Dr. Paul Perkins

Following In The Way of Jesus

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

Fun mirrors, are really not that fun. They skew the image of whatever stands in front of it. Short, tall, skinny, fat, but they never make you look better than you really are. Of course, regular mirrors may not accomplish a positive outcome either. Mirrors serve only to reveal what is, not what we wish to be. 

  • “Mirror, Mirror in the wall, whose the fairest of them all?”

Never ask a question you don’t want the answer to. The reality is always different than the dream. Yet, God knows the reality, the future that hides behind the mirror.

  • “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” 1 Corinthians 13:12.

 One of these days we will truly know the fullness of God’s love and grace. Until then we are constantly being transformed into his image, through His indwelling Spirit. Paul said,

  •  “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,” Romans 8:29

One of the ways God’s image is reflected is through the institution of marriage. One man, one woman brought together and bound by ceremony and Spirit. It is a triunion of essence in the fashion (not substance) of The Trinity. That is why God is so invested in healthy marriages, and why he admonishes us in it’s maintenance. Men love their wives like Christ loves the church. A Bride whom He has sanctified with his blood. Wives obey their husbands like the church obeys Christ, with honor and dignity. 

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The Scriptures are tough on marriage. The standard seems impossible to reach, when Jesus said that divorce can only take place in the face of sexual immorality, the disciples were astonished. They questioned whether anyone should marry. But why is the standard so high?

God’s Holiness. If Marriage is a reflection of God’s unity, then to guard its sanctity should be our utmost concern. The church should fight for its identity, it’s stability, and it’s endurance. To change its nature or structure is to look in the fun mirror and admire a warped view. That’s why, we at St. John, provide opportunities to strengthen and save marriages. We do it for you. We do it for God’s glory....I’m just saying. 

When We Go To War

There are times that it is appropriate for Christians to go to war. Of course, I am referring to spiritual warfare. We wake up every day in the middle of a battlefield, where the enemy is relentless and shrewd. If we aren’t careful, aware, and diligent, we will fall prey to the enemies schemes. 

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As I said on Sunday there are three areas that not only take us to war, but war with our brothers and sisters. As Joshua and Phenehas did, we are to confront sin when it rears its ugly head. The three actions are: immorality, idolatry, and false teaching. It is important to qualify something here.

We go to war with brothers and sister, only when there is known sin, and the brother/sister is unrepentant. We don’t abandon love, grace, and forgiveness. Rather, they are some of our greatest weapons. God’s character of love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness are never diminished as he displays his judgement. Rather his judgment is a tool to correct and discipline his children, upon which they are offered grace and mercy through repentance and confession.  

Therefore, we, His children, are to emulate the same behavior, and walk in the power of our risen savior. Then we will see sin confronted and brother/sisters cared for. Christians are more a peace keeping force. We offer peace and a family, and when conflict arises, we confront it with the hope of reconciliation. Iam just saying,,, We 

Believe In God

Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” John 14:1-3.

Few of us live in secluded areas where there isn't any crime. Trouble surrounds us. School shootings, natural catastrophes, rape, murder, abortion, drug abuse; trouble is everywhere, if we want to take notice. It strikes fear at night, and it haunts our dreams; if we are involved.

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Jesus steps onto the scene, a troubled time for the Israelites, and tells his disciples not to let their hearts be troubled. “In the world you will have trouble, but I have over come the world” (John 16:33). Easier said than done when you are faced with real problems, people trying to hurt you, or your family is explosive, few people will even talk to you, or your friends have packed up and moved away. But the remedy to the trouble is not advice or counseling, but God himself. The catalyst for healing is our faith in Jesus, and a promise of hope.

The answer is a place in God’s presence, and the promise of a room in his house. Can you imagine being invited to the White House for dinner? All the fancy table wear, a full staff to serve you, and the special clothes. I would be dumb struck. The honor and privilege to be in the president’s home. But, what if at dinner he stood up and called you by name. “Andrew, I’m aware of your hard life, but I want you to know that I have prepared a room for you next to my son’s. You are part of the family.” It would be unbelievable.

