God

What do you know about God?

If a stranger came up to you on the street and asked you to tell her all you know about God, what would you say?.

How would you respond? How long would it take you to tell the stranger all you know about God. If you’re anything like me it wouldn’t take much time at all.

I could tell you lots of stuff I know about God. Heck, we talk to each other every day. He shares all sorts of stuff with me. I love when He tells me how he’s answered my prayers. Of course I don’t know a centile of stuff that my Pastor knows or some Bible scholars. But God lets me know everything I need to know to help me navigate life today and hopefully be a blessing to others and honor Him and be grateful.

Of course I can never know all there is to know this side of heaven. But some day…some day I’ll know everything I’m suppose to know. God promises us through the Apostle Paul . . .

“Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Some day we’ll understand it all by and by’

God

Covid here, Covid there, Covid, Covid everywhere

Where were you on February 10, 2020?

Would you have guessed in a thousand years that your life and the lives of your family and everyone you know would change forever the next day?

That’s the day the world was introduced to Covid.

Here’s a challenge for all you brainiacs out there. Can you name at least one person, place or thing, animal, vegetable or mineral Covid has not touched?

Times up. I didn’t think so.

It may very well be that Covid in some form or fashion will become a permanent part of our lives.

What we always need to remember is that God is sovereign, not just over some things. God is sovereign over EVERYthing. And He’s sovereign over Covid. God did not create Covid. But He is allowing it as part of his purpose for us all. And He will bring good out of Covid, even though we can’t see it now or believe it. God has promised that He will.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isiah 55:8-9

God

A visit I’ll never forget

When I finished college, I was invited to play basketball on the Venture for Victory Basketball Team, which traveled throughout Asian countries, playing basketball and presenting a Christian witness. We played about 75 games in ten weeks. Several of them were against Olympic teams from Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Philippines, and Hong Kong. Thousands of people came to know Christ through that program.

One of my most unforgettable life experiences occurred in Taipei. We were playing each night against their Olympic team. Some missionaries invited us to visit a leprosarium that was run by Mrs. Lillian Dickson. She was a marvelous Presbyterian lady who had a remarkable ministry to lepers.

Basketball is really big in that part of the world. Even the leprosarium had a basketball court. It also had loud-speakers throughout the compound so that people could listen to the ball games. We gave a basketball demonstration at the court. Some of the residents not too badly affected by leprosy were able to walk to the court. Others brought their buddies on their backs.

We saw how leprosy affected people at different stages. Some were severely afflicted, while others were in the first stages. I met a man named Chhoe who had been a skilled wood carver. Leprosy took his fingers, so he strapped the chisel to the heel of one hand and the mallet to the heel of his other hand, and carved water buffaloes. He gave me one.

Mrs. Dickson invited us to go to the top of the compound to what she called the “ward nearest heaven.” The most severely afflicted lepers were there. There were eight lepers in the room. None of them had arms or feet. Someone had to feed them and care for them. It was a dimly lit room. None of these lepers would live very long, but the remarkable thing was that each of them had accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. They knew the real meaning of life, and their lives were effervescent with the hope of eternity.

I have been in a lot of prayer groups and religious settings in my life. Never had I been in any room where I felt the power of God so much as in that leprosarium. Mrs. Dickson called on one of our players to lead in prayer. Gary Cunningham, All-American basketball player from UCLA, began to pray, with the use of an interpreter, “Oh God, we thank you for Jesus Christ.”

All-of-a-sudden, the lepers started saying in English, “Hallelujah, hallelujah. Amen, amen.” They started praising God. Gary was unable to continue the prayer. It was just an outbreak of genuine praise to God.

Mrs. Dickson took us outside and explained that when Gary thanked God for Jesus Christ, he thanked God for the only hope those men had. Their focus was not on a basketball game, or earning money, or trying to establish a vocation–none of these were important at all to these lepers. Knowing Jesus and where they would spend eternity was the greatest news they could hear and share!

My life would never be the same after that experience. Today, what are you most thankful for? Where is your hope? What do you love more than anything else in the world? In what are you putting your trust? What is your focus in life today?

Learn from these lepers about real living!

God

Forgiving Tom Sawyer

Tom Sawyer

No. I’m not talking about forgiving Huck Finn’s fence-painting sidekick or Becky Thatcher’s boyfriend. I’m talking about my dad, Tom Sawyer. My middle name is Tom and I got kidded about it my whole life.

Dad was an alcoholic so our home was dysfunctional. I felt sorry for Mom–she took her share of verbal abuse and shaming from Dad but she showed me toughness despite all the eggshells we all had to walk on.

Dad never had THE TALK with me or had even a word to share with me about me becoming a man. Dad introduced me to pornography, which later became an addition of mine. Dad always favored my four-years-my-junior brother, Sam, in everything. I often felt like a lost child.

Dad was sober the last 20 years of his life, thanks to AA. And he turned semi-mellow but he and I remained strained. To be honest, the primary emotion we shared was, I think, resentment.

In a conversation with a counselor last week I realized that after all the ill-will baggage I’d been lugging around I had never forgiven him for all the ill-will he and I both had for each other. With my counselor and prayer and The Holy Spirit I was able to genuinely forgive my dad completely. I left all that baggage for good.

God

Charlton Heston and the 23rd psalm

Someone who knew someone who knew someone who knew Charlton Heston asked the actor if he would come to a party in his home town of Evanston, Illinois to honor a Baptist preacher retiring after serving 62 years as a pastor.

After several speeches and a roast, the MC of the party asked Charlton Heston if he would read the 23rd Psalm in character as Moses, which Heston played in the movie, “The Ten Commandments.”  After several protests Heston reluctantly agreed and came to the podium. He read the verses out of the open Bible on the podium and received polite applause from the folks in the audience.

Then the MC asked the retiring preacher if he would recite the familiar verses as his last official duty for the church.  The aging pastor walked to the podium and recited the 23rd Psalm.  However, when he finished there was not a sound in the hall. There were a few sniffles, lots of  tears, even a few sobs.

The retiring preacher read the verses with such passion and conviction and love for the Scripture that he touched the hearts of everyone, even the actor. Heston was so moved by the preacher’s rendition of the 23rd Psalm that he returned to the microphone for his parting words.

All he could manage to say was, “I know the book,” Heston said. “But this preacher knows the Author.”

God

He’s Alive

God

He sought me

There’s a lyric in the great Gospel song Victory in Jesus that says, “Jesus sought me”. It ‘s in the chorus and it goes like this,

“O victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever!
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him.
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.”

Think of those words for a minute. If you know Jesus, If you’re a child of the king,

He sought YOU. He sought me!

Jesus sought prostitutes and bums and crooked tax collectors. He sought the down-and-outers. He sought the woman at the well at midday who’d been married five times. He sought drunks and derelicts. The divorced. Why do you suppose He sought you? Or me?

It’s our brokenness, our heartaches our depression and our helplessness that attracts him to us; because he knows better than anyone or anything that Jesus is the only relief we can ever find. That’s why Jesus still seeks us. He knows we will not seek him. We’ll seek relief from the world because we’re all so dadgum stubborn and still think worldly.

If he didn’t seek after us we’d never find him on our own.

He’s Alive

God

Please pass the mustard seed

seed

Mustard seeds fascinate me.  They start as one of the smallest seeds in the world. Then they can grow into herbs larger than an adult with sturdy branches large enough for birds to nest in. Jesus taught the parable of the mustard seed in all three synoptic gospels.

In Matthew Jesus said, “. . . if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

When growers plant the mustard seed, the germination process begins. Only after it dies does it start to grow. All the growth and fruit from one tiny seed would not be possible unless the seed died.

We would not be proclaiming the Gospel if Jesus had not died.

We have to die too if we are going to bear fruit for God. We can do all sorts of “good” things. We can pray, read the Bible, meditate on Scripture, go to church, serve on committees, usher and more. None of it glorifies God, however, if we’re not willing to be crucified with Him. We have to die first if we’re going to live for Him.

