Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Business/Sales luncheon.

Read Proverbs 23:1-3

This power lunch that the writer indicates is one in which a powerful person (the spider) is inviting an unsuspecting innocent (the fly) into his web to advance his self serving agenda. The host is generally a master in the art of manipulation.

I have been to many of these coffees/buffets/brunches/teas/dinners/lunches/dinners.

They usually end with declarations like: "Welcome to the wonderful world of Amway." Sometimes, "Here's the paperwork for you to sign." Or, more commonly, "How much can we put you down for?"

The writer assumes that these meals are sometimes unavoidable, so he gives instructions how to make it through the meal unscathed.

1. Be mindful that he who pays the check will have an agenda. There are no free lunches. Use wisdom and descretion at this meal. Be watchful for for their angle.  "Consider diligently."vs 1

2. He expects that you will be beholden to him.  If you don't buy in, there will be $24.95 worth of guilt, and he knows that normal people feel this pressure. Imagine, you stand to give up $$$thousands to pay off the guilt of this one meal! It is a great investment for his business. "For they are deceitful meat." vs 3

3. Use self-control! He figures the more you eat, the more control he will have over you. You have heard the term, "eating yourself stupid?" This applies. "Put a knife to your throat." vs 2. This seems extreme, but if you have ever bought a time share, you will chuckle in agreement, "I should have cut my throat than to get into this!"

Consider that this meal is going to cost you more than it costs him, otherwise there would have been no invite. The successful and powerful got where they are by conniving, convincing and cajoling. Stand firm, thank them for their kindness and let them know your service is to the Lord, through the local church and that your hard-earned money is going to support your family and the Lord's work. And, NO! your organization is not the Lord's work. Pyramid! I mean, Period.

The menu will most likely consist of:
Smooth tongue
Twisted arm
Bent ear
Squeezed heart
Punched kidney
Pulled leg
Seared conscience

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


LOSS – I am struck that Christmas, to many people, is underscored by an intense sense of loss.

More people than you can imagine are emotionally distraught during the holidays, because the festivities remind them that someone is missing. They realize that this is the first Christmas without their loved one. Or the anniversary of the loss of a spouse, or a parent or a child.

Christmas joy and celebration in the lives of others, emphasized by the music in the restaurants and stores and malls, by the decorations, by the wall-to-wall commercials and TV and movie specials, by the church programs and carols and sermons, is the turn of the knife in the wound for many.

Kudos to those who have this immense sense of loss during the holiday season, yet smile through the tears. They give to others, even though something was taken from them. They say “Merry Christmas” though their heart says “Bah Humbug!”

It is my guess that, for those over the age of 40, at least 80% of people can strongly relate to this malady. (I made that statistic up, but I challenge you to disprove it.) Christmas season holds a certain amount of sadness for them because of loss.

I know, I can relate. I am not a fan of Christmas. Out of duty to the church and a sense of responsibility to my family and my people, I promote the programs, deck the halls, dawn the gay apparel, preach the advent messages, sing the carols, exchange the gifts, and….accept a Christmas bonus.J  I do it with a somewhat genuine smile, and really, really try to mean it.

But something worth everything was taken from me at Christmas time three decades ago. The apple of my eye has never truly been returned to me. My pearl was cast to the swine and trampled underfoot. I have never recovered. I just function. Sometimes at a surprisingly high level, to my dismay.  I suffered loss as much as most anyone I know. Christmas is a Bowie knife sized dagger in my tender section.

But, you know what I found out a long time ago? God’s got this!!! Though He has no obligation to any of us, He will never be a debtor to any person. 

You see, the world had lost its way. God had lost His creation. It was stolen by a slithering serpent, whispering sadistic lies, impugning His sterling character. 

All of His children were lost. They were lost to lust, lost to lasciviousness, lost to lies and lying.

So, for the very first Christmas, 2000 years ago (but planned many millennia prior) God turned Christmas into a time of gain – to more than offset the loss.

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.

Here it is, my holiday challenged friend. For your loss, God has given you:

*His Son! I lost my son 30 years ago at Christmas. But God gave me His own…at Christmas.

*Everlasting life! I effectively lost my life, that is, my living, my ministry. He gave true, abundant, eternal life, by virtue of a virgin born Son.

*Grace!!! What we all need, to overcome all loss, is grace. Abounding grace. Sustaining grace. Manifold grace. True grace. It is grace that carries us through what we cannot do…things like Christmastime.

Here’s what the apostle John (1:14) says in this fantastic Christmas verse: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bah Humbug! Should We Celebrate the Nativity?

“Humbug” is “language or behavior that is false or meant to deceive people.” 

That may give you a whole new perspective on Ebenezer Scrooge’s pooh-poohing of Christmas. He thought Christmas celebration was contrived to deceive people. 

