The Great Grab Bag


Danboard holding a Christmas gift.
The Giver gives freely!

Every year during Christmas time at the workplace, there was always a department in the hospital that sponsored a grab bag. The first time I encountered the event, in my teens, I was totally attracted to this concept of gift giving. The requirements were simple –

  • Registration
  • Shopping with a cap amount
  • Wrapping the gift
  • The event

The person who directed the affairs of the event was ALWAYS happy and full of cheer. Even on the most chaotic days at work, if you called or visited him/her regarding the event, cheer was present. The entire grab bag experience was a happy occasion from beginning to the end. Everyone who participated in the event was unified, working together as well as independently honoring their commitment to secure their gift in the grab bag. Shopping was taken seriously most of the time.

The best part about the experience to me was the gift giving being anonymous. I learned how to gauge from facial expressions who might have purchased the gift while we all opened our gifts one at a time. This was a simple task whenever someone responded negatively to a gift. Conversely, I always worked on my poker face when the gift I submitted was chosen. There was a sense of fulfillment that is indescribable as the recipient immediately “loved” the gift I chose. He/she was actually happy they received it and they were going to hold on to it and use it. It implied that I was good at gift giving at this level. The recipient was “HAPPY” with their gift. That in turn made me HAPPY.” 

What makes a grab bag “great” is that every gift contained in the container maintains a purpose to the recipient that will NEVER disappoint. Ultimately, upon receipt of the gift his/her life will will be changed for the better. King David and others, while composing the Psalms, always acknowledged the characteristic of being “BLESSED.” This Biblical principle offers readers the continuous opportunity to participate in a lifestyle that NEVER disappoints. The gifts of forgiveness of sin and eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, make “Happiness” possible from day to day. Any time you read the Psalms you participate in the Great Grab Bag as a recipient.

“The blood of Jesus will never loose its power. It reaches to the highest mountain and flows to the lowest valley. The blood, that gives you strength from day to day, will never loose its power.” (The Blood Will Never Loose Its Power, Andre Crouch, 1962) The power of the blood that keeps on cleansing children of God is the GREATNESS in the GIFT BAG of forgiveness. You don’t have to wait for an annual event to experience the happiness of all the gifts contained in Christ Jesus. They are ALWAYS available.

Here are some samples – ENJOY!

How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked,or stand in the pathway with sinners,or sit in the assembly of scoffers! Psalms 1.1         How blessed is the one whose rebellious acts are forgiven, whose sin is pardoned! How blessed is the one whose wrongdoing the LORD does not punish, in whose spirit there is no deceit. Psalm 32.1&2   How blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD and does not seek help from the proud or from liars! Psalm 40.4    How blessed are those who live in your temple and praise you continually! (Selah)  How blessed are those who find their strength in you,and long to travel the roads that lead to your temple! Psalm 84.4&5  How blessed are the people who worship you! O LORD, they experience your favor.  Psalm 89.15   (NET Bible)

 

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A Train Ride To Serenity


The New York Subway system is great. There is a fundamental element associated with traveling from downtown to uptown. When I was a child, per my cousin Gary, there were two trains that got the task done. From Penn Station you could catch the “A” train, a local route making many stops throughout the entire boro of Manhattan. Mostly everyone used this one because of its frequent regular schedule during the day. But if you knew what you were doing and your goal was to get uptown, you could travel up a steep flight of stairs, wait a while and get on the “AA” train instead. This express line offered you the freedom to arrive at your destination in a fraction of the time uninformed/impatient passengers realized on the popular local route. Today it is known as the “A Express.” On a good day you can get from 42nd street to 168st in 4 stops.

The Serenity Prayer offers us the same advantage.Serenity PrayerThis prayer is like an express train to my core. On the exterior, when I find myself honestly appealing to God‘s Sovereignty over my life as I face some sort of issue, this prayer acquaints me with the dilemma’s affect on me. It also provides me with a Divine solution – PEACE! Philippians 4: 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Each request in the Serenity Prayer is significant.

At the point when I am “boarding” this train, my spirit cries out “GOD.” Now I must tell you that I had to learn how to interpret this instinctive cry and utilize this prayer. I can vividly remember my twenties, when I was SO overwhelmed by life and too afraid to ask for help,I thought/BELIEVED I was supposed to be able to know how to handle all of the things going on around and in my life. Asking for help seemed like a weak, spineless cop out. In essence, the lies had me fooled and I was destined to experience all of the calamity and blessings that God OK’d. I am so thankful for the Old Testament because my consistent pursuit into that portion of scripture, during my twenties, gave me this level of clarity as my twenties came to a close. However, I did not realize God’s sovereignty until my 30’s.

I take my “seat” on the train as my spirit declares “Grant me the SERENITY.” In other words, my peace has been disrupted. Some person, place, thing or situation has interrupted the harmony within me that fuels my purpose. It’s obvious to me now that at this point I have conceded to myself that I am in need of help – GOD’S HELP – in order to arrive at His desired will for my life. Somehow, someway I have gone astray and I NEED to be restored.

“Accept the things that I cannot change” – Action occurs as the train speeds towards the next stop. Acceptance is in motion. What characterizes the motion experience like that of an actual subway ride is how I adapt to the bumpy segments between stops. When you ride the subway it can sometimes be a rough ride. So it is as I have to get myself to this acceptance of whatever it is that has interfered with my peace. The plea for acceptance directly calls into focus what I CANNOT change. Here is where the bumps get intense. Who cares to admit that they can’t do something when they are so engrossed in the prospects of consistently looking good on the outside. The prayer quickly challenges every aspect of my ego. Summarily, everything that goes on outside of me that affects my core – people, places, things, situations – are BEYOND my control. Acceptance gets me into an awareness that God controls every aspect of what goes on outside of me PERFECTLY (whether I want to believe it or not) and I AM NOT GOD.  The doors close and the train leaves the stop quickly speeding towards the next one.

“Courage to change the things that I can” – Finally something that I can do. The action of acceptance does not stop. In addition , I now call on God to provide what  I can physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually utilize to affect change in effort to achieve peace at all these levels – COURAGE. It enables me to honestly assess all that is going on at my core – what I am feeling, how I am thinking and most of all HOW MUCH I AM TRUSTING IN GOD VS TRUSTING IN ME OR OTHERS.  Courage is necessary in order for me to make whatever changes that are necessary within me that puts God back in His proper place -1st.

Why is this such an important life principle? All month I have delved into courage to gain a greater willingness to get all that courage affords me. I am a fearful being on so many levels. So to arrive at the place where I can honestly seek the Lord’s presence from day to day, and continue to experience the power that His presence does supply, offers me a vast supply of courage. The courage I write about is based in TRUST, HOPE AND FAITH IN THE CREATOR OF THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH, who created me. It just seems so apparent to me that one of the biggest problems we face in our core is keeping God engaged in our day to day affairs. A daily surrender to the finished work at Calvary is not an obstacle when you realize your need for a Savior.  The Apostle Paul made a simple but profound declaration in Philippians 4:13 “I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHICH STRENGTHENS ME.”

The train doors close again as it speeds towards the destination. Along the way, my countenance has changed. I am now eager as I realize I am almost there. It is amazing at how quickly I have gone from 34th – downtown feeling all out of sorts and “off” – to 168th street – uptown Harlem – on top of my game, resting in the peace of God which is far beyond what I can possibly understand. Peace is at work because I called on God, requested “serenity now”, actively engaged acceptance and willingly utilized courage. But as the doors open at my final destination I am still in need of “The wisdom to know the difference.” Having the blessing of peace continuously at work in and around me requires a continued presence of wisdom. Wisdom to assess those things that are in my control and out of my control. The wisdom to know when I need to get back on the “aa” train.

