Wednesday, March 29, 2017


I turned another year older yesterday. I don't feel any different. I'm still a kid, trapped in an old man's body. Older and wiser maybe but most importantly, still alive!! LOL!

Birthdays are causes for celebration all around the world. It is a time for the giving of gifts. Usually, when we celebrate our birthdays, we receive gifts. Not where I work. I shelled out $36 yesterday for some stale Wal-Mart cookies and a grape.

The really good gifts though are the ones that come without a price tag. One year my sister gave me a picture of the two of us as kids. It was so unexpected and wonderful I got up and left the room - my eyes filled with tears. I love my sister. That's why the gift was special.

Today my tastes have aged. It used to be that I thought gifts were all about me. What was I going to get? Would mom and dad really get me the bike I wanted? (Doubtful. I was undeserving.) Yet grace did abound in our family . . . and it still does. :)

These days birthday gifts take intangible forms. They have no shape. Yet they are as gift-like as a piece of cake or a box with a ribbon on it. Perhaps it's a friend delivering a hug or a thoughtful message on Facebook.

As my body has aged so has my thoughts about gifts. The best gifts are the ones from the heart. But for the Christian the best gifts are the ones that WE get to give to others.

Monday night I saw a Facebook post from a young friend of mine. She was not having the best of days.

"Who can I trust? I always seem to get hurt."

This was my reply.

"Jesus! He has promised to never leave you or forsake you. He already loves you unconditionally. What are you waiting for?"

My friend came back with this:

"Oh, well he has let me down too."

Me: "I don't think so. If you think God has disappointed you, you don't really know Him."

Friend: "Yeah... I haven't gone to church ever since high school. I have stopped knowing God."

Me: "I'd love to re-introduce you two."

Friend: "OK" 

How's that for a birthday gift? God provided me with a very special gift - the opportunity to speak into the life of a young soul about Jesus - a gift she can receive that will never disappoint, if she truly receives it. God's gift is free and everlasting. One size fits all! And Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving!! :)

We are all finite beings. Someday we ALL will stop aging. But what happens after that is up to us . . . and God. If you don't KNOW Jesus, please, get to know Him today. Please pray for my young friend. That she might meet with Him and come to know Him . . . and the gift He offers for ALL of His children.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." - James 1:17

"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace." - 1 Peter 4:10

The Gift - Jim Brickman
When I'm Sixty-Four -The Beatles

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Chain

My wife and I had our grandson over for a sleep-over Saturday night. Boy, did he keep us busy! My wife and I will sleep well tonight. LOL!

"Hey, Grandpa! When can we go downstairs and look at your cars?"

"Hey, Grandma! I'm hungry. Can I eat some Cheetos?"

"Hey Grandpa! What's in THIS box? Can I take it out?"

Grand kids are like sponges, desiring to absorb all knowledge and truth. So what are we feeding them? What are they eating? Exactly what we feed them.

I saw a video this weekend of a baby perfectly mimicking every move Sylvester Stallone was making in the Rocky movie. Amazing. Kids are so incredibly perceptive and absorbent. They pick up on everything and can even catch us, their parents, in lies and inconsistencies.

So, what are we teaching our children?

At lunch yesterday our daughter-in-law was talking about how she would never put her kid into a public school. Sitting across the table from her was our daughter - a public school teacher. People come down on both sides of this topic. Where do YOU stand? More importantly, where does God stand?

Yesterday our pastor spoke about why our church doesn't have a youth group. It was simple reasoning. It's because discipling our children is OUR job as parents, not somebody else's.

The key "teaching" verse in scripture is, "Train up a child in the way he should go and, when he is old, he will not part from it." - Proverbs 22:6

That verse doesn't say who should be doing the training but I am assuming the writer was talking to us parents. My question is, what is "the way they should go?" I think "the way" is God's way, not our way.

"Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." - John 14:6

If Jesus is the way, are we making sure our children are learning HIS way? Are we teaching them the things they should know that are of God, not of man? Or are we turning our children over to people who may or may not be teaching them the right things? These are all good questions.

There is a chain of responsibility God is implying to us in that verse from proverbs. We ALL should be teaching our children. Each generation, training up our children. We should never break that chain. That is one thing that helps keep us together.

So, as we walk through this world for the short time we are given, let us think long term for our children . . . and their children. Let us establish a firm foundation of faith in their lives so, that when they are old, it will not depart from them. And may the chain of teaching our children the ways of The Lord remain unbroken for generations to come.

Never brake the, never break the chain.
Chain, keep us together. - Fleetwood Mac

The Chain - Fleetwood Mac
Baby Imitates Rocky

Saturday, March 25, 2017


(This is not Israel, but another face from El Salvador)
This is a true story about a young man named Israel. It was shared with me by a friend who works for Compassion International - "a Christian humanitarian and child sponsorship organization."

Israel had a rough life growing up in El Salvador, turning worse when he tried to untangle his kite from some power lines . . . with a metal pole.

He spend two years in the hospital recovering from his electrical injuries - his hand disfigured and walking with a limp - marking the path the electricity took through his body on its way to the ground. Israel was lucky yo be alive.

With his physical injuries he was picked on in school by the other kids, eventually falling in with a gang simply because, even if they did bad things, nobody else loved him and they welcomed him. Israel would have been totally lost if it weren't for a local pastor who took a chance.

After several attempts to get Israel to attend the Compassion school he finally decided he needed to try something different - confronting the gang's leader - making it known that he wanted Israel. He did this over and over again until the gang leader finally relented.

So Israel began to learn at the Compassion school, and he learned well. His mentor discipled him and taught him to control and conquer his fears. Israel became a Christian. His self esteem grew. He graduated high school and got a job. Are you ready for this? His job was as an electrical engineer. He had conquered his fear through the love of a stranger. Just one of Compassion's many success stories.

As I heard my friend tell this story I couldn't help but think of ANOTHER Israel - the nation. I just finished reading the book of 2nd Kings this week. 1st and 2nd Kings are filled with stories of kings who "did not do what was right in the eyes of The Lord." They worshiped other gods. They sacrificed their children to them. They practiced sorcery & worshiped the constellations. All these things are detestable in the eyes of God.

Does any of that sound familiar? We are no different today.

Like Israel the boy, we too are damaged.  Lonely, lost and enslaved by the worst gang leader of them all - Satan - we are in need of someone to save us from the world in which we live. His name is Jesus.

Chapter 22 from the Book of 2nd Kings tells the story of Josiah. He was eight years old when he became king. He did what was right in the eyes of The Lord. When he was in his mid 20's the Book of The Law was found. He read it and repented immediately, tearing his robes, and crying. He knew that the people had not been obeying God. He sent some men to hear the word of the Lord through the prophetess Huldah. This is what the Lord said.

"15 Then she said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Tell the man who sent you to Me, 16 “Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants - all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read -  17 because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath shall be aroused against this place and shall not be quenched.’”’ 18 But as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, in this manner you shall speak to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “Concerning the words which you have heard - 19 because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the Lord. 20 “Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place.”’” So they brought back word to the king." - 2 Kings 22:15-20

God sees and hears those who are repentant and seek Him. Just like God sent the pastor for the child Israel, He sent Jesus into this world to save us. We have to make a decision. King Josiah read God's Word and made his decision and God honored him for that. Each of us must do the same.

Pray for people of courage, willing to confront evil. Let us "tear our clothes" as we use mercy, grace and love as our weapons in this war against the evil one. Let us stand firm for our Lord and King in the truth of His Word. And let our love be the proof that we are His and that we are saved.

The Proof of Your Love - For King And Country
From Darkness To Light - Compassion In India

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Commands of Jesus: Walk It

Many of the commands  Jesus gave us require us to think before we act. There's a reason for that. And the reason is . . . us. We humans always tend to "react" rather than respond like we should. Road rage is a perfect example of what I'm writing about today.

