Thursday, September 23, 2010

SPITTING SEEDS OR SPLITTING HAIRS

Who does not love watermelon? Now don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the new seedless variety, but they are not nearly as much fun. “How so,” you ask?

Well I must have been about 3 years and 9 months old, and we were living in Bob Jones old rent house just south of Alpena, Arkansas. It was one of those old houses that had what old timers called a “Dog Run.” The house had two large rooms. One room was the kitchen, dining room, storage etc. The other room was the living room/bedroom area. Between these two large rooms was a large open hallway. That is, a hall that separated the two rooms but it was not enclosed on either end. In this house the front of the large hall was a banister overlooking the front yard, and at the back were stairs that lead into the back yard.

In those days, eating watermelon came with four rules. 1) Always eat it outside 2) Get it all over your face 3) put a dash of salt on it, and finally 4) spit the seeds as far as you could. I remember once when Grandpa and Grandma Roberts were visiting, along with Jerry and Elmer my uncles who still lived with them. Being in the summer time, after dinner (what some folks call lunch), we assembled in the front of the “Dog Run” and ate watermelon. The seed spitting part became a game, and each of us tried to out spit the other. No records were kept, so I don’t remember who won the contest. Had we kept records, it might have become an Olympic sport by now. While we were spitting seeds the grown-ups we talking. As I recall, they just seemed to talk over and over about the same thing. At least that is how I remember it. It seemed to me, upon later reflection, they were trying to say the same thing in as many different ways as possible. I learned later to call that “splitting hairs.”

Lesson: As far as I can determine there was nothing useful that resulted in all the hair splitting. But the watermelon seed spitting was a different story. Next spring there was a bunch of watermelon vines that sprang up in the front yard. So if you want a harvest of anything you have to spit (sow) the seed. Christ gave a parable of the sower and seed.

In Matthew Chapter 13 Jesus explains it this way 18 “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. 20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 23 But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”


If you and I expect to bear fruit (another believer) we must be busy spitting the seed of the Gospel. It is not a contest, but if we are engaged in the process we are all winners

Friday, September 17, 2010

THE MYSTERY OF LIFE

It was on an unusually warm day for January in the Ozarks…January 25th 1950 to be exact. I had just turned four in September of 1949. My family was living south of Alpena, Arkansas in a flagstone house we were renting from Chester Presley. A few hundred yards north down the gravel road lived Jimmy and Cordie Mills. I thought they were ancient at the time, but I am sure they were probably no more than 50 something.

As I recall, it was in the morning we had a visit from our family doctor, Doc McCurry, who had an office in Green Forest. Oh yes, doctors did make house calls in those days. It was this doctor my dad told me many times a story concerning him. It seemed that he was visited at his office by a man who had a bad case of hiccups. In fact he had been hiccupping for 24 hours. Well, Doc asked the man to stick out his tongue and as he did Doc grabbed it with his hand. He would not let go and according to the man he thought doc was going to pull it out by the roots. Along with the man’s verbal expression of disdain for such an unorthodox treatment, he gave the doc a “blue streak” of curse words and left the office in a huff. About two hours later the man returned and apologized to the Doc because his hiccups were gone. I do not think he learned that particular treatment in medical school. I guess it was that sort of thing that endeared our family to Doc McCurry so much. The other reason was that he really did care for his patients.

Now back to my main story… I was extremely curious as to why I was told by mom and dad that I had to go stay with the Mill’s down the road for the rest of the day. Not that I minded it, it was just something that never happened. There was a mystery here. I cannot remember if dad drove me down to the Mills, or I walked. I think I walked while dad stood in the yard and made sure I arrived safely. Another strange thing was that Jimmy and Cordie were waiting on me. We had no phone in those days, so how did the Mill’s know I was coming?

Now Jimmy and Cordie were some of my favorite people. Jimmy had a rather large stomach and when we would all go to Long Creek to swim he could float on his back for what seemed like hours. Sometimes all you could see was his face and his large round belly. I thought it is was funny. What endeared me to Cordie was that she was always giving me gum, or a piece of candy, or something else a little boy thought was grand. One day after our family had visited the Mill’s and were preparing to leave, I spoke up and asked, “Cordie, you got anything else you want to give me?” Mom grabbed my arm and we all made a hasty exit. When we got into our car, a ’37 Ford coupe, I got the lecture of my life. “You don’t every do that again,” mom said with sternness in her voice. “Do what?” I ask. I had already learned to use the “I’m innocent because I have no idea what you are talking about” routine. It did not work this time. My dad said, “Ask for a handout, it is rude and impolite.” Now in my defense, I remember saying something to the effect, “well she had given me a piece of gum and I just did not want her to forget, in case she had planned to give me something else.” Well, prosecution (1), defense (0)… I was just grateful that I did not get any more than a tongue lashing.

Now back to the main story or I will never get through. I do have more to say about the Mill’s but I must save that for a later time. Just before dark, dad came to pick me up and take me home. When I walked in I saw a sight that blew my young mind clean away. There was mom in bed, in the living room, where it had been before, but this time she was holding something tiny and pink. It was my new baby sister. They would call her Anna Sue.

Now the mystery of it is, where did she come from? Why did I have to stay the day at the Mills? What did Doc McCurry have to do with all this? And why did I not know it was going to happen? I grew up on a farm and it did not take a genius to figure out where newborns came from. I learned that as I got older. I do not seem to remember my mother’s body changing in any particular way. She mostly wore loose fitting cloths, so I would not have noticed a bulging belly.

As I think back on the whole affair, I think that my mom and dad handled it just right. I was not ready for a complete course in human reproduction. I was not ready for a sex education course. The mystery of it was part of the excitement about it all. I soon forgot my questions and just settled in to get acquainted with my new sister. By the way, I think it is a crime to try to take the mystery out of life. We might answer the questions about the physical and human participation in the beginning of life, but no one has answered all the questions about how life really begins. Mysteries are mysteries for a reason. A child needs to deal with mystery… it is part of our existence that makes life what is. This whole sex education thing we deal with today is way out of balance.

Most of the problem could be solved with a parent reading to a child some special portions of Scripture. Here is a case in point:

Psalm 139:13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I'd even lived one day. (THE MESSAGE)



LESSON: SEX/REPRODUCTION IS ONE OF THE MOST WONDERFUL GIFTS GOD HAS GIVEN US. WE CANNOT IMPROVE UPON IT. WE CANNOT REDESIGN IT, AND IF WE TRY TO WE DO SO AT OUR ON PERIL. WE MUST REMEMBER THE WORDS TO THE HYMN, "THIS IS MY FATHER'S WORLD." WHEN WE TRY TO INTERFERE WITH GOD'S PLAN AND GOD'S TIMING WE GET EVERYTHING MESSED UP. ENJOY THE MYSTERY OF IT AND ENJOY IT. FOR YOUNG PARENTS, DO NOT TRY TO RUSH TO TAKE AWAY SOME OF THE MYSTERY. GOD WILL GUIDE YOU AT THE APPROPRIATE TIME AND IN THE APPROPRIATE WAY. ABOVE ALL, USE THE BIBLE AND GIVE GLORY TO GOD.