 

Full of Courage


Courage
Courage (Photo credit: Pete Reed)

In my lifetime I have been accused of being full of s_ _ t for various reasons – where I was, who I was with, what I was doing, what happened………  Sometimes I was even accused of this status even though I was as sober as a judge and telling the God‘s honest truth. It then occurred to me that this expression is a cliche’ and not necessarily a response that I needed to take to heart. It gave me the wisdom to “consider the source.” 

That consideration has prompted me to examine the statement “full of courage” today. When have you ever used this expression in describing someone? Try saying it – “You (are) full of courage!”  The tone and expression of this observation begs the question – “How is this possible?” You must admit that when you stumble upon someone that is endowed with courage it can be confrontational to you as you perhaps are entangled in a fear-driven reality. If honesty is present, and you are willing to acknowledge this person’s courage and inquire about how to attain it personally, the act of inquiry opens up your spirit to the opportunity to become “full of courage” yourself. BUT YOU MUST CONSIDER THE SOURCE!

2Corinthians 5:6 Therefore we are always full of courage, and we know that as long as we are alive here on earth we are absent from the Lord —
5:7 for we live by faith, not by sight.
5:8 Thus we are full of courage and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.(NASB)

The person is the example but the source of courage which fills the person is the BLESSED ASSURANCE OF THE HOPE OF THE GLORY OF GOD THROUGH THE POWER OF CHRIST THE RISEN SAVIOR AT WORK IN HIM/HER BY THE PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

The theme of Paul’s writing deals specifically with the spiritual reality of the GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE IN HEAVEN WITH CHRIST and the human struggles associated with living on Earth with all of its daily issues we face. This human reality is apparent to all- no matter what their socio-economic status may be. However, the spiritual component is what seperates “the men from the boys.”

Paul in this chapter defines being “full of courage” as a standard design for living as an Ambassador for Christ. It comes, not because of ANY attainment of status in the flesh (the flesh is to experience the continual “dying” process he defines in Galatians 2:20) which humans aspire towards naturally. When Christ was here on Earth performing all of the duties of His Earthly ministry, His most substantial acts were the death at Calvary, His burial and resurrection. By these acts, He secured the benefit to mankind for a “continued presence of His spirit in us” thereby relieving man of any need to please Him in the flesh.  PERSONAL COURAGE IN HUMAN ABILITIES IS FUTILE FROM THIS PERSPECTIVE. IT’S JUST NOT ENOUGH!

A thorough persuasion of the “fear of the Lord” is at work in this instance. This reverence is the bedrock of our “walk by faith, not by sight.” It yields the assurance of the appointed time which God ordained before the foundations of the world whereby we must all appear before the “Judgement seat of Christ.” Notice that there is no hesitation for this great appearing. It is a bold statement that infers a “Blessed Assurance” that “Jesus Paid It ALL” at Calvary. Therefore, all of the blessings associated with His “Finished” work at Calvary cultivates a fullness of courage deep within our spirits that garners a great expectation for our Eternal Life over any human expectation for our Earthly life. And so, we are FREE then to experience ALL of the FULLNESS OF OUR EARTHLY LIFE through the “good works that God foreordained that we should walk in them” during our lifetime while we “look forward to that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” eternally.

Stop trying to fix yourself with human effort and let God create your NEWNESS through His spirit at work in you today.

The fact remains WHETHER YOU BELIEVE IN CHRIST AS YOUR PERSONAL SAVIOR OR NOT you will STAND before HIM in eternity. You can stand before Him at the Great White Throne IN FEAR OF THE ETERNAL OUTCOME or you can BOLDLY STAND before Him at The Judgement Seat of Christ FULL OF COURAGE! This earthly life you are blessed with is afforded to you as an opportunity to GET IN WHERE YOU FIT IN.

Jesus Christ is the Way!

