Every Day is a Gift

I have received some unusual gag gifts, such as a biscuit with tin foil in it (way too much fiber and crunch) and a trophy which said ” Last Place” (that made me feel good)..but there are good gifts too, some that cannot be found in a store or a box.
“Every day is a gift”…this is one of my favorite sayings. It really is true. In my work as a Pastor, I am often visiting hospitals, being with the family when someone is close to passing away, or praying with someone who is really facing difficult situations. All of these experiences remind me how precious and fragile life really is every day. We take so much for granted, assuming it will ” never happen to me” attitude or that we are so preoccupied with being busy, always in a hurry to somewhere out into the future and do not appreciate the here and now. How can we look at each day as a gift?
The most important thing is to realize it is a gift from God. ” This is the day the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it” ( Psalm 150:6).I have always felt that this last verse in the book of Psalms teaches us, that as long as we are breathing we have a purpose in life and that is to praise the Lord.When we do this our focus is more on God more than ourselves. It helps us to look at our day through God’s eyes and not just our own point of view.
It also has a positive impact on our attitude and good influence on others. Psalms 118:24 states that “This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” When we count our blessings it reflects our faith. A highly respected Christian leader,Dr. J.I. Packer challenges us when he said ” We dishonor God if we proclaim a Savior that satisfies…and then go around discontent.” Don’t miss the opportunities today to see that God is working in your life and to be a blessing to others, because the best gifts are the ones we share with others. By the way, everyday is a gift… with or without ice cream

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Why Hasn’t God Answered My Prayers?

“O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but You. ” – Psalm 5: 1-2. (NLT)

I once saw a Christian being interviewed on a TV show. She was asked “Does God always answer your prayers?” She responded: “No, not always and I ‘m thankful because if He had answered every prayer as I wanted, I would have married the wrong man 7 times before I met my husband! ”
Have you every wondered why doesn’t God answer your prayers concerning something that seems so important to you? Is it a lack of faith? Am I not using the “right words” when I pray? Am I praying with the “right motives”?
We have all had those thoughts at one time or another. It is important for us to know what God’s Word teaches us about this important topic.
Several things to keep in mind:
1. God created us and knows what is best for us. Psalms 100: 3 describes our relationship with God this way: ” Know that the Lord is God. It is He who has made us, and we are His. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” Sometimes God says NO because He has a better plan in place for us that we cannot see right now and what we want is not in our best interest long term.
2. God’s delays in answering our prayers are not necessarily His denials. God is not limited to time and is more interested in the right timing…and there is a big difference. Sometimes we are praying for the right thing but it isn’t the right time for it to happen in our lives. When this occurs, we should keep on faithfully praying and not get discouraged. Waiting patiently for God is not easy but it can build our relationship with God and be a positive example for others who know about our situation.
” I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the mud and mire. He sat my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new son to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord” – Psalm 40: 1-3(NLT)
3. God looks at things through Eternity and we tend to look at things just through the present time. There are a lot of things that just doesn’t seem right or make sense in this fallen and imperfect world that we live in today. That is why God had the answer for you and me through what Jesus did for us on the cross and gave us forgiveness and eternal life. Some things will not make sense to us this side of Heaven and that is ok…We can trust Him inspite of when prayers seem to go unanswered. If you & I could figure everything out, we wouldn’t need to have faith in God.
” For we walk ( live our daily lives ) by FAITH not by sight ( what we can see and understand ). ”
– 2 Corinthians 5:7
May God give us strength today to live by faith… even when we don’t understand everything…

It’s not easy being Elvis …even for just one day

Years ago, I dressed up in an “Elvis” costume to share a children’s message at church. I waited outside the worship center until my time to enter the service. While I was waiting, a man walked up and asked to speak to a minister and that he needed some help. I told him I was a minster…he said he didn’t know Elvis was a minister… I told him I wasn’t Elvis but was a minister. He seemed very confused at that point…mumbling something about being ” all shook up” (name of famous Elvis song).We talked about his need (gas for his car) and I prayed with him and as he left…he turned to me and said he didn’t think his family wouldn’t believe our encounter but he was grateful for the prayer and the help. I just couldn’t resist saying: ” Thank you, thank you very much”…I wondered if I would see a tabloid newspaper later with some story about his personal encounter with Elvis at church…
Then I went into the worship center to do my children’s message. I started by asking the children about what they thought makes a good imitator. My message was about us being imitators of Christ or a positive example ( I Corinthians 11:1 ). When asked the question, one little boy raised his hand and said to me: “You are the fattest Elvis I have ever seen!”. It was all down hill from there, but everyone seemed to enjoy the moment.
Later that day I lip sang ( imitated) some Elvis songs at a church fellowship party. I had practiced some spin moves at home. The big difference was that at home I practiced on carpet but the performance at church was on a stage made of finished and highly polished wood …So when I went to do my spin move I couldn’t stop sliding. I look like a spinning helicopter with no place to land… I slid from one end of the stage to the other and ended up barely hanging off the front of the stage on the last note of the song…the crowd went wild . I was hurting in places on my body I didn’t even know I had before that moment! I saw people laughing so hard that they had tears in their eyes…
Afterward, one of my friends commented: ” That was a good performance but if I was you I would not give up my other job.” Amen. I agreed. I felt like I was at “Heartbreak Hotel” ( name of famous Elvis song) or I was “Nothing but a Hound Dog” ( name of another famous Elvis song) and I had “Lost that Loving Feeling” ( yet another famous Elvis song). I think I learned a valuable life lesson that day, it is good for me to follow God but not imitate someone else at church or anywhere else …

