Miracles Can Happen to Ordinary People

 

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. Of all the holidays, none are quite like this one. However, in spite of all the things that are associated with this magnificent day, there are still people who struggle with the real meaning of Christmas.

How can we relate to something that happened so many years ago? What does Santa Claus, toys, Christmas ham and mistletoe have to do with Jesus coming as a baby born of a virgin?

I’m not sure it has anything to do with it and maybe that is part of the problem. We’ve become so commercially minded that the story of a baby being born so long ago doesn’t have very much significance. How can that compete with all the lights, tinsel, sidewalk sales, and Christmas trees that we are used to? It’s almost as if the real meaning of Christmas has been pushed back into a corner somewhere to make room for Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

The story I want bring to you is about the events preceding the birth of Jesus. The principle character is a young girl by the name of Mary. We don’t know a lot about her background and apparently it wasn’t that important. We do know she was a descendent of David the king. Being of Jewish descent and especially being in the lineage of David, she was brought up knowing the commandments of God. What she heard, she must have treasured, especially the word concerning the birth of the Messiah.

So the Lord himself will give you this sign: A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel [God Is With Us]. Isaiah 7:14 GWT

I can imagine that almost every little girl in Israel, at one time or another, thought about being the mother of this promised child. It was the greatest honor that could possibly be bestowed upon a woman. I’m sure they all dreamed about it being them, at least, I’m sure that Mary did.

If we are not careful, TIME HAS A WAY OF DESTROYING OUR DREAMS. When we are young we think of doing lofty things and how we are going to do this and accomplish that; but time, our ever-present adversary who is relentless in its pursuit, keeps pressing on and somehow causes those dreams to fade into nothing but a dim memory.

That is what happened to Mary. She had entered into a contract to be married. Under Hebrew law and custom SHE HAD A HUSBAND. If she really thought she was going to be “THE VIRGIN” that would conceive, she would have never allowed herself to become espoused to Joseph and then; there was her reaction to the angel.

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. Luke 1:28-29 NIV

Notice that Mary was greatly troubled by this. But her initial reaction to God’s word was not a lot different than ours today. The scriptures tell us so many wonderful things about our relationship with God.

Now all praise to God for his wonderful kindness to us and his favor that he has poured out upon us because we belong to his dearly loved Son. Ephesians 1:6 TLB

Just as Mary, we have the favor of the Lord. We are loved and accepted by Him just as Mary was. You have God’s favor!

What is your reaction to that? Are you troubled? Are you saying, “How can I be favored, how can I be blessed? What have I done to deserve this wonderful gift?”

The same thing that Mary did, absolutely nothing! She was not expecting to become the mother of the Messiah. I’m not saying that she didn’t love God and was not seeking him. But the point I want to make is that, MIRACLES CAN HAPPEN TO ORDINARY PEOPLE. Yes it took great faith to believe the angel but her faith came after she heard the word not before. That’s the same way it works with us.

All through the Bible it is clear that God has chosen to use people who came from humble beginnings. They were simple ordinary people just like you and me. He is not nearly as interested in our talents or abilities as he is in our availability.

Now I want to take this story and apply it to our lives.

  • Don’t give up on your dreams; they can still come to pass with God’s miracle working power. There is nothing worse than the frustration that comes with missed opportunities or over dreams that never come to pass. But God’s grace and mercy can work for us despite our mistakes, blunders, and lack of faith.

 

  • God can take care of the misguided thoughts of others. Mary was going to be the mother of the Messiah! But, suddenly those feelings of gladness turned to panic. What about Joseph? She never even thought about him. How was she going to explain what happened? “You are pregnant!” Joseph shouted. “How? Who? An angel?”

 

Have you ever been there? Something great is about to happen, something that you have only dreamed of, but then reality sets in. What will people think? They will never believe it was God who told me this. They will think I am just making it up. But God has a way of dealing with misguided thoughts and people.

Is God causing something to come to pass in your life and you have wondered how people will react? Don’t worry. He has a way of taking care of them all.

 

  • Ordinary people can have great faith. After the angel spoke to Mary she said, let it happen according to your word. What great faith! Remember, Mary was an ordinary girl who came from an ordinary family. She encountered all the same problems and temptations that we face, but she became one of the greatest people of faith in the Bible.

 

There is no way for us to imagine all the hurt and rumors that arose about Mary. What would it have been like for her parents? Though she was the flower of her mother and the joy of her father, the shock of a pregnancy before the wedding must have dashed all their hopes against the rocks. They probably thought she was crazy.

“Mary, this wild story cannot possibly be true. This is impossible; there will be a huge scandal. We’ll be the laughing stock of Nazareth. You’ll be stoned. Mary please say it isn’t true?”

