Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bitter Waters Turned Sweet

Ex 15:22-26

Israel was fresh off one of the greatest and most miraculous victories in all of history. 430 years of bondage was obliterated by the mighty hand of God at the Red Sea. He had worked mightily by opening up a dry path through the sea and then inundating the Egyptian army therein. The subsequent praise songs of Moses and Miriam, "I will sing unto the Lord" and "Sing ye to the Lord" topped the Praise and Worship charts for that year.

However, only 3 days later, one of the most inane "what have you done for me lately?" whines ever uttered fell from the lips of God's MFN (most favored nation) citizens.

They had come to a place called Marah (bitter), aptly named, for the water there tasted as bitter as Mrs. Douglas' Green Acres coffee.

Moses was the nearest scapegoat, so they cast the blame on him. Goodness gracious! He's the man God used to deliver them from slavery and marched them across the dry sea bottom and then toward the Promised Land. He surely didn't deserve the tongue lashing he was receiving from 3 million ingrates.

But, how can we blame them too harshly? These were people with a slave mentality. They expected "massa" to fend for them once they "done come out da fields." This was just the beginning of their gripes and groans. There'd be complaints innumerable to follow. Moses was just beginning to feel burden of ingratitude and short term memory.

God, however, provided yet another miracle for these undeserving whiners, as He would time and time again. I suppose that's called grace, and I should be careful to count the fingers pointed back at me as I denigrate these stiff-necked, heart-hearted, memory-challenged children of Israel.

Here's the miracle...and it does hold credence for our plight. When they had tasted that the water was bitter, as we will similarly experience in our pilgrimage through life's wilderness, the bitter waters were sweetened when a cry was made to the Lord and the Lord showed Moses a tree to be cast into the waters. whereupon, the water became potably sweet.

Here it is friend: When life gets bitter, look to the tree that will make things sweet again, the cross of Calvary. Only that tree, when it is applied to our circumstances, can suffice in making the bitter sweet again.

It is wonderful when bitter Marah is made sweet thanks to Moriah (Calvary).

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Float like an Egyptian

Exodus 14:30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.

10 plagues were foisted upon these people. The first six brought irritation, the next three, devastation, and the final plague, dread!

The previous day and night, they witnessed God's presence and protection upon Israel: the cloud and the pillar of fire.

And yet, they pursued after God's people into a dry path of the sea, walled on either side by a hundred feet of water.

Next thing they know, the walls have crashed upon them, their chariot wheels fell off and not a one of them could swim to shore.

Every Egyptian that undertook this sortie against Israel became a floater and washed up on the beach.

When will the lost learn NOT to fight against God and to treat His children equitably? How many set backs must occur, how many crop failures, how many (super)natural disasters, how many firstborn lost, how many flat tires until they realize, you don't mess with God or His anointed?

Those who oppose God and oppress His kids hope for smooth sailing, but may just end up as floaters.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Jacob's Thefts: Birthright and Blessings

Please Read Gen 27

Vs 30, And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting.

Esau had a priority problem. Now, don't get me wrong, I love to hunt. I am sure I have done like Esau and went hunting when I should or could have been seeing to something more important.

But Esau was born to hunt. He was good at it! (27:27a). Hunting can be therapeutic. Nature and skill, contemplation and competition, patience and thrill - all converge on the hunt. Those who don’t go, don’t know. It was Esau's passion.

But hunting proved to be Esau's downfall on two very important occasions.

The first time is noted in Gen. 25:27-34. Esau came home from the hunt absolutely famished. I can see him in his dusty camo, dropping a carcass from his shoulders, laying his bow carefully against a post and saying to his twin, "I am starving to death, you got anything cooking, O King of the Crockpot?"

Jacob's conniving mind had already shifted into high gear. "Yeah bro, just happen to have some killer chili fixed, you want some? I'll ladle a bowl for ya if you'll sell me your birthright!"

Esau's response: "Whatever!" Now, no one ever called Esau an Einstein, but can you imagine, Isaac was coming up in the world and Esau had plenty to inherit, but he blew it all off for a bowl of chili! Wow! McCormick's Seasonings would have been proud.

Esau didn't know how Hurricane Jacob had hit him until later. After he thought about it, he shrugged it all off and decided he hated his birthright anyhow. (25:34)

Fast forward several years and we find the mighty hunter flummoxed as a fawn on the freeway once again by his stay-at-home homeboy twin.

Jacob (supplanter) hears from mom, who hears from dad, that Isaac is hankerin' for some mutton before handing out his final blessings.

Mommy tells her boy that he needs to pull off the Houdini of the century by fooling dad into thinking he's Esau. No small feat! But he did it.

Have you ever wondered how Jacob pulled this off?

1. Though twins, Esau was rough as a cob and Jacob was slick as a whistle.

2. Isaac was nearly blind and half deaf in his advanced years. I would imagine he was feeling a bit melancholy as the end neared, and therefore somewhat gullible.

3. Rebekah must have been an efficient seamstress. She was able to take sheepskin and sew it into sleeves, gloves and a collar, worn by baby-skinned Jacob, which would fool Isaac into thinking he was the rough-skinned, hairy, hunter brother. That was some doing when you consider the wool had to have the authentic feel and hair length of Esau's hands, forearms and neck. Amazing!

