God

Everything’s Broken

Broken hearts, broken vows, broken promises, broken laws,

Everything is broken. Nothing works like it’s supposed to.

Washington’s broken. When Senators and Congressmen and women finally find time to show up for work and put together something they think will work. First thing you know it breaks.

Treaties are broken. Chords are broken. Dishes are broken. Rules are broken. Marriages are broken. Families are broken. Records are broken. Parties are divided and broken. Bones are broken. Bottles are broken. Lives are broken. Backs are broken. Homes are broken. Commandments are broken.

It’s what’s wrong with America today. Everything’s broken. Political correctness and tolerance are the standards for carrying on life in our broken, shattered society.

Almighty God has lots to say about all the brokenness we see and experience in our world today.

First of all, God is in charge of everything. Second of all God has a plan and a purpose for everyone He has ever created. And all the brokenness on the planet and hatred and rebellion and discrimination and racism and disobedience will throw God off His game. His plan has been unfolding for man since before the creation of the world. And His plan will continue exactly as He wills it.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

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. Isaiah 41:10

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21

God

Picture of humility

Would you say you’re a humble person? Well DON’T! The minute you say you’re humble, it means you aren’t. Humble folks don’t toot their own horns. “But, Steve I help little old ladies across the street, I buy Girl Scout cookies then give them away to the poor, I do something kind for someone at least once a week. Listen to yourself, “I, I, I.”. That’s not humble, it’s self-serving. You wouldn’t know humility if it smacked you on the nose.

As I view our culture and social interaction today it becomes glaringly apparent to me that we have abandoned humility as an essential value of one’s character.

What a shame!

Paul writes in Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselvesnot looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

The bible gives us the most meaningful and possibly the greatest picture of humility ever.

Consider the mother of Jesus.

She was a teenager from Nazareth, a tiny little nondescript wide spot in the road that biblical scholars tell us couldn’t have been home to more than 200 folks or so. It was a place folks passed through never traveled to. Nathanael once remarked in John 1:46, “Can any good thing come from Nazareth?”

She was a virgin betrothed to an impoverished carpenter. The subject of relentless gossip in the town. She would be blessed as the mother of Jesus but cursed by the burden of her history for a lifetime.

When we meet Mary the angel Gabriel is bringing Mary a message,

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 

Mary could have responded a number of ways, but she responded in true humility, a perfect picture of humility,

I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.1

The Lord’s servant! The word “servant” in this context is the lowest kind of servant (and the most humble.) The lowest kind of servant who would voluntarily sell themselves into slavery.

1Luke 1:28-38

God

What color was Adam and Eve’s skin?

Does it say what color it was in Genesis 2? No it doesn’t. Does God tell us what color it was later in the creation narrative? NOPE.

In fact, nowhere in the Bible do we find out what color their skin color. Do you know why?

IT DOESN’T MATTER?

God created ONE RACE–THE HUMAN RACE! And God created Adam and Eve and every other person who has ever been born and inhabited this planet. And He created every one of us in His image.

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27.

So, the next time a teenage driver cuts you off on the Interestate or your neighbor accidently mows down your freshly planted rose bushes, remember both those guys were created by God in his own image.

If you judge anybody with prejudice or discrimination or bigotry or racism you might as well commit murder. The Bible tells us that we break any part of the law we are guilty of breaking the whole law. It all dishonors God. You can’t live with love and prejudice in your heart at the same time. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” James 2:101

Are you living with a prejudice of any kind against any person or against any group with a different skin color than you? Why do we even consider skin color anyway? If you are living with a prejudice against any one or group of people because of the color of their skin, do you think it might be a good idea to get alone with God and work on this ugly issue of prejudice?

1A devotional by Dr. James Merritt at Touching Lives Ministries was an inspiration for this blog post.

God

hypochristians

I used to work with a funny, friendly non-Christian who referred to church-goers as hypochristians (hypocrites who masquerade as Christians) According to my friend, “They call themselves Christians. They show up at church on Sunday morning acting all holier than thou after being out at the bars and nightclubs living it up on Saturday night.”

According to my friend, hypochristians talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.

For instance Bob says, “Syd is such a humble guy. Then Bob says to Fred, “Have you talked to Syd lately? All he talks about is teaching his Sunday school class and his job and how many sales awards he’s won.”

I might shock you here, but I agree with my friend to an extent. I believe the church has a bunch of hypocrites.

Jesus hated hypocrisy. He took the Pharisees and the church leaders to the woodshed over their pretense and hypocrisy. He had a special name for what he called that brood of vipers. He called them “whitewashed tombs” because all they were cared about or taught was how they looked on the outside. You get the imagery? They are clean and white and sparkly on the outside and dead and rotten and sinful on the inside. 

The word hypocrite comes from the same Latin root for “actor”–someone who would put on a mask in a play and pretend or act like another character.

“You get the imagery? They are clean and white and sparkly on the outside and dead and rotten on the inside. 

We’ll discover how to deal with hypocrasy and overcome it in an upcoming post.In the meantime ponder your answer to the question above.

God

Are you a believer? So what? Millions of people are.

John 3:16 says if you believe in Christ you won’t ever die and you’ll gain eternal life.

I imagine lots of “Christians” who claim to be believers are satisfied with their “believer” status.

After all, being a believer doesn’t have any requirements or expectations or challenges. You might go to a church and read your Bible and pray and tithe and usher once a month or keep the nursery. Things you want or like to do or think you should be doing as a believer (serving your own interests) as loyal believers to make you feel good and look good to others (hypocrites.) As long as you’re a believer you can live any lifestyle you want, and I’m sure many folks do–living life like they lived and acted (even after salvation)–unchanged, whatever feels good, do it. Self-oriented, not others-oriented. Living the status quo believers “Christian” life.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. before they were saved (even after salvation)–unchanged.

So, where does Jesus fit into this believer’s lifestyle, or does he.

Believing was important to Jesus. Jesus told his disciples in John 14, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”

But believing in Jesus was the catalyst for his life changing invitation, “Follow me.” In Scripture more than100 times Jesus issues his invitation to “Follow me.” when he invited the disciples to follow him each of them followed Jesus immediately.

