Friday, December 09, 2022

Each Man's Life Touches So Many Others

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

“I don’t think God cares if I go or not.”

That’s what one woman told me.  She was trying to decide whether she should make a certain trip or not.  I said, “Well…pray about it.”

She said, “I don’t think God cares if I go or not.”

I said, “It’s not that He’s going to zap you for making the wrong decision.  I just mean that He might give you some wisdom about the decision.”

I realize not everyone thinks like that.  I just really want God’s wisdom in everything.

Someone told me, “You’re the kind of guy who probably stands in front of his closet and says, ‘God, what should I wear today?’”  I said, “No…but some people SHOULD do that.”

I got to thinking, “Why DO I think this way?  Why do I want God’s wisdom so much?

First let me say that I don’t just sit around and do nothing until I get hit by lightning from heaven.

But my thinking is rooted in Romans 12:2 where it talks about discerning God’s will…His good and acceptable, pleasing, and perfect will.  I want that.  I want to live within God’s will, His parameters, His guidelines.  I want to build my life on a solid foundation, with good life-construction principles.

How to do that?  That same verse, Romans 12:2, talks about being transformed by the renewing of our mind.

Let me just share with you all of Romans 12 verses 1 and 2, in the NIV since that’s where I first memorized it:  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I want God’s will for my life, my family, my work, everything.  How can I get it?  According to Romans 12:1 and 2, I offer my body as a living sacrifice to God.

Here’s something I do each morning when I roll out of bed.  I take a knee, point a finger toward heaven and say, “Reporting for duty, Sir.”  That is me offering up my body once again as a living sacrifice. “Lord, I’m all Yours.  I’m all in.”

Then I seek to follow Him, and not the ways of the world, and in the process He is renewing my mind.  And through all of this, it says, I will be able to test and approve what God’s will is.

Then I got to thinking, “Why is Romans 12: 1 and 2 so foundational in my life.”

And I got to thinking about the Christian Campus House at Eastern Illinois University.  When my wife and I were dating we decided to go there and take their discipleship class.  The head of that ministry was Roger Songer and he had us memorize Romans 12:1-2 among others.

Out of all the Bible, why do I operate out of Romans 12:1-2 so often?  It’s because Roger Songer emphasized it in his discipleship class.

So here I am, decades later, taking a knee each morning, offering up my body as a living sacrifice to God.  My heart is more passionate for God’s will than ever before, and I hope I’m having a positive, Godly, spirit-refreshing influence on everyone I come in contact with.  And some of the credit for any good I’ve done has to go back to Roger Songer and his influence in those influential days.

It reminds me of the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  George Bailey wished he had never been born and his wish was granted.  Clarence the angel then showed George what the world would look like if he had never been born, and it was quite a bit worse.

Finally, Clarence said to George, “Strange, isn’t it?  Each man’s life touches so many other lives.  When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

Yes, each of our lives touches so many others, and that’s why our decisions are so important.  We don’t know how the future will be changed by our decisions.

This is why I want God’s will so much.  I don’t know the future, and I don’t know the best thing to do.  But God does, and that’s why I daily offer myself up to Him as a living sacrifice and seek His wisdom.

Maybe you don’t think God cares whether you go on that trip or not, but I still say, “Pray about it,” because your decisions are making a difference in every life you come in contact with.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.


Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Lord, I Believe, Help My Unbelief

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

Your faith is not in your faith.  Your faith is in God.

Your faith is not in your prayers.

Your faith is not in your purity.

Your faith is not in your pastor.

Your faith is in God, and He is trustworthy.

Your beliefs and knowledge about God are probably not 100% trustworthy, but God is trustworthy.

We just don’t know enough, believe enough, obey enough, and follow closely enough to put our faith in any of that.  What that leaves is putting our faith in God.

I say this because many times we put a thermometer into our faith and see if it measures up.  And especially other people will put THEIR thermometer into your faith, and wow, you REALLY don’t measure up.  And that hurts.  And it’s frustrating.  

And God isn’t doing what you thought He would do, and why?  It must be because of your lack of faith, some people will say.  But then you don’t know how to build up your faith, and it is hard to build up your faith when it’s weak.  Now you don’t even have enough faith to build up your faith.

There was a man like this in the Bible.  He carried a great burden.  He stepped out in faith.  God didn’t come through like the man thought He would, and it all became so overwhelming it left him in tears, crying out to God.

We find the story in Mark chapter nine.  This man had a son, and the son did the craziest things, even from a young age.  He would throw himself into a fire, or into water.  He would fall on the ground and foam at the mouth, basically seizures.  It was horrifying for the father to watch.

Then the father heard about this “Jesus movement” and decided to see what Jesus could do for his son.  He took him to find Jesus, and he found Jesus’s disciples, but not Jesus.

