Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

The year 2009 has come and gone, and 2010 is only hours away. Many are reminiscing over the past 365 days and trying to look forward to the next. Some of us are thinking about those things that we'll do different next year. We'll exercise more, manage our money more wisely, be kinder to people, read our Bible more often, and, gosh darn it, we're going to stick to a diet and really lose some of that stubborn weight.

This practice of making New Year's resolutions is a cultural tradition, not a Biblical one. (Note: New Year's resolutions actually go back over 3,000 years to the ancient Babylonians.) So, what does the Bible say about New Year's resolutions?

Well, there is nothing in the Bible that directly forbids them. There are, however, warnings about making promises that you don't keep- let your yes's be yes, and your no's be no (Matt. 5:37). It also cautions us about presuming about the things of tomorrow (Matt. 6:34). As grandma would say, we should be careful to not count our chickens before they hatch.

With that said, if you are making resolutions, I encourage you to do these 3 things:

1. Godliness First. You must keep your priorities straight. Don't go in debt buying that new treadmill or weight loss program, don't become a grinch or a tightwod just to manage your money better, etc. Remember, Titus 4:8, "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” Make sure to seek and commit to godliness above all else.

2. Glorify God. Colossians 3:23 says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as for the Lord, not for men." If you are getting in shape to impress others or saving your money to flaunt your wealth, you are doing good things with the wrong motivation. Whatever you commit to, give the glory to God in it and stay humble.

3. Rely on Christ. Phillipians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Trust in Him to help you become a better person. Apart from Him, you will most likely give up and give in.

I pray as you seek a fresh start and commit to doing new and better things that God will mature and grow you into the man and woman of God that He has called you to be.

Celebrating the New Year Together,


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

God With Us!

I suppose every Believer has their favorite parts of the Christmas story-those things that they enjoy most about the birth of Jesus and what Christmas really means to them. For me, my favorite aspect Christmas deals with Jesus as Emmanuel:
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
Every other religion in the world tries to teach how man can get to God. Christianity is the sole religion that says God came to us.
For those who were at His Church this past Sunday as we finished up our series called "Open Before Christmas," you know that one of the gifts that God gives us when we come to know Him is the gift of His Presence in our lives. We discussed Sunday how God's presence also brings us:
  • Protection
  • Provision
  • Personal Relationship
After all isn't this the Christmas story? God came to be with us, and in doing so, He would protects (saves) us from sin and the consequences of it. He provides a way of escape from death and hell and give us a way to eternal life. All of this is ultimately so we could and would know Him personally.
My prayer for you and your family this Christmas season is that you will experience God's presence in your lives, and that His presence will bring you protection, provision, and a personal relationship with Him.

Celebrating the Birth of Christ Together,


Friday, December 11, 2009

Silent Night?

Everybody, well almost everybody, loves Christmas music. Whether we listen to it on the radio or on our iPod or have a collection of Christmas songs on CD's or, God forbid, cassettes, most of us have our favorites.
silent_night.jpgOne song that you'll undoubtedly hear this Christmas season is "Silent Night." Here are a few lines:
"Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright...
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace...
Radiant beams from Thy holy face..."

It's a traditional song that seems to bring peace to the soul. I admire this song in many ways, however, I sometimes wonder if this song was really written in Hollywood.

Silent night? All is calm? All is bright? Radiant beams from Jesus' face?

I know some of you have now labeled me a heretic but think about it- the song makes Jesus' birth so (picture) "perfect."

The Bible do say that Jesus was perfect in that He had no sin and His nature was pure and holy. It does not say, however, that he was perfect in every single area of life. Surely even Jesus missed a goal while playing ball or spilled a cup of juice at the dinner table!

I don't mean to sound sacrilegious . I just want to us to see the reality of the night in which Jesus was born. The song is half right- it was a holy night, but I doubt that it was silent at all.

After all, they were in a manger filled with animals, and Mary was giving birth to a baby who was crying, and there were surprise visits (from wise men and shepherds).

I believe, for Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, the very first Christmas was not silent. No, I think it was probably noisy, crowded, and stressful.

However, in the midst of the commotion there was peace, and joy, and holiness, and serenity. There was something special about the night, for God was giving a Gift, His Son, Jesus, to the world. He was showing the most perfect and ultimate display of love.

You see, the gift of Love can take what is stressful, painful, noisy, and difficult and transform it to be peaceful, joyful, and triumphant. That is the story of the first Christmas, and it should be our story each Christmas, too.