4. Jacob tried to impersonate the voice of Esau. Imagine as he tried to drop his tone a half an octave and project a gravelly, earthy voice. Isaac didn't buy it. He ended up trusting his sense of smell and touch over his sight and hearing. Old age, it ain't for sissies!

It worked! I am thinking there had to be some Divine intervention to pull this ruse off, but it worked and Jacob ended up with Esau's birthright AND his blessing.

This is a coup that must have embarrassed Jacob's prodigy all the way from Joseph to David to Jesus.

But, praise God for the transforming power of His touch. A subsequent dream of a very long ladder and an all-night battle royal wrestling match with a Theophany transformed Jacob into Israel, causing the birthright to progress to a manger in Bethlehem and the blessing to catapult the Jews to most favored nation status with heaven.

What a story! 

Friday, November 20, 2015

I AM For the WALL!!!

Trump is right. There needs to be a wall.

It needs to be high and solid and impenetrable. Only citizens should be allowed in. In fact, I would go as far as to say, only Christians should be allowed. If your name isn’t on the registry, you don’t get in. Don’t get me wrong, if you are willing to get your name in the books, speak the language, leave your lies and wickedness outside the gates, you can enter. But again, let me be clear, if you are a terrorist, a druggie, a player, you don’t get in! If you are flashing the horns at the rock concerts or don’t know how to tell the truth, forget about it, you will be left outside the wall.

Additionally, when you get in through the gates, you need to be honoring God and giving praise to Him, or you are not welcome.

By the way, Mexico is off the hook. They can’t afford to build this wall. There’s not enough tacos in Tijuana or tortillas in Torreon to pay for this border fence.

Rev 21:10  And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11  Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; 12  And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13  On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. 14  And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15  And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. 16  And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. 17  And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. 18  And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. 19  And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; 20  The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. 21  And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. 22  And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. 23  And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. 24  And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. 25  And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. 26  And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. 27  And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Rev 22:14  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. 15  For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Best Pastor Appreciation ever!

I must confess, no matter how overwhelmingly positive, this pessimist can always find the downside, the dark spot, the “yeah, but…”

Surely, by now you grasp that social media can be a bane or a blessing. For all the potential power of good made possible by Facebook, there is always that negative, thoughtless, ignorant, opposing or downright hurtful post that can negate all the inspirational and affirmative material so lovingly generated by goodhearted souls.

I have viewed with incredulity a few comments posted this “Pastor Appreciation Month” that were anything but appreciative and gracious toward those who would have laid down their lives for them. We wonder if they even consider how spitefully their impetuous testimonials rend the very fabric of God-ordained ministry.

But these drive-by assaults are not the norm. Perhaps they were typed as depraved human nature sought to lash out, to dig, to extract a pound of flesh, to satisfy a modicum of revenge, to contribute a piece of one’s mind.  

But then, the cards come in. The dozen or so in the mailbox offering grateful thanks and appreciation. Some containing cherished gift cards to coffee shops, some with sacrificial love offerings. That’s when the heart swells with gratitude, the spirit bows in humility, and the flesh tingles with goosebumps.

Best of all, there are the handmade cards that flood from the children. Here are a few excerpts that have made this the very best Pastor Appreciation Month ever:

“Thank you for preaching to us and showing us the Word of God.”

“More love to the best pastor ever.”

“Thank you for something.” (one of my favorites!)

“Thank you for being there for us when we need you. And thank you for praying for me.”

“Thank you pastor, for baptizing me. Thank you for telling my mom the truth. Thank you for what you have done for us, you’re the best pastor in the whole entire world. Thank you for everything you have done. Thank you so much!”

You are welcome kids! I am blessed to be your pastor!!! 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Gal 6:1  Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2  Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. 

The ranks of believers are being decimated by the enemy's attacks.

Typical responses to the falling of a comrade vary from a shake of the head, to pity, to disgust, to ignoring the fall. But it ought not to be so among believers.

The go to response for an overtaken brother or sister must be a spiritual one. In meekness, those sensitive to the situation, led by the Spirit, bathed in prayer and fully considering his or her own frailty, must respond in love and compassion, never leaving a fallen brother or sister in arms to languish on the battlefield. The fallen must be hurried to a M*A*S*H unit, which is the local church. There to be restored to spiritual health.

Thus fulfills the law of Christ, which is to love one another as Christ has loved us.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

If the last Trump sounded this week...

..As some have strongly felt would happen...

I will never do another load of laundry, clean the house again, counsel a couple facing marriage problems, preach another sermon. I will no longer shop for groceries, go to the Dr., visit a dentist, see the Colorado Mountains, fly over the ocean, attend a Husker game or comfort a family who have lost a loved one.

I will never again have to buy hair gel, shaving cream, a toothbrush, kitty litter, cat food, (hmmm, wonder what will become of the cat?), laundry detergent, dryer sheets, milk, cereal or bread. Other items I could cross off my shopping list when I hear the call, lawn mower batteries, wiper blades, garden hose or nozzle, car wax, or renewed license plates. Yippee! That means no more standing in line at the DMV.

I will never again witness a broken home or an abandoned child. I will have watched with horror, for the last time, the unfolding of a terror attack.

If Jesus came to the clouds this week to call me home, I would no longer walk with a limp, scratch an itchy scalp, or see a mirror full of fat, or gray, or wrinkles. My mouth would be full of teeth, my blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels would be normal. All my scars would be missing, my nails a healthy color and shape. My thumb would work again, my sciatic nerve unpinched. I would see straight, hear well and run fast.

