Remember the Warrior

With the wind blowing against their backs, as if to lend support, the six marines pushed against the standard and lifted the banner of freedom into the air that fateful day in Iwo Jima. The proud American flag signified that the allied troops were gaining ground in the war. It was the representation of the fact that the Japanese troops had retreated and the Americans had taken the high ground.

This weekend we celebrate and remember those brave soldiers who gave their all against the tyranny of an evil oppressor and those who aligned themselves with him. As my friend, Bruce Luerson, put it:

“Please remember our fallen hero’s and our living ones who have served. Those that can still smell the cordite, that can still feel the blood run down their bodies and who can still hear the screams of their comrades. Also those who spent countless hours moving supplies and equipment, food and ammunition so that only those lives required would be taken while others were saved, they are all important. I stand with them counted as one who has served the greatest country on earth. Bruce H. Luerson, United States Marine Corps.”

I just watched the movie “Unbroken” and am reminded again what so many endured. I see our veterans from the war in the Middle East, young with so much life ahead, in and out of hospitals and offices of counselors, trying to find some semblance of normalcy. My heart goes out to them.

And whether we feel anger at those who would rage against our troops for their work in Iraq and Afghanistan or we feel anger at those who sent them, who feel the war was unjust, let’s agree today that our common denominator is that we love and support our soldiers.

In this article, however, I want to honor, not just the men and women who have fought for our physical liberties, who hoisted the flag of freedom on a mountain of dirt and rock so we could live free in America, but for the ultimate Warrior. I want to remember and praise the Man who climbed a mountain with the entire world, physical and spiritual, against Him. He carried a standard on His back and laid His own body down upon it as a banner. That cross was dropped in a hole on the top of a rock called Golgotha and Jesus Christ hung there as our flag of redemption. He became the symbol of our eternal freedom. We thank the men and women who have fought so we could enjoy happiness and success in this life. But we would do well to give praise to the One who fought Hell itself to secure for us freedom for eternity.

The holy Scriptures call Him Jehovah Nissi, the Lord our Banner. His banner over us is love. He has claimed us as His own. He has taken us out of the hands of Satan. I encourage you to allow Him to drive that standard deep into your heart today. Let Him be the Lord of your life. His love conquers all. I remember.

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The Momma Side of God

“Hercules! Hercules!”, Momma Klump said as she daintily clapped her hands after her youngest son flexed his muscles at the dinner table. That was until he joined in the ensuing flatulence party initiated by Mr. Klump. And though Momma was a bit less enthusiastic at this particular suppertime feat, she still found grace to celebrate his “accomplishment.” His was as loud and boisterous as the men at the table.

It seems that moms just possess the rare ability to look through the mess and see the good inside their children. Have you noticed this? A guy can be on death row, about to face his execution, and the mom is still there saying, “He’s really a good boy deep inside.” Moms just never give up.

It makes me think of the day Jesus and His mother attended a wedding with some of their family. Sometime during the feast, the culturally unthinkable disaster fell upon them. They ran out of wine. Mary, who was evidently prestigious enough for the governor of the feast to come to her with the problem, turned and relayed the situation to Jesus. His response was interesting.

“Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” (John 2:4 NLT)

But it was as if she never heard his comment. She turned straightway to the servants working the wedding reception and said, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5 NLT) Of course, we know that Jesus followed through and the water “blushed” before His presence. It was His first miracle, the day He turned water into wine.

Some argue she was walking in faith, and others believe she was wrestling with the transition from being His mother to being His follower; regardless, she was instrumental in beginning His miracle ministry. When Jesus’ response to the challenge was, “My time is not yet,” His mother saw His potential and spoke it into existence. Was it possible that Mary saw something in Jesus that He didn’t even see in Himself yet? Mothers are that way. And I believe they get this ability from God.

The famous songwriter, Dottie Rambo, said, “How marvelous the grace that caught my falling soul. He looked beyond my faults and saw my need.” God always sees us differently than we see ourselves. When we give up, He’s just getting started. He never draws the line. He sees potential in us when we would throw ourselves away.

