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March 30, 2017
“Come on! You should do it too!” My family urged me to join them on the FlowRider.
“Oh, I don’t think so,” I responded.
“Come on! Don’t you want adventure?”
We had just boarded a boat for a spring break cruise. This particular boat boasted all kinds of features, including “the ultimate surf machine.”
With apprehension I joined my family in line. We would be some of the first guests to try this stand-up surfing experience.
When my turn came, I hesitantly stepped onto the trampoline-like surface. Water rushed over the inclined platform as a cruise employee named Dragonya helped me onto the surfboard.
“I’m going to let go now,” she asserted.
“Wait! I don’t have my balance,” I countered, feeling the surfboard wobble under my feet and my heart pound in my chest. “Please don’t let go,” I begged. “Please.” I clung to her arm.
She rolled her eyes. Then, ignoring my pleas, she pulled away and insisted, “I’m letting go.”
Bam! I crashed onto the wet trampoline, and a strange combination of numbness and pain shot through my arm. Then a wave flung me against the back wall of the FlowRider, where I stayed, grasping my left arm. It dangled by my side, throbbing and immobile.
When Dragon girl finally realized that I was hurt, she turned off the machine, stopping the waves from crashing against my injured body. Then she brusquely phoned for the medical team. They arrived with a wheelchair, and soon I was in the X-ray room hearing the cruise doctor announce, “Your arm is broken very badly in two places. It’s a spiral fracture and will require surgery when you get home.”
That was so stupid! Why did I do it? I chastised myself as I sat up in bed (it was less painful than lying down) in our inside cabin for the next two days until I could get a flight home. I really hadn’t wanted to, but I let myself get talked into it. And I placed myself in the hands of Dragon girl, who seemingly didn’t care if I had a bad fall.
Should I avoid adventure from now on? I wondered. Then I realized that adventure isn’t a bad thing.
Have you ever heard of Epaphroditus? The apostle Paul described him as “my brother, coworker, and fellow soldier” on his missionary journey. Paul told the people in Philippi that he was sending Epaphroditus back to them, “for he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he is ill.” Paul confirmed that Epaphroditus was indeed ill to the point of death. He continued, “Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ” (Philippians 2:25-30, NIV).
Epaphroditus went on an amazing adventure and risked his very life. But he knew that spreading the gospel of Jesus was worth it.
He Gave All He Had!
November 23, 2015
As the first of December rolled around, a little boy in a very poor family wanted to give his father something meaningful, but he didn't have much. So, he thought and thought about what he could do for the man who had done so much for him and his two older brothers.
After their mother had unexpectedly died two Christmases ago of an unexplained fever, things had been really tough. It had changed their father. He wasn't the happy, joyful person he used to be anymore. The boy hoped that this Christmas, things would be different.
For three weeks the boy thought and prayed and did little odd jobs around his village in order to make some money?any money?so he could buy his father something that expressed how much he loved and cherished him. The problem was that everybody else in the village was also very poor, and the boy was only able to make seven dollars.
He spent the last week before Christmas asking everyone in his village if they had anything he could purchase for such a small amount of money, but he came up empty. He even had his older brother take him to a neighboring fishing village in the hope that he might find something, anything, to buy for his father. But at the end of the day, as he lay in his bed that night before Christmas, he was dejected.
He angrily cried out to God, You see how hard I've worked for my father. You see how much he's suffered these past two years. He loves all of us so much. I just wanted to get him something that shows him how much I love him.
In the midst of his emotional outburst, God clearly spoke to him. He immediately got up, went outside his little one-room hut, cut a piece of banana leaf, wrapped up his present, and tied it up with a piece of vine. He was so excited, he had a hard time falling asleep. It was like he blinked and then: Christmas morning.
After everyone had opened up their final gifts, he proudly handed the last gift?his gift?to his father, saying, "I got this for you!"
As his father opened it and saw it, tears immediately came to his eyes. He quickly grabbed his son. Hugging and kissing him, he whispered from a throat tight from holding back tears, "Son, this is the best gift I've ever received!"
Angry and jealous, his two older brothers jumped up and ran to the table. They only saw seven simple dollars wrapped up in a banana leaf. Both of the boys sneered and made fun of their younger brother. "That's all you got him? All the gifts we bought dad are worth much more than that!"
The younger brother became angry, started to cry, and tried to run off, but his father grabbed him by the waist and scolded both his older brothers. "You both bought me things and had lots of money left over, money that you spent on yourselves. But he loved me so much that he didn?t hold anything back; he gave me all he had!"
When Jesus was born, He came to give us all He had. The apostle Paul, in Romans 12:1, writes: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God;this is your true and proper worship" (NIV). *
This Christmas, give God the only gift He really wants from you: your heart.
Merry Christmas and I'll see you in 2016!
* Scripture quotations marked NIV are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION?. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Learning to Be Thankful
November 6, 2015
"Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, 'Jesus, Master, have pity on us!'
"When he saw them, he said, 'Go, show yourselves to the priests.' And as they went, they were cleansed.
"One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus, feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, 'Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, 'Rise and go; your faith has made you well'" (Luke 17:11?19, NIV).*
I share this story because several years ago I had a reality-shifting conversation with an elderly gentlemen at a nursing home in Atlanta where I was working. I simply asked him how he was doing. From his wheelchair, he grabbed my arm, pulled me down to his level, looked me dead in the eyes, and after what seemed like an eternity (probably only five seconds or so), quietly but firmly responded, "I'm SUPER-DUPER! Any day above ground is a great day!"
I stood up, bid him goodbye, and went on the rest of my rounds for that day.
You might think, So what! What's the big deal? So he's a happy guy . . . But what you don't know is that he was blind, partially deaf, confined to a wheelchair because of his blindness, and he had really bad diabetes, which means he had lost both of his feet and legs to that horrible disease. On top of that, he had a bunch of numbers tattooed on one of his forearms—not because he dug skin art, but because he lived through the Jewish Holocaust of World War II and survived a Nazi death camp. This guy witnessed many of his family and friends die . . . and yet he could still find happiness and wonder in each day!
He would spend his days wheeling himself around his floor by the handrail on the wall and striking up cheerful conversations with anybody and everybody with whom he came into contact. This guy was the unofficial nursing home ambassador and brightened everybody?s days—including mine.
But here was the thing that blew me away: he (like the one leper who came back to thank Jesus) wasn't even a Jesus follower . . . he wasn't a Christian!
He knew there was a God and recognized that He created everything and that He was in charge. He just wasn?t a Christian, and he never really discussed with me his reasons why, and out of respect, I didn't ask.
But I learned a lot from that gentlemen, and I mean that word in the truest sense; he really was a gentle-man. He was thoughtful, caring, compassionate, empathetic, full of kindness and grace toward others, and always, always, always thankful.
I was much younger back then, but I think about him especially during this season of the year, when our collective focus (at least in the United States) is upon being thankful.
So today, I want to challenge you to take time every day (not just during November) and, from the bottom of your heart, give God thanks for everything you've got . . . and if you can't think of anything to be thankful for, you can thank Him that you're above the ground and not under it.
* Scripture quotations marked NIV are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION?. Copyright ? 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ? Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
* Scripture quotations marked NIV are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
Copyright ? 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Frightened of the Future?
September 30, 2015
"Ooh, I can’t wait for our Halloween night bonfire!" I turned to see my son frantically jumping up and down and clapping his hands, as if he was on fire.
For a while now we’ve checked out of all secular Halloween festivities and used the time to enjoy each other around a backyard bonfire, cookout, and worship. It’s a wonderfully blessed time that we all look forward to as we spend the cool evening outside in God’s amazing nature; it draws us closer, both to God and to each other.
Incidentally, our backyard is situated so that if you sit closer to the edge of our property on one side, you can clearly see the street and sidewalk in front of our home. Due to that exact reason, my wife and I always tell our children to position their chairs with their backs to the street, so instead of focusing on those totally demonic (yes, I said it) costumes, they can, instead, focus on God’s amazing creation and us.
The truth is that, like Halloween night, much of what’s passing in front of our collective physical and spiritual eyes is pretty scary!
The world is basically falling apart! Several days ago, the pope made United States history by speaking to the United States lawmakers . . . in the very place where they make those laws!
It’s true that if we’re focusing our eyes on what’s happening in this old world, it’s easy to get pretty shaken up. But truly, there’s no need to be frightened of the future, as long as we, like my children, choose to keep our eyes on our heavenly Father.
Just as Peter, walking on the water toward Jesus, began to sink the moment he took his eyes off of Jesus (see Matthew 14:22-33), we will equally sink into fear, anxiety, depression, panic . . . and even outright turn our backs on God.
But if we daily choose to focus on Jesus by having a relationship with Him, instead of the junk of the world, we will be able to remain peaceful—even in the midst of the worst this world will throw at us. We are promised: “You [God] will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3, NKJV).
Ellen G. White specifically references fearing the future when she writes, “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”
So, today—and whenever you begin to feel fearful—take some time to return your focus back to God and what He’s done for you in the past, and know for certain that He will bring you through whatever happens in the future . . . even those scary, awkward, teeny, little zombies.
 Scripture marked NKJV is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Ellen G. White, Life Sketches of Ellen G. White (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1915), 196.
It's Later Than It's Ever Been
September 2, 2015
A young boy was spending the day in his grandfather’s clock shop, and a recently dropped off broken clock loudly chimed “10,” “11,” “12” . . . then “13,” and finally ended at “15”!
The grandfather turned to the boy and asked, “I thought I just heard a clock chime . . . what time is it?”
The boy, surprised, honestly responded, “I don’t know . . . but it’s later than it’s ever been!”
It’s true! It is later than it’s ever been . . . and Jesus is coming soon! But the question is, what are you doing about it?
I have family in both Florida and Puerto Rico (the Caribbean), and we have all been glued to the weather reports of the ongoing Tropical Storm Erika. Moment by moment and hour by hour, my family has been checking in with each other and keeping everybody informed about the latest updates.
Jesus also taught us to watch for signs of the storm as well: “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:2, 3, NIV).
How attentive to the signs of the times have you been? Are you ready? Are your family and friends and neighbors ready? Do you care? If you do, I ask you again: what are you doing about it to let others know?
“Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.’
“A second angel followed and said, ‘ “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great,” which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.’
“A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: ‘If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.’ This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus” (Revelation 14:6-12, NIV).
The three angels’ messages should be our messages! In these stinging and sobering words, Ellen G. White both rebukes and refocuses us: “In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light bearers. To them has been entrusted the last warning for a perishing world. . . . They have been given a work of the most solemn import—the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels’ messages. There is no other work of so great importance. They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention.
“The most solemn truths ever entrusted to mortals have been given to us to proclaim to the world. The proclamation of these truths is to be our work. The world is to be warned, and God's people are to be true to the trust committed to them.”
So, what’s the bottom line? Well, it’s my hope that after reading this you will:
1. Fall in love with Jesus Christ and fully give Him your hearts, your lives, and wills . . . basically, don’t hold anything back from Him and totally follow Him all the rest of your days.
2. Continue growing and flourishing in your relationship with God, through Jesus.
3. Not make or continue to make stupid, purposeful, or careless mistakes that get you tangled up in years and years of chronic sin, addictions, bad life situations, and the consequences that go with them. Instead, you’ll be able to sidestep those things and . . .
4. Share that love and freedom that you’ve found in Christ with as many people as you can to . . .
5. Speed Christ’s return so we can all go home to spend eternity with Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit.
It’s later than it’s ever been, and the storm is coming! Get to work to get yourself and others ready!
 Scripture quotations marked NIV are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
 Scriptures quoted from CEV are from the Contemporary English Version, copyright © American Bible Society 1991, 1995. Used by permission.