This is exactly what God has promised us. He has prepared a room next to His Son’s. We have nothing to worry about, ever again. The book of Revelation says, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). Are you blessed? Do you belong to the family of God? If you do, you have no more troubles, because your future is secure. If you don't, all you need to do is trust in Jesus’ act of love and power.

The promise, however, is future. Until he returns, or calls us home, we are responsible for living out our faith in such away that people see our good works and give glory to God. Our purpose is to see new believers become fully devoted followers of Jesus, who in turn Disciple others. Why? Because we know the future, and the outcome of a troubled world. Therefore, we watch for his return, but keep focused on the work he has called us to do, even though it seems so long. It has been over 2000 years already. But be encouraged, the Apostle Peter wrote,

  • But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:8,9.

I love this verse because it puts things into proper perspective. We look at life from our own vantage point, while God looks at it from an eternal perspective. Time is of no consequence to Him, whether one day or a thousand.  But, there is a reason for his tardiness. It is for the sake of the perishing. There are still people who will come to faith, so we need to be patient. Peter continues,

  • But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter3:10-13.

In order for our future home to be realized, Jesus has to return and bring judgment on those who have not believed. In order to make room for our new home he will destroy this creation. It will be judged and cleansed with fire. The result will be a new heaven and earth, one where sin and death no longer exist. But there is a caveat. We need to reach out to people now and live lives of holiness and godliness.

Living faithful lives for God now is the price we pay for a beautiful heavenly home in the future. So, what does living a holy life in a troubled world look like? It's about good character, trust, and faith. It's about loving your neighbors, doing good to those who persecute you, and forgiving just as God, in Christ forgave us.

We are also called to live in community, which in our culture, especially the church, isn't as easy as we think. Most churches call themselves a community, but after their Sunday morning activities they scamper home and huddle around their own activities. Living in community is much bigger than we can ever imagine. The rewards are great if we are able to live and persevere through the hard times.

Troubles come and go, but God is eternal. We may face trouble or we may live a life free of the world’s care. Either way we have this great promise of living with the Father. Through the strength of the Holy Spirit we can remain faithful every day.

There are days that I begin to lose heart. The weight of ministry, the difficulties of keeping a body of believers together, feels heavy on my shoulders. It would be easy to give up, to walk away and live like the world. But God has called me to something greater. I am part of His plan to disciple people. He has given me everything spiritual blessing that I need for today. And He has given a promise to live in his house in the future. All because of what Jesus did. Now if that doesn't change everything, I don’t know what does.

Here Comes The Bride

  • The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come…He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:17,20).

I enjoy my life. There are problems for sure, but nothing that would have me on my knees begging Jesus to come today. I know there are places in the world where that isn't so. There are some who believe that the United States is on the cusp of the same type of persecution. It seems to always be that way.

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As I grow older it becomes more apparent that the reality of Jesus’ return is preferable than this life, growing old is God’s way of weaning us of this life; it's so true. It is with this perspective that our older generation can give us encouragement. Youth are bold and daring, until they settle down with a family. Family life is all consuming, until you reach middle age and the kids leave home. Our senior years are reflective about legacies and grandchildren. And finally, our eyes will close and we will stand in the presence of our savior. That's life in a nutshell.

Whatever Lifestage you are in, my advice, enjoy it. Take life by the horns and seize the day! Love the Lord! Love others! Love your family! And smile, Jesus is coming soon. This changes everything!

Junk or Treasure

I spent some time clearing out some junk in the loft. I should have done it before I started putting up drywall, but that would have easier and I don’t do easy. There was recessed lighting (the old stuff), conduit, wood, and an assortment of left over construction items. I looked at every piece, because you never know what you can make from it. It might not be junk, it could be treasure. 

When we lived in Houston, the morning that our neighborhood put out garbage, there were one or two trucks that would come through and scavenge items they could fix and sell. The symbiotic relationship was amazing. What I thought was junk they could turn into a treasure. I thought maybe I could do it and save some money. Then I remember why I threw it out in the first place.