As we celebrate God's gift of Love to us, let's share Love with others? In the midst of the Christmas chaos, let us bring the Christmas love, joy, and peace.

Continue to rejoice in God's Love and His Gift this Christmas season.

Celebrating the Birth of the Savior Together,


Friday, November 20, 2009

Victory in Jesus

I know that last week was when weWWII HD.jpg celebrated Veteran's Day, but I've been watching WWII in HD on the History channel and can't help but share my heart. The few episodes I've seen have been intriguing, intense, and sobering. Watching some of the horrific events of World War 2 have re-opened my eyes to the bravery of our soldiers, the cost of our freedom, and the gift of life.

One week after Veteran's day and one week before Thanksgiving day, I, ironically, find myself also at an emotional intersection: the one is a sense honor and appreciation for our soldiers, both present and past; and the other is a deep thankfulness for all of the blessings I have.

Another thing that I have been reminded of concerns the enemy. The enemy, though eventually lost the war, was strong, cunning, and strategic. I began to think about this verse in the Bible:

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made." (Genesis 3:1)

Did you know that they enemy is cunning and, according to this verse (NASB), "crafty"? Satan has a plan, a strategy, to destroy you. He wants to take you out! And he will take away your joy, peace, power, and, ultimately, the life God wants you to live...if you let him.

But here's the deal, I can clue you in to Satan's strategy. WWII would have ended a lot quicker if the allied forces would have had the enemies strategies and tactics in hand before battle. Don't you agree? Well gues what? Here is Satan's #1 battle plan against you. This is what he will do to bring about pain and suffering in your life.

1.) He questions the word of God.

2.) He denies the Word of God.

3.) He replaces the Word of God with his own lie.

Satan is your enemy. He is at war with you whether you realize it or not, and he wants to take away the incredible life that God has for you. The plan he uses is the one above. Now that you know it, what do you do? You study the Word of God, learn it, memorize it, meditate on it, pray about it...and hold on to it always. It is your weapon against Satan (Eph. 6)...praying for victory in your life.

On the Journey Together,


Friday, October 9, 2009


warrior graphic (smaller).jpgA few months ago our men went on a retreat to the Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center in Dubach. There we were challenged in many areas of our lives. The overarching theme of the retreat was for us to be "warriors" for God's Kingdom. We concluded the weekend by agreeing to "The Warrior Covenant." Here is what it says:

I will be a Warrior in the army of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ will be my commanding officer; I will fight for His cause.
I will salute my King, obey His orders, praise His name, and build His Kingdom.
Faith, Prayer, and the Bible will be the weapons of my warfare.
I will be guided and trained by the Holy Spirit.
I will be a Warrior.

I will not be discouraged enough to give up. I will not lose enough to quit.
Demons will not defeat me. People will not disillusion me.
Money will not buy me. Sexual temptation will not overcome me.
Governments will not silence me. Even death will not destroy me.
I will be a Warrior.

I will faithfully give of my time, my possessions, my money, and my talents.
I will love my neighbor. I will be a good citizen of my community and my country.
I will guide and protect my family. I will be the leader I’m commanded to be.
I will be a man of courage, boldness, faith, and integrity.
I will learn; I will grow; I will fight; and I will win.
I will be a Warrior.

Many people right now are trying to decide "what they want to be" for Halloween or their Fall Festivals. Some of us need to figure out what we want to be in real life. For me there are many things, at the top of the list is to be a Warrior...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Gift From God

Jesse Kyle Winstead
Born: August 27, 2009; 8:55 a.m.
8lbs- 12oz; 20.5 inches long

For all of you who sent prayers and congratulations to us upon the arrival of Jesse, they were heard and appreciated. Thanks for the encouragement and support.

baby jesse.jpgFollowing closely behind the day I accepted Christ and the day of my marriage, yesterday was without a doubt one of the best days of my life. The roller coaster of nervous, exciting, joyful, and thankful emotions was a ride almost too thrilling. But after taking the ride, like most roller coasters, I caught my breath, let loose a sigh of relief, and then smiled and laughed at the happiness that comes at the culmination of such a series of exhilirating events.

justin and jesse.jpgThose first moments, when you see and hold your newborn baby, are without a doubt, some of the most incredible events anyone can experience. The euphoric feeling you have to see life in its purest form is, I believe, unparalleled. I do not wish to undermine the experience of any other parents, but I must share with you a story about God's goodness...

