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Monday, January 31, 2011

The Wise In Heart...

"The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction" (Proverbs 16:21).

James really nails this Old Testament proverb in the New Testament with the truth to be slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to become angry. This proverb says that those who have true intelligence are subtle; they are discerning.

"Discernment" is a great spiritual word that means to separate, to determine. In other words, and in this context, it means that the wise are subtle and lump everything together, not jumping to conclusions. BUT, allowing our words to be full of grace and pleasurable sweetness. THIS will promote and increase instruction. We're much more persuasive when our words aren't forceful.

I have learned, and am still very much learning this truth in the different roles of my life, and by great trial and error. When I served in the US Army, it didn't matter how instruction was given, just that it had to be obeyed. But, with that, came great, underlying bitterness, resentment, and a lack of respect.

It's true for most people, we are much better leaders and motivators when we take the time to listen without interrupting and without jumping to conclusions. We lead the best when we choose to build up rather than destroy.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Today @ CrossWay Part 3

Here's the last part!



Today @ CrossWay Part 2

Here's part 2 - They had technical difficulties this morning.

Today @ CrossWay Part 1

Part one of todays message!

The Soothing Tongue...

"The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit" (Proverbs 15:4).

Let me just begin by saying that if sarcasm was a spiritual gift, then I have been blessed with a great anointing!! Unfortunately, you won't find that one listed anywhere in the scriptures. My mouth is one of those things where my greatest strength can also be my greatest weakness. I'm pretty convinced that I'm not the only one that applies to.

Most people don't truly grasp the responsibility we have to each other with the words we choose to speak. Words have power - power to heal and power to destroy. Our words and our tones actually serve as a window into our hearts. When we speak words of refreshing, words aimed at lovingly restoring and encouraging, then we are in a sense being used as God intended in His perfect plan - the Tree of Life.

Solomon also uses the word "perverse," which means to distort, one given to much arguing or refuting, that this, in fact, is not done out of love, but results in crushing and destroying. It gives the picture of knocking the breath out of someone.

I want my words to bring life and healing. Even when I need to bring correction to someone, I can do so in a way that leads to restoration. I don't want to be a spirit-crusher. I want my words to reflect the words of Jesus, which were always spoken to give life.

Let God use your mouth has an opportunity to speak LIFE into someone today. You don't have to patronize, but allow the love and the grace of God to season every word that is purposed out of your heart and through your mouth. Sometimes we have to take an extra breath, but it's worth it in the end.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

But mere talk...

"All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty" (Proverbs 14:23).

Have you ever noticed that it's much easier to "commit" to something than it is to actually follow through with that commitment. So many times, I have said, "I'm going to start running...tomorrow." "I'm going to start eating right...on Monday." "I'm going to finish that project...later." And, of course you know, all of those things are still unchecked on the "I need to do, but probably never will" list.

"Hard work" is much easier to speak of than it is to follow through on. Even the word "hard work" implies the word "pangs." There is pain involved, whether physical, mental, emotional, or otherwise. But eve then the pain of birth pangs, though uncomfortable, are necessary, as it declares that "something INCREDIBLE is on the way!"

It is often said that "talk is cheap." The book of James tells us that "faith without action is dead." But, God will honor us when we persevere to accomplish what we've spoken. Let your word mean something. If you say you'll do something, follow through with it. If you can't, let that be a lesson for how quickly you speak without thinking it through. But understand this, whatever you commit to is going to take work. But when you put in all you have, God will match in a way greater than you've ever imagined. Don't just talk about it - live it out, and allow God to show you how HE can work amazing things in and through your life!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Where There Is Strife...

"Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice" (Proverbs 13:10).

Have you ever found that you are right, even though you may be the only one that knows it? So, in order to be right, you have taken an oath to stand up for what is right no matter the costs! After all, it is your duty! Don't worry, you're not the only one that's ever fallen for that one!

