Friday, December 19, 2008


Have you ever bought a toy for a child, or a piece of furniture etc. that you had to assemble after you got it home? I know that on numerous occasions we have. I, like many men, do not want to read the instructions but just start right in with the assembly process. Usually I give in and begin to try to understand the assembly instruction sheet that came with the merchandise. The problem often becomes how to interpret the instructions. Then it becomes a trial and error process. I often think, if I could just ask the dude who wrote the instructions what he meant by such in such I could follow the procedure he so intricately outlined. But there is no way to get hold of the author of the instructions.

By the way, I have often been told by unbelievers that they cannot understand the Bible. Several years ago during spring break time I picked up a college student as he was walking down the highway. He was returning from one of the many spring break havens after some hardy partying. He was tired, hungry, broke, and did not look very happy. During our conversation I ask him if he had ever read anything in the Bible. “Well,” he said, “I have but I had a hard time understanding it.” “You might have an easier time understanding it,” I said, “if you were acquainted with the author.” This seemed to peak his interest. I spent the rest of the trip sharing with him the gospel.

The Scripture has much to say on this subject. 1 Cor 2:10…The Spirit searches out all things, even the deep secrets of God.11 Who knows the thoughts that another person has? Only a person's spirit that lives within him knows his thoughts. It is the same with God. No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.12 Now we did not receive the spirit of the world, but we received the Spirit that is from God so that we can know all that God has given us.13 And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom but with words taught us by the Spirit. And so we explain spiritual truths to spiritual people.14 A person who does not have the Spirit does not accept the truths that come from the Spirit of God. That person thinks they are foolish and cannot understand them, because they can only be judged to be true by the Spirit.15 The spiritual person is able to judge all things, but no one can judge him. The Scripture says: 16 "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been able to teach him?" — Isaiah 40:13 But we have the mind of Christ.(NIV)

There is no way to really understand the truths of the Scripture unless you know the author of this precious book. There is no way to really enjoy Christmas unless you are acquainted with the author of this special celebration. Heb 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… (NIV)

Let us meditate not just on the trappings of Christmas, but the Christ who the foundation of it all. Let us read the Scripture not just trying to dissect the words, but fixing our eyes and heart on the author of those words.

May you prosper in knowing not just the Bible but the author of the Bible. May you be blessed in your celebration not simply of the season of Christmas, but the reason for the season, the Christ of Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Christmas is such a special time of the year. It is a time to give and receive gifts. There is nothing wrong with that, but I am afraid much of our generation has forgotten why we celebrate Christmas and many do not recognize the greatest gift that was ever given.

Jesus Christ was God the Father’s love gift to a world in darkness and sin. The uniqueness of this gift was that the giver and the gift were one. We cannot appreciate the gift if we do not recognize the giver. The gift God the father gave was God the son. When we honor the son we honor the father. God’s gift was not something to satisfy our personal wants, nor was it a gift to enjoy for a while and then discard. The greatest way we can respond to this special gift is to spend time with the giver. And we can know the giver only through the gift.

By The Way I remember a story about a father who had to travel a lot with his job, and thus was gone from home many weeks each year. When the father returned home he would always bring gifts to his two sons. One of the sons would always run out to meet his dad, and began immediately to ask, “what did you bring me, what did you bring me?” The father would give him his gift and off he would go to spend time with his new prize.

The other son would wait on the porch swing until his dad came up and sat down beside him. He would say, “Dad it is so good to have you home, I missed you.” And there they would sit for half an hour just talking and visiting. Finally the father would give the second son his gift. But it was obvious that this second son was more interested in spending time with his dad than just receiving a gift. The greatest gift was the giver, his dad.

Rom 5:17 If death got the upper hand through one man's wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides? (THE MESSAGE)



Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Moving! Moving! Moving!

I am sure you have noticed that I have not done a blog for a while. The reason is because we have been in the midst of a move. I did not have access to the internet for a while. My, my, how did I ever survive? We did move from an up-stairs apartment to a single floor dwelling. It is brand new, much nicer than the old one, is better arranged, and we are already liking it much more.

