that God does not love all of us equally. Equal denotes that God’s love can be measured. And, for those of us that have experienced His love, we know that His love is limitless. Her point was this, “God does not love each of us the same—He loves each of us uniquely.” I must admit, something in my spirit resonated with that thought.

 

Now while this conversation was turning over in my mind, I just happened to be reading through the gospels as part of my daily Bible reading plan. Just so you know, I do not believe in coincidences. Someone once said, “Coincidences are when God decides to remain anonymous.” I like that. I read the passage where Jesus feeds the 5,000 and I saw something I have never seen before. It says, “They all ate until they were all filled.” Each of us has a different level at which we feel full. I know I eat more than my wife Tina eats. Here was an unlimited supply of food—but each person took from that supply what he or she needed to be full.

 

I think God’s love is like that. Each of us has a different capacity to receive His love and He gives His limitless love to us according to our unique capacity to receive it.

 

This thought has changed my mind set. I now hunger for and desire to expand my ability to receive more of His love. For more on this subject, go to https://www.youtube.com/user/NCCVideosClyde

 

Come Into My Circle

As I make intentional efforts to live in community, I recognize that relationships are born in the overlap of two circles. While each of us are self-contained individuals (circle) with personality, wants and desires, and hopefully fully developed boundaries that guard our individuality—we have the ability to invite people into those circles. It is where these two circles overlap that we experience relationship. We do not stop being us. And, we do not start being them.

 

That is the best analogy I can think of for the Trinity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Each person of the Trinity is its own Person—but simultaneously and fully committed to relationship with one another—they are One in agreement and unity. There is Oneness in the Godhead to such an extent that there is One true God.

 

God made man in His image and likeness. He made him a triune (three in one) being—body, soul and spirit. Each of these is a distinctly different aspect of the same person, and each has an interdependent relationship with one another.

 

Then we find this intriguing passage in the ancient writings of Ecclesiastes chapter 4.

 

Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. NKJV

 

This scripture says that it is better for two to walk together than for one to walk alone—because two are better than one; where one is weak—they may draw from the strength that exists in the overlapping circle of the one that is strong. But then the verse goes on to say a threefold cord is not quickly broken. I believe this means that God wants us to create relationships by inviting other people into the overlap of our circle—then invite God into that same space. This creates meaningful, long lasting, and hard-to-break relationships.

 

Those that form this type of relationship—enjoy a level of intimacy, belonging, and community that few do. For more on this subject visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/prepare-the-way-of-the-lord.html

 

Breaking Bread

The third day after Jesus had been crucified; two of his disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus. As they were walking, Jesus suddenly appeared and joined their conversation. They did not recognize Jesus as they walked along. The scripture says that their eyes were restrained. Even though Jesus was alive and expounding on the scriptures, they did not recognize him—until—they invited Him home and He broke bread with them.

 

In the Middle East, meals can last for hours and usually involve guests. In America, we have lost the gathering and sharing aspect of eating, and simply eat to re-fuel and get back to what we were doing before we realized we were hungry.

 

My wife and I and our dear friends were recently invited to dinner by a woman we know well. At her home we laughed and shared some very intimate stuff. We discussed the particular foods and drinks we like. We discussed our families, and our jobs. We shared stories from the past, and things that had happened that day. Each of us exposed at least one burden we were working through. We just shared…

 

After dinner, the woman graciously showed us around her home. When we saw her antiques, pictures, and memories, we truly entered her world. She is fascinating and a real treasure. I have known this woman for years, but I now know her better after sharing a meal with her in her home.

 

Jesus made Himself known to His disciples by the breaking of bread. It worked two thousand years ago, and I think it still works today. I hope your now inspired to invite someone—old friend or new one—to break bread with soon. For more on this subject visit

http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/holy-heartburn.html

 

Fear No Evil

Since fear is an issue that most people on the planet deal with, I thought I would Google phobias and see if there was a list. Sure enough, “phobia” has a dedicated website listing all the unique and diverse fears that people have. The site that I saw categorized hundreds of distinct different phobias.

 

Fear is dangerous and crippling. It causes us to make bad decisions, steals our joy, our sleep (as we lay awake at night trying to figure a way around the thing that is intimidating us), and it can steal our dreams as we use our thought life to fantasize about how awful our fear could be realized.