Contention and strife have become so synonymous in many relationships and conversations. Everyone not only wants to be right, but to prove the other person wrong. THIS is pride. Argument for self-gain is pride. Having to be right is pride. Making sure that the other person knows that your right is pride. But, humility, without which there is no real wisdom, leads one to seek counsel and take advice, giving up the "right" to know it all.

We must come to the place where we confess with conviction that we don't know it all. Here are strengths that we have and wisdom that we've gained in the Lord through seasons He's brought us through. But, we still need to surround ourselves with others who've also gained wisdom, knowledge, and insights. It's OK for us NOT to know, if we will be open to listen, even to ideas that we might initially think otherwise.

Are you experiencing strife in a relationship...at work, home, church, with someone? If so, take a moment today and ask God to search you, and to allow you to check your heart. Has pride begun again to try to make a presence in your heart? Let the wisdom of God shine a light that dispels the darkness of that pride. Purpose to glorify God in every relationship, every conversation...even the ones where there is disagreement.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Diligent Hands Will Rule...

"He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment... Diligent hands will rule, bu laziness ends in slave labor" (Proverbs 12:11, 24).

One of the greatest lies ever preached is that there is somehow some formula you can live out that shields you from all trial, all sickness, all sorrow, and you will have abundant physical health, wealth, and whatever else you can name and claim. The even more sad part is that many people believed it, and many people became greatly disillusioned when that formula simply didn't measure up to reality.

However, God has purposed blessing for our lives. But, if we don't prepare ourselves for it, we will never see it come to pass. One who works hard toward the goal God has called will be blessed, satisfied and filled with more than enough - because their eyes are fixed on that God-ordained goal. They are determined and diligent, not chasing the fantasies that lead to emptiness. They don't settle for laziness; they refuse to sit and do nothing when God has called them to a work that requires action.

I want to be blessed! I know that's going to take God, but He also requires me to do my part. I have to make the daily choice to not chase aimless distractions, but to use my time wisely, to press on with determination and with diligence, because that is what honors God.

How are your hands? Are they diligent? Do you keep going even when you mind ready to give up? Don't get discouraged when the dream seems to be bigger than reality, or when the disappointments seem bigger than the dream. Do you part and you can trust that God will do His. When I was young, I remember hearing in church one Sunday morning that I am natural and God is supernatural. When I do what I'm to do in the natural, God will add in His "super." So go ahead. Do what you know you need to do in the natural, and then step back and allow God to add in his SUPER!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Integrity of the Upright

"The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity" (Proverbs 11:3).

You don't have to look to far to see a great attack on the concept of integrity. Look at Hollywood, Washington, and sometimes right in the mirror, and you might find someone who believes that integrity is relative.

Integrity is not relative, but it is RELEVANT! It is still valid and vital. It's an innocence, a purity that declares, "I will not be moved by personal gain at all costs!" Integrity is rooted in humility. It's a driving force - it "guides them" (transports, takes them there). Integrity is black and white - there is no gray. That leads to "duplicity" - perverseness and distortion. Truth has been greatly distorted, but it has never ceased being TRUTH. It takes someone with integrity to recognize that and to live that out.

I have struggled, as I'm sure we all have at one time or another, in the past or even the present, of figuring out a way to justify want we want to say or do. Sometimes we call it "white lies" or "technical truths." That is "duplicity" - saying just enough to justify our own wants and desires. Only by being a God-honoring person of integrity will you ever find true success - and your integrity will take you there. It will lead you - transport you to where God has destined you to be.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When Words Are Many...

"When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise" (Proverbs 10:19).

It doesn't take someone too long to know that I like to talk. And I like to talk a lot. I'm a very vivid thinker, have longtime been a daydreamer, so I usually think I have something to say! But, something that I continue to learn, is that it's a lot easier to talk than it is to listen. Most heated discussions don't involve true communication. Usually, it's just one person waiting for the the other to take a breath so that they can jump in and a make a point.

