Jesus Identifies, Confirms, and then Employs!!!
This morning in my reading my Bible, I was captivated by a verse (yet again) that I have read so many times throughout the years.
Judges 16:22, “But before long, his hair began to grow back.”
A little verse that stands out, like the whisper of a dear friend. You will miss if you do not pay attention to it. Let me explain…
Samson was a man that God had chosen to be a leader of the nation of Israel in Biblical Times. Before he was even born, God spoke to his mother to tell her that he was going to be a man that was dedicated to God and that he would rescue all of Israel. Samson was going quite the man, quite the leader, quite the emotional mess – almost ruining the plan of God for his own life.
Samson was quite the strong man, he once killed 1,000 men that had ganged up on him, with nothing more than the jawbone of a donkey carcass. He once snapped the ropes that were tied around his arms, like burnt rope. Once, his hair was woven into a loom, as he was attacked – he pulled his hair from the loom – without losing his hair. This dude was STRONG!
If you read his story in the Bible (Judges 13 – 16), you will find that the source of his strength was rooted (pun intended) in his hair. Now, I don’t understand why. Perhaps Samson was the original Patriarch of the Duck Dynasty Family, don’t know… But this is the way God intended it to be. This begs the idea that we think of why we possess certain gifts and abilities, and maybe people are looking at you and I and asking the question, “Why do they have the ability or gifts for that?” The only answer is that God placed them down deep in us. We move on…
Well once Samson’s enemies found out the source of his strength was his hair, they captured him and shaved his head. They did more to him, but you will have to read that for yourself (Judges 16:17-31). He found himself imprisoned, blind, humbled, and weak.
Then we hit this verse. Judges 16:22, “But before long, his hair began to grow back.” As his hair began to grow back, his strength began to come back. Today, I wonder if your “hair” has been cut off. I wonder if you find yourself in a place where you are imprisoned, blind, humbled, and weak. Your gifts and abilities seem like they have wasted away. You are a shell of the man or woman that you were once.
Guess what, “LET YOUR HAIR GROW BACK!” Samson was an emotional mess. I have been there, have you? You start on a trajectory that is right, it from the Lord, it is something that you know God spoke in your heart. Then somewhere along the way, you seem to start messing it all up. Maybe, someone else starts messing it up. Bottom line, it begins to get messed up. Look at this verse, “…his hair began to grow back.”
It is never to late to get back on right track. Listen to what the Lord has spoken to you. Never forget what he said! Remember, your hair will grow back!
You will make it if you listen to what God says about you…and you let your hair grow back!
Your strength will come back if you rest in the knowledge of who God called you to be, not what you feel others are saying about you!
Your gifts and abilities will once again make room for you, if you use them not for your achievement, your purpose, your plan, or your success – but His!
You will be again what you always dreamed of being!
You will be what God placed in your heart and soul to be!
Here it is…
“LET YOUR HAIR GROW BACK!”
This Christmas Season has been unlike any other that I have experienced. Jen did most to the Christmas Shopping, I found myself being pulled in many ways those closing days to Christmas. Then on Saturday, Dec. 22nd, after coaching my 6-year-old 2ndbasketball game – EVER – I came home and crashed for 3-hour nap, in which I woke up with a 102.5 fever. The Christmas Flu hit, and I was in my bed for 5 days. For the 1sttime in my 21 years of Full Time Ministry, I missed a Sunday and a Christmas Eve Service due to sickness! WOW, what a season for firsts…
Of course, being a great sharer, my 3 kids and wonderful wife are on the way to recovering. Sorry guys, I Love You!
Then last night, on Thursday, Dec. 27th, I stood with a family from our church in an ICU room, and said goodbye to their Husband, Father, Brother, Uncle… to me – My Friend! Chuck Baker, almost 80, went to be with Jesus at 7:10 PM.
It is the first time I have been in the room as I watched a person, a friend, take the 1-second-long journey from life to death. I watched in grief, in wonder, in despair, in pain, in great rejoicing, in bewilderment, and utter amazement. A man that I had laughed with, joked with, prayed with, talked about everything with, and man that I worshipped Jesus within Church, was now in the place that I have preached about for 21 years – he is there.