A Presence of COURAGE


Courage
Courage (Photo credit: drp)

In my teen years we used to sing a song in the choir – “I’m determined to walk with Jesus-yes I am.” Through hard trials, tribulations, persecutions, I am Determined… I’m Determined to walk with Jesus, yes I am.”  It had an infectious bass line that pounced down deep in the souls of all who heard it with a reverberating, spiritual anchor. A simple yet powerful display of the presence of COURAGE.

This type of determination I speak of must have it’s origins securely connected to a firm foundation. I have found it to be a compelling gift to be able to assess when it is present and when it is not. I know that there are many times when my faith in Christ and the finished work at Calvary gives me courage to stand in the midst of hardships. I have just too many examples to refuse this reality. But, I must admit there are times when my human side shows up. Then, and only then, is my determination to walk with Jesus hindered.

I am glad that we have Joshua 1 to remind us all of what the presence of COURAGE in us looks like. In the first 9 verses God repeatedly offers Joshua this vital instruction – “Be strong and of a good COURAGE” 2 times and  “Be thou strong and very COURAGEOUS”. Then towards the end of the chapter he again states “Be strong and of a good COURAGE.”  By the 10th chapter God once again felt the need to ONCE AGAIN REPEAT “Be strong and of a good COURAGE.”

Thank God for repetition! He is so gracious. How many times has he repeated something in your life? Are you listening? I know this Divine teaching principle has always been at work in my life. For so long I was too caught up in my human affairs to even pay attention to the  subtle messages God was teaching me through repetition. It took God’s consistent faithfulness in and over my life to get me to yield to his Word. But in the text, Joshua was a quick learner. He was listening to God’s Word so intently that by verse 18 it appears that the message was thoroughly received – “BE STRONG AND OF A GOOD COURAGE JOSHUA!”

“Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might,” Ephesians 6:10 comes to mind as we define what strength was required. Joshua was going to encounter many adversaries – some of which were superior to his military preparedness. Joshua had to rely on the Strength of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to overpower the might of the earthly armies along the way. If he were naive enough to disregard God’s instruction – “BE STRONG AND OF A GOOD COURAGE JOSHUA” – he would not have realized the success that God was calling him and the children of Israel to. It stands to reason hear how difficult it must have been for Joshua to disregard ALL human efforts to succeed and rely TOTALLY on the STRENGTH AND POWER of God’s Word EXCLUSIVELY. Imagine how Joshua had to encounter the men under his command who would see the mission from the prospective of human eyesight and how he had to CONSTANTLY remind them of the importance of FAITH IN GOD’S WORD! It seems to me that the more opposition he faced, the more inclined Joshua was to exercise DETERMINATION to do it God’s way and thereby continue to bask in the presence of COURAGE.

We often times get sidetracked from the presence of COURAGE because we put so many unsubstantiated demands on ourselves on how a DETERMINED response should look like. “I should have said this” “I could have done it this way” “Why can’t I be like ……..” “If only I had ……. faith”  “God I want to be like……” Clearly the demands we place on ourselves to be what or who we are not capable of being – AT THE TIME – are designs of bondage that keep us from being the person we are at that moment and relying on God’s Word exclusively.  Joshua never seemed to experience a dilemma getting ready for God to demonstrate His power. He merely was who He was called to be – the son of Nun and Moses’ right hand trained to one day lead – who was given Divine and SPECIFIC instructions on how to succeed moving forward. He did not have to encounter all of the self help gurus, the constant barrage’ of success stories that dictate how human success works and constant reminders of how success is SUPPOSED to look. NO! He was under the tutelage of Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Shammah and Jehovah Tsori just to drop some names 🙂

What a travesty it would have been if Joshua was so egotistical to respond to God by saying, “OK God, I hear you. I will get the ranks ready and we are going to make you proud of us. I am going to do my best. You will not be ashamed of me God, I won’t let you down. I got it God. We will be strong in our might and skill sets, our military growth and our courage to win will not go unrealized.” This is why God makes a SPECIFIC attempt to repeat the message “BE STRONG AND OF A GOOD COURAGE, JOSHUA.”

