God

Make the most use of your name

The name of Judas has become synonymous with "traitor."

MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR NAMEAbout twenty years ago, I received a phone call from a Mrs. Ima Peace from Magnolia, Arkansas. She watched our worship services on television. She invited me to come to her church to deliver a lecture series that she had endowed.

I told her that I had a policy to be away from Frazer for a preaching mission only once each quarter. She asked me when I could come, and I told her it would be four years. She said, “That will be fine. I just want to stay alive until you get here.” I then asked about her age, and she proudly said that she was ninety-two. That put some pressure on me.

Lynn and I went to Magnolia four years later. Mrs. Peace came to the airport in Shreveport to meet us. She had us staying in a nice bed-and-breakfast. She gave Lynn an envelope with two $100 bills and said that she wanted her to buy something in Magnolia. That had never happened before or since!

Mrs. Ima Peace still lived by herself. She insisted we eat one meal with her, which she cooked. It was delicious.

When I inquired about her name, Ima Peace, she proudly told me that she was named after one of the daughters of the 20th Governor of Texas, James Stephen “Big Jim” Hogg. She smiled and told us that the Governor had two daughters – Ima and Yura. She was glad that she was named Ima!

I didn’t know if she was kidding. Governor Hogg did have a daughter named Ima, but most people thought Yura was just a fictional character created by writers unfriendly to the Governor. Mrs. Ima Peace was proud of her name!

Each of us needs to be proud of our name. A Nova Scotia man has been told that he cannot use his vanity license plate, which bears his surname, “Grabher,” because it’s socially unacceptable.

It’s special to him because his son, Lorne Grabher, had the vanity plate made especially for his father in 1991, but now the Registry for Motor Vehicles has informed him that he can not use the plate anymore because it sounds like “Grab her.”  Grabher has challenged the ruling because he says, “My father always instilled in us that we should be very proud of our name.”

You had little to do with the name you received, but each of us has everything to do with whether or not we are proud of that name. And, more importantly, that we make other people proud of that name.

Whatever your name meant in the past, we need to make it good for the future. The very mention of a person’s name places a picture in the mind of everyone who hears it of what that name has come to mean. A good name produces good images. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be more desired than great riches. Favor is better than silver or gold.”

There are two Biblical characters who could have made something good of their names but failed miserably. Jesus picked “Judas” to be a disciple, but his name became known as “traitor.” Paul selected “Demos” to help him, but Demos left him because “he loved the present world more.” Met anybody lately named Judas or Demos?John Ed Mathison |Leadership Ministries


There are two Biblical characters who could have made something good of their names but failed miserably. Jesus picked “Judas” to be a disciple, but his name became known as “traitor.” Paul selected “Demos” to help him, but Demos left him because “he loved the present world more.” Met anybody lately named Judas or Demos?

Don’t miss our Weekly Video Message from John Ed on “Got A Minute”.

God

The Healer

By Helen Murray

Guest Author

“…a ruler came and knelt before him (Jesus) and said, ‘My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.‘ Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.
Just then, a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.” Matthew 9:18-22 and Luke 8:40-48

healer

That was me. Oh, that day. I think my life began that day. That was the day that Jesus raised that man’s little girl from the dead – it was a day that everyone in our town talked about for months. She was dead! She had been ill for a while and she got worse and worse and then she passed away. I didn’t know them well but word spreads quickly and that morning as I lurked by the roadside waiting for him to pas by I heard that she had finally died. Nobody told me, but I overheard. Of course, nobody would come and talk to me. Not for a long time. Far too much hassle to talk with or touch someone like me. Unclean and had been for ages. If you spent time with me you had to go and be purified afterwards.I think they thought that I deserved it, though nobody came out and said that. At first people had been sympathetic but then it just went on and on and nothing changed and here was I, the woman who couldn’t be purified. Surely I’d done something to deserve this outcast label. It was my comeuppance for some crime. Some act, some words that condemned me to constant, draining illness. That’s what they thought, I’m sure. And if they associated with me too much, it might be catching.I thought it would kill me, to be honest. You can’t bleed incessantly for so long, can you, and still live? I felt so ill. Always weak, no energy. Even fetching water was a struggle and there were days when I could barely function, but I had to keep going. It was a half-life. Physically and emotionally. I longed for company and acceptance and affection just as much as I longed for health.Maybe I had done something wrong. I’d tried everything but nothing helped. Night after night I went to bed hoping that maybe the morning would not come for me, but it did.And then I heard rumours of this man, who was doing amazing things. Things that made people marvel and wonder. The stories arrived in our village way before he did and that’s why the road was busy that morning. I wanted to see him, this miracle worker.

helen bio image

The women were talking about the little girl who had died. Far away in the crowd someone was wailing and the word was that the girl’s father was too late; the healer was busy with the living. I saw his face, this grieving daddy, and it was set with determination. He had pain in his eyes but not despair. He believed in this man, Jesus. He thought that it wasn’t too late at all.I was amazed. I couldn’t take my eyes from him. He followed the slow progress of Jesus through the throng. Jesus wasn’t coming quickly enough, and the man pushed through. A few people knew who he was and stood back to let him past, while a few others pulled at him and told him not to be so stupid – it was too late for his daughter; he teacher had better things to do; but he was not having it.He fell in front of Jesus and opened his arms wide. Looking up at him, the father laid it out.‘My daughter is dead, but I know that you can still help. Touch her, and bring her back to life?’A hush fell as the crowd waited to see what the healer would say. He looked into the man’s eyes for a moment and smiled. He turned to go with the man, who rose to his feet.In that moment I knew. I knew that the little girl would be fine, I knew that her daddy would be celebrating this afternoon. I knew that the stories were true. I knew that I needed Jesus to help me too.I don’t think I really had any idea what I was going to do, at that pivotal moment in my life. I just lurched into the crowd towards the healer. Me, the one who is unclean, supposed to keep my distance for everyone’s protection – I pushed my way through the throng. I used my elbows and my shoulders and with my head down, I weaved my way towards Jesus before he disappeared.There he was. He was saying something to the man whose little girl lay dead. It’s a good job the crowd was so thick that they made slow progress, for I was so weak that I could not have kept up my pursuit for long. I reached out. I reached for him, and my fingers closed around a fold of his cloak as it fell in folds over his shoulder. I didn’t mean to pull at him, I wouldn’t have dared. I just needed to touch him. I just needed to be near. If he could raise a child from the dead then he could give my life back to me too.The moment I grasped the rough fabric of his cloak, he stopped. I let go immediately and shrank back. It wasn’t difficult to disappear as the crowd was a living thing that swelled around the healer and straight away I was consumed. He turned.Jesus turned and looked around him. His friends were close by and he asked them, ‘Who touched me?‘The big guy with the beard laughed. He gestured to the crowd.‘You’ve got to be kidding. They all touched you!’ But Jesus knew something. I don’t know if he felt something, or sensed something, or he just felt the little brush of my fingers against his clothes. I stood, frozen.‘I know someone touched me. Who touched me?’ The crowd slowed and quieted. The teacher was doing something else. People shook their heads and looked around. Nobody deliberately touched him. What did he mean?Oh no. Oh no. It was me. What on earth should I do? At that moment my head was full of noise. What would this man think when he found out who had touched him? I shouldn’t even have been there, let alone in the middle of a crowd. Let alone brazen enough to touch this man that they were calling holy.Not me, approach the holy one?My knees gave way and I fell down. The couple in front of me stepped aside and there he was, standing by me. The tears came, then. They started to fall and I couldn’t stop them. I covered my face with my hands in shame and humiliation and I sobbed. There was nothing else I could do.I told him who I was and what was happening to me. Ill for so many years, ostracised and shunned by family and friends and people at the synagogue. Pushed away, weak and lonely and unwanted. I told him that I’d seen him and known that he was my only hope. I confessed that I’d pushed my way through the crowd because I selfishly wanted to touch him. I told him that I was sorry, that I was undeserving. It all came out; the hopelessness, the shame. My nose was running and I could barely speak for sobs. I was aware of the gaze of the people around me. A few recognised me and I saw disapproval in their eyes.I finally raised my anguished face to the healer.  He was gentleness. He looked intensely into my eyes, and I knew at that moment, I knew. I’m not sure what I knew, but it all seemed to come together; it was alright. Time stopped. I held my breath. For a second it was as if he and I were the only people in the world. I saw honesty and compassion and pain in his eyes. There was recognition – he knew me; he saw me. He knew what I’d been through and he felt for me. He understood me, he forgave me, he loved me…He had healed me.I felt something, or the lack of something. My hand flew to my stomach and my eyes widened as I stared at the One who had made me whole again. Suddenly there was no ache, no dragging, no burning – no pain. I felt a surge of strength. and hope. I knew that it was over, after all this time; that life was perhaps worth living after all.‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’I will remember those words all my life. I treasure them. I will never forget his low, clear voice. The intimacy of that moment. I can remember the kindness of his eyes as they crinkled at the corners with his smile. He gave hope to a hopeless woman.You know that peace? The peace in his blessing? It never went away. I have it still.I looked into his face and I knew who he was. I will tell my story to anyone who will listen. I will never stop praising the One who healed me.That day he healed me; he saved me.Jesus. My Saviour.

‘Heal me and I will be healed. Save me and I will be saved, for you are the One I praise.’

God

Just 50 years ago. . .

The Beatles on Ed Sullivan

I grew up in the 1960’s with JFK, the Beatles, Walter Cronkite, Selma, Apollo 11, Martin Luther King, Civil Rights struggles, Woodstock, Hank Aaron, Bob Dylan, Vietnam, 31cents-a-gallon gas, and Jim Brown.

It was still pretty much a man’s world. A woman’s place was still in the home. She didn’t have a credit card. Why, of course she wouldn’t know how to use one. (Pause to laugh.)

Housekeeping Monthly published an article back then called “The Good Wife’s Guide”. The magazine instructed women to “have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return.” Also, you should “touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair, and be fresh-looking.” And don’t forget, “catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.” And for god’s sake, don’t assume he gives a crap about anything you have to say, because his topics of conversation are more important than yours.”1

I miss my often serene childhood growing up in a small Southwest Iowa farming community.

That life is but a distant blessing in my life story.

Life will never be the same. Better, but never the same.

The ’60s were a golden age, indeed.

1Bizarre Things People Believed 50 Years Ago (grunge.com)

God

Somebody’s gotta step up

It’s time for somebody to step up and shout, “Enough is enough!” We must reverse the nasty divide we are propagating in this country–politically and socially.