By The Way, the last two moves we have made has required a lot of downsizing. We had to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. It is not always an easy decision. Some things may not have practical value, but have sentimental worth. It occurred to me that we can leave certain things behind, and when we move to our final heavenly home we will leave everything behind. But who we are we take with us. Our personality, our attitudes, our values, and any internal baggage we might have developed all comes with us. If we have a spiritual or personal problem we do not leave it behind like some old suit, a pair of shoes, or some of our books.

A lot of folks seem to think that they can move away from their problems. If they just move to a new location they will find peace or happiness. Not true! Several years ago while we were doing church planting work in northern Illinois we got acquainted with a family who had grown up in intercity Chicago. They had climbed out of financial poverty and had built a home in a suburban area where we were attempting to start a church. I spent a lot of time building a relationship with the gentleman. I shared Christ with him as best I could.

One day he confided in me that the suburban life was not all he thought it would be. He told me that he had thought if he could just leave the city and move to the suburbs it would bring him peace and satisfaction. But he said that he still had not found peace. It seemed to him that folks in the suburbs were always in competition to make their houses or their lawns look a little better than their neighbors. It was a never ending cycle of one-up-man-ship.
He excitedly shared with me one day that he had found the way to peace and happiness. I was anxious to hear what he had discovered. Well, he had found a place in Arkansas that really appealed to him. He said it was in a beautiful location, plenty of trees, lots of room for pets, a quite stream that flowed a short ways from the back yard. There would be plenty of space between him and the nearest neighbor. “Yes, he said, “I know if I can move down there I will find the peace and satisfaction I have been looking for.” I said, “John, I hate to burst your bubble, but I have just come from that place you are talking about, and it is all the things you say, but it will not bring you peace and satisfaction.” “Why not,” he inquired. “Because, I said, “the things that are robbing you of peace and happiness are things you cannot leave behind. You are going to take your problems with you. Changing locations is not the answer. The answer is allowing Christ to move into your life and bring His peace and joy.” I could not convince him otherwise. Our ministry took us elsewhere before I knew If John had allowed Jesus to Change his life. I only know that for John and for millions more like him, moving is not the answer to the longing they feel in their hearts. Peace, joy, and satisfaction come from knowing Christ in a personal way.

Paul has a word for us from the Word of God concerning this matter. Philippians 4: 10-14 “I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you're again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am…”(The Message)

May you know the peace, joy, and satisfaction of Christ wherever you are.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

It's How You See The World

Ecc 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

Giving thanks becomes so easy and natural when you look at the world rightly. Often beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In fact, our attitude about life in general is shaped by what we believe about truth, and the nature of God. Many Christian philosophers say as a culture we have lost our Biblical world view. We see things as relative and not absolute. The point is we need to see things from God’s perspective. I believe we are happier people when we see the glass half full and not half empty.

By The Way I remember hearing the story of a fellow moving to a new town. On his way into town he stopped and introduced himself to a stranger on the sidewalk. He asks the stranger, “You live in this town?” “Yes I do” he replied. Then the fellow asked, “What kind of people lives here?” To which the stranger ask, “What kind of people lived in the place you left?” “Oh!” said the fellow, “where I came from there were some of the meanest, orneriest, worst people you would ever want to meet.” “Well,” said stranger, “those are the kind of folks that live here.”

Later that day another fellow from out of town was planning to move and entering the town he stopped and got out of his car. He introduced himself to the same stranger the first fellow had talked to. He asked the same question. “What kind of people lives in your town?” The stranger asked, “What kind of people lived in town from which you are moving?” The fellow replied, "Oh, some of the best and friendliest people in the world. To which the stranger said, “Those are the same kind of people that live here.”

I guess you really see what you are looking for. What you look for is changed when you have a right relationship with the God of this world. Several years ago while I was pastoring in Oregon I had a unique experience with a little girl who had just accepted the Lord as her Savior. Her mother was late picking her up after church. She had knelt beside the flower bed that ran along side the sanctuary. I joint her there while we waited for her mother. She said to me, “Pastor, you know, before I was saved I would look at the honey bees flying from flower to flower and all I wanted to do was to squash them. Now I just want to look at them and see how beautiful they are.”