Mark Batterson wrote, “You don’t have to look through a telescope to spy the miraculous. You can put it under a microscope too. Trillions of chemical reactions are taking place in your body every second of every day – you are inhaling oxygen, metabolizing energy, managing equilibrium, manufacturing hormones, fighting antigens, filtering stimuli, mending tissue, purifying toxins, digesting food, and circulating blood. All the while your brain is performing up to ten quadrillion calculations per second using only ten watts of power. A computer would require a gigawatt of power produced by a nuclear power plant to pull off the same performance. Yet I know people, and you do too, who say they have never experienced a miracle. Nothing could be further from the truth. You have never not! You aren’t just surrounded by miracles. You are one. If you personal genome sequence was written out long-hand, it would be a three-billion-word book. The King James Version of the bible has 783,137 words, so your genetic code is the equivalent of nearly four thousand Bibles. And if your personal genome sequence were an audio book and you were read at a rate of one double helix per second, it would take nearly a century to put you into words!”

Psalm 139:13-14 New Living Translation (NLT)
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

You are God’s workmanship, created to bring Him glory. Chances are, your mom saw it and tried to tell you. She was God’s messenger, if so. The best thing you could do today to honor her on this Mother’s Day week is to fulfill the destiny she saw in you. It’s God’s destiny He gave you before you were ever born. Decide to walk in it today. Give Christ your heart and let Him unfold it for you.

The Other Side of the Cross

What if you gave me the latest and greatest smart phone and, after saying thanks, I then took it but never accessed even one of those incredible applications? “No, that’s okay. I’ll just use it as a phone.” What would you say to me? Probably, “What a waste of technology! Just buy you an old flip phone!”

One of my friends, a dentist, told me one day that his son took him to buy a new car. He said he needed a pilot’s license to understand everything on the dash. So many of us rarely take advantage of the full potential of the computerized products we purchase.

It is the same with the redemption Jesus Christ secured for us at the Cross. Jesus bled, hung, died, was buried and then resurrected from the dead to secure something for us. That something is called redemption. Biblical redemption is simply “to buy back.” According to the Holy Scriptures, our iniquity made us the property of Satan. But Jesus paid the price to buy us back with His life. He took us off of the auction block of sin’s slavery.

We study the life of Jesus and we learn so much from Him about how to treat people, how to stand humbly in the face of adversity, how to love when people are unlovable. But then we stop at the cross when it comes to following His example of behavior and philosophy.

The OT scriptures, looking toward the Christ and the Cross are prolific in their description of His life – His sorrows, His sufferings, His death, His sacrifice. All these were qualities of the Redeemer. All these were endured and exercised by the Redeemer in order to obtain something. That something was redemption.

But if you want to see what redemption looks like, you have to move through the cross and follow Jesus the rest of the way. You have to move to the other side of the cross.

So much of organized Christianity is still weeping at the cross. Mel Gibson’s The Passion was a masterpiece. I love it. I always said there needed to be a rated R movie about the crucifixion. But to only spend 90 seconds on the resurrection after all of that suffering? Not cool!

The consciousness of man is fixed on the Christ who died, not on the Christ who lives. They are looking BACK on the Christ who died, not on the Christ who IS. He took on grief so we could come through ours with victory and hope. He bore our sickness so we could be healed. He became “poor” so that “through His poverty we might become rich.” He bore our sorrows so that we could be made glad.
He gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins so that we could live righteously. On the other side of the cross we see the victory; not the suffering, not the humility and dejection and rejection. We see the victory!

From Heaven, after the resurrection and ascension, Jesus says, “I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.” (Revelation 1:18 NLT)

Walking toward the cross we see the suffering Savior, the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief or sickness. But on the other side, we see the living, triumphant, exultant Son of God ascending to the throne of God to sit in power and authority, having secured for you and me the thing He considered so worthy of His suffering – our redemption!

Saint John said, “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17 NKJV)

Notice that he did not say, “As He WAS…”, rather, “as He IS, so are we.” Once we receive forgiveness at the Cross, our Heavenly Father desires for us to walk in the victory of Christ who is presently seated at His right hand in heavenly places. Saint Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 that we are presently seated there as well, in Christ Jesus. Coming to the Cross and staying in that sorrow as a Christian is like walking through the front door of your new mansion and never moving beyond the threshold. Some have been living the Christian life for years but have never seen the rest of the “house.” What a tragedy! There is healing, there is love, there is power over darkness, there is joy, there is authority. If Jesus walks in it, we can walk in it. Jesus paid the ultimate price to secure these things for us – for YOU. Don’t let it be in vain. If you are a follower of Jesus, then leave the elementary teachings of the cross, rise into resurrection and enter redemption. After all, Jesus did. Follow Him. Taking up your cross daily, as Jesus commanded, is not living in sorrow; it’s saying no to your selfish desires and yes to His plan of selfless obedience and victory for your life. Come to the Cross to receive forgiveness and then move through it into redemption! His Kingdom is yours today! Welcome to the other side of the Cross! Happy Resurrection Sunday!