But Mary of all people couldn’t deny it. She and she alone knew what had happened and what was taking place within her body.

The weeks and months passed and it was obvious. She was with child but she stuck with her story. She refused to give into the pleadings and say it was anything less than a miracle.

During this time, Joseph too received a visit from an angel who said, “Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. What is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”.

You know the story. A decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the entire world should be taxed. Every man had to go to the town of his birth. That meant that Joseph would have to go to Bethlehem. Mary was ready to deliver this baby. Only someone foolish would make such a trip. But something compelled her to go with Joseph.

It was a long, hard journey and they had to stop many times along the way. But something kept urging them onward. Some force that gently said, everything is going to be okay but you must go to Bethlehem.

Finally they arrived and the pains of birth had already started. They had to find shelter but everything was filled. Joseph was frantic.

“What will I do?” Joseph asked. “You must help me, my wife is having a baby.”

Finally they were given permission to go into a little cave that was used as a stable for animals. A stable; what a place for the birth of a king. But it was in that stable, that dirty stinking stable that Mary fulfilled the task that was given to her by the most high. She brought forth the Son of God.

Is there a dream in your life that is fading? Is there something you have prayed for that has not come to pass? Have you given up or are you just about ready to give up? Don’t quit. Don’t let go of your prayers. Miracles Can Happen To Ordinary People. They Can Happen To You!

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow families, friends, and even strangers, all around the country are going to gather in dining rooms, kitchens, living rooms, and restaurants to celebrate a holiday that is unique to us in America, called Thanksgiving. According to the budget and particular family traditions, there may be turkey, sweet potatoes, dressing and gravy, and pumpkin pie. When I lived in El Paso a tradition on Thanksgiving was to make Chili Rellinos. I miss that sometimes.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time. Most businesses shut down and people get to enjoy a day of rest. And just as the name of the holiday implies, in most households, even in “non-religious” ones, there is a time for giving thanks.

Some people go around the table and everyone says they are thankful for something. Some have the patriarch or matriarch give a yearly speech about how thankful everyone is to be a part of the family. Some just have a moment of silence and then everyone digs in to the feast. Again, in most households there is some form of thanksgiving even if it is the smallest acknowledgment of gratitude for the food.

I think that is wonderful. I am really glad that we have a holiday set aside for thankfulness. It’s another thing that makes this nation so great.  

What are you thankful for this year? Maybe you’ve struggled physically and you are just thankful to be alive to see another Thanksgiving. Perhaps you’ve weathered some family problems or a financial crisis and you are seeing a small light at the end of the tunnel. That is a reason to be thankful. Maybe you’ve made some new friends, got a new job, or experienced a fresh start in your marriage or with an estranged relative. No matter how big or small, all of us have some reason to be thankful.

No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 TLB

No matter what happens, always give thanks. We can do this. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

-Brad

My Top 5 Books

Since first pastoring a local church, which was many years ago, I have tried to be a constant reader and learner. I heard someone say once that, “readers are leaders.” Thus striving to be a better leader, I have tried to be a consistent reader.

In this post there is a list of five books that have made a great impression on my life, and why they have done so.  I hope you will find the time to read them, and if you do, that you will be encouraged, strengthened, and inspired to become a better leader, Christian, and fellow human being.

  1. There is a Miracle in Your Mouth – John Osteen (Yes, John. Not Joel)

This little book actually set the course for my ministry. I bought this book for $1.00 after hearing John Osteen speak at the Tulsa, Oklahoma chapter of Full Gospel Business Men International. My “Aha moment”: You will have what you say! (Mk. 11:23)

  1. In Him – Kenneth Hagin

Throughout the New Testament Epistles the believer is told over and over who they are as a Child of God. In the back there is a list of 133 scripture references referring to our position, In Him. My “Aha moment”: I am brand new in Christ. (2 Cor. 5:17)

  1. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – John Maxwell

I first heard John speak at a leadership conference in Orlando, Florida. He taught the 21 Laws of Leadership and a fire was kindled within me to become a better leader. My “Aha moment”: Leadership is influence. Nothing more and nothing less.

  1. Deep and Wide – Andy Stanley

This is a tremendous book that helps clarify WHY churches should be inclusive and not exclusive. My :Aha moment”: Remove the barriers that keep people from attending church.

  1. The Holy Bible – God

No book, sermon, podcast, or conversation has influenced my life like the Bible. I read it EVERYDAY to find direction, strength, and comfort. There are honestly too many “Aha moments” to list but two of the greatest truths I have ever received are found in the following scriptures.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8

I really hope this gives you some insight into who I am and why I am the way I am. Please check out these books and if you read any of them please let me know your impression. I pray they will have as great an impact on you as they have had on me.