Following Jesus is not a “be” word it is a “do” word. God has a purpose for each of us.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23.

Jesus’ invitation to become an authentic disciple requires action: deny self, take up DAILY and follow.

Stepping Out

We’re often reluctant to step out in faith for things that sound challenging or tough or time consuming or personally costly. “I’m not qualified to do that”. “I can’t take off from work that long.” “We don’t have the money.” “You need to find someone else.” “I’m too old. “

Pushing through our excuses and inadequacies in order to say yes to God for the benefit of others grows our faith.1 When we are willing to step out in faith and follow Jesus to serve others NOT HAVING A CLUE WHERE GOD WILL TAKE US, OUR FAITH WILL GROW. And on the other side of our stepping out to serve others, no matter how large or small the service, we will see God’s faithfulness1

1A devotional by Andy Stanley entitled Faith Full was the inspiration for this post and the source for the quotes above.

God

The do-over–marriage therapy

My beautiful wife Marie and I don’t need marriage counseling. Marie and I have a wonderful marriage relationship.

In fact the pandemic has drawn us closer to each other. We have both said at times that our favorite thing to do is to spend time with each other. Despite our closeness, there are those rare occasions when we get off on the wrong track and drive the pickup towards the ditch.

It’s at those times (usually caused by bonehead things I say or do) that one of us asks “Can we have a do-over?” I don’t have a clue why that question is so effective. But it works for us every time. Neither of us has ever denied the other a do-ever when they asked for one. And the response is always calming and positive.

I think it works for us so well because we rarely have very serious arguments (And I can usually solve those relatively quickly with a consolatory, “Yes, Ma’am you’re right.”) Seriously the do-over works and we return to normal. Our Do-overs have helped us avoid problems that could otherwise evolve into much more serious arguments and marital conflict.

I have also learned an invaluable tool for the best way husbands can always avoid any conflict with his wife–GUARANTIED!

Guys, after everything she says, repeat this phrase, “You’re right.” or ” You’re absolutely right.” or “I wish I’d thought of that.”

God

Let’s lose weight

The number one resolution at the beginning of each year is to lose weight. Very few people are successful at it. One of the downsides of the pandemic has been the fact that people have been indoors, haven’t exercised, and have eaten a good bit more. America is heavier following the pandemic.

The weight we need to lose is measured in pounds, but some weights are more important than physical pounds. You will function better if you lose these five weights – get rid of them!

  1. Lose the weight of GUILT. Jeremiah said, “No amount of soap or lye can make you clean. You are stained with guilt that cannot be washed away.” (Jeremiah 10:22)

    The weight of guilt around the neck will drag you down and defeat you. It will wear you out. There is an answer to getting rid of guilt. John says, “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” (1 John 1:9) This is the only way to get rid of guilt!
  2. Lose the weight of GREED. It is so easy in today’s culture to want to get more and more. In the early church, Peter said, “In their greed, they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money …they trained themselves to be greedy; they are doomed and cursed.” (2 Peter 2:3,14)

    The best way to get rid of greed is to give. One day, a young man came to Jesus and had become filthy rich. With it, came greed. He asked what he could do to follow Jesus, and Jesus said, “Go and sell all that you have and give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come follow me.” (Matthew 19:21) Giving neutralizes greed!
  3. Lose the weight of GRUMBLING. Too many people lose a balanced focus of life because they are always grumbling about what they don’t have instead of being grateful for what they do have. We grumble about a lot of things that other people are praying that they wish they could have!

    When is enough, enough? The size of your wage will never be enough. Jesus said, “And when they received their wages, they grumbled at the landowner.” (Matthew 20:11) Gratitude is a great replacement for grumbling!
  4. Lose the weight of GOSSIP. This weight is detrimental to you and those around you. Gossip will tear away your integrity and the credibility of another person. Stop and think before you say anything about anybody. If it’s not for their benefit, don’t say it!

    Solomon said, “A gossip tells secrets, so don’t hang around with someone who talks too much.” (Proverbs 20:19) James said, “The tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do…the tongue is a flame of fire, it can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame.” (James 3:5)
  5. Lose the weight of GRUDGES. Everybody has had somebody do something wrong to them. Grudges grow. A grudge tries to get back at someone – and all you do is harm yourself. Remember, “Never seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone, but love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)

I have listed five weights that we need to lose. This is not something you do once and think it’s over. We have to do this every day. It’s easy to go on a physical diet and lose a lot of pounds, then put those pounds back on the next week. The weights suggested here should be taken off – and left off!

God

Shake your fist at God

Have you ever been so angry at God you wanted to shake your fist in his face?

Why don’t you? Go ahead. Some folks think God might get upset if you did something so disrespectful. Do you think God might say something like, “Gee, I didn’t know you felt that way.”

No, he won’t. God doesn’t mind if you contend with him if you get upset, even if you’re livid and red-faced angry.

“We prayed for you to to cure my wife of breast cancer but she died.”

“I was supposed to get a promotion but I got fired instead.”

“I got diagnosed with ALS.”

“I thought our finances were doing okay. Now it looks like we have to declare bankruptcy.”

He knew the words you were going to use, even the words that took God’s name in vain.

God was not surprised that you got so angry.

There’s a guy in the Bible who got over-the-top angry at God. The prophet Habakkuk, got plenty mad at God. Read his misery,

The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
    but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
    but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
    Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
    so that justice is perverted.

He contends with God and let God know what makes him so angry.

He and God exchange words. Then in Habakkuk 3 the prophet lays out the worst case scenario:

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

If the entire economy of the people is destroyed, if there is nothing left. If all is gone and there are no resources. If the shelves at Walmart are bare, if Amazon’s website gets sabotaged, if nothing’s left, then read what Habakkuk does . . .

 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior

he Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk will rejoice, praise the Lord. He will surrender his will to his Sovereign Lord.

For many of us our circumstances may be as dire as Habakkuk’s. No money, no work, mouths to feed with little or no food in the pantry, half-tank of gas in the car.

Would we rejoice in the Lord? Would we be joyful in the God of our salvation?