Time Heals

By Melissa Herrin

It was the first time in a long time that we had sat down together. I was a little hesitant to even go to dinner with her because I had been feeling so disconnected, even a little bit resentful toward her for things I perceived were keeping her and me from hanging out more. I loved her deep down but I felt there was a wedge growing between us. She had not done anything to make me feel this way. It was just a thought that I allowed to grow more and more. Even though I have been taught to not let ugly thoughts stay in my mind, that I have control over whether I dwell on them or let them pass, this one I allowed myself and it began the downward spiral toward negativity. I’d tell myself it was “all good,” but then the slightest thing would get in my head and turn my belief upside down. All the while, she knew nothing about the distance I was feeling.

Dinner was amazing, we laughed and laughed, cried and reconnected. It was a great time and catching up was so good. I listened to her talk about her family and her life, realizing that she was swamped with work and all that family life entails. This was her reason for not spending as much time with me as she desired. There were legitimate reasons for the disparagement of our quality time. She was missing my friendship as much as I was missing hers.

As I drove home after dinner I was dwelling on the great fellowship and reconnection when, out of the blue, the phrase “Time heals all wounds” hit me. It was true – “TIME heals all wounds”.

By Christian Cortes

By Christian Cortes

In this circumstance, it was not in the way I’ve always thought concerning this phrase. I realized that “TIME” didn’t mean a span of seconds, minutes, hours or days following a series of heart-wrenching events. Rather, “TIME” referred to the moments we shared. Time spent hanging together, time laughing, time crying, time invested in one another, and time reconnecting to each other’s worlds. That was what healed our relationship. It truly was “Time heals all wounds.” When I left that time of fellowship, I had no more wounds. I only had the rekindled love for my friend. I couldn’t wait until the next time we could get together.

This thought began to grow as I thought about marriages on the rocks, families being destroyed, disgruntled employment, etc. When there is an absence of time spent with people, our hearts can begin to separate. Husband and wives can be so “on-the-go” with their kids or jobs or friends or hobbies that they don’t take the time to invest quality time in each other. Therefore you begin to grow apart. Wounds begin to grow and thoughts turn negative. Even when you are together on a daily basis you are not really spending “quality time” together. I have friends that have testified to having extra marital affairs due to one of the spouses not spending time with the other. Time is such a valuable word. Really, it is the most expensive word there is. I once read a quote, “The greatest gift you can give someone is your time, because when you give your time you are giving a portion of your life that you will never get back.”

Time is precious and valuable. How are you spending it? Are your kids spoiled with stuff and yet not happy? This is usually because a person doesn’t spend quality time with them. People say, “If I just had time,” but that’s an excuse that just doesn’t measure up to scrutiny. Life passes by so fast. Don’t let thoughts, words or actions breakdown your relationships. Don’t let that estranged family member or friend pass from this life without making things right. Just meet. Just talk. Just do something kind for that person, even if you don’t know what to say. I have found that time will not just present itself to you. You have to seize it. You have to make the time. Spend it with those most valuable in your life. Make the move to measure your moments wisely. It’s said that you never know the value of a dollar until you have worked for it. Work to spend time in the right way. The harder you work to spend time the most wisely, the better the reward. I think you will find that TIME really does heal all wounds.

Melissa Herrin is co-pastor of The Fellowship in Texas City, TX and wife of Pastor Kevin Herrin.

Hope In Front of Me

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

It would seem that every person in any given generation at some point in their lives would say they feel like Charles Dickens had his finger directly on the pulse of their existence when he penned these words in A Tale of Two Cities.

2014, like any other year, had good days and bad. There were things we celebrated, like gold medals in Sochi Winter gold medalOlympics but there were great challenges as well. Our world, our nation, and our cities have seen the enemy of our souls try to destroy our communities. Maybe you yourself experienced dark days during 2014.

But the Bible clearly tells us that we have a choice as to what we make our focus.