I realize that millions of folks out there are upset because Trump didn’t get reelected as president for a second term. But there’s nothing any of them can do about it. He can claim he won the election by a landslide. He did not. He lost. He can claim the election was stolen. He can insight his supporters to rebel in insurrection and destroy property. He can call his second impeachment a witch hunt.

President Biden

What he can not do is change the outcome. Joe Biden is President now and will be for the next four years. Trumpers get over it. Trump get over it.

What Trump and his supporters could do is admit defeat and be willing to contribute their energy and efforts to seeking ways to help bring unity and peace back to America.

NOW THAT would help make America GREAT AGAIN.

Unfortunately neither Trump or his supporters seem interested in promoting peace or helping heal the deep political and social wounds we live with. To me, they appear committed to seeing what more they can do to rip the fabric of this wonderful country further and further apart.

Who’s going to stand up and shout “Enough is enough.”

Where is Martin Luther King when you need him?

It’s going to take someone with King’s passion and deep spiritual insight and relationship with God to ever pull it off. I don’t know of any candidates now. Does anyone out there?

In the mean time we can be seeking God’s intervention . . .

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14.

God, Heaven

I’m going to heaven, how about you?

Are you positive you’re going to heaven? I am. But are you positive you’re going to heaven?

You might ask me how do I know for sure that I’m going to heaven?

I’ll tell you. It’s simple.

It has nothing to do with my beliefs. It has nothing to do with my religion. It has nothing to do with church. It has nothing to do with my faith. It has nothing to do with the fact that I’ve been faithful to my wife for 28 years.

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God

I FOUND BETTY JEAN DAVIS!

Well, I didn’t actually find the flesh-and-blood Betty Jean Davis.

I was looking through some old pictures I’ve kept for years and ran across my second grade class photo at Central Elementary School in Shenandoah, Iowa and there she was.

Some of you may recall several posts I’ve written for this blog wishing I could find her lamenting the way I treated Betty Jean and teased her. Years later I developed a conscience. I wanted to give her my heart-felt apology for treating her so cruelly and teasing her. The girls in the class though, were worse than I was about the shameful ways they treated Betty Jean.

Here’s a link to one of those posts I wrote earnestly seeking to find her and tell her how sorry I was . . .

Betty Jean where are you?

And here’s Mrs. Sanford’s second grade class picture.

So, I may never find the flesh-and-blood Betty Jean Davis down here on earth. But I have this picture and I’ll have it always to remind me that when we both meet again in heaven we’ll be best friends forever. What a blessing to look forward to.

God

Baskin-Robbins Christianity

In 1945 two brothers-in-law opened the first Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop in Pasadena, California. They sold 31 flavors, one for each day of the month. Since then the iconic dessert giant boast 7,500 stores worldwide and have created more than 1,000 unique flavors of ice cream.

Christianity seems to have adopted the Baskin-Robbins business model. Worldwide you have more than 41,000 flavors of Christianity to choose from.  If you don’t like one church flavor, you can go across the street or down the road and find another flavor. Each flavor boasts its own beliefs, dress codes, traditions,  programs, parking rules, social strata, committees and missions commitment.

Jesus Christ abolished all 41,000 church flavors.

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two,” Ephesians 2:14-15

Here (in the “new” man) there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11.

People groups are different. People groups have differing foundations, different belief systems. Differing traditions. Differing interpretations of Scripture.  But Jesus never changes. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. So is His gospel, full of grace and truth. We don’t need 41,000 flavors of Christianity. According to the Gospel I read there’s only one true church, the body of Christ, His precious, pure spotless Bride.

God

Every day, every play, every way

I had the opportunity to serve for eight years on the National Board of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. There were some great coaches, athletes, and business people on that board. I felt like a mule at the Kentucky Derby, but I did learn a lot from many of them.

One member on the board with whom I was able to spend time was Coach Grant Teaff. He had compiled a great coaching record at Baylor University. He then was selected to become the Executive Director of the College Coaches Football Association. They have 7,000 members from all football divisions. He invited me to speak at the worship at one of their annual meetings.

Coach Grant Teaff was raised in Snyder, TX. When he was 13 years old, he told everybody that he wanted to be a Southwest Conference Head Football Coach. That was his dream. He had his mind set on being the head coach at the University of Texas, but he wound up at Baylor. He said he only missed by about 90 miles!

He said the thing that turned his life around was a high school coach by the name of Speedy Moffitt. He told me that he still remembers one day in high school when Coach Moffitt called him into his office. He thought he had done something wrong.

Grant Teaff weighed only 140 pounds and didn’t have much speed. He remembered those old stones in the coach’s office. He had to sit in a squeaky chair. Moffitt said, “Grant, I’m going to tell you the big secret to football.”

Teaff said that Coach Moffitt leaned over the desk, and Grant leaned forward because he wanted to know the big secret.

Coach Moffitt said to Grant, “The only limitation you have is – effort.”

He said the word “effort: just rolled off his tongue. He said, “You must execute total effort.”

Grant asked him about speed and skill, but the coach said it was all about effort – total effort. He said, “You have to give total effort, every day, every play, every way.”

As Grant started towards the door, Coach Moffitt said, “Now, remember, I’m not just talking about football – I’m talking about the classroom and your personal life.”

Grant Teaff said, “My whole life was changed by that coach telling me about total effort – every day, every play, every way.”

Jesus called a lot of people to follow him. Read in Matthew 8:19-22 how some of them started making excuses of things they had to do. Jesus said He couldn’t use them. They were distracted and not willing to give 100% total effort to following Jesus.

That raises an interesting question. Is there anything in life where you don’t have to give 100%? One exception that I can think of was given by Derric Johnson – it’s best not to give 100% when you are giving blood!

To paraphrase Vince Lombard, “The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work. Total effort is the price we must pay for success. You can accomplish anything if you are willing to pay the price.”

Follow Jesus – total effort every day, every play, every way!

God

Let every day be the days of Elijah

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Time

The most important use of your time is to spend your time on what is most important.

You can’t save time, borrow time, make the most of time, keep time, find the right time, mark time, lose time, take time, or spend time.

You don’t have any time tomorrow, it’s not here yet. and yesterday is history.

The only time you have to do anything is now.

So, the question each of us has to ask and answer for ourselves is:

What’s the most important thing in our life?

I will claim for myself “seek ye FIRST His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things (food, drink, clothes) will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

Do I consistently seek my God first? No. My wife and my family edge out God more than I care to admit. But my heart always longs to make God first. How about you?

If God and His Kingdom is not the one thing that is most important in your life, maybe it’s time to make Him the most important thing. Right now.

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You’re nobody. . .till somebody loves you.

Dean Martin

Dean Martin was an American singer, actor, and comedian. One of the most popular and enduring American entertainers of the mid-20th century, Martin was nicknamed “The King of Cool”.

As a singer Martin was probably best known for his rendition of the song “You’re nobody till somebody loves you.”

Martin was a heavy drinker, a womanizer, a gambler and a chain smoker.

I’m sure he never imagined that one of his songs would bring believers so much comfort and peace and rest one day.

You see, as a believer you’re already loved deeply and forever. Almighty God already loves us unconditionally and with a love that will never fade or end. We have been loved since before Almighty God decided to create the heavens and the earth.

This love God has for us is indescribable. It is unfathomable. We can’t understand it. We can’t explain it. All we can ever do is receive it and share it with others. You can’t change it. You can’t refuse it. You can’t stop receiving it. You can never be turned down for it. God is love. He can do nothing else but love.

Here are just a few of the benefits that are part of God’s love for every believer

  • You are accepted just as you are, scars and warts and all.
  • You are totally forgiven for all your sins, past, present and future.
  • You can’t do or say anything that will change God’s unconditional love for you.
  • God makes you a partaker of an inheritance that is literally out of this world
  • You are made holy and blameless and righteous.
  • You are a precious child of God adopted into his family forever.
  • You have received the power of the Holy Spirit and He can do miraculous things through for you and through you.
  • You possess the mind of Christ and the peace that passes all understanding.
  • God supplies all of our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Not every child of God believes who he or she is in Christ. For instance some believers have done things they can’t believe God would ever forgive them for. Some believers can’t wrap their arms around the truth that they were created before God created the world and they will neve die.

Whether folks believe all the above stuff or not. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s all true.

It doesn’t matter what you believe about God’s love. It only matter what God says about his love for believers. For everything God says or does is true.

I didn’t include any Scripture references in this post. I’m going to challenge you to seek God’s truth about Him and you in his word. All His truth is there.

God

The move towards a more perfect union

Last October, I posted a blog to prepare all of us for the elections in November. It contained 7 action points. Considering what is happening already in 2021 in our cities, states, nation, and world, I need to replace the action point about voting with a new action point about II Chronicles 7:14, and I invite you to join me in revisiting and recommitting to them.

We have elections because our forefathers saw elections as a vital part of forming a “more perfect union,” which is the stated goal in the Preamble to our Constitution. Now, get that – form a more perfect union. We must work for that in our sphere of influence!

I remember watching a very important college rivalry football game where the outcome would determine the success of each team’s season. Each side spent a lot of money hiring the best coaches, building the best facilities, scholarships, etc. The players gave every ounce of energy for sixty minutes. Everybody had decided who they wanted to see win. They cheered passionately for their team.

In the last few seconds, one team won and the other team lost. I then watched the opposing coaches shake hands and give a gentle hug. I saw players come across the field and speak to opposing players. I watched as players from both teams knelt in the middle of the field and prayed together. If that happens in football, why couldn’t it happen in politics?

In our elections, some people win and some people lose. That’s inevitable. Each person has the right to give money, energy, and influence to see certain candidates elected. But once the election is over, I am committed to being a Christian first, an American second, and a member of some political persuasion third.

Here are the 7 action points.

  • I will pray.
  • I will proclaim and practice 2 Chronicles 7:14.
  • I will treat every person as I want to be treated.
  • I will not engage in taunting, accusing, blaming, an arrogant attitude, or a divisive spirit.
  • I will engage only in civil discourse and not listen to or perpetuate misinformation.
  • I will be a good winner or a good loser, according to Biblical standards.
  • I will see this election as a process God will use to establish His Kingdom on earth.

I have ten grandchildren who are in high school or college. What is the future for them? My parents, grandparents, and others before them gave me a beautiful country in which to live. It’s not perfect, but it has moved towards “a more perfect union.” Our actions now will help determine whether we move towards a more perfect union or a more divided union.

This blog is not about red or blue, but it’s about following the God who is colorblind about these issues. It’s not about an elephant or a donkey, but about the Lamb of God as the One to follow! God didn’t come to take sides – He came to take over! He came to establish His Kingdom on earth!

Would you commit to these 7 action points and be a part of forming a more perfect union?

I’m in. Will you join me?

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Why God chose Mary, a virgin

God could have chosen from among hundreds of girls or young women to be the mother of God’s only Son on earth. Why did he choose a young teenager from a wide spot in the road village, Nazareth. They said “Nothing good ever comes from Nazareth.”

But now we watch The Creator of the universe, Almighty God, pick this nondescript teenager to be the mother of the Savior of the world. And a virgin to boot.

Jesus’s mother had to be a virgin. It could have happened no other way. Remember with the first bite of the apple in Genesis Adam and Eve died spiritually. So every man, woman and child born from Adam and Eve’s union were born into sin.

“we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” Ephesians 2:3

We all were at one time born into the world children of wrath and were deserving of death.

Jesus came into the world to give us His life. He had God’s love and eternal life to give anyone who would believe in Him and accept the free gift of eternal life Jesus was willing to give them.

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.

So, if Jesus was born to anyone but a virgin, he wouldn’t have had God’s eternal life to give away. And we would all die without God.

God

Washing feet

Servant in the house. The one who cleaned up everyone else’s mess. In Jesus’ day Gentile slaves could be made to do footwashing in a Jewish household, but not a Jewish slave. Slaves were looked down upon in the ancient world but Peter could not stand the thought of his teacher doing the work of a slave.

Washing feet

Jesus came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

If this wasn’t bad enough, Peter was probably livid when Jesus stooped down and began washing Judas’s feet. Judas hadn’t sinned yet, but Satan had already prompted him to betray Jesus to the Roman soldiers.

AS this scene played out, Jesus took off his garments, wrapped a towel around his waist, bent down and washed Judas’s feet. He later leaned in and kissed Jesus on his cheek, and betrayed his Master. Then the soldiers grabbed him up and hauled him off to be crucified.

Though Judas ultimately showed remorse later, his motive seemed to simply be greed. He received 30 pieces of silver for agreeing to betraying Jesus. His name ultimately became a symbol for traitors and turncoats throughout history.

Judas and all the disciples missed the magnitude and meaning of Jesus’s message that night in the Garden of Gethsemane. I think a lot of modern day people do too.

Jesus was demonstrating God’s love, sacrifice and humility when he allowed Judas to betray his Master into the enemy’s hands.

In his Gospel John writes in John 15:13, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

That’s exactly what Jesus was doing in the Garden that night, showing his disciples and Judas and you and me what sacrificial love looks like.

Now the question for all of us is

Would you wash Judas’s feet? Think about all that goes into your answer.

God

My first blog post

I visited the website for the Selma (Alabama) Times Journal recently. My first writing job was as a part-time sports writer for the historic daily. For my first bylined story my editor assigned me to cover a powder-puff football game between two private school girls teams. I think a couple of school clubs were trying to raise money from ticket sales and concessions. The girls put on pads and helmets and cleats and scrapped half-heartedly on the field for 30 minutes before half-filled bleachers, mostly parents praying their little powder-puffer would not get clobbered or lose a tooth or break a nail.

My editor must have liked my story because he then gave me real writing assignments with real high school sports teams. It was college football season and my editor sent me to cover Auburn football games. You can’t imagine the thrill this fledgling reporter felt strolling into Jordan Hare Stadium for the first time before a major SEC gridiron clash with press box credentials and a field pass. The following year I got to interview and write about Pat Sullivan in 1972. It was the year he won the Heisman Trophy. A standard story after every Auburn game was the locker room interview with Auburn’s legendary head coach, Shug Jordan.

In those days of classic Bear Bryant—Shug Jordan gridiron rivalries the folks in West Central Alabama were still trying to figure out how to handle the cultural paradigm shift created by the Civil Rights movement. You could still see placards in a few Selma holdout restaurants and businesses and bathrooms announcing “Whites Only” service. Top brass at the Times Journal seemed intimidated by its advertisers and Selma’s blustery mayor, Joe Smitherman, who both had a hand in shaping some news content.   Local news was friendly and accommodating, but not always an accurate barometer of the whole truth. The news often shied away from controversy.  Smitherman once had a dispute with the L&N Railroad whose tracks intersected Selma’s main street. The railroad was sticking to its guns and Smitherman didn’t like it. So the mayor parked fire trucks across the tracks, stopping local train traffic in Selma. Smitherman told the railroad the trucks wouldn’t budge until Smitherman got his way.

Many a late Saturday night, while carving out sports stories for Sunday’s paper, Smitherman regaled me and the newsroom staff and pressroom guys hanging out in the newsroom, with tales of his political and social shenanigans. . Those were still the days of hot type (molten lead poured in casts to create photos and newsprint on steel plates). Editors had to read the news copy backwards before they cast the plates to run on the presses.

I left the STJ to finish college at Auburn. But when I graduated several years later I returned to a new Selma Times Journal as a reporter. In my absence an outside newsgroup purchased the paper and turned the newspaper and the town on its ear. The new owners spent tons of money on new pressroom equipment (they shipped the old hot type press to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, new furnishings, new benefits, new editorial policies, new management and new ideas about reporting. The new publisher was not intimidated by advertisers or Smitherman. When advertisers complained about the new no-holds-barred news coverage that sometimes reflected poorly on their business and their behavior, they threatened to pull their advertising. The newspaper’s response – “Go ahead.”

Some pulled their ads. Most who did came back because they figured out they needed the paper for its advertising revenue, regardless of its editorial policies.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s reporting on Watergate in the Washington Post in the early 1970’s bolstered, in part, the editorial policies of the new ownership. Also, in the early 1970’s Harold Martin, the publisher of the Montgomery Advertiser wrote a series of investigative stories about clandestine and fatal drug testing on inmates at Alabama’s Kilby State Prison near Montgomery. The investigative reporting series won Martin a Pulitzer Prize and closed the prison.

Investigative journalism in that era, even on a relatively small town daily like the STJ, conformed to standards of ethics and integrity sorely missing from much of the profession today. We could never use a “source who wished to remain anonymous” or a “source close to the investigation.” In fact, we not only had to have a source, we had to name the source, always. We couldn’t write a story about a birthday party without attribution.

Facts were important. Truth was important. Editors always asked reporters questions about their stories before they went to press. On many occasions the questions and their answers were germane to the stories we wrote. We had to retrace our steps and re-interview sources to get the answers editors required. And we always had to report both sides of the stories and name sources for attribution.

In most cases, our stories were the only coverage people in the town would read. Our editors were responsible and demanded we tell the story, from both sides, completely.

I’m saddened to say, in my considered opinion, journalism and the art of story telling with facts and the truth is not what it used to be.

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We have forgotten God

Dr. James Merritt

Dr. James Merritt once quipped, “If we’ve learned anything from history it’s that we haven’t learned anything from history.”

Idols

It used to be that only some off-the-wall religions and pagans worshipped idols. But look at us now. We make idols out of almost anything that satisfies our worldly lusts. Shiny cars, football players and teams, movie stars, singers and music groups, clothes, our cell phones, (yes we do) money, shopping, crystals, astrology, success, personal image, . . .an idol is anything in our lives that we consider more important than God.

Sexual Immorality

We have completely forgotten what God said about marriage, dating back to Genesis

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24…Genesis 1 and 2 indicate that God created marriage as an institution for the purpose of man and woman to fulfill God’s purposes for man–procreation.

That means at the end of the day homosexual couples are and will always live outside God’s law and His purpose for man. Gay couples can not procreate, that will always render them shy of God’s original and eternal purpose. But God’s love is for all people and those living in sin will always have the freedom to repent and follow God’s law.

But homosexuality is only the tip of the sexuality immorality iceberg in our society. All you have to do is look) around to get a dose of every kind of immorality. Examples of immorality prevalent in our society: incest, adultery, prostitution (all pornography is merely glorified prostitution), fornication–having sex outside marriage, rape…abuse of women or children, lust after sex, cars, alcohol, drugs, riches, food, covetousness, lewdness. . .and the list goes on.

We have forgotten what God thinks about all this sexual immorality. Much of this disobedience has become commonplace and accepted as normal to many in our society today. Some turn away and claim just not to care or be moved by the behavior or beliefs of another. They claim it’s none of their business what others do.

“If it feels good” they rationalize, “do it” with no regard for who gets hurt.

Iniquity

And we’ve forgotten all about iniquity and how our heavenly Father feels when He sees it in us.

But sin is sin and ours has to be dealt with. We know from John 3:16 that Jesus died on the cross to pay the sin debt for all of us we owed: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. But when we’re saved by the blood of Jesus, the rest of our lives we have to make choices every day about how we’re going to live. We will choose to make choices that glorify God or choices that glorify us. Choices that glorify Holy God come with rewards and a heaven full of grace and blessings or those choices that live for us. Those choices lead to disappointments, costly outcomes, unnecessary suffering and regret–never fulfillment.

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Unity please.

We inaugurated a new president, Joe Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris, on January 20.

We’ve just completed the most significant benchmark in our entire democracy–the transfer of power from one presidential administration to another–pageantry we perform and celebrate every four years.

Vice President Kamila Harris
President Joe Biden

The quote that impacted me most in Mr. Biden’s inaugural address, and one I can imagine myself quoting in future blog posts, is what he said about unity. Mr. Biden said, “With unity we can do great things. Without unity, there is no peace.”

Unity please. We so desperately need unity in this country in this day and time, especially since Trump, in his last weeks in office tried to split our country apart even more.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King said, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

Paul urges us in Ephesians 4:31 to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

We can’t even begin to change our attitudes about being united with our fellow man until we undergo a transforming change of our collective hearts.

And God is the only one who can do that.

Are you prepared for Him to do that in your heart?

God

Self-help false claim

Self-help is an oxymoron.

“God helps those who help themselves.”No He doesn’t.

That’s a handy cliche some folks say when they don’t know what they’re talking about and want to sound smart

God does NOT help those who help themselves. God helps those who come to the end of self and realize they can’t help themselves.  Only God can.

Even in recovery groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Alanon, and ACOA the first step is: “admitted we were powerless over (our addiction) and our lives had become unmanageable.” Does that sound like self-help to you? To me that first step to recovery for us addicts sounds like coming to the end of self. Ergo, the end of self-help. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Whether it’s an addiction or stress or worry or adultery or runaway children or abuse no self-help book can get to the root of the problem and cure it.

Why? Because self-help books only suggest ways to change behaviors and thought patterns. We have spawned a multi-million dollar industry fueled by men and woman who have gone to school all their lives instead of working and now have an alphabet behind their names. The alphabets make them best selling authors telling people how to fix their emotional, psychological and social problems.

The self-help (self-improvement) industry rakes in billions (with a “b”) every year. Consumers spend more than $10 billion a year for motivational, “self-improvement” programs, products and services “that seek to improve us physically, mentally, financially or spiritually,” according to Marketdata Enterprices, Inc

If you Google “popular self-help books” you get more than 2 million hits. If you google “self-help” you get more than 48 million results.

No matter what our addiction, your emotional or psychological problems, we can’t fix them by reading self-help books. The only way we’re going to resolve our deep-seeded hurts and wounds in life is in and through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. God created each of us. He formed us from the dust. He knows everything about me and you. And when something inside gets broken, He is the only one who knows how to fix it.

Self-help books are full of cookie cutter solutions for all their readers problems. The problem is, these self-help authors don’t know me and you. They know symptoms, they know social problems, they know research studies and numbers and statistics.

But they don’t know me and you. God knows us inside and out. He knows us intimately and personally and He’s been walking with each of us our entire lives. He created us. He knows every move we’ve made, every word we’ve said, everything we’ve done. He knows our every fear, joy, choice, trouble, accomplishment, bad decision, thought, emotion, regret, kindness, service, praise and worship.

God’s word is the only book that will resolve our troubles and trials. God has an answer for every question we have. His book won’t give  a bunch of methods and steps to a better life. Through His word God will teach us our true identity, our purpose in life, and our way to victory. God’s word will teach us who God is and how a personal relationship with Him can transform our life.

Would you rather change your behavior for a while, or transform your life forever?

Just asking.

God

The same boat

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’ve gotta be aware of the still-festering racial divide in this country.

Every Black life matters. God created each one of them and God proclaims each one created by Him to be equal to every other one of His creations. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “We all may have come to this country on different ships, but we’re all in the same boat now.” 328 million of us and we’re all paddling upstream without paddles. The divide couldn’t become more rancorous.

I believe the church–the building down the street with a huge empty parking lot and big steeple and a blinking sign that proclaims “JESUS SAVES” in big black letters is asleep.

The church seems to be non-committal and unaffected by the deep-seeded social issues dividing our culture like abortion and homosexuality and racism and our disintegrating society and culture.

I don’t see the church or feel the impact of any efforts to directly or even tangentially influence these ills with the Gospel of Christ at all. For the most part, in my view they are silent. According to Dr. King, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. 862,320 abortions were performed in 2017. That matters. And where does the church land on abortion? When’s the last time you heard a rousing sermon on what the church is doing to address this travesty with the word of God or the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

And God’s word is crystal clear about what God’s word (God, not the Supreme Court)

 “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and various other references.

Dr. King said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor political nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.

There comes a time when silence is betrayal.

Why has the church chosen to be silent and so non-committal in such volatile times like these?

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He never invited her to church

butterfield

How Rosaria Champagne Butterfield met Jesus is an incredible story. This radical unbeliever despised Christians and didn’t believe Jesus was real, according to her story published on the Christianity Today¹ website in their February 7 issue. She calls her story My Train Wreck Conversion. “Stupid. Pointless. Menacing,” she said. “That’s what I thought of Christians and their god Jesus.”

Her story, despite being an amazing work of God in her life, is not what grabbed my attention. Ken Smith, a pastor at the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church, wrote Dr. Butterfield a letter. The lesbian radical wrote a vehement assault on Christianity in a local Syracuse, New York paper in 1997 after Promise Keepers came to town.

The story drew both fan mail and hate mail, but Ken Smith’s letter, Butterfield said, was engaging, not condemning, not judgmental. “And he didn’t invite me to church,” she said.

THAT’S what caught my attention.

He didn’t invite her to church.

In a few words, Butterfield and Smith and his wife, Floy, became friends.

“They entered my world,” she said in her story. “They met my friends. We did book exchanges. We talked openly about sexuality and politics. They did not act as if such conversations were polluting them. They did not treat me like a blank slate. When we ate together, Ken prayed in a way I had never heard before. His prayers were intimate. Vulnerable. He repented of his sin in front of me. He thanked God for all things. Ken’s God was holy and firm, yet full of mercy. And because Ken and Floy did not invite me to church, I knew it was safe to be friends.”

When I first moved to Alabama and met new people the first thing many of them asked me was, “Do you have a church home?” Regardless of my answer, they’d invite me to church.

Ken Smith, in my opinion, employed the best and most effective evangelism tool–friendship. Ken and Floy knew what Jesus meant when He taught His disciples to “Love One Another.” As a result of their friendship, Dr. Butterfield made a conscious and independent decision to go to church, where she met and accepted Jesus Christ.

She calls her story, “My Train Wreck Conversion”. I urge you to read her full story on the Christianity Today website. Or watch the video version below.

She has written a book about her life and her conversion experience, “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.”

We truly serve an Awesome God, and we never know when, how or who He will draw someone unto Himself.

¹The Christianity Today website story © 2013 by Christianity Today, My Train Wreck Conversion, was the inspiration for this blog post. Direct quotes from her story appear in quotation marks in the post.https://www.youtube.com/embed/hkJZSeUGzWw?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en&autohide=2&wmode=transparentAdvertisements

God

Who’s gonna fix this mess?

The Ununited States of America is more divided, more polarized, more racially troubled, more socially screwed up, more un–united than we ever have been, certainly in my (Baby Boomer) lifetime.

So how do we get re-united? Can we ever reconcile our differences? Can we ever agree to disagree without engendering holier-than-thou condescension? Can we ever revive the first amendment as it was intended.

What does God’s word say about unity?“

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” Psalm 133:1

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” Philippians 2:1-2

Can we ever live peaceably with our neighbors again whether they’re White or Black or Indian or Muslim or Catholic or Atheist or Jewish or Buddhist or Native American or Scientologist?

Congress can’t do it. Billy Graham’s folks can’t do it. The ACLU doesn’t want to do it. Lawyers wouldn’t know how to do it? The Church can’t do it. The government can’t do it. The Pentagon can’t do it. No committee could do it. No evangelist or bunch of evangelists could do it.

So. . .who’s left to fix it? You and me.

First, If it’s ever going to happen we’ll have to do it by acknowledging that God in His sovereignty and love for us is sovereign over everything that happens and will unite us in His purpose and will in His time in His way.

Secondly, I strongly believe our only shot at uniting us with each other is individually, one-on-one, choosing to develop friendships with those who are different from us. I have a Black barber and we are developing a friendship that enables us to talk about issues we both have as well as other racial and social issues. I have a growing relationship with a doctor from India where cultural differences give us plenty of things to talk about. Our next doo neighbors are Muslim and we are cultivating an awesome relationship with them and their boys. In all three relationships we are growing nite our countrycloser and living more united together.

That’s the only way we’re ever going to reunite our country if we reach out to those who are different and from different cultures, religions, beliefs and lifestyles.

Throughout God’s word He reminds us to do two things: love one another and when at all possible live united. So our mandate from God is crystal clear.

I was consulting with two of my brothers in Christ a few months ago. I was asking them to help me determine my purpose at this stage in my walk as an authentic disciple of Christ. I’m 74 years young, disabled from a stroke in 2018, deaf in one ear and confined to a wheelchair. I was a writer for 30+ years and I’ve been a blogger at For His Glory for just shy of ten years–long story short, I can’t go on mission trips any more or sing in the choir or do much that requires physical effort, but I can write.. so I continue to write the messages God gives me to share with my readers. I’m averaging 54 views on my blog each day. I’ll continue writing on my blog as long as I’m able until God calls me home.

God

I have lost an angel

Pat Welch

Last week the Lord called Pat Welch home. She is eternally happy and smiling now. Enjoying her Sainthood and fellowship with Jesus.

Our pastor said heaven is a much happier place now that Pat is there. Jesus has already told her, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Now It’s time for you to enjoy all the fruits and blessings of your love for people and for Me while you prepared on earth for your forever home with Me here in eternity.”

To call Pat a Saint is inadequate. She was a pay grade or two above that–as in with the angels. I don’t know a single person who didn’t adore her and felt blessed to be around her. And she knew everyone. And loved them all.

In the 15 years of our friendship I don’t recall EVER seeing her without a smile on her face. She would help anyone who asked–her closest friend or a total stranger.

One Sunday she came into church with a cake she baked. I asked her who the cake was for. She said it was for a friend of hers in South Carolina who was sick. She left after church and drove to South Carolina. She dropped the cake off at her friend’s house, turned around and drove back to Atlanta the same day. True story!

One of her favorite things to do was bake. There’s no tellin’ how many folks at church she baked birthday cakes for. And you could fill a semi trailer full three times over with the cookies and cupcakes she baked.

At Christmas she made candy for me. She called it white trash. It was similar to bridge mix but crunchier. It was coated (more like smothered) in white chocolate. She didn’t just bring it in zip-lock bag. The bag she brought me held about two gallons of the mouth-watering candy. It never made it till Christmas.

She and I worked on the hospitality team together. When we first met each other on Sunday morning she would smile and kiss me on my bald head. That set my happy mood and happy face every week.

Now when you get to heaven, after Jesus hugs you and tells you, “Well done good and faithful servant, come on in. “When you turn around to go to worship Ms. Pat will be standing there with a warm welcomingly affectionate smile and a handful of worshipful bulletins and a heartfelt, “Good morning, welcome. its so nice to see you'”

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Child Abuse and Domestic Violence

Thousands of children and women won’t have anything to eat today. Or have anywhere to sleep tonight. Or they’ll be terrified and huddled in a closet so the man mom brought home won’t explode in a fit of drunken, angry abuse.

Not a pretty sight. But it plays out all the time in too many places in America every day and every night. It is a never-ending toxic plight that is eroding our society relentlessly.

Can we cure it? Probably not. The hate and anger and rage is so deeply rooted in the souls of those that abuse that change is virtually impossible

Jesus is the only one who can transform a heart. And abusers often don’t have courage enough to reach out for HIM.

But there is hopeFOR THE ABUSED

Kerri McKenna Reece can help

Find her at Kerri Coaching

Some brave, survivors of abuse themselves, have chosen to share their experience, strength and hope with others living in the aftermath of childhood abuse or in the midst of adult domestic abuses. The long term hope is for victims of abuse to learn the life skills, tools and truths that enable them to rebuild their lives. Skills that will empower them to move beyond the behaviors and people that don’t serve them well. Techniques that commission them to live truly authentic, and unafraid, embracing the life God intended them to live.

Kerri says, “I know the depths of your pain and struggles first hand. I’m a survivor of abuse myself and my journey to recovery led me to become a Certified Professional Life and Trauma Recovery Coach.

“I’ve been where you are and have recovered and survived. Together we can walk the road to your recovery. Free of abuse forever.

Arrange a complementary consultation with Kerri today. Click on the link below.

https://www.kerrimckennareece.com/lets-connect

God, helping, misunderstanding, tiff

George’s patio

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

My wife Marie and I lived in Montgomery, Alabama before we moved to Georgia 20 years ago. We were still in the honeymoon years of our 27 (so far) year love for each other. Early in our marriage in Montgomery (like most couples’ marriages of any length) our ideas, our relationships, and our wills often collided and differed widely.

We had a couple we both knew and loved in Montgomery for years before we married.

George and I were dear friends. So was Marie with George’s wife. We trusted each other and could share intimate personal stuff with each other and be vulnerable with each other without being judgmental

We spent hours and hours sharing our victories as well as our struggles on his patio in his back yard. Marie knew this. When we had a tiff or were headed for a major disagreement she would look at me and say “I think it would be a good idea if you spent some time with George on his patio.

It was magical. I’d call him and tell him I needed some patio time. We’d meet and hash out my dilemma no matter how long it took.

Talking with George on his patio, no matter the weather, always helped me understand what I needed to do or say to do my part to help Marie and I resolve the issue at hand. More times than I care to admit the issue would get resolved if I stopped acting like a jerk.

Every guy needs a George.

And a patio.

God

Gratitude

My life’s focus in 2021 is going to be on gratitude.

I am not thankful enough. I am not as grateful enough to God for the things He has done for me and through me. His purpose for my life and for all our lives is to be grateful in all circumstances.

Paul teaches us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in ALL circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I want to begin the year by praising God and giving you glory and gratitude for all my wonderful, faithful readers of this blog. Father, they are a blessing to me with each post You and I write together.

I asked my lifelong friend Ronney Livermore to write a poem on gratitude to go with this post. Ronney and I grew up on the same street several blocks apart in Shenandoah, Iowa. He and his beautiful family live in Bay Minette, Alabama and we stay in touch regularly.

Gratitude

by Ronney Livermore

Gratitude’s an attitude
Which too few of us possess
When praise should be given
We often offer less

We can be grateful for a windfall
Or grateful for a call
There really are no rules
Really no rules at all

For When you receive a blessing
The blessing is a gift
If you pay it forward
You give another soul a lift

Each life has ups and downs
And curves along way
By Showing your Gratitude
You Can Brighten a another’s day

Yes gratitudes an attitude
That only you can share
When respect and love are given
It shows others that you care

It’s not hard to show your grateful
For blessings you receive
You need only make it clear
That in others you believe

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What do you expect

One of the greatest football coaches Alabama has produced was Ralph “Shug” Jordan. He was the head football coach at Auburn for twenty-four years and had an enviable win/loss football record of 176-83-6. He was the National Football Coach of the Year in 1957 and several times Coach of the Year in the SEC. He’s in the Hall of Fame.

He was also head basketball coach at Auburn and Georgia. He was an American patriot and a great military leader. He led four military invasions during World War II. He was wounded at Normandy. He was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. I’ve heard that General Patton had a “War Eagle” sign on the front of his Jeep because he said that Shug Jordan told him to put it there!

A friend in Selma had the personal high school annual of his father who had graduated with Coach Jordan. I held that annual in my hands. I saw that next to his senior picture in the annual, Coach Jordan wrote these words, “Someday I expect to be a major college football coach.” Wow! He set his expectation level when he was a senior in high school – and he accomplished it later!

The old saying is, “What you expect is what you get.” What are your expectations for 2021? Where you will be in December 2021 will be directly related to the expectations you set in January 2021! If you expect something bad, it’s going to be a tough year. If you expect something good – get ready for some huge surprises! I dare you to expect God to turn a tough, turbulent 2020 into a terrific 2021!

2020 was tough, but it was not nearly as tough as what the apostle Paul experienced when he wrote to his friends at Philippi. He was in prison. His expectations were so high about the possibilities of what he could accomplish there. He considered prison to be the perfect place for him to do ministry. He expected the best for his people, and he led by example. He writes, “Because of my imprisonment, many of the Christians seem to have lost their fear of chains.” (Philippians 1:14)

Paul says a few verses later, “I’m going to keep on being glad, for I know that you pray for me, and as the Holy Spirit helps me, this is going to turn out for my good. For I know when I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that will cause me to be ashamed of myself…and I will always be an honor to Christ.” (Philippians 1:19 ff)

When Louis XVI and his queen were put to death by the people of France, they left behind a little boy who would have been King Louis XVII. They put the boy in prison where he was surrounded by terrible people who were vicious and vile. Their aim was to teach the boy vulgar thoughts and habits of profanity and unholy things.

But these men failed because of the expectations of that little boy. Whenever someone tried to get that boy to say a bad word, he would simply reply, “No, I will not say it. I was born to be a king!”

You were born to be in King Jesus’s family! Live 2021 in the expectation of what God is going to do through you. Make every day a day that God uses you to help Him increase His royal family and define Kingdom values for other people!

We are graduating from 2020. What are you writing by your picture for 2021?

He was also head basketball coach at Auburn and Georgia. He was an American patriot and a great military leader. He led four military invasions during World War II. He was wounded at Normandy. He was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. I’ve heard that General Patton had a “War Eagle” sign on the front of his Jeep because he said that Shug Jordan told him to put it there!

A friend in Selma had the personal high school annual of his father who had graduated with Coach Jordan. I held that annual in my hands. I saw that next to his senior picture in the annual, Coach Jordan wrote these words, “Someday I expect to be a major college football coach.” Wow! He set his expectation level when he was a senior in high school – and he accomplished it later!

The old saying is, “What you expect is what you get.” What are your expectations for 2021? Where you will be in December 2021 will be directly related to the expectations you set in January 2021! If you expect something bad, it’s going to be a tough year. If you expect something good – get ready for some huge surprises! I dare you to expect God to turn a tough, turbulent 2020 into a terrific 2021!

2020 was tough, but it was not nearly as tough as what the apostle Paul experienced when he wrote to his friends at Philippi. He was in prison. His expectations were so high about the possibilities of what he could accomplish there. He considered prison to be the perfect place for him to do ministry. He expected the best for his people, and he led by example. He writes, “Because of my imprisonment, many of the Christians seem to have lost their fear of chains.” (Philippians 1:14)

Paul says a few verses later, “I’m going to keep on being glad, for I know that you pray for me, and as the Holy Spirit helps me, this is going to turn out for my good. For I know when I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that will cause me to be ashamed of myself…and I will always be an honor to Christ.” (Philippians 1:19 ff)

When Louis XVI and his queen were put to death by the people of France, they left behind a little boy who would have been King Louis XVII. They put the boy in prison where he was surrounded by terrible people who were vicious and vile. Their aim was to teach the boy vulgar thoughts and habits of profanity and unholy things.

But these men failed because of the expectations of that little boy. Whenever someone tried to get that boy to say a bad word, he would simply reply, “No, I will not say it. I was born to be a king!”

You were born to be in King Jesus’s family! Live 2021 in the expectation of what God is going to do through you. Make every day a day that God uses you to help Him increase His royal family and define Kingdom values for other people!

We are graduating from 2020. What are you writing by your picture for 2021?

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God called on me

by Monty B. Pitner

My Uncle Monty wrote this poem decades ago.

Monty was a Speech and English professor at the University of Maryland campus, Montgomery County junior College in Rockville, Maryland.

He garnered a bushel full of of national bridge points (I don’t know a thing about bridge but folks who play tell me that’s a big deal.) Monty was also the top civilian instructor in the Atlantic theater for the Pentagon. He was also acquainted with John F. Kennedy before JFK ran for president in 1960.

I never knew Monty to be religious or spiritual. I don’t know whether he had a saving relationship with Jesus when he died in 1970 or not. But you’d think from the context of his poem that he may have.

God Called on MePitner

By Monty B. Pitner

God called on me one night when it was late

and said that love should conquer over hate

It was a dream, and yet I seemed to see

a light as bright as silver circling me.

He spoke and smiled as though we’d met before,

and then I wasn’t frightened any more.

He said, “How strange to me that man

has lost the meaning that his Master planned.

I gave my only son to light the way,

and now you honor him Christmas Day;

but have you all forgotten why you sing

of Jesus who was born to be your King?

Let love prevail and play its proper part;

the Joy of Christmas is within the heart.

To give is more divine tan to receive;

My son, in this have faith; in this believe.

Now I shall go, but speak my word

that out of darkness you saw God one day.”

It’s strange that I should see my Master call,

for I am blind and cannot see at all.

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Who we are–really

identity in Christ


I’ve been living under an assumed name now for years — Christian. God is slowly showing me that Jesus’ last command before returning to His Father was not “Go and make Christians of all nations.” You can’t really find any definition for Christian in the Bible. In fact in the KJV version the word only appears three times.

“Christian” was a derogatory term those outside Jesus’ followers used to call those who followed Jesus around. Jesus’ command was “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Now disciples has a clear concise definition in the Bible. Jesus defined a disciple as followers who loved one another.

Every command, every verse, every lesson, every book, every parable Jesus told, every Bible study we use today. All of it is based on that command: love one another. Love those we like, love those we love, love those we don’t like, love those who don’t worship like we do, those who don’t worship at all, those who rebel.

Jesus loves all those (in fact he hug out with tax collectors and sinners) as much as we who Jesus calls His children. He loves each of us regardless of who we are, what we’ve done, or where we’ve been.

So don’t call me a Christian anymore. You can define a Christian any way you want to, with a bushel full of beliefs,  a plethora of principles, some authentic, contrived rationalized behavior, rituals, rules and regulations.

Instead of calling me a Christian, I want folks to know me to call me a disciple of Jesus Christ or an authentic follower of Christ. That’s my true identity in Christ and my one purpose is to love God and love others.

God

Down with Christmas

Bah Humbug!

I wish they would just skip Christmas all together and leap right from Thanksgiving to New Year’s day when Alabama plays its next football playoff game.

Christmas is a bust. The retailers, corporations, airlines, malls and online marketers have put the grinch in Christmas for me.

And the pandemic has thrown a big monkey wrench into everything about the season.

Groups such as the ACLU, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and the Americans for the Separation of Church and State and other godless groups engage in all-out assaults on Christmas. Their goal: take Christ out of Christmas. Some well-meaning churches wind up in court because they display nativity scenes. They rail against anything Jesus. They sanitize the true purpose of worship and praise.

Nowadays Christmas seems to be just a holiday not unlike Lincoln’s birthday or Groundhog Day. Christmas in our day is nothing more than a couple of weeks each year to make money. Entire industries depend on the month of December to determine their profits for the year. Am I against capitalism? Certainly not. It is the hallmark of our society. It is a way of doing business envied by countries around the world.ties

But capitalism, or our way of doing business, has helped destroy Christmas. I know: churches still have Christmas programs and churches declare the true meaning of Christmas. Pastors craft wonderful messages that poignantly remind us that the coming of our Savior is the reason for the season. My blogging friends compose wonderful posts about celebrating the birth of our Savior.

And for families this time of year also provides a good excuse for families to gather for fellowship and food. We see relatives we only speak to once a year. Some family black sheep seem civil, even cordial, at those once-a-year get-togethers. We bake cookies and pies and roast turkeys and fix cranberry sauce, binge and then snack all day. Then we complain about how bad we feel.

But where is Jesus? He’s not in Christmas as I see it.  At least He’s not in Christmas the way we “celebrate” it today. I’m tired of the decorations and the clatter and the pretty wrapped packages and the eggnog and the traffic and the cookies and the parties and the boring relatives and the expectations and the masks people wear and the “happy holidays” and the pretense and the phony well-wishers.

Know how I want to celebrate Christmas?  I want to go to those fields where the shepherds were staying. It was peaceful there that night. The sheep were bedded down. The shepherds were minding their own business. Probably engaged in quiet conversation about their sheep and their day and their plans for tomorrow.

I want to be startled by the angel telling me that this night my Savior is born, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. I want to be awed by the sky suddenly ablaze with thousands, maybe millions, of angels praising God and singing. I want to walk with those shepherds into Bethlehem following that star. I want to find that lowly manger and Mary and Joseph. I want to behold that sweet precious baby. I want to gaze upon that teenage girl who just delivered the child that will one day deliver her.  I want to spend my entire night just being with Jesus, marveling in His presence. Leaning over to watch Him sleep.

There is no sound, just my Savior breathing.

It is peace that passeth all understanding.

It is the peace this beautiful child will bring me.

It is my perfect peace.

It is heavenly peace.

It is my Christmas.

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.

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Total peace and serenity

I love snow. Everything about it. The problem is I live in Atlanta. Snow is rare if ever a weather event here. Last year we had three days of winter when the temps plunged into the 30’s. That was it. Our winter.

I grew up in a small farming town in Southwest Iowa (5,000 souls). We had snow. Lots of snow. In fact snow was responsibifle for one my most precious childhood memories.

When a snowfall started filling up our yard and the yard next door I walked into our laundry room and looked out the window at the snow falling outside.

It was as if God turned off the sound. It was total stillness. Quiet and complete stillness.

It was as if God said to me, “Here, Steve, this is what total peace and quite feel like.

And I loved it. I’ve rarely felt so serene and in God’s peace. Often I’d gaze transfixed by the snow and stand at that window for hours. Several times I think I stood there till the snow stopped.

What a blessing. Even today I’ll call up those memories of looking through the window at the falling snow and rekindle that peace and serenity and feel it all over again.

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

Amen.

God

What are you giving for Christmas?

There are just a few shopping days left. Do you still need a few gifts? Here are some Biblical gift suggestions for your special people.

  1. TO YOUR FRIENDS – Give a Christ-like relationship. Friendship is based on relationships. Take the initiative to form a solid Christ-like relationship. Proverbs 18:24 says, “There are friends who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.”

    A little third-grade boy saw his best friend undergo chemotherapy for cancer. His friend lost his hair. To show his friendship, this little boy went and had all of his hair shaved off his head so his little buddy would not be the only boy at school without hair. That’s a friend!
  2. TO YOUR EMPLOYEES – Give a Christian environment. People spend a lot of time at work. Offer your employees the kind of environment to which they look forward to coming to work every day.

    Paul wrote, “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others too and what they are doing.” Phillippians 2:3,4
  3. TO YOUR CUSTOMERS – Give second-mile service. Jesus said, “If a soldier demands that you carry his bag for a mile, carry it two miles.” I believe that the world today is looking to support people who offer service. I remember when I used to carry my car to a “service station.” You don’t have those anymore. Now it’s just a gas station where you pump your own gas. Give a gift of going the second-mile beyond what a customer would ever expect.
  4. TO YOUR ENEMIES – Give sincere forgiveness. People will do you wrong. It’s easy to look for an opportunity for revenge. Giving forgiveness far outweighs getting revenge! Jesus said, “If you forgive them who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.” Matthew 6:14

    When two mountain goats meet on the side of a mountain and the path is not wide enough for them to pass, one goat will kneel and allow the other goat to step over him. This way, both of them are safe. What if we people could act as good as goats? 
  5. TO YOUR FAMILY – Give a Christian example. I think the one thing kids need most is an example at home. Kids are looking for somebody after whom they can pattern their lives. Too many of them are picking people from television, sports, or social media.

    Lynn and I were at a large African-American church in Atlanta. The pastor called to the front a father and his 10-year-old son who were competing in a “look-alike” contest in New York. From the dais I could clearly see that the little boy looked exactly like his father, from each part of his clothing, to his hair, to his smile, to the way he walked. Every kid needs a Godly example to be like.
  6. TO YOUR GOD – Give Him YOU! God doesn’t want sacrifices, or money, or promises, or pretty words. He wants you! You are His most desired gift. Christina Rossetti writes:

    What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.
    If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part. What can I give Him, I’ll give Him my heart.

You can’t buy these gifts at a store, but no one will want to swap them the day after Christmas!!

God

What’s next?

Cases of the Corona virus keep mounting all across the globe. More and more people are dying.

Poverty runs amuck in third world countries and in America. World economies are tanking.

We finally have a vaccine. but many are skeptical about taking it. Politicians are lying and deceiving us more than ever. “Honest politician” is an oxymoron.

More and more churches are catering to the culture. Protesters and extremists of every whacko cause are controlling our streets and making headway into our government.

Lots of well-meaning groups and services are making valiant, over-the-top efforts to affect positive outcomes and make the best of our world in these challenging times.

But, the truth is–only God knows what tomorrow holds. And everything that happens good or bad, all is in His hands.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Isaiah 43:1 But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who  have been called according to his purpose.

Whatever happens next we have confidence in God’s promises that He will handle it so that He always gets the glory and it will always ultimately be for our good.

God

10 sins Jesus condemns most harshly

Throughout Jesus’ life and ministry, He called listeners’ attention to various sins as he taught about His Father’s will, and guided believers in what it truly means to love God, and to walk with Him. But during His ministry, did Jesus call out some sins more than others?

As God’s children, we are to pay attention, not just to Jesus’ words, but what they reveal about His heart for us. Wherever He calls out sin, he points the way to something far greater than what the sin promises us. This is why it is so crucial to listen closely and respond to what Jesus emphasized in His teachings.

Part One

Selfishness

Jesus ministered with an attitude of humility. He is quoted as saying, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”(Matthew 20:28Mark 10:45). Jesus warned his disciples against using their status to dominate others. Rather, they were to be servants to all (Matthew 20:25-28).

The story of the rich man and Lazarus displays the severity of punishment for selfishness (Luke 16:19-31). When we allow our own needs to blind us from meeting the needs of others, we harden our hearts to one of the core missions of Christ. 

God

What is a Saint?

I preached at the First United Methodist Church in Ozark, AL, in November 2020. I shared that one of the most unusual things that has happened to me in my ministry occurred in Ozark. Because people sometimes think that preachers make up stories, I actually carried a copy of the incident as reported by the Ozark newspaper, The Southern Star,  to show that I was telling the truth.

The occasion was an incident when I was invited to speak at the annual membership banquet of the Chamber of Commerce at the Ozark Civic Center on Tuesday, January 16, 1996. The theme of the banquet was “Life in Ozark.” It included a lot of displays by students and adults and displays showcasing some of the industries’ products in the area. The newspaper had a huge misprint when it reported, “The guest speaker is St. John Ed Mathison, Senior Pastor of Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church in Montgomery, AL.”

Wow, talk about a misprint! I was referred to as “St.” rather than “Dr.” John Ed Mathison. I think the most amused persons were my wife and good friends who know me best.

This “misprint” got me to thinking about saints and who is a saint. Some people are declared to be saints posthumously. Sometimes people refer to saints as people who don’t engage in some of the obvious sins. Often, we refer to somebody by saying, “He’s certainly no saint.”

But the Bible teaches something different. I learned that a person does not have to die to be a saint. Many saints are alive today.

First, a saint is a person who is in Christ, and Christ is in that person. (Phillippians 1:1) John Wesley described a saint as “Properly understood, a saint is a manifestation of the continuing work of Jesus Christ in human life.” Second, a saint is one who is called by God to his or her vocation. A saint is one who lives in the understanding that they’re doing what God has told them to do. (1 Corinthians 1:2, Romans 1:7) Third, a saint is one who is prepared and ready for the return of Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 3:13)

So, you don’t have to be dead for 100 years before you are a saint. You don’t have to be perfect. You do have to be faithful, holy, and have the Spirit of Christ living in you. You can be a saint!

A little boy and his grandfather were visiting a cathedral with stained glass windows showcasing several saints. The sun shining through the windows created a life-like picture of each person. The grandfather pointed out St. Peter, St. John, St. James, and St. Paul.

The grandfather asked his grandson, “Do you know what a saint is?”

The little boy thought a minute and then said, “Yes, sir. I think it’s a person that God’s light shines through.”

That’s it – that’s a saint! It’s one who allows the light of Christ to shine through. I think Christ calls each of us to invite Him into our lives and let His light shine through us.

I love the old gospel song, “When the saints go marching in. Oh Lord, I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in.”

Are you marching?

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Betty Jean where are you?

It’s 1954.  Central Elementary School. Shenandoah Iowa.

It’s third grade recess. We  boys are playing kickball. The girls are standing around acting silly, gossiping, whispering, . On the sidewalk Betty Jean Davis is standing alone watching. No one is paying her any attention.

Every class has a Betty Jean. Our Betty Jean was poor. Her only dress is faded and a disheveled Goodwill-hand- me down. Hair’s a mess and unkept.  She is sad and very alone. Then the teasing started. The girls were unmerciful and cruel. Betty Jean started laughing at the mocking. She’d rather be laughing with her tormentors than feel the awful sting of shame coursing through her body.

One by one a few of the boys peel away and join the girls teasing Betty Jean. I’m ashamed to say that on this particular day I was one of them.

My mom, who’s spiritual gift was mercy in spades, scolded me that night. “God never teases anybody, Steve,” she said. “God loves everybody, especially children. He loves Betty Jean as much as he loves you, or me or your dad. Now tomorrow when you get to school I want you to apologize to Billy Jean and tell her you’re sorry for teasing her. And I’d better never hear of you ever teasing anyone ever again.”

Well I didn’t apologize. I told mom I apologized, but never confessed to her that I lied.

I didn’t apologize to Betty Jean then but I would fall all over myself apologizing to her today. I have to admit, I’ve carried a degree of shame and regret around with me for 60 years.

Mercy is my main spiritual gift today, in part from the compassion God has given me. My heart breaks when I see or hear of children suffering. I have carried a soft spot for Betty Jean since the third grade.

Betty Jean, I wish I knew where you were today.  I would ask you to forgive me and hug your neck and tell you how much Jesus loves you. Hopefully you already know.  I would love to be brother and sister in Christ with you.

 The first day of fourth grade Betty Jean didn’t show up. No one including the principal or teachers ever knew  what happened to her or her family. 

God

My glorious 12-step recovery

I grew up in an alcoholic home. We were all dysfunctional to some degree some more than others–including me.

I was a people pleaser in spades. I had no idea what my identity was or was supposed to be. Sometimes a family member other than the alcoholic becomes an alcoholic or addicted to something else, porn, drugs, prescription drugs or meds. I became addicted to pornography. As a teenager and young adult I kept seeking insecure relationships. I sought people or girlfriends I thought I could rescue or easily control. I became addicted to excitement in all my affairs. yo

Fortunately a colleague (also an ACOA–Adult Child of an Alcoholic) friend got me involved in ACOA and Alanon, and even some AA groups. I spent the next six years, one or two nights every week in recovery rooms diligently working the 12 steps and trying to figure out who I was and how I was supposed to navigate this life I had been given. I read all the 12-step recovery literature I could get my hands on.

The 12-steps of AA are based on the Bible. God doesn’t show up until step 3. The step says “God as we understood him” I have always known that God is God but the word ”understood” gave some in the groups the freedom to say “I understand my God to be the oak tree in my backyard.” or “my microwave” or “our cocker spaniel”

I was not walking with the Lord during those years in recovery.

But God showed up.

He had business he wanted to do in me and with me despite my ambivalent, sinful heart. Oh I told my recovery friends I believed in God, and I did even then, but it would be hard to tell by the way I was living.

The way I was living slowly but significantly changed. I learned lots of stuff about myself and life and how to relate to others better in those recovery rooms. Much of it though was from secular-living dysfunctional co-dependents. Their info, like most of their lives, was rarely spiritually based. It was mostly worldly and culturally rooted and, for the most part self-centered..

But God was at work on me and in me. For the next 25 years God took my recovery room education and translated it from recovery room lingo into His glorious truths one principle at a time.

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What do you see?

Life is lived daily. When you look at things each day, what do you see? Two people can look at the same thing and see something different. Attitude greatly influences life by what we see.

One day, Jesus was teaching, and there were thousands of people there. It had been an extremely long teaching session, and people were hungry. The disciples confronted Jesus about it because they didn’t want the crowd to get out of control. All they could see was a problem. Jesus never saw problems – He only saw possibilities!!

There were no restaurants around, and no take out was available. Drive-through windows hadn’t come into style yet. The disciples found a little boy with five loaves and two fish. For Jesus – that was enough. They fed five thousand men, not counting women and children, and had basketfuls leftover!

Do you see a problem or a possibility? Focusing on a problem will create a frustrating, frightening, fearful situation. Focusing on a possibility will create faith, fortitude, and a future of hope.

A shoe salesman went to a remote part of Africa. When he got there, all he could see was a problem because everybody was barefooted. He sent a message back to his company saying, “No prospect for sales, no one wears shoes. I’m returning home.”

The company later sent another salesman to the same area. He didn’t see the situation as a problem, but as a possibility. He sent a message to the home office saying, “Great potential, no one wears shoes; send 10,000 pairs immediately!”

Two people look at similar situations in life and see different things. One person sees stumbling blocks, obstacles, and unsolvable problems. Another person sees stepping stones, opportunities, and unlimited possibilities.

The great golfer Bobby Jones was going to Arizona to play in a golf tournament. He was told that the temperature in Arizona was “105 degrees in the shade.” He quickly said, “Man, I’m glad we don’t have to play in the shade!”

That’s an attitude! A successful person is not the one who is in a certain set of circumstances, but the one who has a certain set of attitudes!

Walter Gary was probably the biggest University of Alabama Football fan anywhere! He suffered from Down syndrome and died last year at age 36. Every Thursday, he went to Bryant-Denny Stadium and gave Nick Saban a sheet of paper with a prediction of the score for Alabama’s next game. Gary never picked Alabama to lose!

To celebrate Gary’s life, hundreds of people came to the north end zone at Bryant-Denny. Everybody present had been influenced by his attitude about life. Once an ESPN reporter asked him, “How do you deal with Down syndrome?”

Gary’s response was, “I don’t have Down syndrome – I have Up syndrome!” That’s an attitude!

There is an old saying, “If life gives you LEMONS, make LEMONADE!” I like that! My friend Derric Johnson says, “When life gives you LIMES, rearrange the letters to SMILE!”

What do you see?

God

Life does not begin at conception

Life does not begin at conception.

Are you going to believe what God says, or are you going to believe what you think, or what some doctors speculate and theorize?

Because the Bible clearly shows us evidence that life, for many of us¹ (see footnote), began way before conception. In Psalm 139 David probably offers the most accurate evidence that some of our lives began before conception. Listen to David speak about God,

“For you created my inmost being,
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth (where?)
your eyes saw my unformed body. (what kind of body?)

When God called Jeremiah into His service as a prophet, God said to him, “Before I formed you in the womb (Who formed?) I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:4-5. (Parentheses mine).

Then Ephesians 1:4 says, “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world (When?) to be holy and blameless in His sight.” Which those of us who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior are in God’s eyes.

Now, either you believe what God says in His word about when life begins, or you don’t. Some people who call themselves Christians still justify abortion. And we know all the arguments they give for believing that–for the health and safety of the mother, rape and incest, birth defects and more. But Satan has deceived them with his lies.and they believe them instead of God’s word about life and when it began.

Let me close with a few comments about those who claim a woman has the right to make choices about her own body. The lost can and do claim that. Their father is Satan and they won’t know the love of God and the Truth about life until they claim Jesus as Lord of their lives. We need to pray for them and reach out to them with the Truth of the Gospel. God loves them just as much as He loves you and me.

But a man or woman who claims Jesus as Lord and Savior gave up all their rights at the cross. In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul teaches, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  The next verse says, “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” Having an abortion does not honor God.

¹The “many of us” to whom I refer above are those folks whose names are written in the Book of Life, who have been born again from above, and who have claimed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. We’re the ones, the Bible says, who were formed before the foundations of the world to be God’s people.  For us, life did begin long before we were conceived by our biological mother and father.

Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?  If you don’t you can learn more about Him and how He can transform your life. Then you can learn God’s truth about all the issues of life. If you want to know more, just follow this link.

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God

Why ask when life begins?

I have no clue when this whole debate about the origin of life began. If I had to guess I’d say it started with an atheist’s wild theory or a liberal’s convoluted attempt to poke fun at the Gospel.

The answer to the question, “When does life begin?” is right there in front of us in black and white and has been for centuries.

A potion of Psalm 139 that David wrote by inspiration from Almighty God reads,

“For you (God) created my (yours and my) inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and( wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful I know that full well,

My frame (my body, your body) was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place (what else could the secret place be but (my, your) mom’s womb.) when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your (God’s) eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written for me before one of them came to be.”

And we know that it was Almighty God who orchestrated the works that brought the miracle of life to earth. And gave each of us life even before the foundations of the earth. Who can challenge what God says about the beginning of life when it is so clearly spelled out here in His word in Psalm 139.

God

The First Thanksgiving

God

What day is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is not a day on the calendar but rather an attitude towards life. I think it was Mark Twain who said we ought not to have a day of thanksgiving, but instead have a day of grumbling. His point was that we should confine our grumbling to just one day and our thanksgiving to the other 364 days!

I read about a man who decided to put thanksgiving into practice. Every time he wrote a check, he put a little notation in the bottom left-hand corner. He wrote, “Thank you.” He did this when he wrote his power bill. He oftentimes felt that the power bill was more than it should be, but he was thankful that he had power so he could have heat, air conditioning, and lights.

He put “thank you” on every check that he wrote for his mortgage. Again, he felt like the interest rate was too high and his mortgage payment was more than it should be, but he was grateful that he was able to own a house.

He even wrote “thank you” at the bottom of every check that he wrote to the IRS. Now, that is really being thankful! It seemed to be an awfully big portion of his income, but he was thankful that he lived in America and that he enjoyed all of the things that the United States government provided for him. He was even grateful that he could pay taxes!

G. K. Chesterton said, “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” Thanksgiving is an attitude that we should express in all of our relationships. If you feel grateful and don’t express it, it’s like buying and wrapping a birthday present but not giving it!

What does it take to help us become more thankful? Why is it that we have to get flat on our backs before we are able to look up? Why is it that we oftentimes have to become desperate before we realize that God has given us everything that we have? If you complain about how little you have, you’ll never have enough. If you are thankful for what you do have, you will have more than you need. Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes. 5:20)

I read about a mother who decided she would no longer remind her children to write thank you notes for the Christmas presents they received. As a result, the grandmother never received a thank you note for the very generous Christmas checks she had given.

The next year, things were quite different. The children came over one-by-one in person to thank the grandmother. Hearing this, a friend said, “That is wonderful. What do you think caused the change in their behavior?  ”The grandmother replied, “Oh that is easy. This year, I didn’t sign the checks.”

God has signed His check. He is so good! Don’t forget to say “thank you!” Commit this season to doing all your grumbling on one day (preferably when you are by yourself), then spend the rest of the days giving thanks to God and to people.

It’s not happy people who are thankful – it’s thankful people who are happy. Grateful people are so much more enjoyable than grumbling people. My dad said, “Some people cause happiness wherever they go – others, whenever they go!”

You are reading this on Thanksgiving Day! Make every day a Thanksgiving Day!

God

My life is in your hands

God

Thank veterans today

dad


My dad was a proud World War II veteran. Like most of his friends and young men in the 1940’s, Japan’s invasion of Pearl Harbor shocked him. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps (to eventually become the Air Force) in early 1942.

Dad rarely discussed his tour of duty defending our country. He saw plenty and did plenty, but was reluctant to ever talk about it. I think his contemporaries felt the same way. One day, before he became ill, I asked him flat out, “Dad, would you write your thoughts about your World War II experiences?” I told him I wanted a written account of his career in the military. I wanted a record of his own memories and experiences. He agreed. I thought after so many years he might not remember much. His mind was slowly slipping away. He was having trouble remembering lots of things.

But what he wrote surprised me to the core.

Dad wrote, from memory, every mission (19 total) he flew and the dates he flew them. He remembered the target and the details of every mission he and his crew flew. Dad was the radio man on a photo reconnaissance squadron.  His crew flew in ahead of the combat missions to photograph the locations and areas around potential bombing targets. Dad and his crew flew missions out of Guam and several other South Pacific locations into Japan. On one or two missions they took anti-aircraft fire and feared for their lives.

Dad’s photo reconnaissance crew developed their own film. Dad asked my grandpa to send him a camera, which he did, and dad took more than 2000 personal pictures during his tour, many of them mission oriented. A typhoon pounded the base, however, and destroyed his pictures and everything else on the island. Dad said he escaped the typhoon with only the shirt on his back.

Dad was very proud of his service. He joined the American Legion when he returned from the war and was a faithful member and servant for 50 years. He earned a burial with full military honors, including a flag-draped coffin, taps and a 21-gun salute.

My dad was one of many honorable veterans in our family, including my grandfather, Uncle John and great uncles. I was proud to serve a tour in the Air Force during the Vietnam War in Selma, Alabama (uneventful as it may have been). I didn’t see combat like my dad, but served plenty of airmen and officers who had been in the thick of battle in the Vietnam War.

Dad is and will always be one of my heroes.

Many other sons my age can recall stories (different details, different missions, different theaters of war) about their fathers’ or uncles’ military service in World War II or Korea.

And today we have lots more veterans still serving here at home and far from home. Whatever our political views, or opinions about our United States military, we remain the most independent, blessed nation on the planet. We have all those who currently serve, have served, or died in battle to thank for that.

God

Every Praise

God

A chink in our armor

chink

I was backing down my driveway on my way to work one day and noticed the expansion joint nearest the street was damp in one small spot. When I got home from work the entire expansion joint (those dividers that allow the concrete to expand without ruining the driveway) was wet.

The next morning a whole section of driveway was wet thanks to a two-inch spout of water bubbling up where the driveway met the street.

Long story short–to fix it, a county road crew tore up my driveway and half my front yard. They had to replace a 15-foot section of pipe ten feet below ground.  When they got to the pipe they showed me the chink that caused the trouble — a barely visible hairline fracture in the pipe.  That tiny chink seeped water for days and saturated the ground above it all the way to my driveway.

Are we like that sometimes? Chinks in our armor can be dangerous, even deadly.

Ephesians 4:27 tells us, “do not give Satan a foothold.” In other words don’t give Satan a chance to take advantage of those areas where we might be vulnerable.

A chink is a potentially fatal vulnerability or flaw in a protection system.

Satan is constantly looking for chinks and vulnerabilities. Remember he wants to kill, steal and destroy us. It’s all he lives for.He’ll do whatever it takes to gain a foothold. Once he gets his foot in the door, over time pressure build. If we don’t do something to fix the chink Satan will attack it, expose it, and use it to destroy our witness He’ll use the chink to force a wedge in our relationship to God, seeking to destroy us. Before you know it, the evil stench is bubbling down our driveways and we’ve got major sin and disobedience to deal with.

The only chink fix I know is Jesus. When chinks allow Satan to get a foothold, I need to immerse myself in His word, study it, memorize it, dwell on it and allow Jesus to fix it.. I need to be obedient to His word, pray and trust God.

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Who’s in charge?)

What a mess!!!

So many conflicts. ballot challenges, accusations of cheating, stealing votes, lying politicians (of course that’s nothing new), more wild demonstrations, law suits, divisiveness, hate, protests, racism, a fractured church, a polarized society and culture, failure to communicate, a media gone mad…

How and when will it ever end? In my opinion it won’t. It Can’t. We’ve gone too far. I believe our wonderful constitutional democracy is witnessing it’s waning days. Congress can’t fix it, the courts can’t fix it, the president can’t fix it, Billy Graham or James Dobson or Dr. Phil can’t fix it.

I’m even beginning to wonder if 1st Chronicles 7:14 will still work:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” My people” can’t even agree with each other. The church today is about as fractured as it’s ever been. How are they ever going to be unified enough to humble themselves and pray as a unified body of believers–the church?

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalms 46:1

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

There are oodles of scriptures in God’s Word that affirm God’s absolute sovereignty and that Almighty God is still on the throne and in complete control of everything.

Remembering that and abiding in it, I believe, is our only hope today and in the future.

God

What do you expect?

One of the greatest football coaches Alabama has produced was Ralph “Shug” Jordan. He was the head football coach at Auburn for twenty-four years and had an enviable win/loss football record of 176-83-6. He was the National Football Coach of the Year in 1957 and several times Coach of the Year in the SEC. He’s in the Hall of Fame.

He was also head basketball coach at Auburn and Georgia. He was an American patriot and a great military leader. He led four military invasions during World War II. He was wounded at Normandy. He was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. I’ve heard that General Patton had a “War Eagle” sign on the front of his Jeep because he said that Shug Jordan told him to put it there!

A friend in Selma had the personal high school annual of his father who had graduated with Coach Jordan. I held that annual in my hands. I saw that next to his senior picture in the annual, Coach Jordan wrote these words, “Someday I expect to be a major college football coach.” Wow! He set his expectation level when he was a senior in high school – and he accomplished it later!

The old saying is, “What you expect is what you get.” What are your expectations for 2021? Where you will be in December 2021 will be directly related to the expectations you set in January 2021! If you expect something bad, it’s going to be a tough year. If you expect something good – get ready for some huge surprises! I dare you to expect God to turn a tough, turbulent 2020 into a terrific 2021!

2020 was tough, but it was not nearly as tough as what the apostle Paul experienced when he wrote to his friends at Philippi. He was in prison. His expectations were so high about the possibilities of what he could accomplish there. He considered prison to be the perfect place for him to do ministry. He expected the best for his people, and he led by example. He writes, “Because of my imprisonment, many of the Christians seem to have lost their fear of chains.” (Philippians 1:14)

Paul says a few verses later, “I’m going to keep on being glad, for I know that you pray for me, and as the Holy Spirit helps me, this is going to turn out for my good. For I know when I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that will cause me to be ashamed of myself…and I will always be an honor to Christ.” (Philippians 1:19 ff)

When Louis XVI and his queen were put to death by the people of France, they left behind a little boy who would have been King Louis XVII. They put the boy in prison where he was surrounded by terrible people who were vicious and vile. Their aim was to teach the boy vulgar thoughts and habits of profanity and unholy things.

But these men failed because of the expectations of that little boy. Whenever someone tried to get that boy to say a bad word, he would simply reply, “No, I will not say it. I was born to be a king!”

You were born to be in King Jesus’s family! Live 2021 in the expectation of what God is going to do through you. Make every day a day that God uses you to help Him increase His royal family and define Kingdom values for other people!

We are graduating from 2020. What are you writing by your picture for 2021?

God

From horror to hope

One of the serendipities of being a part of ministry in the last few years has been to participate in Dr. Bill Bright’s Billion Soul Initiative to start five million churches and win one billion new believers to Christ. He gave me the opportunity to serve on his overall steering committee. This has allowed me to meet some wonderful leaders around the world.

At one of our planning meetings in Los Angeles, my son, Si, and I met Matthew Barnett. It’s amazing what this young man has done.

Matthew and his wife became senior pastors of the Angeles Temple in 2001. Matthew had a vision for a church that would be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to meet not only the spiritual but the physical and emotional needs of people.

The church bought a large hospital in Los Angeles that had been abandoned. It was being used by Hollywood to produce horror films. Matthew and his team saw a vision for changing a place depicting horror to a place that would give hope and help to people in need. Matthew’s motto is, “When times get tough – serve!” He lives that out to make a huge difference in the Los Angeles area.

The hospital has been converted into a Dream Center. This is a huge ministry that serves more than 80,000 people monthly! They provide transitional housing for people who are homeless, suffer from addictions, human trafficking, poverty, hunger, etc. They have huge trucks where they deliver meals to people throughout the county. The Dream Center is engaged in foster care, job skills training, life skills training, basic education, and a multitude of other ways to meet needs.

There are now 84 Dream Centers around the world in 29 states and 11 countries. To raise awareness and support for the Dream Center, last year Matthew ran seven marathons in seven days on seven different continents. He had a tough knee injury before the last marathon, but he finished it. That’s his spirit!

The Dream Center offers transitional housing to help people rebuild their lives. They have about 500 beds available. Si and I enjoyed just walking through the facility with Matthew. He knew the names of so many people who were there in different ministry programs. Recovery was becoming reality for people who had been abused by themselves or others. The Dream Center is focused on leading a person to a vital relationship with Jesus – a new birth. They believe and practice that a new birth in Christ creates a new person who then can grow spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. (2 Cor. 5:17)

Mathew’s dad is Tommy Barnette. He is co-pastor, along with Matthew’s brother Luke, of a huge megachurch in Phoenix, Arizona.  They have a weekly church attendance of over 23,000 people! That church recently changed its name to Dream City Church.

I believe every church ought to be a Dream Church!! If a church never dreams, it will never have a dream come true. Joel said, “Your young men shall dream dreams, and your old men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28) Matthew Barnett is a witness that a God-sized dream can change horror to hope!

Are you and your church dreaming God’s dream?

God

Watch “Surely the Presence of the Lord is in this Place – Tanica Campbell” on YouTube