Have you ever slowed down when somebody was tailgating you? Just to annoy them? I have. How about when the freeway is narrowing down to one lane up ahead and "that one guy" tries to pass as many cars as he can before he gets to the encroaching orange barrels. Do you speed up so he can't get ahead of you? Guilty. I'd like to say I don't do that anymore since placing my faith in Christ, but I still do.

That speaks to our inherent human nature to sin. If we would only THINK before we react.

The verse that follows is known as The Golden Rule - do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

"12 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." - Matthew 7:12

That's an amazing command and one, if we all followed it, would be living on an incredibly peaceful planet. Do we don't follow it so we fight, we war, we rage.

I'd like you to keep reading after verse 12 for a bit. We hear another command from Jesus. It is very similar to the first one we just read only it comes with help. And a warning.

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." - Matthew 7:13-14

Read both of those passages together (which is how they appear in the Bible).

I think Jesus is trying to tell us something here. That the nice things we "do unto others" are very difficult things to do. A very narrow road. Yet, we are commanded to walk it. We are commanded, but not many will be able to do it.

So how can we do it? How can we stay on the narrow road when our thoughts are on everything happening around us? The key I think is to not focus on the path, but rather, the destination. The path is just the means to get there. Block out everything else.

The next time someone cuts you off on the road, instead of getting mad, focus on your destination. We are all on a road to go some place. That's why we are on the road. Our purpose is to stay on the road and to arrive at our destination. Next time, take the road that has less cars on it and your journey will be much more enjoyable . . . and successful!

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood, 
And sorry I could not travel both 
And be one traveler, long I stood 
And looked down one as far as I could 
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair, 
And having perhaps the better claim, 
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 
Though as for that the passing there 
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay 
In leaves no step had trodden black. 
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way, 
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost, 1920

The Road Less Traveled - George Strait

Monday, March 20, 2017

Desires of Your Heart

When you are alone, what is it that you think about?  Maybe you're driving in your car or you are sitting in the living room late at night all by yourself, what do you think about? What are your inner most desires? Do they have to do with yourself? Or with God?

Here are five Bible verses. Read them through and then think about their meaning.

15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments." - John 14:15

"30 He must increase, but I must decrease." - John 3:30

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” - Luke 10:27

"Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." - 1 John 4:8

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” - John 13:34-35

After reading those five verses, what is it do you think that God wants from us? What should be OUR desire? God wants us to love Him and to love others. That's pretty simple. And in our loving others, God will be made known. So what should be the desire of our hearts?

Should the desires of our hearts have anything to do with us? Read that last verse over again. The one about loving God and loving others. Are WE in there anywhere?

Now read this verse.

"Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." - Psalm 37:4

If our desire is to love God and to love others, God WILL give us the desires of our hearts. And that is to love and to be loved.

I volunteer at a food pantry each month. I have gotten quite close with many of those who come for food. I love them. In volunteering, people demonstrate their love for others, by becoming less.

A woman standing in line looked sad yesterday so I asked her how she was. She said, "It's been a rough week."

"What's wrong?" I asked. She proceeded to tell me how her last remaining child in the area had moved to Colorado and that she was left all alone.

How should I have responded do you think? What could I have done to demonstrate my love for God in this situation? Well, I asked her, "May I pray for you?" She nodded.

The "desire of my heart" was to love others and to love God. I demonstrated my love for God by obeying His commands. I showed my love for my friend by praying for her and taking her to God in prayer. And in return God gave me the desires of my heart - to be loved by my friend and to be loved by my God.

Has God given you the desires of your heart? He will. As long as your desires have nothing to do with you and have everything to do with Him. HE must increase. WE must decrease.