But the disciples were good enough, right?  In Mark six Jesus gave them supernatural power and they went out and healed people and cast out unclean spirits.

So, the man brought his son to the disciples, and guess what.  They couldn’t heal the boy.  I imagine they tried, used different approaches, but nothing worked.

Then the scribes got involved and the arguing began and the crowd swelled around them and it was a whole “thing.”  And the father was there with his son, and all he really wanted was for his son to be healed, but all he got was disappointment.  He must have been thinking, “Why did I even bother?  This is worse, not better, and now my son is a spectacle.”

Then Jesus showed up, with Peter, James, and John, and started to get to the bottom of things.  He finally said, “Bring the boy to me.”

But when the boy was approaching Jesus, the Bible says that “immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.”

Any parent whose child has had seizures is feeling this father’s pain right now.  And worse, it was happening in front of a big crowd, and in front of Jesus and His disciples, the very people he thought would help his child and didn’t.

Do you think this man’s faith level is very high right now?  Maybe it was when he first decided to come to Jesus, but at this point everything seems worse, not better.

Finally, the father said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

Now I know some people who would say, “Uh oh, that man said the I-word.  He said IF.  God doesn’t have to do anything for you when you dare to say the word if.  How much lower can your faith go than when you say to the Lord of the universe IF?”

Jesus’s simple response was, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

Many people find this verse encouraging, and many find it discouraging.  And some people use it as a weapon to club other peoples’ faith.  “See? IF you believed, your child would be healed.  Your prodigal would be saved.  Your marriage would be restored.  So apparently you don’t believe because good things aren’t happening for you.”

Well guess what.  The father himself heard Jesus’s words, and he hit rock bottom.  He knew he had nowhere else to go but to Jesus, but when he brought his son to Jesus, he wasn’t healed anyway.  His faith was not rewarded.  It was actually brought to a new low.

Mark 9:24 says, “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’”

I’ve heard some people say that his prayer was wrong.  That you should never show any signs of unbelief in your prayers, or you should not expect anything from God.

But remember, your faith is not in your faith.  Your faith is not in yourself at all.  Your faith is in God, so if you say, “Lord, help my unbelief,” that is actually a prayer of faith!

Because people who don’t have faith, you know what they pray?  They don’t.

So, if you are praying to God, you do have faith!  And if you are asking God to help you in your areas of unbelief…that is a prayer of faith!  You are putting your trust in God that He will help you in those areas, that He will help your unbelief.

In the end Jesus did heal the child, and I don’t know what happened to that family after that, but this father’s words echo down through the centuries, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

He was at the end of his rope.  He had stepped out on faith and even that didn’t work.  He took his child to the men of God, and they couldn’t help.  

It seemed to come down to this:  did the father believe?  Or did he believe enough?

And when he realized that his son’s lack of healing might be due to his lack of belief, it almost drove him mad.  It drove him to tears.  He lost his composure and just cried out to Jesus, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

And that is a prayer that you and I can legitimately pray today.  Of course, your faith isn’t perfect.  Of course, it’s not 100%, but that doesn’t matter.  

God is what matters, and we are free to cry out in whatever faith we have, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Archippus Take Heed

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

And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

That’s an encouragement…and a warning.

It was for Archippus in the Bible, in Colossians 4:17, but it’s for us, too.

Take heed to the ministry with you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.

Are you fulfilling the ministry you have received in the Lord?  Are your answering the call, doing what God wants you to do, what He has gifted you to do, and told you to do?

“Take heed,” was the message to Archippus.  That means “give this serious attention.”  It means, “make sure it’s done to avoid bad results.”

I don’t want bad results, so I’m determined to “take heed” and seek to do what God wants me to do.  

Philippians 3:12 says, “…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

If you are a Christian, then at some point Jesus “took hold” of you, and you have a ministry to fulfill, a vital role in the Body of Christ.  Whatever it is, do like Philippians 3:12 says.  Press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of you.

Do like Colossians 4:17 says, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

What happens, though, is that we can lose our focus.  There are so many distractions, so many bells and whistles, so many trinkets and sparkly things.  We are easily drawn away from God’s calling toward something else, like Demas.

Demas was on mission with Paul, but something drew him away.  In Second Timothy 4:10 Paul wrote, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.”

I want to cry out, “Demas!  What was it?  What was so shiny and attractive?  What drew you off course?  You were dead in like five minutes and standing before your Maker.  Was it worth it, forsaking your mission for a minute’s worth of worldly pleasure?”

Jesus called His various disciples with these words, “Follow Me.”  And they followed Him.

Well there was one man to whom Jesus said, “Follow Me,” and He didn’t.  We call him the rich, young ruler, but his name isn’t recorded.  Whatever fame he had at the time is long gone.

Mark 10:21 says that Jesus “loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.'”