God

This forgiveness business

Quiz: What were the last three words Jesus uttered from the cross “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” 

“It is finished.” What was finished? The work God sent Jesus to do on earth.

One of the major things Jesus finished on the cross was to pay the price for mankind’s sin–all of it for everyone once and for all–the operative phrase here is “ONCE AND FOR ALL!

Some folks who call themselves “Christians” have problems with that forgiveness business believing Jesus’ forgiveness was really “once” and they’re really part of “ALL”

Some sin or sins from their past strap them in bondage to regret or shame or guilt. And they lug that baggage around with them all the time. At times the guilt or regret or shame rears its head and manifests itself in negative thinking or destructive behavior. They convince themselves its just part of who they are.

It is not now nor has it ever been part of who you are even if you’re not a child of God.

How do we know? The Bible tells us so.

When Christ died, he died for sin (every sin for all of mankind ) once and for all. Romans 6:10

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. 1 Peter 3:18

He is the propitiation (gaining the favor of God) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

Scripture tells us you could never have committed a sin or sins so terrible and disgusting that Jesus did not die for (and forgive) on the cross. It’s forgiven. Done. For good. You can stop asking or wondering if you’re forgiven. You are.

What is real forgiveness

God

Jesus loves me

and He loves you too.

Do you have one tiny iota of how much He loves you?

I don’t either. I know Jesus loves me more than I could ever fathom in a million years. And He will ALWAYS love me, YOU TOO.

Do something with me right now. Put your tablet, or your PC down. Go get a ladder and walk outside. Climb up to the highest point on your roof and sing in any key you want this song

P

God

The power of little things

Last week, I wrote about the danger of little things and how they can become destructive. Today, I want to look at the other side of that coin and show the constructive power of little things.

Little things can pack great power. It depends on whether we see them as problems or possibilities. One day, the disciples came to Jesus and told Him they had a huge problem. The people were hungry and there was nothing to eat. All they could see was a problem.

Jesus never saw a problem – He only saw possibilities! There were over 5,000 people there, but He was interested in a little boy who had a little lunch. The disciples thought he was foolish to take a little lunch and expect much. But little becomes a lot when God is in it! Jesus blessed the little lunch of five loaves and two fish and fed over 5,000 folks and had 12 basket loads leftover! (Matthew 14:13-21)

Look what God did through Gideon with a little army of 300 against thousands of the enemy. (Judges 7:2-24) Look at the big lesson Jesus taught us about the widow with one little coin. (Mark 12:41-44) Look what God did with one little shepherd boy, David, and one little rock against a giant. David had five rocks, but he only needed one! (1 Samuel 17:48-50)

Little things can produce great results. I remind you that there are only three pure colors, but look at what Michaelangelo did with those three colors. There are only seven notes, but look what Beethoven did with those seven notes. There are only ten mathematical digits, but look what Einstein did with them!

Don’t sell yourself short as being little and unimportant. God has a way of taking little things and producing big results. Problems become possibilities!

Robert Hill is a little boy who heard about Albert Schweitzer’s ministry in Africa. He decided to save his money to send medicine. He was able to buy one little  bottle of Aspirin and had it shipped to Africa. 

Robert’s dad was an army sergeant stationed in Italy. The radio station and newspaper heard about it and saw it as a great human interest story. They encouraged people to help Robert send medicine. Within a week, the Italian and French governments together flew Robert to Albert Schweitzer’s hospital in Africa, carrying with him medical supplies worth over $400,000!

Benjamin Franklin said, “Little strokes fell great oaks!” One person saw a spider web in a garden, and it became the inspiration for the suspension bridge. One person observed a tea kettle singing on the stove and had the idea of the steam engine. A lantern swinging in a tower produced the idea for a pendulum clock. One man watching apples fall to the ground discovered the law of gravity. Little things have huge consequences.

Little things pack power. One kind word – one affirming comment, one smile, one offer of a helping hand, one willingness to go a second mile with someone – these little things can make a big difference in the lives of people! If you take care of the little things – the big things will take care of themselves!

Discover the power and possibilities that God packs in little things!

God

The true Gospel message

By Ken Chester Guest author

“The first thing I did was place before you what was placed so emphatically before me: that the Messiah died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells it; that he was buried; that he was raised from death on the third day, exactly as Scripture says…— 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 The Message
This message has stood every assault and attack for over 2000 years. God found you with these words: exactly as Scripture tells it. These same words changed lives then and still change lives today. The attacks will not let up. The assault on these words will increase and at times sound deafening. No matter, these words are meant to be worn on the inside and lived on the outside. The one who wrote these words tried his best to stamp them out. Instead, God stamped these words upon his heart and changed him into a word-spreader. You’ll find yourself coming alive as these words become the reality of how you are going to live. Jesus, Messiah, died for your sins (others too!), buried, raised on the third day. It’s never going to be an easy message to share. But when you do, you’ll find that God has already prepared the once hardened soil of another man’s heart. Are you letting these Scriptures be real in you today? It only takes a moment …

“He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”

— Ephesians 2:10 The Message

God

Rule of 3

If you’re in the military or ever join the military every member of the branch, officer or enlisted member, or support personnel is required to memorize 2 numbers. They are appropriately part of what is referred to as the rule of 3. The rule of 3 is often a key to survival.

The two numbers are: 1.–98.6 and 2.–3

1. 98.6

98.6 is the ideal body temperature.

Maintaining the optimum healthy temperature keeps the body at its most efficient and operable condition.

Allowing our body temperature to get too low can be dangerous.

If the body temperature drops to 88 degrees seek medical attention right away.

If your body temperature falls to 82 degrees, call the family together and start picking out your favorite hymns for the service.

2. 3

  • You can survive 3 weeks without food
  • You can survive 3 days without drinkable water
  • You can survive 3 hours in a harsh environment (extreme heat or cold)
  • You can last 3 minutes without breathable air
  • You can only last 3 seconds without hope

The number 3 in Scripture

The number 3 is also an important element we find throughout Scripture. Here are just a few samples.