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
Philippians 4:8-9 The Message

Former American Idol contestant, Danny Gokey, sings it well.Hope-in-Front-of-Me_Danny-Gokey

“I’ve been running through rain that I thought would never end
Trying to make it on faith in a struggle against the wind
I’ve seen the dark and the broken places
But I know in my soul no matter how bad it gets, I’ll be alright
There’s hope in front of me
There’s a light I still see it
There’s a hand still holding me
Even when I don’t believe it
I might be down but I’m not dead
There’s better days still up ahead
Even after all I’ve seen, there’s hope in front of me”

I did a little looking this week at the number 15 as it relates to God’s Word. According to E.W. Bullinger, the author of Numbers in Scripture:

“Five is…the number of grace, and three is the number of divine perfection. Fifteen, therefore, specially refers to acts wrought by the energy of Divine grace.”

Also, every time the number 15 is mentioned in the Bible, it can be related to upward momentum, resurrection or deliverance. Furthermore, in the Hebrew language, the numbers 10 and 5 spell the name of God. In short, I believe 2015 is God’s year to do some things in His world we’ve never seen Him do.

Someone said to me, “This is my year,” and I like it! But let’s put a face on it. This is your year to what? Write a book? Start that business? Go back to school? Take more time off to spend with your family or, on the flip side, get off of dead center and qualify for that next-level job? Get healthy? What?

You may feel like you have been walking around in the darkness of the blackest night up to now, but hear me, you can’t stop the morning! You can hide your head from it. You can pull the drapes and choose to live in the depression and darkness of the chamber of your own construction. You can lock yourself in a closet. But you…cannot…stop…the morning. It’s coming. It’s here! God’s purposes will be fulfilled in the earth. Will you allow them to be fulfilled in you? You decide! His sun is rising this year in a new way. I encourage you to open up your heart and let those beautiful rays wash into your life.

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:13-14 New King James Version (NKJV)

You can stay where you are or you can let hope raise you up, pull you forward. What is the one thing this year you can grab hold of that pulls you out of your pit? You can stay here or you can change. There is NEVER no hope. As long as Jesus is, there is HOPE!

I believe that God wants to help us to do “acts wrought by the energy of Divine grace.” Go! There’s hope in front of you!

Wiping Out Worry!

“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Chicken Little’s cry caused quite a stir in the forest until the king showed her and her crew the acorn that was still caught in the feathers of her head. The king closed his comforting message to her by telling her not to worry.

“Not to worry!” Easy for him to say! It seems, in these days, like a pie-in-the-sky fairy tale – don’t worry. With terrorist converts operating right here in our own country, the boarder breached by the drug cartel, political unrest, economic uncertainty, war, and things closer to home such as divorce, lay-offs, drugs, alcoholism, depression, domestic abuse, etc., Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” feels like a pipe dream.

And yet, it is the message of Jesus Christ. Three times in Matthew 6, Christ commands us, “Do not worry.” Then He asks the question, “Why do you worry?” And finally, He makes the most potent inquiry of all, “Which one of you, by worrying, has added one inch to your height?” On the contrary, if you and I are honest, we will admit that worrying does just the opposite – it stoops us over. It takes away from our life.

But, can I tell you that worry is much more serious than even that? Have you ever looked up the definition of worry? Here’s one from dictionary.com: to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts; fret.  But, that’s nothing compared to this one: to seize, especially by the throat, with the teeth and shake or mangle, as one animal does another.snarling-dog

If you looked up this word in a Greek dictionary to find out exactly what Jesus was commanding us to not do, you would find that worry means “to divide into parts.” In this chapter, Christ is trying to teach us to trust in God. When we go through traumatic situations, or we’re faced with worrisome problems on the horizon, reacting to them with worry fills us with torment. It divides or splinters our soul. It becomes a tool in the hand of Satan to even allow him to treat us as a dog does a piece of meat. It is one of his tactics in an attempt to keep you from “being whole.”

Saint James said that, when we are filled with doubt, we become like a “wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” He said we are double-minded and unstable in all of our ways. And that includes our health.

As of 1994, estimates indicated that the annual cost of stress and stress-related diseases in the U.S. exceeded $100 billion, a direct result of health care costs, lost productivity, and absenteeism. Dr. Hans Selye, one of the foremost authorities on stress defines it as our response to what life throws at us. He differentiates between eustress and distress. Eustress is our response to stress that causes us to get even stronger through the tough time. Distress is when we respond in a way that causes our system to begin to shut down. Drs. Werner and Sharon Hoeger say, “Chronic distress raises the risk for many health disorders, including coronary heart disease, hypertension, eating disorders, ulcers, diabetes, asthma, depression, migraine headaches, sleep disorders, and chronic fatigue and may even play a role in the development of certain types of cancers. Recognizing this turning point and overcoming the problem quickly and efficiently are crucial in maintaining emotional and physiological stability.”