Have you ever noticed that we can get so easily offended, become defensive, and have an "answer" for just about anything and everything? When we're quicker to speak than we are to listen, sin, rebellion, is not lacking. But, the one who refuses to step foot on that slippery slope is truly wise (successful and prosperous).

What we really need to learn, and God allows plenty of opportunities for this each day, is when NOT to speak, to learn that we don't have to have the last word, that we don't have to mount up a verbal defense every time we get our feelings hurt or someone actually disagrees with us. We must learn and practice allowing God to deal with the other person...instead of becoming the other person that just won't stop.

If we really want to learn the "secrets" of great wisdom (prosperity/success), then we must start by learning and applying the life-changing principles of how to invest our mouths. Whether we realize it or not, our mouths are a reflector of the wisdom we live by. Allow God to show you, today, where your words have conflicted with your desire for His wisdom, and begin again to ask for His wisdom, and to live that wisdom out in every aspect of your life.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Let All Who Are Simple...

"Let all who are simple come to my house!" (Proverbs 9:4).

When I was younger, and I'll just leave it at that, I used to love to try and get a "free deal." You know, the ads on the internet or the TV or the radio that said, "Call now and receive this absolutely FREE." Well, I would, and realize a month or so later, as I balanced my bank statements, that there was fine print that I never read that showed that there really was nothing free at all!!

This is part of what that word "simple" means. Wisdom has called out clearly to the simple - to the ones who can be foolish, silly, or lack judgment, but also those who are more easily deceived, or easily persuaded; seducible. James also said that if anyone lack wisdom that he should ask. The invitation is both loud and clear. HE has what WE need.

Wisdom is something that we all need! Over the past few months, the Holy Spirit has really brought me to a higher level of awareness in my life for more self-control in every aspect of my life. For me, some key areas have been food and time management. I find that the temptation to indulge often gets stronger and stronger. But, I am calling back to the invitation to wisdom and saying, "Yes, I accept! I need you!" It can be so easy to be persuaded and then justify that decision. But, the wisdom of God allows me to see the truth and consequences of every choice that I take.

So, today...why not just stop and take a moment and ask God for wisdom, not to be easily seduced by a lie that would lead you to or back to places that keep you from God's best for you life. Call on Him and His wisdom. It will lead you right!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Profiles In Desperation: The Sorrow

Sermon audio from this morning, 1/23/11.

Profiles in Desperation: The Sorrow







...Receive Favor from the Lord

"Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord" (Proverbs 8:34-35).

Growing up, I was often taught and reminded of the difference between hearing and listening. Quite frankly, the two always seemed the same to me. I was looking at the person that was talking and I was hearing the words that came out of their mouths. Of course, it was very much like the old Charlie Brown cartoons whenever an adult was talking (whaww whaww whaww whaww...). Thus, I never really benefited from the counsel, advice, or instruction that was being offered.

This proverb is more than just hearing with our ears the auditory sounds of another, but listening (with intention, attentive). Also, with the expectation of obedience, and then wathcing daily (ready to protect and guard all that wisdom has to offer). THIS is worth finding! And when we find it, we will find favor. One of the meanings of that word is "enough." When we find wisdom, we will find that it is enough...more than adequate. With wisdom, we find life. That word for "life" brings with it the idea of "fresh." When we allow the wisdom of God to guide us, our lives are refreshed.

For me, I don't just wan't to "hear" what God has to say. I want to already purpose in my heart, that whatever He has to say IS wisdom, and I am sitting on the edge of my seat ready to accept it, activate it, and apply it in my life. His wisdom IS life. But, we have to seek Him and surrender our own "wisdom." Be encouraged today to surrender before the Lord and say, "God, I need YOUR wisdom in my life, especially concerning "these areas." Ask, accept, activate, apply...and you WILL find favor!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Keep My Words...

"My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you" (Proverbs 7:1).

"In one ear and out the other" is a saying that I had heard much when growing up...and mostly for good reason. It's a saying that holds much truth when it comes to hearing and receiving wise counsel. Solomon writes here for his son to keep, meaning to guard or protect, the words he speaks. These aren't just any words, but words that have been purposed for the well-being of his son.

