Friday, December 30, 2011

My New Year's Resolutions

This is my last post for 2011 and the end of my first full year of doing this blog.  Many people like to make New Year's Resolutions and so in today's short message, I will give mine.  I do so with the hopes of all of your prayers as my wife and I hope that, should the Lord tarry, 2012 is a year of change and growth for us.  I also post this with the hope that my friends and family who read this will hold me accountable to the resolutions I make.  I also want to mention that all of these resolutions come with prayer and seeking after God's direction.  I want my resolutions to truly be what God is calling me to do.  So my first resolution is to seek after God's will for my wife and myself in the coming year. The verse that is on my heart for the coming year, is one we all know well. 
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV
This promise is not one-sided as many of the glorious promises of God are.  In this case, God will direct my paths if I seek after God.  I am convicted to seek God in all that I do and I have the faith that when I do, that God will provide the means of doing so.  It is in that mind that I give these resolutions. 

First of all, my wife and I need to tend to our health.  We both could lose a lot of weight, eat better, and exercise more.  It has affected my health in that I am a diabetic.  If I lose weight, eat better, and exercise more, that condition will improve greatly.  I have neglected my health for too long and have abused this machine the Lord has created to house my soul while on earth way too much.  Part of the problem is time in that with my terribly long commute, it is hard to make time for exercise.  The other problem is that I am a foodie.  I love good food and trying new and exciting things.  I do realize I can do this in greater moderation, and that is something I need to work on.  I also need to work on not snacking so much and not eating until I am stuffed to the hilt whenever I am around good food. 

I also resolve to finish paying off our debt.  I am not talking about mortgage or other large and long-term debts, but the smaller debts that nag our monthly budget and prevent us from doing other things.  God has blessed me so much over the past couple of months as I have shared before, but there is still work to do.  My wife has some debt we still need to take care of and I also have some other long-term issues that may not affect my credit, but they do affect our budget.  My goal this year is to be done with all of that, and this will require much prayer because only God can provide the means for that to happen. 

My wife and I also desire to start a family.  This has been a test of patience up to this point and we are relying on God to make a child a reality for us in the near future.  Of course, all in God's timing, but Jesus does tell us to cast all our cares upon Him and one of our cares is that yearning to have a child and grow our family.  I see my wife with other children and I see just how amazing a mother she will be someday.   I simply can not wait to see her hold our child for the first time, it is a day I long for and I pray it is a day that comes soon. 

I also want to find a new job in the coming year.  Please do not think me ungrateful for the job I have because I am.  There are so many out of work and struggling and the Lord has provided both of us with jobs in these trying times.  The fact is though my commute is affecting my health and putting a huge drain on our budget.  Furthermore, I just have no joy there anymore.  If I am supposed to be there, please pray that the Lord show me how to find that joy.  If this restlessness is of the Lord in that I am not supposed to be there, than please pray that the Lord shows me and directs me to where the job is that He has for me.  I have never been one to just hate going to work and I do not want to be that person now.  That is not my work ethic and that is not in line with God's call for us to rejoice in all circumstances.  Something has to change, whether it be my heart or my job only God knows and my prayer is that God shows me. 

My wife and I also aspire to move this coming year.  We have been looking for quite some time and our condo has been on the market for just as long.  We have not yet found a buyer or a seller.  If we do start a family, a new home will become necessary.  I am also in a dilemma as to where to live.  Our church home is north by where my job is, but we have a life we have built in south New Jersey.  South New Jersey is also where my wife works and as of yet we have not found any job for her up north.  That is where her family who has always been a daily part of her life lives and it is also an area that is nicer and cheaper to live in.  I have grown to love the slower pace of South New Jersey and living by the shore.  Once again, only God knows the solution and only God can find us a buyer and a seller and to coordinate that with work. 

Compared to the rest, this may seem like a minor thing, but I also want to replace both of our cars in the coming year.  They are both getting old and mine needs a lot of money just to fix the air conditioning for the coming summer.  This, of course, will be an added expense that we will have to budget for.  This will also affect how much of a mortgage we can apply for, but if my wife's debt is paid than that will not be an issue.  Whether or not and if so then when to purchase are questions we need direction on.  Please pray for that direction. 

All in all, this year I resolve to continue to grow more and more like Jesus and to continue to find new things to love Him for.  We all have much room to grow, myself included, and I want to always continue to grow in this life until I am perfected in the next.  Part of that is putting faith in Him to meet these needs and requests I have and part of that is to truly seek Him in all that I do.  I need to live more righteously, not to earn His favor, but as an expression of my love for Him.  It is easy to say that I love Jesus, I want to show it in my life private and public. 