  • When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, Psalm 8:3-6
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The Psalmist asks a penetrating question, what is man that God would even think about him? In terms of comparison we are ants, no, less than that before God. Yet, he regards us because we have been created in his image. Sin has us believing a lie. We are not junk. Man is crowned with glory and honor. The problem is that we live as if we are junk. Yes, we might be a little tainted, rusted, and dirty from years of living in a fallen world. But underneath the mess is a jewel designed to live in relationship with God. It is the blood of Christ that washes away our sin. It is the ultimate googone. 

Today we have a choice. Either to live as if life is meaningless and we are but cosmic dust collectors, or to live how God has created us, in His image and children of the King. I know how I am going to live. I’m just saying.

Water water everywhere

No, this is not about the hurricane off the east coast. But it is about distribution issues. All over the world relief agencies send food to countries with starving people, but it never reaches its intended target audience. Corrupt governments and inefficiency contribute to an already distressing issue. Then there is Puerto Rico, in our own back yard. After hurricane Maria deviststed the island 20,000 bottles of water sat on the docks waiting to be distributed. Doesn’t sound like much in the grand scheme of things, but 20,000 bottles of water could be the difference between life and death.

Can you imagine, desperately needing water and not being able to get to it?  Jesus said that he is the living water, and anyone who drinks from him will never thirst again. Thirsty people all over the world and in our own backyard, desperately need what Jesus has to offer, but there is a distribution problem. There are too many Christian enjoying the refreshing waters of life but are not willing to share it with their neighbors, their friends. It’s an outrage when FEMA fails to deliver bottles of water, how much more an outrage if the Church fails to distribute the living water. I’m just saying...

On The Way

Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:12,13).

Three times in the book of Revelation the phrase Alpha and Omega is used. The third time, quoted above, is a statement by Jesus. It is proceeded by a promise to return and a promise to judge people for their actions. The first time is quoted below and is attributed to God. It too is proceeded by a promise of Jesus’ return and an explanation that the whole world will see him and wail, presumably out of remorse, for crucifying him.

  • Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. Revelation 1:7,8

The second time it is used, it is spoken by the one sitting on the throne who promises to make all things new, give water to the thirsty and to judge the unrepentant.

  • And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also, he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. Revelation 21:5-8.

The phrase indicates the nature and ability of the one described. The beginning and end, the first and last are references to the eternality of God. In the context, it is a statement of Jesus’ divinity.  He is the almighty God who has both the authority and ability to bring blessing and judgment. To those who have by faith given their lives to following Jesus, he gives life. To those who have rejected the gift of salvation he brings retribution and condemnation.

At times, when things are going well, it is easy to forget that our blessings come from the Father. But when times are tough, when we wonder if life is worth living, we cling to the promises of God’s coming. We long for the new earth where every tear will be wiped away and all injustice will be redeemed. In those moments, it is natural for us to think of heavenly things.

Yet, the kingdom of God is at hand. Through the indwelling Spirit we live out the reality of the Kingdom everyday. We enjoy life because we know its true meaning. We live for God's glory in everything that we do, and reap the reward of seeing his love manifest through us to other people in hopes that they too will follow Jesus. There is great joy when we experience the reality of the kingdom on earth.

We shouldn't, however, forget our purpose and mission. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega and brings judgment on the unrighteous. If not for His patience fewer people will enter the kingdom of God. If we forget our purpose we will waste our time, lose sight of the opportunities around us, and the condemnation of the unsaved will be the result of our complacency. When the time comes for the alpha and omega to be revealed in his glory, will we be found faithful?

The writer of Hebrews said, “it is appointed unto men once to die and then the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27). We will all stand before the judgement seat of Christ and be held accountable for our lives. Those who have been redeemed will be ushered into their reward, but those who have not been redeemed will be cast out into the second death. Where the torment of the soul is eternal.

Objections are often raised concerning the cruelty of God and the barbaric nature of an eternal death. Of course, there isn't a complaint about eternal life. The idea of eternal death can be repulsive. Yet, for many, the repulsive nature of stern damnation doesn't motivate them to share the gospel. They would rather picket God's actions than warn others about the consequences and offer them an alternative.