I didn’t know what to do with all of that emotions. All of that weightiness from the family’s grief. All of my own emotions filled with so many thoughts. For the first time in my 45 years, I had witnessed the miracle of eternal life. I was on the earthly side of that miracle, and I longed to be on Chuck’s side – Heaven! He wasn’t in pain anymore. He didn’t have a walker. No more pills. His heart was strong, all in 1 second! It was the first time I ever truly wanted to switch sides with a Red Sox Fan! You see we talked of being never able to trade places as baseball fans, I as a Yankees Fan – He as a Red Sox Fan! After the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the 2018 Playoffs, Chuck gave me a sympathy card, and he drew a broom on the inside of it. (Chuck has a great sense of humor!) As a good friend of ours said, “Chuck is now playing with the Angels!”
I have been somewhat fortunate in this world to have only been close to death only about 20 times in my life. My mom, my father, my father in law, 2 grandfathers, a grandmother, an aunt, an uncle, several classmates, and then about 8 close families that I have walked through death with, as they said goodbye. In all of these journeys to eternity, I have never been in the final hours of life. I have never seen death, the beginning of eternal life.
After last night, I have a fresh perspective of the true meaning of the words written by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:8 & 9, “8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him.”
I met a man in 2010 in Memphis, TN.
Wes Linder was a kind and gentle man to me. You see, he was homeless, had nothing to his name but an old SUV, the clothes on his back, and then a few earthly possessions in the old SUV. I was introduced to him by his family. I got to know his brother and his mother. The day, I met Wes, we went to the food pantry and grabbed several bags of dry good groceries and personal items, and went back to his SUV.
You see, I sat in his truck and let him talk and talk. We shared cold soup, canned tuna, crackers, and bottles of water. We talked of dreams and goals. We talked of family and future. We talked of God and sin and eternity. I prayed with Wes that day, and only saw him one other time after that. He died 6 months later, just weeks after my family moved from Memphis, TN to Cape Cod, MA. On Dec. 29, 2010. There was nothing I could do or say. My broken friend’s body couldn’t hold together the years of his life. But this I know, his soul was desperately looking and searching for the love and meaning of Christ’s Love for him!
2 men, that I have known for collectively less than 2 years, made a huge impact on me.
Wes taught me that there is no price tag too small or too great to spend time with someone who needs to be loved. Wes taught me that love matters, no matter how it is shared. Wes taught me that life is not about position or bank accounts, but it is about heart and soul. Wes taught me that there are some amazing jewels hidden in the roughs of life. Wes taught me that simple love is found in simple ways – in authenticity, transparency, and vulnerability. Wes taught me to NEVER judge a book by the cover!
Even though Wes had so many questions as to the many of life, he lives on these 8 years later, because he made an impact on so many people, before he crossed over to eternity!
Chuck taught me to laugh. Chuck “made” me love the taste of Root Beer. Chuck helped me loved the Yankees that much more. Chuck taught me what a passionate, never quit, tougher than nails life is all about. For the last 8 years of Chuck’s life, he made a commitment to Jesus, because he survived a Heart Attack (1 of several) that should have been it for him. He didn’t miss church from that point. Chuck taught me what friendship with differences is all about – you try being a Yankees Fan up here – LOL! Chuck taught me what faithful looks like, sounds like, and is.
Chuck understood his meaning in life, and though Chuck’s death is only a few hours old, Chuck will live on, because he made an impact on so many people, before he crossed over to eternity!
On the way home for the hospital last night, I stopped at the store and bought a bottle of A&W Root Beer and had a good cry. Once home, I talked to my wife to unpack the emotion, then I went upstairs and prayed for my kids as they laid in bed, then spent some time with my oldest son.
Today for lunch, I went down to the food pantry at our church, and had a cold can of soup and some crackers, and sipped on a bottle of water.
You see, I’m 45, and hopefully, have a lot of life to go. But today, I understand life a little more than I did last night…
I understand, that being alone in this world is hard – so do life with people that are like you and that are not!
I understand that the simple things in life, are often the most meaningful.
I understand that no life is a waste and that we are all meant to impact the world for good, by pleasing Jesus.
I understand what Clarence said, “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends!”
And I have had some greats ones!
Love You, Chuck! Sundays will not be the same, but you will not be forgotten!
Love You, Wes! You’ll never be forgotten, and always be remembered!