Guess what, God is doing the same repetition today. Are you so busy telling God how you are going to get the job done that you are not basking in the the reality of His Sovereignty? – “IT’S ALREADY DONE!” A presence of COURAGE is so peaceful. You can be assured that God will do EXACTLY what He is going to do and no one or nothing can prevent His will from prevailing. The more Joshua practiced this “single-mindedness” the more he realized victory and success. It worked then and it is STILL working today.

THANK YOU LORD FOR THE PRESENCE OF COURAGE.

When God Stops Talking: The Dark Night of the Soul March 17, 2012


Does it ever fe…

by jonbalun

Image

Does it ever feel like God has stopped talking to you? How do you react to that? Do you panic? Do you pray louder? Are you tempted to quit believing altogether? This time of silence is very common, but rarely talked about. Some refer to it as a “wilderness experience.” Others call it the winter season of life. The best descriptive term I have heard is “The Dark Night of the Soul.” It can last days, months, or even years. It is often misdiagnosed as depression, but it goes much deeper because it doesn’t just affect your mind or your emotions; it affects your soul. Here are some of the symptoms:

1. What used to work doesn’t work anymore

When I was a young Christian, I felt God’s presence all the time. If at any time I didn’t feel His presence when I thought I should, I would just pray harder or read my favorite passage of Scripture or listen to Christian music or anything else that gave me goose bumps and helped me feel God again.

One day I realized that I had not felt God’s presence in quite a while. I tried all of the remedies that used to work, but I felt nothing. During this time, God taught me that I can’t press a button and find God; that would make ME God.

2. Basic disciplines like prayer, reading the Bible, and going to church actually make you feel worse

I have heard people complain that they “can’t hear God” or “it feels like God is far away.” Often well-meaning people advise them to pray more or read the Psalms or go to a soup kitchen. Though this is generally good advice, during the Dark Night these things might actually make you feel worse. That doesn’t mean you should stop praying; it just means that it has become an act of faith just to pray because it no longer energizes you and you don’t feel like God is listening. God is letting you mature by holding back that conditioned response that used to motivate you to do spiritual things.

Think about it. As a child, you had to be bribed to eat your vegetables. As an adult, hopefully you learned to eat broccoli even if it looks and tastes like tiny trees. Or maybe as a child you would only drink your medicine if it tasted like bubblegum. As an adult, you take your medicine even if it tastes like, well, medicine. You do these things because they are good for you – even if it might even hurt a little. It is the same thing for your spiritual health. There comes a point in time when you don’t like doing spiritual exercises, but know you need to in order to become stronger.

3. One or more “Christians” have told you that you have lost your faith

“I haven’t seen you at church in a while. Did you backslide?” “God never stops talking; you just stopped listening.” “Turn that frown upside down. Today is the day the Lord has made!” Christians can say the stupidest things or the right things at the wrong moments. If it bothers you at all that God might have stopped talking to you, then that proves you care. You’re still saved, but you’re going through something that some Christians can’t relate to. Don’t worry about it. Sooner or later, they’ll go through something similar.

4. You have begun questioning everything you believe in – even the basics like “Does God exist?” “Are all my sins forgiven?” “Does God really have a plan for me or has He forgotten about me?”

Though many experience it in different ways, the Dark Night of the Soul is nothing new. Peter wrote about it to the persecuted church in 1 Peter. While many were wondering whether they should give up and abandon their faith, Peter said it was actually through their faith that God’s power was shielding them. (1:5) To drop their shield of faith would not only lead to their destruction here and now, but they would also be giving up their inheritance (heaven). He encouraged them not to give up “the living hope” that they had from Jesus’ resurrection – not a wishful hope like “I hope it doesn’t rain today” but a living hope that since God already raised Jesus from the dead, we can be sure that He will raise us from the dead to be with Him forever in heaven. Peter then explains,

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Notice three things about this passage.