I am little better. Am I willing to step out of my comfort zone to see others come to know Jesus? How often to do I pass up opportunities to share the gospel because I don't feel like it, it’s inconvenient, or because I am turned off by the individual? The Apostle Paul said, “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness” (Romans 11:22). We don't question his kindness, so we shouldn't question his severity. It should, however, motivate us to preach the good news, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others” (2 Corinthians 5:11).

There is comfort and concern in knowing the Alpha and the Omega. Comfort to those who have received salvation through their faith in the gospel of Christ. Concern for those who have rejected that faith and fall under God's wrath and condemnation. Their destiny is the fires of hell.

Where is your destiny? Does it lie in the promise of God’s compassion and grace, or in God's promise of judgment and wrath? Everyone faces moments in their life where they must make a choice between the way of life or the way of darkness. If you are reading this and have never accepted God's gift of salvation this is your moment of decision. All you have to do is confess that you are a sinner, that you have rebelled against God's will, and that you believe that Jesus died for your sins and rose again to the glory of God. Then the adventure begins! I'm telling you, Jesus changes everything.

It’s not about me

I’m sitting here thinking about all the opportunities we have put together for the people in the congregation to deepen their walk with Jesus. That is my desire, to find faithful people who will commit to the discipleship process. Paul’s admonition rings in my ears:

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2.

There are a lot of faithful men and women in our congregation, and they have committed themselves to a variety of ministries. Some of them intentially toward discipleship and others in support of the same. Yet, there are others who, for one reason or another, count the cost too high a price to commit to anything but the smallest time constraints. But it’s not about me. 

The last statement is the hardest, because it causes me to take a hard look at my own motives. I mean, I was hired to lead the congregation to a deeper walk with Jesus. Therefore, I need to have bustling programs, full of people, chomping at he bit to be in one of my groups. After all my third year is right around the corner. But it’s not about me. 

Life gets in the way of discipleship. There just aren’t enough hours in the day for everyone to be doing everything. Each of us has to decide before God what is the most important.  Still, Paul tells Timothy to find faithful men. I have found a few, but I still want a few more. I want to see men rise up and be bold about their faith. But it’s not about me, and in the end I will take who God provides, not for me, but for the glory of the Father. Because we do what we do for Him. I’m just saying....

Poppin’, Poppin’ Differently

I voted today. Shirley’s popcorn unveiled four new flavors created by their employees. Customers could come in and vote for their favorite. There was dill and cheddar, chocolate and raspberry, chocolate and something else, and the chocolate volcano (it was hot). Very seldom can you go wrong with chocolate, but when I cast my vote it was for...well that’s a secret.

I like popcorn and Rebecca makes the best Carmel Popcorn around. It takes a long time to prepare so I settle for the simple, plain variety with lots of salt and butter, MMMMMM. There is a secret to popping good popcorn. It’s all about timing. Pop it to quick and you leave half of the seeds in the bottom, and the first ones are usually small. Pop it too long, trying to get that stubborn last kernel and you can burn the whole pot. The challenge is that the kernels pop at different rates. Something to do with the amount of moister in each kernel. It takes a discerning ear to listen for the right moment when most have popped, but none have started to burn. 

People are like popcorn, at least when it comes to spiritual matters. We all pop differently. When some people become Christians God calls them into active ministry and they grow quickly in their faith. Then there are those who take forever to grow. It would seem that they are duds and then...POP! Frustration is a word to use when dealing with slow poppers. But God grows and uses people in His timing.  (A word of caution. If you say you haven’t popped yet, then you are aware of the need to pop and you are using it as an excuse).

When people pop it is the most exciting moment. They get it. They understand what God is doing and are ready to be available for whatever he wants. They are disciples looking to follow their master. Seeking the kingdom becomes their first priority. The wants of the world begin to fade, and the hope of Jesus is all consuming. I am not talking perfection, but persistence, and dependence on the Holy Spirit becomes a way of life.