 

The Bible says that we are to “fear the Lord”. That doesn’t mean that we cower with intimidation. It means to recognize and respect the might and magnitude of our God. I have found that the more you “fear the Lord” (respect His might and power), the less you will fear everything else. As we recognize His strength and power and submit to it in our lives, what is there to fear?

 

King David was a man after God’s own heart. He had an amazing respect for God. So, is it any wonder that he is the one to tell us that we are to fear no evil? Here is what he says in probably the most famous of all the Psalms:

 

Psalm 23: 1-6 A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever. NKJV

 

To the level that you “fear the Lord” you will not fear other things. To the level that you fear any other thing, you will simultaneously diminish the amount you “fear the Lord”. May we all consider this decision, and chose wisely.

 

For more on this subject visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/in-god-we-trust.html.

Good Tidings of Great Joy

Before we blast into the fullness of all that 2017 has for us, let me take a moment to reflect on the Holiday season of 2016. A popular biblical passage used at Christmas is Luke 2 in which an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds and said; “I bring you good tidings of great joy”! The good tidings or good news that the angel referred to was the birth of Christ. This good news is for all mankind, and is intended to bring us great joy.

 

As I was preparing for the Christmas sermon, I thought about the concept of great joy. Joy is an interesting subject that isn’t discussed very much. It is a state of great delight and happiness. The interesting thing about joy is that it can be caused by a multitude of different things. It can be triggered by love, appreciation, good fortune or—in this case—good news. While many different things can create joy, it can only be expressed in ONE WAY. True joy must be shared. Joy isn’t complete until it can be expressed and shared with other people. In that way it is a lot like love. If you are in love with someone, you have to share it or express it.

 

In Luke’s report, as the angel announces, “I bring you good tidings of great joy”—suddenly a heavenly host breaks into the scene praising God—so filled with joy, they had to share in the experience.

 

I am excited about 2017. While there are many things I want to accomplish this year, I want to live in a state of joy by sharing my joy with others and completing their joy—celebrating the good news with one another. For more on this subject, visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons.html

Lost in Translation

I recently had the privilege to lead a team of 11 people on a two week, short-term mission trip to Ghana, West Africa. A favorite part of my job is to encourage people to participate in international ministry opportunities. These opportunities are rich is so many ways. One benefit is that you can establish deep relationships with the team and the nationals—in a short amount of time. You also get to step out of your comfort zone and experience things you never would in the United States.

 

On this particular trip, we spoke at several pastor conferences and ministered at several Sunday morning worship services. We held 4 medical clinics, preached daily on the radio, and visited a school. Although our ministry varied from day to day, one thing was a constant. Each ministry opportunity demanded an interpreter. We needed translation for everything we did.

 

The Americans all spoke English. The Ghanaians where we were (on the coast) mainly spoke “Ewe” But, at a couple events we had churches that had driven from the northern part of Ghana and they spoke “Twi”. You would probably be surprised to know that the official language of Ghana is indeed English. Everyone speaks their tribal tongue and the educated Ghanaians speak English as well.

 

If you have ever used a translator, you know that you are to speak slowly and clearly—in succinct thoughts—and then wait for the interpreter to re-state the thought that you just communicated. It is difficult to do if you are a fast thinker/talker like me, or if your interpreter isn’t fluent in your language. On this trip, there were several times when an American speaker would talk, then an interpreter would translate the message into Ewe, and then a second interpreter would translate that into Twi! Many times people in the audience who knew one of the languages—would clarify or correct the interpreter as he spoke.

 

As I considered how difficult it is to communicate like this, I started thinking about e-mails, text messages, Facebook and twitter—and how social media is another layer of speech that has be intimageserpreted to get our message across. Social media has become the primary way Americans communicate, and I do not think we fully consider how much of what we say is “lost in translation” by using these mediums.

 

I came home from Ghana wanting to look people in the eye, speak my language, and communicate in a deep and personal way. I didn’t want to “talk” through social media. I wanted to talk like we used to—eyeball to eyeball. I know I will surrender back to our culture though I hope it isn’t anytime soon. And I hope you understand what I am trying to say. After all, I am communicating with you right now through a blog found on social media! For more on this subject visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/the-voice-of-victory.html

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