Husband, Father, Friend, Pastor/Coach

Turning 60

“Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

In a few days I will turn 60 years old. Time is an interesting thing, and we find ourselves constantly trying to make it go slower or faster. We say, “this will save time.” We say, “let’s push this ahead.” The truth is, we can’t do either.

Time can’t be saved or moved ahead; but it can be redeemed, (as the KJV says) or better “made the most of” (Ephesians 5:16) every opportunity.  Moses wrote the 90th Psalm, and it is there that he underscores man’s predictable years on the earth; 70 or 80 if our strength endures.

As a man, turning 60 gives me repose. What have I accomplished on the earth? Who have I made an impact on? How has life changed for me? What lay ahead for the years I have remaining on the earth?

It can be dangerous to ask introspective questions. To be candid, I have discovered that I overthink just about everything in life, and internalize much. Despite my faults, it is important that in the seasons of life that we evaluate the where, whens, hows, and whats of life.

When we stand before the Lord, we will be rewarded. Scripture admonishes us to seek heavenly rewards. The rewards of heaven are based upon human success; the rewards of heaven are based upon faithfulness.

Stacey Cormier is credited with the saying, “success is in obedience, not outcome.” For a husband, it begs the question, “have I been faithful (not perfect) in my marriage; according to God’s commands?” As a dad, “have I been faithful (not perfect) to lead my children into the ways of the Lord?” As a pastor, “have I been faithful (not perfect) in handling the Word, leading the flock, and caring for the least of these?”

Psalm 90 has become a theme scripture for me. Moses, the man of God, is telling God’s people that the Lord works with us “in time” even though He is unlimited by time.

  • He’s our dwelling place in every generation – that’s why He’s referred to the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” Jesus says that He is the “God of the living.”
  • He’s an everlasting God – which speaks to us of His trustworthiness. 
  • He’s not limited to the constructs of time, but moves within our time miraculously. Jesus gets in the boat, and it immediately reaches land…time manipulated. The sun stands still for Joshua…time manipulated. What can take us a thousand years to do, God can do in one day!
  • God will move heaven and earth to help us make the most of every opportunity.

God has been so good to me. At age 6 I got saved, at age 7 was baptized in water, at age 12 I was baptized with the Holy Spirit, and at age 16 I affirmed the call to preach the gospel as my life vocation. God sent me a wonderful life partner; who knew the night we met, that we would marry and share our lives together… (38 years this August). God has blessed us with three wonderful, God-fearing children & their spouses, and six glorious grand children.

Now Faith and I have the honor to lead Southwest Christian Center; more personally, YOU. Psalm 90:16-17 gives a great statement of faith for the time ahead of us:

  • Let us see His works again! 
  • Let our children see His glory!
  • May Lord show us approval!
  • Make our efforts successful!

To colonize heaven in Bakersfield and Kern County and beyond is our vision! To see His work again: souls being saved, sanctified, baptized with the Holy Spirit, healed, and delivered from the bondages of sin.

To see our children experience His glory! Our one-generation church being overwhelmed in the Holy Spirit’s power; signs and wonders, dreams and visions.

To have the Lord’s approval on how we steward our finances, our life. How we behave requires the Lord’s nod of approval. Let His right hand be upon us.

To be successful; according to the faithfulness of our God and His servants.

 I don’t know what may lay ahead for year number 60, but if history is any indicator, I know that God will be faithful!  May I be found faithful, too.

The Present Future

Solomon declares in Ecclesiastes, “what has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” 1:9

In writing this, one can get the idea of hopelessness and despair. However, we can also attach hope to it.

How many of us have ever said in the last two years, “I’ve never seen anything like this before?” I have jokingly said, “well, the last time we had a pandemic…” None of us were ready for something to fundamentally change our life or our world.

But as long as there is God there is hope.

When God judged the world that was, only Noah and his family were saved. Their family alone was charged with the duty of taking care of the animals, the planet, and to repopulate the earth.

When God brings judgment, or when calamity happens, God is never surprised, and He always has a plan. God declared to Noah, that “while earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22 ESV.

While earth remains! What a promise. On the other side of calamity and judgment, God promised hope. Read that again.

Furthermore, God put a rainbow in the sky to become a visible symbol of His promise that He spoke.

Now, here we are, living in a drought filled land. The weather teams are saying that we are “ahead” on rain.

 We prayed for rain a few months ago. We are still praying for rain. I believe that God is “beginning” to answer the prayers of His people, and He isn’t going to stop with rain, because the rain by itself isn’t the goal, it’s the promise.