Considering all the trappings that have evolved around Christmas, he might have been onto something.

Semi-related side note for the fun of it:  Here’s a thing of intrigue… Question - what do the following songs have in common? Winter Wonderland, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasing…), Sleigh Ride, Let it Snow, White Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, Silver Bells, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, and, There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays? (Answer at the end)

There are a lot of Christians who oppose Christmas celebration because of its pagan and commercial connotations. (i.e., The Dec. 25th birth of Tammuz, the Baal tree of Jeremiah 10:10, Santa Clause, with his Godlike qualities of omniscience and omnipresence, the extreme accompanying commercialism, etc.) Even the name “Christmas” is somewhat dubious. People say, “Keep Christ in Christmas,” I say, take “mas” out of Christmas!

These are usually the same people who don’t like Easter. They aren’t just the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Armstrongites (WWCOG). In colonial America, for example, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in certain places. There are believers whom you know in your churches that are clenching their teeth throughout the holidays because they don’t subscribe to the celebration of Christ’s birth, especially in late December.

But, the question remains, should the nativity of Christ be celebrated? There are those who would argue that the emphasis in the Bible is not on His birth, but on His death and resurrection. Yes, the Passion of our Lord is the foundation of the Gospel, but is the nativity celebration forbidden in Scripture? Is it encouraged by word or example in the Bible?

1.     The Prophets were excited about the birth of the Messiah. They foretold it with great expectation. Isa 7:14, 9:6 and Micah 5:2 are classic examples. 

2.     Simeon lived to see the baby Jesus. Once he celebrated the newborn King’s arrival, his life’s desire was complete and he had no more reason to live on this earth. Luke 2:25, etc. 

3.     Anna prayed and served God in the temple – longing only for the arrival of God on earth. Luke 2:36-38 

4.     The Angels were pretty pumped about the incarnation. You will have a hard time finding as much angelic hubbub as you witness in the Christmas story. They announced, they instructed, they protected, they gathered, they proclaimed and then they warned. No, they didn’t sing, as far as we know. 

5.     The Shepherds were anything but disinterested concerning God’s Gift of a Savior. Just try getting a shepherd to forsake his flock to attend a birth! They did. Luke 2:8-20 

6.     Wise Men from hundreds of miles away had been studying this possibility for generations and convened a caravan to traverse entire nations to celebrate Christmas by the giving of costly gifts. 

7.     Christmas was so special to Mary that she wrote a song! (it wasn’t “Mary did you Know?”) Luke 1:46-55 

8.     Herod, the original Christmas Grinch, was also moved by this heaven-sent, earth-changing episode, but not in a good way. He was not at all enthralled by the prospect of a Bethlehem Manger scene on the courthouse lawn. Christmas literally drove him mad! 

9.     Paul was not one to discount the birth of Christ. Galatians 4:4 

10.  God Himself gifted us with the world’s favorite Bible verse…and it is a Christmas verse. John 3:16   (be sure to read verse 17 also)

No, the Lord was not born on December 25th. Go ahead and have your celebration in September or October, when He was probably born…but people will think you are crazy and it will not help your testimony when you try witnessing to them.

No, the evergreen tree was not part of the décor in the original manger scene. It could be argued that it is a pagan symbol, or that Martin Luther introduced the lighted tree as an object lesson about Christ being the Light of the world. Do what you want with that.

Yes, gift giving regarding the nativity does have biblical roots per the wise men!

Yes, celebration of the coming of the Lord to be born of a virgin, live an exemplary and spotless life, die a substitutionary death and victoriously rise from the dead is honorable and not to be discouraged.

If He had not been born as prophesied, we would not have the opportunity to believe in Him and have everlasting life.

So, yule logs, Kris Kringle, mistletoe, holly, sleigh bells, credit card debt, honey-cured spiral hams and all the other trappings aside, by all means, celebrate the birth of Christ and knock off the “bah humbug!”

Answer to our earlier question: The composers or lyricists of these songs were Jewish! 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Jews, Christians, Muslims

Jews, Christians, Muslims. Long, hopefully worth it.
I was genuinely touched today. Just for old time's sake, I walked into a little old grocery store on the corner of 27th and Holdrege Street in Lincoln. When I was a child, this was our grocery store, Diamond's Market. Mr. Diamond was an elderly Jewish man who was always so kind to our family.  Whether we had coupons for food or not  he always pretended we did and gave us deep discounts .  Maybe it was because my dear mother had 5 children with her.  As he was tallying us up at the register, he would always say that we forgot our ice cream, and I would get to go back to the freezer case and pick out a half a gallon of ice cream, free! It is now an African/Arabic/Muslim grocery store. Isaac, a Sudanese man, is one of the proprietors. We struck up a beautiful conversation about the store, about family, and about religion. As I got ready to leave, he urged to me to take a drink out of the refrigerated case. I was going to pick up a Snapple tea, but he suggested I take a bottle of this. Well, I thought exactly what you're thinking, that looks like beer! It is a middle eastern lemon flavored malt beverage and is non-alcoholic. It's actually pretty good. But here's the thing, this Muslim man, who knows I am a Christian Pastor, insisted out of the kindness of his heart that I take something as a gift from his store, 45 years after a Jewish man did the same thing for a Lutheran family. Made my day.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Thought: The Security Blanket

I have watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas” several times. You probably have also.

And there is a subtle statement in the movie you may have never noticed before, but it is powerful.

Linus (who is never without his security blanket) drops his blanket when He quotes from the Bible, Luke 2:10.

“Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

Charles Schulz was a believer, and this scene (the dropping of the "Security" blanket) was "on purpose."

Fear not friend, Jesus has come to deliver you from your fears. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

God’s Attention to the Details of My Life – Psalm 139

A person, like myself can get a little excited to consider the richness of this Psalm. That God knows me so intimately, my thoughts, my actions, my words, even the elements that I am made of, and He knows them past, present and future. And yet, He cares deeply for me and will never leave me. Notice His attention to detail: 

He has searched me, He has known me.1
He knows when I sit, when I stand and when I sleep.  2
He not only knows me, but He understands me. Each thought is known to Him. 2
He is acquainted with everything I do. 3
He surrounds me whether I am engaged or asleep. 3
He knows every word I say. 4
He is in front of me and behind me and His hand is upon me. 5
How is this even possible? It boggles my mind. 6
There is nowhere I can go where He is not already there. 7-9
Wherever I am, I am upheld by His right hand.  10
He can see me in the dark!  12
He knew me before I was born, while I was being formed and what I am made of. 13-16
He already had a plan for me back then, every part of me was already accounted for in His book of life. 16
Yet, as imperfect as I am, He deigns to think of me, and His thoughts toward me are precious and many. 17-18
I am secure in Him at all times. 18
Therefore, I will love what He loves and hate what He hates. 19-22
So , I ask that He continue His scan of my heart, my thoughts, my life. 23
I pray that He alerts me when I am in the wrong. 24 
I plead for Him to lead me to do right. 24 

Friend, we matter to God! I told Him this morning that the ratio of His care for me and my care for Him must be 1 billion to 1. And yet, His watch care over me remains forever unchanged. 

Psa 139:1  To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.
Psa 139:2  Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
Psa 139:3  Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
Psa 139:4  For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.
Psa 139:5  Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
Psa 139:6  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
Psa 139:7  Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
Psa 139:8  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
Psa 139:9  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Psa 139:10  Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
Psa 139:11  If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
Psa 139:12  Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
Psa 139:13  For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.
Psa 139:14  I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
Psa 139:15  My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Psa 139:16  Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
Psa 139:17  How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!
Psa 139:18  If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.
Psa 139:19  Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.
Psa 139:20  For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.
Psa 139:21  Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?
Psa 139:22  I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.
Psa 139:23  Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
Psa 139:24  And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Merry Christmas from the Angels!

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

See also: Luke 1:26-33 and 2:9-13

Our culture’s most common advent greeting is “Merry Christmas.” A furor has arisen over the last several years about our holiday greetings. Political correctness has forced many in the workplace and in schools to offer the “Happy Holidays” wishes so as to not offend people of other faiths, or no faith.

Tonight, my daughter’s public school’s winter concert will include the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel’s Messiah, in which hundreds of attendees will rise, honoring the long-standing tradition started by England’s queen its first performance. I will raise my hands in humble adoration to Him Who reigneth forever and ever as I yearn for the coronation day when the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.

I can only imagine the consternation of the atheists and agnostics present and the bewilderment of the Muslims in attendance who will be befuddled by the overwhelming corporate reverence shown to a Figure over which they thought their tolerance and inclusion law suits had relegated to the church services in houses of Christian worship. Truly, we wish no offense to man, but all honor to God!

I digress. I actually personally prefer ‘Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas” having a choice between the two, though I am careful not to make a big deal out of it.

(Christ·mas – Origin - Old English Crīstes mæsse or, Christ Mass.)

Surely you see the problem. Many of those who spend Facebook space trying to keep Christ in Christmas by requesting “likes” and “Shares” for one greeting over another in advertising and personal interactions, probably don’t care much for what the Mass represents.

Holidays, on the other hand, comes from Holy Days, which I find much more palatable considering my own religious sensitivities.

Now, if we were Spanish speakers, the greeting “Feliz Navidad” is a wonderful expression used by the faithful. It means happy or merry nativity. Or, to the French, “Joyeux Noel” does no theological harm. It means joyous birth. Noël comes to us from the Latin verb nasci, meaning “to be born.” These terms succinctly express our holy day wishes without reference to the mass, which technically is simply the prayer or song for the dismissal of the liturgy, but what we commonly consider the sacrament of the re-crucifixion of the Lord, wherein wine literally turns to Christ’s blood and the wafer to His body, ingested by participants in order to receive grace.