Jesus said that, when we worry, we act like a person who doesn’t trust God to care for him or her. So, I ask, do you? Why do I worry? I feel things are out of my control? I don’t know the answer or what to do? I don’t know or trust God’s heart.

See, in the Bible Belt, almost everyone “believes IN God.” But, I’d like to amend that with this question. “Do you BELIEVE God?” Do you believe Him when He tells you He loves you? Do you believe Him when He tells you He will take care of you if you will just trust Him? Believing He exists is much different than actually having an intimate relationship with Him.

Stop being the devil’s meat bone and ask God to help you to trust Him. Decide today that you will not worry. You cannot help what happens in life at times, but you always have the power to determine how you respond to what happens. Christ said that if your Heavenly Father cares enough to clothe the lilies of the field and give the sparrow its next meal, how much more will He care for you. You are the apple of His eye. He loves you. Believe it. Receive it. He’s got you, Chicken Little. Wipe out worry!

Phantoms of Heaven

This Halloween, ghouls, goblins and ghosts roamed our streets… each one with a huge sweet tooth. Today, parents might find little pirates and princesses from “Frozen”, Batmen and Barbies, super heroes and sponges named Bob who wake up with stomachaches.

I’m not one who believes, sincerely, in former inhabitants of houses hanging out to haunt the joint or long lost relatives seeking for revenge in the afterlife. But I definitely believe in the spirit world. If you believe the words of Christ at all, you need to know there is a demonic world and its leader is Satan. The Bible specifically states that he is like a roaring lion, roaming about, seeking whom he may devour. With him, we are to be sober and vigilant. Jesus called him our adversary. But the Scriptures also teach us that he is a defeated foe and that we have victory over him through the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, Saint James declared that if we are submitted to God, we can resist the devil and he will flee from us. (James 4:7)

So, I submit to you on this Halloween weekend that he is not our real problem. Let me elaborate with this story. An old preacher named Billy Cole from my past was sitting on the stage in a church one night when he saw something that shocked the whole place. A woman came slithering down the aisle like a snake, on her belly. The pastor of the church leaned over to the visiting minister and declared, “She’s demon possessed!” The old preacher replied quickly, “Good!” The pastor, visibly surprised, said, “Good? How can that be good?” Billy finally said, “If she’s full of the devil, we can take care of that in a couple of minutes! But if she’s full of herself, it could take you 20 years to get her straightened out!”

What truth was spoken! God has given us victory over the power of darkness through Christ’s death and resurrection, and the mention of His Name. But so often, we are our own worst enemy. You cannot cast out self. You must lead self to the cross.

A number of years ago, I saw a title on the front of a book that read, “Phantoms of Heaven.” PhantomThe moment I saw it, it was as if I received a download from God. This concept came flooding into my mind and heart. In my imagination, I saw people walking around in Heaven as apparitions, ghosts of sorts. I could see the outline of their form but no substance. I could see right through them.

The message that hit me, the thing I felt like the Holy Spirit began to speak to me as a pastor, was that so many people say yes to Christ simply to avoid the lake of fire. But they will not let God change their lives or their paradigms. “Be my God for eternity, but don’t mess with my Monday. I have plans. I have a philosophy about life. I’m not open to You rocking my boat, God.” As a result, we have folks who may be called Christians, but they have no joy, no peace, and no overcoming strength when facing life’s difficulties. They have a “form of godliness but deny its power.” And because they won’t let God take the reins of their life, they never fulfill the destiny God planned for them before they were ever born. They don’t ever come into the full measure of who God foreordained them to be – who they already are in His mind.  Now, that’s a thought of horror to me – to know that God has already done the work for me but I won’t let Him make me who I already am in His creative mind.  A simple surrender to His will after believing in Christ as Savior changes everything. Heaven’s incredible plan can begin to unfold for that person’s life. And by the time your time is up, you can appear in Heaven at full substance, so to speak.

I know there are things that go bump in the night. Let’s make sure we’re not one of them. I want to be all He predestined me to be. Bring it on, God!