You see, a few years ago I was diagnosed with cancer and went through a gauntlet of tests, doctor visits, hospital stays, and, yes, chemotherapy and radiation. My oncologist and radiologists informed me before and after my radiation therapy the risks associated with such treatment. I'll spare you the details and give you the main idea: the treatment I received would only leave me with an estimated 5% chance of being able to have children-5% is very low chances!

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the effect of these risks would have on anyone aspiring to have and raise a family-as I desired. Through the tears and fearful emotions, I prayed to God, perhaps as broken-hearted as I have ever been. I begged and pleaded, questioned and accused, and even judged God in that prayer. I demanded answers to my why questions.

depressed and worried.jpgAfter I had said my spill and I lay face down on the floor listening for answers, God's Spirit moved in me and I felt His love and grace cover me like I had only felt a few times before. I could almost feel His arms around me. The peace that filled my heart is one that millions of people around the world long for and never reach. It was an awesome moment.

It was then and there that God spoke to my heart and let me know that He would answer my prayer and grant me a child. His Spirit gave took away my worry and doubt about ever being a father. Now, don't misunderstand me, I didn't hear an audible voice, but there was a whisper to my heart in which God "promised" me a baby. I never again doubted that I wouldn't have a child. Thank God for giving me faith, contentment, peace, and joy during that time and leading up to August 27, 2009.

IMG_4150.jpgYesterday was the ultimate fulfillment of God's promise to me. Holding Jesse in my arms created a paradoxical emotional response- pride and humility all at once. Now as I am here in the hospital room watching our new baby lay in the bed sleeping with Kathryn, I am once again reminded of God's love, grace, and mercy.

One last tidbit- Jesse means, "a gift from God."

Thanks God for the gift. You're soooo good...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Being Faithful in Pennies and Seconds...

penny.jpgThere's an old saying dealing with finances that you may have heard. God has placed in on my heart this week, and I want to share the thought with you. The sayings goes like this, "If you manage your pennies, your dollars will take care of themselves."

This is true with not only finances, but virtually every other area of discipline in your life. If you wisely manage your minutes, hours, and days, then your weeks, months, and years will have been spent well. If you eat unhealthy snacks and unhealthy meals, you'll have an unhealthy diet (and ultimately an unhealthy body!) Good books are good because of the good sentences and paragraphs. You see the pattern?

Did you know that the words disciple and discipline have the same roots? Contrary to popular belief, in the Bible we're never commanded to be "good people" or even "Christians," rather we are given the ultimate task of becoming and making disciples. One aspect of being a disciple is being disciplined. In fact, the goal we should all seek is to be as disciplined as Jesus!

Jesus washes feet.jpgWow, what a lofty goal! Could we ever attain such a feat-to never sin (lie, cheat, steal, lust, covet, etc.), while always serving and loving others, worshipping and praying to God, showing forgiveness, mercy, grace, etc...and this is just the beginning of living like Jesus!

This is very intimidating for those of us who can barely without thinking or saying something wrong! How could anyone live the life of a disciple?

Let me first say, we'll never be fully sanctified (perfectly without sin, completely holy) until we leave this life and meet our God face to face. However, if we "manage our pennies" we will begin to see some big changes taking place in our lives.

The Bible says the following in Luke 16:10:

"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much;
and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in

There it is. I didn't say it, God did. If you're faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in the big things. If you're unfaithful in the little things, you'll be unfaithful in the big things

The challenge: start doing something small, faithfully. Start giving a little more, you'll evolve into a really generous person. Start praying a little longer, you'll become a mighty prayer warrior. Share an encouraging verse with a family member or might become a preacher! :)

You get the point. For all those reading this blog, let's do a little something more-let's do it faithfully-and let's see what the God-results are.

On the Journey Together,

Justin Winstead

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A rhetorical faith?

Rhetoric. What is it? According to Webster, it is the art of persuasive or effective speaking or writing. Down here in the South, we'd call this "Talkin' the talk." Simply put rhetoric is just words, spoken or written.

This word is on my mind and heart today as I sit here on the campus of ULM pondering our Bible-belt, Americanized version of Christianity. What does rhetoric have to do with some people's version of Christianity?" I'm so glad you asked..