Jesus responded to the praise of Children. And you and I need to be like the children in the following passage. It is easy to give thanks when we see things like these children saw things.

Matt 21:15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they were indignant.
16"Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, " 'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?" (NIV)
Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bragging Rights?

I know, I've been talking a lot about that buck I shot. You would have thought that I got that deer all by myself. I sounded like I was the world's greatest hunter, and that I did everything that needed to be done to bag my deer.

And Oh By The Way if it had not been for several others in our hunting group I would not have gotten that dear. I know it doesn't sound like the kind of bragging I usually hear about the big buck someone shot. But the truth is, at least for me, it was a team effort. I hunted on a lease that did not belong to me. I was invited to be there or else I would have been trespassing. The food I ate during the week was mostly prepared by someone else. The old trailer I slept in belonged to the holder of the lease. The deer stand I hunted from was build by another member of our hunting party. The buck I shot was eating corn from a corn feeder that had been placed and filled by someone else in the party. After I shot the deer someone had to help me pull it out of the woods and take it to the slaughter house. And someone else will bring it to me from Warren where it was processed (some of the group are going back to hunt around Thanksgiving.)

The fact is everything we accomplish in life we really need to give credit to others. Someone truly said, "No man is an island unto himself." The Christian life is a team effort. That is why Christ established the church. It would be impossible to live for Christ if we reject the church and try to live it by ourselves. Paul in 1 Corinthians is talking about the importance of team-work in the church. He compares it to a human body.

Cor 12:25-26 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don't, the parts we see and the parts we don't. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.27-31 You are Christ's body—that's who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your "part" mean anything...(The Message)

God has called to make disciples, to hunt for souls. No, we are not to hunt them like we do deer, and yet winning people to Christ and making disciples is a team effort. In the first letter to the Corinthians Paul is dealing groups and individuals who thought they were more spiritual and more important to the cause of Christ than others in the church.

Paul says in 1 Cor 3 5 Is Apollos important? No! Is Paul important? No! We are only servants of God who helped you believe. Each one of us did the work God gave us to do.6 I planted the seed, and Apollos watered it. But God is the One who made it grow.7 So the one who plants is not important, and the one who waters is not important. Only God, who makes things grow, is important.8 The one who plants and the one who waters have the same purpose, and each will be rewarded for his own work.9 We are God's workers, working together; you are like God's farm, God's house. (New Century Version)

Let's be a loving, giving, accepting part of the body of Christ. Bragging rights? No! In the work of the Lord, in the mission of making disciples there is no room for personal glory. We have no bragging rights. We must simply brag on Jesus. He must receive all the credit and glory.

Happy Team Hunting!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Anticipation is what often gives motivation to life. If we keep our mind on the goal ahead we have an easier time with the hard places between where we are and where we must go to reach our goal.
Paul said in Phil 3:13 Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead,
14 I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above. (NEW CENTURY VERSION)

By the way I learned something about anticipation while hunting deer this past week. It rained, it was cold and damp, I slept on less than a comfortable bed, only one night did my c-pap machine work properly, so my rest was not the best, and I went the whole five days without a shower or shave. In short there were some hard places I had to go through. Why did I do it? It was for the prize, a buck deer. I even noticed that the loud sound of the rifle when I shot my buck did not bother my ears, and I did not even notice the recoil from the rifle. I was so focused on the goal, other things just did not matter. It was the anticipation of reaching the goal that kept me going.

My ultimate goal in life is to become like Jesus, and then one day stand before Him and hear Him say to me, "Well done!" My anticipation of becoming more like Jesus each day, of being more effective in His kingdom work, and one day entering my heavenly home, keeps me going.