Have you popped? ...I’m just saying. 

One Unmovable Force

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I was flipping through CNN’s pictures of the week and two stood out to me. I have put them together above. The one is a shot of a volcano flowing hot in the night sky. It is a beautiful shot, an awe inspiring photograph. I have always been fascinated by volcanoes, because they are a force in nature that is unstoppable. Lava spewing from the molten layers beneath the earth, pouring down the mountain, consuming everything in its path. There is nothing that man can do to stop it.

The second picture was taken atop of the rotunda where Senator McCain’s casket lay in state. There has been a lot of talk about his life, his service, and his legacy. What you don’t hear anyone talk about is that one unmovable force of nature, death. Like the volcano it can not be stopped. No matter how hard man tries, it comes to us all and is inevitable. It doesn’t stand majestic, but in the silent reflection of what awaits us all. Even to a Christian, death is a mystery one would rather postpone. Life is precious, and more so appreciated in contrast to death. 

Two unmovable forces of nature, yet they are but pebbles in a path before God. Psalm 104:31-33 says, “May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works, who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke! I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.” In the Old Testament there are descriptions of God touching the earth in judgement that sound like the eruption of a volcano. He alone can  touch a mountain and set off a volcanic eruption. He has power over the elements of the earth because he created it.

Death is much the same. The curse brought about judgement and judgement death to all men, that all men die. But God in his infinite grace conquered sin and death when Jesus died and rose from the grave. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”  Death could not stop him and the grave could not hold him. God is not an unstopped force of nature. He stands outside of his creation, and is wholly unstoppable. 

When the end comes, volcanos will disappear. When Christ returns death will be vanquished once and for all. But until that day we will stand in awe of an unstoppable God, and give him glory above all else. I’m just saying. 

 

Oh, Beautiful America

“Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.” America the Beautiful 

I was reading an article about how the U.S. uses its land. It’s amazing how little of it is actually used to house people. The majority is used to feed cattle. I do like my hamburger. It just reminded me of the above song, and how blessed we are as a country. Despite our problems, our divisions, our disputes, riots, and differences we are all blessed to live in the the United States of America. 

I think we forget that when we argue about who will lead, or what vision we have for the future. Those questions are important, but we often raise alarms that are meant to scare and manipulate rather than bring hope and a future. Maybe a little dose of third reality would be good for us all. 

Yes, I am very thankful. But, to whom am I thankful? It is God’s grace that has amply supplied our storehouses. It is God’s grace that has built our economy. It is God’s grace that brings order in our chaotic system of government. It is God’s grace that has allowed the U.S. to survive these past 200 plus years. It is God’s grace that will determine what future we will have. So, in order to remain in the good grace of God, it is another kingdom we must pursue above all else.

”Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.”  

If we forsake the values of the kingdom for a false sense of security in the Republicans or Democrats, in gun rights or civil rights, we will be led down the wrong path. These institutions will only prosper by God’s grace. Join with me, then, in seeking a kingdom that provides more than the U.S. will ever be able to supply.  Let’s follow Jesus with a reckless abandon. I’m just saying...

It Changed Everything

Does Jesus make a difference? I suppose it depends on your relationship with him. We all have stories. Stories of family, stories of faith, even stories of joy and tragedy. In each of these stories lies a deep need to connect with something bigger than ourselves. Here is my story.

My family was typical of the 1950s. Mom and dad, three boys and a dog. My father was a Sargent in the United States Air Force. My mom was a nurse. My dad didn't have any religious affiliation and my mom was raised in a small town Methodist Church. They were products of a religious moral society, at least on the outside. They believed in a God, in family, in their commitment to one another in marriage. They loved us boys as best they could and hoped for the rest.

My father spent most of my childhood stationed oversees, leaving my mom to cope with three rowdy boys. She went through a depression, and unlike today there were no support groups. She took her frustrations out on my oldest brother. I remember her dragging him by the hair, he hadn't done something right. In return he took his anger out on his two younger brothers, I being the youngest.