You see, rhetoric is the epitome of the faith most of us have come to have, but not the Faith Jesus intended for us to live out. This rhetorical faith is more social than spiritual. It's more learned than lived. It's more in the head than in the heart. It's one we talk about on Sunday, but forget about on Monday. Can I hear an amen?

Don't believe me? Check out any church around (including ours) and you'll find people who know all the right information and can explain Jesus and salvation like no one else, yet their life seems completely void of the Jesus of whom they speak. They have the answers and "know their stuff," but the clever explanations and head-knowledge aren't enough to bring the real life and joy Jesus promised. Maybe you know someone like this...maybe you are someone like this.

There's this huge disconnect from the belief in Christ that's it our mind and the one that's shown to others by the way we live our life. Consider this story about the great french tight-rope walker, Charles Bondin.

Blondin's greatest fame came in June of 1859 when he attempted to
become the first person to cross a tightrope stretched over a quarter
of a mile across the mighty Niagara Falls.

He walked across 160
feet above falls several times, each time with a different daring feat
- once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and once he
even carried a stove and cooked an omelet!

Large crowds gathered and a buzz of excitement ran along both sides of
the river bank. The crowd “Oooohed!” and “Aaaaahed!” as Blondin
carefully walked across one dangerous step after another --even blindfolded
and pushing a wheelbarrow.

Once, upon reaching the other side, the
crowd's applause was louder than the roar of the falls! Blondin
suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: "Do you believe I can
carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?"The crowd enthusiastically
outed, "Yes, yes, yes. You are the greatest tightrope walker in the
world. You can do anything!"

"Okay," said Blondin, "Can I have a volunteer to get in the wheelbarrow....."

The Blondin story goes that no one did!

Our "hoorah" for Christ is just noise if we're not willing to get in the wheelbarrow. All of our preaching, teaching, and singing is mere rhetoric if we're don't make choices that follow it. Faith is not agreeing with it in your mind. It's believing in it in your heart. Consider this verse,

"...if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved..." (Romans 10:9)

Confessing isn't enough. Just talking about it doesn't do the job. You must believe it in your heart.

What does this "believing in your hedepressed and worried.jpgart" look like? In the last 24 hours, I have dealt with financial crises, 2 separate situations of divorce, those with health issues, and a young college student dealing with the loss of his dad and the pressures of continuing education. What do you think was the base ingredient for the remedy in each of those situations? It all boils down our trust in God. Letting God have complete control of our lives, rather than just acknowledging him with our words.

Jesus came to bring us life. To experience the life that Jesus wants us to live we must let go of the burden, challenge, or problem and grab on to hope, faith, and love. When we do this, regardless of the outcome, genuine faith allow us to experience victory in any situation.

That's not a rhetorical faith...that a real faith. Believe it. Live it.

On the Journey Together,

Justin Winstead

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Why, why, why...I must know before I do.

Give me the news- good or bad, I can take it. But don't leave me hanging. I hate the "not-knowing" phases in life. They drive me crazy. Additionally, I was the kid who always asked, "why?" Are you like this? Do you know someone who is? Keep reading...

Yet another article has made the headlines--and has made this young preacher think. Here's a link to the article's source. (click here). Here's the story:

"BANGOR TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A father's decision to tell his 17-year-old son to get off the floor and lay down on a couch may have saved the boy from injury when a suspected drunken driver crashed into their Michigan home. Roy Rabadue told The Saginaw News and WJRT-TV he was watching television Monday night in their home in Bay County's Bangor Township, about 90 miles northwest of Detroit, when he decided to make cookies.

He told Joseph to move, and his son complied. Shortly afterward, a pickup
smashed into the home. The crash tossed their 52-inch television across
the living room, landing where Joseph had been on the floor.

The couch overturned along with a chair where Rabadue's 12-year-old son, Jacob, was sitting. Both escaped injury.

WNEM-TV reported the driver was arrested."

Wow! Am I the only one who chuckled to himself after reading this? I'm sure there's some parent out there who's about to use this for ammo!

Well, hold on before any of you starting pointing the fingers at others for not doing as their told...

We're starting a sermon series this Sunday called, "Why?" This is a relevant topic, since so many of us want to know "why" things are the way they are. In this age of information, to simply act without knowing all the facts is outright absurd-or so we think.

We have a hard time doing without knowing. Another way of putting that is we struggle with trust. You see trust (or faith) requires action before all the facts are there. It does NOT mean there are no facts, or no evidence-it just means you act before you have all of the facts or evidence.