Living for Christ is not like staying in a first class hotel, always eating at five-star restaurants, riding in limousines, and flying first class. Paul said to one of the churches he started on his first missionary journey in Acts 14:22 "...that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." (KJV)

Paul also says in Romans 8:18-21 That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. (The MESSAGE)

Someone criticized a pastor for focusing on the future. They said, "Why do you preach on 'Pie in the sky by and by,' when what we need is to know how to live in 'the nasty now and now?'" The preacher replied "it is the anticipation of the future hope I have in Christ that helps me make it through the nasty now and now." That pastor was not denying the reality of the present nor the importance of practical Biblical help as to how to live in the now, but He was saying that much of the motivation for living for Christ in the now is the anticipation of the glorious future God has prepared for his children.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Devotions From a Deer Stand is the name of a book, but the title is all I borrowed.

I just got back after almost a week at deer camp. I did get a deer, a small 5-point buck. It was my first buck, and only my second deer kill. Three years ago I killed a doe. Two years ago, I tried to put five shells in a four-shell clip. Though I saw a lot of deer I did not get off a shot. As you can imagine, my gun jammed. Last year I forgot to take my clip. I guess a good hunter only needs one bullet. The guys called me “One Bullet Barney.” I did not even see a deer at which to shoot. This year I was prepared, and bagged my prey. Lesson? Be properly prepared.

But by the way something else occurred to me while sitting in that deer stand. I could have made the best preparations possible, but if I had not gone to the deer woods and actually gone hunting I would not have shot a deer.

Imagine this scenario. My hunting buddy comes over the week after deer season ends. He asks me, “Did you get a deer?” And I say, “Let me show you my rifle. It is a 30-06 semi-automatic. I have sited it in, oiled and cleaned it. It’s a great hunting rifle.” But my friend asks again, “Did you get a deer?” And I say, “Let me show you my hunting outfit. Man! is it comfortable and warm. It has great camo and the deer have a hard time distinguishing me from the trees around me.” I show him my doe scent that is sure to bring in a buck. But my friend insists, “Did you get a deer?” I proceed to show him my hunting boots and brag about their being water proof and warm and comfortable. I show him my orange vest and hat. I even show him my hunting license. Finally, he says, “Yes, you must be the best prepared hunter I have ever seen, but did you get a deer?” Finally I admit, “No, I didn’t go hunting.”

We have churches and Christians just like this. They meet in buildings that are beautiful, comfortable, and perfectly equipped to do the job. We know how to share our faith. We know how to plan a great service with soul stirring music. We have studied the latest sociological trends. We have up to date demographics on our community. We put a large amount of money in the budget for evangelism. We have the best evangelistic tracts and the latest translation of the Bible. But the question is, are we leading anyone to Christ? Have we been hunting?

I love how the MESSAGE puts it in
James 1:22-27 Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don't act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.
But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.
Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

A song is not a song until you sing it
A bell is not a bell until you ring it

A talk is not a talk until something, you say
A hunter is not a hunter ‘till he goes after the prey

You’re not really a Christian until you live it
You’re not really a witness until you give it.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What About Praying?

I must admit, the candidate I voted for did not win the presidency. I must also admit that I find a great deal of consolation in the fact that our country has come far enough from it's dark days of slavery and years of prejudice that it can elect a black man to our highest office. In all of this God does not change, nor does our responsibility as a citizen. I know there will be those who will be making critical remarks, and hanging their heads in disappointment. and saying, "what are we going to do?"

By The Way, I remember sharing my disappoint in the behavior of president Clinton during those embarrassing days of his sexual misbehavior and his effort to deny it. Marie said to me, " Ray, even though we deplore his behavior, we still must respect his office and pray for him." She was right.

The Scripture says in 1 Timothy 2:1-3 "The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live." (The Message)

Several years ago while I was attending College at Southwest Baptist University (College back then), I pastored a little church about 70 miles to the east of Bolivar, MO by the name of Pine Creek Baptist Church. One Sunday, a short time after we had accepted to pastor the church, we ate lunch with one of the very faithful widows. She told us about a former pastor who had become quite unpopular in the congregation. Another lady had come to her house and was complaining about the pastor. Said she, "I just don't know what I am going to do about him." Our very thoughtful widow said to her, "have you every tried praying for him?" She answered, "no, I guess I haven't." She tried it and liked it, and her dilemma was solved.