Monday, September 6, 2010

THE OLD SOW AND THE BOTTLE

Memories are only useful if we re-member… That is, re-live the memories. As we get older we increasingly like to re-live some past event or personal experience. The problem is we are apt to embellish the memory until we forget where fact separates from fancy. Be that as it may, I think it is just fine to embellish a little if it helps to get across the essence of the real experience. Now the reason I am talking so philosophically is because I have a desire to blog about such experiences, and I want you to know ahead of time that I cannot swear that all things happened exactly as I recall them. So, here goes the first one.

I must have been somewhat beyond my second year of life, and still enjoying the bottle. I seem to recall we were living on what I later learned was referred to as the "Higgered place." We had moved from McAlester, OK when I was about a year old, after dad was discharged from the army. I think this was our first house after moving back to Arkansas. We had a Hog, a sow to be exact. I do not know if mom and dad were going to raise pigs or were fattening this one out to butcher.

Now back to the important part. My mom was apparently trying to find a way to wean me from the bottle. She had not succeeded. Even back then I had a stubborn streak. Well one day we had a visit from Aunt Ethel, my dad’s oldest sister. Ethel lived by the notion that it is often easier to get forgiveness than permission. And she never met a situation she was unwilling to plow into head first. Were mom had failed to succeed in solving my bottle problem, Ethel waded right in and used her unorthodox approach.

I was apparently running around in the yard, screaming for my bottle. Just then, Ethel’s mental acumen came to the surface as she turned to me and said in a dramatic voice (at least that is the way I remember it), “THE OLD SOW ATE YOUR BOTTLE!” Well admittedly I was not yet well trained in problem solving, but intuitively I knew that I was no match for that sow. I remember climbing up on the wooden planks that were part of the pig sty, and did my best to communicate with that sow. I was not very good yet at English and even worse at speaking “pigese.” I never even entertained the notion that Ethel might be just fibbing to me. So I finally accepted what seemed to be the inevitable. That sow had eaten my bottle and I had no spare.

It was my first experience at having to deal with disappointment. But from that time until now I have learned that dis-appointment can be the necessary step to an appointment that will make me more mature. I learned to drink from a cup.

LESSON: TAKE AWAY THE “DIS” FROM DISAPPOINTMENT AND YOU HAVE AN APPOINTMENT WITH SOMETHING BETTER. GOD IS EVEN IN CONTROLL OF WHAT SEEMS TO US A SMALL THING. THAT SOW AND THE BOTTLE AFFAIR WAS NO SMALL THING TO ME AT THE TIME, BUT SINCE, I HAVE LEARNED THERE ARE MANY THINGS I HAVE TO GIVE UP TO FIND THAT WHICH IS MUCH BETTER AND RICHER, AND BLESSED BY GOD.

Paul said in Phil 4:11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

MOM

Some of you have seen the movie, "Bucket List." There are things that all of us would like to do before we "kick the bucket." No one's bucket list would look the same, but every one of us would have one. It may not be written down, but we have it in our mind or heart.

The problem is, we often say, "I'm going to do 'such-in-such' when I get around to it." I was in revival many years ago in a church in Missouri. On Tuesday night the pastor announced that a package of very special items had arrived, and that there was something for every member of the church. They were to be present on Wednesday night to receive their very important item. We had a large crowd the next night, and just before dismissal the pastor announced that his supply of "round tuits" had arrived and each one would receive theirs at the door on their way out. Then the pastor said in an excited voice, "these 'round tuits' will revolutionize our church, because so many of you have told me they would help the church in a ministry, visit a friend, volunteer to teach a class, or just be regular in attendance when they got a 'round tuit.'" "So," said he, "they are here and therefore no one will have anymore excuses for putting off things they should be doing now."

Needless to say, the message was a powerful one. Even I received a "round tuit." Now you are asking what all this has to do with MOM?

Well By The Way, the things we often put off the longest, are those things involving our families. If your mom is still living, and there is something you plan to do for her or say to her, do not put it off until it is too late.

My mom has been in a special unit of the hospital in Mt. Home, AR. They are recommending that she be placed in a nursing facility. None of us like the idea, but sometimes it is the only logical option.
I remember my mom and my dad as I grew up with my sister. We were cared for, loved and protected. I thank the Lord that I have been able to tell mom how much I love her, and have gotten to do things for her and with her. If I had waited I would have waited too long for her to really understand or appreciate certain things. Because now her mind is failing. And, By The Way again, I also was able to do the same with my dad.

THOT: MOM, I'M THANKFUL I HAD MY "ROUND TUIT" AND USED IT WHEN I DID. I LOVE YOU. HAPPY MOTHERS DAY. THE SAME GOES FOR MY PRECIOUS WIFE AND THE MOTHER OF OUR TWO CHILDREN

THE PEACE OF JERUSALEM

All of you that know me, know I get emotional very easily. There are times that I weep while watching reruns of "Leave it to Beaver." So I knew it was inevitable that the moment would come during my trip to Israel where I would lose it.

By The Way it came while I was at the Western Wall. Now I'm not talking about "western" as in Gun Smoke or Big Valley. This Western Wall shows part of what experts say may be left of Solomon's Temple. I put on my mandatory ya mica (the little skull cap) and slowly approached the wall. I was standing between two orthodox rabbis as they read from the Torah and prayed. I began to pray. All of a sudden it hit me. They were praying and longing for the Messiah to come. I knew that Yeshiva had already come. And They and all the other Rabbis were spiritually blind to that fact. The admonition from the Scripture came to my mind, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." That peace will never come until they acknowledge the Prince of Peace.

I began to weep as I prayed for their eyes to be opened. I thought of Paul's cry, "I would be willing to be accursed if I knew that in doing so it would lead to the opening of the spiritual eyes of my kinsman, my Jewish brothers."

It seems to me that we need to be more missionary minded toward the Jewish people. Jesus said, the Gospel would first be preached in Jerusalem, Judah, Samaria, and then the rest of the world. Now it seems to have made full circle.

When I got back to my group I was still blubbering. It was one of those special moments of blessing, and burden that God from time to time lays upon us.

THOT: JOIN ME IN PRAYING AND GIVING AND GOING THAT THE GOSPEL WILL BE HEARD AMONG THE JEWISH PEOPLE AND ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE GROUPS OF THAT AREA.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

"KNOW" SPIN ZONE

I am beginning now to write about the magnificent trip we had to Israel. It was indeed the trip of a life time. But before I share daily with you all my impressions and personal experiences there is something I must address. There are really several things, but I start with the first in a long series.

By The Way, this is the "Know Spin Zone." After arrival at the Newark Airport, we had to hurry to another terminal to catch our flight to Tel Aviv. We were running close, and so we had to hurry. At first the seven of us were all running or walking very fast. I knew instinctively that someone from our group needed to be at the correct gate in order to not miss our connection. I deliberately decided that I or someone must get there the fastest way possible to HELP the others not miss their flight. So with nothing but pure selflessness in my heart and a desire to be a helpful team member I jumped on one of the many electric carts going our direction. Those of us who rode the cart got to the gate before those who walked. We accomplished our goal in CARING for the rest of the group. We felt our actions were not only justified, but under the circumstances the most noble thing we could have done.

Some how our actions were misinterpreted as being somewhat selfish instead of selfless. We were told that our taking the cart and letting the others walk was somehow an act that jeopardized the team spirit, and that we were only thinking of ourselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sometimes the ends do justify the means; not always, but sometimes, and this was one of those times.