  • Father, Son and Holy Spirit
  • Three wise men
  • Jesus was in the grave three days
  • Three men were crucified on Calvary
  • Three parts of man (body, soul, spirit)
  • Justification, sanctification, glorification
  • Three gifts of the magi–frankincense, gold and myrrh
  • Jesus inner circle–Peter, James and John
  • three heavens
  • Peter disavowed Jesus three times
  • We have three of the same characteristics as God–a will, an intellect and emotions
  • Earth has three elements–sun, moon, stars

These are just a few examples of how significant the number 3 is in God’s Word. There are dozens more examples of how God’s number 3 influences the Gospel of Jesus Christ in both the Old and New Testaments.

God

No door needed

When you open a door to walk into a crowded room what do you usually do first? Scan the crowd to see who all’s there? Look for folks you ? Immediately begin speaking? Start singing? Tell a joke? Introduce yourself?

Well, on the first day of the week after the resurrection of Christ Jesus wanted to get with his disciples so they could see that he was alive, like he said he would be. The only problem was the disciples weren’t around. They were locked in the upper room hiding from the Jewish leaders. The disciples were fearing the Jewish leaders would be gunning for them now that they thought they’d crucified their head honcho.

All of a sudden Jesus stood among them in their midst. He just appeared. He didn’t knock on the door. He didn’t open the door. He didn’t call to them to let him in. He just appeared in their midst. He didn’t need a door to go through. He just showed up.

And what were the first words out of his mouth? Not, “Hey, guys, how ya doin? or “See, fellas, I’m alive now. My Father raised me from the dead. Isn’t that cool?”

No. What Jesus said to his disciples the very first time they laid eyes on him since his resurrection was much more profound and meaningful to them.

He said “Peace be with you.” After all the drama and uncertainty and lingering doubts his disciples had faced, at that critical moment in their journey, they needed comfort more than anything else. And it came to them directly from the lips of the Creator of the Universe.

“Peace be with you!”

They were being prepared to embark on their missions to take the Gospel message Jesus had taught them to the world.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.

And when they went they would be traveling with the peace of God.

God

Do we know Jesus?

Oh, we know a few scriptures from the bible. We pray and give, and attend bible study now and again. We know about forgiveness We’re saved. We’re going to heaven. We help people in need. We know Jesus died on the cross to save us and cleanse us from all our sins. We know who Jesus is. But do we know Jesus? Are we surrendered to Him. Are we His?

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42.

You see sister Mary knew Jesus. While Martha was fretting over trivial, worldly things Mary was soaking up every word Jesus was saying. She was willing to surrender herself in humble service to the man she knew as her Master. The disciples were still trying to figure out who the number two Jesus disciple would be in His Kingdom.

God

Grave mistake

It was a grave mistake. Jesus had upset religious and non-religious people. They were determined to put an end to his movement. After an unjust trial, they crucified him on a hill called Golgotha, then thought it was over when they put His body in a borrowed grave.

But that’s a grave mistake! Jesus didn’t come into the world to wind up in a grave. He didn’t die on the cross saying, “I am finished.” He said, “It is finished.” He knew He wasn’t finished – He was just beginning!

The grave was a temporary residence for Jesus. After three days, He came out and appeared alive to hundreds of people and then ascended to God, His Father. Read I Corinthians 15 and 16.

It’s a grave mistake to think that a grave is the end. That’s merely where a body is placed. The soul of man continues to live forever. Each person chooses his/her destiny for eternity –  either in the presence of God or in the absence of God. The Bible calls the alternatives heaven or hell. It’s a grave mistake to think you can change your choice in the grave!

In Pisa, Italy, there is a very interesting cemetery. Years ago, shiploads of soil were brought in from the Holy Land so that people could be buried in that soil. They thought it would be more helpful for their salvation than reciting Masses or lighting candles. Grave mistake!

Winston Churchill planned his own funeral in St. Paul’s Cathedral with stately hymns and impressive liturgy. He also arranged for what would happen after the benediction. He had a bugler high in the dome of the church to play “Taps,” a universal signal that the day is over and ended. But then he had another bugler play “Reveille,” the sign of the beginning of a new day. “Taps” is goodnight down here – “Reveille” is good morning up there!

Henri Nouwen wrote, “What seemed to be the end proved to be the beginning; what seemed to be a cause for fear proved to be a cause for courage; what seemed to be defeat proved to be victory; and what seemed to be the basis for despair proved to be the basis for hope. Suddenly a wall becomes a gate.”

Easter is not about the mystery of death, but the miracle of eternal life; it’s not about the Easter bunny, but the Perfect Lamb; it’s not about the golden egg, but about the streets of gold; it’s not about who might be right, but who is right!

It doesn’t matter where your body is buried, or if it’s buried at all. What matters is where your soul goes when you die. Being buried in a cathedral or expensive soil from the Holy Land or any other place doesn’t really matter in the long run – eternity is the longest run! Don’t make the grave mistake of prioritizing the grave!

A retired lady named Dee Parrish lived in Florida. She had a terminal illness. Due to volunteers from her church, she remained at home during her last days. Church people brought recordings of old hymns. Dee was listening to the hymn, “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” when she died. Everybody just knew that when the roll was called up yonder, Dee answered, “Present!”

How will you answer?

God

Things could be worse

problems

I carried around two stents and a catheter in my kidneys for five days. I had them removed at the VA recently. Those five days were the most uncomfortable, agonizing days ever.

Waiting in line to check in at the VA a man in a wheelchair next to me called attention to the bag strapped to my leg. He showed me the bag he was wearing. I told him I’d been wearing a catheter for five days and was eager to have it removed.

He told me he’d been wearing a catheter for four-and-a-half years. They had to remove it and install another one every three months. On top of that he was also waging a battle against cancer.

My problems paled in comparison to this vet’s trials. I felt ashamed for all the griping and complaining I’d been doing about my problems.

I take myself too seriously many times. I wallow in self-pity and engage in trivial grumbling. I like to make insurmountable, hopeless obstacles out of petty grievances.

This vet knocked me down a few notches. A glitch in hospital protocol caused an extra stop where I met the man in the wheelchair. God arranged that glitch and encounter to teach me something about humility. I was focused on me and my petty trial and discomfort. Not others. Not God.