There was always this undercurrent of anger in our home. My brothers turned to drugs, my mom to drinking, and I poured myself into materialism. There was strength in possessing what others wished they had. My brothers always came to me for money, and I could trigger their kindness or anger. When it came down to it we were all lonely people looking for something.

As a military child, who moved about every two years, the one thing we longed for and lacked were relationships with our peers. As an adult, military personel were able to form quick bonds and release them as quickly when they left. For me it was another reason to isolate myself. Why make friends if they wouldn't last. And even the friendships I did make were shallow and self fulfilling.

After several confrontations with the law, drugs, and errant children my dad decided to retire. He wanted to spend time with the family, but it was too late. In the end he died from a heart attack, 55 years old and an alcoholic. Years before his death, mom had asked if anyone wanted to go to church with her. It was an intriguing proposition. I had toyed with mysticism, atheism, and Christianity. Since she was going, I thought. I might as well. 

Over the course of a month we visited a Methodist church, Presbyterian church, and a Southern Baptist Church. They were all the same and reminded me of the military services we seldom attended. It was the Southern Baptist Church where the Youth Pastor came to visit. He was a nice man with a thick southern drawl. He invited me to attend their youth group. I politely said I would think about it.

There was no good reason for me to go. I didn’t know anyone. Christian teens at my school were weird. I had a girlfriend and my self-serving lifestyle was doing alright for me. But I went, and the girls were cute and friendly. And it was because of them that I kept going back. There was nothing special about the program. We sat in a circle and Pastor Larry taught out of the Bible. Afterward we would go get ice cream. If I was looking for a church with a lot of pizzazz, that wasn't it.

There was something different about these kids. They genuinely loved each other, and they showed it to me. When I didn't come I got a call. When I did come I was greeted like a prince. In this group I received something that I deeply longed for—real friends. I was starved for authentic relationships. I had a girlfriend who was already planning our wedding. But our relationship was shallow. It eventually ended.

Then one day it clicked. It was as if scales dropped from my eyes and the darkness that had blinded me was gone. I could see for the first time why my life was shaped like it was. Sin had trashed my family, and I felt it on the outside. My life was marked by my sinful attitude and lusts. I needed a savior and the father sent his son. I needed a family and God gave me the church.

I was never a terribly bad individual. Unlike my brothers I didn't do drugs, drink, womanize, and run the tight edge of the law. In fact, when I became a Christian my behavior didn't change that much. What changed was how I saw the world. I understood the root of my family’s dysfunction. I knew that it would never change on its own. And I knew if I didn't get out of there I would end up like them.

So, one day I went to brother Larry's office and asked what I needed to do to be saved. From that day on I poured my life into the church. I learned what forgiveness meant, what real love is, how to deal with anger and confess when it boiled to the surface. I have been a Jesus follower now for 43 years, married to a wonderful women, three boys who love the Lord, their wives and their children. There have been rough patches, questioning roads, winding paths, but never have I ever doubted my faith in Jesus. He changed everything for me, and I will always be eternally grateful.

Sounds likes a dream come true, but life is always about the day after “happily ever after.” Tragedy tests our faith. Four nephews and one niece all died before they were twenty-five. Drinking and drugs can take a terrible toll on people. They shatter lives and destroy families.

My youngest son developed type 1 diabetes, and that changed our lives. My glorious entrance into the church eroded as I found that people are messy, everyone needs a savior, and that the road to the Kingdom of God is fraught with dangers and pitfalls. As I get older I wrestle with health issues, aches and pains that will be with me for the rest of my life. Yet, through it all Jesus has made all the difference. Hope is powerful. Hope in an all powerful, all loving, all caring God is life changing; life sustaining. I’m just saying.

From the book, “This Changes Everything.”

Drywall Dilemma

I am so glad my son came this weekend. Even though he hasn’t ever put up drywall, he is very exacting. We would pump this project out in no time. The first night was exhausting, we didn’t put up nearly as much drywall as we expected. I guess I hadn’t thought too much about prep-work. He, on the other hand, wanted to make sure we did it right and so most of the evening was about set up, and sweat. Ok, the next day would be better.

It was definitely cooler. The attic was only in the low 90’s. we waited for the evening to begin. The work light was set up, tools were located, and the drywall was measured and cut. Or should I say was measured, measured, and measured then cut. From the garage to the loft we forgot the measurements. It was going to be one of those nights. I should have known when we measured from stud to stud only to find they weren’t all 16 on center. That made lining everything up a little more challenging. By the end of the evening we were drenched again, and had run out of drywall. My son was leaving the next day.

We got up early and went to Menards, bought more drywall, mud, and tape, lots of tape.  It took us another three hours to put up five pieces of drywall. I don’t know what kind of record that is but we stepped back, proud of our accomplishment, all the crooked cuts, jagged edges, and shorted areas. It was one of the most enjoyable times I have had with my son in a long time. 

Too much parenting today is about running your children from one activity to another. You spend quality time with them while you travel inbetween stuff. If we aren’t careful the church can contribute to the problem. Parents need to do less for their children and do more with them. It might take longer but the time and experience will be rewarded ten fold.  

This weekend we sat on the front porch and did nothing but talk about life and dreams, and about what God was doing in their lives. It was hard to see them drive off, but I know they rest secure in their Heavenly Father’s hands. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I, just saying...

 

Porthos sat at the window, gaze straight, and body shaking. Crossing the yard was a family of turkeys. The father strutted in front, leading his family dutifully toward the woods across the road. The mother lagged behind with her turklets (baby turkeys), making a gobble that sounded much like, “hurry up, your father doesn’t want to stop for a bathroom break.” The babies, as would be expected, didn’t listen and pecked at one another.  Mom turns around and snaps at the major perpetrator, threatening to turn the trip around, and everyone fell in line; father totally unaway of the whole affair.

Porthos went from room to room, not wanting to miss any opportunity to slip out and make a morsel out one of the slower fowl. To his shagrin the family of Turkey’s made their way across the road and out of sight. With nothing else to capture his limited imagination Porthos laid in the corner, surely dreaming of a very large drumstick. 

Porthos wasn’t the only one watching these family antics. A table of six watched with delight as they passed by. We were amazed at God’s creation, the order, the beauty, and the commonality of behavior between higher and lower species. In no way are these fowl on par with humans, for we are created in the image of God. Yet, their behavior was, what I call, soulish. Predisposed toward human behavior, yet not having the brain capacity to understand what is happening.  

The family structure, however, has parallels, and too often the father is ahead but not leading.  One of the major complaints of wives is that their husbands don’t lead spiritually. They wish we would pray more with them, have daily devotions, and initiate spiritual conversations. I know because it has been that way in our house as well. Our culture has taught us that spirituality is for the weak. This thinking creeps in to the Christian family, and without intention, husbands and fathers fall into a pattern devoid of spiritual leadership. To the Corinthian men, Paul said,

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13,14.

It is the responsibility of men to take spiritual leadership by being watchful, standing firm in the faith and being strong. This is an act of manhood, and the strength is proven in our capacity to love. I have the privilege of being in a church family where a lot of men take spiritual leadership in their home. But there is an increasingly disproportionate group of male leadership coming up through the next generation. Let us who are mature disciple those who need to grow, that they too will be strong, godly men, who long to see their families grow in Christ. I’m just saying...

 

Disconnected

Rebecca was straightening her office and asked if I would move the internet modem. You wouldn’t think it that big of a deal, but I had to disconnect it in order to move it. It was a nightmare to get my internet service in the first place. Just thinking about pulling the plug sent chills down my back (hyperbole). What if it doesn’t work when I plug it back in? What if we are disconnected from the world for a second time? 

Think about it. We have email, Facebook, weather, google maps, Snapchat (whatever that is), and of course online shopping. What’s even worse is that Alexa would be disconnected and I would have to turn a light switch myself! Just the thought of it frightens me (more hyperbole).