How will we love each other today? How will we demonstrate that love so that God gets the glory? If we can do that, God will give us exactly what we want. And that is an amazing feeling.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus - Nichole Nordeman

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Life Lessons

Life is like a classroom. God is the teacher and we are the students. The class we are all taking is called "Life - And How To Survive It." It seems like there is an endless opportunity to learn valuable lessons - seemingly everyday. Why just yesterday at work . . .

Before we get to today's lesson, let's digest some background information. The office I work at is being renovated. Yesterday the water service to the building was shut off to the fire protection sprinkler system could be modified. We knew that ahead of time. Most of us that is.

A friend of mine there at work usually fills up his Chicago Bears cup at the drinking fountain and he was doing so yesterday as I walked by. He held the cup and pressed the button . . .


The air that had gotten into the pipes shot a stream of water out of the drinking fountain all the way up to the ceiling! The 10-foot ceiling. We both laughed. That was the days lesson. When air gets into the water system, under pressure, watch out!

Lessons are taught with the intention they be learned. So, did I learn the air in the waterline lesson? You be the judge.

The reason I was passing my friend at the drinking fountain was because I was on my way to the bathroom. I entered one of the stalls and did my business. When I was done I reached down to flush the toilet and . . .

Being as old as I am I have gotten pretty good at learning life's lesson. I have learned that, unless you learn a lesson, you are bound to repeat it. So, did I learn my lesson?

Just before I flushed I remembered my friend at the drinking fountain. I stepped to the side and THEN flushed the toilet. Smart man! The incredible air-assisted flush was something to behold. And I gratefully beheld it from a distance.

There are many lessons available to be learned everyday. Most of them have been recorded in the book of Proverbs so we don't have to learn them on our own. The hard way.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” - Proverbs 1:7

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." - Proverbs 3:5

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” - Proverbs 14:12

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
- Proverbs 30:5

“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” - Proverbs 16:3

There are many lessons that we need to learn in this life. Some of them are critical. Some, not so much. But the most important lesson we can learn is that God loves us. He loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son do die for the lessons we did not learn (the sins we have committed).

God loves us whether we learn our lessons or not. But I think He rejoices when He sees us learn our lessons because that means we are growing. And that, after all, is why we are here, isn't it? The learn life's lessons and to grow to become more like Jesus.

Read His Word. Read His teachings. Learn. Grow. And praise God from whom all blessings flow.

You Love Me Anyway - Sidewalk Prophets
Proverbs Chapters 1-5 - Pastor Chuck Smith

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Void

I saw this picture over the weekend. Do you know what this is? I'll give you a couple of hints. First of all, it's huge! The hole is over 3/4 of a mile across.

Second, it's man made. The spiral walls are actually roads. It is 1,722 feet deep and is located in Russia. It's a diamond mine.

There are holes like this all around the world. Once created, and stripped of all the diamonds, they are abandoned. Just a giant hole, waiting to be filled.

I feel like that sometimes. Used up, striped of all of my "good stuff" and abandoned. Left for dead. Do you ever feel like that? I think we're all like that to some degree. So, how can we change that? What can fill us up? How can we get rid of the hole?

Some say that we have a giant God-sized hole in our hearts. YouTube has many sermons about our God-shaped hole. How do they know for sure? There's nothing that tells me that in the Bible. Is it true? I think not. If we had an actual hole in our hearts . . . we'd be dead!

Perhaps it's a figurative hole then - a void maybe . . . or an unfillable emptiness. Or, and this is what I believe, perhaps WE are the hole.

There is definitely something missing in us humans though. And we spend our entire lives trying to fill it. Some try filling the void with drugs. Others fill it with work. Some try alcohol. Others try gambling, over eating or porn. Try as we might, we still can't fill it.

I have a theory.

I do believe we all have something missing in our lives. His name is Jesus. We all try to ignore Him but He can be pretty persistent. And He IS God after all. But He gave us free will and therein lies the problem.

But for those of us who have chosen to believe . . . something wonderful begins to happen. The void begins to lessen. It actually begins to shrink. The void gets filled up with stuff. All kinds of stuff. And we are the ones who chose what it gets filled with.