Of course being the strong gentlemen we are we took the criticism with good humor and understood that those making the criticism simply did not know the facts of the case. That is why the "Know Spin Zone" was necessary.

You can see, of course, how happy the group looks after they realized that I and a few others had made the speedy trip to the gate and made sure we would not miss our flight. Pictures do not lie.


THAT IS MY STORY AND I'M STICKING TO IT.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

WALKING AND PRAYING MY WAY TO ISRAEL (14)

Several years ago we served as church planters in northern Illinois. Once I was ask to conduct the funeral of a still born baby. The family was Catholic, but we had become very good friends, and I said, of course, I would be willing to do the service.

The funeral was to be held in a very large Catholic cemetery in Chicago. I think the family had to get special permission from the Chicago Catholic Arch Dies es to allow a non-Catholic to lead a service there.

We met in a small, yet beautiful, building for the service. I was able to encourage the mother and the family that the child was in heaven with our heavenly father. The family appreciated the short, small, but appropriate service.

After we left the meeting place, a strange thing happened. We got lost in the cemetery. No, I’m not kidding. The cemetery was so large it had streets with street names. It was so huge I could not remember how to get out. As I recall, it was a rather eerie feeling to be lost in a cemetery. I am not sure, but some of the street signs must have included; Cadaver Lane, Skeleton Ave., Rigamortis Boulevard, and Grave Road. I think there must have been one road that had a sign, “Dead End.” But then it has been a while, and my mind does play tricks on me. Well we did find our way out after driving around a while. Or should I say driving in “squares” and “rectangles” since the streets were at right angles.

But, believe it or not, there is a By The Way application to all this. As believers, we are traveling through this life sometimes forgetting that death is all about us. Paul addressed the Christians at Ephesus as "once dead" people.

Here is Paul’s statement in Ephesus 2: 1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (NIV)

As believers we know that we will get through this cemetery of life and death. When we were lost without Christ we resided in the cemetery. But there is always hope where Christ is concerned. We believe in a resurrection. Now, I am not speaking of that future resurrection every child of God is promised when we get a new body. I speak of a present resurrection. Jesus had an interesting exchange with Martha in John 11.

John 11:17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
23Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
24Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
27"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." (NIV)

Notice verse 25. Jesus said that He was (present tense) the resurrection. When a spiritually dead person is saved they experience a spiritual resurrection. And that should be our concern while we walk with the Lord to that heavenly city. We need to walk through life’s graveyards. If we only choose to live and walk among those who are already alive, we cannot fulfill our calling as believers. We have the good news that can bring life to those who are dead. Do not feel that we are lost in a graveyard, but we are working in a spiritual graveyard. The road we walk to heaven needs to go through as many cemeteries as possible.

In John 4 we have an interesting story about Jesus leading the disciples from Judea to Galilee. Notice in John 4:3…He (Jesus) left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. 4 Now he had to go through Samaria.

His having to go through Samaria was not a geographical necessity, but a spiritual necessity. Most Jews, in order to avoid the despised Samaritans, crossed over the Jordan and went north on the east side avoiding Samaria all together. Then they crossed back over the Jordan into Galilee. But Jesus said he had to go through Samaria. Why?: Because there was a cemetery full of dead folks, beginning with a woman at Jacobs well, and concluding with a sizable group from the city of Sychar. He had to bring life to some dead folks on his way to Galilee.

Are we bringing the story of life to the cemeteries of spiritual dead folks as we travel the road to our heavenly city?

THOT: WHEN YOU REALIZE YOU ARE LOST IN A CEMETERY JUST REMEMBER THE ONE WHO HAS POWER OVER DEATH AND LIFE

Thursday, February 11, 2010

WALKING AND PRAYING MY WAY TO ISRAEL(13)

Many of us have been guilty of being critical of the so called “Health and Wealth” message that is being preached by some TV evangelists and others. But maybe we should not be so quick to condemn, instead do a little re-interpretation.

By The Way I have been asked, “are you a Methodist?” and I sometimes reply, “Of course, I believe in godly methods in the way we present our faith and organize our churches.

Some have said, "I am Jehovah’s Witness.” And I reply, “Yes, I am too. I try to witness for Jehovah every day. You know Jesus said that He was the 'I Am' before Abraham. He is Jehovah or as the Hebrew would put it, Yahweh.”

“Are you a Latter Day Saint?” was a question put to me. I immediately answered in the affirmative. “I believe we are living in the last days. And when Christ saved me He made me a saint (see 1 Corinthians)”

“Are you Pentecostal?” was the question. “Of course I am, I believe that the church was baptized with the power of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, and when I was saved I became a part of that church, and now share in that same Pentecostal power. Acts 1:8 says, ‘and you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.’ I have received that Holy Spirit and the Power of God that comes with that experience.”

AND NOW I AM READY TO DECLARE THAT I BELIEVE AND PREACH A HEALTH AND WEALTH GOSPEL.

Now let me explain my position by using the following acrostic. We are dealing with God’s laws or principles of reaping and sowing. Our experience of reality depends upon practicing God’s principles for health and wealth. This works in the physical world as well as the spiritual world. God intends for His children to be healthy and wealthy.

3 John 2 Dear friend, I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. (HCSB)

H E A L T H


Humility … Humility is a necessary virtue if we are to learn to depend upon our Lord and not ourselves. Humility takes the spotlight off us and puts it on Christ. We need humility in order to be healthy spiritually and physically.

Excitement … It is a thrill to walk with God. One cannot be thrilled with His walk without showing it. Excitement starts from an inner certainty of our security in Christ and is revealed in our actions, reactions, and physical expressions. Excitement cannot live where discouragement and depression reign. Excitement promotes health.

Accountability … One cannot be autonomous, that is, having to answer to no one, and be healthy spiritually or physically. All the so called “self-help programs” list accountability as a necessary ingredient to success. We are ultimately accountable to God, but we also need to have accountability to a Christian brother or sister, and to a local church.

Love … Love is not lust. Love is self-giving, lust is all about getting. A person who feels unloved is truly an ill person. But to receive love we must give it away. God’s kind of love is “Agape.” It is a love that requires nothing in return. A person with this kind of love is truly healthy.

Trust … Lack of trust, which is fear and jealousy, can make us sick both physically and spiritually. Trust is faith put to action. We must trust our God, and learn to trust our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Hope … Lack of hope leads to worry and worry leads to all kinds of sickness: sickness of the mind, the body and our spiritual nature. Hope, as used in the Scripture, means to have such confidence in what God says about our future that it is as certain as though it had already happened. That leads to rest. And that kind of rest leads to spiritual and physical health.


W E A L T H

W
onder … Dr. Vance Havner preached a sermon entitled “Losing the Wonder of it All.” He says that there are many Christians that have lost the wonder, the glow, the euphoria of being a Christian. They have settled for a humdrum boring existence. A person like that is poor, regardless of his bank account or his other material possessions. A Believer who still has the wonder of his relationship to the Lord is rich indeed.

Experience … The Christian life is not just an exercise in intelligence or how much we know in our head. It is an experience. We are, as Dr. Blackaby puts it, to experience God. And this should be a daily experience and an adventure. A person who experiences God this way is wealthy beyond measure.

Acceptance … To be wealthy spiritually and physically we cannot simply choose those we want to help and those we want to ignore. In accepting others we are really giving ourselves away. It is the truly rich person who can give themselves away.

Leaving … A person who is truly wealthy knows how to leave a Godly legacy. We know that when we die we leave behind everything that is material. All those material things will rust, and rot away. But there are some things that we leave behind that will last. A legacy of a life well lived means your influence keeps multiplying. It is like a savings account that draws interest, except this is something intangible. Only a wealthy person can leave a legacy like that.

Teaching … I am reminded of a credit card commercial… many things have a dollar value, but other things are priceless. A wealthy man or woman may teach some things that have a dollar value. I have taught a college class for years that has to do with business leadership. It is gratifying to know that some of the things I have taught helped some of my students excel in the business world. It meant more money and that is fine. But more importantly I taught Christian values, and Biblical morals, and it is even more a joy to see positive spiritual changes in the lives of some of my students. That is priceless

Helping … I love to watch the celebrated film "It’s A Wonderful Life." Marie and I always watch it around Christmas time. At one point in the film George Bailey felt that he had been a failure. But when all the people George had helped came to his rescue after most of their money had been lost, he began to realize that he had not been a failure after all. In the last scene in the film a toast was given to George Bailey, "the richest man in town." Old man Potter may have had more cash, but it takes more than cash to make us rich. George had friends because he had been a friend. And as a friend he had helped hundreds of people. Look for the one who is always helping others, and there you will see someone who is truly rich.

THOT: GOD WANTS US TO BE HEALTHY AND WEALTHY BUT IT IS A HEALTH THAT IS NOT NECESSARILY ANNOUNCED IN THE DOCTORS OFFICE, AND IT IS NOT A WEALTH THAT CAN BE MEASURED BY MONEY OR EARTHLY POSSESSIONS.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

WALKING AND PRAYING MY WAY TO ISRAEL

Many of us have been guilty of being critical of the so called “Health and Wealth” message that is being preached by some TV evangelists and others. But maybe we should not be so quick to condemn, but rather do a little re-interpretation.

By The Way I have been asked, “are you a Methodist” and I sometimes reply, “Of course, I believe in godly methods to the way we present our faith and organized our churches.

Some have said, I am Jehovah’s Witness.” And I reply, “Yes, I am too. I try to witness for Jehovah every day. You know Jesus said that He was the “I Am” before Abraham. He is Jehovah or as the Hebrew would put it, Yahweh.”

“Are you a Latter Day Saint?” was a question put to me. I immediately answered in the affirmative. “I believe we are living in the last days. When Christ saved me He made me a saint (see 1 Corinthians)”

“Are you Pentecostal?” was the question. “Of course I am, I believe that the church was baptized with the power of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, and when I was saved I became a part of that church, and now share in that same Pentecostal power. Acts 1:8 says, ‘and you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.’ I have received that Holy Spirit and the Power of God that comes with that experience.”

AND NOW I AM READY TO DECLARE THAT I BELIEVE AND PREACH A HEALTH AND WEALTH GOSPEL.

Now let me explain my position by using the following acrostic. We are dealing with God’s laws or principles of reaping and sowing. Our experience of reality depends upon practicing God’s principles for health and wealth. This works in the physical world as well as the spiritual world. God intends for His children to be healthy and wealthy.

3 John 2 dear friend, I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. (HCSB)

Humility … Humility is a necessary virtue if we are to learn to depend upon our Lord and not ourselves. Humility takes the spotlight off us and puts it on Christ. We need humility in order to be healthy spiritually and physically.

Excitement … It is a thrill to walk with God. One cannot be thrilled with His walk without showing it. Excitement starts from an inner certainty of our security in Christ and is expressed in our actions, reactions, and physical expressions. Excitement cannot live where discouragement and depression reign. Excitement promotes health.

Accountability … One cannot be autonomous, that is, having to answer to no one and be healthy spiritually or physically. All the so called “self-help programs” list accountability as a necessary ingredient to success. We are ultimately accountable to God, but we also need to have accountability to a Christian brother or sister, and to a local church.

Love … Love is not lust. Love is self-giving, lust is all about getting. A person who feels unloved is truly an ill person. But to receive love we must give it away. God’s kind of love is “Agape.” It is a love that requires nothing in return. A person with this kind of love is truly healthy.

Trust … Lack of trust, which is fear and jealousy can make us sick both physically and spiritually. Trust is faith put to action. We must trust our God, and learn to trust our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Hope … Lack of hope leads to worry and worry leads to all kinds of sickness: sickness of the mind, the body and our spiritual nature. Hope in the Scripture means to have confidence in the future as God reveals it as if it had already happened. That leads to rest. And that kind of rest leads to spiritual and physical health.

Wonder … Dr. Vance Havner preached a sermon entitled “Losing the Wonder of it All.” He says that there are many Christians that have lost the Wonder, the glow, euphoria of being a Christian. They have settled for a humdrum boring existence. A person like that is poor, regardless of his bank account or his other material possessions. A Believer who still has the Wonder of his relationship to the Lord is rich indeed.

Experience … The Christian life is not just an exercise in intelligence or how much we know in our head. It is an experience. We are, as Dr. Blackaby puts it, to experience God. And this should be a daily experience and an adventure. A person who experiences God this way is wealthy beyond measure.

Acceptance … To be wealthy spiritually and physically we cannot simply choose those we want to help and those we want to ignore. In accepting others we are really giving ourselves away. It is the truly rich person who can give themselves away.

Leaving … A person who is truly wealthy knows how to leave a Godly legacy. We know that when we die we leave everything that is material behind. All those material things will rust, and rot away. But there are some things that we leave behind that will last. A legacy of a life well lived means your influence keeps multiplying. It is like a savings account that draws interest, except this is something intangible. Only a wealthy person can leave a legacy like that.

Teaching … I am reminded of a credit card commercial… many things have a dollar value, but other things are priceless. A wealthy man or woman may teach some things that have a dollar value. I have taught a college class for years that has to do with business leadership. It is gratifying to know that some of the things I have taught helped some of my students excel in the business world. It meant more money and that is fine. But more importantly I taught Christian values, and Biblical morals, and it is even more a joy to see positive spiritual changes in the lives of some of my students. That is priceless

Helping … I love to watch the celebrated film It’s A Wonderful Life. Marie and I always watch it around Christmas time. At one point in the film George Bailey felt that he had been a failure. But when all the people George had helped came to his rescue after most of their money had been lost, he began to realize that he had not been a failure after all. The last scene in the film a toast was given to George Bailey, the richest man in town. Old man Potter may have had more cash, but it takes more than cash to make us rich. George had friends because he had been a friend. And as a friend he had helped hundreds of people. Look for the one who is always helping others, and there you will see someone who is truly rich.

THOT: GOD WANTS US TO BE HEALTHY AND WEALTHY BUT IT IS A HEALTH THAT IS NOT NECESSARILY ANNOUNCED IN THE DOCTORS OFFICE, AND IT IS NOT A WEALTH THAT CAN NOT BE MEASURED BY MONEY OR EARTHLY POSSESSIONS.

Monday, February 8, 2010

THE DEVIL AND THE DUCK

I have been working on my WALKING AND PRAYING MY WAY TO ISRAEL blog, but I received the following story from one of my church members. Her name is Christine Huddleston. By the way her first book is coming out in a few months. I thought this was too good not to share. May it bless you as it did me
How many times have we thought that keeping a secret was the best way to stay out of trouble? Read this story about what happens to Johnny as he hides the truth of what he did from his Grandma.

There was a little boy named Johnny visiting his grandparents on their farm.
He was given a slingshot to play with out in the woods. He practiced in the woods; but he could never hit the target. Getting a little discouraged, he headed back for dinner. As he was walking back he saw Grandma’s pet duck. Just out of impulse, he let the slingshot fly, hit the duck square in the head and killed it. He was shocked and grieved! In a panic, he hid the dead duck in the wood pile; only to see his Sister watching! Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.

After lunch the next day Grandma said, ‘Sally, let’s wash the dishes’ But Sally said, ‘Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen.’ Then she whispered to him, “remember the duck?’ So Johnny did the dishes. Later that day, Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing and Grandma said, ‘I’m sorry but I need Sally to help make supper.’ Sally just smiled and said, ‘well that’s all right because Johnny told me he wanted to help? She whispered again, ‘Remember the duck?’ So Sally went fishing and Johnny stayed to help.

After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally’s; he finally could not stand it any longer. He came to Grandma and confessed that he had killed the duck. Grandma knelt down, gave him a hug and said, ‘Sweetheart, I know. You see, I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing, but because I love you, I forgave you. I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.’

Thought for the day and every day thereafter:

Whatever is in your past, whatever you have done… And the devil keeps throwing it up in your face (lying, cheating, debt, fear, bad habits, hatred, anger, bitterness, etc.)…whatever it is…You need to know that:

God was standing at the window and He saw the whole thing. He has seen your whole life… He wants you to know that He loves you and that you are forgiven. He’s just wondering how long you will let the devil make a slave of you. The great thing about God is that when you ask for forgiveness; He not only forgives you, but He forgets.

It is by God’s grace and mercy that we are saved. Go ahead and make the difference in someone’s life today. Share this with a friend and always remember:
God is at the window!

Friday, February 5, 2010

WALKING AND PRAYING MY WAY TO ISRAEL (12)

In my blogs I have often used physical realities to express the truth of spiritual realities.. But the fact is, with God there is no harsh dividing line between the physical and the spiritual. All that we are and all that we do intersects with the spiritual.

I remember attending a conference with Marie and several couples from Illinois at what was then a church in Florida where Dr. Peter Lord was pastoring. It was a wonderful retreat. I remember Bro. Lord asking us in one morning session how many spiritual things we had done that day. A few hands went up, and upon asking them the number of spiritual things they had done; some rather embarrassingly would say one, or maybe two, and at the most three. They were thinking about their morning devotional, or maybe a kind word they said to a friend or to their spouse.

Then Bro. Lord asked, “How many of you brushed you teeth this morning?” Every hand went up. Then he said, “Is brushing your teeth a non-spiritual activity?” He reminded us that the Scripture says that “whether we eat or drink or what ever we do we are to do it to the glory of God.” He indicated that some how we had gotten confused between a spiritual activity and a “religious” activity.All we do is spiritual if it fits into God’s overall plan for our lives.” Dr. Lord emphasized.

By The Way I gave you all of this to get to my point. We have been talking about walking with God. But we seem to always make the emphasis a “spiritual walk.” Well, physical walking is spiritual, if that is what the Lord wants you to do. And beyond that, it reminds us of this body that God created. Just to analyze it gives glory to God. I have a paper written by a pastor friend of mine I was in seminary with and have helped in numerous revivals. I include his paper entitled The Human Machine, by Tim Adams because it emphases the power and wisdom of God in creating us. Our body is an example of the spiritual genius of God

THE HUMAN MACHINE

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”

The Human Machine is an 8-part miracle machine of creation:

• 200-212 I-Beams, Angle, U-Joint type material called bone, built to withstand several pounds of pressure.

• 14 types of mechanical motorized, electrically generated aids to ambulation in all directions.

• 1000’s of miles of expandable state of the art leak-resistant plumbing, half with dependable one-way valves, connected to a super pump in miniature model, built for 24 hour service, maintaining constant respiration, nourishment, disposal and cosmetic functions through circulation of 4 quarts of lubricant/cleaner a the rate of 70-80 BPM

• An Internal Waste Management System comprised of 1 self-emptying storage tank for liquid disposal and 27 feet of absorptive lining for the transport and expulsion of semisolid waste.

• A four-part equalized chemical balance injection system built for lifetime automatic revisions in the human model without need for recall to the factory.

• A microscopically integrated internal communication network connected to a central receiving and response station far outranking the complexities of any computerized modern metropolitan phone system.

• All neatly wrapped in two layers of he toughest, thermal protective regenerating covering called skin.

THE HUMAN MACHINE RETAIL PRICE: $$$ Priceless.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeding goodly pearls: Who, when he had found ONE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” Matthew 13:45,46

THOT: WHEN GOD BREATHED INTO MAN’S NOSTRILS THE BREATH OF LIFE WE BECAME A SPIRITUAL BEING.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

WALKING AND PRAYING MY WAY TO ISRAEL (11)

Every place I have visited overseas, the fact that I was a tourist must have stuck out like a sore thumb. I know this because the vendors who were selling crafts or souvenirs would always head my way trying to sell me something. Even if I was not visiting one of the many markets they would often stop me on the street. Most of all my trips abroad was for mission purposes, but lets be honest, I was also a tourist. I guess it is hard for an American traveling in third world countries to keep from looking like a tourists.

But By The Way, when it comes to spiritual truth and our journey through this life on our way to that Golden City, we are not tourist, we are pilgrims. Notice the Scriptural Basis of our Blog.

Hebrews 11: 8By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

9By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:

10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

11Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

12Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

13These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

14For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

16But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Now let me point out some obvious differences between a tourist and a pilgrim.

1) A tourist is on a journey simply for the pleasure of it. His main goal is to have an interesting and enjoyable time. He is there (wherever there is)because it was his decision. On the other hand, a pilgrim is on his journey because He felt a call. His call was not from a tourist agent, but from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Note: 8aBy faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance… Notice, the Scripture says “He was called.” As believers we have a call upon us. We are traveling this Gospel road because God called us to it.

2) Notice also that normally a tourist has an itinerary, where as a pilgrim does not. He travels each day by faith, knowing that each day he will receive fresh orders as to exactly where and how to travel. Note: 8bBy faith Abraham…obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. Abraham did not know in his flesh were he was going, but he was not traveling blind; he was traveling with spiritual eyes.

3) Notice that a tourist is always planning to go “home” after his vacation, but a pilgrim has no permanent home, except his spiritual one. Note: 9By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: Abraham simple sojourned here and there. His tabernacle was a temporary shelter. Today as believers we tabernacle in the temporary shelter of this human flesh. Our real home is in heaven, from which we look and long for our redeemer to come and take us to be with Him

4) Notice that a tourist is looking on the temporal, the earthly, but a pilgrim is always looking through eyes of faith that helps him see a place not constructed by man, but by God himself and is permanent. Notice: 10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. As believers we know the “hear and now” is not all there is. There is a heavenly city to which we travel and our responsibility is to get as many as we can to go with us. We must never lose sight of that fact.

5) Notice, a tourist makes his journey by money, credit card, or by some earthly benefactor. A pilgrim lives by faith. 13These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. A Christian pilgrim lives by faith, sees the future by faith, clings to what he knows by faith, and is not ashamed to openly declare what he knows by faith. A tourist lives in the past once he returns home, showing his pictures, his souvenirs, and telling his travel stories. A Christian pilgrim lives in the present but his mind and heart is focused on the future; the high and spiritual goal of his journey.

6) Notice finally, a tourist my have visited many countries, and may have a favorite one, or he may have enjoyed them all the same, but purely for personal reasons. A Christian pilgrim sees a destination that cannot even be explained with human words. Abraham knew that there was no earthly place that would ultimately fulfill the longing in his heart. Notice: 16But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. There is a longing in the heart of every Christian pilgrim to get a glimpse of that city that has been prepared just for them. A pilgrim knows that city is his ultimate destination where all that he could ever need is supplied, and more than that He will realize his ultimate purpose, and that is to praise his Creator for endless ages.

THOT: ONE CAN NEVER BE SATISFIED WITH A HOUSE HERE WHEN HE HAS A DWELLING PLACE, SPECIAL MADE, JUST FOR HIM IN HEAVEN




Monday, February 1, 2010

WALKING AND PRAYING MY WAY TO ISRAEL (10)

I got out of the house today and ran around doing errands . The main roads were clear of snow and ice, but not all the side roads were, nor were all the parking lots. On those surfaces I could not always see where the center line was, or when parking could not always tell if I was between the lines. But I was doing the driving, and doing my best. There were some whose cars were in ditches or parked in odd positions. Their best was not quite good enough. But what are you to do when you travel territory that is unfamiliar, and you are the one behind the wheel? …Maybe nothing when it comes to traveling the streets and roads around town.

But By The Way if we are talking about traveling the street, the road, that leads to that Golden City, the New Jerusalem, we can do something. In fact we must do something. In John we find this exchange between Jesus and Thomas.

John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

When Marie and I moved to Kentucky in the mid-80s to pastor in Manchester, I soon discovered that there was very little flat ground and no straight roads. Every road had several forks and I must say I found myself lost many times just trying to find the residence of a church member. So, one day I ask my pastor friend, Roger Williams, who was from that area, to take me on a tour and show me how to get from place to place. I did not get lost that day, I never felt nervous or anxious about where we were even though it was often unfamiliar territory to me. The reason was simple. Some one who had passed that way before was under the steering wheel. Roger Williams was "my way."

Jesus is our Way. In fact He is the only way. And he must be the one doing the driving or leading. If he is our way, we can rest in Him and not be anxious or nervous, because He has been that way before.

THOT: IF JESUS IS YOUR CO-PILOT YOU BETTER SWITCH SEATS

Sunday, January 31, 2010

WALKING AND PRAYING MY WAY TO ISRAEL (9)

During this recent snow storm I do not remember how many times the question has been ask by me or someone else, “How much snow did you get?” There is something within our human frame that wants to compare our situation or experience with someone else. Some how we feel a little more privileged if we received an inch or two more than someone else.

By The Way, the same is often true in the spiritual realm. I remember so many times when I was a much younger pastor going to conferences and state Baptist gatherings, and inevitably some one would ask, “How many you running in church?” Or “How many did you baptize last year?” We would always try to give the “ministerially speaking" answer and make it as large as we could without feeling we were actually lying. The truth is, there is nothing spiritual at all about this. The older I get the less these things appeal to me, but before I start feeling proud of my spirituality; I still have to deal with this comparison thing in other ways. Perhaps they are a little more subtle, but they are present none the less. Now I am more apt to look at life accomplishments, places I have been, people I have met, important decisions I was part of, or awards I have or have not received.

Spirituality is not how we do in comparison with others. It has nothing to do with doing more, having more, experiencing more, or being better known that someone else. It has everything to do with our daily intimate walk with God. The greatest and most important call from Jesus Christ was, “follow me…”

I feel I must include a quote from one of Dr. Henry Blackaby’s devotions. It speaks to the subject at hand. Dr. Blackaby is talking about the appearance of Jesus on the sea shore after His resurrection. Here he addresses Peter. He had just given Peter the command to “Follow Him.”

“Rather than responding to what Jesus told him, Peter looked around at his fellow disciples. His glance fell upon John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. ‘But Lord, what about this man?’ Peter asked. Peter had just been given the somber news of his future death. How natural to compare his assignment with that of the others! This is the great temptation of God’s servants: to compare our situation with that of others. Did God give my friend a larger house? Did God heal my friend’s loved one and not mine? Did God allow my friend to receive appreciation and praise for his work while I remain anonymous? Did God allow another Christian to remain close to her family while I am far removed from mine?

Jesus assigned Peter and John to walk two different paths, but both Peter and John have enriched our lives. Jesus knew how dangerous it is when a servant takes his eyes off the master to focus on a fellow servant. Where is your focus? Have you become more concerned with how God is treating someone else than you are with how He is relating to you?”

I have heard criticism of another pastor or Christian worker with the words, “They are so heavenly minded they are of little earthly use. Can we be too heavenly minded? The problem all too often is, we are so earthly minded, we are of little heavenly use.

The Model prayer that Jesus taught His disciples contains the phrase, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” We are to be so in step with our Lord, so intimate with Him that we can be a conduit to bring Heaven’s will to our earthly situation. That would eliminate any human comparison of “spiritual” service.

Note these Scriptural references. John 5:19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.(NKJV)

John 8:28 Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.(NKJV)

We should be doing only those things we see the Father do, and speaking only those things we hear the Father speak.

THOT: IF WE DO COMPARE OUR SERVICE WITH ANOTHER LET IT BE THE LORD CHRIST

Saturday, January 30, 2010

WALKING AND PRAYING MY WAY TO ISRAEL (8)

Snow can be an inconvenience, a hazard, and a danger to be on. But it can also be beautiful and a great way of covering up all the ugly.

We Notice some interesting references to snow in the Scripture
Job 38:22Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?...

Psalm 51:7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Isaiah 1:18Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.


This recent snowfall was beautiful as it came down and as it turned the landscape into a pure white blanket. No longer could I see the grease spot in front of my car, the crack and chip in the pavement in front of our apartment, dirt and debris that had fallen off cars traveling on the street, nor the dead and broken stems on some of the evergreens planted in our flower bed.

Oh, By The Way, God has a covering for the ugly of our lives. Sin is the one thing that cannot be removed by good deeds, reformation, or resolution. It takes something from God to cover our sin, our guilt, our spiritual ugliness.

In the Old Testament, the only Holy celebration for the Hebrews which was a fast instead of a feast was Yom Kipper. Yom Kipper means "day of atonement." It was when the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies with the blood of sacrifice and sprinked it on the Mercy Seat, which was above the Ark of the Covenant, between the two Cherubim or Angels. Atonement and Mercy Seat both refer to covering. One very important item in the Ark was the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments. We could never be saved by those commandments. They simply show us how ugly and sinful we really are. From God's point of view, He looked through the blood to see the law.

The Scripture says in Hebrews 9; 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.or(NIV)

All the ugly is under the snow, but of course the snow is temporary. But all the ugliness of sin is under His blood, and this blood is permanent.
23 So the copies of the real things in heaven had to be made clean by animal sacrifices. But the real things in heaven need much better sacrifices.

24 Christ did not go into the Most Holy Place made by humans, which is only a copy of the real one. He went into heaven itself and is there now before God to help us.

25 The high priest enters the Most Holy Place once every year with blood that is not his own. But Christ did not offer himself many times.

26 Then he would have had to suffer many times since the world was made. But Christ came only once and for all time at just the right time to take away all sin by sacrificing himself.(New Century Version)

The road to that New Jerusalem, that New Israel is a blood sprinkled way, It is not paved with good intentions, creative engineering innovations, or man's artistic and architectural wonders, but it is paved with the blood of a once for all Savior. Praise His Holy Name!

THOT: WE ARE EITHER UNDER THE BLOOD OR UNDER JUDGEMENT

Thursday, January 28, 2010

WALKING AND PRAYING MY WAY TO ISRAEL (7)


Several years ago when were "church planters" in Illinois we were ask about certain words and phrases that were common to us in Arkansas, but sounded rather odd to our friends in northern Illinois. One such phrase was, "gettin ready." So often I would say to some of our mission attendees, "well I'm gettin ready to ....." You get the idea. One day Angela Callan, a full blood Italian, ask me, "Pastor Edwards, why is it that you are always getting ready to do something, why don't you just do it?" I really did not have an answer except just to say that it was one of those Arkansas idiosyncrasies.

The problem is there are a lot of folks getting ready to do something, but never get around to actually doing it. James says in

James 1: 22But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

23For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:

24For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.


Have you noticed that there are industries that have grown up around the popularity of walking or jogging. There are sports store chains that specialize in the latest equipment for the avid walker. Now in order to make my point let us say I have this special friend who really wants to get into the walking craze. He goes out and buys the best walking shoes he can find. I ask him, "How do they feel when you walk?" He replies, "Oh, I have not walked in them yet, I am still getting ready, but don't you think they look great, and stylish, and comfortable?" "Yes," I say, "let me know how they work as soon as you start using them." I don't see him or hear from him for a couple of weeks. Then we cross paths at Walmart. "How are those shoes working out?" I ask. "Oh," he said, "let me show you what I have just purchased, "the latest in walking clothes." They are so comfortable, and I am told they will make my walking so much more rewarding. They are the right color, so it make them safer for me because drivers can see me at a greater distance." "Have you used them yet," I ask. "Oh, no, but I'm getting ready and I will let you know how they work out." I met him a few weeks later, and he was quick to show me some safety head gear. He was still getting ready. Later I met him and he showed me a magazine that was devoted exclusive to walkers and he assured me was really getting some good tips on how to make the most of his walks. It has been a year now, and he is still getting ready.

By The Way, folks do the same thing spiritually. They intend to get started walking with the Lord. They buy the most expensive leather backed, referenced, annotated Bible they can find. They look for a church that suits their musical taste, and look for a pastor that gives encouraging messages and humorous stories. They are just spectators, but they really intend to get involved one day really soon. Years later, they are still getting ready. the truth is, IF YOU WANT TO WALK WITH GOD YOU NEED TO START TODAY, AND HE WILL GET YOU READY.

I remember several years ago, witnessing to an elderly gentleman about his need to accept the Lord as Savior. He was 83 years old. Before I left him he told me he really wanted to accept Christ, but he was not quite ready, and as soon as he got things ready he would make his decision. In less than a year I was preaching his funeral. And to my knowledge he never got ready.

THOT: THE BEST TIME TO DO ANYTHING IS NOW

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

WALKING AND PRAYING MY WAY TO ISRAEL (6)

What does a hair cut, a beard trim, lunch, and a nose bleed have in common? Well, normally, nothing. But with me the the abnormal often becomes the normal. All those things happened to me today. I had today what might be called holy interruptions. Yet they never caught God off guard. He was not at all surprised.

What tied all those events together for me is that in each case there was at least one other person to share the moment with. I went to Paul's Barber Shop this morning and there is where I had my hair cut and beard trim. It was also there that I met three other gentlemen besides my barber that I had meaningful conversation with. None of the three were strangers to me, yet it seemed providential that our lives intersected at just the right moment. In the case of each of the three men the conversation turned to spiritual matters. One gentleman even showed interest in attending our church. In fact I was so caught up in conversation that I left without paying the barber. Don't worry, I did return and honor my debt.

Later on I met Bro. Sam, who would take me out for lunch. It was during our time together that some important topics were discussed and settled upon. Again, the lunch was planned but not what we eventually talked about. But before I finished my lunch I developed a nose bleed, and that prevented us from doing what we had planned to do the rest of the afternoon. As it turned out Bro. Sam made perfect use of his time alone by making a needed pastoral visit. I went home with my nose in the air, only to find someone else, my wife. It was good because she had not been feeling well and I was able to check on her while she helped me with my nose bleed.

By The Way, by now you are asking, where is all this headed? Just hang onto your hat if you have one. My day did not go as I had planned it. I managed to walk 15 minutes instead of my usual 30 minutes and did not get to do my weight room work out at all. But was my day, this one day of walking with the Master a flop? Not on you life. My life intersected the lives of others that I could not have planned if I had worked on it for a year. it was a God thing. These were divine interruptions. Paul in Philippians says something that speaks to this issue.


Phil 4:11Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me
.


When Paul talked about being content in whatever state he was in he was not speaking of Arkansas or any other state in the USA. He was talking about circumstances.

So often when things do not go the way we had planned them we get frustrated, and feel our day was wasted. If God is in charge of our walk, if He is doing the leading, if he is our spiritual GPS, then the day is never lost. I believe that often we accomplish more for the Lord by what others may see as accident or coincident, than we do by our rigorous planning.

When we let the Lord lead the way, life becomes an adventure and we simply wait with anticipation for the next divine intersection or divine interruption.

Join me on the road to the Golden City and have the time of your life.



THOT: GOD'S PLAN SHOULD ALWAYS SUPERSEDE MY PLAN

Monday, January 25, 2010

WALKING AND PRAYING MY WAY TO ISRAEL (5)

Yes, I walked today. By The Way I got to thinking (sometimes dangerous) that walking and praying our way to heaven could also be compared to driving. An old song that was a favorite of my father-in-law was, "Life is Like a Mountain Railroad." I suppose there are endless analogies. But the Lord gave me this poem to express the analogy of driving. Hope you enjoy it.

Matthew 7:13 "Enter through the narrow gate. The gate is wide and the road is wide that leads to hell, and many people enter through that gate. 14 But the gate is small and the road is narrow that leads to true life. Only a few people find that road.
(New Century Version)

Life is like a super highway
But the lanes one way they go
You may pass a lot of on ramps
On your journey here below.

All mankind is on that highway
The last exit means their doom
If you fail to take an off ramp
Then God’s judgment you assume

You got on this super highway
By a ramp when born on earth
You may pass a billion on ramps
Each one for One babe of worth

We are growing as we travel
Understanding signs much more
Soon we understand an off ramp

We must take before life’s or’r

If we fail to take an off ramp

To our journey comes an end
We will wail and cry with sorrow
Hell awaits around the bend

But to take a precious off ramp

Puts us on another drive
It is not so broad and pretty
But this road leads us to life

On this road are many rest stops
Where we stop and sit a while
Where we talk to fellow travelers
And share stories of each mile

There are many places for us
To reach out to those who still
Drive upon that deadly broad way
And ignore God’s precious will

We can see those on that old road
And it often breaks our heart
Just to know if they keep going
We will ever be apart

There are points of intersection
Where we try to those persuade
Take the off ramp that is nearest
Lest all hope begins to fade

Join us pilgrims on our journey
That will end at heavens shore
We’ll enjoy the trip before us
Be with Christ for ever more

rfe 1/25/2010


THE REALITY IS THAT I AM NO LONGER ON THAT BROAD ROAD THAT LEADS TO DESTRUCTION BUT AS A 16 YEAR OLD BOY I TOOK THE OFF RAMP ON TO THE NARROW ROAD THAT LEADS TO LIFE. AND I AM TRYING MY BEST TO GET OTHERS TO GET ON THIS SAME ROAD. HOW ABOUT YOU?

THOT: THE ANALOGY IS NEVER AS IMPORTANT AS THE REALITY.

WALKING AND PRAYING MY WAY TO ISRAEL (4)

On Paul’s second missionary journey he almost gave in to discouragement. Notice the passage in Acts.

Acts 18: 1After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
5When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.[a] 6But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."
7Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.
9One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city." 11So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. (NIV)


If we are not careful we will miss something. Paul is on his second missionary journey. He and his party had been thrown out of many of the towns they had preached in. He left Silas and Timothy in Macedonia. He went to Athens alone (except for the presence of the Holy Spirit) Then he traveled to Corinth and waited for the rest of his group. While waiting he discovered a couple who had been run out of Rome at the order of Caesar Claudius. They were Priscilla and Aquila, who were also tent makers like Paul. After his team arrived he began preaching Gospel. But again the Jews began to make it hard for Paul. They actually became abusive. So in verse 6, Paul essentially says, “I have had it! You Jews can just go to hell. It’s the last time you will hear from me!” Now, Paul was speaking from discouragement. How do we know? Look at verses 9-11. In a vision God said to Paul, “do not be afraid, keep on speaking, do not be silent.” The word “afraid” in the Greek is Pho bi’a, hence the English word phobia. It is in the passive voice, which means it has no object. He is not afraid of anyone or thing, he is just afraid.

Now, you ask, “how do we get the idea of discouragment from this? Look at the word, "dis-couraged." What does it mean? It means a loss of courage. Discouragement is 99% phobia or fear. In this case it was a fear of failure.

By The Way, all of us who are walking and praying toward that golden city, the New Jerusalem (all who have been born again) sometimes become discouraged. And what happens is that it retards our progress, it hurts our influence on others, and it takes away our joy. Oh yes, we will make it to heaven, but the journey is not what God intended.

If we have become discouraged, how do we get our courage back? How are we encouraged?

1. For one thing we have the partnership of friends. Paul had just met Priscilla and Aquila. That had to be some encouragement. Then finally Silas and Timothy made it. They must have helped. The partnership of friends is very important but Paul needed more. We need friends in our walk with God. They can encourage us by their words, their presence, and their prayers.

2. But Paul had something else, and sadly he had overlooked it. He had positive results. He did what we sometimes do; instead of focusing on the positive fruit our efforts have born, we gaze at what we consider failures. That, my friend, will lead to discouragement. Yes, Paul was perhaps in the wickedest city of the Roman Empire. The temple of Aphrodite was located there. Temple prostitutes served “worshipers” twenty four hours a day. But even in that sinful place there were those who believed.

I remember a missions meeting in Illinois several years ago while we were serving as church planters. Several in the group were bemoaning the fact that 50% of all new church starts died before they could really get established. After much discussion, an older gentleman in the back stood and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have a solution for the problem.” He paused for several seconds as the rest of the group tuned in to hear what plan the old man had. Said he, “Just don’t start any more churches.” You could have heard a pin drop. But everyone got the message. We were focused on the 50% that failed when we should have been acknowledging the 50% that succeeded.

3. But the most important thing that encouraged Paul is found in verses 9-11. It is The Promises of God. Note: (1) God said, “I am with thee.” We have the promise of God’s presence. (2) God said, “no man shall hurt thee.” We have the promise of God’s protection. (3) Finally God said, “for I have much people in this city.” God was saying to Paul, "if you stay the course and preach, there will be a harvest of souls. Many will come to know Christ." Paul stayed on for a year and a half. And what God said was true. You see, we have the promise of God’s power.

What a promise! We have God’s presence, God’s protection, and God’s power. Think about it! If this does not encourage us, and take away the phobia, the fear, the discouragement than nothing will.

THOT: GOD DOES NOT GIVE THE SPIRIT OF FEAR, BUT OF LOVE, PEACE, AND A DISCIPLINED MIND. IF YOU ARE UNDER DISCOURAGEMENT YOU DID NOT GET IT FROM GOD.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

WALKING AND PRAYING MY WAY TO ISRAEL (3)

It was the week-end and I thought about skipping my walk today, but it just did not seem right. So I took my walk this afternoon. I am grateful for our mall because it was raining outside.

I enjoyed the time because I made it a prayer walk. I noticed as I had before several others walking, but By The Way, I realized something else. None of the walkers were walking in the same way. Some walked with a faster pace, some with a slower pace. I noticed also that people of different ages were walking. Both men and women were walking. Some who walked were heaver, some were thinner. We were all walking in the same direction, but all in different ways. One elderly lady was simply shuffling along, her stride very short. One gentleman in particular was walking with a walker.

I suddenly realized the spiritual application. All God's children are walking toward that eternal Jerusalem, but we are all different. It does not matter exactly how we walk, but that we walk.
Growing up I was always a slow runner. I was sometimes embarrassed that I often came in last during a running game. When several of us boys at school were on the play ground and someone sayed, "I'll race you to the fence," most often I was the last to make it. I later realized that I was just not built for fast running. Although I am not club-footed my feet tend to turn outward more than perhaps the average person. It make running for me a little awkward. But I can walk just fine, thank you.

God does not look at the outside He looks at the heart. We walk with our feet, but even in a greater sense when walking with the Lord, we walk with our heart. Can you imagine back to the time you were dating, and you and your sweetheart were out for a walk? Did you critique the way she walked or did you simple enjoy the time with her?

I especially enjoyed seeing this one man who had to use a walker. He could not move very fast, had a harder time navigating the slopes, but his walk was just as real, and genuine, and I am sure just as rewarding as everyone else.

Yes we are all different, and yet the Lord loves us all the same. Paul says in Roman 14:10 So why do you judge your brothers or sisters in Christ? And why do you think you are better than they are? We will all stand before God to be judged, 11 because it is written in the Scriptures:

" 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'Everyone will bow before me;
everyone will say that I am God.' " — Isaiah 45:23

12 So each of us will have to answer to God.

13 For that reason we should stop judging each other. We must make up our minds not to do anything that will make another Christian sin.(New Century Version)


Judging a brother or sister because of how they walk or how they look while they walk is simple wrong.

Years ago an ad came out advertising Boys Town in Nebraska. It showed a larger boy caring a smaller boy, with the caption, "He's not heavy, he's my brother." There may be times when we have to help someone up who has fallen on the trail. We may even have to carry some folks, but the wonderful thing is that we are walking with God and toward the city of Gold. We all have the same father if we have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ, and that makes us brothers and sisters.

We're marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion
We're marching upward to Zion, the beautiful city of God

It is important that we are walking with God, but it is also vitally important that we pray for and help others along the way who are also making that journey. Who are you praying for and helping along?

THOT: IN HEAVEN I KNOW WE WILL SING, BUT MAYBE WE WILL BE PART OF A GREAT MARCHING BAND, WHO BEGAN PRACTICING HERE.