If today were the realization of the dream I've dreamed for decades and hope of all the ages, I would witness no more sickness, pain, parting, sorrow, doubt, fear, blasphemy, cursing, theft, adultery, murder, rape, brutality, hatred, lying, lust or envy.

If this week, we heard the call, "come up hither!" I would be in the presence of the Lord of glory, the Almighty Maker of the universe, the Redeemer and the Lamb. In His presence would be the holy angels, the departed saints, loved ones who beat me to heaven, untold, unimagined beauty and unending joy. I would be absent from a sinful culture, a ruined creation, and fallen creatures.

The half has not been fancied this side the golden shore, 
Oh there, He'll be still sweeter than He ever was before.

And if not this week, maybe next. But it WILL happen. The trumpet will sound, a voice will shout and the Father will speak to the Son, "Go get my children!"

Will you be in that number when the saints go marching in?

If you are not ready, pray now... "God, I am a sinner in need of your forgiveness. I believe Jesus died for my sins and that He rose again from the dead. I repent of my wickedness and turn to you in faith for the forgiveness of my sins. Please wash me now and make me clean and righteous through Jesus Christ. Lord, SAVE ME! My life is now yours. This Lord's day, if the rapture has not come, by your grace, I will be in a Bible-believing,  gospel-preaching, God-honoring church. Amen!"

Monday, September 21, 2015

God's Peace in Changing Seasons

As summer breathes its diminishing gasps, the first leaves of a not yet existent autumn have begun to drop. A mixture of summer's fading heat and fall's pallette of glory meet to present the world with its most beautiful gift, autumnal equinox.

God evidences Himself in scenes like this to ease the furrowed brow worried by nagging and unknown cares. His pervading Spirit anoints His children with the power of His Word and the subtle changes of creation.

Coffee meets study meets thanksgiving meets 
nature resulting in a reminder that, in His presence is the fullness of joy and at His right hand there are pleasures forevermore.

Surely, the cares of this day will rush in like a swarm, but this moment, this frame of time offers a peace that the world cannot give and a joy it can't take away.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Found Faithful - Lordy, How Come?

I Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 

I once heard a commencement speaker quip, "Some graduate cum laude, others magna or summa cum laude. I graduated, Lordy, how come?" 

One of the student's worst nightmares is to hear the words, "Take out a clean sheet of paper and put everything else away." Do you remember that sickening punch in the gut? Suddenly, the air would be sucked out of the classroom. The professor's wry grins contrasted the students' ghastly grimaces. The collective thought among the class was "I knew this was going to happen, why wasn't I prepared?" 

I learned early on in college how to ace tests and quizzes effortlessly thanks to Dale Carnegie's PEG memory system. It baffled classmates and teachers alike how such a dumb kid could get such high marks...every time! 

All I can say is, it pays to be prepared for the inevitable. 

Thing is, we don't get to submit the account of our faithfulness in the service of Christ as a student submits her report by the time it is due. Our faithful stewardship is like a pop quiz that will take most of the class completely by surprise. Only this quiz will be extremely weighted on our final grade. 
When Jesus calls us to the clouds, our journey to the Bema seat of Christ will require that we had been found faithful at His coming. Basically, failure, that is, lack of productivity for His kingdom, will result in a loss of honors. While those who were diligently faithful in their service for Him will be rewarded on that day of pomp and circumstance with cum laudes, magna cum laudes and summa cum laudes. 

My question is, on that day of rapture, how will I be found, discovered, exposed? Busy as a good steward, faithful in His affairs? Or twiddling my thumbs with my feet propped up thinking, "surely there won't be any pop quizzes today!"? 

Let's strive today toward our commencement so that we may be found faithful and graduate with honors.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Cecil the Lion

Placards I'd like to display in front of the Dentist's office in Minnesota:

You really care about dead lions more than dead babies?

Hypocrites! Where's the outrage against Planned Parenthood?

You want Dr. Palmer to "ROT IN HELL!" What are you doing to stay out of hell?

The devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Abortion Drs massacred 1000 babies today.

The lyin' African still lives!...BHO

Friday, August 28, 2015

37 Years ago Today

1 Timothy 1:11  According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. 12  And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13  Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14  And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15  This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16  Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy…

Today, August 28, 2015, marks 37 years since I loaded all my worldly goods into my beige ’73 Nova and headed from SW Colorado to San Dimas, CA, where you get the “most on the coast.”

37 years ago today, I sat in the gym of Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College, filling out my class schedule. Rhonda Shook, of the Singing Shook Family, kindly introduced me to Pastor Tom McCrary of Riverside’s Faith Baptist Church.

Pastor Tom needed a good music director and door knocker to hire full time - $50 a week. In me, he found a fair music director and the world’s worst door knocker. We shook hands and struck a deal and I got my first full time ministry position. 

Where does the time go? How many times have I beat out 4/4 time since then? How many solos, duets, trios, quartettes, ensemble and choir numbers have I sung? How many have groaned at my preacher jokes? My goodness, almost 10 thousand messages thus far:

1750 Sunday school lessons
2600 Sermons 
4375 Bible College classes taught
1050 Bible Studies
9775 Messages

Before I left home, my dad had these words for me concerning ministry: “It’ll never last!”

Oh, how many times those words, that challenge, kept me going when I was looking for a towel to knot and toss.