There is an old mariner's saying that goes, "One bad apple spoils the whole barrel." What do we fill our barrels with? Choose reading the Bible over watch television. Choose worshiping over gossip. Choose listening to uplifting music over watching the news. Garbage in, garbage out. Keep the garbage out!

As we walk through this place let us be careful what we chose to fill ourselves with. We don't want to become an empty hole or a landfill, full of trash and waste. Let us seek to be rich soil where things can grow. Let is be pure, with no room for darkness. Let us fill our void . . . with love.

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you." - Philippians 4:8-9

World's Biggest Diamond Mine
16 Tons - Tennessee Ernie Ford

Monday, March 13, 2017

Black Ops

Church on Sunday was interesting. We had a lesson about the return of Jesus and what would be the signs of His coming. One of those signs sat right in the row in front of me.

"3 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." - 2 Timothy 3:1-4

Just as our pastor was about to begin the service, a family of five came in and sat in the row in front of me. A nice looking family. Dad was in a suit, mom wore a pretty dress and their three boys were . . . present.

It was a tough morning for many, what with the time change and all. People had to get up an hour earlier than normal. But three boys!?! A+ for the parents I thought. The boys did pretty good, sitting through the 90-minute service but at the end, when we stood for the final song, I discovered the secret of their "success."

The one boy directly in front of me was playing video games. Everybody stood to sing but he was embattled in some digital conflict in front of me and remained seated. I looked down at his screen and guess what I saw? Two flashing words that spoke volumes about playing video games in church.

"Level: Failed"

Turning my attention towards the words on the screen, I smiled. Guess what song we were about to sing? I can't make this stuff up my friends. After reading to words "Level: Failed" on the boys iPad I looked up to read the words, "Victory in Jesus" on the screen in front of the church. Video game = fail. Jesus = Victory.

I give the parent some credit for getting their children to church. It's getting harder and harder to do these days with all of the distractions that are offered. But to allow him to play a video game in church, well, I wonder if they weren't caving in to the devil's schemes.

I can't judge though because I have done similar things. Although not in church, I have turned on Paw Patrol and let my cranky grandson stare, mouth open, at the screen in my own home. It was for MY convenience and well being that I allowed my grandchild to watch a TV show instead of spending some time playing with him instead. But I was busy. Too busy?

Level: Failed.

We do that more than we know. And we do it to ourselves.

How many times have I gone on Facebook or turned on the television just "to do something mindless"  while my Bible sits there . . . all alone.

The distractions that are available to us every moment of our lives are part of Satan's plan to keep us away from God. Technology and social media can be good things, but if left unchecked, they can play a central role in Satan's schemes. They are Satan's "black ops" in his battle plan against our God.

In this country there is a crime called aiding and abetting. As an example, if you and your friends are robbing a bank, and you are just driving the car, and one of your friends shoots someone, you can be charge with aiding and abetting in a felony murder charge. Are we guilty of aiding abetting the enemy (Satan) by complying with his wishes as he battles our King?

As I examine the distractions in MY life, what steps can I take to eliminate them? The battle is being waged right now. How can we fight it? What will be our weapons? We have none. God will fight for us! But we CAN dress for battle . . .

"But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him." - 1 Thessalonians 5:8-10

And our weapons?
11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing." - 1 Thessalonians 5:5-11

We are in a battle my brothers and sisters. Let's get after it. Hooah!!

Black Ops TV Commercial
Victory In Jesus - The Singing Contractors

Saturday, March 11, 2017


When my sister and I were growing up - sixth grade I think for me - we had a neighbor kid who always came around asking us questions. Then, when we'd answer, she'd always come back with another one-word question. "Why?"

To give you an example, here's an imaginary conversation that quite easily could have taken place at our house.

"Hi, Mrs. Hall. Can Mary come out to play?"

"No, Mary's doing her homework right now."


"Because Mary's teacher gave her some work to do after school."


