Do You Smell Gas?

After a natural gas pipeline leak in 2008, residents in predominantly black Eight Mile, Alabama, sense strong residual orders, worry about the water, and battle health problems.

It’s an election year, but Lorenzo A. Martin Sr. wasn’t at the Highpoint Baptist Church in Prichard, Alabama back in June to make a campaign speech. The District 1 councilman stood before the crowded sanctuary to talk about mercaptan, and what he believes it has done to the Eight Mile community in Prichard for the last eight years.

Mobile Gas is the company that delivers mercaptan to Prichard as part of the natural gas service it provides to local customers. The company believes it has and is addressing the problem caused by a leak back in 2008.

But Martin, other leaders and experts disagree. So do many residents of Prichard, as evidenced by the 400 people who showed up at Highpoint for the meeting organized by the We Matter Eight Mile Community Association, Inc. In fact, 1,300 residents responded to the health assessments distributed in July by the association. Many of them said that they get headaches and have respiratory issues that they can’t explain. Some also talk about having sore throats and nosebleeds.

The consensus is that mercaptan is to blame for what is happening to the residents of the Eight Mile community. Some even compare their situation to the one in Flint, Mich., more than 1,000 miles north of Prichard. There are similarities: Flint has a 40 percent poverty rate. Nearly 38 percent of Prichard’s residents live in poverty. And both cities are predominantly black.

Councilman Martin believes that the leak almost killed his youngest daughter.

“Her left lung nearly collapsed because of fluid in her chest,” Martin told Message.

The Leak That Set Off Alarm Smells

pipeline-918414_640

 

Natural gas is invisible and odorless. That’s why federal law requires utility companies such as Mobile Gas to add an odorant like mercaptan to it so customers can smell it and detect a leak.

Message contacted Mobile Gas about the mercaptan leak in Prichard but spokeswoman Kesshia Davis said that company officials couldn’t comment due to pending litigation. Instead, she referred Message to the company website.

According to Mobile Gas’s website, lightning struck a line carrying mercaptan to Prichard’s Eight Mile community in 2008. The resulting leak was “promptly reported to ADEM and the soil around the leak (was) removed.”

Additionally, Mobile Gas claims that it has installed 99 groundwater wells to test the groundwater in Eight Mile. The company also says that it has collected and analyzed more than 270 samples of groundwater, 330 soil samples and 600 surface water samples.

The Mobile Gas website also says that the company has installed two different water treatment systems in Eight Mile to eliminate the odor residents blame for their ailments. One treats surface water from a spring that may have been affected. The other treats ground water where Mobile Gas says mercaptan has been detected.

Wilma Subra, president of the Subra Company, believes the company’s efforts may be exacerbating Eight Mile’s problems.

“It’s helping to treat the groundwater,” Subra said about the water treatment systems. “But it’s causing a lot more odors to be released, and a lot of severe odors.”

Subra describes herself as a chemist who specializes in consulting with communities dealing with environmental challenges. She has publicly urged Mobile Gas to take additional measures beyond what it has already done to solve the leak problem. But she, along with Martin and other community leaders, thinks the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) needs to do a better job of working with the company to ensure that the problems in Eight Mile are resolved.

“ADEM does not put boots on the ground,” Martin said. “And they ask for the accused party to do their own clean-up and present to them a process of remediation.”

“We didn’t know the severity of the leak. We didn’t know there was a leak at all.”

mercaptan-protestCarletta Davis, the president of We Matter Eight Mile Community Association, Incorporated, is also very dissatisfied with ADEM’s response to the Eight Mile leak after Mobile Gas alerted the agency of the problem.

“In 2008, they reported it to ADEM but no one reported back to the community,” Davis told Message. “We were not notified until we started smelling it and complaining.”

Residents began to complain in 2012, she said.

“We didn’t know the severity of the leak,” Davis said. “We didn’t know there was a leak at all.”

 

Lynn Battle, chief of ADEM’s Office of External Affairs, argues that the agency has been more responsive than residents suggest. According to a summary of the agency’s actions that she provided to Message, ADEM has conducted a full evaluation and knows where soil and groundwater has been contaminated by mercaptan.

The agency says the two water treatment systems installed by Mobile Gas can treat any groundwater that surfaces or can potentially surface via the springs. Both systems are tested regularly, according to ADEM’s summary. ADEM also says that weekly odor surveys are conducted to measure the impact of mercaptan on the Eight Mile community.

But it’s precisely these two things – the water treatment systems and the testing – that are failing the people of Eight Mile, according to Subra. The chemist believes that the smell plaguing the community is being caused by the very wells that are supposed to be mitigating the leak. She said that the emission of odors has increased since they were installed and that ADEM’s own reports show this.

Subra supplied Message with a summary of the data from the ADEM reports which indicate the agency detected the odor on four specific dates in July and August.

“Something happened when they turned on those recovery wells,” Subra said.

So even if it’s possible that mercaptan no longer is tainting the springs, the odor continues to affect the residents of the Eight Mile community. Subra said she has presented her assessment at meetings in July and August. Representatives of Mobile Gas and ADEM were at one or both meetings, she said.

“They all told me it was nothing like when it was bubbling up in the springs,” Subra said.

Her response: But it’s making people ill.

Their response?

“They got real quiet,” the chemist said. “And they’ve been real quiet ever since.”

:::

A Long Road Ahead For Eight Mile

Eight Mile got its name because it’s eight miles from the Mobile Bay. It’s also known as High Point because it’s one of the highest points in Mobile County. And there’s a third name, the one most relevant to the troubles this community currently is having: Indian Springs.

“We have a multitude of known and unknown underground water sources in the area that travel not only in Prichard but also into Mobile and Mobile County,” Martin said.

The councilman sees this as one more reason that solving Eight Mile’s mercaptan problem should be a high priority. He believes that if mercaptan spreads to these other water sources, people outside of Eight Mile may start to have the same ailments with which the residents of the community have suffered.

Carletta Davis, president of the We Matter Eight Mile Community Association, Incorporated, understands this first hand. She said her children were suffering with headaches, nausea and nose bleeds.

“The doctor just advised us to get out of the area,” said Davis.

So in 2013, she and her family moved. But they returned in 2015 because economic realities.

“We were not financially prepared to move out of our homestead,” she said, referring to the family house in Eight Mile that they had inherited. “Our family has been greatly impacted by this.”

So Davis agrees with Subra. The bottom-line solution is a simple one.

“The responsible party is Mobile Gas,” Subra said. “The regulatory agency is ADEM. And together, they should be working to mitigate the situation.”




Can you hear me? Lesson 2

Lesson 2 – Read John 18:28

Just a surface reading of this raises some questions. Why would Jewish leaders think that if they led the Romans to kill Jesus, it would not implicate them? Were they really prioritizing their own ceremonial cleanliness over the life of someone else? Does this resonate with you? If so, tell us how on social media using #messagemag.




America’s Greatness Found Wherever Compassion and Generosity Exceed Greed

I recently picked up a newspaper with headlines reporting praiseworthy work by volunteering young people. It was great to hear of youth who sacrifice to help make America and this world a better place. Their causes include work for victims of crime, natural disasters, poverty, accidents, disabilities, and discrimination. And, they’re working while others ignore the good and seek to discredit America and America’s leadership.

One reason America is great because of the generosity and compassion found in volunteer groups and faith-based organizations. This includes churches of every denomination, though some are composed totally of individuals who are poor themselves. It appears as though greatness can be found wherever compassion and generosity exceed the greed and selfishness of the citizens.

Influx Of Asylum Seekers

“In fiscal year (FY) 2015, the United States resettled 69,933 refugees and in FY 2013 (the most recent data available) granted asylum status to 25,199 people.”

As reported by the Center for Immigration Studies, “[m]ore than 4.4 million people are on the legal immigrant visa waiting list according to the State Department’s annual tally. That is 100,085 more people waiting for legal immigrant visas than at the same time last year.”

If all these citizens of the world are trying to relocate to the United States, what is so great about our country? And why is it that those who see nothing great about America are remaining here and are making no efforts to leave?

Improved Standing For The Average American

The highly respected Gallup organization, has recently reported on some aspects of America’s greatness as seen by Americans.

Since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, the percentage of U.S. adults who considered themselves to be “thriving” has improved by nearly four percentage points. That thriving 55.4% is on pace to be the highest recorded in the nine years Gallup and Healthways have tracked it,” writes Dan Witters, lead author of the report. He further reports that:

• Life evaluations across all racial/ethnic groups have improved since 2008
• Life evaluations among whites now at highest point in nine-year period

Take a look at Gallup’s and Healthway’s Well-being Index and its 2.3 million surveys. There you’ll find a list of 386 accomplishments achieved by the United States since the year 2009. These can be found with point by point documentation reference by any computer search.

As reported on National Public Radio, “Household incomes were up sharply in 2015, according to a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. Median family income climbed 5.2 percent to $56,516 a year. That’s the biggest increase in nearly 50 years.” The good news for America indicated there are more jobs, higher wages, and the expanded Affordable Care Act.

Don’t Lose Liberty

It is easy for us to take some aspects of America for granted because we have never been without them. Our basic freedoms, as summarized in the Constitution and listed in the Bill of Rights are often taken for granted. Some would prefer a government managed like a business corporation. That could bring an end to many of our freedoms as we know them. Those freedoms have helped protect us from corporate decisions and excess. Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion could specifically be diminished.

I am further reminded of how history repeats itself, when ordinary citizens narrow their focus upon themselves and lose sight of greater principles.

“It was the desire for liberty of conscience that inspired the Pilgrims to brave the perils of the long journey across the sea, to endure the hardships and dangers of the wilderness, and with God’s blessing to lay, on the shores of America, the foundation of a mighty nation. Yet honest and God-fearing as they were, the Pilgrims did not yet comprehend the great principle of religious toleration. The freedom which they sacrificed so much to secure for themselves, they were not equally ready to grant to others. While the reformers rejected the creed of Rome, they were not entirely free from her spirit of intolerance” (Great Controversy, pp. 292, 293)

May we be grateful for all the freedoms we have and stand to protect them as we keep America great.




Impossible! Look Again

The Story of Lazarus Reminds Us: We Can Trust His Timing And Power

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, September 13, 2016


We are focusing on getting to know God from the perspective of John the beloved.

Through The Beloved's Eyes TileToday’s Scripture Focus: “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:” (John 11:25).

It is no exaggeration to say that death is the worst of all enemies! It breaks up families at higher rates than divorce. When it comes through war, it devastates economies. It is the most elusive terrorist against which nobody can defend. There is no person anywhere in the world that can hide from it as it stalks our every footstep. All are equal in the sight of death. Billionaires and absolutely impoverished people, both succumb when death comes knocking at the door.

Jesus Has Authority Over Death

At a time of greatest difficulty in the lives of a few friends, Jesus demonstrated His authority over death. Although, He did not move in the way they expected, He awed them in the end. His friend Lazarus was sick and dying. Lazarus’s sisters sent word to Jesus to alert Him to the fact, so He could hurry to his bedside. Instead of rushing, Jesus waited until he was dead four days to show up. God’s ways are not our ways!

Lazarus’ sister immediately met him as He entered the town. She said if Jesus had gotten there days before, her brother would not have died. What a true statement that was. God’s ways are not our ways! Jesus waited until Lazarus was dead four days and decomposition was setting in before He approached the situation.

He asked Lazarus’ sister whether she believed that He could raise her dear brother. And in what she thought was great faith, she said of course He could do it on resurrection day, thousands of years in the future.

This is where Jesus announces the limitlessness of His power. “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). You see, while the family believed that Jesus could have prevented their beloved’s death, and even believed that Jesus could raise Him from the dead, they had a prescription in mind of how His power worked. They basically believed that if Jesus allowed him to die, he was doomed to stay dead until the resurrection of all faithful people.

Transformed Into The Vigor Of Youth

Jesus’ statement that He is Life itself changed the focus altogether. Since Jesus is Life, there is no limit of time or space on His ability to give life to whomever He wills. God’s ways are not our ways!

open-tombIn a most astounding moment, Jesus commanded that those standing by approach Lazarus’s tomb, and roll away the stone covering its’ mouth. The stench from his rotting corpse must have been nauseating. Jesus lifted up His voice and called Lazarus from his rotting, lifeless state into the vigor of youth. Are you paying attention? He then commanded that they loose him from his burial wraps and let him free.

There are times in our lives that we face completely impossible circumstances. Our impossible extremes are just the beginning of God’s demonstration of power. Neither death nor our worst life trials have any real power in our lives when we are submitted to God like Lazarus was. It is true that God will allow things to buffet us for a season, but one day, if we remain faithful, He will command that all be loosed from us as we emerge in the vigor of youth.

Don’t write a prescription for God as you seek His power in your life. Trust me, He knows exactly what He is doing. When Jesus returns, ask Lazarus and his sisters. They know.




Running From Wolves? Seek The Good Shepherd’s Protection

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, September 12, 2016

Through The Beloved's Eyes TileWe are focusing on getting to know God from the perspective of John the beloved.

Today’s Scripture Focus: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,” (John 10:11–14, NLT).

He’s Watching Out For You

The care and protection Jesus gives for His people is almost unbelievable. Sometimes we are tempted to believe that He is not watching, or that He does not care. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Many are the ways that the Bible illustrates God’s loving care for us. The example of the Good Shepherd is most familiar to people, whether they are from the Judeo-Christian background or not.

Even irreligious people know this timeless psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” (Psalm 23).

Confidence And Rest In The Shepherd

This psalm bespeaks calm reliance upon God; confidence in His guidance in the face of death; trust in His righteousness; triumph over those who intend us evil, and the ultimate eternal rest in His presence.

The setting of our theme text takes the psalm a step further. It illustrates the fact that the Good shepherd actually gives His life for the sheep. The pathway to everlasting life is littered with so many obstacles and enemies. Sadly, some of the enemies look eerily trustworthy. They are hired to also protect the sheep, but sometimes they would rather satisfy self, than stand watch as expected (Isaiah 56:10-12). So when the wolf comes, the hired help runs for his life and leaves the sheep vulnerable.

Our only trust must be in the Lord. He loves us. He corrects us. He searches for us if we go astray. In this, we can find courage as we face the wolves on our jobs, on the roads, and even in our homes. Be at peace in His care. Is the Lord your Shepherd?




Miracle Moment With Mud: What Can God Do With You?

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, September 11, 2016

Through The Beloved's Eyes TileWe are focusing on getting to know God from the perspective of John the beloved.

Today’s Scripture Focus: “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,” (John 9:1–6).

As Jesus and His disciples passed by a man who had apparently been born blind, the disciples questioned Jesus. What was the cause of his blindness? Was he being punished because he sinned or because of some sin his parents committed?

Is This All About You?

Jesus’ response was very interesting. He did not say, “How in the world could a man who was born this way be punished for his own sin? He was born blind!” Neither did He say, “Why do you always think everything is about you? Why do you think what people have done or not done is all that matters in the universe?”

Rather, He gave them a lesson that it would be well for all of us to get:  “The reason this man was born blind, was so everyone who learns of his experience can see the power of God at work in him.”

The Most High is constantly at work to direct our limited attention heavenward.

Whoa! Now, that’s deep. Jesus had a way of switching the focus from all things earthly to all things holy. The Most High is constantly at work to direct our limited attention heavenward. And, as we behold the light that emanates from the throne room, we are changed!  And, we become more useful as we mingle with people.

The Master Teacher and Healer At Work

Jesus continues to engage the minds of His followers. And after He spoke for a few more moments, He got to work. This is the focus of our lesson today. Jesus spat on the ground. Wait. I don’t know about you, but I would have thought this was strange. One minute we are discussing the theology of generational curses, the power of God to impact the cosmos, and the next minute, the Teacher spits on the ground? How rude, or was it?

jesus-healing-the-blind-man-satue-copy

One thing we all must do, if we are to appreciate the greatness of God, is simply pay attention. When He is working, it would be well for us, to sit tight, and ask Him to help us understand what He is doing.