But in the long ago and far away, none of these greetings held a candle (sorry for the allusion) to the simple repetitious greeting of the angels, “Fear Not!”

Heaven had been pretty much silent for 400 years. Jews went about their days hoping for a deliverer but feeling forsaken by heaven because of their backslidden ancestors. A few miracles transpired during those silent centuries: Chanukah and the Maccabees; troubled waters at the pool of Bethesda… but no real continuing works of God as seen in the olden days. Angelic visitations were not welcome in those times. The appearance of an angel usually meant death or disaster for a lot of people.

But now, as Heaven speaks and angels visit, as shepherds quake and virgins give birth, as wise men journey and espoused husbands fret, miracles occur once again. But there is only good news. Mary would be the first one to (literally) carry the Gospel, the Good News that Christ was to appear on earth. It was in the fullness of time that God would send His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Galatians 4:4-5.

The holiday greeting of the day was Fear Not! Fear not Mary, that which is born of you is holy. Fear not Joseph, your wife is of child by the Holy Ghost. Fear not shepherds, unto you is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. Fear not people of the earth, the peace Child is born, goodwill to men.

So, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Feliz Navidad and Fear Not!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Message to Self: Seek God's Approval, Not Man's

Psa 119:45  And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.

For many years as a believer and a Christian leader, my walk was in bondage, not at liberty. Mine was a life of failure, unmet expectations and even guilt.

I was in bondage to legalistic dogma which dictated that my dress, my speech, my music, my entertainment, my comportment and so much more, line up with ecclesiastical pontiffs' dictums.

Then, through a series of eye-opening incidents, most of which resulted in great failure of the legalistic system, I began to learn, and still am trying to absorb, what are the clear precepts of the Lord.

His commands, word, law, precepts, testimonies, judgments and statutes are not located in the student manual of a Bible college or in the notes of a high-powered evangelist or in the philosophy of tyrannical mega-church pastors. They are delineated in the 66 books of the Bible, and taught by the Holy Spirit to those who love God, who are committed to His ways and who immerse themselves in His teachings.

I am not at all against rules. A life, a family, a school, a society must have guidelines to function and secure safety. Those rules should reflect scriptural precepts. But when the black and white of a student handbook or a preacher’s sermon notes implies that those rules carry the weight of Scripture and must follow you throughout life, or when some preacher indicates not that you should follow him as he follows Christ, but that you should submit to him as he submits to Christ, you have ventured outside of abundant life Christianity and into Taliban oriented religion.

God never meant for your faith to be a list of regulations, but a lift of relationship with Him. Your walk is not meant to focus on do’s and don’t’s but on the Author and Finisher of our faith. You are not meant to live in guilt and fear but to walk at liberty.

When it comes down to it, miserable and failed Christianity will result from people-pleasing. Abundant, joy-filled living comes from seeking His precepts and His person. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Of Saints and Aints

Psa 106:16  They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the LORD.

Aaron, the saint of the Lord?

He is the one that had his arm twisted by those impatient ingrates to fashion a calf god for Israel to dance around and worship. Eeeyeew!

This goes to show, it is the Lord, and not us who determines who is and who isn't qualified for saintliness. If it depended on us failed saints, we would be "aints."

Thank God for His forgiveness, for His understanding that we are but dust and are at best, reclaimed sinners, covered buy the blood of the Savior.

I wonder that we've never seen a church called, St. Aaron's? After all, I have seen a St. Dimas Church. In fact, I lived in San Dimas, CA for a while. He was the one who forsook Paul in favor of loving the world.

Just some thoughts for the day.

Blessings saints!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Wonderful, Redemptive Gift of God to His People through His Son

Isa 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Our verses of promise are surrounded with hopeless darkness. Surrounding God’s hopeful promise, we see the words: affliction, vexation, death, darkness, burden, oppression, confusion, noise, blood, burning, etc.

Here is where God's glorious promises shine brightest, against the blackest backgrounds. His most beautiful and aromatic roses appear among the prickliest thorns.

This Gift unfolds as a rose bud in Spring, evolving into greater splendor with each portion of the promise.

This Gift, like a precious diamond, supplies us with multifaceted wonder.

Earth's status quo causes the heart to sigh and the shoulders to slump. As promised so long ago, all creation is groaning and travailing in pain. Wars, violence, rioting, hatred and division weaken our spirits. From the depths of our souls, the saints cry out for healing and/or deliverance.

Onto this darkened canvas appears God’s brilliant promise of a Gift. And it comes in the form of a Child, a Son.

Please observe with me the facets of His jewel, the pedals of His rose:

A Child: Speaks of innocence and simplicity. “He was tempted in all points, like as we, yet without sin.”
A Son: Speaks of inheritance.
A Ruler: Speaks of His Authority. “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.”  Ps 45:6
A Name:
-Mighty God
-Everlasting Father
-Prince of Peace
A Government:
-Increase: speaks of its development
-Peace: speaks of its character
-No end: speaks of its perfection
-Throne: speaks of His right to rule
-Judgment and justice: speaks of its righteousness
A Zeal: speaks of the immanence of His kingdom.

Oh, troubled citizen of this gloomy, reeling world, be assured that the Child King born to Mary in the stable two thousand years ago in the midst of darkness, will come again to our sin-darkened world to establish His eternal kingdom. Until that radiant day, this wonderful Counsellor seeks admission to your black night to light illuminate it and to rule in righteousness upon the throne of your heart. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Believer and the Government

Peter and the other apostles - Acts 5:27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. 29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

I believe the principle was and is: Obey God AND the government until the government opposes God’s commands, then obey God.

I fear to say it, but many Christians I know break the law whenever they feel like it, whenever it is most convenient to them. They fudge on their taxes, they speed, they don’t stop at stop signs, they lie to the officers, they possess illegal contraband, etc. But when pressured by the government in matters which oppose God’s law, they melt like Hillary going down a set of stairs. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Faithful God

40 years ago this week, I cashed in my US Savings Bonds, loaded up my ’73 beige Chevy Nova, and headed to the city of Angels for Bible college. I didn’t know that I knew anyone there at all! Imagine, leaving Hicksville, Colorado for the Megatropolis of LA, 12 million persons, and not knowing a soul!!!

I soon found out, via the hype of our college Veep, that if you decide not to “piddle in the middle” you could get the ”most on the coast.”

It was at Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College that I would meet friends that still speak to me. Good guys like Brad Courtney, Ken Walker, Steve Bender, Everett Napuanoma, and, BMOC Tim Adrian, his dad, Ken, and a few others.

I did run into 3 others I knew well from our Rockies, Danny, Rhonda and Tim. Good thing I did. On registration day, Rhonda introduced me to a local pastor, Tom McCrary, who needed a flunky. He hired me on the spot for $50 a week to lead the music, paint, clean, visit and recruit as many other students to attend Faith Baptist in Riverside as I could. This would include stuffing 7 Baptists in my car for each church service and driving the 40 minutes to Riverside from San Dimas. I made this trip to the church at least 6 days a week and the $50 basically covered gas and eats. BTW, I learned to play the Harmonica on the LA Freeways to redeem the time. Better than road rage and there was no texting back then, so…

I was soon out of Savings Bond money, had nothing in reserve for the second semester and could barely come up with the cash to eat on Sunday nights at the local Greek greasy spoon AND slip a couple of dimes into the table-top TV for some worldly entertainment. Two things about Bible college back then: TVs were not allowed and you were on your own on Sunday nights, the cafeteria wasn’t open.

But those were good days. We were a soul-winning bunch of knuckle heads. It was all about leading people to Christ. Not like we didn’t have quite the pool of people to talk to, since our area was carpeted with 12 million people.

One of our guys in the dorm had a little portable TV that we would put a blanket over on the bed and we would surround it on our knees and catch a bit of Hollywood until someone came in the room to find out why he heard shooting (Saturday afternoon westerns). We’d quickly silence the one-eyed monster, throw the blanket over it and act like we were in a prayer meeting. Spiritual we were!

Rats!!! Rats were everywhere in and around our dorms. The old campus was built with secret passageways and tunnels in case of a foreign attack. The rats loved these areas. Some of our dormies worked as security guards and carried some powerful flashlights. Of an evening, we would shine the lights on the vines of the rear wall behind our dorm to reveal several rodents ascending and descending the wall on the vines.

Let me tell you, it’s no fun when, on a cold winter’s morning (40's) with no heater in the dorms, you tip toe in your bare feet, eyes still crusted halfway shut, over to the closet, open the door and a rat bails from the upper shelf on to your foot. My roomies probably thought I'd gone to Pentecostal dancing! Because of this infestation, food was strictly prohibited in the dorms.

We had a very nice little guy with a withered hand who closed up at KFC every night. Somehow he managed to drive his motorcycle with that withered hand, carrying buckets of chicken, buttered corn on the cob and what not to his buddies in the dorm. He had to leave some bribery chicken off at the guard shack and then lightly tap on our doors to let us know the golden brown Baptist manna had arrived. Strange that our dorm monitor never got wind (7 secret ingredient seasoned wind) of this near nightly ritual. We ‘d just toss the leavin’s out behind the dorm toward the wall, thus the “rat race” out yonder. “Big Bob” Diggery could insert a piece of chicken into his mouth and pull the bone out clean as a whistle in two seconds. That dude was amazing! All 450 pounds of him.