I praise God on high for calling me, placing me and keeping me in ministry all these years. There is no better life, no higher calling, no greater reward than ministry. I am the least of His servants.

Friday, August 21, 2015

My name is on the list

So, I have to confess, you're going to find out eventually anyway. I've been outed. My name is, indeed, on the list.
I am coming clean, my heart and mind have wandered away from hearth and home.
My wife understands. As wonderful as she is, a guys gotta dream now and then. She has decided that my decision to have my name and personal information in that data base is not going to mean the end of our marriage. In fact, she says it's okay if another takes first place in my heart. She is amazingly understanding.
As for you my friends, if you feel the need to dump me as a friend because of my choices, I understand. People all over the world, people much better than me, have been unfriended as their names were revealed to be on the list. They've lost jobs, family, homes and even their lives. They have borne the shame with confidence that everything will be okay in the end.
Is your name on the list too? If it is, I guess we are in the same boat. We should form some sort of club. We could get together once a week for a sort of support group. How's that sound? Let's do it.
Okay, I've delivered my soul, I've come clean. I hope you won't be embarrassed to have known me.
There's a new name written down in glory, and it's mine, oh yes, it's mine.
And the white-robed angels sing the story, a sinner has come home.
There's a new name written down in glory, and it's mine, oh yes, it's mine.
With my sins forgiven I am bound for heaven, never more to roam.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

We Need Conversion

Jesus to Peter, "When thou art converted strengthen thy brethren."

Huh? Was Peter saved during his time of ministry with the Lord? Why was his conversion called into question? Could it be that a person can be saved, yet not converted?


Contrast the last of the gospels with the Acts of the Apostles, a time span of mere days!

Jesus knew what was in Peter when He called him. He also knew what needed to be infused and developed within him. He knew that Peter's natural bents, empowered with Holy Ghost unction, would be a catalyst for turning the world up-side-down.

Cephas, the pebble, was destined to become Peter, the rock. Pebbles are small, shifting and an irritation underfoot. Rocks are sure, solid and dependable. Jesus specializes in making rocks out of pebbles.

Along with nearly drowning in Galilee, in the end of the gospels, we find the fickle, faltering disciple cutting off ears, denying the Lord, claiming he would never forsake the Lord, skipping the crucifixion, cowering with fear in the upper room, and proclaiming, "I go a fishing" when he thought it was all over. 

Fast forward a month and a half...

We come to Acts chapters 2, 3 and following. Here's a powerhouse preacher proclaiming Christ, pricking hearts, quoting prophecy, fulfilling prophecy and baptizing thousands. Who is this guy? It seems as if he had a brain transplant. Or, was it a heart transplant? He is a new man, a completely different person. Bold, brash and brilliant! He has been converted. 

His understanding of theology, prophecy and the power of God went from dull to distinct. He has transformed from pathetic to passionate. His leadership is in full bloom. His focus went from the preservation of self to the salvation of the world.

What made the difference, how was he now converted?

The resurrection of the Lord changed everything!

For Peter, the resurrection put everything into perspective. It opened his heart, enlightened his mind and quickened his spirit.

From henceforth, no more denial for this disciple turned apostle. Now he is willing to die rather than deny. In the gospels, he said it. In Acts, he means it.

It is evident a vast majority of Christianity needs a Peter-esque conversion. We need a Holy Ghost infusion of the power like that which came upon Peter, making him a witness to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Peter entered in to the fellowship of Christ's sufferings and subsequently partook of the power of His resurrection.

Have we partaken in this power? Have I?

When you get converted, strengthen your brethren. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

True Believers

John 10:42  And many believed on him there.

Where are all these believers when Jesus is crucified?

Mary, Mary and Mary are there, John too. A Centurion confesses, "Truly, this was the Son of God!" A thief dies and goes to Paradise. The rest of the Apostles are cowering in fear, but will get over it. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea are standing in the wings, prepared to care for His body.

But where are all of these believers? Where are the crowds that thronged Him? Where's Bartemaeus? Where is the woman taken in adultery? Where's the woman whose son was raised from the dead. Weren't they all from the Jerusalem area? Couldn't they have at least been there to support Him in His hours or trial, mistreatment and torment? Why weren't they praying for Him, crying out, "Let Him go, take Barabbas instead."?

People are fickle! When the going gets tough, they are outta there! The goats are separated from the sheep He spoke of throughout the earlier part of chapter ten. They are separated by disgust, disgrace, disappointment and disagreeable circumstances.

I think the belief that some express is a head belief rather than a heart belief. It is a belief born of convenience, popularity, and pragmatism. It is non-committal, non-binding and mercurial.

Let us make sure our belief is pure, sincere and born of faith. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

More Than a Brother

John 7:5 For neither did his brethren believe in him.

Imagine, growing up in the same household with Jesus, witnessing a perfect sibling, never disobedient, never mean, never unkind, intolerant of sin and mischief and yet forgiving, obedient to parents, helpful to others, skilled in carpentry, proficient in the Scriptures, loving to all, respectful of others, deeply spiritual, constant in prayer, happy in spirit, content in life, joyful in setbacks, victorious in spirit, and yet, two of His brothers never bothered to believe in Him!

Messiahs show up in other families. You never expect them to sleep in your bedroom or eat your mother's matzah. You don't suspect that God in the flesh changed your diaper or wiped your snotty nose. You can't believe, like your sisters have, or a couple of your brothers did, that your babysitter, though He never left you, nor forsook you, is the Almighty.