So, Jesus spat on the ground, mixed the spit with dirt to make clay, and then rubbed this clay on the man’s eyes. If the fact that Jesus spat on the ground at an odd time was a bit jarring, rubbing spit-based clay on the man’s eyes most certainly would have given pause. But, what happened next is a miracle we must not miss.

He instructed the man to go to the pool of Siloam to wash the clay from his eyes. And that man doesn’t stumble or bumble back into Jesus’ presence. The man who was born blind in order to manifest the power of God to all who would hear of his story came back seeing!

 

Oh The Joy!

Can you imagine the man’s joy? What must it have been like to look up and see the sky for the first time? What must he have thought as he was able to connect images to the sounds of children playing and birds singing their morning carols? How must his heart have leaped as he finally could look into his mother’s eyes and see the care that he aforetime could only feel? He was blind and now he can see! Glory to God!

The story continues with ridiculous exchanges with the spiritual so-called leaders and the young man about whether he was actually born blind or if this was all a masterfully crafted deception. His parents also were subjected to the onslaught. Eventually, the man was able to see his Savior–the One who loved him so much that He would give him sight, so he could experience life to the fullest.

Almost as jarring as Jesus’ choice of how He would perform this miracle is our question for today: Are you of more or less value than spit? Let me ask another way. If Jesus can use spit to change a man’s life forever, and lodge a lesson in the annals of time for all to see, can He use you?

potter-and-the-vessel-copyThe Master’s Touch In Our Lives

This is a question that all must encounter at some point in our lives. And just as this story begins with the reality that not everything is about us, but rather about the power of God in us, we can begin to answer the question. No matter how low, simple, or basic we consider ourselves to be, when the hands of Jesus molds us, He can use us to do miraculous things.

Yes, little ol’ you and little ol’ me can be used to impact governments for God’s glory. Little ol’ basic you, who may not have a high-school diploma, can be used to teach magistrates and kings about God. Little ol’ me, who may have lived a long life of sin, can be changed into God’s ambassador to those who could never imagine that God would stoop to love them. I love the fact that our Father in Heaven is powerful and loving enough to bend down, lay His caring hands upon me, and fashion me in such a way that others can also be changed.

Yes, little ol’ you can be used to manifest our big ol’ God! Just submit like the clay and watch Him work. Why not ask Him to use you today and share your story with us.




Doormat No More

After 26 years, Maya was worn out and determined to find her personhood.

Drama Files Title TileMaya is in her early 40s and came for counseling because she is in a long-standing, verbally abusive relationship. She has been living with her son’s father, Eric, off and on for the past 26 years. They would break up for years, then reconcile and this pattern continues into the present. 

Emotions overwhelmed May her story unfurled.  Eric berated her both in private and in public. It did not matter who was in his presence; he couldn’t control his temper with her.  He has never taken responsibility for his actions, but blames her for everything wrong with their relationship. He has never apologized for his behavior towards her because he assigns all the fault to her. It was Eric who told Maya that she needed counseling for her behavior and not his.

Turning Point

When Maya told their sons that she never wants them to treat women the same way they asked her, “Why do you let dad treat you this way?” “I don’t know,” she responded. As they reached out to hug and comfort her, she wept. She knew that day she was going to look for help.

 “Why do I do this to myself?” she asked through tears at her first session.

We had not interrupted her or pushed during this meeting. We wanted her to feel safe and not under attack. But, with this question, it was time for some therapeutic input.

I asked her if he ever had been unfaithful and she said yes. I asked her if the abuse was ever displayed in front of her sons and she responded yes. Then I asked her if she was tired of it. She responded “I’m  simply warn out.”

I then began to share with her four components of nurturing herself and they begin with God.

God First

Maya admitted during the first hour of the session, that she had left the church and stopped obeying God. She loved her boyfriend more than God, she admitted, and she could not and did not want to live without him. She asked ” How did  I allow this to happen?” It’s not difficult when you lose sight of the most important Person in your life–Jesus Christ, I told her.

Goal-Oriented

We shared with her that the second component calls for realistic goal-setting and an idea of what a positive outcome in their relationship would look like. Maya now expects to be treated the way she always treated Eric–with kindness and respect. She hopes for a relationship in which Eric demonstrates respect towards her. She also wants him to be equipped with skills to care for his family in a proactive manner. And, very importantly, she decided she never wanted a repeat of this abusive ordeal.

Having realistic goals for her family began with her respecting and loving herself. To be able to make those goals, she also had to accept responsibility for allowing  disrespect to continue as long as it had. And, she had to forgive herself. That issue will be addressed further in future sessions with her.

Refuse To Be A Doormat

So, quite naturally, the third component involves respect for one’s personhood. Maya has to learn to be completely honest with her feelings and the need to express herself openly to Eric regarding the abuse within their relationship. She must be willing to say no to anyone who feels that they can use her as a doormat because of their own insecurities. She must also find within herself the ability to reconstruct the framework that has fostered this negative lifestyle.

Paradigm Shift

The fourth component is to adapt to a paradigm shift. A paradigm shift is an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way. Maya’s thinking and actions did not produce healthy characteristics for her family or herself. She already knew that Eric was the abuser, and that she was the codependent. She knew that the household structure was falling apart, but didn’t know how to rebuild it alone. Counseling opened her eyes and motivated Maya to make a change.

What Happens Next?

Maya hopes to have a home that reflects a sense of balance, respect and love. It is out of hope that things could be better that she recognized that she needed change. Maya’s counseling is in the initial stages but she is making progress.

Eric should attend a few sessions with her because he is unwilling to address the problem on his own. However, if he is not willing to attend, it is time for Maya to leave. That prospect will be difficult for her because she truly loves him. As her therapist, however, I had to remind her this is a very unhealthy type of “love.” Ending the relationship will be hard, but it is better to end the relationship than for her to continue in a long-term, unhappy relationship that could destroy her life.

Maya made a decision right then to give her life back to Christ and asked us for a bible study. She is ready to take a good look at herself and make some significant changes in her  life. She no  longer desires to be Eric’s doormat and settle for less than excellence.  She is looking forward to counseling and becoming a better woman and mother.

The name has been changed to protect the innocent.




Which Way To Holy?

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Wednesday, September 7, 2016

We are focusing on getting to know God from the perspective of John the beloved.Through The Beloved's Eyes Tile

Today’s Scripture Focus: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” (John 5:39–40).

There were a number of different factions during Jesus’ day who studied Scripture more than average. They customarily wore verses on their clothing and some were even able to recite the entire five books of the Torah. Fastidiously, they fixated on every jot and tittle of the Law, yet many did not actually live the Law. Some knew every word, but lived almost none.

Balanced By God’s Inspiration

They trusted so much in their abilities to recall and apply Scripture, that they effectively replaced God’s grace in their own lives. The learned lived their lives in such a way as to demonstrate that they thought eternal life was a right, based on obedience. They thought that if they performed just right, and had a firm grasp of rites, ceremonies, and the words of Scripture, they could be recommended to God for salvation. Tragically, most of these proficient professors of religion were their own greatest hindrances to salvation. They placed their trust in perceived obedience to Scripture, rather than the God of Scripture.

A friend once told me that people are capable of performing on either extreme in our own strength. We can live guided only by whether things feel good and are enjoyable. Or, we can focus so much on right doing and deceive ourselves into believing performance makes us worthy. But, as my friend stated, being balanced requires God’s inspiration. In this context, balance means that we believe that since God is holy, we too can and must be holy. But, balance recognizes our sheer helplessness to be holy on our own. We realize and embrace the fact that only God can make a person holy. Whatever reward we receive will be Jesus art copythat for which Jesus is worthy.

Know Jesus. Know Life.

Eternal life is not in attempts at performing or mastering Scripture. No! Jesus said it best when He said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). It is our privilege to know God. He introduces Himself to all who diligently seek His face in Scripture, rather than seeking bonus points for studying.

There is nothing sweeter than knowing our God. To know God, is to love Him. Do not settle for the pittance of merely knowing the theories related to God. Seek experiential knowledge of Him, and know that He is good.




Got Your Life Figured Out Yet? Seek God

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, September 6, 2016

We are focusing on getting to know God from the perspective of John the beloved.Through The Beloved's Eyes Tile

Today’s Scripture Focus: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).

So here’s the problem: too many of us think we have life all figured out. True, knowledge has increased, educational systems have improved, and technology has made the world’s riches more accessible than ever before, but we still have no idea whether we are coming or going.

What Do You Know?

Now, before you get a complex or think I am exaggerating, do me a favor. Tell me how quickly light travels. If you said 186 thousand miles per second, you’re right! Congratulations! How far is the sun from earth? What is the actual size and chemical composition of Saturn? Explain the science of fetal development. What in the world is blood? How does it function? What is its chemical composition?

I can hear some brilliant people saying, “I read about those things.” Some of you may even have post-graduate degrees and have written papers on these subjects. Bravo! It’s easy to say how fast light travels but have you personally aimed a speed measuring device at the light? Have you ever been to the sun? If you understand certain key components of blood, can you actually create it in the lab environment? Can you un-sickle a cell? Can you repair damaged DNA? Are you able to genetically modify a seed and it actually retain all that God intended when He created it? Let me help you: too many of us think we have life all figured out.

Our Limitations

orion-nebula-11024_640I could dream up all sorts of intricate musings and questions to befuddle you on the subject of God too, but I will not. “Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? Deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, And broader than the sea. If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, Then who can hinder him?” (Job 11:7–10). Scientists and theologians have been attempting to splice and dice God for centuries, but the Almighty (blessed be His name) can only be known inasmuch as He reveals Himself.

We can no more master God than we can take a road trip through Orion on vacation. But God has been so kind to condescend and give us glimpses of the eternal. He has been so gracious to manifest His character through the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

God’s Infinite Inspiration

Be inspired and give thanks for such an awesome God who, though shrouded in mystery, has given us a revelation of Himself. Thank Him for the revelation and for rescuing us from the pit of pride and ignorance so that we can receive healing from sin. He has been so kind to make Himself accessible to mere humans so that He can elevate us to the full stature of His Son one day.

So, let me just leave you with a little nugget of Scripture as you pursue knowledge and wrestle with the mysteries of this world and the world to come: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: And with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: She shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: A crown of glory shall she deliver to thee” (Proverbs 4:7–9).




God’s Will For Us Traces Christ’s Example Of Service

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, September 5, 2016

We are focusing on getting to know God from the perspective of John the beloved.Through The Beloved's Eyes Tile

Today’s Scripture Focus: “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:38–40).

You are extremely important to God! While there are many ways of demonstrating this reality, I would like to focus on the intent of Jesus’ first advent. He came from heaven to do His Father’s will—save us. All of the ministry, pain, suffering, hardships, and work He encountered was for your benefit. God really did love the world so much that He gave His Son to save us. While we were at our worst, God gave His best.

How Does God Want To Use You In The Lives Of Others?

For too often, we don’t consider God’s will for our lives, especially as it relates to others. Is there a neighbor you are supposed to help? Are there youth you need to guide because their parents are absent or too busy? Are there co-workers under the boss’s scrutiny that you can help do a better job before they get fired? Does your spouse need a listening ear? It’s hard to cram anything more into our schedules. But, if we do not take our cues from God, making time to serve others, the devil has already fit them into his.

helping a senior copyGod’s will is for us to drink deeply of His Spirit to lead others closer to Him, where they can be delivered from the clutches of the enemy. Will you make yourself available?

Can you imagine? Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, agonizing over one critical question: would He put His needs before God’s will for Him?

Following The Selfless Example Of Jesus

The Father’s will meant that Jesus would have to die for sins He did not commit. He would have to become sin for a human family of rebels and most of them would neither appreciate nor accept His sacrifice. Would He submit to the bitter end of that process, or allow sinners to die in their sins? Since you are experiencing this devotional thought more than 2,000 years after that fateful day, you realize Jesus chose the former. He decided to accept the charge to complete His assignment regardless of the consequences.

If Jesus, the sinless One, could put self aside to save you, can we aim to follow? I have to ask myself that question every day. May the Lord help us not to merely ask that question of ourselves, but answer it to the glory of God.