Tuesday, December 28, 2021

What Will I Wish I Had Done?

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 I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire.  (Luke 24:32)

“Should I take this sandwich home?”

That’s what my co-worker asked when I walked in the kitchen and saw the ponderous look on his face.

“Should I take this sandwich home, or leave it here for tomorrow?”

Instead of answering outright, I gave him a priceless tool for decision-making.

I said, “What will you WISH you had done?”

He said, “Well, if I get home and decide that I would like to eat the sandwich, I will WISH that I had brought it home.”

I said, “There’s your answer.  And if you don’t eat it tonight, you can always bring it back tomorrow.”

Last week a friend of mine in his mid-forties had quadruple bypass heart surgery.  He was a smoker and if you asked him, “What do you WISH you had done 20 years ago?” the answer would be, “Stop smoking, immediately.”

This is a powerful tool for decision-making.  Ask yourself this simple question, “What will I wish I had done?”

As you make plans for another year in your life, how do you know what to do? 

When you come to a fork in the road, how do you make the decision?

One way is to ask, “What will I wish I had done?”

Time always goes by.  The future always arrives.  Reaping always follows sowing.

When that time comes, what will you wish you had done?

In Matthew 25, Jesus told The Parable of the Talents.  Verse 19 says that after a long time, the master came to settle accounts.

Accounts will be settled.  What will you wish you had done?

Second Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ…”

What will you wish you had done?

As we raised our four kids, I would look ahead and think, “What will I wish I had done as their father?”  And then I did it, instead of only wishing that I had done it.

I’m working now to build a relationship with our grandchildren, and you know, little kids can be troublesome!  But I’m looking ahead to when they are teenagers, and twenty-somethings, and they start giving birth to our great-grandchildren.  What will I wish I had done?  I will wish I had taken time to build a relationship with them when they were little, and so I am.

I think you will find this question helpful in nearly every area of life.  It helps you set your eyes on the big picture, on the long run, instead of looking only at what might satisfy your lazy, no good carnal flesh right this minute.

Another year of life is coming up.  Another trip around the sun.  And when that time comes, and it always does…what will you wish you had done?

“It was a great decision,” my co-worker said, smiling.

“What decision?” I said.

“The decision to take my sandwich home last night,” he beamed.  “Great decision!”

And there it is.  Another wise decision made after asking the simple but life-changing question, “What will I wish I had done?”

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Prayer of George

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire.  (Luke 24:32)

You’ve heard of the Prayer of Jabez?

Well, this is the prayer of George.

George Bailey, that is, and I pray it all the time.

George Bailey is the guy in the classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

His life was going down the drain, and he found himself in a bar one snowy night trying to drink the edge off.

Everyone else was preparing for Christmas and enjoying some holiday cheer, but not George.  

He was on the verge of being arrested, even though it wasn’t his fault, and the pressure was unbearable.  

So he sat at the bar, and under the weight of it all he finally asked God for help.

Now if you’ve seen the movie, you know that it actually starts in heaven, BEFORE George prays his prayer.

The preparations in heaven are being made LEADING UP TO George’s prayer.

Other people are already praying for George.  Heaven is well aware of George’s troubles, and heaven is ready to respond…WHEN he prays.

And finally, he does pray.  And it’s very simple.

He says, “God.  Oh God.  Dear Father in Heaven.  I’m not a praying man, but if You’re up there, and You can hear me, show me the way.  I’m at the end of my rope.  Show me the way, God.”

Nothing seems to happen.  In fact, things only seem to get worse.  But behind the scenes we know that George’s answer is on the way.

So what is the “prayer of George Bailey”?

It’s just this simple, and I pray it all the time.

“Lord, please show me the way.”

Do you find yourself in situations where you don’t know what to do?  You don’t know where to go?

Then pray The Prayer of George.  “God, please, show me the way.”

You could also call it The Prayer of David.  King David that is.  He wrote in Psalm 25:4, “Show me Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths.”

It’s a type of prayer we see often in the Psalms, “Show me the way.”

You know what…I don’t know what to do each day.  What is the best thing to do?  What does God want me to do?  What will be the best in the long run?  What is best for eternity?  What is best for my loved ones?  What is best for the generations to come?

I don’t know.  How could I know?  But God knows.

And that’s way I’m constantly praying the prayer of the Psalms, the prayer of King David…The Prayer of George Bailey.

“Oh God, please…show me the way.”

May God show you the way today.

I’m Doug Apple.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Adventures in Fasting

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire.  (Luke 24:32)

I was never good at fasting.

I tried it off and on for years and never had what I thought were good results.

I’d make the commitment, “I’m not eating anything from this time to this time.  I’m really going to seek God and dedicate myself.”

I gave it the old college try, and then would just feel cranky and hungry and scattered.  My work suffered.  Probably my family suffered, and for what?  

I saw other Christians fasting, seemingly successfully, but I felt no fire in it, no visitation, no moving of God.  That’s not required of course, but to me, fasting felt like a wasteland, without value or fruit.

Then we moved to Tallahassee at the end of 2005 and went to a church that declared a fast to start the year 2006 – but it was a different kind of fast, a “Daniel fast.”

Surely I had heard of that before, but I don’t recall it.  I thought there was just one way to fast, and that was to eat no food, none.  

So this Daniel fast was a new idea to me, where your eating was limited, but not eliminated.

So the church announced this Daniel Fast, but we had just moved to a new city and I had my hands full.  I didn’t want to mess with a new fast right then, but I said, “If they do it next year, I’ll do it.”

Then I had the idea for a different kind of fast, so I went on a shopping fast.  What does that mean?  It means I bought nothing for myself, no clothes or shoes or toys or electronics or whatever.  Yes, I bought necessities like food and deodorant, but nothing extra.  And I did that for two years.

It was humbling, and brought discipline and strength of mind, and turned my heart even more to God saying, “You are my provider.” 

And I learned one big thing about myself:  it’s hard for me to pass up a good deal!  For example, I would see a shirt I liked, and hey, it’s 50 percent off!  It’s 75 percent off!  IT’S 90 PERCENT OFF!  But no, I couldn’t buy it because I was on a shopping fast.

Like all fasting, it was hard at first, but then I learned and grew and became a better, stronger person.  And it was the first fast in my life that truly felt satisfying, like it mattered, it worked, it had value, and God was in it.

Then January, 2007 rolled around, and the church once again called for a 3 week Daniel fast, and I was in.  Then I found out that there really isn’t one set way to do a Daniel fast, but the overall goal is to deny yourself certain pleasant foods and drinks.

I wanted my Daniel fast to be easy to figure out, where I wasn’t getting nitpicky about ingredients, so I came up with these 5 guidelines:

--drink only water

--eat no meat

--eat no bread

--eat no sweets

--eat nothing fried.

I don’t know what I had been doing to my body before this, but I was quickly plunged into a dull, yucky headache.  I wasn’t particularly prone to headaches, but I did get them sometimes, and this one was constant.  It didn’t even go away after I slept.

Now listen to this.  While I was in the middle of that headache, probably a sugar and caffeine withdrawal, I felt God rise up in me and say, “Do it all year.”  And in my foggy-headed headache I said, “Yes, I will do this all year.”

Eventually the headache went away, and listen to this.  It was YEARS before I had another headache of any kind, and to this day I never get headaches like I got them before I went on the Daniel fast.

The Daniel fast was hard at first, because I cut out those certain foods, but I didn’t have good replacement foods.  I lost weight to the point where my wife was like, “You’re clothes aren’t fitting right.”

But it was an exciting journey!  I spent a lot of time hungry, but unlike a no-food-at-all fast, I was free to eat and get nourishment, just from a limited number of sources.

One thing I really learned about myself was that, even though I didn’t have one big monster sin or problem that had its hook in me, it was like I had a thousand little hooks in me, jerking me this way and that, meaning I didn’t really have full control over myself.

It was like, “Oh, M and M’s, yes!  I need some.”  “Oh, a Big Mac and fries.  I need that.”  “You know what I really need right now?  A Coke!  Better go get one.”  “You know what sounds good right now?  A HOT FUDGE SUNDAE!”

I realized that I had spent most of the days of my entire life being jerked this way and that by every appetite, every whim and desire.  And this Daniel fast was slowly cutting all those fishing lines and setting me free from their hooks.

Now I’m thinking of Philippians 3:19 where it says, “…their god is their stomach…”  The New Living Translation says, “…their god is their appetite…”

I was there, man, with every little appetite acting like my god and telling me what to do, and I was doing it!  “I need some chips and dip, right now!”

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus says that when we fast, our Father will reward us.

I did that Daniel fast for 3 years, and the Father truly rewarded me.  

In the middle of that 3 years I felt His Spirit rising up within me and calling me to get locked back in to Bible memorization, so I started memorizing one verse per weekday, and you know what?  I’m never going to stop.  And that is just one amazing product of that Daniel fast.

Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”

The question is, what are we denying ourselves?  So often the answer is, “Nothing.”  It almost seems un-American to deny ourselves anything!

But to follow Jesus there must be self-denial, and one obvious form of self-denial is fasting.  “God, I’m giving this up because I’m so hungry for more of You.”

I’m fasting secular music.  I’m denying myself whatever pleasures that might bring in order to set my mind on things above.

I’m currently on what I call a “frontline soldier beverage fast.”  Yes, now I’m making up my own fasts.  But I’m praying, “God, I’m denying myself all beverages except water and black coffee because I’m so thirsty for You.  As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after Thee.”

A while back our church once again called for a 3 week fast to start the year, but it was open-ended.  You pick what you want to fast.  So I prayed, “God, what should I fast?”

And I left it there.  I didn’t want to conjure up something to fast.  I wanted God to tell me what to fast, if anything.  I was willing, but I wanted Him to tell me.

It didn’t happen right away, but at some point it suddenly popped into my mind, “Fast breakfast.”

So I started fasting breakfast on normal workdays, and within the first few days I really felt like God had given me a gift.  Yes, I was hungry, but I was going to eat after noon anyway, so it was very doable.

And I did something different.  I did not pick an end date for the breakfast fast.  I just renew it day by day.  No promises.  No commitments.  Just, “Today, I’m doing it.  I’m fasting breakfast today.”  

And I’ve been doing it for years now, with no plans to stop.  Like I said, it really feels like God has given me a gift, a blessing!

And that’s how I now feel about fasting.  It’s a gift.  A blessing!  

What I formerly would have called “The Tortures of Fasting” I now call “Adventures in Fasting.”  My early years felt unprofitable, even negative.  But these later years have been a true joy, an exciting adventure in denying myself in order to follow Jesus every day as closely as I can.  And I pray that you will, too.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Hallway Discipleship

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire.  (Luke 24:32)

Maybe don’t be in such a hurry to flee the church building after service.

Maybe your interactions with people in the hallway are as important as the service itself.

I call it Hallway Discipleship.

You can also call it “loving people.”

It’s interacting with people in the hallway, your brothers and sisters in Christ, your family members in the family of God.

It’s informal.  It’s casual.  It’s not structured.  But it’s just as valuable as formal discipleship.

It’s Hallway Discipleship.

It’s taking time to look people in the eye, say hello, ask how they’re doing, and being in no hurry.  It’s listening to them, hearing about their day, their life, their family, their work.

It’s not looking past them to rush off to the next thing.

When we do this, when we actually listen and care, here’s what it does.  It earns us the opportunity to plant a seed.

This is where Hallway Discipleship happens.

Discipleship is helping someone follow Jesus more closely.

In Hallway Discipleship, we help someone follow Jesus more closely one seed at a time.

And God’s Holy Spirit is deeply involved in Hallway Discipleship.  Don’t take these hallway encounters for granted.  Take them as God moments, divine appointments, meetings arranged by God Himself.  God is in it!  And God cares about how we handle these opportunities.  Do we take advantage of them, like the first two guys in the parable of the talents?  Or do we bury them like the last guy, the one Jesus referred to as “wicked and lazy”?  Eek.  I don’t want to be that guy!

Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

The household of faith…that’s the people in the hallway!

More than once the Bible says, “especially the household of faith.”

It’s hard to love and care for the household of faith when we are in such a hurry to get away from them.

So slow down.  Take it easy.  Take some time.  Talk to some people.  Have some casual conversations.  Let God lead, and you’ll be amazed!

It’s not a waste of time.

It’s Hallway Discipleship.

And you’ll find God Himself right in the middle of it.

I’m Doug Apple.

Friday, September 03, 2021

Build a Bigger Shield

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire.  (Luke 24:32)

If you’re being bombarded today, you need a bigger shield.

If the flaming arrows are pounding your life, you need a bigger shield.

If you are feeling vulnerable and weak, and you’re running low on resistance, you need a bigger shield.

What is this shield I’m talking about?

I’m talking about the shield of faith.  

Ephesians 6:16 says the shield of faith will “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”

Do you want to be more protected?  Then use the shield of faith.

Now we know how a physical shield works.  If you’re shooting actual arrows at me, I’m completely defenseless just standing there.  Pretty soon I’m going to be riddled with arrows.  But if I have a shield, I can protect myself.  The shield comes between me and the arrows.

And the bigger the shield, the more protected I am.

That’s how a physical shield works, but how does the shield of faith work?

First of all, we’re talking about faith in God, not just some random faith.  

When we put our faith in God, that is the shield of faith:  our faith in God.

Now here’s an example of the shield of faith in action.

One day you have the temptation to steal.  The opportunity is there, and you can get away with it.  It’s a fiery dart of temptation.

But instead of letting it hit you, you throw up the shield of faith.  You say, “I’m putting my faith in God who said, ‘Thou shalt not steal.’  Yes, maybe I need the money, but I’m putting my faith in God that He will provide what I need.  Not stealing is a good thing, it’s obeying the Golden Rule.  Ephesians 6:8 says that whatever good I do, I will receive good back from the Lord, so instead of giving in to this temptation, by faith I am trusting in God.  He will provide what I need, and He will reward my obedience.”

And the fiery dart of temptation is quenched by the shield of faith.

Another example.  You’re flipping through your social media feed, and here comes the fiery dart of the temptation to covet.  So you throw up the shield of faith.  You say, “God, I’m putting my faith in You as my provider.  Good Shepherd, I am trusting that You will lead me to the green pastures and the still waters, that You will provide all my needs according to Your riches in glory, and I need not covet or be envious or jealous of anyone else, because You are my God and my King, and You’ve got me.”

And the fiery dart of temptation is quenched by the shield of faith.

I could go on and on, showing how the shield of faith will save us from the flaming arrows of the evil one.

But right now I want to talk about how to build a bigger shield of faith.

The more we put our faith in God, the bigger the shield will be.

The more we act on our faith in God, the bigger the shield will be.

One sure fire way to build your faith is to spend time with God.  

Hebrews 12:2 talks about “…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…”

James 4:8 says draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  

Hebrews 11:6 says that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Matthew 6:6 says that when we pray, our Father will reward us.

And now here’s a very practical tip for building a bigger shield:  have a time and a place.

I encourage you, I beg you, to nail down a time and a place to spend time with God.

If you told me that you exercise, and I asked you the time and place where you exercise, you could tell me…if you are actually faithfully exercising.

The same is true about prayer.  Over and over the Bible talks about being faithful and consistent and persistent and diligent in prayer.  That is really hard to do without setting a time and a place to pray.

So I beg you, nail down a set time and a specific place to draw near to God in prayer and praise and thanksgiving and intercession and Bible study.

When you do this faithfully, your faith will grow, your shield of faith will be bigger, and you will be far more protected from all those fiery darts of the enemy.

So if you’re being bombarded today, build a bigger shield.

If the flaming arrows are pounding your life, build a bigger shield.

If you are feeling vulnerable and weak, and you’re running low on resistance, build a bigger shield.

Your shield of faith.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

What Does It Mean To Worship in Spirit and Truth?

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire.  (Luke 24:32)

What does it mean to worship in spirit and truth?

Jesus said to worship in spirit and truth, but it’s so mysterious.  What did He mean?

I don’t have all the answers, but let’s look at the context.

In John chapter four Jesus was talking to the woman at the well.  At one point she tried to pull a fast one and told Jesus, “I have no husband.”

This is important.  When we come to God, we must come to Him in truth.  This woman did not.

She was quibbling.  She was being deceptive while not outright speaking lies.

But Jesus called her out on it:  “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”

Boom.  You don’t come to Jesus quibbling, being evasive, being deceptive.

Then she took another strategy.  Change the subject.  

She said, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

Then Jesus said, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.”

So we are looking at the question, what did Jesus mean when He said we must worship in spirit and truth.

I said look at the context, and the context is that the woman at the well was asking about the proper physical location on earth where we should go to worship God.

But Jesus didn’t give her a physical location.  Instead, He gave this mysterious answer, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth…”

I take that to mean that we don’t have to go to some specific physical location to worship God, because worship is our spirit rising up in worship and adoration to God, and that can be done anytime, anywhere.

That seems simple enough, right?  Sometimes we think of worship as singing in a congregation at a church service in a church building, and that certainly can be worship.

But worship can also be at home, at midnight, lying in bed, in silence, not uttering a single word out loud, but worshiping “in spirit.”

Now what about “in truth”?  He said to worship “in spirit and truth.”  What does it mean to worship “in truth”?

It probably has layers of meaning, but back to the context.  The woman did not initially come to Jesus “in truth.”  She was quibbling.  She was evasive, and for a lot of good reasons. 

But we are told to worship God “in truth.”  I think that means we come to God with no guile, no falseness, no ego, no pride, no hidden motives.  

I think of the old Billy Graham altar call song, “Just as I am…oh Lamb of God, I come.”

So what does it mean to worship God in spirit and truth?  I think it means we don’t have to go to some certain place to worship God.  We can worship Him anytime, anywhere, in spirit, from our hearts.  And we come to Him in truth, wide open, in honesty and humility, because He knows it all anyway, and that’s just another reason to worship Him.  He knows us, and He loves us.

Praise God.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

Friday, August 27, 2021

There's a Whole Body for That

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire.  (Luke 24:32)

You can’t do everything.

You aren’t even supposed to.  You weren’t designed to.

There’s a whole body for that.

I’m talking about the church, which is the body of Christ.

Jesus is the head, and all of His followers make up the body.

Yes, Jesus has humongous plans for His body, such as reaching the whole world and loving every person and teaching them everything He taught.

But that doesn’t mean that YOU have to do all that.  You are just ONE PART, one cell in this body of Christ.

You know, there’s a difference in your physical body between brain cells and white blood cells.  They are different organisms with different purposes.

If you watch white blood cells under a microscope, they might not appear to be doing much, until some attack takes place and they rush into action.

Now imagine the brain cells coming along and trying to talk the white blood cells into abandoning their jobs and helping out the brain cells for a while.

It would be a disaster.  White blood cells have a design and a purpose, and the body works best when they stick to their job and do it to the best of their ability.

The same is true with the individual parts of the body of Christ.  We have callings and giftings.  We are each unique parts.  

Now suddenly the call goes forth that such and so needs to be done.  The trumpet is sounding!  Will you answer the call?

Wait a minute.  There’s a whole body for that.  

The lesson here is, every single body part doesn’t respond to every single call to action.  

This is where guilt comes in, and burnout.  It’s why some people leave the local church altogether, because they can’t do it all.

Of course they can’t do it all.  There’s a whole body for that.

Pastors can’t do it all.  Deacons can’t do it all.  No one can do it all, and they aren’t supposed to.

I love what it says in First Corinthians 12:11.  It is the Spirit of God who distributes all the gifts in the body of Christ, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.

Ephesians 4:16 talks about the body of Christ and uses this phrase, “…as every part does its share.”

What is your share and my share in the body of Christ?  We each need to do our share with all of our might.  No laziness.  No excuses.

But what about all the duties and callings and missions that aren’t our part in the body?  Who’s going to do them?  Things will be left undone!

You can’t worry about that.  Don’t be guilted into leaving your post to go do something else.  Don’t shirk your own part in the body to go elsewhere.

I have some good news today!  You don’t have to take on the whole burden of the worldwide work of the church, and here’s why.  

There’s a whole body for that.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.