Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Want to have Surgery?

A number of weeks ago, my orthopedic surgeon asked me a question.... "You want to have surgery?" Well, my response was, 'certainly not...' I did not 'want' to have surgery. Then he clarified that he determined my shoulder injury, after six months of therapeutic, non-surgical treatments, would not improve past the 80% healing point that I seemed to be stuck in... He explained that there was just the tip of a bone that continued to irritate the injured area (called an impingement), and needed to be shaved down, so the injury could fully heal. He explained it with pictures and drawings that a simple guy like me could understand, and I agreed to the procedure and the time was set.

When I awoke from what was supposed to be a simple hour long procedure, I noticed that the Surgical recovery area was empty except me, and that somehow I had been in surgery for five hours.... The Surgeon had left for the day, having explained to my wife that he discovered the real problem, a hole/tear in my rotator cuff, that needed to be repaired, and that I was to meet back with him in a few days at his clinic.

Karen, my wife, explained it to me, the best she could, but this had not been part of the long explanation that I had been through before I agreed to surgery. The MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging... kinda like an x-ray of tissue) had not revealed any injury like this that was mentioned to me... I was a bit more at a loss.

Three days passed painfully slow, at the meeting with my surgeon, he clearly explained to me what he discovered when he went into my shoulder with his orthoscopic camera. I asked, why the MRI did not pick this up months before? He explained that an MRI is like looking out a window with Vaseline smeared all over it... is that a truck in the parking lot?... I think so, it is blue, but what kind of condition is it in..... ? ...Well I thought that an MRI was a lot more clearer than that, and that surgeons were more certain of what they could see before going into a surgical procedure.

I look at the five small incisions in my shoulder now in the mirror as they heal and I am moved at how such a discovery can be found, and repaired through that small space... In addition, I have recently become a new student of the structure and make up of the human shoulder like never before. God has created such an incredible number of cooperating levels of tissue and mechnisums that makes up the shoulder that just blows my mind. And that with the technology we have today, there is no clear way to really know what may be wrong without actually allowing the surgeon to go in and look for him self.

Kinda like surgery, I am most grateful that God is at work in me, even when I'm not sure what the procedure is or why it needs to be done, I know that when the pain resides and my strength returns I will still be in love with Him and trusting Him in all things, all the more. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13, "NOW we see but a poor reflection; THEN we shall see 'clearly' face to face.." The question I ask now when the Surgeon (my Lord) says, "Want to have Surgery?" The fact that He wants to help me, He loves me and knows what needs to be done humbles me greatly. I hope that my desire for any surgical procedure He wants to do, however painful or if I don't even understand it, my answer will be a trusting "Yes!" I look forward to these faith growing procedures more each day.

"Want to have surgery?" God.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A nation afraid of the Light?

Over the last 40 years, many of our churches in our nation have brought their theological convictions of the Bible and the priesthood of all believers and local autonomy of the church to a very significant place. Many churches are in a great place to hear and heed God’s will. However, I do believe that, we need a wake-up call. Many churches are solid in the Bible, but as a group of Christians nation-wide, we have been on the decline in evangelism and missions.

Christ's message to the church at Sardis in Revelation 3:

I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you."

The most rational decision now is to acknowledge the reality of our overall decline, so we might deal with its consequences and discover solutions. Looking for places and people to blame is not the answer. There are bigger issues and we need to face some facts: we face a culture turning its back toward us, a declining and aging church membership, and young leaders who are choosing other partnerships. Is the culture getting worse? Sure it is. But we should be the ones giving a reason for our hope rather than hoping for a reason. We need a resurgence of genuine relationship with God and with others. We have moved too quickly away from these two very important facts in an effort to provide activities that give an impression of life rather than opportunities for relationship that affects lives… we have to slow down, and build meaningful, genuine relationships… first with God in worship as life, and then with all other people we are connected with. That is where the power and activity of God is at.