That’s why Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life I live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

God

My 7 UPS

Everyone needs a plan for living each day in 2022. My plan includes “7 ups” to help me move up each day. These “7 ups” do not refer to the drink you purchase from a machine, nor the delivery service that’s dependent on a human supply chain. My “7 ups” are God and I working together. I share them to ask you to help hold me accountable and consider joining me in this plan.

  1. WAKE UP. Wake up and remember that David said “Today is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24) Begin each day with a decision that God has something good in store for us today and we are going to be committed to following His will.
  2. GET UP. It’s always easy to lie in bed and daydream about what could be. It’s another thing to get up and let God begin to use us. The prodigal son in Luke 15 found himself in a pig pen. He woke up (vs. 17) and then got up (vs. 18, 20) and went home to his father! Check out what his “ups” led to. (vs. 21-24)
  3. FILL UP. Something is going to occupy our thinking today. It could be very negative or very positive. It can be self-centered, or it can be outwardly focused. Paul says, “Whatever is true, good, lovely, good in others . . . brings joy and praise …let your mind dwell on these things.” (Philippians4:8)
  4. SHUT UP. It’s always easy to speak before we think. We have two ears and only one mouth. We need to listen a lot more and speak a lot less. Solomon reminds us that “He who guards his lips guards his soul.” (Proverbs 13:3) Think twice before you speak, and think three times or more before you send an email or text or Twitter message!
  5. LOOK UP. If you walk through life looking down, you will never see a rainbow or the many doors that God wants to open every day. Remember that our strength does not come from other people or ourselves down here, but it comes from God above. Look up to Him. David wrote “I will look up to the mountains from where my help comes. My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1,2)
  6. REACH UP. Always be reaching upward. Every day, we need to have some goal that’s just beyond our reach and will cause us to stretch to reach it. Be sure that it is God’s goal and not yours. Paul said, “I reach forward to what lies ahead. I strain toward the prize of the upward call of God.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
  7. LIFT UP. Focus on someone to lift up in prayer. When you see a person who is down emotionally, financially, spiritually, or psychologically, lift them up. “Two can accomplish more than twice as much as one. If one falls, the others lift him up. One standing alone can be defeated, but two standing back-to-back can conquer, and three is even better!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

What is your daily plan for 2022?

God

What do you expect?

God

For His Glory

God

‘Twas the day after Christmas

God

A Stable tha brings stability

John Ed’s weekly blog. Merry Christmas

We need stability in a world of chaos, confusion, uncertainty, fear, and mistrust. I believe that stability can come from only one place – the Stable in Bethlehem. Here are six reasons why I believe that:

  1. Simple – It was a simple Stable. It was not designed by an architect nor built by a famous contractor. It didn’t have electricity; it didn’t have high-speed internet. There was no media center in it; it wasn’t on the Parade of Homes. It was just a simple stable with a feeding trough and a shelter for some animals and people. A stable Christmas is simple and is focused on Jesus.
  2. Serene – It was a serene Stable where peace prevailed. It was the birthplace of the Prince of Peace. The shepherds had just heard the angel say, “Don’t be afraid. I’ve got Good News for you!” (Luke 2:10) The Stable was the birthplace of the One who said, “My peace I give to you, not the kind of peace the world gives.” (John 14:27) This peace was later described as the “peace that surpasses all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7) That peace brings real stability!
  3. Singing – It was a singing Stable. The entire Christmas story is punctuated with music. Great musical compositions such as Ave Maria, The Benedictus, The Magnificat, and Gloria in Excelsis Deo come from the Christmas story recorded in Luke 1 & 2. Also, Christmas carols tell the Stable story, and Christmas songs are still being written today based on Luke’s account.
  4. Spacious – It was a spacious Stable. I don’t know how big your house is, but it isn’t as big as that first Stable. You might have more square feet, but the Stable where Jesus was born was bigger because it stretched out to the whole world. (John 3:16) The size of a house isn’t measured by square feet – but rather by the size of the welcome mat! Do we welcome people when we go outside our small, immediate family?
  5. Special – It was a special Stable because it was the place where God presented His Son to the world. It was used by God to become a man and live among us. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) Our lives can be special because it is through us that the Light of Hope and Peace can shine today. We are the light to the world. (Mat. 5:16) Jesus has entrusted His Light and His Truth to us to share with others! That’s very special!
  6. Sacrificial – It was a sacrificial Stable because it was the birthplace of the One who would sacrifice His life for the sins of all mankind. The baby who was born was to become the perfect lamb to be sacrificed. Jesus was described as the Lamb that was unblemished and spotless. (I Peter 1:9) Luke 23 describes how they carried Him up to a cross and crucified Him. He was willing to sacrifice His life in order that we might have life. Are we willing to sacrifice our money, time, pleasure, ambition, and comfort so other people might find hope and help?

The only real stability for our world comes from that Stable!

God

He’s Alive

God

Have a “Mary” Christmas

She was a teenager. A virgin. Engaged to be married. She lived a life of quiet faithfulness to God. We don’t read that she was extraordinarily beautiful, nor wise. Nor rich. Nor from royalty. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was, by all accounts, extraordinarily ordinary, yet humble. She lived in Nazareth. an out-of-the way village, probably just a few hundred folks. Nathanael once remarked to Phillip, “Can anything good ever come out of Nazareth?”. It was a place you’d want to drive through, not stop to visit.

After Gabriel announced to Mary that she had found favor with God, after he told her she would soon give birth to the Savior of the World, after Gabriel told Mary her Son would be extraordinary, her response was simply, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

I sometimes wonder why God didn’t choose the mother of the Savior of the world from higher up the social ladder.

I think it was Mary’s quiet faithfulness. Her total surrender to God’s news. Her servant’s attitude. Her humility. All found favor with God.

Have a “Mary” Christmas this year. Never ever feel ordinary. Never feel that you don’t matter or that you couldn’t glorify God with your life, regardless of your circumstances.

God can do extraordinary things through ordinary people who, like Mary, live in quiet faithfulness, humility and submission to God.

God

A Two-Question Christmas Quiz

One of the real highlights of Christmas is the presentation of the animated classic A Charlie Brown Christmas. When Charles Schulz started thinking about creating this television possibility, all the major networks were hesitant. Finally, one network agreed, so the cartoonist proceeded.

Everybody has favorite parts of the classic. We love to see Lucy’s reaction as Snoopy kissed her. We all felt bad for Charlie Brown when the gang turned on him and called him a “blockhead.”

My favorite part of the classic is when a frustrated Charlie Brown steps up and cries out, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Then Linus comes out to center stage, requests the spotlight, wraps his blanket around his head, and begins reciting Luke 2, the story of Jesus’s birth. Linus then says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Linus got it right! That is what Christmas is really about!

I have always been inspired by the boldness of Charles Schulz to include Charlie Brown’s question and Linus’s answer. I have read that while A Charlie Brown Christmas was being developed, the producers again warned Schulz that including the Luke 2 scene in the special would probably jeopardize its marketability. Some of the experts were convinced that the religious message would definitely cause it to be rejected by the networks.

I love Charles Schulz’s response. Those warnings did not deter him. He had conviction. His answer was a question, “If not us, then who is going to do it?”

We are at a point in history today where we need to stand up and share the real meaning of Christmas. We can’t let commercial enterprises or people committed to secular values keep us from correctly answering Charlie Brown’s question!

In December 2016, a nurse’s aide, Dedra Shannon, at Patterson Middle School in Killeen, Texas, was told she had to remove a homemade poster featuring Linus, a scrawny tree, and the Biblical recitation of the true meaning of Christmas. She was basically told that Linus could stay but Jesus and the Bible stuff had to go. Dedra Shannon refused to compromise her Christian belief.

When Ken Paxton, the Texas Attorney General, heard about it, he acted. He cited the “Merry Christmas Law of 2013” which prevented this kind of discrimination. Paxton said to leave the poster up.

I love the way Todd Starnes reported the situation: “Ken Paxton decided it was time to jingle somebody’s bells. He dropped a big Yuletide Truth bomb on Killeen Independence School District. His message was that you don’t mess with Texas, and you don’t mess with Christmas, or you might just find your tinsel in a twist!”