Writing this I see how all of my resolutions and requests are related and how one needs to work with another.  When I look back on all that I just wrote, I see an interrelated mess of one thing needing to happen for another to work.  I know I can not meet these requests in my own wisdom or efforts.  I know that for this list to be my praise list come December it is going to take God to do amazing things.  What looks daunting to me, is nothing for God.  Knowing how dependent I am upon the Lord for the coming year is a great place to be.  If I can not understand how all these things will work together for good, than I must lean on His wisdom.  If I know that I need God for all of what I ask, then I have no choice but to acknowledge Him in all my ways.  What I seek may seem impossible to me, but we all know what God says about impossible.  Have a happy New Year everyone.  God bless you all! 
But Jesus looked at them and said, "With men [it is] impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible."  Mark 10:27 NKJV

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The New Year is Around the Corner, But Will We Make It

The year 2011 is ending and 2012 is coming.  Some believe that due to some Mayan calender, the apocalypse will happen before next Christmas  When I look at the condition of the world we live in, I sometimes wonder why God would even wait that long.  Considering the Word says that no man knows the day or the hour, we can know that the end will not come that day, but anywhere from now until December 20 is still wide open.  So why does the Lord tarry when the world grows worse and worse in rebellion to the God who created it?  The Bible gives us the answer.
The Lord is not slack concerning [His] promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  2 Peter 3:9 NKJV
The Lord tarries because of His great mercy and patience.  When I look at the state of things today, I can see just how great His mercy and patience really are.  In this past year, society is shifting more and more to accept homosexual marriages.  Even more of the church is shifting in favor of that abominable position.  Entertainment sex has moved from the backrooms of seedy video stores to prime time television.  Sure it is not overt pornography, but it is enough to breed desires in children who do not know better.  Even in our children's entertainment, sex and dating are becoming regular themes as is homosexuality.  In fact, I can not even go to the Fox News website without seeing promiscuous pictures right on the front page.  Society is relishing more and more in its sin each and every year.  Many of these same people believe that unless they do something really bad like neglect to go green, they are all heading to a better place.  The Word says something very different.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.   1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NKJV
Atheism is also a growing movement as more and more people not only reject the true and living God, but reject the very idea of any god at all.  Mankind seems to be moving in the direction of desiring to be its own god.  Churches are getting kicked out of more and more places in America.  Around the world, the so-called Arab Spring has only fueled the fires of persecution of Christians in those countries.  Many are fleeing, many others are being tortured, imprisoned, or killed for their faith.  These are the martyrs and heroes of the faith we barely hear about.  What they suffer in secret to the world, God will reward them openly in eternity.  They will one day rule their former oppressors with Christ until those oppressors meet their ultimate judgement.  Back to America, Christians are being marginalized more and more by a society and government that reject fundamental Christianity. While they may seem to rule the day today, their day of judgement will come. 
When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both [the number of] their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they [were], was completed.  Revelation 6:9-11 NKJV 
As for the church, I do not even know what to say.  Christians, or so-called Christians, are abandoning the Word of God for popularity, emotional experience, justification of sin, prosperity, and just about any other fleshly desire you can hide under a pseudo-spiritual robe.  It is no longer about loving the Lord for what He has already done for you, but about seeing what else you can get out of the deal.  So many teachers are caught up in the variety of heresies that are popular in the church today.  Sadly, these are the people we hear about and not the real heroes in martyrs who suffer for the sake of Christ.  For these teachers, suffering is having to settle for a Mercedes instead of a Bentley.  For their followers, they give all they have not for the hopes of eternal treasures but for wealth and prosperity in this life.  Other churches have forsaken any teaching about sin and Hell because they would rather be popular than be offensive.  They forget that we are supposed to be rejected by the world.  They do all they can to build ramps, signs, and bypasses for the stumbling block that Christ is supposed to be.  And, finally, there are churches that are now deciding that God was wrong when he called certain things like homosexuality sin.  They allow pastors to openly live in sin and even celebrate that sin by blessing relationships that are an abomination to God.  How I wish for the church to come back to true doctrine, but the current movements in the church are anything but a move back to true Biblical doctrine.  Our time will come as well. 
For the time [has come] for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if [it begins] with us first, what will [be] the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?  1 Peter 4:17 NKJV
With all I said, I often wonder just how much patience God has for this world.  In every conceivable way, the world is ripe for judgement.  We must understand that every day the Lord does not return and every day that exists before the Tribulation period is a gift from God allowing for just one more soul to be saved before the end comes.  While I have a burning desire for the return of the Lord, I also have many friends and family who still  need to be saved.  I know many of you do as well.  We must feel the urgency to reach those whom we love for Christ because time is short.  The Lord very well could return in 2012.  In fact, there are still some days left in 2011 that He can return.  There is never a guarantee of a tomorrow, reach out for the lost today. 
He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming quickly." Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!  Revelation 22:20 NKJV