Unexpected Rainbow in Bakersfield

This picture was taken last week by Pastor Max VanDyke, from Kingdom Harvest Alliance Church. These folks are moving into our building, and will be sharing the campus, beginning January 2, 2022.

Please notice the double rainbow. Please notice that the inner rainbow lays on top of the cross in the courtyard.

Please let this valuable image burn into your heart.

Zechariah prophesies, “ask for rain in the season of rain,” Zech 10:1. In other words, when you see the rain coming down, shout “LET IT RAIN!”

Could God make it any more obvious for us that He’s a promise keeping God?

We ask for rain in the physical sense, and in turn we will get rain in the spiritual sense. We claim His promise of blessing and restoration. We shout for Him to “let it rain” on us. As the old song says, “mercy drops ‘round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.”       Our present is our future, because of the Promise of God.

Mary, What Did You Know?

Mark Lowry, according to his own words, has one hit song, “Mary Did You Know?” The song has been covered by several mainstream artists. It is a Christmas standard, and will no doubt endure time.

It was only a matter of time before music / lyric critics analyzed the song. On social media, one can read statements like, “yes, Mary did know.”

This isn’t news, but the holiday season is filled with inaccurate accounts of our savior’s nativity. Ask my wife. She will tell you that for years that I have displaced the magi from the manger scene, to a separate table, marked “two years later.”

This doesn’t go well, as one can imagine.

Mary didn’t ride a donkey to Bethlehem. The innkeeper isn’t named, and there is no record of him/her being grouchy. We have no idea how many wisemen there were. The king isn’t asking for peace, he’s trying to kill Jesus. There is no little drummer boy.

All of that doesn’t ruin the Christmas story!

What Mary knew or didn’t know doesn’t change the miracle of Christ coming to earth. Still, it begs the question, what did Mary know?

  1. Mary knew that she was a virgin, engaged to married. It wasn’t the angel’s announcement that made her a virgin, or the text that would be scrutinized for centuries; she knew. A woman knows if she’s a virgin! Mary testified (Luke 1:34) “how can this be, since I do not know a man?” Believe it or not, this one issue has been one of the most argued over parts of the Christmas story. Certain translations of the Bible read “a young woman.” I would submit that Joseph was a virgin as well, because the gospel of Matthew testifies that he didn’t have sexual relations with Mary until after Jesus was born, (Matthew 1:25).

Why is this important? Prophetically speaking, it means that what Isaiah said, came to pass! “A virgin shall conceive…” (Isaiah 7:14). Practically, it means that two persons committed themselves to a holy lifestyle. I suppose that it seems antiquated, but God is still looking for holy and set apart people to work through.

2. Mary knew that she was going to bear the Son of God. The Jewish people of that day longed for Messiah / Christ to come, (the Jewish people of today long for the same!). When the angel announced the specifics of the birth of Jesus, Mary received the information as it related to the coming of Messiah. It was after her inquiry, “how can this be?”, that the angel continued to inform her that Jesus would be “the holy one…the son of God.” A few verses later, Mary says, “let it be, as you have said.”

What does it mean, that we would spiritually respond in kind? God is still looking for vessels to incarnate himself into. Her will was the key. Our will is the key.

3. Mary knew that life would not be normal for her. When Jesus was taken to the temple for circumcision, two prophets were there. Mary was told that her soul would be pierced. Mary “treasured these things in her heart.” As Jesus grew, she began to realize the difference; from when Jesus remained behind to discuss Torah, to when she insisted that He perform a miracle, to when she and Jesus’ half brothers & sisters showed up to take Jesus back home.

Historically speaking, when God reveals Himself to anyone, no one has the full understanding. Faith is believing what God said, accepting what He reveals, and moving forward into it. Did Mary know? Yes and no. The God of revelation performed a miracle through her, and now, as Mary testified, “all generations will call me [her] blessed.”

Amen, Mary. We are blessed.

My Worst Christmas Ever

During the War Between the States, Henry Woodsworth Longfellow wrote “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” For Longfellow, the war was very personal. He was an abolitionist, and despite this, his son Charley joined the Union Army. Merely a year before, Longfellow had lost his wife in a tragic fire; she had accidently lit herself on fire. Now with his son in the war, before Christmas of 1863, Charley lost his leg in battle. Longfellow’s testimony in the poem was that hearing the bells of the church that day transformed him from despair to hope.

In 1990 Faith and I lived in Ft.Riley, Kansas. I was a Sergeant in the Signal Battalion. Desert Shield was already engaged, and Desert Storm was on the horizon. On December 22 of that year, we were deployed to the Persian Gulf. We arrived in Saudi Arabia on 25 DEC 1990.