"Because, Mary's teacher wants her to learn."


"Because she is a teacher and that's what teachers do."


At this point, I imagine my mother turning around and yelling into the house, "Mary, get out here and play!" To which my sister probably responded, "WHY!?!"

"Why?" is one of the best learning questions we can ask. It can also be one of the most annoying. It can be annoying if we don't have an answer that satisfies the questioner.

Jesus asked a lot of questions. Here's a question then, with that in mind. After Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) we can read about Jesus' interactions with individuals. Jesus asked lots of questions.

Matthew 8:7 - "Shall I come and heal him?"
Matthew 8:26 - "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?"
Matthew 9:4 - "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?"
Matthew 9:5 - "Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven.' or to say 'Get up and walk?'
Matthew 9:15 - "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them?"

The questions continue throughout the remainder of the book but you get the idea.

Here's a question for you. Why did Jesus ask so many questions if, being fully God and fully man, He already knew the answers? Good question! I think Jesus asked His questions not so HE could learn but that WE might learn. Does that make sense?

So, I have a few questions of my own this morning. Questions that Jesus could easily ask of us? The big question is . . . how will we respond?

"Whom are you seeking?" - John 18:7

And our little neighbor girl might ask, "Why?" Why do we seek Him?

"Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” - Mark 4:40

Why AM I so afraid of doing or saying something in His name? Is it really my lack of faith?

"Do you love me?" - John 21:16

Jesus even gave us hints to help us answer THIS question.

15 “If you love me, keep my commands." - John 14:21

Jesus actually answered all of our questions on the cross. And all of His previous questions were leading to that fact. Once we arrive, simply by placing our faith in Him, we are adopted into Hid family, given a share in his inheritance, have ALL of our sins forgiven, and are granted eternal life. Not bad, eh?

When we respond to God's Holy Spirit with the correct answer, He no longer is annoying like our little neighborhood girl was. He becomes a blessing. We all will answer the questions Jesus asks. Will we answer rightly in the eyes of God?

"I'm looking someone to change my life. I'm looking for a miracle in my life." - Justin Hayward, The Moody Blues

Question - The Moody Blues
Kids Questions and Letters to God

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Death Maze

Not everyone has a fun-filled job like mine. Most days are pretty routine around here. I sit at my desk, drawing plans. Friday was an extra-special day though. I got to go out into the field and measure up an asbestos-lined filtration room in a waste water treatment plant. Jealous? Mhmm. I bet you are.

The room literally resembled a maze - a labyrinth of back and forth dimly lit corridors of darkness. The only light was provided by a bare bulb at the end of each 50-foot long hallway. The walls are filthy. The floors and ceilings were not much cleaner. So, I walked down every pathway, hoping not to touch . . . anything.

I was very grateful for those lights. Without them I wouldn't have had a chance. I would have emerged from my day, just as dirty as what I had walked through.

Walking through this life can be equally disgusting and just as filthy. Each day we are filled with decisions . . . choices . . . opportunities. How will we choose? How close will we get to touching the walls? And what determines our choice of direction? Ourselves? Our God? And what lights our view of the path we are taking? And what shapes the decisions we make?

In case of sudden darkness I like to carry a flashlight with me wherever I go. It's amazing how it can light up dark places.

"105 Your word is a lamp to my feetAnd a light to my path.
106 I have sworn and confirmed
That I will keep Your righteous judgments.
107 I am afflicted very much;
Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word.
108 Accept, I pray, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord,
And teach me Your judgments.
109 My life is continually in my hand,
Yet I do not forget Your law.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me,
Yet I have not strayed from Your precepts.
111 Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever,
For they are the rejoicing of my heart.
112 I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes
Forever, to the very end." - Psalm 119:105-112
If we walk in darkness without something to guide our footsteps we are bound to stumble and fall. God's Word is our flashlight. The batteries are God's Holy Spirit. It convicts us when we are about to make a wrong turn. It keeps us from danger when we get to close to the edge of the path.
This life can be a maze of death unless we have something . . . someone . . . to guide us. By placing our faith in Jesus . . . well, He just lights up a room. So should we, if we have His light within us. Are we shining a light as we walk through the darkness? Let's do it!! This world can use all of the light it can get.
"This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all." - 1 John 1:5
Washed By The Water - Needtobreathe

Monday, March 6, 2017

Greater Love

I'm not sure if you saw it or not. I almost missed it myself Tuesday night. A very special moment that spoke volumes about how the people of this country feel about our service men and women.