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Cure for the Common Cold

I have a cold.  It is something we all have experienced and it seems that one of the Holy Grails of modern medicine is a cure for the common cold.  Considering I feel pretty yucky, I can understand why people would not love a pill you can pop and be done with whatever cold you have.  However, unless you have something else very wrong with you, the cold will get better in a few days all on its own.  That is the case with many illnesses that we have a so-called cure for.  Even the ones we do have a cure for, that cure is many times designed to just keep the infection at bay while your body's own defenses catch up and eradicate the illness.  The point that I am making by all of this is that there is a cure for the common cold, it is a cure that has existed as long as cold viruses have existed and that the the God-designed natural defense mechanism in our own bodies.  So many times we look for great signs and wonders for evidence of God and we do so missing the small miracles that are part of our everyday lives. 
For since the creation of the world His invisible [attributes] are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify [Him] as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Romans 1:20-21 NKJV
Taking the example of a cold that I began, let's just think on how our bodies heal themselves.  For a cold or other infection, cells in your body recognize it as a foreign invader, determine what antibodies will work to kill that particular virus or cells infected with that virus, then initiate an immune response specifically directed that whatever particular invader is invading your body.  This is of course a gross oversimplification of a very complex process, but the amazing thing is that this is all done automatically.  There is no general leading an army of immune cells in your body. There is no internet or books for them to study a particular invader to know how to kill it.  They do not even have eyes to see or a brain to think about the enemy invading your body.  It just happens, completely automatically, in a beautiful system created by God. 

This is but one example.  We also have the example of how our bodies can heal.  Think about the many cuts and scrapes and even broken bones you may have had.  Can you imagine what would happen if the body could not heal itself?  We do not need to will a cut to heal itself and tell a bone to mesh together with the part that was broken away from it.  Even when we do require medical care, that care is almost always just to meet the two broken ends of tissue or bone together to allow the body's natural healing process to take place.  Nothing can heal better than the system God programmed into us.   

My intent today is not to give a Biology lesson but to show you that we need not seek grand signs and wonders when the testimony of God's creation is in us and around us.  The few examples I gave are but a tiny fraction of each miracle that goes on inside our bodies each day.  The machines that act as our tents while on earth are glorious machines created out of the dust of the earth by a genius Creator.  Science would like to tell us that we are the product of billions of years of mistakes that somehow all worked out.  I think that it is much more logical to believe that we were designed and created. 

So the next time you are seeking a sign of God's existence, think of the eyes that would see such a design and think on how those rays of light are focused onto special light-detecting cells that transmit information to your brain where it is decoded into the image that you see.  The next time you seek a sign, think of the super computer that is your brain.  In other words, you are the very sign you seek, miraculously created from the dust of the earth.  The high complexity of design which makes up what we call life is something barely understood by man but created by God with a Word.  What sign could be greater than the miracle that we are?
So God created man in His [own] image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  Genesis 1:27 NKJV

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Post Holiday Blues

Today is a busy day and a day I feel quite a bit under the weather, so today I just want to post a thought.  This past weekend, we all celebrated Christmas, that is the birth of our Lord.  We are now in the week between Christmas and New Years and soon the "holiday" season will be over.  For many, this time is a bit of a let down.  We spent months planning, buying, and decorating for Christmas and over the flurry of a couple of days we are done.  I even heard one child crying because he was all done opening presents and there was nothing left to open.  I am not picking on him as many feel this way, even many of us adults. 

What to do now is to look forward.  I do not mean looking forward to next Christmas or some other holiday.  I mean look way forward to a day that was planned from before the foundations of the earth.  This is a day like no other that ever has been or ever will be.  This is also a day that will not usher in a down time after an event has passed, but enter us into a new time where new wonders will amaze us each and every day for all of eternity.  The day I am speaking of is our Wedding Day to our Lord. 

The eternal life we enter will be better than our greatest imaginations and the gifts we receive will not be broken and laid aside like some child's toy nor will it be obsolete by next year like many of our adult toys.  The clothes we will wear will never go out of style and they will always fit perfectly.  Everything given to us will not just be the right gift, but the perfect gift.  That is the world we will enter into.  That is the world we need to not only look forward to but also share with others.  I had said it before and I will say it again, but the best gift anyone can ever receive is the Gospel.  That is a gift that not just lasts in this life but takes us to everlasting life. 
"Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed [are] those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!' " And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God."  Revelation 19:7-9 NKJV

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Blogger Christmas Card

This is most likely my last post before Christmas so I just want to take a few moments to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas.  It is this time of year where we begin reflecting back on the year and I hope that we all can look back and see just what God has done for us since last Christmas.  Many of us send Christmas cards with photographs commemorating whatever family milestones that may have been reached since last Christmas.  I do not have photos, but this, in a way, is the Like a Tree Firmly Planted Christmas card.