I mean, how can you expect to be wearing Hand-me-downs from the One Who wore robes of righteousness?

God is good, God is great! But really, how could these two boys suspect that they were thanking their own brother for their food when they bowed at the supper table?

And so, they went on throughout their lives rejecting the notion that their Brother could double as their Savior. They were so close to the Tree of Life, the Branch, the True Vine, that they couldn't see the forest of His divinity.
And that reminds me of kids who grow up in church, teething on the back of the pew in front of them, turning their Sunday school classrooms into chaos, occupying the van's back seat on the way to youth camps and teen activities. And they never come into a personal, vital relationship with the One they have casually known all their life.

It makes me think of the seminary student whose Bible has become his textbook. The wonderful words of life are, at worst mere mistranslations, or spiritualized allegories or, at best, memory verses.

I also consider the minister who serves the Lord via Bible study, sermon prep, hospital and shut in visitation, but ceases to grow in his relationship with his Redeemer.

As with His siblings, Jesus is our elder Brother. He is always there for us, caring for us, loving us, wishing for a deeper relationship than blood siblings. He desires that we be best friends, sticking closer than brothers. He offers to be our fortress, our sanctuary, our advocate, our prayer-hearing, miracle-working, saving, healing, encouraging God.

Can you look beyond the familiarity of a familial relationship and believe that the God of glory is in your home, your room and wants to dwell in your heart by faith?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Rev. Victorious Comes to Christ

John 3:1-21

Nicodemus - "Victorious among his people."

Indeed, Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews.

But, true victory came for him when:

1. He bucked the trend - rather than hate on Jesus, as his croneys did, he came to Jesus to personally seek His truth.

2. He had sincere words of praise for the Lord - You are a teacher, you come from God, Your miracles are confirmation of this. This I know!

3. He sought salvation.

4. He was born again. This is indicated by the concern he raised to the San Hedrin at the trial of Jesus and by his complicity with Joseph in claiming the body of the Lord.

His journey shows us that we are not ultimately victorious by our position with people, but by our possession of Christ. We don't win because of our station at birth, but by our being born again.

The occasion of Nicodemus' coming to Jesus gave us the most beloved verse in the Bible:  16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

You are Being Fiddled.

Jesus: If you love me, keep my commandments

Satan: Just don’t be fanatical!

Your enemy and your extended family know how to play you like a fiddle. You are their foolish Christian marionette as they dance you on the end of their strings.

They plan family birthday parties on Sunday night, announce their visits to you on the Lord’s day, invite you to the Wednesday night sports programs, and insist that you attend their reunions. If you don’t accommodate them (in favor of being faithful in church) you are unloving, have bad priorities and are part of a cult. If you do acquiesce, they stash your hypocrisy away to use against you at a convenient time. You hope against hope that the sacrificing of the assembly in the Lord’s house will pay off someday in them becoming a believer. How is that working out so far?

Suggestions: When you are compelled to attend a family event, ask them to attend church with you first and then you will accompany them to the function immediately after the final amen. Or, if they choose to visit you on Sunday, invite them to come with you, it’s only one hour!!! If they decline, simply invite them to make themselves at home and you will be back as soon as possible for a lovely lunch. You don’t have to act pious or condescending or ugly. Just let them know they are high on your priority list, just behind the Lord.

Which blood is thicker? The blood of those who mock your faith and refuse your advances when you attempt to witness to them? Or the blood of the One Who gave His all for you to make you part of His redeemed family?

Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are playing… will you dance to their tune or be true to your Redeemer?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Go Forth

Mark 11:1-6   
And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, 2  And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. 3  And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. 4  And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. 5  And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? 6  And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go. 7  And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.

Jesus sent His two unnamed disciples to make preparation for the events that would save your soul. They had to procure transportation for the triumphant entry of the Lord into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

How might things might be different had refused their task?

One disciple might have responded to the Lord's command with, "I have other things pressing my agenda today. Sorry, you'll have to get somebody else."

The other disciple might not have felt like loosing donkeys that day. His knee might have been bothering him, his blood sugars might have been off a bit, or, he could have had a family birthday get-together to attend. Maybe his wife had been on him about being gone so much lately.

It strikes me that these disciples, who could have offered all the lame excuses we claim when tasked with some service that Master has for us, jumped to the task without hesitation.

I, for one, am very appreciative of their immediate obedience. It got the Savior from the Top of Mt. Olivet down into the city where His passion would be played out, resulting in the purchase of my salvation.

Do you suppose the Lord has a task for you today that could bring someone nearer to eternal life? I would feel safe betting on it. But what will be our response when the Holy Spirit taps us on the shoulder and whispers His orders to our heart?

Will I defer to other disciples so I can complete my ever important to do list?

Here's what my abstract list kind of looks like today:
1. Learn something rich enough to share with others.
2. Avoid discomfort, confrontation, and drama at all costs.
3. Enjoy my day while dispatching my duties.

Shallow, I know, but honest. Having considered the willingness of these unknown disciples, I think I will add a new number one on my agenda: follow the prompting of the Lord to further His work, glorify Him and move Him closer to the hearts of needy souls.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Compassion of Jesus

Mark 8:2 “I have compassion on the multitude...”

