Sunday, September 6, 2009

Character Assassination


Character assassination is an attempt to tarnish a person's reputation. It may involve exaggeration or manipulation of facts to present an untrue picture of the person.

Such acts are often difficult to reverse or rectify, and the process is likened to a literal assassination. The damage can last a lifetime or, for historical figures, for many centuries after their death.

In practice, character assassination may involve double speak, spreading of rumors, innuendo or deliberate misinformation on topics relating to the subject's morals, integrity, and reputation. It may involve spinning information that is technically true, but that is presented in a misleading manner or is presented without the necessary context.

It seems like character assassination has become commonplace. Politics seems like nothing but character assassination. Each political candidate or pundit tries to smear the opposing side.

In Leviticus 19:16 God tells his people “Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people”.

Although gossip and character assassination are commonplace, they are not something a Christian should be involved in.

A number of years ago George Harrison wrote a song about gossip titled The Devil’s Radio. Here are some of the lyrics of the song.

Gossip
I heard it in the night
Words that thoughtless speak
Like vultures swooping down below
On the devil's radio
It's all across our lives
Like a weed it's spread
'till nothing else has space to grow
The devil's radio
Gossip

In reality, gossip is telling and/or listening to something uncomplimentary about another with the wrong intent or purpose. It can be true or it can be false, but the intent is the same.

Obviously this is a serious issue; but there is a type of character assassination that is even more serious; the assassination of God’s character.

The first time we find character assassination in the Bible is in Genesis Chapter 3. There Satan, disguised as beautiful serpent, tells Eve half truths and lies and gets her to believe them instead of what God has told her.

Satan invented character assassination. We know that he used it in heaven. He was so good at it that he convinced one third of the angels to believe him instead of God. It is the method that he uses to separate people from God. We want to make sure that we aren’t working for him by giving people the wrong idea about God’s character. It can happen to even the best Christians.

Even the great prophet Moses fell into this trap of Satan’s. We find the story in Numbers chapter 20. For many years God has been providing water to the Children of Israel. Can you imagine that many people basically camping in a dry wilderness? The only way for them to have water would be by the miraculous grace of God. One day there was no water for the congregation. The Bible tells us they gathered together against Moses and Aaron. The people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: “If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! Why have you brought up the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here?

Moses and Aaron prayed to God and asked Him for guidance. God told them, “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.”

So Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.

It looks like the story has a happy ending. I’m sure that Moses and Aaron were pleased. Even though they had to endure a bit of a tongue lashing, so were the Children of Israel. They now had plenty to drink. But God wasn’t happy.

Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”

That seems quite harsh. Moses and Aaron had given 40 years of their lives leading this ungrateful people to the Promised Land. The one thing they really wanted was to actually see the Children of Israel in the Promised Land. Why was God so upset?

In Psalms 106:32,33 the Bible says “The people also made the LORD angry at Meribah, and Moses was in trouble because of them. The people turned against the Spirit of God, so Moses spoke without stopping to think”.

Moses spoke without stopping to think. He spoke for God words that God had not asked Him to speak. He had followed his own course of action instead of what God had asked Him to do. He had misrepresented God’s character.

If we claim to speak for God, we must not misrepresent the kind of God he is. There is nothing more serious than to picture God as he does not wish to be seen. We must be careful with how we picture God to others.

Do you portray a harsh demanding God, or a loving God? Are you presenting a picture of God that will please Him? We want to make sure that we aren’t a part of the character assassination of God.

1 John 4:16-19 tells us, “And so we know the love that God has for us, and we trust that love. God is love. Those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. This is how love is made perfect in us: that we can be without fear on the day God judges us, because in this world we are like him. Where God's love is, there is no fear, because God's perfect love drives out fear. It is punishment that makes a person fear, so love is not made perfect in the person who fears. We love because God first loved us”.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Like A Child


A few years ago my friend Richie Owens spent a year of his life writing and recording an album. I remember his enthusiasm as he would bring me new songs to listen to. Songs just seemed to pour out of him as he focused on this project. One of my favorite songs that he wrote was titled "Like A Child". Richie ended up choosing the song as the title track of the album. Here are the lyrics

I remember the story from when I was young
Where Jesus was teaching one day
And there were some little ones come to see Him
But the men tried to send then away
Little did they know this gentle young man
Was the one by whom all things were made
He decided to make an example of them
To explain something He had to say

Let them come unto Me
For such is the kingdom of God
Come ye also like them
For unless you do you'll be lost
We have to trust fully in Him, not ourselves
Rely on his word before anything else
We can grow great in stature
In wisdom and health, undefiled
But be like a child

These are hard words in the world which we live
When dog eat dog's putting it mild
'cause some of the things Jesus asked us to do
With this world just can't be reconciled
But we know he has made the way for us
And we know he has conquered the grave
And we know that His grace is sufficient
So that all who will can hear Him say

Children come unto Me
For yours is the kingdom of God
You have conquered the world
For you followed My staff and My rod
You trusted fully in Me not yourselves
You relied on My word before anything else
And you never grew to big to stay in My arms
All the while...Welcome home, child

The other day as I was listening to the album (it is still one of my favorites) I started thinking about what Jesus actually meant in Matthew 18:2 - "Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven".

That really is a blunt statement. If I don't become as a little child I will not be saved. It is very important that I understand what Jesus meant. My salvation depends on it. As I was considering this question, an important characteristic of little children came to mind.

One characteristic of little children is that they look up to the adults around them, especially parents. They don’t want to be left alone. They feel secure when they are with their parents. That is the way a Christian should feel about God. We should want to be with God.

In our relationship with God, we adults are in the same position as our children, except that we don’t know it. We sometimes behave as if we are running our lives, and that we are in control. We feel capable, and sometimes to such an extent that we feel we don’t really need God.

We need to know, that we are not in control. Like a child, we should always be looking up to someone for security and for help. We need to remind ourselves that we cannot handle life with our own wisdom or capabilities. In Proverbs 3:5,6 the Bible tells us "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.

This childlike quality was brought home to me recently by a story that my daughter told me about my granddaughter. While my granddaughter was attending Vacation Bible School, one of the activities that she was involved in was making a scroll like people used in Bible times. When she finished her scroll she told her teacher,"this is for Jesus. I'll give it to him when he comes to pick me up".

That is the kind of childlike faith that we all need to have. We are just waiting for Jesus to come pick us up so we can go home, and we have no doubts that he will be here soon.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

God's Will



Have you ever wondered what God’s will was for your life? I know that I have. Is there any way to actually know what God’s will is? Let me tell you a story.

It is the story of George Mueller. He grew up in Prussia, which is now a part of Germany. He didn’t care about anything other than pursuing his own pleasures. When he was fourteen and his mother lay dying, he was out partying and getting drunk with his friends. By the time he was sixteen he was a thief, a swindler, a drunkard, and in jail. His future looked bleak, but God was working in George’s life. While he was attending the University of Halle in 1825, he became totally devoted to serving God. He changed from a drunken con man to a humble man who depended on God for everything.

In 1832 he became the pastor of a Brethren congregation in Bristol, England. Bristol would be the center of his ministry for the next sixty-six years. As his work among the poor in Bristol grew, Mueller saw the need for an orphanage. For a man who had no money to attempt to build such a house, depending only on God was a real exercise of faith. Within a year, one hundred orphans were being cared for. By 1870, the orphanages had multiplied and two thousand children were being cared for.

The history of the Bristol orphanages is page after page of answered prayer. In his prayers, Mueller would present his specific and immediate needs before God. It was this unshakable faith in God's providing hand that made the Bristol orphanages so unique. They never accumulated a surplus of funds, but daily relied on the Lord for their provisions.

George and his wife Mary decided not to accept a salary. They wanted to daily depend upon the Lord for their needs, and they accepted only unsolicited freewill offerings. Mueller's journal is full of the amazing ways the Lord provided money and supplies for them throughout his ministry. Many times, he received unsolicited food donations only hours before they were needed to feed the children, further strengthening his faith in God.