I’m glad that Linus, the nurse’s aide, the Attorney General of Texas, and many others have stepped up to correctly answer the question that Charles Schulz asked. May God increase their tribe!

Here are two quiz questions for Christmas: “What is Christmas all about?” and “If not us, then who is going to do it?” What are your answers?

What grade will God give you on your answers to this Christmas quiz?

God

Battle Hymn of the Republic

God

Clinging to the vine

Tarzan, the ape-man of the jungle, performed all his feats of strength and bravery by clinging to an intricate system of vines. He swung from the west side to the upper east side of the jungle at will. No lights. No traffic jams. Saving damsels in distress, foiling poachers, saving animals, catching bad guys. All his good works (his purpose in life) made possible because Tarzan knew the importance of clinging to the vine.

Jesus knows how important it is that we cling to The Vine if we’re going to live our lives in God’s will.

Many good-meaning Christians still believe that for God to accept them, they must behave a certain way, do certain things, and be a good person. They believe we must read the Bible every day, pray every day, and serve the Lord with good works. On the “Can’t” side of the ledger they believe they can’t sin, can’t smoke, can’t drink, can’t cuss, can’t criticize others, can’t gossip, can’t envy, can’t commit adultery, can’t lie, can’t kill and a whole bunch of other cants. They think, if they do any of those things they will fall out of favor with God. (Paul addresses all those sins in Romans 7.)

The Bible teaches that nothing could be further from the truth. The very last lesson Jesus taught his disciples before He they led him to Golgotha to be crucified was about clinging to The Vine. Jesus said in John 15:5-8, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.”

What do branches do? Do they produce fruit? No. They do nothing. They cling to the vine. That’s it.  When they cling to the vine, Jesus life pours through them from The Vine, through the branches, out to the twigs and leaves and produces fruit. The branches are merely vessels. Clinging to the vine and allowing Jesus life to flow through them. Jesus gives life and bears fruit, but only if the branches remain clinging to the vine.

Apart from clinging to the vine, so Jesus can do His work us, we can do nothing of significance. If we try to break away from The Vine and do stuff on our own, it will amount to nothing.

Are you working hard to be a good Christian (by the way, there’s no such thing as a good Christian)? Are you feeding your Martha complex? Relax. Stop trying and start trusting.  All Jesus asks us to do is cling to the vine and let Him do His work through us.

God

Down in the weeds

Detasseling corn in an Iowa cornfield. It was a good paying summer job for me and my friends.

When I was a teenager growing up in the farmlands of Southwest Iowa I had two summer jobs at two different times. When the corn came in a corn company hired me and my friends to detassel corn. We would walk the corn in four rows and pull the tassels off the stalks all the wat down the rows. Many times the rows were one-half mile long. It was July in Iowa. Can you say “scorching hot“?. We’d detassel four female rows and leave one male row for cross-pollination. Don’t ask.

Walking Beans

Hoeing beans for farmers in summertime for Iowa farmers was work but was fun at times.. Girls could do it too so it wasn’t all work and no play.

Another summertime job we had was walking (hoeing) beans Weeds thrived in the bean fields and farmers had to keep cutting out the weeds. We would walk the rows and literally get down in the weeds and hoe the weeds out from among the healthy growing beans.

We feel “Down in the weeds” in life too sometimes don’t we? We say we’re down in the weeds when the bills just keep piling up and there’s not enough money to pay them. Don’t we feel down in the woods when the transmission goes out on the car when our teenage son just drove it to his girlfriend’s house? Don’t we feel down in the weeds when we hear the bank turned down our application for a loan? Or don’t we feel down in the weeds when the plumber tells us our new dryer is defective?

When we find ourselves deep down in the weeds and can’t see our way out. Let’s call on the Master Gardner to pull all the weeds up and tie them up in a bundle and burn them. He will if we just ask him.of

When we get way down in the weeds we need to always remember two promises God made to us:

  1. It’s going to be OK
  2. And we know that in ALL THINGS God works for the good for those who love him, and who have been called according to his purpose.

By the way, I looked up the word ALL in mu Funk and Wagnall’s dictionary and do you know what it means? All.

God

There is power in the blood of Jesus

God

What part will you play?

John Ed

Today’s post is taken from Dr. John Ed Mathison‘s new book “Got a minute“–a 365 page-book of short devotional podcasts of one-minute inspirational thoughts and messages. Dr. Mathison also writes a weekly blog that I publish here on my blog site.

” I heard about a little girl who wanted to try out for” a part in the school play. Her mother commented how meaningful it would be for her to be in the play, but she knew that her daughter probably wouldn’t be chosen.

On the day that the parts were awarded, the mother and her friend went to pick up the little girl at school. The little girl rushed up to her mother with total excitement exuding from her personality. She said, “Guess what, mom? I’ve gotten a part in the play! I’ve been chosen to clap and cheer!”

To that little girl, that was a huge opportunity to serve. When we don’t get to be the lead in any situation, or in charge, are we willing to assume a secondary spot? Play second fiddle? It wouldn’t be glamorous. It wouldn’t bring much or any of notice, or recognition, or limelight or applause.

It would just be clapping and cheering. Would you be willing to just clap and cheer in God’s drama today”? For that little girl clapping and cheering could have been the starring role.

It is extremely important to have somebody that can clap and cheer. What’s your role in God’s great drama today?”

God

It’s dark outside

When I was growing up in Shenandoah, Iowa, one of the fun things we did in Summer time after dark was catch lightening bugs. We’d get a glass canning jar from Mom. Then we’d seek out the darkest place in the back yard, catch some lightening bugs in the jars and watch them flicker in the jar.

Unfortunately much of our country is living in darkness and getting darker. Our culture, our politics, our music, even some of our churches are turning worldly. our entertainment, our government, our social media, every aspect of our country is bent on wiping Jesus Christ out of our memory, minds and conscientiousness. If it weren’t for professional sports and college football we’d be completely ruined as a country. And I don’t say that flippantly. I mean it. As God’s children face this upheaval we realize that this push to rid the world of Jesus is as dangerous and evil and as wide spread as it has ever been in our lifetimes.

I don’t believe we’re going to have much success impacting our world. The last time Jesus was with his disciples at the last supper the night before his crucifixion, he said this, ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This is a new command, not to be added to al the other commands we already have. “Tomorrow, I’m going to show you what I mean by loving one another. And Jesus example by his crucifixion would turn the world upside down.

What does Jesus’ brand of loving one another require? The Apostle Paul tells us what loving like Jesus looks like:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (from 1st Corinthians 13:4-8)
This is what Jesus’ kind of love requires.

In this ever darkening world, our only hope is to love everyone we encounter ( even those we are at odds with) for the rest of our lives with the same kind of sacrificial love Jesus shows us.

What kind of love do we show one another today?

I’m”

When I was growing up in Shenandoah, Iowa, one of the fun things we did in Summer time after dark was catch lightening bugs. We’d get a glass canning jar from Mom. Then we’d seek out the darkest place in the back yard, catch some lightening bugs in the jars and watch them flicker in the jar.

God

How do we remember people?

How well do we remember people who are no longer living who have made an impact on us, our families, and our nation? How do we adequately remember and honor them? 

I recently officiated at a funeral for a relative in a small town. It seems at funerals we see a lot of people we haven’t seen in years. There was an outstanding young couple there. I had officiated at their wedding. The couple had a little 5-year-old boy who was very cute and inquisitive.

As we left the funeral home to go to the cemetery a few miles away, I asked the young boy if he wanted to ride with me. He said, “Yes.” His parents said that it was ok. I tried to answer a lot of questions in that short ride.

When we arrived at the cemetery, there were gravesites well over one hundred years old. It was probably that little boy’s first trip to a cemetery. He was asking about all those old headstones that were hardly legible. He asked, “Is this the best way to remember people?”

Great question!

One of the great leaders of the Protestant Reformation was John Knox, the founder of the Church in Scotland, which is Presbyterian. He was a well-loved and effective preacher. His ministry was so powerful that Mary, Queen of Scots, said that she feared the prayers of John Knox more than all of the armies of Europe!