And, the son is to "store them up" - to maintain, to add to, to keep protected in a secret and safe place, to preserve them. He should be able to recall and benefit from any one of them at any given time. So it is true with the Living Word of God.

Taking time to really spend time in the Bible, the Word of God, is something that I find great strength, encouragement, and challenge in. What it says is life to you...if you'll just receive it, meditate on it, and apply it. It will transform you, correct you, and direct you. We must protect this Word, guard it and hide it in our hearts, recalling all of the many morsels of truth at a moment's notice. The more you know the Word, the more equipped you are and will be in attaining all that God that has for you.

Friday, January 21, 2011

When Will You Get Up...?

"How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?" (Proverbs 6:9).

One of my favorite things to do after coming home from a long and fulfilling day at the office, after hugging my four favorite people in the world, is to sit down on my awesome yard sale recliner, and RELAX!!! Sometimes I like to sit and read a book, my Bible, or catch up on some of the news of the day.

Rest is important, but when rest is used as an excuse for laziness, it becomes highly destructive. "When will you get up" shines the light on a phrase that means to arise, to accomplish. We are called to rest, but laziness keeps us away from our responsibility to accomplish all God has for us. Laziness keeps God from accomplishing what HE desires in us.

We can't just "wish" things into existence. Yes, we are to depend upong the Lord, but we also have to be willing to do our part in accomplishing what needs to be done. Great directions are a result of great decisions - based on great dependency in the Lord.

Recently, while in Quba, God really woke me up to some truths that I've always believed, but was to "lazy" to put into practice. See, I had put on a few extra pounds here and there over the past few years, and have always said that I need to eat better, exercise more, etc... But, there was always "tomorrow." Always a reason, or rather, and excuse, as to why not. I needed to rest. I was tired. I...well, I'm sure any of us can fill in the blanks. There is a time to rest, but there is a time to get up and get done what needs to get done. What are you putting off? It's time to wake up, get up, and put up. The time is now.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In Full View...

"For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and He examines all your paths" (Proverbs 5:21).

Can you keep a secret? I'm sure you can. We all can. Before you start to argue with me, let me qualify that statement. Secrets are something we keep all the time...at least about ourselves, our struggles, our pains, thoughts, dreams, desires, and sometimes our motives.

"Secrecy" is a word that has deceptively fooled so many people since the "beginning of time." Nothing is truly secret. Our ways (course of life, mode of action, our conversations, our directions) are right there in front of the eyes of God. Right there in full view! He weighs them in the balance of HIS understanding.

How vital it is for us, that we purpose every step of our lives on this journey God has called us to. We can't slip into cruise control.. He's examining and weighing and considering the course that we're on. When we begin to rely on "cruise control," it's so easy to become comfortable, content, and complacent - three C's that begin to spell disaster.

Thankfully, He's there to help us, to lead us, and to pick us back up. But, we must purpose every step to follow Him - not just rely on our own understanding. I definitely haven't found that to be very reliable. O HOW I NEED HIM EVERY HOUR!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Look Straight Ahead...

"Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you" (Proverbs 4:25).

One of the main rules in competitive running, or racing of any kind, is that you don't focus on who is behind you, but on what is in front of you. Concentrating on behind only slows you down and increases the risk of "crash & burn."

One reason it's so hard for many to achieve what they've set out to achieve is that they don't look straight ahead at their goal. Or, perhaps they're not sure what there goal is, thus just traveling aimlessly, hoping to get somewhere, and hoping that somewhere is some place good! But, you'll never hit that target straight ahead if you're focused on your surroundings or on your past. You must be intently focused and purposed on the goal ahead.

This is where I, and I'm sure many, can easily struggle. We begin by seeing the big picture, but then allow ourselves to get distracted by "other" things. I'm sure you can fill in the blank for you own "other." We start things and don't follow through with them. We must be intently (focused) looking ahead, not being distracted by all the things going on. We can be, and should be aware of what's going on around us, without them becoming our immediate focus.