-Brad

The Struggle is Real | Part 1

As I was talking to a friend the other day he begin to relay how he was going through a very hard time. He said it had gotten so bad that he had considered taking his own life. He asked, “Brad, what am I supposed to do?”

It is hard for some people to imagine things being so bleak that you would consider taking your own life. Unfortunately, it happens much more often than we realize. The suicide rate in America is about 121 people per day. That is a lot of people who see no light at the end of the tunnel.

I am not a psychologist and I don’t presume to have all of the answers but I do want to share a few things I have learned. Today is Part 1.

  1. Time Is Your Friend.

Because of our technologically advanced society, we are used to everything happening fast. We can’t wait for the five-minute oatmeal; we want the one-minute oatmeal. We have overnight shipping and it probably won’t be long until items can be beamed directly into our home. I guess that is my Star Trek geekiness coming out.

But this has created a mindset that makes it difficult to stand strong when we are struggling. We want things fixed NOW, and if it isn’t fixed now, we give up. I have found that it usually takes about as long to get out of a struggle as it does to get into one. Be patient and let time to be your friend.

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Galatians 6:9 MSG

  1. Don’t Get Defensive.

So often when we are struggling we tend to wear our feelings on our sleeve and everything ticks us off. Even if a good friend or family members reaches out to help, because we are so “raw” from the struggle, we feel attacked and lash out in defense. Everyone is NOT out to get you! Stop being so defensive. You can be a nice person. Try it you’ll like it.

  1. Beware Of Isolation.

Unfortunately it is a natural human tendency to withdraw during times of struggle. Who wants to be around happy and positive people when you are down in the dumps? We want to be by ourselves, talking to ourselves about how bad things are, and how no one really cares.

David thought that way a lot. Psalms 142 is a lament about how he is completely alone.

I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me. Psalm 142:4 NLT

Have you ever felt like that? I have, but I am so grateful that I didn’t stay there. David didn’t stay there.

…The godly will crowd around me, for you are good to me.” Psalm 142:7b NLT

The BEST thing you can do in a struggle is to be surrounded with God’s people. Run to them and not from them. Be in church, be in a small group, and allow the strength of others help you.

A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment. Proverbs 18:1 NKJV

The person who isolates himself is not very smart.

  1. Be Vulnerable.

I didn’t say be pitiful. There is a difference. By vulnerable I simply mean, don’t think you must have all the answers, or do everything on your own. I have found that everyone faces some struggles where they don’t know what to do. Instead of putting on a Superman mask and acting like you have it all together, be vulnerable. Say, “I don’t know what to do. I need help.” Remember the words of the apostle Paul. The power of Christ is greatest in our lives when we are weakest.

That’s it for now. I look forward to sharing part two because I know the struggle is real!

 

-Brad

The Struggle is Real | Part 2

Last time in part 1, I shared with you four truths to remember when you are struggling. Today I want to share four more, but lets recap:

  1. Time is your friend.
  2. Don’t get defensive.
  3. Beware of isolation.
  4. Be vulnerable.

Here are three more truths.

  1. Focus on good times

“Brad, there are no good times.” Really? You have never had any good times in your life? Sure you have. Focus on those times.

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. Philippians 4:8 MSG

Everyone has struggles. Your struggles are unique to you but the more you can focus on the good rather than the bad, the faster you will come out on top. And there is always something good.

  1. Chill out.

Psychologists say that the vast majority of our worries are unfounded. What about this or what about that or what if this were to happen? All of us have worries that are legitimate but that certainly doesn’t mean we need to invent some more. Jesus said that what is going on today is more than enough to be concerned about. So don’t worry about tomorrow.

“Brad, I’m just an anxious person.” There are many personality types but I would encourage you to not pigeonhole yourself as an “anxious person”.

Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, Proverbs 12:25 NKJV

Let that register with you right now. The more anxious you are the more depressed you will become, and the more depressed you become the more anxious you will be. It’s a vicious cycle that will take you deeper and deeper into a pit.

  1. Speak God’s word

According to the scriptures, words have power. It was by words that God spoke the universe into existence. Jesus is the word made flesh. Jesus said, YOU will have whatever you say.

What are you saying? Listen to the words that come out of your mouth. Are they filled with faith, encouragement, and expectation, or are they filled with doubt, fear, and unbelief?

Of course our words begin with our thoughts, and I think the first step in coming out of a struggle is to change your thinking. Start thinking about God’s word. Memorize, meditate, and speak some passages from the Bible that reveal a picture of how God sees you. Here are a few examples that are paraphrased from the verse.