When he died in 1572, he was buried at St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. He is not remembered as he should be. The part of the cemetery where he was buried was eventually covered with blacktop to form a parking lot. Knox’s grave is thought to be under parking space number twenty-three. It actually has a small memorial plaque that can be seen only when a car is not parked in the space.

Wow – one of the great shapers of Protestant history – and his grave is now part of a parking lot.

I was shocked to read that the gravesite of Vince Lombardi has been in total disarray. 25 years ago, Gary Martin, not even a Packers fan, wanted to see the grave of the famous coach. He was appalled. Once a month, he drives three hours to keep the gravesite cleared and presentable. He said he just felt somebody ought to remember Lombardi in a better way.

Vince Lombardi
Until Nick Saban came on the scene in college football, Vince Lombardi was considered the greatest coach who ever lived.

Vince Lombardi was known for hard work, discipline, success, and playing the game right. The Super Bowl trophy is named “The Vince Lombardi Trophy.” It takes a NY Jets fan, Gary Martin, to help Lombardi be remembered in a better way. He said he even hopes to place a four-foot-high Super Bowl replica trophy made out of granite on the front of his tombstone.

We try to remember and appreciate people by designating a burial place, but obviously that’s not very effective as evidenced by some of my family, John Knox, and Vince Lombardi. The best way to remember and honor people is to live out the principles and values that they espoused. The best way to make this Christmas a great memory is to live out what Christmas is really about and be an example of what Jesus taught!

How will you remember people?

God

The Man Upstairs

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods gave a press conference recently to discus his recovery from a horrible automobile crash earlier this year that almost took his life. The crash did end his active pro golf career. During the Q and A session Woods made this statement, “I guess the Man upstairs was looking out for me. “I guess Woods was using a veiled reference to The Almighty Creator of the universe. But you can’t tell anything by Wood’s calling him “The Man upstairs.” That could be anyone, but it isn’t the God I know and love. Yes, Almighty God did take care of Tiger Woods in that crash and before that crash and before Woods ever thought about picking up a golf club. And God will look out for Woods until the day of reckoning. On that day Woods will hear the same question everyone who is not already a child of God (We’ll already be in heaven.) “Tiger have you accepted Jesus as your Savior? That’s a yes-or no question. Do I know you?” Wood’s answer will determine where he spends eternity.

How would you answer those two questions?

God

Born to Serve

 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

God has given every person a gift for serving others. It’s what we’ve been created to do. We’ve heard some folks say, “Oh I don’t think I have a gift to serve. I’m not really qualified to do anything. I don’t have any serving skills or training. We live too far from the church. How could we serve from so far away? I’d be hesitant to get out of my comfort zone. But I hear they have all the volunteers they need at church anyway.

Josh Howard was like that in some ways. “I felt unqualified to serve anywhere at first,” he said. “I was really hesitant to try anything out of my comfort zone.

Somebody suggested he try the food pantry and that piqued his interest. “That might work,” Josh told himself. “It’s just handing out food.”

But Josh didn’t count on befriending a lady really down on her luck whose husband was in jail.

One of the volunteers suggested Josh go visit the lady’s husband in jail. Josh recoiled at the idea at first. But something (or Someone–can you say Holy Spirit) convinced Josh to take a giant leap out of his comfort zone and go visit the guy. So he did. But not just once. Josh went back several times and shared Josh’s faith and the gospel with the man and the man accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

Josh returned to the food ministry and sought out the man’s wife to tell her the great news about her husband accepting Christ and becoming a Christian. Well, guess what. The wife accepted Christ as her Savior that very day.

The lady’s husband finally got out of jail. Five days after he walked out of jail he died.

That guy is in heaven today hanging out with Jesus because Josh Howard took a giant leap of faith out of his comfort zone in obedience to God!

Josh will tell you he still felt unqualified to do what he did. But I told him he was exactly the right person God chose for the job. Since this happened, Josh has signed up to write letters to prisoners.

So don’t tell me you’re unqualified to serve. If you’re destined to do God’s work (even if you think you aren’t)God will choose you and qualify you and equip you and instruct you and guide you every step of the way.

And don’t tell me you don’t have a gift enabling you to serve. God has given EVERYone a gift for service.

God

If I could. . .

comparison trap

If I could ever have . . .
If I could ever do . . .
If I could ever marry . . .
If I could ever own . . .
If I could ever accomplish . . .
If I could ever be . . .
If I could ever make . . .
If I could ever get his/her approval

then . . . maybe then . . .enough people . . .or that one person. . . would begin to look at me and say, “You know, you’re alright.”

And if they say that about me, then . . .maybe . . .just maybe . . .I’ll begin to feel “okay” about myself and it will fix whatever it is inside of me that’s broken.

Is this about anybody else out there besides me? Do we sometimes look around at other people and what they have and what they do and how much money they have to make us feel better about ourselves?  Do we sometimes compare our lives to others?

We all do it in some season in our lives. At our core, when we compare ourselves to others to make us feel alright about ourselves, it’s called envy.  Solomon, the wisest man in the world said this:

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4

If we believe Solomon, then every work of ours, every  job, every service, every use of our skills and talents is motivated by envy.
And it’s all worth nothing–like striving after wind.

Envy rots the bones.

There is no win comparing ourselves to those around us.

God

Who is Jesus?

A truth every human being must know and believe today: If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever going to heaven. EVER!

I know there are lots of religious Christians who believe their religion and their church attendance and their good works and volunteering at the food pantry and occasional bible reading and praying for needy people, and consider themselves a genuinely good person will punch their ticket-but it won’t.

Then there are those really foolish folks who say they’re not ready to become a believer. They’ve got more living to do.

“:Once upon a time a rich man’s farmland produced heavy crops. So he said to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have no room to store this harvest of mine?’ Then he said, ‘I know what I’ll do. I’ll pull down my barns and build bigger ones where I can store all my grain and my goods and I can say to my soul, Soul, you have plenty of good things stored up there for years to come. 

Jesusht thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be which thou hast stored up?

Then there are those who believe Jesus was a good teacher but had no extraordinary powers or Godly influence over other men or teachers of the law. He was just a Jew who talked a lot. Some folks demonized him and thought he was from Satan. Others just ignored him or judged him or rebuked him and ridiculed him and thought he was a fake.

.But a few in the crowd came to him believing what they heard, that Jesus was the Messiah and had extraordinary powers of healing, a leper, a Roman centurion, and two men who were demon-possessed.

Who is Jesus this day to you?

If you don’t already have an intimate personal relationship with Jesus he is beckoning you to accept his invitation to become an intimate follower and enter into an intimate personal relationship with him that will last for eternity.


21 
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23

God

It’s all eroding around us

We are witnessing a creeping erosion of everything my generation (Baby boomers) held dear. But the erosion is not limited to us. We see it in our culture, our society, our government, our education system, our family court system, our churches, our banking system, our marriages, our families–you name it, the whole country is on irreversible skids. And it’s not going to get better. It will only get worse.

Before you write me off as a doom-and-gloom blogger and click off my site consider just churches. A recent Gallup poll reflects the erosion in those who claim a church affiliation. In 1937-73% of those surveyed claimed to be church-goers. In 1980 that number slid to 70%; in 2000-it was 65%; and in 2020 the number of folks claiming to be church goers dropped to just 47%.

For millennials they surveyed the surveyors had to add another category of responses. They had to add-“Uncategorized” to accommodate all the millennials who claimed no church affiliation at all.

I blame churches for a gigantic chunk of the mess we’re in.

For instance-When’s the last time you heard, or your choir ssng one of these grand old hymns?

O God our help in ages past

Nearer My Cod to Thee

Just as I Am Lord

Holy Holy Holy

Faith of our Fathers

How Firm A Foundation

O For a thousand tongues to Sing

For instance, When’s the last time you visited a church and all, or most of the people, had their bibles open to the pastor speaking

Many churches today are trying to modernize the Gospel of Jesus Christ and focus their efforts to draw a younger hip audience to their pews.

But young people aren’t coming. The hip 30 somethings aren’t interested in church today. The research confirms it.