You can't be focused your past, whether it's mistakes, successes, or the like, but focused straight ahead to what God has called you to!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Let Love & Faithfulness...

"Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God" (Proverbs 3:3-4).

Getting started on something is sometimes hard enough! But, once you get started on the right path, it's extremely important to fulfill and follow through! It's one thing to start well, and another thing completely to finish well. I, for one, am learning to do better in this area myself! Even keeping up with this blog is a small example of this very big truth. Just "getting started" isn't enough.

This verse refers primarily to the relationship between the created and the Creator. When we continue in our love and faithfulness towards God and others, then we will find favor with God and others. It can't be just a "one time thing." It must be continued - no matter the cost.

It's so important to start well, but if we want to finish well, then we must continue well. This applies in every aspect of our lives. Spending time with the Lord - don't just start well, follow through with it. Continue well! Time management? Same thing - don't just start well, follow through, do what you need to do. Make it a purposed priority. My favorite: office organization! Same principle. JUST DO IT -and KEEP doing it. Start well, continue well, finish well. Because, all of these things reflects on my faithfulness and love to the Lord. Let it NEVER leave you!

Monday, January 17, 2011

THEN You Will Understand...

"...then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God" (Proverbs 2:5).

There are some great things about God that are unconditional. For instance, His love is unconditional. There's nothing you can do to make Him love you any more...or any less. He IS love. And He loves you! However, it's easy to become misguided and think that God is TOTALLY unconditional, and that couldn't be further from the Truth. The Bible is full of promises that are very much conditional.

THIS is a conditional promise: "IF...THEN." IF I search for wisdom and understanding as it is the most valuable treasure. IF I bow my heart to understanding. IF I cry out and seek out in worship and prayer, and IF I strive against the fleshly, sinful nature. THEN I will have a holy intelligence and understanding, able to stand in the presence of God with a Holy Fear.

This is not a fear that I tremble in because I think He's going to throw down one of the "proverbial" lightening bolts the moment I think a bad thought. It's the idea of realizing how GREAT He is and all that He is capable of, and standing in His presence with fear and trembling, realizing that I am SO unworthy, yet invited and loved in His presence. With that kind of understanding, how could I respond in any other way than to WANT to please Him, to know Him, to spend time with Him?

THIS is what I am desperate for in my own life. When I am in the presence of God, I feel broken, humble, dependent, and open to really hearing from the Lord as I search hard and bow my heart to understanding. This is so much more than a "church" thing. It's a "Jesus, I need you every second of every day, because I can't do this without You" thing!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Profiles In Desperation: The Struggle


Just in case you missed this morning, at CrossWay Church or wherever you call home, OR you just want to be encouraged again, here is the message that God put on my heart for this morning. I pray that you are encouraged, challenged, and desperate! Just as have been am now, and continue to be!

Let the Wise Listen...

"Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance" (Proverbs 1:5).

Have you ever met someone that came across as though they've "arrived?" Or, that they knew "everything" there was to know? Of course you have. We hall have. Perhaps we've even been that person...at least a time or two. One should never assume that they've learned all there is to know. Many have become satisfied, content, and even complacent in their relationship with God. They've stopped going further. They've "heard" it all before. There's nothing new for them to learn. What a dangerous place to be.

Though I'm not that old, there are a lot of things that I have learned in my life. Some by choice, other's by circumstance. Either way, I haven't learned it all. I don't want to stop growing in any area of my life. There's so much that I don't know and that I want to know. I need to continue to spend time with mentors and people who know more than I do, keep reading and learning. If want to be wise, I must continue learning at the feet of Jesus.

Don't get satisfied or become content in your relationship with Jesus. Hunger for more and get more. Learn more. Listen more. Allow God to stretch you and grow you. Be wise!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

UPDATE: STILL ON!!