Nobody could ever have had a more entertaining roommate than I had in Tim Adrian. His antics antedated ROTFLOL, but nobody could ever be more ironic, come up with better pranks or have more fun than Tim. I swear, his mind must have spent 20 hours a day cogitating trouble.  And look at him all these years later, on the executive committee of the BBFI! (Now BBFI PREZ!!!)

Well, that was 40 years ago. My best buddy, David, joined me for the second semester. It wasn’t long until we were both summarily dismissed from the school. We were pulled out of Dr. Eli Harju’s History of Israel class to be interrogated by the discipline committee for infractions that threatened national security, or something like that. Poor Bro. Walker (dean of men) was sent to accompany me to my room to get packed up and sent down the road. I don’t know which of us was more embarrassed as he watched me pack up several snacks (rat bait) from my drawers. I sure do like that brother.

Good times!

So, this week it’ll be 40 years since the day Pastor McCrary gave me my first ministry position. The roller coaster of ministry has taken me to minister in churches in California, Baja, Colorado, Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska.  I've been able to travel to places I'd never have dreamed and preach to people only here-to-fore seen in National Geographic. Wow, what a ride! It’s been a blast. I’ve made 46,427 mistakes, preached or taught about 8,200 times, won a few to the Lord, married the best gal on the planet, had 3 great kids, oh, and I get to pastor the best little church in America.

And it all comes down to this one very simple truth, God is faithful! Well, that and He is so much better to me than I deserve. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Winner of Life's Lottery

God is way better to me than I deserve.

1. My name is written on the Father's hand.
2. I am married to the smartest, most talented, beautiful, devoted, godly woman alive.
3. I pastor the best little church in America.
4. I live in Lincoln, NE (you have to live here to understand).
5. I get to ride a Harley!
6. I am completely healthy.
7. Warren Wiersbe prays for me every day!!!

So yeah, JACKPOT!!!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Tiny Church

The devil used a frumpy lil' teen girl to tell me how irrelevant I am.

She walked into the sanctuary last night and said to the girl who invited her to an overnight teen activity, in earshot if the whole group, "Your church is so tiny! It's so....tiny!"

Boom, the devil hit me where it hurts the most, in my pride, in my need for relevance, in my drive for validation. "See, punk, you are nothing, a big fat zero with the middle knocked out. Your entire life, the complete body of your life's work is boiled down to the truth and honesty of a pubescent, pony-tailed kid. You're a loser, and the sum total of your existence amounts to 'it's so tiny!'"

Well, she was right. I am a mighty small cog, relegated to a flyover spot, laboring  amongst the predominant religions of Luther and Constantine. Trying to carve a work for God out of the granite of good works. And honestly, it hurts to be surmised as miniscule, reduced in one careless but demonically inspired exclamation to "tiny."

I wish I could find comfort in platitudes such as big things come in small packages. I don't have to "not despise the days of small things," I am living them. And I hate to be reminded, but the devil knows those malicious whispers of half truths cripple me most.

I do take umbrage in the realization that this tiny cog serves a purpose. With the viscosity of the Holy Ghost, this cog helps move the mighty engine of an institution that will never suffer the spoils of victory to be gained by the gates of hell.

Our tiny edifice houses holy, praiseful, perpetually revived saints passionately bent on winning the world through personal soul-winning and world-wide missions efforts.

I hate to get into a "mine's bigger than yours" contest with this teeny bopper, but I wonder how many souls are won at her cathedral? How many services result in a full altar with people committing to what they just experienced? What percentage of her fellow parishioners give a large portion of their time, talent and tithe to God? How many of their missionaries win how many souls, planting how many churches?

Yes, young lady, your denomination cuts a wide swath 'round these parts, but what good is it to send people to hell with the phrase invented here falling from their lips, "No thank you, I have my own religion."?

And let me remind you, lord of the flies, you gut punched me again with your discouraging taunts but I confidently remind you that strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

So, I will stand tomorrow with my average sized church in our tiny building and render worship to our all-time, undefeated, undisputed God of glory. I read the back of the Book and we win!
Meanwhile, your people will be snoozing in their temples of ritual as uninspired clerics drone their homilies, rehash their lifeless liturgies, sprinkle their babies and conduct their useless rituals.

But I put you on notice, we are coming after some of those religious adherents, we are going to be there when their religion fails and we will introduce them to our great Savior, see their lives transformed, and welcome them into our tiny church. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Holy Week!

This is my favorite week of the year. I find myself meditating much more on our Lord’s passion: His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, His cleansing of the Temple, the Last Supper, the betrayal by Judas, the Lord’s final instructions, He arrest, trial and Crucifixion, and His glorious Resurrection.

I tend to live a more holy life during this annual commemoration than at other times during the year as I carefully consider that I owed a debt  I couldn’t pay, while He paid a debt He didn’t owe.

On Wednesday of Holy Week, we always show the death of the Lord by observing the Lord’s Supper. Involved in that observance is the introspection required of the partakers. “Let a man examine himself” taught the Apostle Paul, before taking the bread and the wine.

On crucifixion day, I find myself walking and working in a sort of a fog, trying to grasp the reality of Christ, the pure, innocent Son of God, dying for a worm like me.

I spend the next couple of days in anticipatory excitement, knowing that the greatest day of this impactful week it the last day, the culmination of redemption by the glorious Resurrection of Jesus by the fantastic power of Almighty God.

I hope that you will be transported this week from the mundane to the spiritually sublime as you meditate day by day on our Lord’s passion for your soul. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Who Is Jesus

Who is Jesus? Mark 6

As Jesus taught in the synagogue, those hearing Him were astonished at HIm and at His words.

The People's Questions About Jesus
1. From whence hath this man these things?
2. What wisdom is this which is given unto him?
3. ...that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?
4. Is not this the carpenter?
5. ...the son of Mary?
6. ...the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon?
7. Are not his sisters here with us?

He answers by word and deed:
1. A prophet    4
2. A teacher    6
3. A healer    5
4. A provider  7-8, 41
5. A shepherd   34
6. A miracle worker   41-44, 55-56
7. A water walker   49

Who is Jesus to you?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Who is Jesus?

 Mark 6

As Jesus taught in the synagogue, those hearing Him were astonished at Him and at His words.

The People's Questions About Jesus:
1. From whence hath this man these things?
2. What wisdom is this which is given unto him?
3. ...that even such mighty works are wroght by his hands?
4. Is not this the carpenter?
5. ...the son of Mary?
6. ...the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon?
7. Are not his sisters here with us?

He answers by word and deed:
1. A prophet    4
2. A teacher    6
3. A healer    5
4. A provider  7-8, 41
5. A shepherd   34
6. A miracle worker   41-44, 55-56
7. A water walker   49

Who is Jesus to you?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Other Side of the Sea - Mark 5:1-19

You know, that little body of water, Galilee, Genessaret, Chinneroth, saw way more than its share of ministry and miracles. Whether on the sea itself or on one of its banks, Jesus did a lot of work that changed history. Consider Peter walking on the water, a fish with a coin in its mouth, the great catch of fish that almost sank the boats, The Lord’s prayer (version II), the Sermon on the Mount, “Peace, be still!”

In this account, Jesus compels His minyan to sail to the other side of the sea to a place where Jews didn't often go – Gadara. It was a short-term mission trip.

I find a poignant missionary truth in this story:

What's on the other side of the sea?

1. Foreigners! (vs 1) Culture, language, tradition, heritage, religion – everything is unfamiliar on the other side. What the disciples ran into when they ran aground was eye-opening and jaw-dropping. One of them might have said, “Dorothy, we ain’t in Kansas no more!” Indeed, crossing the lake put them a world apart from the usual fare. Here, there are no Pharisees badgering them, no tax collectors harassing them, no temple tops gleaming in the sun. Just raw difference. God never called His servants to living lives of comfort, but He does call them/us carrying crude crosses. It may not be Club Med awaiting you when you dock. 

2. Men (and Women) in need. The first man to greet them was the man most needy. This particular one is demonized.

*He lived among the tombs (he was spiritually dead, what better place to haunt?) 
*He was possessed with an unclean spirit (it happens here too. The demons of drugs, lust, etc.) 
BTW: The demons within were called Legion, that is, there were many spirits.
*He was bound with fetters (that is, he was chained to his sin)
*He was exceedingly wild (no man could tame him)

Every lost person you encounter is no better or worse off than this man. The demons which keep them from the cross may be more subtle, but they are every bit as insidious and effective as this maniac.

But, Praise the Lord, Jesus came! Someone cared enough to go to the other side where a great need existed among many people in great need.
*This man saw Jesus (as opposed to what he had been seeing – darkness of the worst kind)
*This man ran to Him. He ran away from everything else – this is repentance. The demons urged him away from Jesus, away from deliverance, but he was compelled toward salvation.
*This man worshiped Him – to his knees and to his face he dropped before the only One Who had the power to save him from his misery.

3. Demons on a Mission. Remember the ministry that Satan has! To steal, kill and destroy. In the 3rd world his work often looks much different than its manifestations here in “Christianized” America. But the end goal is the same. Abbaddon/Apollyon, the Destroyer has one set of goals, destroy lives, damn souls to hell and get back at God for expelling him from heaven.

Note: We must be very careful to separate the demons from the demonized. On demons, we must have no mercy. On the victim, we must have compassion. Jesus went out of His way for the man, not the devils.

Consider this, who was really speaking, the man or the devils? Who was really acting bizarre? It was the demons within using the man without. We wrestle not with flesh and blood.

4. Swine Feeding! On the other side of the sea, we will find disgusting, cannibalistic, suicidal pigs. There is nothing kosher on the other side. All of our societal taboos are turned on their heads in Gadara. You will not be comfortable when you cruise to the other side. There, they may speak Pig Latin, and you don’t even eat bacon!

5. Fear!  (vs 15) Why were people afraid? As a result of Christ’s power, the man was now sitting, clothed and in his right mind (possibly now he was left handed? I’m just sayin’).

*They were afraid of change. Can you imagine? Their comfort zone included a demon possessed, naked, uncontrollable mad man who lived in the grave yard!!! They'd rather have the familiar with its discomfort than a Savior that will change everything. 

*They were afraid of the unknown. Never had this kind of power been displayed. Exorcism, deviled ham, changed life, a new normal. No possessed men terrorizing the graveyard, no swine feeding on a hillside. "Demons? We know. Salvation? Not so sure about that!"

Men are gripped by, yea, frozen by fear. “What if I do get saved? Will I be ostracized by my peeps? Will I ever get to have fun again? Will I have to learn Christianese? Will the church demand all my money?”  

As they say, you don't know what you don't know! 

6. On the Other Side - A New Missionary (18-19)
Goodness! Without a day of discipleship, this man went from demoniac to so soul-winner, from crazed loony to being in his right mind. Hopefully, on the other side of the sea, we will find some lives so transformed that the mission target becomes the missionary. 

Perhaps today, you will feel a heavenly nudge to go across the sea, or across the street, out of your “normal” and into some foreign, demonized, needy and fearful part of the world to find the next target of God's grace, and possibly, the next missionary. If so, go! You have been given the promise of His presence and power to present His message. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Parable of the Sower - The Key to All Parables.

And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?   4:13

It is said that Jesus taught 46 parables in the Gospels. Being as how this was one of the chief methods of communication by the Man Who spake as no man ever spake and taught with authority like no other, It is best for us to know the basics of the parable.

I thank "" for the following insight for parables:

A parable is, literally, something "cast alongside" something else. Jesus' parables were sorties that were "cast alongside" a truth in order to illustrate that truth. His parables were teaching aids and can be thought of as extended analogies or inspired comparisons. A common description of a parable is that it is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. 

We find, in verse 2, this parable being introduced as Jesus teaching them "in His doctrine." Which simply meant that the parable was His conveyance of His instruction. 

So, in brief, what key does this parable offer for the unlocking of all of the 45 other parables?

Mainly the following:

God sows the seed of the Word of God into the field, which is the world (more specifically, the heart of the individual). That ground is either receptive to the seed, or is not conducive to its germination, growth and fruitfulness.

I feel that the field (heart) referred to is the individual heart of every individual to whom the seed is introduced, including believers.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon me, individually, to be receptive to God's Word however it is conveyed to me; whether by my reading, hearing or meditation. If I prepare my heart to be receptive to the seed of the Word, it will find good ground and will reproduce in me abundantly.

This prepares my heart to receive the teachings of all of my Lord's parables and teachings. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

30 things happened when you purposefully skipped church

1. You forsook the assembly
2. You disobeyed the Savior
3. You were a bad example to others, including your kids and the other children of the church
4. You missed the spiritual meals prepared especially for you
5. You failed to be admonished and edified
6. You failed to admonish and edify others
7. You diminished the importance of Christ's bride
8. You showed you don't love that which Jesus loved so much, He gave Himself for it
9. You disappointed your pastor
10. You missed the huddle about how your church is going to impact the world
11. You became a weak link in the chain
12. You missed the opportunity to tithe
13. You didn't contribute to missions
14. Your place in the congregation was empty
15. Your praise was not voiced in collective worship
16. You missed the prayer requests of those brothers and sisters who could have used your prayer
17. You were not able to weep with those who weep
18. You missed the opportunity to rejoice with those who rejoice
19. You didn't have the chance to respond to the altar call
20. You missed meeting with Jesus Who said, in the context of the church, where two or three are gathered...
21. You missed, so others who look to you missed also
22. You began your downward slide toward being "out of church"
23. Your part of/in the body didn't function
24. You devalued the worth of your church
25. You removed yourself from the spiritual blessings and protection offered in the church
26. You revealed your priorities
27. You were a poor testimony to lost family and neighbors
28. You were unable to share your burdens with your spiritual family
29. You failed to be inspired by the missionary report
30. You were not moved to tears and shouts when a new believer came out of the waters of baptism

But hey, you were on Facebook, so, yeah, you're good!