This time last year I already had one surprise snow storm under my belt and was watching the weather with reports of a possible snow storm for around Christmas day.  The storm looked like it had less and less of a chance of really causing any problems for us, but then things dramatically changed.  I awoke Christmas morning to a weather report saying that the storm that seemed to be moving further away had become a monster that was going to hit at the worst possible time.  In the end, the storm was much worse than anyone had expected.  I remember driving home after the storm because it was like driving through an apocalypse.  There were cars abandoned all over the highway, roads were closed, people were driving the wrong way on the roads that were open (including myself), backhoes were pulling out large snow plow trucks stuck in snow banks, and in the end helicopters had to be sent to several highways to make sure no one was trapped in the stranded vehicles.  That road home really set the tone for much of last winter. 

If you remember last year, I wrote many posts on the weather.  Week after week for over a month, there was a snowstorm that kept me near work and kept me from going home.  Week after week God kept me safe on dangerous slippery roads.  It is hard to put myself back into that mindset, but just like that first ride home in that first large snowstorm, from my vantage point I was wondering if it would ever end.  It seemed like around every corner there was another storm and more dangerous travel.  I kept the faith and pushed on, going through some doubts and fears, and in the end I made it through.  From my vantage point now, I can see how amazing God's protection was and how things could have been much different if He had not been protecting me.  The lesson here is that many times as we are going through something, it is hard to see God's hand.  We become like Peter who no longer saw Jesus through the waves and began to think more of the waves than He did of the Lord.  It was then that he began to sink, but it was also then when Jesus reached into the water and saved him.  Peter did not see the Lord's hand sustaining him as he walked on the water, but got to a point where all he saw was the water.  I made it to that point a few times last Winter, but each time God reached out His hand and kept me safe. 

Then just as sudden as the snow began, it stopped, and in came Spring.  Spring was very welcome last year after the Winter we had!  The weather grew warmer and warmer and God really began a financial work in our lives.  It was late Spring when we received a surprise inheritance of clothes and jewelry from the various television shopping networks.  In fact, we received so much stuff that we are still not done getting all listed and sold.  This money was a blessing as it allows me to pay down and pay off years and years of debt improving my credit to the point where I could actually qualify for a mortgage.  It also made our checking account happier to where we no longer had to worry if we had enough money in the account to cover our bills.  We did not get rich by any means, but we made it to even and even is a good place to be.  It is also in late Spring where my wife and I took our vacation to Arizona and had a blessed time seeing God's artistry in some of His greatest natural wonders.  When I think of the amazing beauty of the Grand Canyon and the Painted Dessert, I am even more amazed that He though so much of little me to provide us such provision to pay down our debt. 

After Spring comes Summer and Summer began an ongoing test of patience.  My wife and I started looking at homes closer to where I work and we also listed our own home to be sold.  Many months later and after looking at seemingly countless houses over the Summer, we are still in our same home with my same commute with no buyer or home to buy in sight.  While that honestly does get frustrating at times, I also know that God is preparing a place for us.  I do not mean in the Spiritual sense, but in the very present physical sense.  I know that there is a house for us and the timing is going to work so that a the right buyer will come along with the right house at the right price with the right interest rate.  That is my hope and I truly believe that is what God has in store for my wife and me.  Of course, other than the house hunting, Summer is home to most of my favorite activities.  I love walking on the boardwalk (though I seriously deprived myself of beach and boardwalk activities this year), barbeques, parties, warm weather, and just general Summer fun.  Did I mention that I love Summer? 

Finally, there is Fall.  Fall was much of the same as Summer.  We looked at a few houses and had a few showings, but nothing really came of it.  Then, in November, we were blessed again financially.  This new blessing was truly beyond all that we could have hoped and asked for.  I remember when it began, I said that I was being ambitious in hoping that it pays off all the rest of my credit card debt by the New Year.  Of course, God had bigger plans.  Not only did we finish paying off all of my debt, but we began on my wife's debt paying off one large bill and now working on another.  If there is one thing that truly sums up the previous year is that God provides. 

Looking back on the past year, I see an amazing trend.  The Christmas snow storm drive home was a microcosm of what the whole Winter was going to be and the whole Winter to be was a microcosm of the year to come.  What I mean is that there were times on that ride home when I did not think that I would ever get there, then there were times this Winter where I did not think it would ever end, and this is just as even with the money I was taking in, paying off all of my debt seemed like something still very much out of reach.  I can not begin to tell you all how encouraging this message is for me.  The same God who was able to provide and get me through in situations that I thought would never come to an end is the same God who my wife and I are praying for in our never ending (seemingly) attempts at moving jobs and/or home and in starting a family. I believe that what God has shown me this year is that He is going to come through in even bigger ways in the year to come.  I do not know what this next year has in store for us and I do not know what next year's message will say, but I am excited to find out.  I know that God has great things for me. 
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:20-21 NKJV