The special moment occurred during President Trump's State of The Union speech when he recognized the widow of fallen Navy Seal Ryan Owen. What a touching tribute memorializing the soldier and honoring him and his wife.

After the applause died down . . . and it took a while. A LONG while. Our president quoted Jesus.

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13

God insists that we take care of the widow and the orphan. He tells us to do so several times. James 1:27, Isaiah 1:17, 1 Timothy 5:3, Exodus 22:22, Psalm 68:5, - the list goes on and on. 2000 years ago the widow was without standing in society. She had no means of supporting herself and had to rely on the generosity of others. Read the Book of Ruth to learn more.

As I watched this young widow Tuesday night I couldn't help but feel compassion for her and her children. She had lost the man she loves and the father of her children. Her tears flowed freely. So did mine.

Yet, there are some people in this world born without compassion, or so it seems. They are so full of themselves and their own desires and aspirations that they can't see the truth when it is staring them right in the face. Some man tweeted about this grieving widow after Trump's speech, calling her "an idiot." He lost his job and rightly so. Maybe he'll learn. But this guy wasn't the only one in need of repentance.

This country's leaders are incredibly out of touch. They are so in love with their doctrine and their beliefs that they simply cannot fathom any other possibility besides their own. Does all this sound familiar? Open your Bibles to John 18.

The Jewish leaders of the day disagreed with the view of a certain prophet named Jesus. They arrested Him and turned Him over to the Romans for punishment (to be executed) because Jesus did not believe as they did. So who's right? And where do we find the truth?

"33 Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

34 Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?”

35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?”

36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?”

Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all." - John 18:33-38

Pilate was staring The Truth right in the face and he never saw it.

Earlier in Jesus' ministry He spoke these words to Thomas . . .

"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." - John 14:6

Thomas heard Jesus' voice and thereby learned the truth. Pilate did not.

We who call ourselves Christians should be responsive to the voice of our King. When He tells us to look after the widow and the orphan we should do as He commands us. There should be no doubt. NO hesitation. There should be no questioning or expressing "opinions." There should be no denying His command.

The world we live in has turned its back on the truth. It did 2,000 years ago and it continues to do so today. Look at this picture. It sure tells a sad story. Nearly everyone is standing and clapping. With the except ion of one guy on the right side of the aisle, all on that side are sitting, motionless.

The Supreme Court justices and military leaders excluded (they are to be impartial at these events), it is still obvious that some people just don't get what this president is saying. The same was true when Obama was president, only it was the other side of the aisle dissenting. These men and women are so full of their own version of the truth they refuse to acknowledge God's command about the widow.

"10 Also He said to them, “In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. 11 And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” - Mark 6:10-11

May we be more like Jesus in our relationships and in our speech. May our thoughts always be about others rather than ourselves. Maybe, if we become less, placing the needs of others above our own, we actually live out the Gospel instead of trying to ram it down the throats of those who don't believe as we do.

CPO Ryan Owen's Widow Receives Standing Ovation
Ex-Clinton Volunteer Loses Job

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Last Thing

We have a tradition in our family that when part of our family leaves home, those remaining stand and wave goodbye. It's a wonderful scene. Warm and touching. If only they could hear us saying. "I thought they'd never leave."

I'm just kidding, of course . . . for the most part anyway. Ha ha! But sometimes, the people we love the most . . . are the ones that can annoy us the most. Why is that?

Partially, I think it's because we spend so much time with them. We get so used to our immediate family that we can often take them for granted. We know how far we can push them. Why do we snap at our spouses or arch our backs so quickly when we are attacked over the smallest of things? Perhaps it's because we ourselves are . . . selfish?

I have a tendency to get very defensive when my beliefs are attacked or questioned. I tend to revert back to my worldly nature instead of dropping to my knees and taking a positive step to actually improve the situation.

Consider the early Christians in the following story. They had a couple of visitors for an entire week, and at the end of it . . . what did they do? The answer is in verse 5.

"Now it came to pass, that when we had departed from them and set sail, running a straight course we came to Cos, the following day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. And finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo. And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem. When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed. When we had taken our leave of one another, we boarded the ship, and they returned home." - Acts 15:1-6

There is something quite different between the first Christians and those of us today that bear His name. For me at least, I think it's my lack of devotion to Christ that is the problem. I pale in comparison to the first Christians in their love for one another. I don't spend as much time following as I do wallowing. I need to make God my "first thing" instead my last.

The answer I think is in praying that God would change US, not them. Sure, some people could probably use some change in their lives too, but Jesus told us that we must first remove the plank in our own eye before we can judge someone about the speck in THEIR eye (Matthew 7:1-3).

What is the last thing these early Christians did with their brothers, the Apostles? They prayed. Not just one-on-one prayer but entire families . . . "wives and children" were also there. They all prayed.  When was the last time your entire family prayed about something? Other than giving thanks around the dinner table. In my case, never. Well?

This world is filled with broken people. You and I are two of them. There are fights and battles everyday. Some big and some small. Some last a day and some last a lifetime. Jesus loves us through them all, unconditionally.

The Book of Ephesians tells us to "be like Christ." Why am I still stuck here where I am then? First we must repent. Right after that we must submit. A good place to begin THAT work is on our knees. I need to step up my game in that department.

We all get wronged, we all get hurt. So, what are we going to do about it? Let us pray. Let us love. Let us be broken, together. Let us rise above it all. And let us become more like Christ to those around us. In that way we can bring glory to God. And isn't that what we're here for?

Broken Together - Casting Crowns
Rise Above It - Switchfoot

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

10 Characteristics of a Good Church

My wife and I had a rather unique experience the other night. We traveled back in time to a first century A.D. church. You think I'm kidding? Ha! Well, . . . maybe a little bit.

We and a handful of others were invited to another couple's house to discuss helping others in our community. We ate, we prayed, we had fellowship, we worshiped and we shared food with one another. Sounds a lot like the early church if you ask me.

Church back then was not like it is now. That, I think, is a bad thing. Churches of today are a shadow of what they used to be. They have become businesses and entertainment places. Let's do a little research in the Book of Acts and you will soon see what I mean. Acts 2.

"42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." - Acts 2:42-47

How many of these characteristics does your church have?
  1. Do you devote yourselves to God's teaching?
  2. Are you devoted to one another in fellowship?
  3. Do we break bread with one another?
  4. Do you pray together?
  5. Do you give things to one another, when there is a need?
  6. Do you meet in some way . . . every day?
  7. Do you share meals in each others homes?
  8. Do all your members have glad and sincere hearts?
  9. Do you spend time praising God?
  10. Do others in your community look at your church favorably?
I have a wonderful church family. Perhaps you do too. Can we improve? We all can. But here is my challenge. And this is to myself mainly. That I might become more like the early church in my relationships and my worship. That I might love others, deeply and compassionately - the stranger, the widow, the orphan, the homeless - like God first loved me. And that I might give to whomever asks, whenever asked. And may my community look upon me with favor. And may God look upon me with a smile. And . . . what if we ALL did that? This would be a pretty amazing place in which to live. Agree?

We have the transforming power of the Holy Spirit living in us. Shouldn't that inspire us? Let us reach out and BE "the church" today! :)

What Is The Church?