  1. There are “many different trials” that we might go through, but God is the judge and He is controlling the trial.
  2. Though it might feel like an eternity, the trials will only be “for a little while.” Take courage, it is darkest before the dawn.
  3. If you endure the trial, you can be sure that your faith is genuine. The trial isn’t for God – He already knows if you genuinely believe in Him or not. The trial is for you so that you can grow to a more mature faith that is not based only on what you can see or how you feel at the moment.

If you are going through the Dark Night, know that you are not going through it alone. God walks with you and only lets your hand go so your faith can grow as He leads you through the stormy valley silently. Though you cannot touch Him or hear Him to know for sure that He is there, know that He is by your side protecting you the whole time while your faith is proven genuine and grows like it only could during such an experience. Remember Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23:4)

You would think only so much can go wrong
Calamity only strikes once
And you assume this one has suffered her share
Life will be kinder from here
Oh, but sometimes the sun stays hidden for years
Sometimes the sky rains night after night
When will it clear?

But our Hope endures the worst of conditions
It’s more than our optimism
Let the earth quake
Our Hope is unchanged

How do we comprehend peace within pain?
Or joy at a good man’s wake?
Walk a mile with the woman whose body is racked
With illness, oh how can she laugh?
Oh, ’cause sometimes the sun stays hidden for years
Sometimes the sky rains night after night
When will it clear?

But our Hope endures the worst of conditions
It’s more than our optimism
Let the earth quake
Our Hope is unchanged

Emmanuel, God is with us
El Shaddai, all sufficient
We never walk alone
And this is our hope

(“Our Hope Endures” performed by Natalie Grant)

The Good Comes Through AS U COME THROUGH


“Cast your care on Jesus today,Leave your worry and fear;

Burdens are lifted @ Calvary. Jesus is very near.

Troubled soul, the Saviour can see,Ev’ry heartache and tear;

Burdens are lifted @ Calvary. Jesus is very near.”

Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Calvary, Calvary,
Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Jesus is very near.

I Peter 5:6-11(NASB)

 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,

 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion,seeking someone to devour.

But resist him, firm in your faith knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect,

confirm, strengthen and establish you.

 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Every hardship that you encounter is evidence of God’s mighty hand at work on your life. Trials are God’s designs on your life to shape you, mold you, designate you as a child of God fit for the presence of His Spirit at work in you so that you can arrive at the good works that God has prepared in advance for you with His power and might.  When you realize that path, all of the hardships – losses, fears, insecurities, spiritual battles, trauma, infirmities, rejections, uncertainties……… – were necessary to get you to realize that He deserves ALL the praise, glory and honor for all of the “good” that He allows. And you are responsible for an awareness of His goodness because that’s how you can experience joy and thanksgiving during hardship.

The potter picks up a piece of clay and prepares it for molding. There is a distinct plan in mind from the time he chooses the clay type and all the way through the various steps to prepare the clay to become a beautiful, distinct, desirable piece of pottery that someone will NEED to possess. I will never forget being on vacation in the Bahamas years ago. There was a large display of pottery in the marketplace and there was a lady making a fuss over the “distinction” of a particular vase. It was large in stature and totally unattractive to my eye. However, this woman was enamored by it’s appeal so much so that she let everyone around her know – she found this piece. She was loud, energetic and loaded with joy. She had to have a specific need for it that she was unable to fulfill before her discovery that day.Her joy infected that market. That’s what God’s designs on us are for.

He knows his people and He knows the plan. His mighty hand is CONSTANTLY at work on His creation. So burdens are the training ground for our faith muscles. When I was in my teens and 20’s I was in marvelous physical shape. My training ground for building and maintaining my physique was the gym, the track and the courts.

English: CHARLESTON, S.C. (Jan. 28, 2011) Sail...
The harder you work out the better the results.