But he couldn’t do it.  Verse 22 says he was sad, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

I want to cry out, “Dude.  Rich, young whatever.  What was so great about your stuff?  Was it really that great?  You passed on the chance to follow Jesus and for what?  Some stuff?  Really?

And yet we all get hit with similar temptations, and it’s all garbage.  Better to have the attitude of Paul in Philippians 3:8 where he counts the trinkets of this world as garbage.  He counted everything else as loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus.

So what to do?  Don’t be led astray by the sparkly trinkets of this world.

Instead, press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of you.

And like Paul said to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

If You Don't Like the Word Obedience

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

The word “obedience” sounds harsh to some people.

They think of abusive parents, or schoolteachers with paddles, or military drill instructors.

We can be leery of obeying anyone because we are free Americans and we bow the knee to no one.  Plus, if we put ourselves under anyone’s authority, they might take advantage of us.

There is truth to all of that, but what about when it comes to obeying God?

Well…some people put obeying God into the same category.  They don’t like the word obedience, period, even when talking about God.

So today I want to put obedience into a different light.  Actually, I’m not doing it.  Jesus did it, in the Sermon on the Mount.

At the end of that famous sermon, He talked about obedience in a completely different way, by putting it into construction terms.

Now think about construction.  When you are building a building, there are certain principles you have to follow, or your building will be garbage.

The very first principle you have to keep in mind is gravity.  All construction principles revolve around gravity.  If you don’t build it right, gravity will pull it down.

The second principle is the elements, including rain and wind.  If you don’t build right, rain and wind will destroy it.  And with rain comes erosion.

The third element is going to be critters.  Whether it's termites and wood bees, rats and snakes, raccoons and bears, if you don’t build it right, other creatures are for sure going to move in and destroy it.

Now back to obedience.  When you pay a builder to build a building for you, do you want him to be strictly obedient to good construction principles? 

Of course you do.  You don’t pay your hard-earned money for someone to build poorly.  You want it right.  You want it well built.

Now back to Jesus’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.  At the end He said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them (that’s obedience, by the way), I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock (in other words, using solid construction principles).

Then in Matthew 7:26 He said, “But everyone who hears these sayings of mine, and does not do them (that’s disobedience), will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand (in other words, using bad construction principles).

If the word obedience gives you the willies, then think of it in terms of construction.  How do you want to build your life?  Do you want to build it well, with the best life-building principles?  Then build your life using God’s construction principles in the Bible.

I have found that it works.  To the degree that I do what Jesus said, I see my life being built well.  And to the degree that I see people NOT doing what Jesus said, I see their lives being built poorly, often with one dramatic calamity after another…so much drama.

So if you don’t like the word obedience, even when it comes to obeying God, try casting it in a different light.  The results will be the same, and the illustration comes from Jesus Himself.

Do what God says and your life will be built well and strong and stable and enduring.

Don’t do what God says and your life will be built using sloppy construction principles which leads to wreckage and drama and calamity and failure every time.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

 

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Christians in Cars

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

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor.”

But what if your neighbor is driving his car too close behind your car, like he would push you off the road if he could.  Do you love him now?

Jesus said, “Love your enemy.”

What if your enemy isn’t someone trying to kill you.  They’re just trying to pass you on the highway.  What do you do when someone who has been tailgating you now tries to pass you?

No, you don’t speed up!  You’re a Christian, and a Christian is supposed to love people.  So when they try to pass you, you love them and want them to pass you quickly and safely, so you certainly shouldn’t speed up.  More likely you should slow down a little so they can pass you safely.

We’re talking about Christians in Cars today.

Jesus said, “Love one another.”

But if your “one another” just dinged your car in the church parking lot…your new car!...do you love them now?

Romans 12:10 says, “Honor one another above yourselves.”

So you’re in the grocery store parking lot, and look, there’s a great parking spot!  And there’s a person behind you also looking for a good spot.  Would you ever, on your best day, honor that person above yourself and actually let them have the good parking spot and take the worse spot for yourself?

We’re talking about Christians in Cars, and Christians in Cars should behave differently.  Lovingly.  Kindly.  Graciously.  Humbly.

Second Corinthians 13:11 says, “…encourage one another…”

When someone else’s driving isn’t up to your standards, will they feel encouraged by you?  Or will they feel embarrassed, or called out, or honked at?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever honked at someone simply because their driving was annoying you.

Galatians 5:13 says, “…serve one another humbly in love.”

When you hit someone else’s car in a parking lot, what do you do?  Leave as fast as you can and hope no one saw you?  Or do you serve them humbly, in love, leaving them a nice, humble note with your phone number?

Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you…”

How do you feel about that person who doesn’t know how to drive in a roundabout?

What about that person who just refuses to turn right on red?