In the years that George Mueller spent ministering to others, he touched many lives. The 117 schools he established collectively had over 120,000 students. The orphanage he operated had five mammoth buildings, and over the years took care of the needs of over 10,000 orphans. Friends of the Mueller’s would ask, “How can you operate such a large operation without knowing where the money is going to come from?” George would reply, “It is God’s will”.

How can you know what is God’s will for your life. Is there any way to determine what you should do when decisions need to be made in your life? How was George Mueller sure that he was following God’s will? There must have been people that asked George that very question, because he came up with a method for determining God’s will.

George Mueller outlined 8 steps for knowing God’s will in your life. Step number one is “Have no will of your own on the given matter”. If we are serious about discovering God’s will, we have to surrender our own. Step number two is “Don’t simply go by feelings”. The idea that if it feels good we should do it doesn’t come from God. Step number three is “Study God’s Word”. Many times this step is all that is needed. The Bible provides answers to most of life’s questions. Step number four is “Consider providential circumstances”. In my life I have experienced this step many times. When my wife and I made the decision to move to Arkansas, our home in Colorado sold within 2 weeks. To me the quick sale was an affirmation that our plans were God’s will.

Step number five is “Consult with Godly friends”. Friends and family who are Christians can provide good advice. Proverbs 11:14 tells us “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Step number six is “Ask God in prayer to reveal his will”. Take everything to God in prayer, especially your decisions. Step number seven is “Make a decision”. Sometimes you have to make a decision to determine if it is the right one. Step number eight is “Proceed with your decision”. Move forward with your decision. Let God have the opportunity to affirm your decision, or shoot it down. Choose to say to God like Jesus did, “not my will, but yours, be done.”

Walking A Tightrope



Jean Francois Gravelet is considered to be one of the greatest tightrope-walkers of all time. He was born in France in 1824. At age 9 he began performing professionally. When he was older he devised the show-name of Charles Blondin. He chose "Blondin" for the color of his hair.

Blondin became obsessed with the idea of crossing Niagara Falls the first time he saw them in 1858. A year after his initial visit, he returned to accomplish the feat. The stunt was not without controversy. Many people felt that a stunt like Blondin's would trivialize the falls, turning them into a backdrop for a circus act, and should not be allowed. Eventually, Blondin was allowed to string his wire across the falls and on June 30, 1859, he was the first man ever to cross Niagara Falls by tightrope. A large crowd of 100,000 people watched him walk on a single three-inch rope, 1,100 feet long and 160 feet above the falls at one side and 270 feet at the other.

Blondin made many more trips across the gorge during the next year. Each time, he thrilled larger crowds with more exciting acts. He balanced a chair on the rope and stood on it. He took pictures of the crowd while he balanced on the rope. He cooked a meal on a small portable cooker and lowered it to amazed passengers on the Maid of the Mist below. He crossed blindfolded, in a sack, on stilts, and pushing a wheel barrow.

In 1860 a Royal party from Britain that included the Prince of Wales saw Blondin cross the tightrope on stilts, and again blindfolded. After that he stopped halfway across and cooked and ate an omelet. Next he wheeled a wheelbarrow from one side to the other, and returned with a sack of potatoes in it. Then Blondin approached the Royal party. He asked the Prince of Wales, "Do you believe I could take a man across the tightrope in this wheelbarrow?" "Yes, I do", said the Prince. "Hop in, then", replied Blondin. Well, the Prince declined Blondin's challenge. He might have believed Blondin could do it, but he wasn't about to trust him with his life.

When it comes to our relationship with God, this kind of trust doesn't do much good. God doesn't want us to say "Yes Lord I believe in you, but not enough to put my life in your hands."

A friend of mine recently showed me what he thought was a contradiction in the Bible. He showed me two verses that he couldn't understand. The first one was in Acts 16:30,31 where it says He brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." You probably remember the story of Paul and Silas in prison found in Acts chapter 16. There was a great earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, "Don't do it! We are all here!" Trembling with fear, the jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down before Paul and Silas. He brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

Paul's answer is important. Don't we all want to know what we must do to be saved? Paul's answer was believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

The second verse that my friend brought to my attention was James 2:19 , "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!" My friend wanted to know, do these two verses tell us that even the demons will be saved? I don't think so. Belief has to come with trust. Proverbs 3:5,6 tells us to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will direct your paths.

Is their a difference between trust and belief. The Prince of Wales believed that Blondin could walk a man across the rope in a wheelbarrow, but he didn't trust him enough to get in. Do you believe in God? Do you trust him with your life? Trust God with all your heart, and if he asks you to get in the wheelbarrow, do it!

Lasik



Several years ago my wife Regina decided to have Lasik eye surgery. After doing a lot of research and talking to people who had the procedure done she was comfortable with the idea of someone cutting on her eyes to improve her vision.

LASIK is a surgical procedure that can reduce a person's dependency on glasses or contact lenses by permanently changing the shape of the cornea. For clear vision, the eye's cornea and lens must bend light rays properly, so that images are focused on the retina. If the light rays aren't clearly focused on the retina, the images you see are blurry.

During LASIK, a special knife (a microkeratome) is used to cut a hinged flap of corneal tissue off the outer layer of the eyeball. The flap is lifted out of the way and the laser is used to reshape the underlying corneal tissue.

Before the surgery, Gina had worn glasses since she was a teenager. She had to place her glasses in the same place every night, because she couldn't see well enough to find her glasses if they were misplaced. The LASIK surgery immediately improved her eyesight, and she was able to see without glasses the very next morning. What a wonderful blessing that was.

Her experience with LASIK eye surgery made me realize that most of us have a problem with our eyes. Most people suffer from "Impaired Spiritual Vision". Many cases are severe. Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet, talked about people who suffered from severe "Impaired Spiritual Vision" in his day. "Those people don't know what they are doing. They don't understand! It is as if their eyes are covered so they can't see. Their minds don't understand." (Isaiah 44:18)

Is "Impaired Spiritual Vision" a dangerous condition? Before my wife had LASIK eye surgery she would never have driven a car without her glasses. Why was that? It's because she would have endangered herself, her passengers, and you if you happened to be on the road at the same time. It is just as dangerous to drive through life with "Impaired Spiritual Vision". Where can I go to get proper treatment? Jesus tells us in Revelation 3:18, "I advise you to buy from me gold made pure in fire so you can be truly rich. Buy from me white clothes so you can be clothed and so you can cover your shameful nakedness. Buy from me medicine to put on your eyes so you can truly see".

The only qualified eye doctor is Jesus himself. We are often tempted to see if another human being can help us with our "Impaired Spiritual Vision". Jesus warns us about that in Matthew 15: 14, "They are blind leaders. If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a ditch".

Spiritual leaders often have a hard time trying to help us. Even if they are sincerely trying to point us to Jesus, we often look only at them. Have you ever tried to show your dog something by pointing at it? The dog will look at your finger instead of what you are pointing at. It is often the same way with human beings. It is easier to look at people than to see the Jesus they are trying to point out to us.

How can we get Jesus to help correct our "Impaired Spiritual Vision"? I think that we find a clue in Psalms 119:16-18. "I will delight in your principles and not forget your word. Be good to your servant, that I may live and obey your word. Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your law."

Jesus is the finest eye surgeon in the world. Ask him today to correct your spiritual vision so that you can live and obey his word, and delight in his principles.

The List



When I was growing up I loved to make lists. I kept a list of the books that I had read from the Longmont Public Library. I kept a list of baseball players and their statistics. Each week I would make my own Top 40 list.

Do you make lists? What kind of lists do you make? Today your lists may be on your computer or your phone, but I bet you make lists. Lists keep us organized.

I recently read a story written by Christian author Max Lucado. On a plane he was seated next to an attractive young woman. The young woman was very nervous about flying, so he took out his Bible and read some reassuring passages. As they talked she told him that she was a believer once when she was young. Max asked her, “Do you believe in heaven? "Yeah." "Do you think you’ll go there?"

She looked away for a minute and then turned and answered confidently, "Yeah. Yeah, I’ll be in heaven." How do you know?"

"How do I know I’m going to heaven?" She grew quiet as she formulated her response. "Well, I’m basically good. I smoke less than a pack a day. I exercise. I’m dependable at work and," she counted each achievement on a finger, "I made my boyfriend get tested for AIDS."

That was her list. By her way of thinking, heaven could be earned by smoking less and safe sex. Her line of logic was simple: I keep the list on earth and I get the place in heaven.

Most of us are a lot like the woman on the plane. We feel that we are basically good. We are decent hard working people. We have a list that we feel qualifies us for heaven. Your list may not include cigarettes or AIDS, but I know you have a list. There is a purpose for the list: to prove we are good.

In Romans 3:20-22 Paul tells us, “No one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what his law commands. For the more we know God’s law, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying it. But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight—not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago. We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.

Well, so much for lists. So much for being "basically good." If no one is good, if no list is sufficient, if no achievements are adequate, how can a person be saved? Wouldn’t you like to ask Jesus, “How can I be saved”? Jesus was asked that very question.

We find the story in Mark 10:17. “Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”

Isn’t that the question you would like to ask Jesus? It is very interesting that Jesus gave the man a list. In verse 19 Jesus answers, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”

It seems that Jesus is saying that to have a list is OK. It seems like we should have a list. When the man told Jesus that he had done all of these things, Jesus said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” The story has a sad ending. The man was OK with keeping his list, but he was not willing to follow Jesus.

No matter how long or complete your list, there is always one more thing you need to do.

I recently read a story of a woman who for years was married to a harsh husband. Each day he would leave her a list of chores to complete before he returned at the end of the day. Clean the yard. Stack the firewood. Wash the windows. Sweep the floor. Bake the bread.

If she didn’t complete the tasks, she would be greeted with his explosive anger. But even if she did complete the list, he was never satisfied; he would always find inadequacies in her work.

After several years, the husband passed away. Sometime later she remarried, this time to a man who lavished her with tenderness and adoration.

One day, while going through a box of old papers, the wife discovered one of her first husband’s lists. And as she read the list, a realization caused a tear of joy to splash on the paper. "I’m still doing all these things, and my husband doesn’t have to tell me. I do it because I love him."

You can’t make a list long enough and complete enough to satisfy the requirements for eternal life, but Jesus hasn’t asked you to. All he wants is you; All of you. He wants you to be madly in love with him. Head over heels, do anything for him, in love with him.

In John 14:15 he tells us, “If you love Me, keep My commandments”. Not because that will guarantee us salvation, but because we are so much in love that we want to please Jesus. If we truly love Jesus, doing the things that will please him will not be a burden. They will be a joy.

Jesus Wept



When I was growing up I attended a small church with my family. The small church shared a pastor with another church. Sometimes when the pastor wasn’t there for the mid week prayer service those in attendance would recite a favorite text. Being somewhat of a smart alec, I thought it was amusing to say that my favorite verse was John 11:35 – “Jesus wept”.

As I have been studying recently, it has actually become a favorite verse of mine. I believe the simple words, “Jesus wept,” may reveal as much about Jesus as any other words ever said about him.

I’m sure that you remember the story of Lazarus. When he became ill, his sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, the one you love is very sick.” Jesus chose to wait until Lazarus had died before he came. We read the story in John 11:33-35. “When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, he was moved with indignation and was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept”.

Let me ask you a question? Why did Jesus weep? Was it because of his love for Lazarus? He knew Lazarus would be alive in a few minutes. Jesus was crying because of the grief of his friends. He was moved by their sorrow. Jesus is painfully aware of your suffering. When you cry He is aware. Psalms 56:8 tells us, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

There is one other place in the Bible where it tells us that Jesus cried. We find it in Luke 19:41 - “But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to cry”.

Why was Jesus crying? Was he crying for a city? At first glance it seems that he was crying because he knew that this city would be destroyed. I think that Luke 13:34 gives us some insight into this story. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!

Jesus was crying for the people of Jerusalem. He had come to save them, but so many were not willing to be saved. Even though they had rejected him and his salvation, he had compassion on them.

Should Jesus be our example? I hope that you want to follow Jesus, by following his example. If we are to follow the example of Jesus, how should we relate to sinners? We should have compassion. It seems to me that many Christians have lost their compassion. As I look around I don’t always see Christians dealing with others with compassion. I am more apt to see hate than compassion.

I don’t want to meddle, but maybe I will just a little bit. Just think about a few of the hot button topics of our day and see what your response is toward the following groups. Gays, Muslims, Adulterers, Abortionists, Thieves, Drug Dealers, Prostitutes, Atheists, etc.

Do you have compassion on them, or is your response something different? Can you hate someone when you are praying for their salvation?

Following the example of Jesus and having compassion on sinners is very liberating. It allows us to leave the judging up to God while we practice the self-sacrificing love He demonstrated on the cross. It allows us to hold ourselves to a high moral standard without feeling that we must hate those who do not see things the way we do.

We should love the "sinner" as Christ loved us sinners and, by our own conduct and communication, model a better way. When we uplift the right and the good, sin will appear in its true colors. However, if we do not model the love of Christ and give no evidence of His power in our lives, no amount of argument will induce the "sinner" to give up his sin. Holding a sign that says “God Hates You” is not an effective way to witness to sinners.

Let’s follow the example of Jesus and love sinners and hate the sin in our own lives. John, the disciple that Jesus loved, tells us in 1 John 4:8 “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love”.

Mowing

Dogwoods

Spring is a wonderful time of the year. One of the reasons that I moved to Arkansas is that I don’t like to be cold. Spring brings with it warmer weather and the end of winter, so I look forward to spring every year.

There are many things about spring that I enjoy. When the redbud and the dogwood bloom, they remind me how much I enjoy living in Arkansas. I love to take a ride on country roads just looking at the trees. The flowers blooming make spring a special time of the year. Driving through town when the azaleas are blooming is great. When spring comes each year there is something else that we can look forward to. The grass begins to grow.

The grass beginning to grow again is something about spring that I am not fond of. It seems to be difficult to keep the lawn mowed. This year it has been hard to mow because of the rain. We have had over 17 inches of rain in May so far.

In the past it has been my responsibility to keep the churchyard mowed at my church. We have a large churchyard, so it takes quite a while to mow. I had to mow during the evenings after I get off work. It took two or three evenings a week to keep the churchyard looking good.

The reason that I’m not that happy when the grass begins to grow in the spring isn’t because I don’t like to mow. I actually enjoy mowing with the riding mower. It’s because of the difficulty in finding the time. Finding several evenings a week to mow is never easy.

Riding on a mower gave me time to think. What else would I do while riding back and forth across the churchyard. One evening while I was mowing, my mind started thinking about how my devotional time with God, and my mowing time were similar. In my busy life it is difficult to find the time to spend with God, just like it is difficult to find the time to get the mowing done.

The Apostle Paul knew that it could be difficult to find the time to spend with God. When he was writing to Timothy he warned him about becoming so busy that he didn’t have time for spiritual exercise. In 1 Timothy 4:7,8 he gave Timothy this inspired advice. "Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next".

Just like it is important for me to find the time to get the yard mowed, it is also important for me to find the time for what Paul calls spiritual exercise. What was Paul talking about when he said that spiritual exercise was important? I feel that spiritual exercise is Bible reading and study along with prayer. That is talking to God through prayer, and listening to him through reading and studying the Bible.

Have you noticed what happens when a yard misses a mowing or two? It begins to look bad. The same thing can happen to our spiritual life. If we miss our spiritual exercise we begin to get flabby and out of shape. Like a yard that hasn’t been mowed our life begins to look out of control. The longer we let it go the worse it gets. For a neat and trim life, regular devotional time spent with God is a must.

The next time you are mowing your yard, (I know it will be soon), think about your spiritual life. Are you spending enough time with God to keep your life neatly trimmed?

What A Friend



Joseph Scriven is not a household name. Chances are you have never heard of him. He was born on September 10, 1819, in Ireland. When he was 24 years old he had an experience that changed his life. The night before he was to be married, his fiance drowned while he watched helplessly.

He decided to move far away from the place that claimed the life of his fiance. He came to Canada where he went to work for the Lord. He eventually settled around Port Hope on the north shore of Lake Ontario. He used his time to preach the gospel and to care for the poor and the widows. The local people referred to him as the man who saws wood and carries water for sick people and widows who are unable to pay.

He gave freely of his limited possessions, and never once refused to help anyone who needed it. His faith led him to do menial tasks for poor widows and the sick. He often worked for no wages and was regarded by the people of the community as a kind man, but a bit odd.

Joseph made a humble living as a country tutor who worked for a number of families in the Rice Lake area of Ontario. Joseph met Eliza Roche while he was tutoring for some of her relatives. He asked Eliza to marry him and she agreed. Shortly after their engagement Eliza fell ill with tuberculosis. She died in 1857, a few days before the date she and Joseph had set for their wedding. Fate had dealt Joseph Scriven another broken heart.

Around this time, Joseph learned that his mother was seriously ill. He didn't have the money to visit her back home in Ireland. When he wrote to her, he sent her a poem he had written as an encouragement. He called it "Pray Without Ceasing."

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do no carry everything to God in prayer.

Are his words familiar to you? You probably have heard them before.
Some time later when he himself was ill, a friend who came to call on him chanced to see the poem scribbled on scratch paper near the bed. The friend read it and asked Joseph if he had written the words. He replied, "The Lord and I did it between us."

Joseph never intended for the poem to be published, but it made its rounds as he gave copies to friends. One of the people he gave a copy to was a friend of his by the name of George Wilson, who published the local newspaper in the town of Port Hope, Ontario. Wilson was deeply impressed and was convinced he should print it in the paper so the whole town could enjoy it.

The people of Port Hope enjoyed the poem but quickly forgot it. And that would have been the last anyone ever heard of it except for the fact that somebody in Port Hope sent a parcel to New York City and wrapped it in the very newspaper that had Joseph’s poem in it. When the parcel arrived in New York , the recipient unwrapped it and saved the newspaper because she wanted to read it. She smoothed it out and began to read, and Joseph’s poem caught her attention. She read the poem several times and it moved her so much that she came to the conclusion that everybody in town should read it. She took it to a local New York newspaper, showed it to them and asked if they would be interested in printing it. They looked at it, and deciding that the readers would enjoy the piece, printed it under the title “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. A copy of the newspaper made its way to composer Charles Converse who composed music to go with Joseph Scriven’s words.

Ira D. Sankey discovered the hymn in 1875, just in time to include it in his well-known collection, Sankey's Gospel Hymns Number One. Later Sankey wrote, "The last hymn which went into the book became one of the first in favor."

“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” is a song that reminds us, as the Bible puts it in Proverbs 18:24 , A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. No matter what we have to face in life, no matter how hard things get, we have a God who is always there for us. What a friend we have in Jesus!

Spice



Have you ever tried to lower your sodium intake? Things just don’t taste the same with low sodium. As bad as it may be for our blood-pressure, salt does make things taste good. When Jesus said that we are the salt of this earth, Jesus meant that we are the spice of this world. We’re here to add flavor, in other words; we are here to make things taste good.

The purpose of salt, the purpose of spice, is to add flavor. Job 6:6 asks “Can flavorless food be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?”

I love good flavorful food. We use lots of spice at our house. If you don’t like garlic you would have a hard time at our house. We grow our own basil and rosemary so that we have fresh flavorful spices that are much tastier than the dried spices you can buy in the store. Take a quick look at our spice rack and you will find thyme, sage, paprika, oregano, curry, bay leaves, chili powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, cumin, onion, coriander, turmeric, mustard, saffron, and pepper. The purpose of each of these spices is to add flavor.

In Matthew 5:13, Jesus said. “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its salty taste, it cannot be made salty again. It is good for nothing, except to be thrown out and walked on”.

Without salt or spice, many foods are very bland and tasteless. Jesus isn’t looking for bland followers. If you aren’t salty, if you aren’t spicy, if you have no flavor you aren’t good for anything.

In verses 14 and 15 Jesus continues, “You are the light that gives light to the world. A city that is built on a hill cannot be hidden. And people don’t hide a light under a bowl. They put it on a lampstand so the light shines for all the people in the house. In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven”.

Light has amazing qualities. One of my favorite qualities is when it passes through a prism and breaks up into the colors of the rainbow. We are to be the light that gives light to the world, but we each one are a different color. We each have different qualities, different flavors, and different spices.

God hasn’t asked us to be cookie cutter copies of each other. He has asked each one of us to spice up our corner of the world. Each one of us has a sphere of influence that no one else has. God has asked us to be a light in our sphere of influence.

When it’s dark, people notice the light. Have you ever seen a searchlight? When I was a kid growing up it seemed like we saw them quite often. Whenever I would see one it was very intriguing.

I haven’t seen a searchlight in years, but I can still vividly remember seeing them. I grew up out in the country where there were no streetlights. When I could see a searchlight it looked like it was the only thing in the sky.

Is there any way someone could hide a light like that? No way. There are some lights that just cannot be hid. So if that light is on, then we are going to see it; and if we can’t see it, there’s something wrong!

If salt is there, then we’re going to taste it; and if we can’t taste it, there’s something wrong!

If there are spices, then we’re going to taste them; and if we can’t taste them, there’s something wrong!

In just the same way, Christians should make a difference in this world; we should be just as noticeable as salt and light. We should be the spice of the world, and the world needs more spice.

Are You Experienced?



James Marshal Hendrix was born in Seattle, Washington, on November 27, 1942; an American of African, European, Cherokee Indian and Mexican descent. An unsettled home environment made Jimi spend much of his early years living with his grandmother, a full-blooded Cherokee Indian, in Canada.

His mother died when Jimi was 15, about the same time that Jimi began to take a serious interest in music and playing the guitar. When he was 12 he got his first electric guitar - the instrument which shaped the rest of his life.

Jimi Hendrix is considered by many to be the most influential and talented electric guitarist in history. He achieved worldwide fame in 1967 playing at the Monterey Pop Festival, then headlined at Woodstock in 1969. Hendrix is widely known for and associated with the use of hallucinogenic drugs, most notably LSD. Various forms of sleeping pills and speed fueled his "stop and go" lifestyle throughout his career.

The most controversial topic however, concerns his alleged abuse of heroin. The Hendrix family, along with a portion of his friends and biographers, emphatically maintains that Jimi was never a heroin user. An equally strong number of associates and writers, including former band mate Noel Redding, insist that he did use heroin.

Jimi's life was cut short at the age of 27. In the days that lead up to his death witnesses said that he was obviously high on drugs and he had a lot of cannabis on him. He was in a terrible state, highly nervous. He spent Wednesday, September 17, 1970 looking for drugs, while visiting houses around London.

In the early morning hours of Thursday, September 18, 1970, Jimi Hendrix was found dead in the basement flat of the Samarkand Hotel in London. Hendrix died amid circumstances which have never been fully explained, and the exact details of his death will probably never be confirmed. He had spent the night with his German girlfriend, Monika Dannemann, and likely died in bed after drinking wine and taking nine Vesperax sleeping pills, then drowning in his own vomit.

What a sad story. What a terrible waste of a young mans life. He had rocketed to stardom in 1967 with the release of his first album "Are You Experienced". In the title song he sang “Are You Experienced”? “Ah! Have you ever been experienced? Well, I have”. Young hip listeners at that time new what he was asking when he sang “Are you experienced. Ah! Have you ever been experienced? Well, I have”. They knew that he was asking if the had used drugs.

I am asking you today, Are you experienced? You don't have to answer that. But really I want to ask you are you experienced? I'm not Jimi Hendrix. So I'm not asking about drugs. But I do want to ask you are you experienced? Have you experienced the grace and love of God? I can only hope that you have.

I know that I have received one gracious blessing after another. The greatest blessing is found in Romans 5:8, "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us". What a blessing. I know that God loves me because while I was still a sinner Jesus died for me.

In Ephesians 1:7,8 Paul writes "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and understanding.”

God's grace is a wonderful gift to humankind. Grace is God's love freely offered to us. We do not do anything to "earn" it. I hope that you take time each day to reflect upon how you have experienced God's grace in your life.

I have experienced so much of God's love and grace in my life. I have so many things to be thankful for. I am thankful that Jesus died for me, and that he has promised in 1 John 1:9 that if I confess my sins he is faithful to forgive my sins. I am thankful that I have such easy access to God’s word, The Bible. I am thankful that I was born into a Christian family. I am thankful that I live in the USA; that I have a wonderful spouse who loves God, and that I have been blessed with loving children and grandchildren. I am thankful that I am able to live in a rural area. What a blessing it is to live in Mena, Arkansas. You can see that from God’s abundance I have received one gracious blessing after another.

What about you? Have you experienced God's love and Grace? Are you experienced?

Comfort Zone



I have been sick for almost a week now. I'm starting to feel some better, but I'm not back to normal yet. (I know many will say I have never been normal.) I started coming down with a cold and a terrible cough last Friday, and by Sunday morning I was running a fever and aching all over. Gina has been sick a couple of times recently, but I though I had bit the bullet and made it through cold and flu season without getting sick. Boy was I wrong. As the old saying goes, At first I was afraid I was going to die, and then I was afraid I wasn't.

The last couple of days Gina has finally gotten back to feeling like herself again after her bouts with the flu. I hope I get to feeling like a new man soon. I'm sure tired of feeling like this old man who is sick. Here's to becoming a new man. I'm sure Gina is tired of this old whiny one.

Being sick got me to thinking about how illness parallels our human nature. We are sick spiritually, and God wants to heal us so we won't be sick with sin. The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that "anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" We have all heard the term “Born Again” to describe the new life. It is probably one of the most common phrases in the Christian vocabulary. What is a "Born Again" Christian?

In 1 Peter 1:23, the Bible tells us, "you have been born again. This new life did not come from something that dies, but from something that cannot die. You were born again through God’s living message that continues forever". To be "Born Again" means to have a new life.

There is a law of life that states, "everything that is new eventually becomes old". That law has been painfully brought to my attention over the last couple of weeks as I have been going through lots of old pictures to post on my Facebook page. I recently read an appropriate quote, "youth is a disease from which we all recover". I am recovering nicely, thank you very much.

The next time you are in a big parking lot such as at the mall or at Wal-Mart take a look at the cars. There are some nice new cars. There are some that are in need of some body work. There are a number of old work vehicles. Here in rural Arkansas, there are lots of beat up pick up trucks in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Every car in the parking lot was once a new car. My Daddy has lots of antique cars. They all have something in common. Whether they are nicely restored or are nothing but a rusted out hulk, they were all once new.

What happens when the new wears off of our "Born Again" experience? What happens when our new life isn’t so new anymore? We get in a rut. When we are in a rut, and are just going through the motions, don’t you think God notices?

All of us have a comfort zone in our life. To get out of the rut, we have to move outside of our comfort zone.

How do we get outside of our comfort zone? Here is a list of ideas that I came up with. Everything on the list may not be for you, but maybe it will help you get some ideas how to get out of your comfort zone, and get out of the rut. Maybe they will help your new life to actually be new again.

1. Expand your circle of friends
2. Study a subject you haven’t studied
3. Examine your core beliefs
4. Listen more and talk less
5. Try doing something that you have been afraid to do
6. Eat between meals - spiritually - don’t let religion be rote
7. Make your own list
8. Don’t be afraid of other religious viewpoints – truth withstands
9. Don't worry about what other Christians are doing
10. Hug somebody
11. Go on a mission trip
12. Don’t be afraid to express yourself
13. Be very gentle when you express yourself
14. Tell people you love them
15. Loosen up, don’t be rigid
16. Affirm a leader
17. Smile, be happy
18. Read a version of the Bible you haven’t read before
19. Visit another country or culture
20. Change the order you do things
21. Help somebody who isn’t expecting it
22. Don’t be afraid of change – it isn’t inherently evil
23. Call someone you haven’t called for a long time
24. If someone invites you to their church--- GO
25. Learn a new song. Buy a new CD
26. Be more gracious
27. Visit someone you have never visited before
28. Read a Christian book you haven’t read before
29. Take time to do something you really enjoy
30. Give a totally unexpected gift to someone
31. Ask for other peoples opinions
32. Volunteer to tell the childrens story
33. Pray instead of being critical
34. Let go of resentment
35. Shake up your prayer life. Pray at different times or ways
36. Say thank you more often
37. If you see your devotions are in a rut shake them up
38. Sit somewhere different in church
39. Intentionally use different phrases when you pray
40. Never forget what Jesus has done for you

Let’s resolve to get out of our comfort zone. Ask God every day for a new life.

Old Friends

Norma and I

A couple of weeks ago I received a call from my friend Neal. His wife Tillie has had heart surgery, and Neal had decided that he should move from the ends of the earth in eastern Oklahoma to a retirement community near Oklahoma City. He felt that they needed to be nearer their doctors, and emergency medical care. He had made arrangements for his son to come and help them move.

I have known Neal for 10 years. He moved to this area after he retired. He bought acreage in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma where he and his family built a house. Neal would have been a great homesteader, as he is very self sufficient. He actually went to New Mexico as a young man to try and claim a homestead. He didn't get the homestead, but he did find Tillie. He and Tillie were instrumental in starting La Vida Mission for the Navajo people of northwestern New Mexico.

The property of La Vida Mission was once an abandoned trading post. In this one-room trading post, the little mission was born. School was held for six students in the crumbling, mice-infested building by Neal and Tillie Scott, who lived in the school building with their two tiny sons, Steven and Tom. Each day Tillie drove the rutted reservation roads to pick up her students, then returned them to their hogans at the end of the day.

Neal and Tillie started their married life with a passion for missions and decided that they would follow wherever God led them. During over 30 years of ministry they worked in many places including Jamaica, Mexico and Africa. Neal was a printer by trade, and he managed printing presses in many places. Tillie was a school teacher and always found ways to help others wherever they were. She always had a special place in her heart for kids, from those Navajo Indians at La Vida Mission where her mission work started to the kids of Africa. Her and Neal adopted two children from Africa and brought them back to the U.S. when they retired.

Even in retirement Neal still had a passion for missions and helping others. He was a local volunteer fireman and helped those in his community however he could. He spent several months after Hurricane Katrina helping in a relief distribution warehouse in south Louisiana.

When Neal called me that Thursday, there was a sense of urgency in his voice. He said, "I hate to ask you this, but I didn't know who else to ask. I feel strongly that I need to get Tillie to the retirement village this weekend. She has had a small stroke, and the doctors say you never know if there will be another one. My son won't be able to come for few weeks. Would you be able to help us move this weekend."

I told Neal that we would be over Sunday morning to help them move. Daddy and I got up early Sunday morning and were at Neal's place before 8 o'clock. When we looked at what needed to be moved and then looked at my pickup we began to wonder if we could get it all on. I knew that if anyone could it would be my Daddy.

We were able to put in my little S-10 pickup, 2 beds, a large dresser, bedding, chairs, clothes, kitchen appliances, and a microwave. We were also able to find places for a number of cases of canned food they had. We definitely looked like Okie's and Arkie's. It made me think of the Grapes of Wrath or maybe the Beverly Hillbillies. As we left for the 200 mile trip to the retirement village, we had to stop at the first gas station with air to pump up the tires on my little truck. There was way more weight on the truck than it was designed for. We took it easy on the trip over, because the 4 cylinder engine had a hard time going more that 55 mph. As we drove, Neal kept me entertained with the story of how he and Tillie met, and the early years at La Vida Mission.

After about 4 hours we pulled into the Summit Ridge Retirement Village. Neal and Tillie were moving into a small but nice 1 bedroom apartment. Even though they won't have the room they are used to and the wide open spaces, they will be so much safer with people nearby to help if there is a medical emergency. There is a beautiful church right across the street from their apartment.

While we were unloading the pickup and moving things into the house, I called the Summit Ridge Retirement Village office to find out where an old friend lived. I knew that Norma Wolters was living there and wanted to visit with her while were were there. I was surprised to find out that she lived in the duplex next door to where Neal's apartment was. Daddy and I were able to spend a few minutes with her before we had to make the long trip back home.

I first met Norma when she was teaching school at the B.J. Rowland Adventist School in Mena. When the school opened in the late 70's she was the first teacher. The school was a one room schoolhouse with grades 1-8. My brother and sisters were students of Norma's. She retired the year my daughter Cynda started school at that little school. It was great to see Norma and do a little reminiscing.

The next morning, Neal and Tillie were going to drive into town to get some things at the grocery store. Before they had gone two miles they turned around and went back to the apartment because the roads were icing up. Before long they were completely iced in.

I was so thankful that Neal and Tillie were in a safe place where help was available if they needed it. Their place out in the woods was completely iced in, and there would have been no way to get help if they needed it. I think that God nudged Neal that Thursday and impressed him that he needed to be in a safe place before the ice storm hit. I believe that God is concerned with every detail of our lives, and that if we listen he will guide us.

It was great to be able to help an old friend and to feel that he had the security of being in a safe place. It was also nice to visit an old friend that I hadn't seen for a number of years.

I like the lyrics of the Chris Eaton song "Old Friends".

Old Friends -- we'll always be
And Heaven is a perfect place
At the journey's end
And I'm looking forward to that day
Cause we're old friends

My Resolution



My favorite cartoon when I was a kid was Peanuts. I remember one comic strip in particular. It is January 1st, and Charlie Brown tells anyone who will listen, “The best way to keep New Year’s Resolutions is in a sealed envelope in a bottom desk drawer.

Charlie Brown knew what every person who has ever made a resolution knows. Making and keeping resolutions is a troublesome business, usually filled with failure and shame.

How have your 2009 resolutions worked out for you? I don't even want to talk about mine. If you have made and broken resolutions on many previous New Year's days, you may feel that you might as well seal them in a bottom desk drawer and forget them. That is the experience I have had.

If there is anything to which Christians should be committed to, it is that people can change for the better and that there is every reason to hope for such a change in our lives and in the lives of others.

If you ask the average person about the resolutions they made for the New Year, they will tell you that they are going to cut down on their eating, they are going to exercise more, stop doing unhealthy things, and start doing healthy things, etc.

While these things are good, they all focus on self and rely on self. These kinds of things are in fact self-serving and look to the power of one’s self to accomplish them. Self-improvement for most people means making themselves more attractive, healthier and happier. They depend on the power of the human will to bring about the changes.

Look at how different our typical resolutions are from the words of Paul in Colossians 3:12-14. “God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So always do these things: Show mercy to others, be kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Get along with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you. Do all these things; but most important, love each other. Love is what holds you all together in perfect unity."

Notice how Paul’s words are focused on others. If we are to use resolutions wisely, we need to turn our attention away from ourselves and toward others. We need to get the focus off of ourselves, and on to God and the strength that comes only from him. What kind of resolutions should we make?

John was called the disciple that Jesus loved. It appears that Jesus had a best friend. I want my resolution to be the words that the best friend of Jesus wrote in 1 John 4:7,8 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”.

I don’t know of a better resolution that you could make. If we would all make the resolution to love one another imagine how different the world would be.

My wife's cousin Jerry Patton spent 37 years as the second tenor of The King's Heralds Quartet, the oldest continuous gospel quartet in America.

One of my favorite songs that he sang was titled One Little Candle. The lyrics are great.

It's better to light just one little candle
Than to stumble in the dark
Better far that you light just one little candle
All you need's a tiny spark

If we'd all say a prayer that the world would be free
The wonderful dawn of the new day we'll see
And if everyone lit just one little candle
What a bright world this would be

My resolution is to light one little candle, will you join me?

Imagination



How is your imagination? Do you ever daydream? What do you imagine?

Former Beatle John Lennon wrote a song titled Imagine in the early 70's. The melody is beautiful, and it is one of the most popular songs he ever wrote. But while the melody may be beautiful, the lyrics paint a different picture. Listen to what Lennon had to say.

Imagine there's no heaven. It's easy if you try;
No hell below us; above us only sky.
Imagine all the people, living for today.
Imagine there's no country. It isn't hard to do;
Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too.
Imagine all the people living life in peace.

One of Lennon's ideas was that the concept of God, Jesus, and religion got in the way of world peace; and in the final analysis, caused more bad than good. Karl Marx thought this very same way, and so have many other so-called brilliant philosophers over the centuries. Their idea was that if you rid the world of its ideas about God, Jesus, and religion, then the world would become a utopia. People working together in peace and perfect harmony would soon solve the world's problems.

When I put my imagination to work, I see something different. When I imagine no heaven it is a scary scene. As bad as things are in this world, imagine what it would be like if there was no God. If you spend much time imagining these kinds of things, it's frightening. I can't imagine peace without God. Imagining the world without God is depressing. Let's imagine something different.

I like to imagine the future. Growing up I liked reading popular science magazines. I also liked reading books by Isaac Asimov. His vision of what the future would be like intrigued me. One of my favorite things to imagine is what heaven will be like. Put your imagination to work. What do you imagine heaven is like?

Does the Bible have anything to say about our imagination? The Bible tells us in Ephesians 3:20 , "Glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in us. By this power he can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine". I can imagine a lot of great things, but God can do infinitely more. Put your imagination to work. Whatever you imagined, God can do infinitely more.

I like to think about God. I study the Bible to learn more about him. Can I really understand him? In Isaiah 55:8,9 it reads "My thoughts are completely different from yours, says the LORD. And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts".

God's ways are far beyond anything we can imagine. It seems my imagination is useless when it comes to God. One of my favorite texts is 1 Corinthians 2:9 where is says "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him".

Do you love God? God has prepared something so incredible that no human has ever even imagined it. There are people on this planet that have great imaginations. Look at some of the wonders of this world. The imaginations of artists, writers, architects are often spectacular, but they cannot imagine anything like heaven. Have you ever imagined what heaven will be like? Whatever you imagined doesn't even come close to what God has actually prepared for you.

Do you want to go to heaven? Why do you want to go there? I will tell you why I want to go. In John 14:1-3 Jesus tells us "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also".

Jesus had prepared a place for me, and he wants me to be there with him. That is why I want to go to heaven. I want to be where Jesus is. Jesus has also prepared a place for you. Do you want to be there with him? What will it be like when we see the place that Jesus has prepared for us? I can only imagine!

The Wisdom Of Teeth



"The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil." That quote has been attributed to Cicero, a Roman statesman and philosopher. Cicero is widely considered to be one of Rome's greatest orators. I had an experience this week that made me start thinking about wisdom.

For the past few weeks I have had a very painful toothache. I went to the dentist on Tuesday. After taking x-rays, he told me that second molar on the lower left was in bad shape. One of the reasons that it had deteriorated was because it was up against my "wisdom tooth". He recommended that I have both teeth pulled.

Having the teeth pulled was quite an ordeal. The wisdom tooth was laying sideways, and the root had a hook that was in the bone. The procedure wasn't that painful, but the pulling, pushing, cutting, tugging and prying made it very uncomfortable. When the anesthetic wore off I was in a lot of pain.

While I was at home nursing a very sore mouth I started wondering why the third molars are called wisdom teeth, and why we have them. I found out that they are called wisdom teeth because usually they come in when a person is between age 17 and 21 or older; old enough to have supposedly gained some "wisdom". Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars. Sometimes these teeth can be a valuable asset to the mouth when healthy and properly aligned, but more often they are misaligned and cause trouble.

I found the explanation of the term "wisdom teeth" to be somewhat amusing. 17 to 21 year olds aren't the first age group that I think of when I think of wisdom. Wisdom comes with experience. The dictionary definition of wisdom is "the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; discernment, or insight.

We to often aren't sure of the difference between wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. There is some overlapping of the definitions. Wisdom is knowledge with understanding. Anyone can get knowledge, but understanding is another thing. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 3:13, "Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding".

I crave knowledge. I am curious about so many different things, and want to learn about them. It is interesting to me to see all the different "facts" that you can find on a given topic. Sorting through the "facts" can make understanding an almost impossible task.

1 Corinthians 1:19-20 tells us "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate. Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world"?

I want to make sure that in my quest for knowledge that I look to God for understanding.

Taste And See

Monet Dining

During our recent cruise, one of the highlights of the day was dining in the elegant Monet Dining Room each evening. It was like going to the kind of upscale restaurant that we never would go to under normal circumstances. There were beautifully set tables, and waiters hovering over you. The meal would begin with the waiter asking you which of the starters you would like. I enjoyed getting to try new things. Sometimes I couldn't make up my mind and I would order two. Every night there were new tastes awaiting to be tried. Whether it was the Asparagus Veloute, the Tropical Fruits, the Bing Cherry Soup, Roasted Eggplant on Puff Pastry, or the Gazpacho Andalouse, I was never disappointed. I enjoyed getting to taste and see what these dishes actually tasted like.

After the starters, the waiters would clear away the dishes and reset the table for the entree. Tommy and Anna took such good care of us. Tommy's real name is Tomislav, but when he is working he goes by Tommy. He is from Croatia, as he says, from the crazy Balkans. Anna is from the Philippines. She had to leave her son at home with her mother to be able to work on the cruise ship. She gets to go home every 8 months. Tommy offered us many different entree options each night. Once again it was great to be able to taste new things that are never available in my hometown.

When time came for the desserts, there were always many yummy options. One of my favorites was the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake. Other great desserts were Black and White Bread Pudding, Peach Grand Mariner Mousse and Baked Alaska.

My Daddy wasn't quite as impressed by the gourmet food. He would much rather eat in the buffet. He seemed to be quite suspicious of the food. Each time he was served he would carefully look his plate over as if trying to determine what it was. His favorite dish was the self serve soft ice cream that was available 24 hours a day.

I really enjoyed the food on the cruise ship, but I would never have known if I hadn't tasted it. God offers us the marvelous menu of life, and asks us to taste and see if it is good. In Psalms 34:8 the Bible tells us, "taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him". I really like this verse. God doesn't ask us to blindly follow him, he says taste and see that I am good.

Some people think that Christians blindly follow God, and that faith means believing with no evidence. God provides us with evidence and then asks us to trust him. When Paul and Barnabas were speaking to the people of Lystra they said, "God never left them without evidence of Himself and His goodness". (Acts 14:7)

God has given me lots of evidence that he exists and that he is good. With that evidence it isn't hard for me to have faith in Him even though I can't see him.

In Hebrews 11:1 it says "faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being certain of what we do not see". God tells us to taste and see that he is good so that we can be sure of what we hope for and certain of what we can't see.

There is a Petra song from the 70's titled Taste and See. I haven't heard it for a long time, but the words go like this.

Taste and see that the Lord is good
He's got milk and honey for you
Come and dine at the Master's table,
He'll serve bread and wine to you

Well you tasted this and you tasted that
But you still ain't satisfied
You'll never find any peace of mind
In those empty things you tried

Don't be afraid of tasting something new
Your soul is hungry, nothing else will do
The bread of life will keep you satisfied
You won't go hungry or ever be denied

Taste and see that the Lord is good
He's got milk and honey for you
Come and dine at the Master's table,
He'll serve bread and wine to you

I challenge you to taste and see that the Lord is good.

The Legend Of The Candy Cane



This week my wife Gina came across the legend of the candy cane. Legend is an old English word meaning "probably not true". Even so I enjoyed reading about the legend.

The legend says that there was a time in Europe when any public display of Christianity was forbidden. No crosses or Bibles were allowed. One old man, a candy maker by profession, was very upset by this. He loved God and couldn't stand to not share that love with others. He prayed for God to show him some way to make Christmas gifts for the children which would teach them the story of Christ.

His answer was the candy cane. The candy cane was in the shape of a shepherd’s staff to show them that Jesus is our Shepherd and we are His flock. Upside down the candy cane was a "J", the first letter of Jesus' name. It was made of hard candy to remind us that Christ is the rock of our salvation. The wide red stripes on the candy cane were to represent the blood He shed on the cross for each one of us so that we can have eternal life through Him. The three narrow red stripes on the candy canes symbolized that by His stripes, or wounds, we are healed.

The flavoring in the candy cane was peppermint, which is similar to hyssop. Hyssop is of the mint family and was used in Old Testament times for purification and sacrifice just as Jesus sacrificed His life for ours. The old candy maker told the children that when we break our candy cane it reminds us that Jesus' body was broken for us. If we share our candy cane and give some to someone else in love, it represents the love of Jesus. God gave Himself to us when He sent Jesus. He loved us so much He wants us to spend eternity with Him.

This story of the candy cane is just a legend. We do not know for sure exactly how the candy cane was invented, but it is an excellent picture of Christ and His love for you. Think about it the next time you enjoy a candy cane. And who doesn't enjoy a good candy cane?

Doom And Gloom



It seems like a day doesn't go by that someone doesn't talk to me about the condition that the world finds itself in. With the recent presidential election, and the financial meltdown on Wall Street, people seem very nervous. I have to admit that I have my concerns. My business has been slower the last few weeks. There have been some financial setbacks that I wasn't planning for.

What I have noticed in the past few months, is that it seems like the people I have talked to who have been the most worried are Christians. I have gotten numerous e-mails from Christian people who are sure that doom and gloom are right around the corner. I can't believe that God wants us to live that way. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 says "may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way".

I do believe that we are living in the last chapter of Earth's history, but I am puzzled by many of my fellow Christians. Does God want us to worry?

I saw something the other day that really puzzled me. I was in a Christian bookstore, and I saw that they had Christian worry stones for sale. According to tradition a worry stone is a smooth, polished stone that when rubbed is believed to reduce one's worries and add a sense of calmness. When the stone is rubbed, the negative energy and worries are supposedly transferred into the stone and you are left calm and peaceful. I don't think worry stones are compatible with Christianity.

In Matthew 6:31 Jesus tells us "Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?" He goes on to say "do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own".

Christianity is supposed to be built on faith and trust. There is a story told about Blondin, who is considered to be one of the greatest tightrope-walkers of all time. Blondin became obsessed with the idea of crossing Niagara Falls the first time he saw them in 1858. A year after his initial visit, he returned to accomplish the feat. The stunt was not without controversy. Many people felt that a stunt like Blondin's would trivialize the falls, turning them into a backdrop for a circus act, and should not be allowed.

Eventually, Blondin was allowed to string his wire across the falls and on June 30, 1859, he was the first man ever to cross Niagara Falls by tightrope. A large crowd of 100,000 people watched him walk on a single three-inch rope, 1,100 feet long and 160 feet above the falls at one side and 270 feet at the other.

Blondin made many more trips across the gorge during the next year. Each time, he thrilled larger crowds with more exciting acts. He balanced a chair on the rope and stood on it. He took pictures of the crowd while he balanced on the rope. He cooked a meal on a small portable cooker and lowered it to amazed passengers on the Maid of the Mist below. He crossed blindfolded, in a sack, on stilts, and pushing a wheel barrow.

In 1860 a Royal party from Britain that included the Prince of Wales saw Blondin cross the tightrope on stilts, and again blindfolded. After that he stopped halfway across and cooked and ate an omelet. Next he wheeled a wheelbarrow from one side to the other, and returned with a sack of potatoes in it. Then Blondin approached the Royal party. He asked the Prince of Wales, "Do you believe I could take a man across the tightrope in this wheelbarrow?" "Yes, I do", said the Prince. "Hop in, then", replied Blondin. Well, the Prince declined Blondin's challenge. He might have believed Blondin could do it, but he wasn't about to trust him with his life.

When it comes to our relationship with God, this kind of trust doesn't do much good. God doesn't want us to say "Yes Lord I believe in you, but not enough to put my life in your hands." Belief has to come with trust. Proverbs 3:5,6 tells us to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.

Is their a difference between trust and belief. The Prince of Wales believed that Blondin could walk a man across the rope in a wheelbarrow, but he didn't trust him enough to get in. Do you believe in God? Do you trust him with your life? Trust God with all your heart, and if he asks you to get in the wheelbarrow, do it!

Any Road

Not Suited For Trailer Traffic

I love driving on the back roads in western Arkansas. I love the scenery. I love the adventure. I love to just take off and explore new roads. When I see a road I always wonder where it goes.

Sometimes exploring a new road can be quite an adventure. When you are traveling a rural Arkansas road you just don’t know where you will end up.

In the fall of 2006 America was transfixed with the story of James Kim. He was traveling home from Portland, Oregon to San Francisco, California with his wife and 2 children. They took a wrong turn onto a logging road in bad weather. The snow became too deep to travel, and they became stranded.

After several days Mr. Kim set out on foot to look for help. He believed the nearest town was located four miles away. The distance to the town was actually 13 miles. He promised his family that he would turn back at 1 p.m. if he failed to find anyone, but he did not. Kati Kim and her two children were found alive when a search helicopter was led to the scene after seeing human footprints in the snow. The three were then rescued, and airlifted out of the area.

Soon after the rescue of Kati Kim and her children, search and rescue teams followed James Kim's footprints back along the road for about 10 miles where his footprints left the road and led into the heavily wooded Big Windy Creek drainage area. James Kim's body was found in Big Windy Creek. He had walked 16 miles looking for help.

Although Mr. Kim had walked 16 miles, he was found about four miles from his vehicle, and about one mile from Black Bar Lodge, a boating outpost. Though it was vacant at the time, it was stocked with food items. What a tragic story!

In Proverbs 14:12 the Bible tells us “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death”. When the Kim family decided to go down that logging road, they had no idea that the road was impassable. Had they known about it, I’m sure they wouldn’t have taken that path. It was supposed be a short cut, but only led them to tragedy.

What about the road you are on in your life? Have you taken any wrong turns in your life? Have you been on any wrong roads? How do you know which road to take?

In Psalms 25:4,8-10 the Bible tells us” Show me the path where I should walk, O LORD; point out the right road for me to follow. The LORD is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray. He leads the humble in what is right, teaching them his way. The LORD leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all those who keep his covenant and obey his decrees.

God has promised to be our guide. He will point out the right road for us to follow. As I have discussed spiritual things with people I have heard the following analogy several times. “You see it your way I see it my way, but there are many roads all going to the same place.”

Jesus has an answer for that way of thinking. We find his words in Matthew 7:13,14. “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway that leads to destruction is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way. But the gateway to life is narrow, and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it”. You know from experience that all roads don’t lead to your destination. I’m sure that you have been on a road that didn’t take you where you thought it would. James Kim found out this truth in a tragic way.

One of the last songs that George Harrison recorded was a song titled “Any Road”. The chorus of the song says “If you don't know where you're going any road will take you there”. His words are very true. They describe the kind of roads that I like to explore. I like to drive on them because I don’t know where I’m going. I like to just take off and explore new roads. When I see a road I always wonder where it goes. A number of times I have been completely lost, but eventually I made it home. It can be fun not knowing where you are going.

While it can be fun to explore unknown roads on a Sunday afternoon drive, it’s not a good plan in our spiritual lives. We should know where we are going. We should all have the same destination in mind.

I hope that you know where you are going. Jesus told us that not just any road would take us there. Have you found the road that leads to life? Have you studied the map?

I hope that you and I will be able to say what David said in Psalms 73:23-26. “Yet I still belong to you; you are holding my right hand. You will keep on guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. I have no one in heaven but you; I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever”.

Five Kernels Of Corn



Last week in church, Pastor Dan gave each person in the audience five kernels of corn. The story behind the five kernels of corn goes back to the Pilgrims.

While they were waiting for the harvest of 1623, they lived four or five days at a time on a few grains of corn. From their experience came the legend of the five kernels of corn. Their hopes rested on a good fall harvest, but the harvest of 1623 was almost wiped out. A six week drought began in June and the crops turned brown and were slowly withering away. They turned to the only hope they had – intervention by God, and appointed a solemn day of humiliation and prayer.

The Pilgrims assembled one July morning under a hot, clear sky and for nine hours prayed. Their prayers were answered the next morning, wrote Edward Winslow, and for the next two weeks distilled such soft, sweet and moderate showers that it was hard to say whether our withered corn or drooping affections were most quickened and revived. Governor Bradford ordered that July 30,1623 be set aside as a day of public thankfulness.

Pastor Dan encouraged us to put five kernels of corn next to each plate on Thanksgiving Day. Each person is to take each kernel and tell something they are thankful for. We are going to take his advice at our Thanksgiving meal.

I thought I would get a head start and tell you five things I am thankful for.

I am so thankful for my family. My parents, sisters, kids, grandkids and extended family. I feel sorry for people who do not have good family ties.

I love the little corner of the world that I live in. I'm thankful that I can live in a small town surrounded by such beauty.

I'm so lucky to have so many friends. I am amazed when I realize that I have friends around the world. I'm thankful for friendship. It makes life so interesting and meaningful.

I'm thankful for the beauty that God shows us in nature. I see beauty every day, and I am reminded that God is the creator.

I am thankful for my church family. The warmth and love that I feel each week when I attend church is so special. I feel spiritually blessed, and emotionally fulfilled being apart of this church.

Now it's your turn. What are you thankful for? Remember the story of the five kernels of corn

A Little Thanksgiving History



Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and I am getting excited. Yesterday Gina and I went shopping for Thanksgiving dinner and spend an amazing amount of money. We tried to do our part to jump start the economy. Gavin will be here Tuesday night, and Cynda, Dave, and the girls will be here Wednesday night. I can hardly wait for us to all be together. It is always blissful bedlam. Thanksgiving is such an amazing holiday. To me, even more than Christmas, Thanksgiving is the holiday that focuses on family. I know that family is something I am very thankful for.

I learned in school that the first Thanksgiving was held by the Pilgrims in 1621. I have later found out that it wasn’t quite true.

The Pilgrims did set apart a day to celebrate at Plymouth immediately after their first harvest, in 1621. At the time, this was not regarded as a Thanksgiving observance, but a harvest festival. Harvest Festivals were existing parts of English and Indian tradition alike. The Pilgrims did not hold a true Thanksgiving until 1623. The 1623 celebration followed a severe drought. After the entire group spent days praying for rain, they held a solemn Thanksgiving ceremony and followed that with a feast when the drought was over. Irregular Thanksgivings continued after favorable events and days of fasting after unfavorable ones.

The Pilgrims were not the first Europeans to have a Thanksgiving celebration in America. The first recorded Thanksgiving ceremony took place on September 8, 1565, when 600 Spanish settlers, under the leadership of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, landed at what is now St. Augustine, Florida, and immediately held a Thanksgiving ceremony for their safe delivery to the New World; there followed a feast and celebration. As far as we know this was the first Thanksgiving celebration held in America.

Canadians also celebrate Thanksgiving. The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Orient. In the year 1578, he held a formal ceremony, in what is now the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, to give thanks for surviving the long journey. This is how a Canadian explained it to me. "We did actually have the FIRST Thanksgiving, a full 43 years before the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, but, in true Canadian fashion, there was something wrong with it. That first North American Thanksgiving would have been "celebrated" in sub-zero temperatures on a barren, windswept moonscape by a muttering, mutinous crowd wondering whether "the chief" had all his marbles".

Sir Martin Frobisher set out to find the Spice Islands through the Northwest Passage. He landed instead on Baffin Island. The complete absence of trees and a pitiless terrain of unrelieved rock and permafrost barely dampened his determination to establish the first English settlement in North America. Ever the optimist, he spent two years mining "gold ore". When it was shipped back to England, it was found to be iron pyrite. Fool's Gold.

Throughout the history of the U.S. and Canada, Thanksgiving has been observed. In the U.S. there has been an annual Thanksgiving observed since 1863. In Canada it has been observed since 1879 although on different dates.

I hope your Thanksgiving Day will be awesome!