    • I am more than a conqueror through Jesus who loves me. Romans 8:37
    • Nothing can separate me from the love of God. Romans 8:39
    • I am a new creation in Christ Jesus. My past is gone and I have a great future. 2 Corinthians 5:17
    • I am the righteousness of God in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21

 

Those are four really great scriptural confessions that you can commit to memory, think about, and speak out of your mouth. Perhaps you could establish a routine for a while and speak them over yourself just like you were taking medicine. I will speak these scriptures over my life when I get up in the morning, at noon, and then again in the evening. As I speak them, I picture in my mind what I am speaking. I WILL have what I say!

I am praying that you will rise above your struggle no matter how great it may be. I am praying that you will see yourself as God sees you. I am praying that person will become the reality of your life.

I know the struggle is real. Reach out and let me know how God has aided you in overcoming your struggles.

Brad

 

REST

Honestly, I am too Exhausted.

I once read that tired people run the world. That’s probably true. The more responsibility one has, the greater the opportunity to lose sleep over big decisions resulting in less time to relax. But you don’t have to be a world leader to understand this painful truth. As a whole, people are busier than ever before. It only takes a few nights stressing over a project or being up with a sick child to begin to see exhaustion set in. Unfortunately, moms, especially single moms, are all too familiar with perpetual exhaustion. There is the job to keep a roof over our head, laundry, time with friends (friends?), laundry, taxi service for the kids, laundry, church, laundry, entertainment (entertainment?), and laundry. It’s like it never ends.

I recently had a single mom tell me she had not been on a date in five years. I asked, Why? She said, “By the time I get off of work and get a few things done around the house, there is no time. But honestly, I am too exhausted to even think about anything else.”

Pastors face exhaustion too. Nobody likes a whiner so I won’t complain about having the GREATEST job in the world, but sometimes the grind can get to you no matter who you are. Here are four tips from the word “REST”:

R – Read scripture every day. You will be surprised how even a small portion of God’s word can boost your energy level, provide wisdom, and give you a new outlook.

Wisdom, will make the hours of your day more profitable and the years of your life more fruitful. Proverbs 9:11

E – Eat healthy. I’m not the greatest authority on this but I do know it is a proven fact that fresh fruit, vegetables, and lean meat, give a person more energy than processed foods, caffeine, and sugar. Just a small change can make a big difference.

S – Stop saying, “I’m Exhausted!” Many times we defeat ourselves with our mouth. The scriptures tells us that we will HAVE what we say. What are you saying? Use wisdom in your talking.

wisdom will fill you with living energy… Proverbs 3:22

T – Talk to someone. See a professional counselor, a pastor, or talk to a trusted friend. Most churches offer some form of small groups and many with childcare. It might not happen the FIRST time but as you are faithful to attend the Holy Spirit will open opportunities for you to talk about what is going on and when to get some wise counsel.

Even Jesus had to REST. How about you?

Are you exhausted? Let me know if this REST acrostic helped you.

Brad

 

How Teachable Are You?

I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago, just making small talk, when a particular well-known speaker came up. My friend was very excited about a recent message he had heard and as he bubbled over with excitement about all he had learned, right out of my mouth I said these words. “I don’t like;” and I said the fellow’s name. Of course my comment went a long way in squelching my friend’s excitement but he tried to explain this wasn’t the “typical message” by this speaker. But the damage had been done. We got off the subject and moved on to another but later that evening I thought a long time about our conversation.

 

Why did I feel like I needed to take the wind out of my friend’s sails? Why did I think I needed to let him know there must be something wrong with his taste because in my infinite knowledge and wisdom, I didn’t like this guy! In hindsight, here are a few things I should have considered.

I discouraged my friendAll of us have been around dream killers. Dream killers can find something negative in anything. My friend was very excited about the message he had heard and with my comment I just stuffed it in his face. I don’t like him! My friend didn’t ask for my opinion. He was telling me about a message he had heard that ministered to him and gave him some spiritual insight. Whether I liked that particular person or not, I should have been more sensitive to my friend. In fact, I should have been an encourager rather than a discourager.

 

…an encouraging word cheers a person up. Proverbs 12:25b TLB

 

I showed tremendous arroganceWith my statement I was telling him I’ve already arrived. I don’t need to hear this because I’m spiritual enough and there isn’t anything this person can possibly say that would benefit me. Honestly I acted like a fool.

 

A fool thinks he needs no advice, but a wise man listens to others. Proverbs 12:15 TLB

 

I almost missed an opportunity to learn. I later looked up this particular talk and listen to the entire message. I have to admit it was truly inspired and at the end I found myself in tears repenting for my horrible attitude. Perhaps the next time I see my friend I’ll humble myself and tell him about my experience.

 

Are you teachable? I have found that I learn more from people who are different from me than I do from people who are just like us.

 

And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as father. Being a descendant of Abraham is neither here nor there. Descendants of Abraham are a dime a dozen. What counts is your life. Matthew 3:9-10a MSG

 

To quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

Brad