In humility consider others better than yourselves, and . . .do not merely look to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.. . but do all things without grumbling or complaining.

God

Grape Expectations

Jesus’ last lesson for His disciples was about — grapes.

Jesus had high expectations that His disciples would understand their responsibility to continue His ministry. On His way to the Garden of Gethsemane He explained how they could succeed in the mission He had given them by teaching them about grapes.

Use your imagination with me for a minute.  Let’s put ourselves right in the crowd with Jesus and His disciples on their last night together.

I first

They ate the Passover meal together in an upper room. During the meal Jesus comforted them by giving them His peace and assuring them that everything would be all right. Look at the last verse of John, 14:31 …”but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded me. Get up let us go from here.”

“Get up let’s go from here.” — The very next verse: John 15:1, Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes so that it may bear more fruit.” Then in verse 4-5 Jesus says, “Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch can not bear fruit on itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me bears must fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

branches

I can imagine that between John 14:31 and 15:1 they have left the upper room and are heading towards the Garden of Gethsemane together. Somewhere along the line Jesus stops at a grape vine, picks up a cluster of grapes and teach His disciples their last (and maybe most important) lesson while He’s still with them.  “I am the vine, you are the branches.”

We are branches. We produce nothing. We do nothing. All Jesus asked us to do is abide. Abide in Him. His life (the life in the vine) flows through us. He is our life. He doesn’t ask us to do anything but abide.  If we abide in Him (and He in us), we’re going to bear baskets full of fruit season after season.

But He said “apart from me (if you try to do things for His glory on your own, relying on your resources and your plans and your brains and efforts) all your hard work to be good for God will be in vain. We can do nothing. Nothing we do on our own will bear fruit or bring glory to God. Only what Jesus produces in us, through us and as us.

All He asks us to do is abide.  Just abide. Remain in Him. Trust Him. Depend on Him. Surrender to Him. Day by day. Moment by moment. And our fruit baskets will fill and overflow.

God

What we all want most

When I was growing up in my little hometown of Shenandoah, Iowa the place was running over with kids. Spring and summer were playground city–baseball, hide and seek, kick the can, king of the hill, red rover red rover, fireworks, swimming, sleepovers, whiffle ball, sleeping in the tent in the back yard–you name it we played it.

Baseball was our favorite. We had so many kids in two or three neighborhoods we could pick two captains and choose sides.

Wherever we played we all hoped we could avoid being picked last. Being picked last or even next to last was the kiss of death. It made us feel rejected or unaccepted.

we learned in those elementary years that acceptance was the thing we all craved more than anything else.

That desire for acceptance followed us into adulthood. Isn’t that desire to be accepted still with us. Whether it’s a spouse, or work associates, or golfing buddies, or employer, or employees, or neighbors, or church family, or Bible study group, or extended family, or in-laws.

One of the most precious feelings we can experience in life is the sense of belonging–the idea that we’re accepted. Tell me I’m wrong.

Some Christians can’t wrap their heads around the concept of being accepted by God. “He doesn’t mean me,” they say. “He doesn’t know all the things I’ve done.” (Oh yes He does.) “I’m not good enough.”

Just think about this for a minute:

  • God chose you before the foundation of the world. Not some NFL quarterback or insurance salesman from Omaha. YOU! He chose YOU!
  • God called you
  • God loves you
  • God saved you
  • God placed you in Christ
  • God adopted you into his own family

I think we can say without a shadow of a doubt that God accepts you and me and every saint just like we are.1

1A message by Dr. James Merritt, Touching Lives Ministries Atlanta, Georgia was the inspiration for this blog post.

God

Stop praying for patience

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably worn God out asking him to give you patience. Well you can stop asking. You don’t need God to give you patience. You already have all Gods patience you will ever need. How about some self-control? Do you need a little of that? Could you be a little kinder? You’ve already got all the kindness and self-control you’ll ever need.

How do I know? Read what Paul says to The Ephesians, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Ephesians 1:3 How man blessings? EVERY spiritual blessing.

What do we do with the blessings we receive down here on earth? We amass them. But all our worldly blessings are temporal. We’ll either use them up or leave them behind. We won’t take them with us. But every spiritual blessing is eternal. We can never run out of God’s supply.

And where do we find these spiritual blessings? In Christ. Who is in Christ? Whoever believes in him and has claimed Him as Savior.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NIV

You will never lack for any provision from God as long as you are in Christ.

It’s okay to ask God for blessings, Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And 1st Thessalonians 5:16-18 encourages us to pray always. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Praying for stuff is a good thing. And remember, all we have to do is ask God for the blessings He already has and is willing to provide all the blessings you need from His eternal, limitless supply. And He will.

know?

God

3 ways we can heal

If we suffer a serious illness we can experience healing in three ways:

  • We can be healed from a medical issue such as a heart condition and seek healing from modern medicine
  • We can be healed by prayer
  • We can experience the healing power of Almighty God

 “Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.” — Jeremiah 17:14

When I think of all the advancements they’ve made in modern medicine these days it makes me dizzy. And the wonder of it all is that the advances just keep coming.

Modern medicine

I am fortunate to have been healed of a significant heart condition in January 2011. I had open heart surgery. I will forever be grateful for the skills and medical expertise of Dr. Lance Freidland, my cardiologist who performed the surgery at St. Josephs Hospital in Atlanta.

The operation turned out to be more complex than they figured. They had to stop my heart for 18 minutes to implant a new aortic valve. (They stopped my heart for 18 minutes and replaced a damaged aorta. So they gave me a whole new aorta and a new pig valve. My heart is fine today except for my craving for bacon.

Prayer

A 13-year-old seventh grade girl named Laurie taught me about the healing power of prayer.

I taught 7th grade English in Montgomery, Alabama public schools for several years. One of my students told me doctors told her she had a small growth on her eardrum. She told me the doctors weren’t concerned about it but they wanted to observe it, as it might go away on its own. I told her I would pray for her. Her family and her church family would pray too. I soon found out that hundreds of folks were praying for her across Montgomery and the state.

The tumor grew and soon enveloped her entire eardrum. Doctors made arrangements for her to have surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The family had to drive to the clinic because the doctors said flying could easily do more damage to her eardrum or possibly even be fatal.

They arrived at the clinic in Rochester and were preparing for this extremely complex surgery. The team of surgeons laid Laurie on an exam table. The doctors looked in Laurie’s ear.

They could not see any cancerous tumor in her ear at all. Not only could they not see any cancer or tumor, they didn’t see any evidence that a tumor had ever been there.

The doctors and attendings and staff were dumbfounded, They could not explain the phenonium.

I can. Can’t you?

By the way this story is absolutely 100% TRUE You can call it whatever you choose to believe about the story.

I call it simply “The power of God to heal”

Almighty God

God can heal anyone of any sickness or disease anywhere any time any way He chooses. It will be His choice, His method His way and in His perfect timing.

My mom was a 2-time survivor of breast cancer. The cancer returned a third time in late 2004. This time the lung cancer metastasized to her brain She and my dad spent their last days in a nursing home in our hometown, Shenandoah, Iowa. One day when I was visiting her she asked me if I would pray with her. You can’t imagine how sweet it is to have your dying mother ask you to pray with (not for) her.

When we prayed I asked God to heal her. I asked God to heal her physically completely or by taking her to heal her completely by taking her home to be with Him forever. He answered my prayer and healed her completely on March 12, 2005.

She is with Jesus now, having the time of her eternal life, waiting for the rest of our family to gather together with her and the Lord. She has no cancer–she never will. Se will never even catch a cold again. She won’t ever cry, or be lonely, tired, hungry, upset, cold, want for anything, She will be filled with joy forever.

God healed her the best way He could and better than the best medicine or prayer ever could down here on earth

God

“Good” Christians don’t exist

Lots of folks who want to improve their lives (e.g. to be accepted by God, to get closer to God, to be loved more by God,  to gain God’s favor and blessing) try real hard to be a good Christian. The operative word here is “try“.

But “good” Christians don’t exist. In addition, if someone is declared a ” Good”  Christian  that means somewhere there has to be a bad Christian and a better Christian and a poor Christian. Do you see the judgmental comparison trap we’d get ourselves into?

The moment we “try” to improve our lot as a “Christian” we take the focus off God and place it squarely on our self effort.

In God’s Kingdom what we do on our own doesn’t count for anything.  The only thing that counts in God’s Kingdom is surrender to Christ’s life allowing him to live His life through us. Christ wants to live His life (not ours) in us, through us, and as us to bring Glory to God. Period.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remains in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5.

I taught an adult Sunday School class for years. Our focus for the lessons was always centered on our identity in Christ. Our mission statement was helping each other know, believe, understand, and live out of our true identity in Christ. We taught that allowing Christ to do everything in us and for us and through us would be all we needed to live our lives as disciples o’re going to f Christ. During one our lessons about our true identity in Christ, a lady asked me, “But don’t we have to do SOMETHING? (she was coming out of a lifelong Catholic background).

“No, ” I said. “If we’re going to become authentic followers of Christ we have to surrender our old ways of self sufficiency and allow Jesus to live his life through us and do everything.”

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5ing Christ to live His life

So, if we are allowing Christ to live His life theough us God’s Word calls us Saints, not Christians.

God

He knows

Stressed out today, are you? You don’t have enough money to pay the mortgage this month. That makes three month in a row? Your nine-year-old daughter was just diagnosed with leukemia? Your next door neighbor borrowed your lawn mower and broke it.Your 15-year-old son “borrowed” your wife’s car last night and crashed it into a tree. Your brother-in-law was diagnosed positive for Covid after visiting with your family last weekend. Now the whole family has to quarantine for 14 days. You just can’t keep it all together. Quarrels persist with family members. Frustration and impatience are impacting everyone. The isolation is driving you crazy.

Guess what? Jesus knows EVERYthing you’re going through. He knew it before you did. He knows how everyone in the family feels. He’s in the boat. But he’s not sleeping. With all this stuff swirling around you he’s hard at work.

It probably doesn’t feel like it. You may even think he’s forgotten you, or think he’s asleep at the switch. But he’s not. He’s working in each of you. And in His perfect time he’s going to make His presence known and calm the storms and tell the waves to be still.

Do you know what he’s inviting you to do right now?

Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.

Rest. In him. He can handle everything you can give him. Tell Him everything you’re going through. Tell him how you feel. Honestly. Don’t hold back.

Pray Father, I’ve got too much to handle here. I don’t know what to do. So, I’m surrendering everything to you now. Give me the rest you promise and handle all this for me.

In Your precious name I pray. Amen.

The peace that passes all understanding is on it’s way.

God

My wheelchair is my Ebenezer

EDITOR’S NOTE: Actually I stole the title of my post today from Joni Eareckson Tada. She calls her wheelchair her Ebenezer because of all the blessings and God’s favor she has realized. She has been confined to it since she was a teenager.. Click here to read her incredible story

I call my wheelchair my Ebenezer for the same reason Joni Eareckson Tada calls hers her Ebenezer. I have been blessed beyond words since I was confined to one after my stroke in February, 2018.:

Consider just a few things:

  • Physical therapists told me the folks that have this kind of stroke usually die. Yet, here I am.
  • People who have strokes usually have them on their dominate side, yet God spared my left side (my dominate side) so I can still use my left side to write and cook and use Israelitess about the Lord and our perspective relationships with him.
  • I’ve returned to a regular schedule of blogging three days a week (Mon-Wed-(Mon-Wed-https://stevensawyer.wordpress.com/
  • My wife has become the greatest caretaker on the planet.
  • So these are some of the reasons I call this wheelchair my Ebenezer.

In the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel Samuel took a large stone and placed it in plain view so all the Israelites could see it after God helped the Israelites defeat the Philistines so they would be reminded and always be grateful to God for his help.

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When I knew for sure

Lots of authentic Christ followers can tell you the time and place when they were saved. Or where they were on 9-11, or where they were when MLK was assassinated, or the last time the Dodgers won the World Series.