As citizens of this great country we have an obligation to vote and participate in the political process as much as we can, but our greatest and continuing obligation is to pray. We need to respect the office of president, and respect our newly elected president, and pray for him. We need a spiritual and moral revival in our nation, but God never said it would start with the leaders of our government. It will start with Gods people. 1 Peter 4:17 says "For the time has come for judgment to begin with God's household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?"(CHSB)

And we can be confident that God is and always will be the real Commander in Chief. Proverbs 21:1 says, "Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God; he directs it to whatever ends he chooses." (The Message)

Ladies and Gentlemen, let us pray!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


A lot has happened in the Edwards' household in the last year or so, not the least of which is my retiring from the pastorate and going into a new phase of ministry. I know all that has happened has affected both Marie and I, and for that matter other family members as well. Deep in my heart I wanted to continue in the pastorate, but I knew it was time to give it up.

I was leading an adult Bible study at a Wednesday night meeting at First Baptist in Harrison just a few weeks after my retirement. I shared with the folks how it had become much more difficult to deal with emotionally charged issues in the pastorate now than when I was younger. A good friend and a great Christian came up to me after the study, put his arms around and said, "Ray, I believe that the greatest days of your ministry are still ahead of you." That word was a great encouragement to me.

One thing I have learned in my walk with the Lord is that it is important to finish well regardless of how we start. Paul the Apostle compared the Christian life to a race. He admonished us to finish the race and finish it to win. That means, we are to finish well, and even if we stumble and fall in the midst of the race we are to get up and go on.

Life is usually not a sprint, but a marathon and speed is not as importance as endurance. Runners tell us, however, that when they have the finish line in site all the extra strength they have is poured into their sprint to the finish. As they focus on the finish line they ignore the pain and the agony in their body as they try their best to break through the ribbon first.

But if the finish line is when God calls us home, how do we know where the finish line is? For me, it might be 5, 10, 20 years. It could be less, and might be more. I submit to you that the race of life we are in is really like the sleek, narrow boats full of rowers we saw recently in the Olympics. The rowers have their backs to the finish line, so they cannot focus on the finish line. They really cannot see where it is.

By The Way I have started reading a book entitled Finishing Strong, by Steve Farrar. In the first chapter Steve says of the rowers in these racing boats, "If they can't see the finish line and focus upon it, then how in the world can they row an effective race? The answer is that they focus on the Coxswain." He's the guy with the megaphone sitting at the end of the boat facing the crew. He's the only one who knows were the finish line is." The men listen to him, and stay focused on him as he calls out the cadence, gives encouragement, and challenge and leads them across the finish line.

In this boat of life, Jesus is the Coxswain, and each of us are rowers. Hebrews 12:2 says "keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne(HCSB.) We must fix our gaze on Him as he instructs and encourages us and one day leads us across the finish line and suddenly we find ourselves absent from earth but present in our heavenly home.

Happy rowing!

Monday, October 27, 2008


To be perfectly honest, I have never cared much for cats. Especially those that are indoors. Maybe part of that feeling stems from my childhood. My mom never liked cats. Oh, we had cats at home. But they always stayed outside, and lived off their own ability to catch mice. I remember several times when mom started to open the back screen door and a cat was laying against it, she would force it open and then kick the cat with the toe of her shoe, and the cat would land about 50 feet away in the back yard. Such was a cat's life at the Edwards household.

But By The Way I have come to think differently about the cat. One of our neighbors in a downstairs appartment has a heart for "God's little creatures." That is what she calls the cats. They are not really her cats, but just cats that have come by. She started leaving a little food out for them. At first there were two, and now at last count there are five. She said to me the other day, "I just don't understand why they want to come around. All I did was put out a little food." I thought "Well, Duh!" Although I did not say it out loud.