Thanks to some INCREDIBLE VOLUNTEERS, CrossWay Church is ready to go for our final service to close out our week of Prayer & Fasting. The drive is black and clean! If you would like to be a part of this FABULOUS team, assisting others to be able to come to church, please let someone at the church office know. (724) 898-4600 or email at info@crosswaychurch.org.

Hope to see you tonigh!

We're ON!

Tonight's Sacred Assembly, closing out our week of Prayer & Fasting is ON! The lot is being plowed and the hill is being cleaned and salted. If you can get here, we'll be ready for you! If you do not feel safe leaving home, please stay home. But for those who WILL venture out, please do so with caution and don't miss this last night! How awesome it has been this week!!! Many have been greatly blessed. How great is our God!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

And It Begins With Snow!

Today it's snowing, but that doesn't change a thing! God is still God, the driveway to the church is plowed, and we are beginning our week of prayer and fasting!

I am always excited about times of prayer and fasting. This is something I try to incorporate in my private life, but I so enjoy it when we corporately come together, encouraging one another, uniting together to seek the face of God! So powerful.

I once had a friend challenge me on the whole idea of fasting. He questioned whether or not I thought that I could twist the hand of God to do something I wanted Him to just by fasting. I responded to him that I don't have that kind of power. I can't twist God's arm to do anything. Fasting isn't for what can be done in God, but what God can do in me.

Fasting breaks me down. My wife sometimes jokes, at least I hope it's a joke, that I'm much nicer when I'm fasting! I'm more broken, more open, and definitely more hungry...not just for food, but to receive something REAL from God.

I encourage you today, especially if you are joining us this week, to set something aside. It may be food, a type of food, a meal, or something altogether different. The point is not the WHAT, but the WHY and the WHO we are depending on during. I am believing God to do way more than I could ever think or imagine possible...IN ME!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Unconcerned

For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth (Psalm 71:5).

There are so many things in our lives that cause us not to trust. For me, I always had a hard time trusting people's intentions. I had lived through years of broken promises, and words that conflicted with actions. It was hard to trust people. When it's hard to trust people, we find it also hard to trust God. This leads us to a place of great anxiety, stress, and feeling overwhelmed about so much.

This Psalm, believed to be written by David in his latter years is one that really hits the nail on the head. He says that God has been his trust from his youth. The word trust is more than just to say you "believe." It's a word that means to be "unconcerned." Also, to "be propped up against something stable."

We have a pool at our home. My youngest son Nathan is Mr. Fearless. He LOVES getting in the pool. He can't swim as he's not quite 3. But he loves to jump in the water into my arms and then laughs and splashes until his skin begins to wrinkle like raisins! How is this possible? He is in the middle of water that could easily overwhelm him and take him under, yet he enjoys himself. Why? Because he is UNCONCERNED. He is in his daddy's arms. He's propped up against and fastened to something greater than himself. Therefore he can enjoy!

Take time to TRUST Jesus today with whatever you're going through. He's big enough, strong enough, and most of all, He's God enough. Enjoy life today, because you are in the arms of your loving Heavenly Father. Don't you think it's time to live UNCONCERNED?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

This IS the Day...

It was a song we sang, something people said. It was one of those "Christianese" phrases that was pounded in as a child. It was something familiar, but not something I really ever thought about...at least not much!

But, I have begun to really try to think about things from a perspective that is greater than just what I understand. If you think about this way, it really changes things: He is the Creator...of everything...of every day. Before time as we know it began, He spoke to the darkness and said, "LET THERE BE LIGHT!" And there was light. Each day began at that instance. It was good!

This day...right here...this moment, was created by God. He may not have designed or desired for me to experience the situations I may be, but that doesn't desecrate the day that HE created. This IS the day that HE, the LORD, has made. I will CHOOSE to rejoice and be glad in it. I may not like what's in it, but I will choose to respond with gladness and joy to and for the ONE that created THIS day. The circumstances of my day don't give me real joy, only the One who created this day. So regardless, be encouraged today, and REJOICE! And allow the "joy of the Lord to be YOUR strength!"