I can tell you the time and place I was when I learned my true identity in Christ. I was in Al Scardino’s bible study class with Marie at First Baptist Church Atlanta. It was August 13, 2000. We were studying Dan Stone and Greg Smith’s powerful book, The Rest of the Gospel.1 Page 90 to be specific.

It was one of those unforgettable revelation moments when the light flashes and all of a sudden you get it. You realize that you live in Christ and Christ lives in you. And that’s the only identity you need.

Satan hates it. Because at that moment in your life he realizes that he has absolutely no chance of EVER persuading you to reject God and follow him. It means he has lost that believer forever to victory in Jesus.

We exist and live in one of two realms. The eternal realm of the Spirit of Almighty God. IT’s where things simply are. Everything is completed, unseen, changeless and timeless. No fear. No pain. No loss. Just never-ending peace and love always in the presence of Almighty God living as his beloved children.

The other realm we call the natural or temporal realm. If you live in this realns. m you are dying every day. There is a beginning and end. There is good and evil. There is a past, present and a future. There is birth, life and death. Wealth. Poverty. Failure. Expectations. Limits and experiences. Consequences. Trauma. Fear. Hate. Rejection. But the worst part about living in the natural realm is you are separated from God.

Are you still living in the natural realm? If you are, how’s that working for you? Things are going to become progressively worse. Any happiness you may experience will eventually turn to disappointment, futility and loss. You will eventually have to admit that this life sucks. Nothing works out the way you thought it would. Failures mount. So does your emptiness and feelings of worthlessness.

Do you want to swap realms? Do you want a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe? Wouldn’t you love to have all your sins forgiven forever? Would you like to know your eternal home?

IF you’d like all this stuff you get by living in the realm of the Spirit, have all your sins forgiven and become a child of God and join his family forever just say this simple prayer and it will be a done deal.

“God, I confess to you that I have sinned and I am genuinely sorry. I confess that my life has fallen short of your glory because of the way I’ve been living.  I want to know you. I want a personal relationship with my Savior. I believe by faith in You that Christ died for my sins. I ask you now, Jesus, to forgive me of my sins and come live in my heart.  I trust you as my Savior and receive you as my Lord. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me. Amen.”

Congratulation. You have a new Father and a new life in Christ. Your old self is dead and your new life is alive in Christ forever.

1The Rest of the Gospel; One Press, Dallas, Texas, c 2000

2000; pg. 90

God

Taking scripture out of context

Talk about a stupid, futile thing to do. More times than I care to admit I’ve watched men engaged in discussions (sometimes heated) about scripture. They have their bibles locked and loaded and they’re chomping at the bit to prove their point (and be right) and prove their hapless adversary wrong. I call these scenes “battles of the egos.

A case in point was a bible battle I witnesses between two friends of mine at a men’s retreat. One friend was a committed Christian I had known for years. The other guy was a brand spankin’ new Christian who thought he was a biblical scholar right out of the shoot because he could read the bible and tell you what it said.

These guys swapped biblical barbs for 45 minutes tossing out verses and passages to convince the other guy that he was right.

It was sad. Neither one made a case to prove his point. That’s because taking scripture out of context never works to prove a point or explain what scripture means.

I was visiting a friend in the hospital several years ago and an out-of work pastor came to visit the friend we both knew. He spent 30 solid minutes flipping back and forth between the Old and New testaments pulling out verse after verse trying to convince me that the Masons were a Satanic cult.

He kept going until I finally interrupted him. “Let me ask you a question, John. What on earth difference does it make?

He couldn’t give me an answer. He finally said, “So we’ll know.”

It never benefits anyone to take scripture out of context.

God

My favorite attribute of God

Of all the attributes of God, my favorite one has to be God’s omnipresence. Of course I am totally incapable of understanding how God could possibly be omnipresent. But you could add that to the library full of other things I am incapable of understanding about our heavenly Father. God is everywhere in all of His creation at once. There is nowhere in the spiritual world God isn’t.

A portion of Psalm 139 hints of God’s omnipresence

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

It is unfathomable to me that our God can be everywhere in his universe and beyond all at the same time.
God

The “mights” of life

You know, Christ might come back tonight at midnight and take us all home. Your cousin Vinnie might have a heart attack tomorrow at work and die. Your daughter might start smoking dope. She might become an addict. Your son might win a full football scholarship to the University of Alabama. Your brother-in-law might win the lottery. You might lose your job with the pending merger. You might test positive for Covid. Your wife might catch it from you and die.

Who knows what “might” happen? When you use that little helping verb in a sentence you’re projecting the possibility of things happening in the future. Good or bad. But you don’t have a snowball’s chance of predicting (what you’re really doing) what will happen in the future, (in an hour or tomorrow or any time.) Most of the time (north of 85%) things we think might happen never do.

But do you know who does? Make your pick

___Mark Zuckerberg

___President Biden

____Donald Trump (He only think he does)

____Almighty God

One of Almighty God’s most amazing attributes is His omniscience. He knows everything there is to know. How can he know absolutely everything? Because he made absolutely everything. That breath you just took–was a gift from God. God is never surprised. He knows every person better than they know themselves; and he knew them before they were born. He knows what every person thinks, feels, does and says.

And everything God knows he will ultimately use in his purpose and plan for each of our good and His glory.

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. Romans 8:28

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.

read more below
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

Let every day be the days of Elijah

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!

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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.

God

Getting into heaven

I believe some folks who call themselves Christians are going to be sorely disappointed on the night they hear The Midnight Cry. https://youtu.be/GhF3nXw8kIo

A recent social survey claimed that 70% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. I don’t think Frank Sinatra made the cut. When he knocked on the Pearly Gates on May 14, 1988 I doubt (but don’t know) if he got in.

Sinatra was the poster child for independent living. In fact he immortalized the independent lifestyle in his signature song, “I did it my way.” Doing things his way was how he lived his whole life. Here’s just one verse of his song:

Yes, there were times I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way

I think lots of folks are living the independent lifestyle today like Sinatra did. And are still convinced they’re still going to heaven.

I know them. I see the choices they make. I see how they’re living. Some of them are well-to-do. Ask them what they think will happen to them when they die. They can’t give a clear answer or they tell you they’ll probably return to dust or they’ll probably just go to heaven like everyone else.

Some of them (and I know one) think that their religion can include psychics and fortune tellers and crystals and golden calfs and spirits (but not the Holy Spirit) and religious paraphernalia, and doctrines from other religions, rituals, and combinations of all manor of religious beliefs and customs. And the more they can stuff into their religion pouch the more religious they believe they are and believe that their performance and beliefs will punch their ticket to heaven.

Then we have those religious folks who believe the more they do for the Lord and for other people and read their Bibles 30 minutes a day and pray 15 minutes every day and go to church at least two Sundays a month and tithe and try to be a good Christian they’ll be accepted by God and get their ticket punched to get into heaven.

We can’t get to heaven by works, because God doesn’t pick favorites. To be accepted into heaven you must admit you’re a sinner, ask for forgiveness, admit that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose again, and ask Him to have a relationship with you. 

You have to have a personal relationship with Jesus

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

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. John 3:16

God

Letter to a mother considering having an abortion


By Bryan Daniels

Reprinted with permission from the author

bryan daniels

The following is a letter from a mother to a mother considering abortion. The recipient of the letter has recently found out that her unborn child has a degenerative genetic kidney/liver condition. The thoughts outlined here are similar to the post I wrote a while back about the 1.2 million unborn Caylee Anthony’s who die each year in America.

Many pro-choicers claim no man should have an opinion on abortion since it only affects a woman and her body (I don’t really agree with that). Many would add that no one should have an opinion unless they have had to raise a child with a genetic disorder that causes lifelong suffering (I don’t agree with that either). BUT here is a woman who exceeds both qualifications. I’ll let her eloquent appeal speak for itself:

E,

I am so sorry that you received this news. Please know there are hundreds around you who have been in this same or a very similar position. We know the pain that facing this decision brings you. Many others before you have followed the advice of doctors, family, and friends to terminate such a pregnancy. I understand that the decision they make is almost always out of the highest love for their child and a desire to prevent suffering. I want to be very sensitive to that, but to also encourage you to look from a different point of view.

It seems to be a foregone conclusion in our culture that preventing suffering is the highest goal, but I think we lose sight of the fact that sometimes in our lives the greatest blessings come to us after we have gone through the greatest suffering. I was advised to terminate with two of my ARPKD daughters after their 20 week ultrasounds. The following weeks, months, and years have been difficult and even terrifying, but I am so glad that I did not follow my doctors’ advice. Yes, my daughters have suffered to some degree (though I know not as much as many other ARPKD kids do), but their pain and tears have grown them into strong little girls who do not take life or health for granted, and who know how to be thankful for the little things in life. They are more mature, more wise, more grateful, more loving, than so many other children their age who have always had “perfect” lives.

Children with special needs have a way of blessing and inspiring those around them too, in a way that healthy children never could. I know greater suffering probably lies ahead for our girls as we face esophageal bleeds and organ transplantation, but we have talked these things through with our oldest, and if my seven year old daughter can face these things with courage, then perhaps she doesn’t need to be shielded from the suffering, but only equipped to walk through it. Someday my girls will take the faith and the strength that they learned from their sufferings and use it to inspire and bless all those around them. It would have been great loss for all who know them to have ended their lives early.

I know that this is one of the most sensitive and personal topics. I pray that I do not sound judgmental in any way. I only mean to offer hope.

With love,

K.E.

I am thankful for the composed thoughtful response of this mother.

But I don’t comprehend how values have gotten so twisted in our culture; Let’s try to explain this abortion reasoning to the unborn child: “

Since when was murder no longer an extreme form of suffering?

God

I was at the resurrectiom

I was at the resurrection of Jesus. I was there.  Really.

angell
Jesus

I saw Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome come to Jesus’ grave and discover He wasn’t there. Really. I did.

I saw the shock and fear; then I saw their joy and celebration.

I promise.

I saw Peter and the others dashing up the path. They looked inside in disbelief. I watched them ran away from the tomb and disappear into the dawn.

For four years I played roles in the Atlanta Passion Play. The play drew thousands of people to Atlanta during its three-weekend, 12-performance, 35-year run. One year I was cast as an angel in white at the empty tomb on Resurrection Sunday.  I saw everything.  The lines I spoke still give me chills years later. “Don’t be afraid.” I said. “Why are you looking for Jesus? He is not here.  He is risen. Just like He said He would.  Come see for yourselves. Now go tell Peter and the disciples.”

“Jesus is risen,” I announced it to the first visitors to the tomb. How blessed I was to have been there.  How fortunate that they chose me to speak those lines and impact those audiences and call attention to the resurrection in that way

I felt like I was really there. It was real to me. That scene in the performance made the Resurrection come alive for me as never before. And I’ll never think about the Resurrection the same again.

God

Grace + ?

What does it take to receive God’s grace when we really really need some?

Grace +___?____ fill in the blank

  • ___obedience
  • ___surrender
  • ___repentance
  • ___gratitude
  • ___sacrifice
  • ___prayer
  • ___asking for it
  • ___serving
  • ___worship
  • ___favor
  • ___other

In fact, if you chose any one or more of the choices from the list above you’d be wrong.

You can’t get grace. You can’t barter for it. You can’t do anything to persuade God to give you one bit of grace. You can’t get any by praying for grace, but you can ask God for it.. You may not even recognize grace when you get it. You don’t deserve any grace. You can’t share grace with someone else. Why would you even ask for any grace. You don’t even deserve it any way. You can not work or serve in the church to earn grace. Grace is just unattainable on your own. Left to your own devices you’ll never lay hold of grace.

Grace is “the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not necessarily because of anything we have done to earn it”. It is not a created substance of any kind. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life,”1

God bestows His grace on anyone he chooses, as much as He wants, as often as He wants. He can even choose to give His grace to unsaved sinners or wicked people if he chooses. In Western Christian theology, grace is “the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not necessarily because of anything we have done to earn it”. It is not a created substance of any kind. … It is an attribute of God that is most manifest in the salvation of sinners.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

1 Wikipedia