Series 11


Vegas Isn't Workling Out

“Rick, I just wanted to let you know how I’m doing,” Thomas’ letter said. “Vegas isn’t working out.”

I told Thomas when he moved to Las Vegas, it would be a gamble.

Like many people, Thomas was certain; the answer to a life changing upswing was location, location, location. In the past couple of months he had been in Michigan, Arizona, and now Las Vegas. And even now he claimed again, where he lived was the problem.

He keeps thinking, “If I move to the right place, life will be good.” Maybe blessed.

God says, “You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country . . . you will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.” God says, “Blessed, blessed, wherever you live.” Thomas’ letter ranted, “Unblessed, unblessed.”

There is an obvious distance separating God’s promise of blessing and Thomas’s proximity to the blessed location. So should he move again?

Maybe he can be your neighbor. Would that work?

Here’s something about God that you always need to remember. He won’t tell you about a blessing without telling you how to get to it. Here is God’s direction to the aforementioned blessings: “All these blessings will come upon you if you obey the LORD your God.”

Thomas confessed, “I’m struggling pretty bad spiritually.” His letter was a storybook of disobedience to God. And God has something to say about that also. “However, if you do not obey the LORD your God . . . you will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.”

Yes, God is showing us it is location, location. . . Your Vegas isn’t working out? Then move. How? Simple. Obey God.

Then you’ll be in the best neighborhood—close to God.



Richie mumbled it, barely audible. I knew what he was saying because I had heard it before. “I keep messing up because of the way my mom raised me.” At nineteen, he’s convinced that his life-gone-wrong is his mom’s fault.

His last six years have been a tumultuous journey of peaks and valleys. There have been jubilant “Yes!” moments as he edged toward his potential for success. Now again, it is as if some bungee cord of fate has stretched to its success limit for Richie. And almost unexplainably he is whipped back into a life of failure.

I couldn’t deny that his parenting was far from perfect. Who could argue that his environment didn’t effect his decisions? Still Richie needed to be asked: “Did your mom make you steal the gun?” In the same vein, my probing continued. For each question he conceded: “No, my mom didn’t . . .”

With personal responsibility established, I wasn’t going to drop him off in the it’s-your-fault pile. We needed to land someplace else.

“Richie, I feel terrible about the way you were raised . . . wouldn’t it be great if you could just start over again-- from the beginning,” I said. He was silent. “Richie, what you need is to be born again.”

Jesus said: “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying: you must be born again.”

Richie, in your first birth you were born into a troubled environment. Mixed with your own decisions, a troubled life was birthed. Jesus is offering you the opportunity to miraculously be born again. This birth is God’s Holy Spirit birth. This birth produces Spirit life, God life inside you. This birth will change who you are.

Again-- you have a decision.


Sundays are Awesome

Donna was excited: “Sundays are awesome.”

I remember some awesome Sundays in Donna and her family’s life. I remember when Donna, her husband, Joe and children finally came to church after several invitations. It was obvious God touched their lives that day.

Then a few Sundays later they both made a twenty step journey to the front of the church. Bowing their heads, they repented of their sins and made commitments to become followers of Jesus Christ.

Yes! Sundays are awesome.

An experience like that causes this Bible verse to come flowing out: “O LORD? Who is like You—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders.”

Also the Sunday of their baptism is still etched in my mind. How could a person not have tears of joy? After church, a group gathered to celebrate the marvelous things God was doing in Donna and Joe’s lives. Now, seven years later Donna is reveling in a day in which God said: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.”

And the ancient Hebrew root word for Sabbath commands, “Rest, cease from exertion, celebrate.”

Donna continued her praise for her Sundays, “It starts in the morning and goes all day.” Unfortunately, she wasn’t referring to a God focused experience. She was all excited about the generous tips she was receiving working as a waitress. Going to church is the only ceasing Donna has done in the last few years. She no longer sets aside a day for the LORD.

We have a difficult decision challenging us. How to make Sundays awesome? Countless activities loom. Leisure and financial pursuits entice. Yet, our spirit is longing to honor God’s command.

Think. Can a day actually be awesome if it dishonors God?


Foolishness or Power?

“Should I ask?” I thought.

Rob was at the house measuring for carpeting. I immediately noticed he was wearing a cross. The question-- does that cross signify that you’re a follower of Jesus?

So many people wear crosses, even though they’re not on the Jesus team. Strange-- it’s exceedingly more challenging initiating a spiritual conversation compared to conversing about a sports team identified on a person’s t-shirt.

I didn’t want to offend Rob. Well, confessionally, I didn’t want to look foolish either. Yet I know the Bible says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Foolishness or power?  We usually won’t find out without asking. Internally: “Go for it; honor God,” tussled with, “You’ll seem like a weirdo.”

Why are so many Christians too chicken to squawk about their faith?

Rob got ready to leave. Ineloquently, I jumped in, “I noticed you’re wearing a cross; what does it mean to you?”

He smiled, “Everything.” “You’re a follower of Jesus?” “Big time.”

Wow, Rob’s on the same team. Our conversation instantly elevated. And before he departed, he gave me a shoulder hug: “Stay on God’s path . . . that’s where our true home is.”

So is the cross you’re wearing foolishness or power? Foolishness-- Isn’t it time you switched teams? Isn’t it time you received God’s promised saving power of the cross?

And you power crossers, have you asked anyone lately about the cross they’re wearing?

Jesus said, “For whoever is ashamed of Me . . . (Jesus) will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

So repeat. “So what does that cross mean to you?” Again.



Wonder if you are an old friend? “Who is this e-mail from?” I thought.

“Rick, did you grow up in Centreville? Graduate 73? Know a big goof by the name of Earl?”  I laughed. Thirty-three years had passed. Off went a quick response. “Here’s a hint—Arnold.”

Yes, he knew Arnold. That was my nickname in high school. I wasn’t too fond of it since it was the namesake of a cute pig on a popular television show of that era. Arnold-the-pig comparison aside, it was great wandering back to those old memories. I have many smile worthy ones with Earl.

Another e-mail to Earl: “So tell me about life. Where do you live? Wife? Kids? Job? What do you do for fun? Spiritual life? Etc?”

Pondering through a deep searching of my brain, I thought: “Spiritual life?”  Earl and I had been best friends. We both attended churches every Sunday. We both thought of ourselves as Christians, yet it’s highly doubtful we ever had one significant spiritual conversation. Realistically, it’s doubtful we even had a frivolous, shallow one. More than likely—zero.

God says, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” This is our central theme as Christians. And then it goes on to say, "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart . . . you shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

So God, if we love You we are supposed to talk about You and your commands? Even outside of church? Should we start with our good friends?