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Don’t camp in the desert of despair & worry

Despair and worry can make you feel isolated as if you are out in the middle of “nowhere” by yourself with no clue what to do…Have you ever felt that way?
Of course, we all have from time to time. The problem is we don’t need to “camp” there or stay in that state of mind about worry about everything. Some one has said:”Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” I want to share a few thoughts that I have found very helpful when dealing stress, worry, and anxiety…

1. Do what you can today. Max Lucado, one of my favorite writers, puts it this way: “Since I know God’s provision is timely, I can enjoy the present. The Key is this: Meet today’s problems with today’s strength. Don’t start tackling tomorrow’s problems until tomorrow. You do not have tomorrow’s strength yet. You simply have enough for today.” Although there maybe concerns about tommorrow, do not let it keep you from what needs to be done today. Have you ever dreaded something in advance and then when you actually got to the actual day it wasn’t as bad as you thought or you were amazed that you had the strength to deal with it then? God will not give you grace today for something you will not need today. “His grace IS ( present tense) sufficient ” which means His Grace will be there for you when you need it the most. The Amplified Bible translates this verse this way: ” My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [ sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect ( fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness . -2 Corintians 12:9.

2. If you are having difficulty thinking obessively about something, make a list and write down your thoughts . This is like ” downloading the information” so you can concentrate on other things now and still remember your important information about the situation later when you need it. This also helps break the depressing cycle of rewinding it over and over again in your mind. Jesus gives you and me good advice when He said: ” Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6: 34 (The Message).

3. Remind yourself how God has been with you in the past, that He is with you now and will be with you in the future. Hebrews 13:8 states that: ” Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He is always there if you will just reach out and trust Him by faith inspite of your anxieties and fears. The issues, decisions, or situation you are facing may be bigger than what you can handle on your own but they are not larger than God ‘s strength and power through His Grace for you…one day at a time…

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The Night I Almost Died…for Merle Haggard

On a whim, a college friend named Earle talked me into going to a Merle Haggard Concert. So, we we drove to the city hoping to find some concert tickets at the last minute. When we got there, we walked down a little side street toward the arena. We saw a group of people and thought we would approach them to see if they had tickets.
What we didn’t know was that we were one night too early for the concert… and the people we were walking up to were apparently in the middle of a drug deal! Needless to say they were surprised as we were at that moment. How Awkward! Especially, when they asked what we were doing there and I told them Earle and me were there to see Merle… ( they had never heard of Eale or Merle)…I remember thinking we might not survive this situation…but we did. They laughed and we…ran like scared rabbits all the way back to my car. It was a long time before I could listen to country music again and not get the ” heebie jeebies” ( 1960’s term for anxiety).
Is there a worse feeling than being clueless and helpless at the same time? That’s when we pray our shortest and simplest prayer : ” Lord, help me”… and amazingly He does, not because we earn it or deserve it, it is simply because He loves us enough to deliver us. Psalm 46: 1 states, ” God is our refuge and strength and ever present help in trouble.”
Take time today to reflect back on those times when God helped you or delivered you. It is as we look back and see how God was looking out for us; even when we didn’t realize we were in danger or in need, we appreciate even more His love for us. He has the answer before we have the problem… That is something we all can be thankful for and praise Him for His goodness and grace.

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Surviving My “Mystic Blue” Experience

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Back in the Good Old Days of my teenage years, I was in a garage band called the “Mystic Blue”. Garage bands were popular in the 1960’s as kids would start a band with guitars, drums, etc… And they usually practiced in somebody”s garage ( probably because it was too loud to be in the house). Our first “gig” ( concert) was quite an experience. We had matching outfits.. Blue pants, blue Oxford shirt & sandals…We had gone to the hardware store and got some blue flood lights and mounted them on a long board. We had a foot switch that I operated while playing my bass guitar.

Our outside concert started out ok but then it began to rain… We were in the middle of a loud song in which I started clicking the blue lights on and off with my foot…in a wet sandal…POW! Quite a shock! I was jumping up and down and ever time I came down on that foot switch…POW! Another shock and up in the air I went and then back down and did it again and again…The band & audience thought I was dancing & putting on a show…my hair has been more curly ever since that “electrifying performance”. I even may have accidentally did the first ever laser light show…

You know there are some days we do well just to survive and call it a day. Let me share with you some things the Lord has taught me and about how to keep going even when things aren’t going well in your life:

1. Remember God loves you and He will not give up on you. I really like the way my friend, Dr. Nelson Price translates Hebrews 13:5 ” God has said I will never, no never, not ever abandon you, send you back, leave you behind, give up on you or cause you not to succeed. ” Wow, that is how much God loves and cares for you and me even when everything else in our life doesn’t make sense. Isn’t that amazing how powerful is His love for us cannot be limited by our circumstances?

2. Stop and count your blessings each day. “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 NIV). Don’t just keep your mind on all the negative things going on around you, rather focus on what specific things you can be thankful for and pray for others.

3.Do something constructive today for yourself and others. Call a friend or family member you haven’t talked to in a while and reconnect. Start reading a good book that would uplift you. Take a walk at lunch or get together with someone for a meal. There are so many little things we can do to give ourselves a break and refresh our spirit. This will enable us to keep going and keep our balance in daily lives.