And then it hit me. Cats are smarter than I ever thought they were. And they have a lot to admire. 1) They know to come to the nourishment. 2) They must somehow be able to tell other cats where to come to get nouishment. 3) These cats seem to get along with each other very well. 4) They never fight over the scraps. 5) They seem to be very content, eventhough they have to stay outside. 6) It takes very little to keep them content. 7) And finally, they know how to multiply.

There is a lesson here for the average Christian and for the average church. 1) Unlike the cat, we often get fussy if the spiritual nourishment we are receiving dosn't taste just right or is not served in the right container. 2) We are often lacking when it comes to telling others where to get some spiritual nourishment. 3) We too often have problems getting along with one another. 4) We sometimes fuss and fight over the smallest details. 5) We often express more complaints than contentment. 6) We like our "stuff," and often feel insecure if not surrounded by the trappings of our religion rather than the real heart of our faith. What I mean by trappings are the physical things we associate with our faith. Things like buildings, padded pews, air conditioning, bulletins, certain styles of music, traditions we have grown up with etc. 7) And finally we are content to add occasionally, when the Bible tells us to multiply.

I will never look at cats in the same way.

Happy fur balls to ya!

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I know I am dating myself when I say I remember Elvis coming out with his hit “All Shook Up.” But the truth is, there are times when we do get shook up. Even as believers we experience it from time to time. In John 14:1 Jesus told his disciples “Don’t let your hearts be troubled…” A good translation of the word troubled is “agitated” or “shook up.” The disciples were learning that one would forsake Jesus, one would deny Jesus, and that Jesus himself was within hours of death on a Roman cross. Jesus would be leaving his disciples, at least in a physical sense. So they were shook up.

We may not always avoid being shook up from time to time but when we are we are to demonstrate what is really inside of our heart. Matt 15:11 states, “What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.'" In other words, when we are shook up or squeezed what spills out is simple what is already within us. If bitterness or anger comes out when we are shaken then that is what is in us. When I squeeze a tube of toothpaste I can expect tooth paste to come out. When you are shaken by another person or an unforeseen event what spills out of your life?

And Oh By The Way I had an experience the other day that graphically illustrates my point. We were having quesadillas for supper one night last week. I like to pour lots of salsa on my quesadillas. The bottle of salsa was setting on the kitchen. The lid was on the bottle, but what I did not know was that it was not tightened down. I always shake the bottle before pouring. This time as I shook the bottle, salsa went everywhere…on the floor, the bar, the dining table, the walls, the appliances and both Marie and I. Our food was cold before we were able to clean up the mess. What I observed from this little crisis was very simple. When I shook the salsa bottle, salsa came out… nothing else, just salsa. The reason was simple. Salsa was all that was in the bottle.

The spiritual truth is very simple. When we are shaken or squeezed what comes out of our lives is what was already in our lives. Through our time with God in Bible study, prayer, and obedience let us allow the Lord to fill us with His character, His life, so during the worst of times folks can still see Jesus in us.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Some years ago I saw in a discipleship magazine an illustration about the Christian life based on a bicycle. I do not remember all the particulars but I do remember that the spokes represented various disciplines for healthy growth as a Christian; prayer, Bible study, etc. The front wheel represented guidance and the rear wheel represented power and endurance.

By The Way, I have recently become the proud owner of a mountain bike (My son-in-law found it left behind by a soldier family moving from Ft. Campbell, KY.) He also found a bike for he and for my daughter. Well anyway I have made a few interesting discoveries that might shed a little more light on this bicycle/Christian life thing.

Now I learned to ride the bike when I was just a youngster, and I was young also when I accepted the Lord as my Savior. I did not become an instant expert at riding the bike or at being a Christian. It was and is a process. I still can ride a bike, but since I have not practiced for a long time, I am a little shaky and uncertain. I am not as agile or as smooth as I used to be. When one does not practice his faith he becomes the same way… shaky and unsure of himself. He is certainly not a very good role model to those new believers that might be watching him. I really don’t want too many folks watching me ride the bike right now either.

Now one of the main things about riding a bike is to stay upright. I found that it is much easier if you are moving forward. Sitting still is a sure recipe for falling over, unless your feet are on the ground. Going backward is totally out of the question. If you are to grow as a disciple you need to stay upright, and to stay upright you have to move forward.

Obviously someone had left the bike out in the weather and it had set idle for a while. This caused rust to accumulate on the gear cables and the sprockets. Now I am not saying we should burn out as a Christian, but neither is there a reason to rust out. Two things contribute to a rusty Christian life:

(1) Inactivity in the area of prayer (1 Thess 5:17 Pray constantly. HCSB),
and obedience (James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only… HCSB)
(2) Not receiving the lubrication of the Word (Psalm 119:11 I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You…HCSB)
and the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18 …be filled with the Spirit: HCSB)

I guess I will need to take the bike in for a needed service job, but the best thing I can do for myself and the bike is to ride it…to put it to the use for which it was intended.
How about your Christian life? Is it time you thought about a SERVICE job? Actively move ahead through prayer and obedience. Let God’s Word and the Holy Spirit free you up to move smoothly for the Father. And again, By The Way, “Happy Bicycling!”

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Last week-end I attended a training session in Eureka Springs for those of us who are going to be leading a men’s retreat next week-end. I heard a young man give a message that he will be sharing with the men at the retreat. Those sharing for the first time at the week-end we like to hear their talk at the training session. The young man was a history teacher and I must say did an excellent job. His topic was “Discipleship.” In his comments he mentioned the fact that in New Testament times there were many Rabbis (teachers) who had disciples. But that being a disciple meant more than just merely following the teacher. It meant following him literally so close that as they traveled the dusty roads of the Holy Land the disciple would be covered with the dust being stirred up by his Rabbi. Often one Rabbi would ask another, about the progress of one of his disciples. But he would ask by saying, “How much dust does he have one him?” A dusty disciple was one who was intent on staying extremely close to his teacher. In truth a disciple is more than one who follows his teacher; he is one who wants to be like his teacher. But the disciple cannot become like his teacher (Rabbi) unless he follows him.

And Oh By The Way, I know something about getting dusty, following behind. A few years back there were four of us couples at the church who scheduled a four-wheeler ride on a Saturday. We had a great time and rode more than 50 miles that day. Though the weather was nice for such an outing, the roads were rather dusty. One of the couples was to lead the way and the rest were to follow. Marie and I had never traveled in that part of the county and did not know the directions to our planned destination were we were to have a picnic. Our choices were simply. We could fall behind the leader far enough to avoid the dust but run the risk of losing our way because we could easily miss a turn-off. We could get ahead of the leader in which case we would have been continually confused and uncertain about the roads we should travel. The best choice, the one we stayed with, was to follow close behind the leader, even though it meant getting very dusty. At the end of our trip that day the only clean places on our bodies were little white rings around our eyes were we were wearing our glasses.
The Scripture says in Luke 14:33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple; And again in Luke 9:62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
The spiritual application is clear. We are called as disciples to follow Jesus. We could fall behind so far that we lose site of which way Jesus is leading. We could get ahead of our Lord, and thereby become spiritually confused and get completely lost and maybe lead someone else down the wrong road. What we must do is follow our Rabbi, our Lord Jesus, so closely that we bear the evidence of our following Him. Our prayer life, Bible study, and life of obedience is the dust of the master that can even be recognized by others.

So the question becomes, “As a disciple how dusty are you?” How close to our Teacher do you walk? Have you allowed too much distance between you and Him? Have you tried to get ahead of Him at times? For me, I choose to be a very dusty disciple.

By The Way’s Quip For The Day

I watched the presidential debate last night. I got to wondering (tongue in cheek of course) how political groups got to be called parties. Well maybe it is like going to a fancy dinner party where 1) You want everyone to know you are there yet you wish to blend in, 2) You glad-hand everyone pretending to know them whither you do or not, 3) You accept what is offered and show gratitude even though you might detest some of it, 4) You give compliments knowing that often you are less then honest about what you say, 5) You don’t want to appear to be a know-it-all yet you try to talk intelligently to anyone on any subject, 6) You leave, hardly remembering who you talked to or why, and what difference it made anyway, 7) And yet you are sure that the party you attended was much better than the one they were having down the street. (I’m not really quite that pessimistic, but close.)


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

sss I n

SIN …sss I n. One preacher said, sin has the hiss of the serpent and the middle letter is “I.” It sounds good in a sermon but I am afraid it does not convey what the Bible really means by sin. The Hebrew word for sin is “hatat.” It literally has to do with the use of a sling shot. If the one slinging the stone aims at a target but misses, it is “hatat.” …missing the mark or the target. The application is that God has a standard, and we always miss it.

And Oh, by the way, there are other images or real life experiences that also explain missing the mark. I remember not long after I began to drive, a new stop light was installed in our town (Harrison, AR). That made a total of three stoplights on the main street through town. I had driven that street many times, but not after the stoplight was installed. I went through that intersection running the red light. I was pulled over by a city policeman. He asked me if I ran the light on purpose. To which I replied, “No sir, I just did not see the light.” I thought that might make him go easy on me. But to the contrary, he said, “That is even more dangerous. If you knew it was there you probably would have been aware of oncoming traffic. But not knowing it was there; put you and others at an even greater risk.” I had no further reply. I simply took my ticket and went a few days later and paid my fine. The “mark” that day was to stop at the red light. I missed it. Ignorance was no excuse, and what I did put myself and others at great risk. When we continue to sin against God (miss the mark He has set) we also put ourselves and others in peril.

Much earlier in my boyhood I remember wanting to be one day six feet tall. There were pencil marks on the door frame between the living room and the kitchen were I would go quite often to measure my height. Dad would help me with the measurement. Four feet, five feet, six feet were marked, and marks in between as I slowly grew taller. But I never made it to six feet. I reached five feet and eleven inches. I grew but I still missed that mark of six feet. I even tried stretching my neck by pushing up on my head, but that did not work either. Maybe it resulted in a shorter head, but not a longer neck.

In spiritual matters, we are to grow in our relationship with Christ, but we will never, in our on strength, reach the mark God has set. The Scripture says in Romans 3:23 “all have sinned and have come short of God’s glory (or mark). Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin (missing the mark) is death, but God’s gift is eternal life." There is only one who has never missed God’s mark, and that is Jesus Christ. The Scripture says in John 17:3 “And this is life eternal, that they might know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent.” 1 John 5:12 says, “He that has the son has life and he who does not have the son does not have life.” Eternal life is not just a length of time, but a quality of life. And the only way to miss eternal death is to have Christ living inside of us, having taken our sins upon Himself. So then, God does not judge us based upon our missing his mark, rather we are judged based on what a perfect Christ did for us in his death and resurrection. His hitting the mark is put to our account and we are forgiven for all the times we still fall short of God’s glory (his mark.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

And Oh! By The Way

Here goes my first attempt at blogging. I thought I might begin by explaining the name of my blog site, and to explain my purpose in these daily or weekly meditations.

First I have noticed that in the ministry and in life I have often learned more "by the way," or informally than when I was in a formal setting. Most of life is informal, and that is when the most significant and meaningful things take place. Also, since I teach Bible as an adjunct instructor at the local community college, a lot of my lectures are "Oh! by the way" statements. I often share important information and points of application not found in the formal outline. And then the phrase "By The Way," is a double entendre. In New Testament times, Christians were often called "People of the way." Jesus said in John 14:6 "I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me." So. you see, it has a double meaning.

And that brings me to the purpose for my crafting these words, sentences, and paragraphs. I wish to give insight into truth by looking at words or phrases and seeing things that may bring a fresh approach or different application than to what we may be accustomed. Now mind you, I know there is nothing new under the sun. I know that my writings will not bring something that is a revelation only given to me, and is new to the 20th century. But as Vance Havner put it, "Some truths are so true that they have become bedridden in the dormitory of our mind." I would simply like to get some of those truths out of bed and out of the dormitory.