In His presence we are drawn to repentance and forgiveness. God then issues His clear call on our lives for today…. Then we are faced with the answer we must give to Him. We need to get back to this in every part of our life individually, as a local church, denominations and as the international church.

As children we were afraid of the dark. Now as adults we are afraid of the light. We are afraid to step out, to become what God has designed us to be and do as a follower of Christ. We are afraid of the truth and cower when lies are told. We need to move towards the light, expect our leaders to do the right thing before God and people. Hold them accountable. We can not lead others any further than we have been our selves individually. Change begins with the individual believer, which in turn awakens the church… that will then affect their community… maybe along the way, our leaders and our nation will awaken again to God. It must and should begin with me..., let's go, are you afraid of the light?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Set Apart... to serve

This week I have been on the Catawba Indian Reservation as an assistant Project Coordinator as the night Worship Speaker with World Changers in Rock Hill, SC. I have seen God work in so many ways, it just is amazing. Roofs are being repaired, lives changed.....
This morning, I helped with an interview of one of the residents, Mary Wallace, a senior adult lady, with one leg, who was so overwhelmed by the presence of God in her life, I was incredibly encouraged by her testimony. While she was sharing, over 20 students and adults were working on her roof above, she was teary about the thought of the project being completed, because that would mean the Student Crew would be leaving..... She said, "I am glad that my house was in such bad condition that caused these beautiful students to come into my life... God has sent them."
I have committed my life to be a servant. But in times like this, when I am just volunteering to serve in ways like this, I have to ask a question to myself. If I merely 'choose to serve', I keep some of the control for myself. I am still in charge of what tasks I will actually perform. I might even worry that people would take advantage of me. I may even be concerned how others will react to me. Yet... .if I choose to be a 'servant of Christ'...., I have discovered what is different. In doing this, I give up the reins of my life. I am 'set apart' as a follower of Christ. I surrender my desire to take control. I voluntarily give up my rights, and choose to allow Christ, as my Master, to direct my path. Then, it does not matter what, when or where... I am still His servant... in formal ways, and "random" conversations with any person I will meet. That is being 'set apart' to follow Him.
John 15:5 says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." Remain a servant of Christ, not just a servant, and you will see the fruit.... I am a witness, the fruit sprouting in front of my eyes is abundant and eternal.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Trust me....

Years ago, on a Thursday, I was invited to speak at Furman University's Fellowship of Christian Athletes group, in Greenville, SC. Being an alumni of this group, made it all the more exciting for me. While I was waiting my opportunity, during the time when the Worship Team was leading us in song, I sensed God asking me "do you trust Me?".... well I immediately answered in my mind "of course!" No sooner had I thought those words, came another statement... "Give away your guitar!" I had a genuine sense that God was asking me to give my Ovation-Ultra away to one of the band members that I knew from back when I was attending there in College. I brushed away the thought as the time approached for me to speak.

After the FCA meeting, some of the students were going over to an apartment to hang out, stay up late and visit... I was invited. At this "party" I bumped into Toby (a member of the FCA band), and the earlier thought immediately echoed in my mind again.... Toby and I talked of years past, and all that God was doing, but the subject of my personal musical instrument, never came up...., well, I never brought it up.

I stayed the night in town, and late into the night, as I was trying to sleep, the thought remained in my mind... and then the first question returned... "do you trust Me?"... and that was all it took. At 7am I got up, called Toby and asked him if he would meet me for lunch on campus, we set the time and place around his classes, no mention of details were discussed... I was still not completely convinced God was clear on his question, and his request.

I went to an appointment I had set, while I would be in town, with my childhood pastor to visit with him about a decision I had about some choices I had before me. I was getting different advice from some about attending Seminary, or accept a position before me... I was uncertain of the choices, as they both seemed God honoring... You know what my pastor said? "Trust God in this, and act on his leading...." He probably said more than that, but that was all I heard.... and it was about all I could stand.

I met Toby for a brief lunch, with my guitar in hand, I gave it to him immediately upon seeing him. He was confused, he stated that he had a guitar already, and thanked me deeply. However, I would not take it back, I insisted that he take it, sell it if he did not need it, I convinced him that I was not leaving with it. I left, and headed back to Summerville, SC, where I was serving at my first Student Ministry position as a Youth Pastor.

The whole way back, and the few days after arriving back at my home, I was none the clearer for what I had done. I used my guitar in my personal worship, in songs of praises from my heart to Him, I used it to lead students in song during our regular youth meetings, I used it in our campus Bible study groups that I was part of... this was a tool of ministry. I began to wonder if I had acted on foolish sentiment, but I had no regret for the action... I truly trusted God, and that was all that was important to me.

I arrived at my office early on Sunday morning to get things ready for the ministry of the day, and having been out of town for a few days, I expected to find some things that might need my attention. In front of my desk, in my office, there was a guitar, a limited edition, Alvarez guitar... with a post it note on it that read "from God." I fell to my knees in awe, and to take a closer look.... I later asked any and everybody I connected with on that Sunday as to the origin of the guitar that was left in my office, and nobody had a clue. Monday, I asked my secretary and other staff the same question, and got no additional information. Wednesday at Youth Group, I asked the students, told them the story of what had just happened... Some of the students inquired a bit about it, but most were not moved by this occurrence in my life as they were to be with their friends for the night. After our youth meeting and the following after-glow around Volleyball in the gym, the College/Career students began to arrive for their late night Bible Study hour. I led the music (with this beautiful instrument), and facilitated the study (we were reading Screwtape Letters together and discussing it each Wednesday night). I briefly mentioned the origin of the guitar as I was leading music, and the study occurred normally. A few students came in late from work, or other ministry things.

After the Bible Study, my friend Bill (having arrived late), who attended another church, but helped me with the FCA at the local High School campus, came to me with a smile on his face and humorously asked me if I found the guitar he left in my office on Friday, and did I like the 'note,' as he smiled? I asked him about the note, and why the guitar, and he said that Thursday night, he sensed God was telling him that I needed another guitar, and he was supposed to give me one of his. He stated that he came by on Friday to give it to me. Not finding me in my open office, he decided to leave it there, and attach the note for a grin. As I began to tell him about my past few days, we both began to weep in the presence of seeing what God had orchestrated.

In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.... (Ps 56:4). Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make your paths straight. (Prov 3:5-6). Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. (1 Cor 4:2). "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. (Jn 14:1).

I can't begin to tell you how easy the decisions before me were to make, as I followed God's leading, ever so quiet that it might have been, with great enthusiasm and trust, regardless of the uncertainty that might lay ahead.

Can I ask YOU a question?.... Do you trust Him? If God is asking you that question today, make sure you know that there just might be an unusual request to follow.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Joy in the Journey! :.>)

Walking with God can sometimes become a puzzling and frustrating journey. There are times when I wonder out loud to God..."what is going on...?" You know, the truth is, even now, when that question comes to my mind, the Spirit quickly pushes my heart to the real question that I 'meant' to ask: "Lord...., what is my purpose in this trial?"

In Romans 8:36 we see that, as Christians and followers of Christ, we are "as sheep to be slaughtered." Now THAT would be a scary thing to be going through, but the next few verses reveal a wonderful truth in ANY trial, no matter how great (or usually comparatively in my case... pretty small). "... I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!"

I am a child of faith being led into LIFE, not a slaughtered death, no matter how grim a situation might look. Through my "suffering" my faith allows God to make me fruitful even then. In Genesis 41:52, Joseph says, "It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering..." When I really think about it, if I was able to stand face-to-face with Jesus and ask Him if He LIKED the trials He endured to save my soul... His answer would probably be on the low end of enjoyment... now I am sure that with what He knew the out come would bring, there was a certain level of 'joy' but that is far different from enjoying the process. I am sure that Jesus would rather have been on a journey where everybody loved Him, listened to Him and accepted Him, but the results wouldn't have been the same. Because He endured the adversity that no mere human could have endured, He achieved the amazing end result of my salvation through the payment for my sins so that I could have a personal relationship with Him.

You know, does it really matter that I have adversity from time to time when the end result of any adversity in service to Him will result in eternal life anyway, through faith in my relationship with Jesus? Hmm.... I am not here on earth for the satisfaction of my flesh, but to be of service to God in any way He so desires.. be it difficult or not.

Again, as I learn to understand that, and accept that and endure whatever I must in the will of God, my trials will no longer be trials, but... a walk of faith. Now there is the JOY in the journey! :.>)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Following Legends...

I was listening to WHMI this morning as they interviewed Detroit Tiger legend, Frank Tanana. He is going to be in Howell this weekend at the "Vintage Baseball Game" being played Sunday, around 2pm at Barnard Center in Howell as part of the "Howell History Days" that is scheduled for this weekend. There is excitement in the community at the opportunity to meet this great Tiger legend. Frank is a Hall of Fame, 21 year, veteran of the "Big time" MLB, and there will be many there to get his autograph or snap a picture with this famous star of the game.

Frank was known in his day to pitch many a complete game, with seldom relief needed from the bullpen. But now, the game requires 'mid-relief,' 'relief' and 'late-relief' pitchers to ward off the powerful hitters. Following a sports legend like Frank would be difficult for anyone, but someone always has to.. and I am sure with much fear and intimidation at times.

After Moses passed away, the Lord spoke to Joshua and told him that his time had come to lead. The reality was, though, that he'd be taking over for one of the most renown leaders of all time, Moses! But God didn't just throw Joshua out there with a pat on the back, He gave him His word that He would be with him. Three times God told Joshua to 'be strong and Courageous' and also gave Joshua His promise...

First, God said that Joshua was the man to lead them. Second, He directed Joshua to follow His instructions completely. Third, God said that, no matter what happended, He would be with Joshua and his people. Joshua took comfort in these words.

Following a legend like Frank Tanana would be a challenge for any athlete, but Frank has another legend that I like even more. Frank is a Christian and takes every opportunity to represent his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, not in a confrontational way, but as a very loving, helpful, servant. This type of legendary message is worth stepping up to for all of us. What an inspiration!

Maybe you've had to follow a legend at school, work, church or in faith. Trust in the fact that God will be with you as you call on His name. His desire is not to see you fail, but that you would lean on Him for guidance, leadership and truth. Be like Joshua today, be strong and courageous when the Lord asks you to step up for His glory. (see Joshua 1:1-9)

submitted by Pastor Kent Williams

FYI: Frank Daryl Tanana pitched for six teams--California Angels (1973-1980), Boston Red Sox (1981), Texas Rangers (1982-1985), Detroit Tigers (1985-1992), New York Mets (1993), and New York Yankees (1993)--over the course of his 21-year major league career. Since 1900, Tanana ranks 14th in games started (616), 22nd in innings pitched (4188.1), 18th in strikeouts (2733), and 37th in wins (240). Among left-handers, Tanana places 5th in GS, 7th in IP, 4th in K, and 11th in W. He has started more games than any other southpaw in the history of the American League. Mr. and Mrs. Tanana serve on the Pro Athletes Outreach board of Directors and are also involved in the Home Plate and Career Impact ministries.

Friday, May 8, 2009

"Some times a little bad happens before the greater good...!"

This past weekend, someone pulled out in front of my son's truck, the damage probably a total loss.... not having full coverage, and living in the 'no fault state' brought us to the realization that this was going to be costly. After finding out that the repair would cost more than the trucks worth, we began to look for another inexpensive car... The dealer of one of the cars we looked at (after we told him of our loss), instead of selling us the car at his profit, he instead told us of a friend that could fix my son's truck... for more than half of our other estimate.... we were back in business.

Finding the good can be a challenge, but Scripture confirms that God uses bad circumstances for good purposes.

In 2 Kings 5, we find two people who had bad things happen to them. First is a young girl from Israel who was taken captive by the Syrian army. Second is Naaman, the commander of the army, who had leprosy. Even though the girl had good reason to desire bad things for her captors, she offered help instead. "Israel’s prophet Elisha," she said, "could heal" Naaman. Eager to be cured, Naaman went to Israel. However, he was reluctant to follow Elisha’s humiliating directions. When he finally did, he was healed, which caused him to proclaim that Israel’s God is the only God (v.15).

God used two bad things—a kidnapping and a deadly disease—to change Israel’s enemy into a friend. Even when we don’t know why something bad has happened, we know that God has the power to use it for good.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Walking with Optimism!"

Just about every day, my wife and I take a walk. We talk and share about all that is going on in our lives. Recently I realized that my walking companion is so optimistic, even in the middle of what I think are justified complaints. I was also brought face to face in my devotion to a passage that I am familiar with, but I never let the words literally sink in.... Colossians 3:15-17 says:

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

If you listen to people, being thankful is not a very common attitude. They complain about their classes, their jobs, their practice schedules, their parents, their friends, the weather... on and on. In the world it is easy to complain because everybody does it. Yet, as followers of Jesus, we are called to be thankful... no matter the circumstances. That is often not an easy task, especially when you think you have something to complain about... but you know, that is just the time when God wants us to be thankful, all the more. When things are going great, it is easy to be thankful... but when tough times come, being thankful requires help.. sometimes a reminder from a friend who cares. But really, it occurs to me that if we are truly trusting Christ and the presence of His Spirit in our life, Jesus is walking with us all day long!! What could be a better reminder that we have so much to be optimistic about.

For the "peace of God to rule in your hearts" means that there is no other way that we should feel... at peace..., no matter what decision is ahead for us, or challenge, an injustice or some other 'worthy' complaint.

Thank you God for walking with me. That realization is truly helping me to be more optimistic.

Today, you are entering a world of complainers. It is your opportunity to stand out, to be different. The Lord wants you to have a n attitude of thankfulness. The only way you can do that is to get into His Word and allow it to get into you. Take a walk with Optimism!

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Harvest Principle: God Supplies Alone!

In today's devotional that Rick Warren sends out @ www.purposedriven.com that I get, I was particularly moved by his words today. Living in Michigan, many of my friends are losing their jobs, or very concerned about the future of their jobs. Often times, I can relate to their day to day concerns as we may call it, but deep down, it truly just might be worry. Well, God clearly tells us not to worry, but this reminded me again, that when 'concern' creeps in, what a fresh perspective can give. Here are some of the thoughts that Rick offered, and I pass it on to you. If you would like to connect with his daily devotions directly as well, go to the web site above.

"Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will aslo supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness" 2 Corinthians 9:10

Looking to God as our only source of supply is often a challenge, but it is the key to this verse. If we are truly going to look to Him alone to provide for our needs, we should not look anywhere else.

We get ourselves in trouble when we confuse the channel with the source. God may use your paycheck from work as the channel to supply your needs, but your employer is just the channel for God's provision- and God can shift to another channel anytime he wants.

When you start to look to something or someone else to meet your needs, when you begin to confuse the channel with the source, there is a clear sign: Worry!

Say you've started looking to your job as the source, instead of the channel. You may start worrying, "What if I lose my job?" You know what? That channel may close, but the source of your every need is still active and providing for you. When God turns off one channel, he can turn on another one.

Once you know what you're lacking, you need to give God the right to choose whatever channel He decides to fulfill the need. It may be a channel different from the one you would choose; in fact, God may allow a totally different channel than you would expect, just so that you will keep looking to Him for all your needs.

For me, I am continually reminded about God's channel of provision, even in times like we are going through today. It truly is exciting to look back and see how God has provided through His channels of blessing.

Don't forget in the dark times, what God has taught you in the Light.
God alone is our source and supply!

submitted by Pastor Kent Williams