Confronted with decisions, we sometimes ask the question, "What Would Jesus Do?" One of the things we can know for sure, Jesus was one to show compassion where it was needed.

The answer to the question “WWJD” comes to us by studying the gospels and dissecting His ministry here on earth during the three and a half years that changed the world.

In today's verse, we are struck by the character of Jesus' compassion on those who were in legitimate need.

Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus is found having compassion on people because they were as sheep having no shepherd, because of sickness and disease, blindness, demon possession, because they were in great debt, hungry, faint, grieving, injured and astray.

In reading the many passages displaying Jesus' compassion, we are struck by the tender heart of the One Who left the comforts and adoration of heaven to suffer earth's deprivation. He took upon Himself flesh prone to fatigue, temptation and sickness that He might feel what humanity feels, experience people's plight and know the afflictions and limitations of our condition.

Because of His experience and example, we are encourage to know that we have a high Priest Who is touched by the feelings of our infirmities.

That is Jesus, my friend - God of compassion, Healer of affliction, Supplier of needs.

Therefore, when we find ourselves in the path of an oncoming, powerful, destructive affliction, we are assured that we have an all-knowing, all-compassionate and all-powerful Savior Who is ever-present to deliver us from our plight.

No doubt, you are this week, perhaps this day, in need of His compassion and the merciful miracle that will accompany His pious pity.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Jesus needs a few good men

Jesus used 11 men to "fill Jerusalem with this doctrine" and "turn the world up-side-down." That 11 soon became 10s of 
thousands in the first church in Jerusalem.

Only 102 Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower to cross the Atlantic for freedom's cause. This small group was the seed for the American Colonies.

Three preachers, Solomon Stoddard, Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield, were used by God to fan the flames of 
America's First Great Awakening, an overwhelming spiritual revival in our nation, which led to the 

Only 3% of the American Colonists sufficed to start the Revolution that birthed our nation, 
now over 300 million strong.

God has repeatedly used just a few praying, preaching, soul-winning, faith- walking men of 
character, strength, backbone and godliness to change the  world.

God is still looking for some ordinary men to stand in the gap, to rise up above their claim to comfort, to be empowered beyond themselves and to change their families, churches, communities, nation and their world for Jesus Christ.

I Cor. 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

Dads, men, are you willing to be one of the few good men for whom God is looking?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Heaven and Earth are Filled With His Glory

Isa 6.1 In the year that king Uzziah died 
saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, 
high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. 6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

Everything as it ought to be and will be...

*God exalted (ensconced in power,         

  glorified, emmanent)

*Heaven singing (God is the lyric)

*Earth ringing

*Angels serving

*Man worshiping (humbled, repentant, 

 cleansed and forgiven, volunteering)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Somebody Died For You

One died for you who never knew you.
One died for you Who knew all about you.

One left home and comfort to suffer deprivation and discomfort and do battle.
One left home to comfort those who suffer and give rest to the battle weary.

One was all about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
One was all about eternal life, soul liberty and the pursuit of God's glory.

One enlisted to see the world.
One saw the world and gave Himself for it.

One lies in a grave resting from his country's victory and awaits resurrection and glory.
One gloriously resurrected and gives victory over the grave to all who believe in Him.

One is honored and loved for his service and ultimate sacrifice.
One is honored and served and honors those who sacrificially love others.

Yes, somebody died for you. The best thing we can do is remember them, honor them and live so their death is not in vain. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Price of Sin

Without the shedding of blood there is no remission (of sin)

Hebrews 9:22  And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

A little over 6000 years ago, a man had a back yard full of  animals. He loved them, gave each and every one of them a name, spent a lot of time with all of them. But, of all the beautiful animals he had... of all the cute, furry, little creatures; the graceful deer, adorable bunny rabbits, romping little puppy dogs, of all the wonderful animals of the Father's  creation, animals that were his to pet and love and care for, he had a favorite.

You should have seen the ponies out in the pasture of an evening, feeling their oats and frolicking among the purple-flowered alfalfa.  You should have witnessed him being visited every day by the big cats, by bears, by owls and eagles.

But First Man had a favorite, a ram he had nurtured since it was just a wee lamb with its spindly little legs barely able to hold up its body. Wool as white as snow and thicker than his wife's gorgeous red hair.

He had named the ram Pascal and personally fed him every morning and evening. He was also the Father's favorite. They both would play hide and seek with Pascal sometimes in the evening at just about dusk.

There came a day when First Man was combing some of the grass out of Pascal's rich coat when suddenly he heard his wife's voice, urging him to come as quick across the garden as he could. Never had he heard such urgency in her voice.

He patted Pascal on the crown of his head and stroked one his majestically curled horns. Amazing, at not even 2 years old, how quickly he had matured into such a beautiful and powerful ram. Yes, truly, he loved this sheep more than anything except his gracious Father and his precious wife.

Hurrying into the very center of the garden from where his wife called him, he thought he saw the movement, maybe the end of a tail of something slithering under a bush. Here, the trees stood tallest. Here the fruit was more luscious than anywhere else. Was it the nearness of the river, the richness of the earth's floor, or the proximity to the tree of life? This is where he was born from dust. Here is where his wife was fashioned from his rib. It was cool here, the air was fresh with the scents of flower blooms, a slight, comfortable humidity, and the gigantic ripe fruit clinging to the trees.