I think I am beginning to understand this journey of life…got a lot to learn still…but I am up for it!
What to do, When You Don’t Know What To Do…
Several years ago, I have had a couple of powerful moments with my kids. One morning my daughter says to me, “Daddy, did you have good dreams?” “No”, I replied, “I didn’t have any dreams.” She quickly responded, “That is sad, everyone needs dreams!” Stunned and struck with the enormity of my 3 year olds’ wisdom. Then, 2 days later, my son hit me with a big question. “Dad, have you ever let a team down that was counting on you to win?” “Yes son, more times, than not”, was my reply. The fragile thoughts of an 8 year old, desperately wanting to be older and better than he feels on the inside! “How do you get past that Dad?” “Well son……………………”
Have you ever had those thoughts yourself! Have you ever measured the surroundings of your world and wondered exactly what do with the fact that you are dreamless, that you feel like everything in the world is crashing down on you. These feeling are not just for the young at heart or the young in body! These feelings are for those that have a heartbeat. Whether young or old, rich or poor, married or single, you will find yourself asking the question “What do I do, I do not know what to do?”
Scripture answers that question for us in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30(Click to read.). No I am going to let you read it for yourself, but I want to give you the answer to the question…
Look at verse 3…“Terrified, he begged God for guidance!”
There was a King in the Old Testament named Jehoshaphat. He was a good king. He made his fair share of mistakes in his life. Especially in the last years of his life. It would be safe to say that he didn’t end as strong as he started. But God gave him hope!
In 2 Chr. 20, we see King Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah hemmed from every side. Death was imminent. There was no way, except for loss of life. But tucked away in this short chapter of scripture, contain an incredible miracle that is applicable to you and I today…
2 Chronicles 20 (NLT) War with Surrounding Nations
1 After this, the armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites declared war on Jehoshaphat. 2 Messengers came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army from Edom is marching against you from beyond the Dead Sea. They are already at Hazazon-tamar.”
3 Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. 4 So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord’s help.
5 Jehoshaphat stood before the community of Judah and Jerusalem in front of the new courtyard at the Temple of the Lord. 6 He prayed, “O Lord, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you! 7 O our God, did you not drive out those who lived in this land when your people Israel arrived? And did you not give this land forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham? 8 Your people settled here and built this Temple to honor your name. 9 They said, ‘Whenever we are faced with any calamity such as war, plague, or famine, we can come to stand in your presence before this Temple where your name is honored. We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.’
10 “And now see what the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir are doing. You would not let our ancestors invade those nations when Israel left Egypt, so they went around them and did not destroy them. 11 Now see how they reward us! For they have come to throw us out of your land, which you gave us as an inheritance. 12 O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”
- Look to God for help!
Vs. 12 – “O our God, we do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”
King Jehoshaphat knew from his time in dealing with King Ahab, that he had to keep his eyes not on the surroundings, the people, the situation, but on the voice of the Lord!
2 Chr. 18:4, “Jehoshaphat added, “But, first let’s find out what the Lord says!”
The question was, “What should we do?”
If you cannot “hear” the word of God, then read the Word of God! He is speaking!
You do it now, fasting locks in the yield for later!
13 As all the men of Judah stood before the Lord with their little ones, wives, and children, 14 the Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there. His name was Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite who was a descendant of Asaph.
15 He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.
- Fear Not!
Vs. 15 – “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
King Jehoshaphat knew from his time in dealing with King Ahab, that he had nothing to fear if he stayed with God’s plan!
2 Chr. 18:31, “But Jehoshaphat call out, and the Lord save him. God helped him by turning the attackers away from him!”
Joshua 1:8&9 – 8 Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. 9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
You do it now, fasting proves faith, trust, and strength later!
16 Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”
- Keep your eyes on God!
Vs. 17 – “…watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you!”
King Jehoshaphat knew from his time dealing with King Ahab, that he knew of being solely committed to God!
2 Chr. 19:3 “…you have committed yourself to seeking God!”
We have to keep our eyes on what is important! That would ultimately be HIM!
You do it now, your eyes will stay on Him later!
18 Then King Jehoshaphat bowed low with his face to the ground. And all the people of Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping the Lord. 19 Then the Levites from the clans of Kohath and Korah stood to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud shout.
20 Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and said, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.”
- Have Faith!
Vs. 20 – “Believe in the Lord your God and you will be able to stand firm!”
King Jehoshaphat knew this from his time appointing judges in the land.
2 Chr. 19:11 “Take courage as you fulfill your duties, and may the Lord be with those who do what is right!”
Heb. 11:1 “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see!”
You do it now, your faith will continue to grow later!
21 After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord; His faithful love endures forever!” 22 At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves.
Vs. 22 – “At the very moment…
You do it now, HE WILL DO IT LATER!
23 The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other. 24 So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.
25 King Jehoshaphat and his men went out to gather the plunder. They found vast amounts of equipment, clothing, and other valuables—more than they could carry. There was so much plunder that it took them three days just to collect it all! 26 On the fourth day they gathered in the Valley of Blessing, which got its name that day because the people praised and thanked the Lord there. It is still called the Valley of Blessing today.
27 Then all the men returned to Jerusalem, with Jehoshaphat leading them, overjoyed that the Lord had given them victory over their enemies. 28 They marched into Jerusalem to the music of harps, lyres, and trumpets, and they proceeded to the Temple of the Lord. 29 When all the surrounding kingdoms heard that the Lord himself had fought against the enemies of Israel, the fear of God came over them. 30 So Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.
We are all going through stuff! As a church we are going through some very difficult financial hardships! Some of us are going through family crisis! Some of us have been to the Dr. recently and the outcome seems unchangeable. When you are going through it and you lose the dreams, and you feel lost in the middle of such familiar surroundings…When You Don’t Know What To Do…Remember…
“He Believes In You!” (Click to watch and listen!)
If you know me at all, then you know that I love team sports. It is obviously not because I am good at any of them, even though at 44 I am still trying to cut into the “Bigs” – LOL!!!!!
One of the things that I love about team sports is the concept of the team! A group of people going out to accomplish a goal – WIN! Everybody functioning in the same direction and doing their part to win the game.
Within team sports is a philosophy called “play your roll.” The main idea here is that each person on the team has a primary job––a responsibility––a function. Everyone is a spoke in the wheel that helps keep the wheel moving. I think you get the idea.
You know, within relationships (whether family, church, business, etc.) the idea of “play your roll” is super important. No matter the goal, the pairing, or the objective, we all have to do our part. However, as a Christ follower, there is something a little more focused than just doing a “job” or achieving a common goal.
1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received (from God) to serve others (not yourself) as faithful stewards of God’s grace (Jesus, forgiveness, and life) in its various forms!”
Did you catch that?
Playing your roll is not for you, it’s for others! We are to use whatever we have been given from God to point others to Jesus and what He did on the cross! No matter who you are, no matter what your gift is––as a Christ follower, your role is to point people to Jesus!
What a job! What an opportunity! What a calling!
How about it? Will you play your roll…for Him?
As a human, I stand back and realize that often their struggle reminds me of my own struggle. The struggle to, as Micah 6:8 says, “To do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your (their) God.”
I grew up in a military family. I was surrounded by men and women who have served and protected our country. For the better part of the my first 25 years of life, I learned words like honor, code, respect, and valor.
In being around those men and women, one thing I saw everyday was the ability to follow orders that radically changed life’s trajectory. I said goodbye to friends, watches families leave safety and security and learned to deal with good-byes (which aren’t very fun today). I had to learn to trust in the silence of not always knowing or hearing the answer or understanding it.
Then I read this 3 verse passage and realize that all of those lessons learned aren’t just a military family’s mindset, but a set of values learned by ones that truly set out to accomplish the will of God! The desire to set a person helped, a family saved, and city radically impacted through the Gospel of Christ!
“It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.”
Hebrews 11:8-10 NLT
Abraham desired a city that was set upon the foundations of God! Wow! Abraham was a form of God’s Special Forces…going to a foreign place, setting up a value that was unknown before he arrived, then putting into motion a new way of living.
I desire that! I live in a place that was established as a town in 1764. Before modern conveniences, before modern military practices, before the realization that our world was going to have to go through several revolutions before God would send His Son Jesus back for a His people. So my calling, my passion, and my life’s work is to establish that eternal city right here in Winchendon, Ma.
That means I have to train, study, build trust, pray, serve, obey – I get to live my life in a way that tells everyone I have been placed here for a purpose that far surpasses our ability to understand the natural causes of order and man’s cumbersome path to God. I get to set the peace and love and grace and forgiveness of Christ right in my own town. I get to be a standard bearer for righteousness and for salvation in my little town. Values that go hand and hand with values I learned in the military family of honor, code, respect, and valor.
Would you join me to saluting the Savior of the World Jesus, by longing for the city of eternal foundations, by living your life worthy of the call of our – King of Kings and Lord of Lords – Jesus!
I’m all in, are you?
P.S. To the men and women of our US Armed Services – Thank You for putting your life on the line for our freedom! You truly are the best! I pray for you, I remember you, I Honor you, and I am GRATEFUL for you and your families!
What a painful 4 verses of scripture here.
Gen. 6:5-8, 5 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. 6 So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. 7 And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.” 8 But Noah found favor with the Lord.
As the Lord looked at what He created, He found very little that He was pleased with.
I read this today and I say, “Lord, I know there is wickedness in me, please forgive me for acting on it and wipe it from my heart and soul!”
Then Vs. 8 gives me hope! Oh that I would find favor with the Lord!
Oh that He would see me and show me His Favor. In all of my hang ups. The times I am not a good husband, father, pastor, or leader – Father find favor with me. Look into my heart and see that I truly long to love you and to worship you in all that I am and all that I do!
Lord, let your FAVOR reign over my life!
F – Forgiveness
A – Authority
V – Victory
O – Opulence
R – Righteousness
As you continue to read the account of Noah, the FAVOR of the Lord was on him for one very simple reason… Noah did exactly what the Lord told him! He didn’t rationalize or beg God to chose another way, he was simply obedient in the most simplistic of ways. He trusted God and heard His voice! He listened!
Let our prayer today be, “Lord teach me to hear Your Voice and to listen the same! I want to hear You and know You! Lord I can’t live without You and Your FAVOR! I Love You Jesus! Thank you for loving me!”
Gen. 4:1, “Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!”
Genesis 4:1 NLT
With the Lord’s help!
I have read this so many times, and it truly just jumped off the page!
Perhaps as parents, we begin to not rely on God’s help when raising our children. It all started with His help, and then somewhere we take it away from Him help and try to do it in our strength.
Lord, teach me not to do it on my own, but in those 18-20 short years of mega influence on my kids, to be a dad that stays in the midst of your strength not my own!
“It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’” “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman.”
Genesis 3:3-4 NLT
Here in plain “English” God speaks to Adam and Eve. There is no way that anyone could twist the meaning of “If you the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden, you will die”. Plain and simple.
Yet, we all do that thing that we know God has spoken to us about. It is in our soul, our heart pounds with the message, our body strives daily with the clarion call for holiness, yet we still struggle. The struggle is REAL! The Apostle Paul, millenniums later had the same struggle doing the very thing that he didn’t want to do.
The struggle that sin produced, is the very fact that we don’t always do the right thing or that we simply do the wrong thing.
Sin and Law create this cataclysmic struggle that is only answered in having a personal and intimate walk with Christ! Today if you are in that place where sin dominates or haunts you, and you love Jesus; the answer is to simply press into Him even more. He will provide you with the scapegoat from sin. And it will be from the most amazing places or people.
Press into Him today and rest assured that what He says will save your life. And remember He also said, “I will never leave you or forsake you!”
Lillian gave up the chance to marry and change her name. Why? Because her name was not as important as HIS name! Lillian made the choice to submit to HIM and have HIS name made famous.
All 3 of these reasons can be summed up with the word “Reflection”! We end up reflecting other people’s ideas – for sure at least in how we look. Never really concerned about out Mirror’s Image.
My family starts our journey to our new home back in MA today. It has been a year long journey with many more upsides than downsides. So many people have come alongside our family and have helped set up these stones with us to remember what God has done!
As we start “our” new, our desire is to remember where we have come from and not forget that God is the one that got us this far! The dreams and victories, along with the valleys and hard times are all part of what God has for all of us. The journey was sweet and hard, great and vigorous, blessed and challenging, but worth it all! We are so grateful to God!
Today we think of the the twelve stones that Joshua set up in the river, he said something really amazing…
“Let these stones be a reminder to the next generation of when God…”