Then there’s the person in the left turn lane who won’t pull out into the intersection so they can make it through.

Now there’s the person honking at you, because they think YOUR driving is bad!  Are you still putting away all wrath and anger and evil speaking?  Or does it come leaking out of you while you’re being honked at?

Ephesians 4:32 says, “…be kind to one another, tenderhearted…”

How do you feel towards the police officers?  How about the officer who just pulled you over?  Are you feeling kind and tenderhearted?

If we really love people, including police officers, how should we conduct ourselves on the highways?

“But Doug, that officer pulled me over and he was wrong.  I didn’t break any laws.”

When someone wrongs us, as Christians, what are we supposed to do?

Ephesians 4:32 goes on to say, “…forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Yes, the world is full of bad drivers, distracted drivers, even foolish drivers.  Like the comedian Tim Hawkins said, “That girl almost hit me.  She was so distracted, fiddling with her phone…I about spilled my cereal.”

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and, “by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.”

That’s not just true for Christians in church.  It’s also true, especially true, for Christians in Cars.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.


Friday, October 07, 2022

All Temptation Leads to Bad Construction

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

“I’m tempted to…”

Stop right there.

If you are tempted to do something, stop.

Temptation is bait on a hook.  It’s a lure seeking to get you off track for a short term benefit.

It’s ALWAYS a short term benefit that sacrifices long term good.

The problem is…that short term benefit can seem SO GOOD.  That’s the temptation.

The fish looks at the worm, and even though it looks strange, dangling in the water with a hook in it and a line reaching to the sky, still, it looks so yummy!

Years ago there was a country song that said, “How can it be wrong when it feels so right?”

That’s the problem with temptation.  Listen.  Temptation ALWAYS includes a cloud of deception.  If you let temptation linger, you enter the cloud of deception.  You will only see the short term benefit and you will be blind to what you’re really going to get.

Jesus put it in construction terms.  If we live within God’s principles, we are building our life on a solid foundation.  But when we don’t live within God’s principles, we are building on sand.  Yes, you can build on sand all day long.  Some people do.  But sand makes a terrible foundation.  It’s affected by wind and rain and critters. 

But rock.  I mean, look at the pyramids.  In fact, there are huge structures made of massive stones throughout the world that have been standing strong for thousands of years.

What does that mean?

It means they did not compromise the construction.

Look.  You are building a life.  You are building a legacy.  You are building an eternity.

Your marriage.  Your family.  Your work.  Your integrity.

Build these on rock – live within God’s principles – and the construction will be solid.

But watch out for temptation.  It will try to get you to cut corners, to compromise.  It will come with little lies, like, “It won’t matter,” and, “What’s the difference?”

The difference is that when you give in to temptation, you are compromising your construction, and compromised construction ALWAYS FAILS.

I like this word they used when talking about the Titanic a hundred years ago:  it FOUNDERED.  It failed. It sank.  It was ruinous.  It was a disaster.

That’s what temptation leads to.  Your ship will founder.

All temptation leads to bad construction.

But as Jesus said in Matthew 7:24 and 25, “Whoever hears these sayings of mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man that built his house upon a rock, and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell not…for it was founded on the rock.”

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.


Friday, August 19, 2022

The Night the Jesus Girl Called Her Drug Dealer

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

Cindy’s fiancĂ© died in a workplace accident.

She was a dedicated Christian, but the loss was immense.

Her family was worried about her and how she would cope.

In her B.C. life, Before Christ, she relied on cocaine.

Now that life was in the past.

Or was it?

One night the pain was so great, she picked up the phone and called her former drug dealer.

He said, “Wait a minute.  I thought you were some kind of ‘Jesus Girl’ now.  I’m not selling to you.”

She said, “Look, I’ve got cash.  You’ve got drugs.  This is how it works.”

He said, “Did you know that your dad threatened anyone who ever sold you drugs again?”

She did not know that.

Then he said, “Cindy, what you need to do right now is get down on your knees and ask God to help you.”

She said, “You’re a drug dealer.  What are you doing, telling me to pray?”

She hung up the phone, more determined than ever, and walked out the door to go find some drugs wherever she could.

What she didn’t know was that God was working behind the scenes.

Earlier that evening, Cindy’s friend was across town, praying.

Then her friend felt like God was telling her to do something kind of weird.

In her prayer time, God told her that she needed to go spend the night with Cindy.

So she packed up her pajamas, her sleeping bag and a pillow and headed over there.

Right when Cindy was walking out the door, determined to hit the street and find some drugs, there was her friend, walking up the sidewalk, ready to spend the night, not even knowing that Cindy was right on the verge of a great fall.

God sent a friend to help Cindy right at her time of great need.


Who is God sending you to today?


May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

*This testimony is included in a GriefShare video, and you can find out more about GriefShare here:  https://www.griefshare.org/