I loved to lift weights to keep my natural definition toned and shaped. I ran 2-3 miles a day 5 days a week at my peek so as to keep my legs and my core lean. I would play racquetball and tennis to engage in competitive athletics. That shaped my body, mind and spirit.

Then it happened. I learned over time that my body, that used to respond to exercise and sport so well, was not able to keep up with my spirit for working out because of a defective spine. 2 decades later I am not able to exercise my body at all like I used to. Yet my faith is lifting weights I never, ever thought I would need to try. All of the burdens -heartache, pain, misery, ego-bursting, loss, disappointments, guilt, regrets, failures, etc. – were teaching me how to use my faith muscles. The process of conditioning began when I became willing to trust the “finished work at Calvary” as a sufficient source of God’s power in my life. The cross serves us so much goodness that we just take for granted. Trials give us a more defined aptitude for all of the work Christ “finished.” James put it best when he wrote in 1:2-3

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,

 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

Get happy when you come across a trial that God designed for you just like I used to get happy when I was leaving the ins/outs of my daily life and escaping to the gym,track or court. When I engaged those activities everything else was on hold until I was done. So it is with the Cross. You can let everything go when you take all of your anxieties, fears, temptations, and life issues to Calvary and “Leave Them There.” Don’t get caught up in a pity party along the way. You have plenty of examples in this world to know that you are not the only one who has to endure hardship. Instead, get to the place in you where you realize that you have the best remedy for hardships – Christ. All the good comes through- AS YOU COME THROUGH -the suffering, the trial, the hardship because burdens are lifted at Calvary.

Loss IS Gain


Satellite View of Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29
Satellite View of Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29 (Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video)

Revised on 10/31/2012

I watch my television shows and there are constant advertisements to make you want to shop for something – clothes, shoes, jewelry, toys, electronics and even food.  It’s everywhere.  This time of year has become so severely commercialized that we as a nation have lost touch with its current financial structure.  Devastation presides throughout the Eastern seaboard. Citizens are hungry, cold, destitute and overwhelmed with loss. The nation is in unprecedented debt, homelessness and poverty are at record highs, unemployment is ravaging the homes of Americans who are splitting up for various reasons – drugs/violence/pursuit of individual career opportunities/crime/suicide –  and it goes on and on. Yet, Madison Avenue is doing a great work at pushing product. People are shopping in droves.

Not all people.  There are many people that are not able to even begin to understand how they are going to make it through the day. Whether their dilemma is of a socioeconomic origin or not, what is a fact in this great nation is this: people are loosing everyday during this holiday season.  How do you appeal to them during this huge commercial event that is sweeping our nation?  Do you just ignore the fact that they exist? Do you count your blessings, focus on your “haves” and forget about the “have nots”?  Or, do you do anything and everything that you can to make a difference within the lives of this large sect of Americans.  I pray that you are in agreement with the latter.
Isa 66:1  Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? 
Isa 66:2  For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. 
Psalms 24:1 The LORD owns the earth and all it contains,
the world and all who live in it.
The essence of reality in these scriptures is that EVERYTHING you can put your hands on or get your hands on is HIS. Working a good job, managing a thriving business or incurring a comfortable lifestyle is possible because of Him.  Too many people get that twisted.
 Humans put stock in the idea that you have gains because of who you are. You’ve been deceived. You are who you are ONLY BECAUSE OF THE GRACE OF GOD.  What makes you any different than the man that is confined to a wheelchair/the woman that is addicted to drugs and living on the streets/the child who is homeless, hungry and alone?  GOD’S GRACE. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from the Father above.”(James 1.17)

If you want to experience maximum gains that are ETERNAL it begins with a decision.

Mar 8:34  Following Jesus  
Then Jesus called the crowd, along with his disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
Mar 8:35  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it.
Mar 8:36  For what benefit is it for a person to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his life?
Mar 8:37  What can a person give in exchange for his life?
Mar 8:38  For if anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” 
Conquerors make a difference in the lives’ of others any way that they can.  Loss is gain.