There were no bells on Christmas Day. As Dorothy said, “we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Back in Kansas, families were unsettled. Hundreds moved in with loved ones, as did my wife and three young children. Our youngest was less than six months old.

I remember having to correct my son over some small infraction just before we loaded up on the bus to leave Ft.Riley. Two months later I spoke to him on the phone. He said, “I’ll be good, daddy.” He thought I had left because he misbehaved!

Getting off the plane, I was now in the cradle of civilization. Abraham had walked this land. Our savior was born, due west, about 1,000 miles.

So, this Christmas there would be no time with the family, no special dinner, no visions of wide eyed wonder in my children’s eyes. Daddy was called away for a mission.

When I consider that winter away from my family, it becomes a stark reminder of what the mission of Jesus was.

Philippians 2 describes how that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords humbled himself and became a man. “…who, although He existed in the form and unchanging essence of God [as one with Him, possessing the fulness of all the divine attributes – the entire nature of deity], did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped or asserted [as if He did not already possess it, or was afraid of losing it]; but emptied Himself, [without renouncing or diminishing His deity, but only temporarily giving up the outward expression of diving equality and His rightful dignity] by assuming the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men [He became completely human but was without sin, being fully God and fully man]. Amplified Version.

He set aside his glory, and became a human. He left the splendor and glory of heaven to be  incubated in His own creation, (the womb of Miriam his earthly mother). He went on to live a life of self denial, rejection, and ultimately to suffer at the hands of angry people, and even to die the worst kind of death; torture and crucifixion… and all to accomplish the mission!

The passage in Philippians goes on to say that “because he stooped so low… God has highly exalted Him.”  The mission was accomplished. Hallelujah.

May I encourage you, this season? Perhaps it will be the first Christmas without family, or without your spouse. Perhaps 2020, 2021 have been rough for you, more than others. It may be that even harder times are ahead.

Take courage. God never wastes a hurt or an anxiety or any of life’s disappointments.

You and I can be “incarnated” like Mary/Miriam was with the wonderful word of God. This gives us great hope, that no matter what life may throw at us, He is WITH us, (Immanuel). He is IN us, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” He is FOR us, “if God be for us, who can be against us?”

No matter how low it may go…God will exalt you in due time.

I came home in late April of 1991. My wife kissed me. My kids clung to me. We had a grand reunion, and many to come!

The Lure and Lust of Success

Someone asked me if I like fishing. My response was, and is, “no, I like catching.” Catching the fish is the goal, and so achieving it sooner than later is my desire! I don’t care for shopping; but I do enjoy buying stuff!

Early in my marriage, I discovered the difference between shopping and buying! Faith helped me discover that even though milk, eggs, and bread are the only things on the list…one needs to visit the jewelry counter.

Fishing vs. catching. Shopping vs. buying.

One activity is a journey, and the other is a destination. We call the destination success.

We are consumed with success. There is no discipline, job, or lifestyle that is exempt from our goal to be successful. We even give awards to people for being humble and self-denying. Often, we can’t even give without having some sort of nic-nac for giving, or a gimmick.

I’m going to sound contradictory here. I believe in having goals. I believe in personal achievement. Here’s the balance; if we can’t find joy in the journey, then the destination can be disappointing.

Faith and I are newer residents of California. We’ve heard all about the Golden Gate Bridge. Its iconic. Its on calendars, postcards, websites, and one of those things one thinks about when California comes to mind. To all of my California friends, Faith and I were disappointed when we saw it. The build up was incredible. The destination was so-so.

Jesus did not teach us to be successful; especially in the eyes of the world. At the end of it all, the reward is not according to our success, but to our faithfulness.

“Well done, good and faithful servant.” The words we long to hear!

Author Tim Hansel wrote years ago that “well done” brings up the imagery of a cooked steak! When we have enjoyed the journey, we leave nothing on the table. When we enjoy the journey, we are “well done” – all of our life poured out.

Dogs enjoy the journey. Do you have one? “Wanna go for a ride?” Doggy runs to the car, hops in, and sticks his tongue out the window all the way. Who cares where we’re headed? I’m enjoying the journey!

The lure of success and the lust for it can obscure the journey. If we are minded to being faithful, we won’t be in a hurry. We can be more tortoise than hare.

Bob Dylan was asked about being successful one time. Dylan said that suc-cess was made of two syllables; neither of which is good! Michael W. Smith, a multi Dove award winner, said that “it gets old.”

Solomon was king during a time that silver was as common as sand. He had a world wide following. He had more wives and concubines than one can make sense of. Yet he wrote these words, “vanity…all is vanity.”

Think again of the words of our savior. Matthew 25 is the context. The parable is about the Kingdom, and three servants mentioned. Jesus says that the owner divided talents, (silver, in this case), “according to their abilities,” (verse 15).

Not everyone received the same amount.

No method of use was mentioned.

The ones with the entrusted abilities began with nothing.

The owner didn’t make them owners of the silver. He made them stewards of the silver.

One of our challenges in the lure and lust of success is that we possess the false notion that everyone should have an equal share. Most of the time, we mean “money” when we think this way. Let’s think this through for a moment; “everyone gets an equal share.” This would mean that everyone on the planet would be the same height, weight, gender, skin color, mental capacity, and physical ability.

In other words, robots.

What a boring world that would be!

It is a dangerous, faulty, and disappointing notion for sameness to be our life’s ambition. If we’re honest, superiority, not equality is our goal.

The parable calls the servants to account. We shared this scripture at our church recently; 2 Corinthians 2:10. Here it is in the Amplified Bible: “for we (believers will be called to account and) must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be repaid for what has been done in the body, whether good or bad, (that is, each will be held responsible for his actions, purposes, goals, motives – the use or misuse of this time, opportunities and abilities).

Simple put, my goal in life is not be successful, but to be faithful. Faithful is not a consolation prize word; it is to be full of faith. Every motive, every investment, every action should be moved by faith. That is the measure of my stewardship.

Think of the size of your family. Did you grow up in a large family, medium family, or small family? Is a family with twelve children better than a family with one… or none? Of course not. Families of every kind are called to be faithful in what they do in life.

The lure and lust for success isn’t an adequate measure in the first place. James says that we must check our motives. “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works wit the humility that comes from wisdom…jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom.” James 3:13-15 NLT

When the owner in the parable calls the servants to account, he calls the servant with one “wicked and lazy,” not because he only had one…but because he wasn’t full of faith in the use of what he was given. He didn’t enjoy the journey, as a matter of truth, he didn’t even begin the journey.

What can I do today to begin to enjoy the journey?

Are You a 10%er?

Before you get nervous, or scroll away, this is not about tithing. That’s for another day. Are you a ten percenter? We often talk about the one percenters; the small sliver of people that hold the majority of the world’s wealth. There a basically two prevailing ideas about the one percent; 1. they should give more to the 99% 2. they can do what they want to with their money.

I always find it interesting that we think we know what is best…for someone else! It reminds me of when I was being corrected as a child, and I would inform on my brothers. It wasn’t justice I was standing up for; I wanted to deflect my spanking on them! I am reminded of school clothes shopping with my children. Our budget was $20 shoes, their budget was $100 shoes. Without any knowledge of the situation, one could conclude several things:

  • Faith and I were hoarding money from our kids, and they were unjustly being treated.
  • My kids had no idea how much money we had, nor understood the value of money, or a budget
  • My kids were hiding money from other sources, but were holding out for more. They were unionizing.
  • My wife and I had budgeted certain money for school clothes, had communicated it to our kids ahead of time, and had informed them that the allowance was $20; anything beyond that would be their responsibility. HINT: this one is correct.

In all of the above situations, my children were grateful. They learned to understand that food, clothing, a place to live, and the main ingredient of love are not entitlements; they are a blessing.

We were going through a particularly hard time once, and even grocery shopping was “touch and go.” Someone had blessed us with much needed groceries. Our cupboards were full, as well as our refrigerator. Our youngest came home from school, opened the refrigerator, saw the food, and yelled, “we’re not poor anymore!”

That was a moment of thanksgiving. In her mind, food in the fridge equals no longer in poverty. She was right!

Poverty is often a mindset than a lack of money. Proverbs 14:23 reads, “Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!” (NLT) We have so many worried about the one percenters that we’ve forgotten to be a ten percenter.

Jesus encounters a group of ten lepers one day. They stand at a distance, (as they were required to do) and cried out to Jesus for mercy. It is obvious that they knew of Jesus’ healing power, otherwise they would have not called upon Him. Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priests, which meant that He was declaring them “cleansed.”

The text of Luke 17:11-17 reads this way; “…and as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.” Even before they got to the priest’s examination (the medical authority of their faith) the healing took place.

What would be your natural inclination at this point? There are others in the Bible who respond to a miraculous provision with shouting, dancing, praising God. Nine out of these ten went on their way.

One turn around and came back. The ten percenter.

He came back to Jesus, shouting, praising God, and fell to the ground (worshiping) with thanksgiving. The English translation falls short here, and we can hardly catch the emotion of the moment. He was “thanking him and thanking him and thanking him.” He’s showing gratitude. The word in this scripture is the same word that we use for communion, “eucharist.”

When is the last time you had a shouting communion service? Perhaps they should all be shouting communion services. Thank you for healing me, thank you for saving me, thank you for giving breath in my body, thank you for taking me into your family. Thank you, thank you, thank you Jesus!

The other nine were only in it for the healing. The ten percenter got healing and wholeness. Jesus said, “go your way, your faith has made you whole.”

He was already healed of the sickness of the body. Jesus now granted him wholeness of soul.

This is November 2021. There’s a ton of stuff to not be grateful or thankful for. A friend of mine is posting one grateful thought every day on social media. Today, my flesh and the world and the devil will attempt to get me to be distracted.

Distractions are anything that takes one’s mind off of being thankful to God.

If I’m complaining about my kids, I’m not being thankful to God. If I’m moaning and groaning about the economy or politics or the general poor condition of things in the world, I’m not being thankful to God. If I’m fretting over the lack of food in the fridge, I’m not being thankful to God.

Paul said, “with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God,” (Philippians 4:6) This is a unique statement; giving thanks in advance of the need! With thanksgiving – I’m giving you thanks God right now… letting my requests become known.

Do you know that Jesus already knew that the lepers had leprosy? Do you know that he already knows our needs before we ask him? (Matthew 6:8).

Thanking him in advance seems to be opposite, but we are being thankful to God because we know that he hears us, and longs to answer us. “With thanksgiving” praying is partnership prayer.

Thank you, Lord that my children are serving You and loving you.

Thank you, Lord that my husband is getting out of prison.

Thank you, Lord for making a way to buy this house.

Thank you, Lord for healing my body.

You may not be a one percenter, but you can be a ten percenter. There’s wholeness there.

Call Me a Jerk

When my daughter Ariel was in third grade, one of her classmates teased her a lot. I encouraged her to say, “God bless you” whenever she would say something demeaning. This worked for awhile, until the girl said, “my mom says that means you’re telling me to go to hell.” Ariel was concerned, and we were at a crossroad.

I told Ariel about an old, corny way of dealing this. If someone calls you a jerk, respond by saying. “a jerk is a tug, a tug is a boat, a boat floats on water, water is nature, and nature is beautiful. So, thanks for the compliment.”

Ariel was encouraged by this. She liked it even better than saying “God bless you.” She took it too far. Instead of responding to the girl, she began saying to her and other kids at school, “call me a jerk.”

Jesus said, “rejoice when people call you a jerk.” Ok, he didn’t say that exactly. Here’s what he said: “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.” Matthew 5:11-12 NLT

Notice a few things here. Jesus has pointed out in this passage, (called the Sermon on the Mount), that there is a blessing in being persecuted. At several points in Matthew 5 and 6, Jesus addresses the opposite culture of being a follower of Christ.

  • God blesses the poor
  • God blesses the mournful
  • God blesses the humble

and the Lord goes on to describe what it really means to be blessed as a follower. Being mocked – indicated both public and private occasions, being persecuted, lied on, and a general “all sorts of evil things” said against you. The authorized text adds in the word “falsely.” Its implied in the modern translation, but still – the key is that we are blessed only when what is being slanderously said is not true.

Peter refers to this in his letters: “If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed… If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs.” I Peter 4:14-15 NLT

In other words, if someone is calling you a jerk, because you are in fact, a jerk – there’s no blessing in that. Good news. We can repent of our jerkiness.

I’m concerned that too often, Christ followers cloak our sin in robes of righteousness. I’m not talking about atonement, I’m talking about acting in a way that dishonors the name of Jesus, and when confronted, chalking it up as being persecuted.

Several years ago, a well known minister on television broke the law, and ended up going to prison. The cry wasn’t, (at least at first), “have mercy on me God.” It was, “we’re being persecuted.”

He should have been saying, “call me a jerk.”

I was at a meeting of a well known evangelist. A minister friend had invited me to sit on the platform with him. While the music was playing, the minister turned to the musicians and screamed at them, and demeaned them in front of everyone. His mic was hot. He knew others heard, and so… he blamed his anger on the anointing!

He should have been saying, “call me a jerk.”

A few years back, I was speaking with a colleague, and I used some off handed remarks about his education and background. I was being facetious, but it clearly offended him. Big time. Thankfully, he was mature enough to confront me.

I had no explanation.

I said, “I’m an idiot.” I apologized. He forgave me.

He could have been saying, “you’re a jerk.” And I dare not saying… “a jerk is a tug..”

If you find yourself saying and doing things that offend others, or bring reproach upon the name of Jesus, STOP. Change your mind, (repent), and make a commitment to take control of that area of your life.

