Change

uniform-inspectionJames 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change”.

Ministry takes some turns and twist people don’t expect and AR 670-1 is one of them.  This regulation above all draws the most passion, anger, frustration and conversation than any other regulation.

For those of you who have lived through an AR 670-1 change probably understand what I mean and those who haven’t will most likely find out soon or already see and hear the reaction to it.

I can’t say what ministry and care opportunities can come during this change or what reaction one may hear, see or experience.  I can suggest this however, keep eyes and ears open for opportunities for ministry and mentoring.

God never changes and we have His word that has remained consistent through the ages. God’s grace and love can abound in all situations and He want us to find those opportunities to interject His grave and love.

Charles Spurgeon said, “It is well for us that, amidst all the variableness of life, there is One whom change cannot affect; One whose heart can never alter, and on whose brow mutability can make no furrows.”

You might be surprised how God can work through something, even a uniform and appearance regulation.

(*** I edited the Soldiers name tag)

Facing Adversity

Romans 5:2-5 “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Paul tells us that hardship will come our way. Passages like this gives us hope because we are drill-instructortaught that when hardship or adversity comes, God is still with us. If bad things happen to a person, it is because we lack faith. In cases of adversity, each person needs to go into his heart and pray to discover how God is communicating. It may be that the trouble is a specific call from God. It may not. I don’t think passages like these can be universalized.

How is God may be speaking to you? Have you become more reliant on Him? We all have a way to go so how are you focusing your prayer time?

Peace I Leave With You

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7  peace i leave with you

We all want peace. We want peace in the world, so we get into wars. We want peace in our countries, so we vote for the person we think will do the best. We want peace with our friends, so we do what we can to not offend them. We want peace in our family, so we work hard to put a roof over their head and money in the bank for retirement. Lastly, we want peace in ourselves, so we compare ourselves to others and say we are much happier with what we have. People spend their whole lives working for peace. Unfortunately, true peace is not something that can be achieved, it can only be received.

True peace can only come from God (John 14:27). This peace doesn’t affect our surroundings, it affects our inner souls. Paul says that it will go deep into our hearts and minds. It isn’t something that can be explained in a self help book or with a few simple steps, it is only something that can be received from God. As a follower of Jesus, we should be the ones looked to when others need peace. Not because our surroundings are peaceful, but because our hearts and minds are at peace with God. We no longer fear death, hunger or war. We know that our treasure is in heaven and we will one day reign with the one true Peace Maker.

Better Than Planned

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” Ephesians 5:15-16, 20

broken-downInterruptions are nothing new. Rarely does a day go by as planned.

Life is filled with inconveniences. Our plans are constantly thwarted by forces beyond our control. The list is long and ever-changing: Sickness. Conflict. Traffic jams. Forgetfulness. Appliance malfunctions.

What we cannot see, however, is the other side of inconvenience. We think it has no purpose other than to discourage us, make life more difficult, and thwart our plans. However, inconvenience could be God’s way of protecting us from some unseen danger, or it could be an opportunity to demonstrate God’s grace and forgiveness. It might be the start of something even better than we had planned or it could be a test to see how we respond to adversity. Whatever it is, even though we may not know God’s reason, we can be assured of His motive; to make us more like Jesus and to further His kingdom on earth.

God had a purpose. Knowing this, we can thank Him, being confident that He is giving us an opportunity to redeem the time.

Do All Things Without Grumbling

fire-barrell“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,”. Philippians 2:14-15

Life can be hard. Not everything works out the way we plan. That is why God created us with the capacity for resilience. By faith, we can return to joy from negative emotions. But returning to joy is a choice. Sadly, instead of joy, many times we choose to grumble. Grumbling is different than simple negative emotions. Sadness, disappointment, even anger can be natural reactions to difficult situations, and with time spent in reflection, we can find our way back to joy. But grumbling is different.

Grumbling, unchecked, becomes a bitter root that destroys faith, hope and joy. It grows and festers, blaming, attacking and rebelling against any and everything that would be cause for its pain.

So today, let us check ourselves. Are we letting anger and frustration get the best of us? Are we blaming and complaining? Is it possible that we are spending more and more time grumbling? If so, let us heed the warning of Paul and stop. Let’s not let grumbling get the best of us.

Difficult Situation

In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I found this today while reading a devotional from Kay Arthur with Precepts For Life and thought it was worth posting today.

Stress is everywhere! And it shows. It shows in our bodies, in our relationships, including our relationship with God.

Time is a commodity you wish you could buy, and if you could, you would use it simply to buy peace, quiet, leisure — to do some things you long to do and not have to do them in such a rush. Just having time to think and to have the right atmosphere for thinking would be nice, wouldn’t it?

There will always be tension to life. But it needs to be a healthy, creative tension, not life-sapping stress. Marriages, families, and personal lives are falling apart as stressed-out people run away, withdraw, explode, crash, burn out and eventually find themselves so very much alone.

I believe a major cause for our stress is that we react rather than act. We’re all moving so quickly that we don’t stop and consider our future. What will it demand of us? What will it cost? Are we willing to pay the price?

We simply move. We react to the immediate.

stressIs that you today? I know it’s an area where I really do battle. I want to do everything. I have so many ideas and I love the excitement and challenge of a new venture, the potential, the “project.” So I react in the moment. I say yes when I should say no, forgetting that my time is already allotted to other things. We react in a response of the flesh instead of acting under the Holy Spirit’s control.

You see, God knows what each one of us is dealing with. He knows our pressures. He knows our conflicts. And He has made provision for each and every one of them. And that provision is Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit, indwelling us and empowering us to respond rightly.

This liberating response is wrapped up in a single word, and if you grasp the meaning of it and put it into action in your life through the Lord’s grace and power, you’ll know how to walk with the Spirit in complete control, and not one single stressful situation or circumstance in your life will be beyond your ability to handle.

The word is meekness! Meekness is the key to acting rather than reacting when disappointments come. Meekness carries the idea of humility and submission and of bringing yourself low. God is at work to build meekness into our innermost beings. And the way He works meekness in our hearts is through disappointments and trials.

Meekness is born in stress, in trials, in affliction in conflict, in difficulties. Meekness is born in situations that humble you. This meekness that God so highly values in your life will show itself, prove itself, in oppression and pressure and disappointment. It was true for God’s people Israel, and it’s true for you and me.

Let me ask you, when do you run to God the most? When do you pray the most? Isn’t it when you’re hurting the most? When you’re disappointed, stressed, pressured, you fall back in dependence upon the Lord instead of upon yourself.

Are you going through a difficult situation, a trial? Does this stressful time seem more than you can bear? Whatever the situation, whatever the stress, it is designed to make you, not to destroy you. It has been permitted by God to mold you into the image of His Son rather than disfigure you for life. God doesn’t test us to see if we’ll fail, but to show us how strong we are. He wants us to score a hundred on the exam!

No matter what happens to us, God has totally and completely and absolutely equipped and prepared us for it.

So we’re not to fight these afflictions we encounter, the trials and disappointments, these oppressions, these humbling situations. God is in perfect control of them, and in His perfect design He’s permitted them to teach us to act rather than react. We’re in training.

Jump Into The New Year

“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yardsoff. John 21:4-8

070602-F-6335P-340It’s a new season! The New Year 2014 has arrived and 2013 is safely behind us now with it many happy memories, passive struggles, triumphs and defeats. Whatever the past year held for you today is a new day! That is why I love the first day of each year so much. However, many people become depressed with the passing of the holiday season assuming life will become mundane and normal all over again. What is your perspective this morning? Did your enthusiasm end when the ball dropped and the celebration ended with Auld Lang Syne? The disciples who followed Jesus had experienced the miraculous. His ministry blossomed into healing and deliverance right before their eyes. Jesus taught these men daily. He walked with them. He resided with him. These followers experienced an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ every day. Then the unthinkable happened to their Messiah, He died. How could this happen? Was it the death of their dream? It was the end of one season and the beginning of another. So these men went back to life as it was before Jesus said, “Follow me.” Peter and several other disciples went back to fishing. It was their livelihood before Jesus. It was their normal routine. When Jesus was gone, all Peter could think to do in his moment of sorrow was return to some normalcy of life and so he did. But his season as a fisher of fish had ended and as they floated in the boat they had not caught a thing. Jesus was watching from the shore. He called out to the men inquiring of their catch. When they confirmed that they had caught nothing, Jesus directed them to cast the net on the right side of the boat. Their net could not hold the multitude of fish. Now in the natural what are the odds that when fishing in a small vessel that if there are no fish on one side of the boat that there will be abundance on the other side – unlikely at best. That is when the revelation hit one of the men and he said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Peter did not wait to discuss the futility of his proclamation instead diving in the water to be with the Lord. He left behind the fish and went for the Prize – Jesus. Peter did not want to go back to his old life but wanted to be with Jesus where He was! Today is the beginning of a new season for you too. It is a time to make a choice whether or not 2014 will be the year that you reside in the dwelling place of God in the Presence of the Lord or if you will go back to mundane living struggling to survive. While the choice seems obvious, note that only one disciple was in a rush to be with Jesus leaving behind natural blessing to get to Him. The others hauled in the fish with them!

The Presence of Jesus Christ in your life will change the outcome each and every time without fail. There is not one thing that this earth has to offer that is better than the favor that is found in His Presence. You can spend thousands of dollars looking for a cure for a disease when in an instant God can heal your body for free. A man can spend his entire life securing fame and fortune and die with a bankrupt soul only to be tormented for Eternity. Matthew 8:36 – “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Even the closest followers of Jesus Christ struggle with discerning physical wealth from spiritual inheritance. Will 2014 be the year that you decide to fully trust in Jesus Christ and make Him the Lord of your life? Salvation of your soul is secure in the knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ. Righteousness comes from doing something with this great knowledge. Jesus becomes Lord of your life when you submit all that you are to Him. Peter knew that all He needed was in Jesus Christ. His life did not matter in comparison to the gift of knowing the Lord and being in His Presence. Maybe some would say that Peter was overzealous for God. The Lord obviously provided a blessing in the multitude of fish caught that day and he just left the gift behind. I say that Peter was the only man of faith on that boat! See Peter recognized the sign in the miracle. Jesus did not meet them on the beach that day to fill their stomachs but to feed their souls. Peter was starving for Jesus! It is such a hunger that drove Peter from the boat into the sea to meet the Lord leaving behind natural sustenance for Eternal substance.

Deuteronomy 11:13-15 “And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, hewill give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full.”

Will 2014 be the year that you decide to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and all your soul? It seems like a simple question but the way that you respond will make the difference in prospering in 2014 or experiencing the same frustrating limitations of 2013. Peter had made some crucial errors in the days preceding his meeting with Jesus on the beach. He had denied the Lord in His Dying hour. He had hidden in fear for his life. It was not a defining time for this disciple. Many men would have been afraid to face the Risen Lord with such guilt and shame, however; Peter had to be where the Lord was in spite of himself. His Need for Jesus Christ would propel him into His Presence. Take time today to return to 2013 what belongs there. Guilt and shame are not welcome in this new season of your life. It was nailed to the same cross that Peter’s sins were attached to. Prosperity in the coming year is a matter of the heart and soul. What is your response? Will you jump into this new season as Peter did or will you just keep rowing the boat? The choice is yours. I encourage you to jump into 2014 and leave the past behind. There is nothing in 2013 that will outshine what the Lord longs to do in you for 2014! What are you waiting for? Jesus is waiting on you!

Christ

“Then she (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough-because there was no room for them at the inn. In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a manger.’

“Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors! When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’

“They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them” Luke 2:7-19.

candles 5Advent is about expectation and remembrance. We enter into the story of a world in need of a new start. It’s as much about the journey as it is the destination. And as we travel on this Christmas journey we remember. We remember Christmases of joy and hardship. We remember people we love who aren’t around our table anymore. Some memories are sweet. Others are difficult.

The Italian poet Cesare Pavese wrote, “We do not remember days; we remember moments.” Another man at the end of his life said, “I’ve had my moments, but if I had my life to do over again, I would have more of them.”

Can you imagine all the moments Mary had that first Christmas Eve? Luke tells us that she kept all these memories and treasured them in her heart. She saw and experienced things no one had before or will again. She wasn’t selected because of her wealth, education, royal lineage, or great deeds. In fact, the Bible is silent about the requirements for being the mother of the Messiah. We only know that God favored her highly among women. God’s glory consumed her life from the moment Gabriel visited her. God’s glory, His radiant love transformed her. She held the Son of God that night of which we sing. It was a holy night. God’s glory came to earth and wrote a love letter to the world in the form of a newborn baby.

What happens when you catch a glimpse of God? You treasure it. Mary could’ve had bitter memories about the travel arrangements, the lack of planning, the constant need to improvise. But in a barn full of visiting animals, horses, mules, stray dogs, camels, splinters, hay, and horse manure, Mary kept all these things treasured in her heart.

That night she had to contend with Joseph’s snoring and the shepherds, loudly recounting the amazing appearance of angels. They probably woke the baby several times that night. But just before dawn, when everyone except Mary and a mule was still asleep, she gathered a tapestry of memories:

  • the beautiful colors of Gabriel’s clothes
  • the look on Elizabeth’s face when she turned and saw Mary
  • the busyness of packing for the dreaded tax appointment
  • the “No Vacancy” signs
  • the nervous, frustrated father
  • the tiny hands of the newborn king

I would imagine she wept and smiled. She experienced an orchestra of emotions in concert with the breeze that swept through the Bethlehem hills like a newly released Spirit.

We each have opportunities to capture memories of Christ when we follow Him. Knowing that He became our Savior gives us a reason for joy. It’s Good News worth celebrating and joy worth finding.

 

*** Matt Tullos is pastor of Bluegrass Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee

Love

“‘I will tend My flock and let them lie down.’ [This is] the declaration of the Lord GOD. ‘I will seek the lost, bring back the strays, bandage the injured, and strengthen the weak, but I will destroy the fat and the strong. I will shepherd them with justice’” Ezekiel 34:15-16.

“For the Lord will not reject [us] forever. Even if He causes suffering, He will show compassion according to His abundant, faithful love. For He does not enjoy bringing affliction or suffering on mankind” Lamentations 3:31-33.

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16. candles 4

He couldn’t do anything for himself. Born with cerebral palsy, he sat in the wheel chair loving every second of the Christmas musical. He faces challenges that I can’t even imagine. His body wrecked by a disease that causes him to be in constant motion. He sat in the back of the auditorium, perhaps wanting not to distract. And sitting next to him was a proud mother, I couldn’t help stealing a glance throughout that evening, to see hear stroking his hair, wiping his mouth, and smiling all the while. She adored him. I thought to myself, That’s it. That’s love.

I had to meet this amazing mother. She was a single mom who had just moved to Tennessee from Kansas. “How do you do this all by yourself?” I had to ask. “He’s my life. He’s the greatest blessing that ever happened to me.”

This two-person family had an eternal impact on me. I received a glimpse of the love God has for me. Despite my constant battles with the curse of sin and personal rebellion, God loves me like that. Amazingly, you are God’s treasure and if you follow Him, He will be yours.

“Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10. “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!Romans 5:8. No doubt you’ve already heard the familiar words of “O Holy Night” this year. Don’t miss the truth of the final verse: Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace.

If you want to know how to love one another, look at the love that sent Jesus to earth to live a life of love and pay the price for all of our sins. It’s all about love. This isn’t a love of fancy words and impossible tasks. This is a love that says, “I am willing to love you no matter what.”

We can love because He first loved us.

 

*** Matt Tullos is pastor of Bluegrass Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee

Joy

“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, ‘Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.’ But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. Then the angel told her: ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end’” Luke 1:26-33.

candles 3Happiness is an emotion that can disappear as quickly as it rises to the surface. Joy, however, is a choice. We have a choice. God gives us a joy that is unconquerable. We can choose to live in an attitude of resentment, anger, and fear or we can choose to pursue the joy of Christ. So what is the picture of joy in the Bible?

Joy is trusting when you want to doubt.

“Trust in the LORD forever, because in Yah, the LORD, is an everlasting rock!” Isaiah 26:4. As Christ followers we aren’t pressured to do it all for everyone. We trust in Jesus to do the heavy lifting. The key is trust. We just need to have Mary’s response to the coming of Jesus, “‘I am the Lord’s slave,’ said Mary. ‘May it be done to me according to your word’” Luke 1:38.

Joy is receiving what you want to reject.

Can you imagine how the innkeeper would have felt if he said to Mary and Joseph, “Of course you can’t stay in that stable! That’s for paying customers. Who do you take me for?” We find joy in making room for people in need. Reflect on the mysterious words found in Hebrews: “Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it” Hebrews 13:2.

Joy is celebrating when you want to fear.

What’s the first thing angels say to mortals? It’s standard protocol. In just about every divine encounter the angels say: “Fear not.” I can hear Jesus instruct His most trusted angels. “OK, let’s go over this again … Most of the people that I’ll tell you to speak to will be scared out of their wits! So let’s practice the greeting one more time.” Then the angels would all say in unison, “Fear not.”

The message is clear. God is not looking for ways to scare us into faith. He drew near to us to relieve the worries we have about crossing over the divide between heaven and earth. He wants us to know that He’s going to take care of us no matter what happens. One of the names that He was called long before he ever stepped on this world’s stage was Immanuel meaning “God with us.” No matter what we go through we can whisper this simple truth: “Jesus is with me.” Think about it. He is with you in your greatest victories and your most humiliating defeats. Jesus is with you at all times in all things.

 

*** Matt Tullos is pastor of Bluegrass Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee