Steps

I know that it’s January, but when I think of the promise that a new year brings, my mind wonders back to December. Of course, that’s not unusual for anyone that knows me. I think back to a certain Christmas special where the hero is persuading the villain that he can change if he wants.

All he has to do is take the first step. A step is a wonderful thing. It holds the promise of a changed life, yet it also has another message, that change starts small! That’s the liberating part of it, you don’t get have to go a million miles in a day, you start with a single step. Then one becomes two, two turn into ten, and so on.

My sister gave a poster once, it showed a man walking upon individual rocks sticking up out of the water. I’ll never forget the caption, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” so even if that first step is awkward, or scary, take it. No one said you had to run at first, no one ever said it had to be graceful. It just has to be initiated,

To a little baby, one step is huge, it’s never been done before. To the Parent it’s a starting point. We don’t start off with huge feats, just taking a few steps. No matter how important, or long the path, it all started by putting one foot in front of the other foot. Even Calvary began with The Master walking towards it.

So, in 2013, don’t get caught up in how long it will take you to get to where you go, instead, get caught up in The One that will walk beside you every step!

Dec 27

It’s December 27 and I’m thinking about what it must have been like two days after Jesus was born. While we know that He wasn’t born in December, think about what happened next. Not so much the events, but the response to those events.

Our Pastor, Denny Livingston, took three Sundays this month to focus on Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. I strongly recommend going to www.pointofmercy.net or pointofmercy.tv and listening to them, or checking out the podcasts on iTunes.

I’m not going to add to them here, but it inspired me to wonder, “What went through their minds two days later?” Now that He was here, there was work to be done. The question is, did they temporarily get so caught up in the work that it lessened the wonder? I don’t think so, but often, isn’t that what we do?

In the business of taking down the tree, packing up the lights, and tossing the wrapping paper, do we forget? This is not a new question, but it is one that should be asked each year. In 2013, we face new battles, adventures, and challenges, but we don’t face them alone.

The God birthed in the Manger was with Mary and Joseph through every step of the way. He didn’t come into their lives to leave them, He came to lead them. Yes, He would die on Calvary, but that wasn’t the end. As the first fruits of the Resurrection, He was clearing the path they, and we will follow.

So let us encourage ourselves in this, Christ is with us daily, even when decorations are a memory. I’m so glad that in both the cold of winter and the heat of July, He stands with me. So Merry Christmas today, tomorrow, and always, for He abides with me!

Leah

Leah, a woman not desired, has been honored by more sermons than she could have ever imagined. I would love to meet this woman with tear stained faith. Her very name can be translated weary. What makes a Mother look at her newborn child and name them weary?

Hard labor is meant to produce wonder, not weariness. This little bundle of joy, this gift of God, was labeled as exhaustion. The blessings of God are designed to produce effort as well as effect. Don’t let the effort lessen the effects that God intends His blessing to have on you.

Leah was not the favored one, but neither was Jacob. Jacob wasn’t favored by his father. Isaac loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Isn’t it ironic that the very person who should have understood and appreciated Leah rejected her? If we’re not careful, the pain that has been inflicted on us, we will inflict on others. How different would the story have been if Jacob had valued Leah more?

The Bible records Leah having many children, but it does not record her favoring one child over the other.The only argument against this, is that she makes no statement when her daughter Dinah is born. I have a different take on this than in the past. Dinah means justice. Could it be that after having son after son, trying to gain her husband’s love, that she had a child which justified her struggle?

Dinah wouldn’t gain Jacob’s favor, but she would be filled with Leah’s love. Is it possible that the mother who named her child weary, didn’t value her daughter? Is it possible that the first disdain of Leah came from her mother? Leah had the opportunity to give her daughter what she was denied.

She could have named her child resentment. After all, she cost her hours of labor, and was not a boy? Her husband wouldn’t value a girl the same way. No, Leah, the rejected pillar, looked at this beautiful baby girl, and named her justice. She was the last child Leah had. The Bible does not record any further attempts by Leah to win her husband’s affections.

Jacob and Leah, the two were more well matched than Jacob realized. They were undervalued, yet they produced more together than there fathers thought they could. Don’t judge yourself by the sticker price this world has pawned off on you.

God didn’t stroll into some random world to kill time. He purposely came to save us. He embraced Leah’s model, the Bible says that there was no beauty in Him that we should desire Him. This descendant of a woman named weary, was called The Man Of Sorrows.

Tear stained faith. Leah wept through being unloved, through hours of labor. No doubt she cried each time she realized it. Every time, all over again, knowing that the baby she gave him didn’t increase her value in his heart.

The Lord Jesus knew what that was like. The Exodus didn’t do it. Giving them Manna didn’t accomplish it. A land flowing with milk and honey didn’t cause it to happen! Rejection after rejection, no matter how many blessings He gave Israel. Then, near the close of His earthly ministry, we see The Lord Jesus looking over Jerusalem with tear stained eyes.

Israel wasn’t the only one that rejected Him. Like Leah, He walked to Gethsemane knowing millions would reject Him. Countless souls have said no to Heaven as they sped towards Hell! God wrapped in flesh, was not in denial.

He knew the whipping post wouldn’t change some people’s minds. Six hours of labor on a cross wouldn’t affect a large number of those He came for. Yet, like Leah, Jesus labored. Like Leah, He saw it through. When it was over, He said, it was worth it.

Hebrews 12:2-4
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

He looked at the children that were produced and said they were worth all the suffering. That we are worth all the tears, all the pain. Leah cherished her children in the midst of her situation. The Lord Jesus cherishes those that serve Him, regardless of the many that turn away.

Maybe you’re in the middle of rejection, or despair. Don’t be discouraged! More importantly, don’t let your circumstances taint your ministry. Don’t judge your Judah by your Jacob! Value your Simeon, knowing that you will be vindicated, because Dinah is just a few blessings away.

Whether on this Earth or Heaven’s shore, your commitment will be justified. So fight while you’re crying. Wield your sword as you wipe your tears! Even though it took years, God saw to it that Leah was both honored and valued. He will do the same for you!

Special Offer

Starting today, Dec 7 through Dec 11, Amazon.com is offering our story “Scarfed” FREE!

We hope you enjoy this heartwarming story about the trouble that occurs when you’re loving grandparents combine Valentine’s day with Christmas, and you’re the target! If so, check out our other Christmas fare.
Captain Christmas” tells the story of how a pilot from Chicago. Tim Hill has to learn to soar above his fears if he wants to be the next Santa Claus. That is if his cousin doesn’t knock him off the wing of the plane first!
You’ll also find two versions of, “L.O.C. And Key“, the original and illustrated editions. Who is Alexander Kildaire, and how does he hold the key to his granddaughter’s happiness. The answer is of course, under “L.O.C. And Key.”

The Preacher And The Professor

The following is an allegory, a lesson in believing, a lesson in witnessing, and a lesson in friendship. I hope it warms your hearts this Christmas season.

Friendship is a cloth, woven into our lives at very crucial times. Some are made up of new threads, and some of old. Much like a child clings to a worn out blanket, we hold on to friendships others would say we’ve outgrown.

Children are often wiser than we, for they know to be very cautious in discarding old things. After all, wasn’t the pirate’s treasure merely old pieces of yellow rock someone once prized? Such is the case in our story.

Greg Harper and Arthur Lang were now polar opposites. One a Pastor of a small Church, the other a Professor at the university. That doesn’t sound like a huge difference, until you take into consideration this fact. Arthur was an atheist, a tolerant one, but an atheist nonetheless.

He had been this way since he was a child, after his Parent’s bitter divorce had convinced him that God must not exist. “For,” he reasoned, “if He did exist, the two people he loved so dearly would not have hurt each other so deeply.”

As boys, this was not a factor. As teens, they ignored their differences. As young men, the two fought harshly. Somewhere in their thirties, they found that each other’s friendship meant more than their argument.

That was until a very special December. Arthur attended a party at the college, all of his intellectual friends were there. After finding out that he was hanging around this “Preacher”, they pounced. “You are so intellectually superior to this man, and yet you hang around this, this Preacher?”

The Dean had said the word so contemptuously, you’d thought he was choking. Arthur struggled with the conversation all night long. By the next morning, he had determined his course of action. He was an educator, wasn’t he? An instructor to those who desire higher learning, so he would educate his friend.

The next morning, Arthur visited the Church office where Greg was working. Arthur knew that if he attacked the issue head on, there would be trouble. He remembered that Greg loved games, especially dares. So he put forth a challenge.

“You’ve been trying to get me to attend Church since we were 18. What if this year, I agreed, but with conditions?” Greg thought a moment, “What’s the catch?” “You and I exchange one Christmas gift a piece, on Christmas day. We then we’ll each use the other’s gift to address the congregation. You can use mine to attempt to prove that God exists, and I’ll use yours to prove otherwise. What do you say?”

Greg was not about to expose his Church to a catastrophe, so he turned it down. He hated to miss an opportunity, but he felt that he had made the right decision. That is, until he mentioned it to an older minister he was having lunch with.

“Why can’t you accept his challenge?” Tom asked. “Because, who knows what he will say. It could be very damaging to the Church, members who are not well versed in the Scriptures.” “You’re a good Pastor, they know fact from fiction. He won’t shake them, but lay some ground rules first. Plus, advertise it as a debate between two world views. That way they’ll be prepared for what they hear.”

Greg slept on it that night, or at least tried too. By morning, he was convinced that this was not just something to do, but that had to be done. He called Arthur before daybreak. “First, the ground rules. The gift cannot be any evil symbol, and you can present an intelligent, intellectual argument, minus animosity, or hateful words.”

Arthur agreed, with a caveat of his own. “If I can’t use anything you call evil, you can’t use anything I call religious. You also, must use some facts to back up your claims.” Each agreed, and the meeting was set.

News spread all over town, the Preacher and the Professor were going to have a battle of wits. Arthur selected his ‘gift’ quickly. It took Greg much longer, in fact, he didn’t select it until two days before the meeting.

Sunday was Christmas Eve. It was a cold, but beautiful day. The service was scheduled for 11:00 that morning. The Professor joined the Preacher on stage and presented his gift. It was a cardboard box, filled with grass, ashes, and pebbles. The Preacher knelt his head, said a silent praer, and smiled a cautious smile.

Arthur had made it easy for him, and that was what concerned him. It should have, for the Professor knew how eloquent his friend could be. Greg would have used the word anointed, and rightfully so, for he was definitely anointed that morning.

“Folks, my friend has given me a simple cardboard box, filled with grass, ashes, and a pebbles. It is my responsibility to share the Gospel with you using these items. I am reminded of another box many years ago. It was called a manger, whose primary use, was to feed animals. Can’t you imagine them loading the dry grass we call hay into it?”

“You know how one special night, instead of animals, people surrounded it. In place of food, it was filled with a baby. That small child, The Rock of our Salvation, grew to enlighten the world. Until His light brightened us, our lives were like these ashes. All of our dreams had died. There were no embers left, only the smoke of the ashes of longing for what we thought could never be.”

“Maybe, much like my friend here, the person who built the manger, had given up believing in a God that could touch our lives. Still, He came, and scientists will tell you, it is a fact that Jesus existed. Even that is something, people used to dispute. My question is this. If they were wrong about Him not existing physically, couldn’t they be equally as wrong about His spiritual significance?”

With that, the Preacher sat down, but not before handing the Professor his gift. It was an envelope. Arthur hated to do it, but he felt very strongly that this Christmas, he would ‘enlighten’ his friend. The trouble was, in so doing, he knew he would also destroy him. Still, his mind was made up, truly, only a miracle could stop him now.

Before he began, he stopped to read the contents of the envelope. After the first two words, the smile was gone, by the second paragraph, it had been replaced by sobs. Tears smeared the last few lines. Arthur looked kindly at his friend, placed the letter in his coat, and began to speak.

“Much like the apostle of old, I came here today on a mission, contrary to the founder of this Church. Like Paul, I believe that instead, I’ll find myself today, at the founder’s feet.” With that, he left the pulpit for the altar. That day, two friends were woven together into a stronger friendship, and a new soul was crafted into God’s Kingdom.

The letter? It was from Arthur’s estranged father, the man that he had so vehemently declared he never wanted to see again. Arthur had spent so many years convincing everyone that he hated him. He knew that even his best friend Greg had been fooled by the deception.

Oh he had spent years despising his father for hurting his mother. Arthur had also spent a number of years longing to be reunited with him. In those weak moments during the night, he had often told God that if He reunited the two of them, he would believe. Arthur felt this was impossible, considering his last conversation with his father resulted in a fight. There last words had been mutual hatred for one another.

Around the time that Greg had accepted the challenge, God caught up with the older Lang. Years of regret and selfishness had become to much to bear, and He had unloaded his burdens on the One his son hadn’t believed in. After finding Him very real, and very much alive, Arthur Lang Sr. had found the words to apologize to his ex wife and son for years of mistreatment.

Afraid to send it directly to them, he remembered Greg Harper. He had decided to send it to him, in hopes he could persuade Arthur and his mother to read them. Now remarried to a loving man, with God’s help, Angela Wilkes had long ago forgiven Arthur’s father. It would take time for the wounds between father and son to completely heal, but they had accepted the journey. They were confident that The One who had brought them back into each other’s lives, could heal the past.

This Christmas, give the gift of friendship, give the gift of love. The Lord Jesus gave this gift freely to all He met. His kingdom is filled with ardent believers that were once former skeptics, Merry Christmas.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of the greatest holidays that we have, especially in these troubled times. It reminds us, not only to stop for a few moments, but to stop and be thankful. Thanksgiving is a word that all can relate too. From a child of two to a man of 102, all have the ability to stop and say Thank You. I’d like to use this blog post to say a few thank yous.

Thank you first to our Creator and Savior, The Lord Jesus Christ. His acts of kindness make Thanksgiving possible. If He had not said, “Let there be light”, then nothing else would have followed. Had there not been a sleeping baby in a borrowed manger, there would not have been a suffering Savior on Calvary’s hill. Too often, we neglect the One that has never neglected us. I would encourage you to take a few moments tomorrow, before the parade, the cooking, and the football, and spend a few moments in prayer. Show the One who has never forgotten us, that He hasn’t been forgotten.

Thank you to our Pastor, Pastor Denny Livingston and our Church. Ashley and I are so privileged to be a part of Point Of Mercy in Nashville. I want to say a huge Thank you to both you and Sis, (His Wife Alonna Livingston), for making such a profound and personal difference in our lives. Thank you Pastor for sharing God’s vision of a place that ministers to every area of people’s needs. Spiritually first, then mentally, and physically as well. Our mission statement at the Church is, “Committed To God, Family, And The Needs Of Others.” Thank you for allowing us to be a part of helping to carry out that statement.

Thank you Ashley, my beautiful wife, for sharing your life with me. I still am amazed at how beautiful you are. What is so wonderful, is that your heart is as lovely as you are. Your kindness and strength sustain me. I am so blessed to have you by my side.

Thank you to my Family and friends. I treasure each one of you. Some men measure their lives by what they hold in the bank. I’m blessed to measure mine by the relationships that hold me in their hearts. Thank you for making me a better man.

Thank you to all that read my stories and this blog. I hope that, even in the most light hearted of my stories, you find a word of faith, happiness, and encouragement. It’s a tough world out there, but remember, you never have to be alone.

May your hearts be fueled by His presence, your homes be filled with family, your lives be fat with friends, and your table be a feast. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Tie Pin

I hope you enjoy this Thanksgiving gift, from me to you. It’s called The Tie Pin. It’s a short story about a Father helping his son. We are blessed to have a Heavenly Father who plots our course each day. He doesn’t control us, instead, He enables us to make the right decisions. I hope you enjoy this story, as you journey through your day.

The Tie Pin

A tie pin an uncommon thing now. You don’t see many tie pins these days, or at least I hadn’t, until one special November. That was the day that everything changed for me. No, the tie pin didn’t change it, but it will always be connected to it.
I was sitting with Mom, trying to decide what to buy my Dad for his birthday. Dad’s birthday was the day before Thanksgiving. I was pitching ideas. “What about a baseball shirt?” “Eddie, you know that he doesn’t watch baseball any more. He lost interest after the famous strike.” “Ok, how about a fishing rod?”
Mom sighed, she knew as well as I did where this was going. My Dad wasn’t an outdoorsman. Oh, he took us fishing all the time as kids, but he hated it. He watched baseball with us, even though he was a basketball guy, because we loved it.
Don’t get me wrong, if I picked any of these things, he’d act ecstatic over them. Mom was different, she wanted to make sure that whatever we got Dad, it would be something that he liked. The trouble was, my Dad was hard to buy for. He wasn’t in to trinkets, he wasn’t in to sports.
It wasn’t that he didn’t have any interests, but I was taking the easy way out. Mom always said, “Do something for him, don’t just kill time around him. You boys do things with your Father, but you don’t really spend time with your Dad.” Mom expected us to talk, and that was hard!
We love our Dad, he’s great, but I never knew what to say to him, or to anyone else really. Johnny, on the other hand, always connected with everybody. They’re exactly alike, so it’s easy for him. Everybody used to laugh when I said that, but nobody ever tells me why until I was older. She laughed that morning.
Just then, Johnny walked into the room. He smiled at me, hugged Mom, and grabbed an orange. “Gotta run, meeting Ann to talk about the Wedding.” Johnny was 19, Ann was 20, they were crazy about each other. They were getting married the next month.
You’re probably thinking they’re pretty young, but between them they had the intelligence of 8 people. Both are geniuses who started a computer company in junior high school, and made it. Today, I work for them.
Mom and Dad weren’t poor, but our house, and two just like it, were worth less than Johnny made that year. Johnny tried to get Dad to let him buy us a new house, but Dad said no. “We’re doing ok, save it for a rainy day.”
I was 14, and couldn’t run a lemonade stand. I know, I tried two summers earlier, it went bankrupt. I spilled all the inventory. Anyway, Mom took me to the store to find something. That’s when I saw the tie clip. Mom thought I was crazy, “Trust me Mom, it’ll sing!” I used Dad’s signature phrase to sell it.
Anytime he wanted to sell Mom on something, he’d say, “Trust me June, it’ll sing!” Of course, then he would sing off key loudly, no matter where we were. Mom would agree, but she said it was mostly to shut him up, then she’d smile.
When I got home, I headed for my room. The front of the tie pin was a compass. I took the compass and attached it to a card. I started writing, what I couldn’t say out loud, seemed to come easy on paper. I added a twenty dollar bill that I had been saving for his birthday, and put it in my nightstand drawer.
The next morning was the big day. We all had Dad’s favorite breakfast, blackberry pancakes, hash browns, scrambled cheesy eggs, and bacon. After about three cups of coffee, we were ready for presents.
Johnny went first, he gave Dad a new tablet computer, which made me look like a cheap skate. I love my brother, and no, I’m not jealous of his money, it’s just that a rich brother makes your gifts look, well cheap! My sister, Kate gave him a sweater, that she made. Then, it was my turn, I gave him a card!
He made over it just the same. Dad’s eyes began to water about the same time he read the card. He didn’t read it out aloud, but he gave me the biggest hug I ever got from him.
“Come on Eddie, let’s go pick up the cake from the store.” Mom shook her head, “Eric, you don’t have to pick up your own cake.” “I need the exercise Gwen.” Before we hopped in the car and headed out, Dad went to change. He came out with a suit, a tie, and my tie pin. I thought we were just going to the store, I was wrong.
Dad didn’t say much until we pulled in the parking lot. I started to get out when he turned off the key, and he touched my arm for me to stop. “Eddie, I want to talk to you a minute.” “Sure Dad, what’s up.” It turns out, a lot was, I just didn’t know it.
“Son, that card and this compass tie pin you gave me today, are two of the greatest gifts I’ve ever gotten. My eyes weren’t watering, you made me cry. What you wrote was beautiful, it was some of the greatest words I’ve ever read. It did sing, like nothing else. What concerned me was the twenty dollars you added.”
I was puzzled, “Why Dad? I just wanted to make sure you knew how much I loved you.” He smiled, “Son, if I didn’t know before you wrote it, I did after. You see son, you are just like me. I’m not book smart like your brother, but I’ve got a pretty level head, so do you. Growing up, it was hard for me to talk about how I felt. It was also hard for me to trust that people cared about me for me.”
“As a result, I tried to hard. I loved your mother more than anything, but I had my doubts that she loved me. I wasn’t able to express myself through writing like you can. Because of my insecurity, I almost lost her, thankfully for all of us, your mother is stubborn!” I laughed when he said this, it’s still true!
“She helped me realize that people cared for me, not what I could do for them. She also helped me find my voice. My joke about something singing comes from her. She said once, ‘Eric, you have a lot of good to say. Take that bird over there, it doesn’t care how it sounds, it sings out anyway. Sing out until the rafters ring.’ She turned out to be right, and I overcame my fears. Ever since then, I’ve used that phrase.”
“Do you know why you picked the compass on that tie clip?” I shook my head, “You gave me a toy compass when I was five years old. I still have it.”
“Do you know why I gave that to you?” “No.” “It was meant to be a lesson, an early lesson, but a lesson. If you follow the right direction, you won’t have to second guess your course. Your mother and I have raised you three to love God, and to love people.”
“Don’t forget in the process, that God has put people around you, who love you for you. You don’t have to push them to love you. You also don’t have to force the words to come.”
“You couldn’t say what you wrote in that card, and that’s fine, but trust that your message came through. This twenty dollars doesn’t say I love you. It says I’m not sure my gift is good enough. Eddie, if you give with the right motive, from your heart, like you did. Then your gift is more than you could even realize. ”
“So what say, you take this twenty, and put it towards something fun.” He handed it back to me, and I did just that. Funny thing, I can’t remember what I bought that day. But 14 years later, I’ll never forget that tie pin.
Dad still wears it every time he wears a suit. My kids have all heard the story fifty times. They may get tired of hearing it, but I never will. That conversation shaped my future, it helped me stop second guessing a lot of things. Including, when the time was right, asking my now Wife, on our first date. It may have technically been the day before Thanksgiving, but I’ll always be thankful, for the lesson Dad taught me that day.

If you enjoyed this story, email pruittwrites@gmail.com for the free ebook, “The Snowman’s Message”.

My Favorite Time Of Year

I love November and December, like many I’m sure, it’s my favorite time of year. It means so much to me on multiple levels. This time of year, we celebrate not just our Savior’s birth, but His life story. I know He wasn’t born at the end of the year, but how better to appreciate what He does in our lives? He first meets us, at the end of our ropes. Time has run out for us, spiritually and mentally. Yet, when He is birthed in our hearts, suddenly a new year begins! No wonder we celebrate! Of course we celebrate, Christ Is Born!

He goes with us through our hard times as well. Like our spiritual journey, His didn’t end with His birth. They hurried to Egypt when it looked as if a mad man would attempt to murder Him. The Lord has experience dealing with trials.

I love the Scripture that says, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” I love it because it not only applies to the actual end, but to perceived ends. There have been plenty of times when I felt my world was ending, but He was there. Like the three Hebrew children, either way, He is with me!

I love this time of year too, because of family and friends. Time for loved ones, time for, well time with them. Time spent with those you love is more valuable than the most expensive stock on Wall Street.

Finally, I love the stories this time of year. Today, I would like to gift you one of my own. It’s called,”The Snowman’s Message”. This short story, in ebook form, is about a Pastor sharing the Gospel in a very creative way. If you would like it, email pruittwrites@gmail.com with Snowman in the subject line.

Thank you for sharing this season with me. I hope you enjoy a small gift, from me to you.

Potential

The following is a lesson I shared at our church, where I’m a staff member. I felt like sharing it with you as well.

Isaiah 40:3-5
3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

Potential means existing in possibility : capable of development into actuality. It’s a word that illustrates that something is possible, not impossible. Everyone wants to do the impossible. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe in The Lord doing what is impossible for you and I to do. I believe in The Lord doing through us what is impossible for us to do. But to be grammatically accurate, which is not something I’m often accused of, I don’t expect to see God doing what is for Him impossible. The reason for that? Because the Scripture says, “With God All Things Are Possible.”

Our impossible is His practice. It’s routine for Him to do what’s not even feasible for us to do. However, not only is He a Miraculous God, He is a Meticulous God. He sets forth a plan and lays the groundwork for the future. Case in point, before He ever needed the burning bush, He ensured that someone planted it on the backside of the desert.

The word Potential illustrates this point. It’s not a word that means accidental, or chance. It comes from the Latin word for power, it means that it has the possibility of making something happen. One definition says potential means it’s capable of development into actuality. I think I can becomes I did it! A blueprint completed means there is now a building where there was nothing.

It’s not guaranteed that it will happen, that depends on the individual, whether he or she live up to their potential, but the possibility exists. We know that The Lord always lives up to His potential, but what about us? What about the times in our lives where we could have done this, or could have done that? Whether we failed or succeeded, we had the potential to succeed.

Pastor preached the Message on Enabled, God enables us to accomplish something. It’s possible, through Him, for us to fulfill our potential. Tonight I want to talk to you about the potential of a place called the desert and the potential of a person called John the Baptist.

The two are inseparable, you can’t have one without the other. The Desert didn’t mean to the Jews what it means to you and I. When we think of Desert, we think of a barren wasteland. To the Jews, the words Desert and Wilderness can be interchangeable.

In Luke chapter one, the word for Desert is the Greek word Eremos. One of it’s meanings is an uncultivated region fit for pasturage. Not a lifeless mass of sand, but a land that, when cultivated can flourish. In other words, it has potential. It also means wilderness, a lonely region, and when applied to people, it means deserted by others, deprived of the aid and protection of others, especially friends. I thought this was interesting, it is used of a flock deserted by a shepherd, or a woman neglected by her husband.

“The Jews have an observation of many things coming from the wilderness;
“the law came from the wilderness; the tabernacle from the wilderness; the sanhedrim from the wilderness; the priesthood from the wilderness; the office of the Levites from the wilderness; the kingdom from the wilderness; and all the good gifts which God gave to Israel were from the wilderness.”

What is the Desert or Wilderness then? Tonight, I would like you to think of it base of operations. Not your Ministry in the sense of what you do, but where you do it. That’s not just here at POM, it’s part of it, but not all. Point Of Mercy isn’t just about Sunday and Wednesday. Those are important days, but they’re only two days. Your journey is what you make it. The Lord never intended for the Wilderness to be miserable.

The Desert of The Bible contained cities, villages, towns. John was not the hermit that pictures have made him out to be. Commentators believe that the city of his birth was Hebron. It went back to Caleb and became a city of the Priests.

John’s Dad was a Priest, his Mom was from a Priest’s family. The Word calls her a daughter of Aaron, meaning her background is in Ministry. He was educated about the Scriptures.

I’ve got to stop seeing Church as something we do and realize it’s who I am. I don’t just mean in the Spiritual sense. I know that are bodies are the Temple of The Holy Ghost, but do we act like it? Too many times when I get up on Monday morning, I’m thinking about getting through the day. Shouldn’t I be thinking of how I’m going to share The Lord Jesus that day?

You see, God sent them through the Wilderness to get to the Promised Land. It wasn’t there final destination either, but there were things that they had to do while they were in the Desert. If they spent all their focus on the future, they would never have received the Law or built the Tabernacle. We are a fast paced culture and society, we spend our lives worried about getting things done. We’re so interested in arriving, that we neglect the journey.

John’s journey started before he was ever born. You know the story, the Angel appears to Zachariah in the Temple. Can you imagine being eight years old and being told your going to be the Prophet of The Messiah? No pressure right! If I were him I’d be thinking, how will I know The Messiah? Apparently John had asked because the Scripture said …

John 1:33
33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

John was a Priest’s son, his friends were probably Priest’s kids, his entire early life probably revolved around the Priesthood. Then his Dad sets down and tells him, “Son, you’re not going to be a Priest. You’re going to be a Prophet, but not just any Prophet, the Prophet Of The Highest.”

What would you have done? “Dad, all I know is what I’ve seen you do. You’re a Priest, how am I going to learn to be a Prophet? What do I do? How do I do it?” Zacharias may not have been an Elijah, but had been used by God to Prophesy his son’s calling. He was equipped to explain to his son how to feel a role that, to the extent John did, he would never play. Zacharias was of the course of Abia.

To give you a little history lesson, when David was King, he separated the Priests into 24 courses, each of a different family. When Judah went into captivity, only four of those families came back.

The Rabbins teach, that four courses came up from the captivity, Jedaiah, Harim, Pashur, and Immer; the prophets that were among them stood up, and divided them, and appointed four and twenty lots, and put them into a box: Jedaiah came and took his lot, and the lot of his companions, six; Harim came and took his lot, and the lot of his companions, six; and so Pashur and Immer: and so the prophets that were among them taught, that if Jehoiarib, the first course, came up from captivity, he should not drive away Jedaiah out of his place; but Jedaiah should be the principal, and Jehoiarib an appendix to him.”

Now, though the course of Abia did not return from captivity, yet its order and name were retained as the rest of the courses, being divided between these four by whom they were supplied; and therefore Zacharias is not said to be of the posterity of Abia, but of his course.

“Our family was called to fill a Ministry that we weren’t connected to. We are accustomed to serving where we’re needed, and son, God needs you for something very special!” His parents must have shared with him what the Angel said and the future that The Lord had prepared for him. But I have a question …

Luke 1:39 – 43
39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of
Juda;
40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed [art] thou among women, and blessed [is] the fruit of thy womb.
43 And whence [is] this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

John 1: 29 – 33
29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him,and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
1:30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.
31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

My question is, did Elizabeth never share this part of the story with John? The commentators mention that John was from Hebron and he probably did not know The Lord Jesus, his cousin by sight. They lived in different cities, Joseph and Mary had fled to Egypt for a time. Surely they saw each other at Passover and the Festivals.

Whether they did or not isn’t really important. Obviously The Lord kept this particular knowledge from John because He wanted to confirm to John through the vision. I bring it up though to make a point. Elizabeth had an amazing revelation from God, but it looks like she didn’t share all of it with her son. There’s no question that she raised him up the right way, but this, albeit through Divine intention, was missing.

What are we leaving out? It’s one thing to say my Momma could pray. It’s another to say, my Mother taught me how to pray. We skip over a line of Scripture in the story of The Lord’s Prayer. Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. John didn’t leave things out. His Disciples didn’t just see him pray, they learned how.

When the Jews had questions for John, he had answers. How did he know what he did? He had spent time in prayer. It may be old fashioned, but you are never going to fulfill your potential in God without a prayer life. There’s simply no way around it. Why? It’s about relationship. Just like us, John’s whole Ministry was about relationship. He was Called to prepare men’s relationship with God and each other.

Malachi 4:5, 6
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Isaiah 40:3-5
3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

The with God part is obvious, but what about the with each other aspect of it. Why did God want John to do that? More is revealed when Gabriel tells Zacharias about John’s calling.

Luke 1:16, 17
16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

The commentators have different opinions. One says that John’s preaching should restore harmony in families. But Lu 1:16, 17 substitutes for “the heart of the children to the fathers,” “the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,” implying that the reconciliation to be effected was that between the unbelieving disobedient children and the believing ancestors.

After John announced The Lord Jesus, he didn’t stop. He kept on Preaching, Baptizing, and Telling about Jesus! When they tried to make John jealous of Jesus, he stopped them.

John 3:29
29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

John didn’t get offended because his Ministry was changing. For two reasons, one, he saw the big picture, this isn’t about you or me, it’s about The Kingdom. Second, he had a relationship with God. I won’t get offended at my friend because my methods have to change or because I’m not in the spotlight. It was never about my glory, it’s about His. While I’m at it, God isn’t ego driven, He isn’t about His glory because He needs praise. His glory changes lives, my glory only makes my head bigger.

When John’s Disciples went and told The Lord that John had died, Jesus went back to the Desert. John and Jesus both knew, once you have gone from Potential to Actual in one goal, go on to the next. That’s why as Pastor says, “We rest but never stop.” You celebrate what God has done, start working on what God is doing now, and prepare for what’s next.

Matthew 14:10-15
10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.
11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.
12 And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
13 When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. 14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.

Finally in the book of Acts we see Philip doing the same thing that John had done. Standing in the Desert, quoting the Prophet Isaiah, and telling someone about Jesus. Our methods will change but what will never change is this. You will always see Point Of Mercy standing in the Desert of Potential, quoting the Prophet Isaiah, and telling people about Jesus.

Acts 8:26 – 36
26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
30 And Philip ran thither to [him,] and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

Unexpected Blessings

I’m sitting at Starbucks on a Friday afternoon. No, it’s not a vacation day, it’s a work day. Unexpectedly, I was able to leave early. There is no special reason, at least that my supervisor would pinpoint. I could though, it’s been a stressful week.
It’s been a good week, but it’s had it’s twists and turns. I think The Lord saw that I could use a little downtime. God amazes me at times, even over the smallest thing, He shows me how much He cares.
You see, one of my weaknesses is that I worry too much. I shouldn’t, and I’m working on it, but I have that tendency. I needed a few quiet minutes away, and without expecting it, He blessed me with a few hours.
Sometimes, all you need is a little time. What we do with that time makes all the difference. Yesterday, I was stressed, but talking to The Lord about it helped. He gave me an acronym yesterday for Stress.

S eek
T imes of
R efreshing,
E ncamped in the
S avior’s
S trong arms

If we Stress the right things, we’ll be less stressed! God isn’t saying that we won’t have problems. As a matter of fact, He said the opposite.

John 16:33

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

The Lord said, “I warned you that there would be trouble. This way, you can stay calm in the midst of trouble. The reason you can is this, I have already overcame any trial you will face.”
We forget, or ignore that, in those times when we panic. My Dad used to tell me, “The main thing, is to keep the main thing, the main thing. The main thing is, don’t get excited.” In other words, if I will take a minute and trust God, then I won’t stress.
It’s not a matter of whether or not I’ll be ok. God already said that we’ll be ok. The only question is, how much are we going to trust Him along the way?
I can either stay calm and be an example to others of what God wants me to do. Or, I can hyper ventilate and hear Him say, “See that guy? Don’t act like him!”
I want to be an example of what a Christian should be, and not what they shouldn’t be.
So, hopefully, the next time you see me in a storm, it will be like the Apostle Paul at the time of shipwreck. I want to either swim to shore, or calmly hold on to a piece of the ship, as I float to land. I don’t want to force God to keep me from drowning in a foot of water.
If you’re hurting, scared, frustrated, or weary, let me encourage you today. Steal away and talk to the Master. Prayer still lifts burdens. It does so because it puts you in the presence of the Burden Bearer, and He continually hands out Unexpected Blessings!