It was then he glimpsed his wife, standing over in the shade of the forbidden tree. It stood there, complimenting her beauty in every way. As shapely as she was, so the curvature of the tree magically drew the eye. The fruit hanging ripe from its limbs rivaled the lusciousness of her eyes.

Her eyes, however, seemed heavy, half shaded with a strange look. An elusive word with which he was not familiar made its way into his conscience, "embarrassment." What was this strange concept working at his mind? And this countenance she shyly expressed, it was, at the same time, alluring, demure and yet, he was put off by it. What's more, she couldn't return his gaze for more than a momentary glance.

"Is something troubling you, my love?"

"No, well, yes, I think. I don't know."

"Strange" he said, "I've never seen you like this. What has happened?"

She glanced momentarily at the tree behind her, then at the fruit hanging over her head from an extended branch. Then at him. A puzzled look came across his face. Its now or never, she thought, as she reached up to the nearest ripe piece of fruit and snatched it from the limb.

"But this is the tree I warned you about." He said with a twinge of frustration in his voice. "The Lord told us not to eat of it, and I told you not to even touch it."

"Just eat!" She responded, as she handed him the most lovely, colorful, plump, ripe fruit either of them had ever come encountered.

She had no ill intent in giving him the forbidden fruit. She just wanted him to taste what she had tasted, smell what she had smelled, experience this strange new feeling she was feeling. He had never had any reason to distrust her, or, for that matter, to distrust anyone or anything he had ever encountered.

And thus, he began to debate within himself, dare he disobey the Father? Part of him wanted to toss the food the the ground, turn his back on his bride and march away. Another part of him wanted to find a place to sit and consider what was happening, to process this war beginning to rage within his being. It was as if something new was about to be born within his soul, or, perhaps maybe something he had always known was about to die.

Die? What was that? Another new concept to his brain, yet, there it was, as real as if it were a truth, and yet, it was not a part of his experience.

Oh, so many strange emotions! But there he stood, his wife extending to him once again the fruit he had returned to her moments before. Suddenly, it was as if his whole life passed before his eyes; the creation of his wife, the naming of the animals, the care of this wonderful garden and most vividly, the daily fellowship of the Father as they wound through the serene paths of the garden at day's end.

Eve looked deeply into his eyes with a pleading, hungry, gaze. There were two people on earth, yet one unit, and one Father who met daily with them. She now sensed that they were about separate onto two divergent pathways, unless she could convince him to eat the fruit. As well, he knew they stood at crossroads. Either he would obey the Father, and his own better judgment, or he would take his first bite of that which was off limits and become complicit with his wife.

And then she spoke, "Adam, my husband, my love, have I ever given you cause to doubt me? Do you not trust me now? I know something you don't know...yet. I know that you have never tasted anything like this. And I am not just talking about the sensation of the food on your tongue, but the taste you will experience in your soul. Just one bite, Adam, and you will be changed. It's strange, but you will see things in a whole new light, everything will change for you, Adam. For us! Please eat!"

He looked around, then at Eve, up to the tree, at the bush in which he had seen something take cover. He looked toward hallowed path by which the Father entered daily. It would be a while before His arrival. Would He even know?

From the path, his eyes returned to the fruit and finally rested on his wife. Looking deeply into her eyes, he raised the rich, red fruit to his mouth. Then, as he bared his teeth, a voice within him screamed, "DON'T!!!"

And then he bit. As the juice exploded in his mouth, as Eve looked expectantly to him for approval, something else exploded in his inner being. This was a new feeling, but something more than a feeling, it was a knowing, and even more, a nagging. The fruit was good, no doubt about that. Sweet, tart, a mixture of some his favorites in the garden. As the first bite made its way down his throat and the first drop fell from his chin, he sensed that things would never be the same. "What's the big deal?" he scolded himself. "It's just food. How can a bite of fruit be such a fuss?" and he took another chomp, as did Eve, from the same fruit. She had cradled it, along with Adam's hand, firmly in her own hands and bit, while looking into his eyes.

Now, a new feeling came over him, over both of them. Not a feeling, but several emotions rolled into one. Each one new, strange and troubling. If they could have defined them, they would have expressed guilt, blame, shame, remorse, disgust and most of all, fear.

"Quickly, let's go," he urged her down the path and away from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He wanted to be as far away from the garden's center as possible when the Father paid them His nightly visit.

"What have we done?" She asked.

"I don't know for sure, but it was not the will of the Father." Adam replied.

"Adam, I am not comfortable meeting the Father this evening as I am."

He stopped so suddenly in the path that she ran right up against him. He turned to her, looked her up and down, taking her in with his eyes as if he'd never seen her before, not as he was seeing her now, anyway.

"You are right," he said with a grimace, "we are not presentable. We are naked, but it's more than that. It's not just our forms I am embarrassed about, I feel my heart is naked and, and..." he could not find the words to finish his sentence.

Strange, thought Eve. Her Adam was always so confident, so in control, so able, and 
never at a loss for words. He always seemed to have a mastery of everything. But now he seemed lost, like what she imagined a very young human being might act who didn't know how to have dominion over land and sea and the animals. They both felt as if they had lost control, like they were moving and thinking in slow motion. It was if the sky was suddenly a few shades less brilliant, and the deep green of the garden had faded into a pale verdancy. All confidence was gone. But most of all, they both sensed fear and guilt, especially concerning their first meeting with the Father...after the fruit.

"What would that be like? How do we face such a dreadful task?" She asked herself quietly.

Adam reached for, and picked several large leaves of a bush nearby. He tore a thin vine from a small tree and fashioned a makeshift covering for his wife's body, then one for his own.

They donned the strange new outfits which felt completely inadequate and comfortless.

"It will have to do." He said with a terseness she had never witnessed from him. "Time is short, we must prepare for Father's visit."

Adam felt a nudge on the side of his hip, it was Pascal. He looked down at the ram who hesitatingly looked back at him. "Odd," he thought, "but I sense a shyness in my little friend, almost a dread. I wonder why he is acting so strangely." As he reached down to caress the sheep's head, Pascal shied a bit, then warmed to his strokes. Adam filed this strange exchange away in his mind. He would revisit this thought later.

"Sorry little guy, but we have some things to attend to." It was a lie, another first for either one of them, and a bit of a stab to the heart, and they left the lamb standing by the path.

As the sun crept toward the horizon, the pair sensed an imminent confrontation with their Creator. It was still a while before the appointed time, but they felt the need to find cover in the thick brush, rather than greet Him face to face as if all was well. They sensed all was anything but well.

"One piece of fruit," he mused "and now all this fuss?"

Eve felt a sharp pain on the side of her leg just below the knee. A branch from the bush bore a very sharp thorn, no more in length than her eyelash. As it pricked her skin, a slight scratch appeared on her leg, about as long as her little finger, and then, a small drop of blood oozed out. She had no idea what this sanguine fluid was that was leaking from her body like juice from the forbidden tree's fruit. All she knew, it was a most unpleasant sensation.

The Father's holy presence preceded His arrival, as always. However, it was not received with delight by the pair as in the past. Rather, with dread. Next to reach their senses was the light which brightly emanated from Him, and then the sweet savor of His smell and finally, God, in person, if such could aptly describe His being. He was more spirit, more soul, than anything else.

As welcome as He was on all other days, today was different. For the first time, they would rather not have met with their Friend. If only today He would stay away. If only today they would not have eaten that cursed fruit!

"Adam!" God called out to both of them. He always used Adam's name for the married couple. "Where are you?"

They looked at each other as if to ask, "Really? The One Who knows all asks where we are?"

"Well, here we are," Adam whispered to his wife, "hiding in a bush with prickly thorns making things very uncomfortable, and with fig leaves covering our nakedness. Yeah, this is where stealing fruit gets us."

She backhanded his tricep and flashed him a disapproving frown.

"Adam, Eve, where are you?" He asked again.

"Over here." He finally mustered. "We were naked and ashamed and  afraid you'd see us." They sheepishly exited their cover and humbly approached their Friend, wondering if He was still such.

"Naked, Really? Who told you that? Did you eat from the tree that I told you to leave well enough alone?"

Adam took a small step away from Eve, as if distancing himself. It was only the breadth of three or four hands, but seemed to Eve the width of the universe. The two that God had made one, were now two again, separate from one another and separate from God. This was subtle tragedy. Her countenance fell as if she had just lost a half of herself. But she was not prepared for the devastation that came with his next words.

"It was the woman! This woman you gave me," as if the blame for sucking the syrup of the fruit was the fault of both God and Eve, "she handed me the fruit and she compelled me to eat it."

For a moment, Eve's mouth hung agape in disbelief and betrayal. She felt all alone, as if on another planet, separated from God and her beloved. But then, she steeled herself. "If one can play the blame game, then two can play as well." She mused. 

"It was the snake!" She exclaimed. "He gave me a speech about how good it was for food and how smart it would make us. That's why I ate it, that's why I gave it to Adam." She turned sideways, crossed her arms in a huff, exhaled deeply and pressed her lips into a pout.

The Lord's anger flashed. His heart broke. As monumentally tragic as this was for the fallen pair, they had no clue as to the implications on the cosmos or even on His own relationship with His triuneness. He ordered the serpent out of hiding to give an account. Now that the truth about this cataclysmic disaster was discovered, God pronounced a curse upon the serpent, upon Lucifer, the fallen angel, upon the earth, upon the woman for her part and upon the man and all of his prodigy for their complicity in sin.

The dastardly deed had been done and consequences meted out. But what came next was the biggest shock of all to Adam. It was then that the Father called Pascal to His side where, before Adam's incredulous gaze, God gruesomely slew that which was most precious to the man, His beloved pet and companion. Yea, even God's own favorite. Blood gushed from the animal and splattered onto the couple.

"NO!" Adam exclaimed. "Anything but this!" 

With tears emanating in His compassionate eyes, God declared that "only the blood of a pure, spotless, innocent lamb could suffice to cover your disobedience and renew our relationship. Where there is no blood shed, there can be no payment for your sin and no fellowship with me."

Pascal, the beloved lamb, the innocent pet, had been sacrificed so that Adam and Eve could live.

Had Adam only known, as he fondled that forbidden fruit, as he debated within his conscience the matters of disobedience and longing...had he considered, as he bargained in his soul and justified in his mind what possibilities lie on the other side of his actions...had he only known that the price required would be more dear to him than he could have ever imagined...could he, would he, should he have tossed that fruit as far from him as he could and simply walked away?

But, lust had its way, temptation had its sway. Eve ate, Adam ate, and they both swallowed the serpent's lie that "it's no big deal." And from that time until now, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin.