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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.

New Season, New Life

Here we are in September 2021. September is the month of new seasons; students return to school, football season, pumpkin spice flavored everything. In the region where I grew up, the apples are just about ready to be picked.

I know very little about our Hebrew heritage in Christ, but this is year 5780. Rosh Hashanah, the civic new year, begins September 25. There are indications that this is when creation took place. Some scholars also believe it is when Jesus was born.

In the land of the Bible, like in North America, this time of year is also called “harvest time.” My father in law lives in South Carolina and he would grow a spring/summer garden, and then after the reaping of that garden in early fall, he would plant a “winter garden.” The winter garden would be a shorter season, and would grow crops based upon the richness of the soil that had previously produced crops in the spring/summer.

It doesn’t take a Hebrew calendar expert or an agrarian expert to recognize that we are nearing the end of the “final harvest.”

One of the saddest verses in the Bible is Jeremiah 8:20, “the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” May I tell you that the prophet wasn’t talking about crops! God was speaking to His people of their ultimate ignorance of His commands and statutes.

God’s people had been called to follow His ways, and with following Him came a promise. These were outlined by Moses, some two thousand years previously. Today, some 2,000 years ago God made a way through Jesus that all of the world, (John 3:16) could be saved.

Only do not ignore the harvest.

I was a farmer for a minute. My parents had a few acres of land to grow vegetables. Here’s what we were required to do: break up the ground in spring, plant the seeds, weed the garden, harvest the produce. We had no control over the rain, the temperature, the sunlight, or what happened under the soil.

The harvest was our job. In fact, if we didn’t harvest, we would go hungry.

Now should be the time, especially after such a long spiritual drought, for the church to prepare and gather the harvest! Corn doesn’t walk into the silo. Wheat doesn’t walk into the barn. WE are to go into the field and harvest.

The summer is coming to an end.

Let’s not the words “the harvest is lost” roll off our lips.

The Kingdom or the Constitution?

As Americans, we live in a constitutional republic; we get to elect our leaders, for the most part, and if we are dissatisfied with them, we can replace them next time around. In every generation, there is political corruption. There has never been a time in our nation where there was not scandal or political posturing.

America has never been a Christian nation.

I realize that I’ve lost many of you with that statement. I am fully aware of the arguments that support the idea that America was founded upon Christianity, and even to colonize (mainly) the Protestant religion. There is truth in that statement.

The truth is that many European settlers believed that the “new world” was the New Jerusalem. Colonization was almost always done under the banner of God, because monarchs ruled with divine authority. After the nation was founded with a Constitution, many wanted Washington to become King. Thankfully, he rejected it.

Is the constitution based upon biblical principles? Yes. For the most part. Acknowledging a creator is a salient point.

Here’s the burning question for the Christian; the follower of Jesus Christ: is the U.S. Constitution congruent with the Kingdom?

Let’s look at the bill of rights; the first ten amendments, and see how they align with being a Christian. Bear in mind that the entire construction of the Constitution was based upon an adverserial relationship with Britain. I’m going to list the summary from the government’s website in italics, then comment below.

  1. The First Amendment provides several rights protections: to express ideas through speech and the press, to assemble or gather with a group to protest or for other reasons, and to ask the government to fix problems. It also protects the right to religious beliefs and practices. It prevents the government from creating or favoring a religion.

Think as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Does the KINGDOM of God and His Christ provide the right to free speech? Or the right to assemble as I see fit? Or not favoring a religion? Or course not! Since Jesus is my king, my Lord, and my master, He has full control over what I say.

I once had a young man get upset because I rebuked him for gossiping in the foyer. He wrote me a letter stating that he thought since I was veteran I would appreciate the right to free speech. No. There is no right to free speech in the Kingdom. Proverbs has a boat load of information on the use of the tongue, and James teaches us that the tongue needs to be tamed by the Holy Spirit.

Does the KINGDOM make room for “the right to assemble?” Here’s the principle. The early church assembled all of the time, and all of their time was devoted to the Lord. My life is in His hands. Everything that I do with my time, talent, and treasure belongs to the Lord, because He is my King. I am not stating that Christians are to live in some zombie like cult of mind control, but the principle of “I can go anywhere I want to do and do what I please” is NOT a kingdom value.

The most obvious “non kingdom” value of the first amendment is that one religion isn’t favored over another. Followers of Jesus Christ have a mandate that goes all the way back to Mount Sanai, “You will have no other gods before me.” Jesus said about himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to Father except by me.” John 14:6.

As stated earlier, the first ten amendments are called “The Bill of Rights.” That one word is contrary to a disciple; RIGHTS. When we come to Christ, it is not to gain rights, but to surrender them. “If anyone will follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

As Americans, we fully believe in the strength and the weight of the U.S. Constitution. As followers of Jesus Christ – our King, we learn to surrender our rights.

That’s just the first amendment. What about the second amendment? The right to bear arms. For the kingdom, it would seem that scriptures teach both; lay them down, and pick them up. Now that’s a conundrum. Jesus teaches that those who live by the sword will die by the sword, and he also teaches that if you don’t have one, to get one.

So often, Christians are looking for a loop hole verse in the Bible. Here’s the truth: Jesus is King, and He might tell one that it is ok to bear arms, and another that it is not. Think of the War Between the States; both sides claimed that God was on their side.

Jesus plainly stated, when quizzed by Pilate, that His kingdom is not of this world. Furthermore, Jesus said that if it were, he would have his servants fight.

As a citizen of the Kingdom, it would appear that taking up arms or not taking up arms is supported by the King. Each one of us must ask our King! Common sense tells us that we need law enforcement personnel that are Christians. The Centurion with great faith nor Cornelius were expected to exit military service because of their faith.

The third and fourth amendment deal with the government intrusion into private homes. In light of the Kingdom, Peter encourages believers to embrace persecution. (I Peter). This concept is foreign to Americans, for now.

The citizens of the Kingdom will be faithful to their King, no matter the consequences.

more in our next posting…

Pray for Rain

When Faith and I moved to Bakersfield, California, we had no idea it was so hot here…or so dry. The second realization came after the first. The heat was very observable. Just this week, we will have several plus 100 degree days.

The absence of moisture was harder to detect, because everywhere one looks, there are green and lush vegetation. The central valley of California is the fruit basket of the nation.

But we’re in a drought.

The irony of our dry situation is that 100 years ago, folks from Arkansas and Oklahoma migrated here for a better life. They were leaving the dust bowl of the plains behind.

People follow water. Water is necessary for life.

Right now, thousands of acres are burning 300 miles north of Bakersfield. The effects of those fires are traveling south into the valley. There are so many forest fires in the west, that it referred to as “fire season.” Most of the states out west are in severe drought.

We must pray for rain.

Do you mean spiritual rain or literal rain? Yes.

One of the criticisms of the followers of Yaweh was that they were worshiping Him for better crops, better living conditions, and all of their faith was simplistic superstition, and not based in fact.

Modern man has accepted this notion. We’ve discovered how to irrigate, and therefore we don’t need to pray for rain. Man will provide.

In Zechariah 10, these words are written: “ask the Lord for rain in the time of the latter rain. The Lord will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain. Grass in the field for everyone. “

General George Patton was certainly not a paragon of faith, however, He believed that people of faith actually had a connection with God. He ordered his chaplain to pray for rain, so that the enemy could not advance. The rains came, and the story is told that the General gave the chaplain a commendation.

That story may sound fantastic, but the scriptural call is there for us to see. With God, there is no difference between Him blessing us with what we desperately need; rain to fall upon our drought-ridden land, and for His Holy Spirit to fall upon our drought-ridden hearts!

Pray for Rain! It isn’t just a bumper sticker, or a refrigerator slogan. Ask any of your neighbors, friends, politicians, or fire fighters, “do you think we need more rain?”

Zechariah essentially is saying, “pray for rain when its rainy.” That’s odd, and almost seems contradictory. Shouldn’t we be praying for rain, when we’re in a drought? Yes to both. You see, in other parts of our country right now, its raining, raining, raining.

We can see that and begin to pray, “just like its raining right now over there, so let it rain over here.” We can perceive that and pray it in the spirit as well. “Lord, I see what You are doing over there in that area; setting people free, filling them with Your Holy Spirit, mending relationships, driving devils out; over there, do it here, Lord.”

Let it rain. And when we feel the rain falling, keep praying for more rain.

There is a scripture that reads that He makes it rain on the just and the unjust. We tend to look at that scripture in a negative tone; like a rainy, dreary day. “Well, everyone has a rainy day now and then” kind of attitude.

From God’s perspective, rain only meant judgment one time. Ever since that time, (after the flood), rain means blessing.

“Showers of blessing, showers of blessing we need. Mercy drops ’round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.”

Let it rain!

I Miss Mr. Dillon, Too

My Uncle Joy used to always greet me, “hello, Mr. Dillon.” This was because I often dressed up like a cowboy. Chester Goode called U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon, “Mr. Dillon.” Festus called him Matthew.

Gunsmoke was a great television show. When it aired its last episode, it was, at that time, the longest running serial.

The good old days. We miss the the days of yesteryear; the good guys wore white, the bad guys wore black. TV went off after Johnny Carson. I don’t mean turning the tv off; I mean the station went off.

Yes, the good old days. Your neighbors could listen in to your phone conversation if they wanted to. Most of us didn’t have air conditioning. Many didn’t have one car; much less two cars. You know, the good old days. 🙂

In these difficult days, our faith and our commitment to Christ and His mission if often obscured by what we “don’t have” compared to what we have. In our well intentioned longing for things to “get back to normal” we miss what God is doing.

I am a son of the church. In the good old days, we had Sunday School, Sunday morning, Sunday night, well attended revivals, Wednesday night Family Training Hour, Thursday night visitation, and quite often Saturday activities at the church or for the church. There was the Ladies Willing Worker Band, district rallies, summer Camp Meeting, youth camp, vacation Bible school, and hosting the Pioneers for Christ in the summer for door to door witnessing campaigns.

In my teen years, it was normal to arrive early to ride the bus to get kids to church, teach Sunday School, worship, go home and eat lunch, and feed our animals, go to a “singing” at another church in the afternoon, go back to our church for Sunday evening service, and go out to eat with a group after that service. We seldom got home before 11:00 PM on Sunday nights.

I do not regret the good old days for one moment. Those are memories, and they are not intended to be road signs, but landmarks.

Many have concluded that the pandemic has the power to squelch the efficacy of the church because of quarantines. Perhaps we don’t believe that in words, but our actions tell on us.

The early church had no buildings to gather in, but on Day One of The Church, 3,000 were baptized in water, and with the Holy Spirit, (not including the 120). A few chapters into Acts, God’s people are beheaded, beaten, tossed in jail…and the church grew!

The early church had no organized Sunday School, graded choirs, B3 Hammond Organ, or Camp Meeting tents.

In Acts 15, some of the good brethren got concerned. Their traditions – good traditions – were being challenged. They were observing that many non Jewish people were joining the church. Things were changing.

What we often do when things are moving different, or challenges our tradition, is that we make it “spiritual.” “Unless you are circumcised after the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1). The text calls them “certain men.”

You know who “certain men” are? Over the years, I’ve heard this, “pastor, people are saying…” Certain men. The writer of Acts, Luke, either precludes their names because he doesn’t know who are they are, or because he does know who they are!

Certain men are folks who are “certain” that they are correct, and everyone else is wrong. Traditions can hold onto us strong.

Acts 15 records the event. This controversy picked up steam, and they had a convention in Jerusalem to discuss the matter. In the end, tradition did not prevail; because God had shown them what He was doing! A new thing!

We all have creature comforts and preferences. I miss Mr. Dillon, too! There is absolutely nothing wrong with that! I love Mexican food. If my stomach would allow, I would eat it every day of the week. Now, imagine me saying to you, “unless you eat Mexican food, you’re not right with God.”

That’s a ridiculous notion for sure.

What about our landmarks of our faith? Have we made them a required road map for all to travel?

Can God move mightily on the computer as well as in a church building? He already is.

The early church was building a bridge one plank at a time. The Holy Spirit was moving them at a pace they had never known.

What about now? Can we imagine that God is working through all of the challenges, calling us to a place we’ve never been?

I sure hope so!

But if He doesn’t…

There is a wonderful story in the Bible that many are familiar with. In Daniel 3, captive Jewish young men are threatened with death by fire, if they refuse to bow down to the golden image. The rest of the story is that God intervenes, an angel or a preincarnate appearance of Christ is with them in the fire. They come out unharmed. Its truly a miracle.

These are the stories that we enjoy to hear. I am a classic Pentecostal preacher. This passage is made for a Pentecostal preacher! I firmly believe that the same God who did those things back then, still does them today.

I believe that God still raises the dead to life, like He did back then. I believe God still makes blind eyes see, deaf ears hear, lame walk, minds restored… like He did back then.

In the middle of Daniel 3, there is a testimony that we need to take note of. Earlier this year I was listening to Dr. Tim Hill preaching from this passage. He also wrote a Grammy Award winning song about this passage, “He’s Still in the Fire.” Brother Hill mentioned this phrase, “but what if He doesn’t?”

Those words leaped into my ears and into my heart.

The young men told the king this testimony: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But if He doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue that you have set up.” Daniel 3:17,18 NLT

Do you see those four words italicized? “But if He doesn’t.” It is almost as though the young men are giving God an out. He is able. He will. But if He doesn’t.

“But if He doesn’t” is not a good selling point. It doesn’t give way to television appearances or interviews on the news. The losing team doesn’t get invited to the White House. The doctor who didn’t find the cure doesn’t get to write about it in the journals of medicine. The school teacher with average student achievement doesn’t get the plaque of recognition.

We love winners. We want our God to be a winner, and it seems almost intolerable for God “not to come through.”

The truth be told, there are many accounts of “but if He doesn’t” in scripture. Hebrews 11 is called “the Hall of Fame of Faith.” Right on the heels of those who were delivered, we find these words, “…and others were tortured, no accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea moreoever of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword…” Hebrews 11:35-37 KJV.

The list continues, and concludes with saying that none of them received what God had promised. It was in the future where their hope lay.

Moses didn’t get to see the promise land, David didn’t get to build the temple, James got beheaded, but Peter got delivered. “But if He doesn’t” means that sometimes He won’t.

Have you believed God for a healing in your body? Have you soaked your bed with tears over a lost loved one, or a wayward child? Do you struggle financially, no matter how hard you work? Did you lose everything you had during a crisis…man made or otherwise?

You are in good company.

Is it frustrating when we work hard and don’t succeed? Absolutely. Is it hurtful when we prepare just as much, or even more, than the other guy at work – and he gets the promotion. It is real life when one minister labors in prayer, preaching, pastoring; only to see others perpetually have favorable conditions.

Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah. He was one of the exiled people. God had promised that His people would indeed go into captivity for 70 years…and that He would bring them out after that. At the end of his prophecy, Habakkuk gives this anthem of faith: “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls – Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation.” 3:17,18 NKJV

Wow! what an encouragement, and what a challenge. Even if He doesn’t faith is the God-kind of faith.

You see, God himself took the greatest step of faith when He gave Jesus into the hands of sinners. Jesus would have come to the earth, lived a sinless life, died the most horrible death in the eyes of man, become the supreme sacrifice for salvation, and rose from the dead; even if no one believed.

Perhaps we take that for granted. What if no one believed? “Even if… they don’t,” was what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit did.

The end of the story for everyone that did not receive the promise in this life, was that they will in the life to come.

But what if He doesn’t? Well, that’s just a matter of time!

God Tapping His Foot

Now that I live in California, I’ve experienced a couple “earthquakes.” I used quotation marks, because they were more like tremors, but we could feel it. The first one happened in spring of 2020. Faith and I live near railroad tracks, and a very busy road. We felt a “flump” and wondered if a car had crashed, or a train had derailed.

People at church said that we were now true Californians!

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas have been put in prison for telling others about Jesus, and specifically, seeing a woman in human trafficking set free. They are both put in the lowest of the dungeons, shackled, with a heavy guard.

About midnight, Paul and Silas began praying and singing to the Lord.

If I were put in jail, I have to confess that I probably wouldn’t be singing and praying…at least the way they were. Acts 16:25, “…and the other prisoners were listening.” They were a captive audience. (sorry, I went there)

Here’s what happens in the rest of the story:

  • they pray and sing, while in pain and inconceration
  • all of the prisoners chains fall off, along with theirs
  • the prison guard decides to kill himself, (this would have been an advantage to the prisoners)
  • the jailer’s attempted suicide is stopped by Paul and Silas
  • the jailer gets saved, along with his entire family
  • Paul and Silas are cleared of all charges

What was it that caused a massive earthquake? Of course, there are some that would say it was purely coincidental. That’s the natural answer.

The super-natural answer is found in the text, “they prayed and sang hymns..” The word “hymn” is “to sing praises.” The singing of hymns was directly correlated to the Psalms of praise, (hallel) in Psalm 113-118. In Psalm 114 we read this lyric “tremble, o earth, at the presence of the Lord..”

As they were singing in the jail, God was listening in heaven. They must have had good rhythm, because the next thing you know, the earth – God’s footstool – is trembling, shaking, quaking.

God started tapping his foot on his footstool. He enlisted the rocks for a percussion section.

Doug Small says, “God doesn’t answer prayer, He answers people.” Paul and Silas began to pray TO God and SING the word of God. The Lord just couldn’t help himself.

What results of praying and praising!

Why not examine your current situation. Are people in similar circumstances listening to your prayers and song? Does your language sound just like theirs? Paul and Silas had the eyes and ears of every prisoner and the jailer that night. The next day, they had the eyes and ears of the governing authority.

When we decide, in the middle of the worst of things, to pray and declare God’s word in song, God listens, and He answers.

He might even tap his foot!

Meeting Quentin Tarantino

In April of this year (2021), Faith and met Chuck and Ariel in L.A. for a week of fun. We toured Hollywood, Santa Monica Pier, and other “must see” sites. One thing I wanted to do was to visit Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank. It has the iconic sign.

I had no idea when I made pilgrimage to Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank that I would meet Quentin Tarantino. Our server informed us that many celebrities had lunch there. Jay Leno started doing a car show there, back when he hosted the Tonight Show.

I went there to eat a burger and got to meet a celebrity.

Prayer is way better than meeting a celebrity.

Mr. Tarantino was cordial, but he wouldn’t let me take a selfie with him, or give an autograph. He wasn’t there to meet with me, he was there to eat a hamburger and to work on his notes.

What I had hoped was that Quentin Tarantino would have said, “sit down here. Why don’t you tell me all about yourself. Do you have any good ideas for a movie? I’d love to hear them. How about your family? Are they here with you?”

That did not happen.

Jesus, the living Son of God, the savior of the world, God in the flesh, King of Kings, Lord of Lords – has an overwhelming desire to meet with us. Andrew Murray calls this meeting “the wonderful privilege of prayer.”

In Revelation 3, we see Jesus outside the door of His church in Laodecia. He has had some sharp words for them. They are in bad shape; they are the dictionary definition of apathy, as regarding their spiritual climate.

The famous picture of Jesus knocking at the door was taken from this verse, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20 KJV) We apply this to one’s personal salvation, but when you examine the text, you discover that Jesus is looking for someONE… just ONE that will give Him entry into the dying church, and eat a wonderful meal; to commune with Him.

Prayer is an invitation to the mercy seat. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father; the place of mercy. In the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, God had given them a beautiful portrait of intercession. “You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim…” Exodus 25:21,22.

Its not the judgment seat He longs to meet you at, its the mercy seat!

In Revelation and in Exodus, it would appear that God is the primary speaker. He’s going to “speak with” us, He’s going to “sup” with us. All we have to do is open the door.

Maybe you view prayer as something reserved for the Spiritual Special Forces. The heart beat of prayer is one opening the door to Jesus, fully aware of our unworthiness, and receiving what He has to give us.

Jesus brings the bread, Jesus brings the beverage, Jesus brings the conversation.

This is why the writer of Hebrews said, “let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16.

Boldness is arrogance or disrespect; its confidence. The confidence isn’t in ourselves, it is in the one who has extended the invitation!

One far greater than Quentin Tarantino or Darius Walden is waiting to meet with you today! Let us pray!

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