Peter was very familiar with what he wrote about in his letter. He was a classic jerk! He denounced Jesus three times, and with cursing. His mouth was used by satan to tell Jesus what to do. Even after Jesus rose from the dead, he had given up on following Jesus, “I’m going fishing.”

Peter knew he was a jerk, and Jesus knew it too. Jesus put a new speech in his mouth. Peter ended up suffering for the name of Christ, and as tradition holds, was crucified upside down.

We have an opportunity to be blessed when we are genuinely persecuted, or we can choose to be selfish jerks and blame our behavior on God.

Let’s choose to be called a jerk; not actually be one.

Festivus for the Rest of Us?

Only Seinfeld fans will get the title.

Festivus is a product of the comedy “Seinfeld.” It actually has a date on the calendar. This year, its December 23rd. Festivus begins with “the airing of grievances.”

I think 2021 is Festivus for the Rest of Us.

We perpetually complain about everything. We complain if people don’t celebrate holidays, we complain if they do. We complain that the culture is dying, we complain that the culture is too influenced by one subculture.

We love to complain! It is, after all, our Constitutional right.

We poked fun at Trump who said that Covid would be over by the end of the summer. We poke fun at Biden who says that Covid is the fault of his opponents. We love to poke fun. We get excited about it!

It is, after all, our Constitutional right.

Then there’s the Bible. It gets in the way of everyone’s fun. Holidays, celebrations, and fun are not anti scriptural; as a matter of truth, they are expected!

The early church likely had a big meal together every week! It is entirely possible that the early church ate together a BUNCH of times. Yes, please!

It is entirely likely that the Puritans celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles in the early years of the European settlement. Look up William Bradford’s writings. You will be amazed what you read, and I can assure you it isn’t what you read in the textbooks.

The news reports that all of your kids gifts are stuck out in the ocean. The news reports that because of the price of goods, no one will be able to have fun.

Do you know that when God created the idea of celebration among His people, that people of every economic structure were considered? All the feasts are FOR the people to enjoy.

St. Paul instructed that celebrating or not celebrating is up to one’s conviction. Romans 14:15 “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” Yes, believe it or not, what you are convinced about when it comes to celebrating is what God is really interested in!

Attention to Jesus and living by faith is what matters. Its all that matters.

If you have a party and exclude people, that’s not living by faith; that’s living in fear.

If you think you have to spend a ton of money on people to keep them happy, that’s not living by faith; that’s living in fear.

If you think that no one should celebrate certain days of the year…(wait for it); that’s not living by faith; that’s living in fear.

How many days of the week did God create? 7. How many did He give to the devil? Zero. How many days can we celebrate God by faith? 7. How many days of the week do we HAVE to go to church? ZERO. what? YES, even if we think “church attendance” is a harsh command of God, that’s not living by faith; (say it aloud), that’s living in fear.

Wear the costume, make the chex mix, invite friends over. Enjoy. Or, stay at home, read a book. Enjoy.

Its October when I write this. How about this year, instead of fretting over Christmas gifts that may or may not be popular, that we give something intangible? How about hosting a new clothes event for homeless? How about breaking free from the DREAD of holidays and make it DELIGHTFUL?

Read Isaiah 58. It is God’s pathway to joy. Release wicked restraints, untying yokes of oppression, set free the mistreated…share bread with the hungry, bring the homeless in, cover the naked, reconcile with your family…that’s what I delight in! (paraphrased)

Festivus for the rest of us? Naw, let’s not air grievances…let’s let LOVE prevail.

Happy HOLYdays.

We Need to Pray

Have you ever watched on old TV show like Marcus Welby MD? Or Dr. Kildare? If you’re under the age of 40, you’ve probably never heard of these shows. Old television shows were fairly predictable. Doctors would often have a difficult case. They would do their best, and then say to the family, “all we can do now is pray.”

Most of us live like the patient’s family in the old television show. Prayer is only seen as a last resort. People trust so little in prayer, that a football pass is named after the famous Catholic prayer; “the Hail Mary pass,” (its actually called “the rosary,” but that doesn’t sound cool for broadcasters).

The Hail Mary pass indicates, “throw the ball as far as you can, and see what happens.” What a dismal view of prayer.

In modern times, we have social media. Every moment of every day, someone is asking for “prayer, thoughts, good vibes, and karma” – all in one breath. Unfortunately, even many followers of Jesus post such things. It reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, when she is talking with the Cheshire Cat:

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? (Alice) “That depends a good deal on where you want to go,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where-” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

If we don’t care where our prayers go, then it doesn’t matter where they go. However, if we expect that God will get involved in the prayer, then there is a specific way to pray. It is difficult, it isn’t limited to only a certain kind of people, it isn’t guess work; it is, as a man named Claude Gladden said, “…prayer is the most powerful thing in the world.”

  1. Prayer is offered to the Father, in the name of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Read these wonderful words from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” I Timothy 2:5 This sounds as the words of Christ himself. Speaking to the twelve, He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. (NIV)

Now, as the Cat told Alice, any road will do, if you have no care where you’re going. Here’s the truth, often in life we genuinely don’t know where we are going! As a matter of truth, we are lost and in need of someone to rescue us from the wrong way we are headed. God’s wonderful promise is that when we partner with God in prayer, He prays for us with groans that cannot be uttered. Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit also helps our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (NKJV)

My friend Fr. David Bartholomew describes the work of the Godhead as “trying to out love the other one.” What Dave means, if I understand him, is that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in constant relationship with one another, doing their job…and loving it! This is why going straight to the source isn’t about being a “rule” but rather a relationship. “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” John 6:37 NIV

2. Jesus needed to pray. Here’s Jesus, the sinless Son of God, born to die for the sins of the world, healing the sick, casting out devils, teaching, serving… and He needed to pray. I would submit that he needed to pray because of all that He did, and He did all that He did because He needed to pray. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Hebrews 5:7, NIV.

Read that verse again. It says that Jesus prayed regarding being saved from death…and he was heard. You might scratch your head, and think, “but He died.” Yes, but apparently his resurrection from the dead was directly tied to his prayer life!

Jesus prayed to his Father; while people were listening, or in private. Luke 5:16 says that he withdrew to a lonely place to pray. In the next chapter, Jesus goes out to a mountainside and prays all night long, (Luke 6:12).

Can we just pause and realize that if Jesus needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray?

3. Jesus taught us to pray. By example, and by teaching, Jesus taught his disciples, (followers of Jesus), how to pray. Many of us are familiar with what is called “the Lord’s prayer.” This prayer, both in practice and principle, was given to the disciples upon their request. Luke 11 records, “…teach us to pray.” By this time, the twelve apostles had witnessed the teaching, miracles, and disciplined life of Jesus. These Jewish men were not ignorant of the idea of prayer or even the activity of prayer. They had grown up, most likely, in a Jewish home that included morning and evening prayers. What they noticed in Jesus was something more than duty; they witnessed the results of a praying man.

4. Jesus still prays for us. Perhaps you wonder what Jesus did when He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. What’s Jesus been doing for the past 2,000 years? He’s been praying. The Bible tells us that He, “…sat down at the right hand of throne of the Majesty in heaven.” (Hebrews 8:1). This, as we discover when studying the tabernacle in the wilderness, is called the Mercy Seat. He is in the holy of holies, and as the High Priest of our salvation, makes perpetual intercession for us. He is there, receiving the prayers and cries of those who call upon His name, to save us to the uttermost, (Hebrews 7:25).

We need to pray! We need to pray, not just because of the general idea, but because God has put eternity into our hearts, (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God has placed within everyone the desire to seek Him, and has made the way through Jesus. At this moment in time, God is making appearances to people that have never heard the name of Jesus, much less the triune Godhead.

  • God has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so that mankind can see the wonderful love of God.
  • God has revealed Himself through Jesus; God who became a man, (and is now a glorified man), and prayed while on earth – both as example, and as His personal need.
  • Jesus is now at the right hand of the Father, and He is the only way to God. He yearns and intercedes for mankind perpetually.
  • You and I, with the prompting and help of the Holy Spirit, can and should have a vibrant prayer life – it is the eternal model to be repeated again and again. To coin a phrase, “prayer itself is the answer to pray.

Let us pray!

You Can Trust The Bible

I’m sure that Faith and I are the only ones who this has ever happened to.

When the kids were young, Faith would say, “go to tell your [brother / sister] to come here.” This was a general statement, often in a non emotional tone of voice. The sibling took it upon themselves to convey the message, in an elevated tone of voice, and with Simon LeGree intentions, “MOM SAID TO COME HERE RIGHT NOWWWW.”

The message was conveyed. The words were used. The interpretation? Not so much.

This could be why so many today do not trust the Bible. The ones presenting the message are not conveying the words of God accurately.

For many, this becomes a watershed moment. If someone can mishandle, misuse, pervert, twist, change, the written word of God; God’s book, doesn’t that poison the water hole? How can we ever really believe anything in the Bible to be trustworthy?

I’m certainly not a Bible language expert. I’m not a linguistic or language expert. I’m not really an expert at anything. Maybe its time to stop reading. Or maybe you can be encouraged by an average person observing something beautiful in the scriptures.

God is ok with the written record as it is; even if it wasn’t written perfectly.

Yes, you read that correctly. The beauty of God’s wonderful message of salvation and love came to us through the hands of imperfect men. If you were God, would you do that? Here’s why I know we can trust the Bible.

  1. God only personally wrote a small section. Moses destroyed the first set of the ten commandments that God had carved into stone. When we use the phrase, “well, nothing’s carved in stone,” we mean that when it is carved in stone, nothing can change it. BUT MOSES BUSTED THEM UP. So, God had to write another set.

Film maker Mel Brooks pokes fun at this episode in “The History of the World Part One,” that Moses has three tablets, with a total of fifteen…but he trips and breaks one. The truth is, there are way more than ten – there are more than 600, and we frequently trip and break them all. The ten “words of God,” as Israel often called them, were considered the main truths of which to build life upon – and God made them breakable, intentionally.

This is why David, (a really messed up guy. more about him later), said with all confidence, “Oh Lord, your law is within my heart,” Psalm 40:8. This is where the word of God; the trustworthiness of the Bible, is most effective – when it is written upon our heart.

When we know something, really know something, we know it “by heart.” Isn’t that where knowledge is most effective? I mean, when you go to the doctor, would you feel more comfortable or less comfortable if the doctor consulted a medical journal when you told him what was wrong? I’d prefer to see a doctor who knows the books inside!

2. God included things in the Bible that shouldn’t be there. What? He did what? Here’s what I mean. Imagine writing a love letter to your sweetheart, “Dear sweetheart, I have loose bowels. I have bad breath. I often have a hard time controlling my emotions. I have a gambling problem. I love you. Please write back.” Or imagine applying for a job, and on your resume, you include: I have poor management skills. I was fired from my last three, uh four, oh who’s counting jobs. I punched the boss out… If I were trying to win my sweetheart, or get a job, I would not include any of the bad stuff. I’d let them find out later! (like I did to my wife! 🙂

God starts out the story of redemption with a man who won’t obey him, who lets the devil hang out with his wife, who ruins the whole paradise, who can’t keep his kids in order. Murder in the first few chapters. By the time we get to the end of Genesis alone we have organized adultery, incest, sodomy, cheating, rape, war, drunkeness; not to mention the earth being destroyed by flood.

That’s just Genesis! Then God enlists men of questionable character to write this book. Moses was a murderer. David was an adulterer and a man of war. Solomon; how he got the tag “wise” is a mystery: he had 300 wives and 700 concubines.

If I were God, I wouldn’t include such embarrassing stories. I wouldn’t include how families of eternal promise still got jealous and hated each other. I wouldn’t include or allow people that couldn’t control their sexual appetite could be given an opportunity to repent, and worship at my holy throne.

That’s another reason why we can trust the Bible.

3. God’s word is so powerful that it endures misinterpretation Its in vogue now to besmirch the reliability of God’s word. Ironically, fundamentalists and atheists are strange bed fellows in this regard; Both groups cling to the notion that if one thing is out of place in the written record, that none of it can be trusted.

I disagree.

When Joshua told the sun to stand still, was that a lie? I mean, the earth revolves around the sun, but the Bible reads that the sun stood still. God understood what Joshua was calling for, and the phenomena happened. Why didn’t God punish David when he committed adultery? The law demanded death. David repented. What about words that are added into the text? There is no language on the earth that translates word for word.

When my kids yelled, “MOM SAID COME HERE NOW,” they were misinterpreting the message. This is what people often do. The message wasn’t wrong, but sometimes the interpretation is wrong, and perhaps humans feel the need to defend God.

The Apostle Paul was so certain of the overarching message of the gospel, he said, “it is true some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill…but what does it matter…in every way…Christ is preached.” Philippians 1:15-118.

Marjoe Gortner is a former performance preacher. He did a documentary in 1972, and even won an academy award, chronicling his life of being a charlatan. He freely admits it. In spite of this, people genuinely came to salvation, were healed, and had a true experience with the Lord.

God’s word, His story, is so powerful that even when people intentionally try to mess it up, or take advantage of other with it, the truth still comes out.

I am reminded of Billy Graham’s encounter at Forest Home Conference Center in Southern California. Mr. Graham recounts his struggle of being challenged by Charles Templeton, a contemporary of his who vacated the faith. Templeton had allowed the horrors of World War II to ruin his faith in God, and of course, the Bible. Graham met with the Lord and came to the conclusion that although he could not scientifically prove everything, that he would take the Bible, by faith.

You and I can trust the Bible as God’s word… not as God, but as His written record of salvation to humanity.

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