What we’re trying is not working people.

God

How are you handling anxiety, stress and worry?

How are you handling anxiety, worry, stress and emotional frustrations? Indications are that we are not handling them well. Here are some negative ways we try to handle stress that end up making our situations worse.

  1. Use of Alcohol. It is estimated that one in five Americans are now abusing the use of alcohol. This is leading to psychological and physiological problems. The number of people seeking liver transplants in the last two years has gone up 50%.
  2. Cigarettes. Many people are turning to cigarettes to calm jittery nerves and bring some relief to anxiety and worry. For twenty years, the use of cigarettes has been on the decline. This past year has seen the first increase in the use of cigarettes in twenty years. You know that the results of this cannot be good.
  3. Violence. Not knowing how to handle circumstances well has led people to act or react with violence. During this pandemic, we have seen a historic rise in homicides in America. Each day seems to have a lead story about somebody who tried to solve conflict with a gun or weapon. The sad thing is that there are so many young people today who don’t know how to resolve conflict except by using a gun. We know where this can lead.
  4. Loneliness. The very nature of isolation has caused us to spend less time meaningfully relating to other people. Some folks go two or three days and never speak to another human being. Depression is a spiral downward that is the obvious direction loneliness will take you.
  5. Social Media. People have made excessive use of social media to look for answers in making decisions. People who post on social media have little or no accountability. You can take most any subject and find opposing viewpoints from “experts.” This is leading us to a confused society about values and best practices.
  6. Lack of Civility. One of the basic building blocks for our nation was the practice of civility. Today you hear and read terrible things being said about other people. Very few people seem to be listening. We are a nation that’s terribly divided. Nobody is completely right. We must find ways to practice civility, which could be an early step towards bringing about unity.

The sad thing is that national polls are showing that over 80% of Americans are very discouraged and don’t think that a “normal lifestyle” that we enjoyed prior to 2019 can ever return.

There is a proper way to handle worry and anxiety. Jesus has the answer! In Matthew 5:24-34, He gives the answer to anxiety, worry, and all the issues I have mentioned above. It’s summed up in these words: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and the things you need will be given to you.”

That’s simple, isn’t it?But it’s the truth! The word “seek” literally means to give 100% effort to discovering God’s Kingdom perspective. The more we seek God’s way, the more we find peace, joy, and purpose!

You choose how you handle these tough times!

God

Let’s play the God’s Sovereignty Game

If you sit down with some friends to play a game of scrabble, when you reach into the bag to pick out your tiles, who decides what letters you’ll get? You? Wrong! God decides what your letters will be. You–0 God–100

When your son flunks out of college his junior year because of misdemeanor drug busts and an unsubstantiated sexual harassment allegation, you write him off, tell him he’ll never amount to anything and kick him out of the house. Fifteen years later he becomes an ordained minister with a beautiful wife and two scholarship athletic daughters and a Navy SEAL son. YOU – 0 God – 100

Let’s say the most powerful telescope in the world discovers in one of Saturn’s rings you spotted a lone maverick molecule floating around in an atom of oxygen floating around by itself. Wouldn’t that prove that at least something out there is outside the sovereignty of God? First–there is no such thing as a maverick molecule. Maverick molecule–0; God –100

You see, God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will freely and immutably, that is without the possibility of changing, immutably did ordain or preordain whatsoever comes to pass.1

  1. The Westminster Confession was a resource for this blog post.1

God

Follow the Leader

The TBK Bank Quad Cities Marathon is a Boston qualifier course. The 26.2 mile-run starts and ends in downtown Moline, Illinois. It carries the runners through some of the most picturesque scenes of our nation’s heartland.

In the September 2021 race, a very unusual thing happened. Tyler Pence is a sports coach at the University of Illinois. During the race, he was far behind two Kenyan runners. Because the Kenyans were so fast, volunteer leaders were not in place yet to direct the runners. A volunteer leader unintentionally directed the Kenyan runners to make a wrong turn. Because of the extra mileage they ran, Tyler Pence won the race. It was the first time a local person had won in many years.

This happens occasionally. In the Venice marathon in 2017, a local Italian runner won the race when the six leading runners took a wrong turn. It is very important to have leaders who can lead. People follow where leaders lead.

When I was pastor at Frazer, we had a large children’s choir program. One Sunday night, the 5-year-old children’s choir was going to sing at the evening worship service. There were 49 of them present. They lined up in the hall outside the sanctuary so they could come in at the appropriate time to sing.

The teachers had done an excellent job in teaching the music. They made one simple error in picking the wrong little boy to be the leader. He had on a new suit and bowtie, and everybody thought he was cute.

The little boy started leading the other 48 children down the side aisle. People sitting in the pews were smiling and commenting about how cute he looked. He began to enjoy it. Rather than leading the children up to the steps to sing, he just took a right turn near the altar rail and started back up the center aisle. All 48 were following him. His mother saw what was happening but was not sitting on the end of the pew. She tried to grab him but was unable to.

I’ll never forget the scene of those 49 children going up and down the aisles following that little boy. Finally, his daddy intercepted him on the second trip around and led him up to the steps. The rest of the kids followed. People follow where leaders lead.

The problem in many churches is that leaders are being complimented and enjoying their leadership role but deviate from the course they should be leading. Some churches just go around in circles because they are following the leader.

When business organizations, churches, athletic teams, and schools get the right leader, you begin to see amazing results. Observe the leadership in any organization in which you are a part. Is it being led by people you want to follow?

Moses invited the children of Israel to follow him to the Promised Land. They followed. (Exodus 6 ff.) Nehemiah invited the people to join him in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. They followed him. (Nehemiah 2,3 ff.) Jesus invited people to follow him, and they did. (Matthew 4:18-22) People follow where leaders lead.

The most important race in town is the race of life. Are you leading people to win an imperishable prize? (I Corinthians 9:24-27) Are you following leaders who are leading to the finish line?Back to my blog

God

Self is a 4-letter word

Besides the obvious spelling of the English pronoun “Self”, like myself, yourself, himself, itself, herself, the word has a negative connotation as well.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’ll do it myself” or said it yourself? My dad used to say nobody could do anything as good as he could himself.

But self’s resources are limited to the tools between his ears. Self has no help. Self doesn’t want any. He doesn’t think he needs any.

The Sadducees and Pharisees had a self problem in Jesus’ day too. They were the teachers of the law. Everything they said or did was motivated to appear that they were very religious and wise and intellectual and self-embellishing. They thought they had a lock on prayer. They prayed on the street corner so everyone would see them And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues.

But Jesus said, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

And to prayer Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Don’t be like them.”

God

Why?

Way down in the core of our being we have to answer this question: Why do we say and do the thing we say and do?

Everything we say or do has a motive. A motive is a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.

When I was in high school one of my friend’s dad wanted to run for city council in a city-wide election in November. It was April. His name was Guy Little. On the first Sunday in May Guy showed up at church (this is a true story. I knew this because I knew the family and hung out with Guy’s son a lot. Guy had never darkened the doors of a church, let alone attend one.) Yet every Sunday Guy would hang around outside and glad-hand members and talk about his plans to improve the city. He attended every social function all Summer. Guy offered folks “Little” bumper stickers and ” Little” campaign buttons.

Guy lost the election. No one ever remembers seeing him at church again.

Guy’s motive was blatantly obvious. He wanted good people to see him campaigning and being socially active and friendly and electable. That’s how the Pharisees acted in Jesus’ day when they wanted to show people how religious and righteous they were.

We’ll examine their motives and the Godly motives Jesus teaches in my next post: God transforms our motives. Don’t miss it.

God

LOOKING THRU GOD’S GLASSES: CHANCE OR CHANGE – LOOKING THRU

Most of us ask the question about how meaningful our lives really are. For some people, life is just a merry-go-round of meaningless activity. Life just isn’t measuring up to what it should be. We hide it in many different ways through alcohol, drugs, extra busywork, overeating, etc.

What do you do about it? If you look at it through human glasses, you might see the answer as chance. If you look through God’s glasses, you see the answer is change. Chance or change!

Chance is when we are not going to do anything about our situation but just sit back and hope that we can be lucky. Maybe something will accidentally fall into our laps. Chances are chance will never solve your problems.

You might see some temporary improvement, but it won’t last. An investment advisor in England has a pet hamster. He decided to place his luck with trading for cryptocurrency with his hamster, Mr. Goxx. When the hamster gets off his wheel, there are two tunnels he can enter; one is for buying and the other for selling. He is currently having some degree of success. The portfolio that Mr. Goxx has produced is up 20% since June 2021. The hamster is outperforming Warren Buffet and the S&P 500, but it probably won’t continue. If it does continue, all that the portfolio produces will not bring about meaningfulness to life.

It’s hard to explain, but the Bible reminds us that even God is in charge of the things we consider to be chance. Proverbs say, “We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.” (Proverbs 16:13) A chance arrow fired into the air killed King Ahab. II Chronicles 18 declares that the soldier firing the arrow was unaware of where it would go, but God knew all along that it would kill King Ahab. Regardless of what you think the chances are, chance will not bring fulfillment in life.

Fulfillment comes when we see how God can change who we are into what He wants us to be. The only way we discover the abundant life is through Jesus Christ who can change us. The Bible says, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation – the old has passed away and the new has come.” (II Corinthians 5:17)

In life, God is not interested in giving us a few little improvements; He is interested in giving us a new life. He doesn’t sew a new piece of cloth on an old garment because He knows that when it is washed, it will shrink, and the hole will reappear. He wants to give us a totally new garment! (Matthew 9:16)

He changes everything – including our thinking. “For as a man thinks, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) Change begins with our thinking. We cannot solve today’s problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.  As James R. Sherman, Ph. D., says, “You can’t go back and make a new start, but you can start right now and make a brand new ending.”

Old roads won’t take you to new places. Only Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6) Are you experiencing the abundant fulfillment in life God intends for you? You won’t find it through chance – you will find it through the change that God can make in you!

Are you relying on chance or change?

Back to my blog

God

Snowball’s chance in hell

When the odds against our success seem impossible, just before we start weeping, don’t we have a tendency to say our odds are worse than a snowball’s chance in hell. Have you been there? I have.

Snowball’s cance

Guess what. God will take the snowball’s odds every time.

Think about Elijah and the gods of Baal:

Let’s see. Those odds were Elijah 1–gods of Baal 450. I’d say those were a snowball’s chance? Wouldn’t you?

Gideon had 32,000 soldiers to defeat the Medianites, but God told him that was too many. God pared the soldiers down to 300 to do battle with the whole nation. That’s snowball odds if there ever was any.

Jesus picked out 12 total strangers to be His disciples and carry His Gospel message to the entire world. Let’s see, that would be 1 Savior to 12 add on infinitum believers and the total just keeps multiplying.

The lesson here is crystal clear. Don’t ever bet against a snowball, especially when God has a hold of the snowball.

God

Two Sparrows and my hair number #539

I have no clue how many hairs I have on my head. I never think about it. I know I don’t have nearly as many as I did 20 years ago. But I don’t care about my hair. But apparently God does. He counted them all.

And are you in the market for some cheap birds? God will sell you a couple of do-nothing insignificant sparrows for one penny. What a bargain.

God favors the insignificant

take the hairs on my head. I could care less about them. They’re about the most insignificant thing about me. Of the few I have left I never give them a second thought’. On the other hand God must have thought my hairs were pretty important because He counted very last one of them.

And what about sparrows? They’re about the most insignificant bird in the sky/ In Jesus day you could buy 2 sparrows for a penny/ Yet not one sparrow fell to the ground outside the care of God.

God favors the insignificant

God

Who is God?

Who is God?

We don’t usually talk about God in casual 

conversation. We know he’s there. We pray to him on occasion. We may call on him. We may talk about him in a bible study or Sunday School class.

Sometimes we may be prompted to call his name. When we are, don’t we usually pick a safe, common name for God like “King of Kings” or “Lord of Lords”?

But isn’t God more than that to us? Here are some other names we can use to call His name and glorify His presence in our lives.

Jehovahweh,   All Powerful One   Yahweh    Almighty One    Creator     Uncreated One     Divine    King of Kings     Lord of Lords   Savior   Father     Master    All Knowing   Holy Spirit   Omnipotent One    I AM    El Shaddai   Elohim     Alpha and Omega

God’s names represent what God does and describes his character. For instance  El roi God who sees;   El Elyon  God Most High; El Shaddai    God Almighty;   Elohim  The Creator;    Yahweh–I AM;    Abba–Father;

There are many more names you could use to call and identify God and invite him to help you with whatever you need.  Follow the link below to find more names of God.

God

50/20 Principle

Remember when Joseph’s brothers learned that their Father Jacob was dead? Joseph had recently been  made second-in-command in all of Egypt and all his brothers had sold him in to slavery years ago. They lied to their father and said Joseph had been killed when they sold him intHe told his brothers o slavery.

WeJoseph every reason to hold his brothers responsible for all the misery Joseph experienced}erienced  as a result of his brothers’ treatment. Joseph spent years languishing in prison as part of his misery.

Now he had the power and authority to even the score with his brothers in any way he chose.

What did he choose to do?

He chose to forgive them

He chose to employ the 50/20 principle–a little wrinkle he came up Ywith himself. 

The brothers were all afraid. 

Now since Joseph was the number two man  in all of Egypt the brothers all feared  their powerful brother would throw them in prison or worse.

But Joseph surprised them.He said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now taking place.”

The 50/20 principle comes from Genesis chapter 50, verse 20, which Joseph told them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.”

God

From the sideline to the front line

As Jesus started His public ministry, He began recruiting people who would be on His team. The people He selected were not influential community leaders or wealthy movers and shakers. A human resources person in our day would shudder in disbelief at the people He called. His priority was not picking five-star recruits, but making every recruit a five-star!

Four of the first people He selected were fishermen. Jesus saw something in them that nobody else saw. He saw immense potential. If you find excuses today for not following after Jesus, remember that He sees you quite differently from how you or others see you.

It’s easier to sit on the sidelines of life than follow Jesus to the frontlines. The sidelines are not the place for Jesus-followers. Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will teach you how to fish for men.” (Matthew 4:19) Their response was to get up immediately, leave their nets and livelihood, and begin to follow Him. They had been sitting on the sidelines all of their lives – now they were following Him to the frontlines.

Matthew 4:19 is the verse that contains His three recruitment strategies. Submitting to the strategies is essential for us today to move from the sidelines to the frontlines:

  1. Invitational – “Come, follow me.” That means that we never question if He made a mistake. Jesus never picked the wrong person. He didn’t tell them where they were going or when they would return. His invitation wasn’t because of their resumes or past accomplishments. His invitation was based on potential He saw in them that nobody else saw. What does Jesus see in you?

    Jesus didn’t invite the fishermen, nor us, for a Sunday afternoon stroll. He said, “If you follow me, you have to take up your cross.” (Matthew 10:38) There are no crosses on the sidelines. It is a “safe place” to be. But the frontline is where the action occurs. It’s dangerous and uncomfortable, but totally satisfying. It’s where we experience the fact that Jesus came that “we might have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
  2. Instructional – “I will teach you…” Now, that’s the best kind of teaching that you can ever receive. He said that He was going to be your instructor, your teacher, your coach.

    When God calls us, we sometimes wonder how we are going to do a certain thing. Our responsibility is not to rely on what we know, but to receive what He wants to teach us. He never leads us to a place that He doesn’t teach and equip us for. And He teaches us by example.
  3. Intentional – “…how to fish for men.” Peter, Andrew, James, and John had been fishing for fish all of their lives. He called them to a new kind of fishing – fishing for people.

    The purpose of following Jesus is to win people to His team – to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. The church can do a lot of good things, but the main thing is bringing people into God’s kingdom. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!!

He’s calling – are you going to stay on the sidelines or will you follow Him to the frontlines? The choice is yours!

God

Two side of the same sign

o

At the bottom tip of England, there is a place called Land’s End. It is west of the English Channel and east of the Celtic Sea. There, you’ll see a sign which has two words on each side. On one side, it says, “The Beginning.” On the other side, it says, “The End.”

It depends on whether you are arriving in England as to whether it’s the beginning or whether you are about to go into the English Channel, where it then reads (referring to the end of England) “The End.” What the sign says depends on which way you are going.

Every day, we read one side of the sign or the other. I talk with people who are on the verge of retiring. They are asking questions about what to do in retirement. I am convinced that retirement can be, for some people, the end, and, for others, the beginning. It depends on what you do with it.

Some people who do not engage productively in life die pretty quickly after they retire because they see it as the end. Conversely, many people discover that retirement can be the beginning of the best days of life. God has immense plans for every person. In retirement, you have more time, resources, and experience than ever before. It ought to be the beginning.

I remember graduating from high school and attending commencement exercises. I always thought that commencement was the end of high school – the accomplishment that you have finished. I quickly learned that commencement really means the beginning, not the end. Finishing high school requirements means that we start on a whole new phase of life. We commence a new beginning.

I see people who get a bad health report and think of it as being the end of their life. They usually don’t live long. Others see it as a beginning of a new phase of witness for Christ. They begin to spend their time more productively. They start doing things they didn’t have time to do when they thought they were healthy. The bad health report is really the beginning.

I have observed people who have had a change in their employment. They have lost their job. Many people see it as the end and just give in and give up. Others see it as the beginning of a new possibility of how God wants to use them. They discover that life is better than ever.

The biggest issue is death. Death is not the end – it’s the beginning. On the cross, Satan put up the sign, “The End”, while Jesus was lifting the sign, “The Beginning.” For a non-believer, death is the end of life. To the believer, it is the beginning of a far more glorious life in eternity!

It is interesting to me that Land’s End is often used to determine distance. Land’s End to John O’Groats in Scotland is 838 miles by road. This is often used to define end-to-end walks and races in the UK. How you read the sign – the beginning or the end – will determine your distance in life!

Which side of the sign are you reading today? The word “beginning” is close to the baseball term “big inning.” I pray the next “inning” of your life will be a “big Inning” – a “beginning.” Read Genesis 1:1.Back to my blog

Satisfying Your Soul’s Thirst For More — Books & Devotionals

Timeless Truths For Turbulent TImes
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John Ed's book "Quotient Quizzes: What's Your Score?"
John Ed Mathison's book Change Change! How to Creatively Cope with Change
John Ed Mathison's book Transformed Living in Tough Times

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John Ed Mathison |Leadership Ministries

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God

Please pass the mustard seed

seed

Mustard seeds fascinate me.  They start as one of the smallest seeds in the world. Then they can grow into herbs larger than an adult with sturdy branches large enough to carry birds. Jesus taught the parable of the mustard seed in Matthew, Mark and Luke..

In Matthew Jesus said, “. . . if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

When growers plant the mustard seed, the germination process begins. Only after it dies does it start to grow. All the growth and fruit from one tiny seed would not be possible unless the seed dies.

We would not be proclaiming the Gospel if Jesus had not died.

We have to die too if we are going to bear fruit for God. We can do all sorts of “good” things. We can pray, read the Bible, meditate on Scripture, go to church, serve on committees, usher and more. None of it glorifies God, however, if we’re not willing to be crucified with Him. We have to die first if we’re going to live for Him.

That’s why Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life I live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Need to move any mountains?

God

Confrontation

hf

If Jesus had  a middle name it could likely have been confrontation.   Every time he turned around he was in a confrontation with somebody. Usually it was  the Jewish bigshots  arguing with Jesus about the law. The Jewish leaders followed Jesus around all the time trying to catch him breaking a Jewish law, like working on the Sabbath, or healing a Leper when the law said not even to touch one.

Well here’s a good example:  One Sabbath Jesus was teaching in the synagogue.  Of course the scribes and Sadducees we’re all watching him to see what he would do. They wanted him to break a Jewish law so they could arrest him or shame him in front of all the Jewish people.

But he knew their thoughts.  Jesus knows everything about everybody all the time. Nothing was is hidden from Jesus. He called the man over to him. The man stood with Jesus. Jesus looked at all of the Jewish bigshots who were watching intently. He asked them a pointed question that pitted Jewish law against the ministry of healing love He was advocating. “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm to save life or to destroy it?”  Then he looked around at all of them. (I wonder what he must have been thinking about them then?) Jesus told the man to hold out his arm. When he held out his arm it was immediately healed.  The Jewish big shots were furious. They started talking among themselves wondering what they could do to Jesus.

God

The bottom line

All the prayers have been lifted up. Your wife is already in heaven waiting to see if you’ll join her. You got your very last social security check. Your house sold. Both your kids and their families are living their lives out in Utah. Your three grandkids visited for the last time in August. All three of your best friends you played gin rummy with in the park every Saturday have all died.

The Holy Spirit whispered in your ear this morning at breakfast.,” Tonight your soul will be required of you. Jesus will come for you tonight.”

Okay, life as you know it is over. There is only one decision left to make. Just a few hours from now you’re going to go to hell or heaven. You won’t be making that decision. Jesus will. And where you go depends entirely on how Jesus knows you will answer this question–Did you have a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s His bottom line. There is no other criteria. If you did have a personal intimate relationship with Jesus you’ll be in heaven tonight and probably spend some quality time with your wife and maybe play a little gin rummy with your buddies.

If not…well I don’t even want to think what its going to be like where you’re going.

If you’ve still got some life left to live you might want to consider how you’ll answer Jesus’ bottom line one day.

God

Spiritual Warfare

When I started playing basketball, you didn’t have many choices for shoes. There was one brand. You could either get high tops or low tops. Later, you could get either black or white. Today, it’s hard to count the number of choices.

Another choice was introduced on July 27, 2021. The new version of the classic Chuck Taylor All Star shoes was introduced with features of a satanic pentagram symbol on the tongue of the shoe. I am sad to say that they sold out the first day at $170 a pair. The designer, Rick Owens, said that he wanted to develop a shoe with a message that offers an alternative to life. Advocating a satanic approach to life is certainly an alternative – but it is a false alternative.

Make no bones about it, friends – we are in spiritual warfare. Even the shoes that kids are buying could have a satanic message. Obviously, they think that the Christian faith is not sufficient, so there needs to be an alternative.

A musician and art collective tried this earlier in 2021 when they sold 666 pairs of modified Nike’s Air Max 97s called “Satan Shoes.” Supposedly, the shoe contained a drop of human blood in the sole.

Jesus was very clear when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) Peter said, “There is no other name under Heaven whereby a person may be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Those statements leave no room for “an alternative system.”

We are in spiritual warfare. The Bible is clear that we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against world forces of darkness and spiritual forces of wickedness and schemes of the devil. Therefore, put on the full armor of God! (Ephesians 5:10-19)

One Christian author has spoken out and said, “Satan knows his time is short and is intensifying his activity to deceive and destroy souls. I pray that Christians understand how real the war is and they do the same, but in order to save souls that would otherwise be lost.”

An observer said, “A company has sold its soul to partner with darkness. It’s more than just a marketing gimmick. So many companies of commerce are under the sway of the wicked one.” Another response was, “This is definitely not a fashion statement. This is just another way the devil promotes himself whether you realize it or not.”

We are in spiritual warfare. Good news!! Paul said, “I am an ordinary weak human being, but I don’t use human plans and weapons to win my battles. I use God’s mighty weapons that can break down the devil’s strongholds. . .and every wall that can be built to keep men from finding Him. With these weapons I can capture rebels…and change them into men who desire obedience to Christ.” (II Corinthians 10:3-5) Hallelujah!!

Are you ready for battle? All it takes for the devil to win is for God’s people to be spectators safely and silently positioned away from the lines of battle. Get off the sidelines and move to the frontlines!

One person said, “It is spiritual warfare. Dark versus light. Spoiler: God wins!”

I say, “Amen.”

God

What are “the things above”?

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. Janes 1:17

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Ephesians 1:3

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ , set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

So lets drill down to some basic truths about things above.