I am intrigued at the way Jesus recruited people. In Matthew 4:18-22, Jesus tells Peter, Andrew, James, and John, "Come, follow me." The Bible says they immediately left what they were doing and followed Him.

What!?! No Q&A time? No explanation of where, why, and how? Surely, Jesus didn't expect faith demonstrated by obedience (tounge in cheek). Of course, He did-and Jesus still does expect faith demonstrated by obedience.

To be a Christ-follower is to trust in the Christ we are following. We may not always know the answers, and may tempted to ask "why" or "how," but we must accept that He knows best. This isn't a case of not using reasoning-it's about trust. It's actually very reasonable to obey someone in whom you've entrusted your life...

What God says, we do---lest we end up on the floor instead of on the couch (remember the article).

Before I finish, I know there must be some skeptic, or atheist, or know-it-all, who has a huge problem with this devotion. You're thinking, "That's just plain ignorance to accept something and act on it, just because God or the Bible says so." As an intelligent, logical person, you'd never do what God says, just because He says it. You, in your infinite wisdom, always act only on what you know-the true facts of the matter-or so you think.

If you apply that mode of reasoning to other areas of your life you'd most likely not be driving as you surely don't know everything about your automobile. You'd never go to a doctor for health reasons, because you simply don't know everything there is to know about the human body. In fact, you wouldn't even choose to keep living, because you, without a doubt, don't know everything about life.

So, to think that you must know everything about it, before you'll believe it, or better yet act on it, is hogwash.

As an old pastor of mine used to say, "...don't let what you don't know rob you of what you do know."

My challenge- when God commands, obey. This devotion may only be for one person out there. If that's you, act on what God is telling you. Stop asking why. Stop wondering how. To quote an old Nike slogan, "Just do it."

On the Journey Together,

Justin Winstead

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Disasters, Pain, Suffering...God is good?

I hope this week is going well for you and your loved ones, but if it's not, this devotion may be for you...

Most days reading and watching the news is a lot like getting on the scales to check your weight-kinda depressing!--but still a reflection of the reality we'd like to deny. However, I was actually uplifted this week as I read an article in this past "USA Weekend." (You can click here for the full article.)

The summation of the article is summed up best by its sub-title which reads,

"Mother Nature can be devastating. But natural disasters serve wild purposes, scientists say. Without them our Earth wouldn't resemble its current state, and we'd lose some of our most precious resources."

I'm not suggesting anyone derive any of their beliefs and theology from "USA Weekend" and/or scientists, but this article does paint a picture of how God (and our perceptions) sometimes works. What seems like disaster in the short run may be a blessing in the long run. The pain in the here and now, may be ultimate joy and happiness in the near future.

Attending a debate a couple of weeks ago, I listened to an atheist friend of mine accuse God of being immoral. He stated, "...even if God were real, I still would not want to follow Him." He based his rejection of this "immoral God" on the Biblical accounts of mass murders (of women and children), genocide, slavery, etc. According to him, any "good God" would not allow such atrocities to happen.

I will save you the innumerable responses I have to this argument for another day, but suffice it to say it's a very narrow view of the world, God, life, and the Bible. It is a view, though, that most of us adopt when we're faced with "disasters" in our life. When the "storms" of financial crises, divorce, or death come our way, we almost always wonder "why?"

Even as Christ-followers, we doubt Him and think, " could a "good God" permit such pain, suffering, and destruction?"
kugle and kathryn.jpg
For us to judge God is comparable to our pet Dachshund, Kugle, judging Kathryn and me. A few weeks ago I took him to the vet. I had to hold our little wiener dog while this vet took his temperature and a stool sample. Friends, let me say, there is no way that could have felt good for him!

In addition he had to receive multiple shots. We're such mean pet owners aren't we? If I were Kugle, I would reject me. I would think why should I trust and obey my "master" if he is going to allow this kind of treatment to me. Do you see where I'm going?

The point is, God knows what's best and He can work any situation for good. Paul says it this way in Romans 8:28,

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose..." (NASB)

depressed and worried.jpgDo you feel pain right now? Are you struggling with something? Has some "disaster" happened in your life? Give it, and your life, to Him. Trust Him. Allow Him to work it for good. God loves you, and can/will use all things to grow you closer to Him, so you may glorify Him.

On the Journey Together,

Justin Winstead