1. Christ is in God at his right hand.

2. Christ has blessed US with every (every) spiritual blessing.

3.We have died and spiritually we live in Christ above.

4. We have a new life down here on Earth and above.

Let’s look at another critically important word “above” in these passages. “SET” it means –“put, lay, or stand (something) in a specified place or position. Paul uses set in two different places, to set. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things and Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated- at the right hand of God. 

As followers of Christ our gaze should be fixed in a a special place–on Christ and God above as we live out our new lives as Christ’s disciples.

Blessings

There are more blessings than we can count. And who has every one? We do. Where are they? In Christ and God above. They are the things above.

compassion love patience kindness humility gentleness forgiveness salvation self control the indwelling of the Holy Spirit giving hope peace sanctification justice knowledge joy

And these blessings don’t even qualify as the tip of the iceberg

If we have them, how can we take advantage of them? We must appropriate each one of them from Christ as we need them or choose to minister or witness by using them. We set our hearts and minds on Christ in God above.

God

It is FINISHED!

God

Black Gospel Singers have an extra vocal chord

Very few people in the music industry are aware of this little known fact– Black Gospel singers are born with an extra vocal chord. The extra vocal chord is the reason Black Gospel singers can sing circles around theri lilly white counter parts. Always have. Always will.

To prove it let’s take a great song by Jim Croce. “Operator” and listen to two version, the first by the all-White singing group, Manhattan Transfer, then the Black Gospel version of the same song by Jesse Dixon and the Black Gospel group Signature Sound.

He who has ears let him hear.

Manhattan Transfer

the Black Gospel extra vocal chord group

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God

What is real life to you?

A VISIT I’LL NEVER FORGET!

When I finished college, I was invited to play basketball on the Venture for Victory Basketball Team, which traveled throughout Asian countries, playing basketball and presenting a Christian witness. We played about 75 games in ten weeks. Several of them were against Olympic teams from Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Philippines, and Hong Kong. Thousands of people came to know Christ through that program.

One of my most unforgettable life experiences occurred in Taipei. We were playing each night against their Olympic team. Some missionaries invited us to visit a leprosarium that was run by Mrs. Lillian Dickson. She was a marvelous Presbyterian lady who had a remarkable ministry to lepers.

Basketball is really big in that part of the world. Even the leprosarium had a basketball court. It also had loud-speakers throughout the compound so that people could listen to the ball games. We gave a basketball demonstration at the court. Some of the residents not too badly affected by leprosy were able to walk to the court. Others brought their buddies on their backs.

We saw how leprosy affected people at different stages. Some were severely afflicted, while others were in the first stages. I met a man named Chhoe who had been a skilled wood carver. Leprosy took his fingers, so he strapped the chisel to the heel of one hand and the mallet to the heel of his other hand, and carved water buffaloes. He gave me one.

Mrs. Dickson invited us to go to the top of the compound to what she called the “ward nearest heaven.” The most severely afflicted lepers were there. There were eight lepers in the room. None of them had arms or feet. Someone had to feed them and care for them. It was a dimly lit room. None of these lepers would live very long, but the remarkable thing was that each of them had accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. They knew the real meaning of life, and their lives were effervescent with the hope of eternity.

I have been in a lot of prayer groups and religious settings in my life. Never had I been in any room where I felt the power of God so much as in that leprosarium. Mrs. Dickson called on one of our players to lead in prayer. Gary Cunningham, All-American basketball player from UCLA, began to pray, with the use of an interpreter, “Oh God, we thank you for Jesus Christ.”

All-of-a-sudden, the lepers started saying in English, “Hallelujah, hallelujah. Amen, amen.” They started praising God. Gary was unable to continue the prayer. It was just an outbreak of genuine praise to God.

Mrs. Dickson took us outside and explained that when Gary thanked God for Jesus Christ, he thanked God for the only hope those men had. Their focus was not on a basketball game, or earning money, or trying to establish a vocation–none of these were important at all to these lepers. Knowing Jesus and where they would spend eternity was the greatest news they could hear and share!

My life would never be the same after that experience. Today, what are you most thankful for? Where is your hope? What do you love more than anything else in the world? In what are you putting your trust? What is your focus in life today?

Learn from these lepers about real living!

God

Southern Comfort

God

Love is like a river

God

One more river to cross

God

When Christmas Gets Radical! Who’s Birthday Is It Anyway?

Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog by Ann Voscamp, one of my new-found Christian blogging friends. She gave me permission to re-post a portion of her message here.

Ann is married to a farmer and the couple has six children, which Ann home schools. How and when she finds time to write and blog is one of those mysteries of the universe. Ann is an accomplished writer. She writes for DaySpring’s site, (in)Courage, is a contributing editor for The High Calling, with articles in ChristianityToday.com and The Beacon.  “Now and then, I stand before microphones and pray hard before I speak,” she said.  “I scratched out words in an award-winning series for curious kids, A Child’s Geography (Knowledge Quest Press, 2007), of which all profits are donated to Compassion. To read the rest of her story, follow this link to her blog after you read this special Christmas message.  I believe some, if not all, of the photos here she took as well.”
Enjoy.

It’s been over ten years of nothing under the Christmas tree here.

Strange, the way children teach men.::

It was dark, I do remember that. Bedtime. Smoothing back hair, kissing foreheads.

One round moon hanging large outside the window, an ornament dangling off stars, decorating the night.

I had gifts to wrap. So, pull up the blankets. Prayers. And then, when I’m at the door, one hand on the door

frame, resting in the light of the hallway, I turn to close the door a bit on the dark.

He stops me with just one question:

“What does Jesus get for His birthday?”

The words hung… strung me up.

I say the words into the black. Um… A cake? Our love?

I can hear him turn again in the bed, roll over on the pillow. Restless…

“But Mom…. if we get wrapped presents for our birthdays, real sacrifices from people who love us — they gave up other things to give something to us — then why don’t we do that for Jesus’ birthday?”

I stand at the door looking into all that light cast down the hallway.

Why is the sky blue, why do we blink, how do clouds hold all that water, the children ask me a thousand questions and the world spins dizzy on a million questions I don’t know the answers to.

I stand in the dark, the light right there, and I grope for the answer that could change the world…

“Why don’t we give up things so we can give to Jesus for His birthday?”

Is it always this way, that a little child will lead them?

He was four or five that year, I can’t remember. I just know that now he’s fifteen and I stepped out into the light and we’ve done all the Christmases since his way, giving away. It’s not at all wrong to do it differently, but just for us… all the Christmas gifts — gifts for the Christ Child.

I shamefully confess I thought it would somehow make me sad. I am a very slow learner.

How could I have thought that only love under the tree would do anything but make our happiness flourish?

The Birthday Child tells us what He wants: Give to the least of these and you give to Me.

So this is how we do it: We pick out gifts from His gift catalogues — Compassion Catalog, Samaritan’s Purse Catalog, Partner’s International Catalog, World Vision Catalog, Gospel for Asia Catalog, Mennonite Central Committee Catalog.

It happens after breakfast, each day for the last two weeks of Advent, selecting one gift for He who is Christmas.

They flip pages, deciding on what to give Him today:
“Anyone think we should get a pair of rabbits today?”

“I was thinking mosquito nets. Two. I wouldn’t want to die of malaria.”

“If we buy a seed packet for a family, our gift is tripled.”

“Did you read the story on page 25 about what a difference it makes for an orphan family . . .continue reading Ann’s When Christmas Gets Radical on her site.

Resources:

Compassion Catalog

Samaritan’s Purse Catalog

Partner’s International Catalog

World Vision Catalog

Gospel for Asia Catalog

Mennonite Central Committee Catalog

God

Ain’t nobody do me like Jesus

God

Can you wrap your mind around this thought?

Stop what you’re doing for a minute. Clear your head, close your eyes and think about this:

The same God who spoke light into existence, created earth and all the planets and stars, and everything that has ever been created–that same great and awesome God is going to come up to you one day, call you by name and put his arm around you and say “ Your name, it’s time. Come on home with Me. I want you to live with Me forever in heaven. You’re going to love it.”