What if, and I am just brainstorming here. What if I worried this much about being disconnected from God? Paul tells us that we are to pray without ceasing. It’s the constant connection through the Spirit that gives us our direct line to the Father. It’s also the least used, not because the signal is bad, but because we’re not plugged in.

What’s great is that God’s signal is always available and He doesn’t penalize us for using up too much bandwidth. In fact prayer is the fastest form of communication ever developed. But when we don’t use it, speed doesn’t matter. Three ways to help stay connected:

Pray. Start talking to God. I know, sometimes it seems one sided, but until you develop a spiritual sensitivity to the Spirit, you will never hear his still quiet voice. Set aside time and pray. 

 Read your Bible. It’s all about what God wants you to know, about him and about life. Reading a verse a day is great, but slowing down and digesting the word is necessary to be connected to God.

Meditate. This is different than prayer. Meditation takes the word of God and mulls it over in your mind. You think about it when you wake, when you work, and when you go to bed. Meditation allows the Spirit of God to work through His word to speak to your heart.  

By the way, I got my internet moved, restarted and I’m online. Just saying... 

 

Almost But Not Quite

Thee times when I was a boy I heard the phrase,  “almost, Son, but not quite.” The first time was when I decided to play baseball. Fourth grade shouldn’t have been a difficult time for a budding sportsman. But every time the ball was pitched to me, all I could think of was it hitting me in the head. I shrunk away as the bat wildly swung at the ball. I wasn’t any better at catching, there seemed to be a hole in my glove. So, I was given the position of right fielder. No one ever hit to right field, “Am I good enough to play first base, dad?” It was a coveted position. “Almost, Son, but not quite. Right field is the best place for you.” 

If baseball wasn’t my sport, maybe basketball. A basketball wouldn’t hurt as much as a baseball. Did you know if you done catch the ball when it comes at your face it can really hurt. I probably ran around the court more than any other child, only to find myself under the basket waiting for a pass that never came. During actual games I never played unless we were way ahead or way behind, and then only the last 2 minutes. The minimum amount a time a child had to play. “Dad, aren’t I good enough to play more?” “Almost, Son, but not quite. Keep working on your shot.” 

The third time was in the third grade, when we lived in Altas Oklahoma. Uncle Bob (not a real uncle, but a close friend of my dads) came over a lot, and he would always play, “let’s make a deal.” “Do you want what’s in my right pocket or in my left?” “Your left.” It was a small toy, but in his right pocket was a wad of dollar bills. “Oh,” my father laughed. “Almost, but not quite.” Everyone else laughed too, everyone but me.

Third, fourth and fifth grade were really hard years for me, and one lesson I learned was, “no matter how hard you try you will never be good enough. It’s easier to be a failure than to achieve your goals, because not everyone is a winner, especially me.” I think that is why I wasn’t surprised when I read the verse,  “for all have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God” (Roman 3:23). What surprised me was that no one measured up. It gave me an unsettling joy that I wasn’t alone as a failure.

What has dawned on me is that God doesn’t see me as a failure. He sees me as worse, a sinner and an enemy. But he did everything that he could to provide a way of escape. A way far from that of a failure.  

  • But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I may have been, or see to be, a failure, but in Christ I have become more. It isn’t my own effort, but based on the act of God, in Christ. I am thankful that my Heavenly Fathler didn’t stop at “Almost, Son, but not quite.” He made a way through Christ. That’s something to rejoice about. I’m just say...

Almost But Not Quite

Thee times when I was a boy I heard the phrase,  “almost, Son, but not quite.” The first time was when I decided to play baseball. Fourth grade shouldn’t have been a difficult time for a budding sportsman. But every time the ball was pitched to me, all I could think of was it hitting me in the head. I shrunk away as the bat wildly swung at the ball. I wasn’t any better at catching, there seemed to be a hole in my glove. So, I was given the position of right fielder. No one ever hit to right field, “Am I good enough to play first base, dad?” It was a coveted position. “Almost, Son, but not quite. Right field is the best place for you.” 

If baseball wasn’t my sport, maybe basketball. A basketball wouldn’t hurt as much as a baseball. Did you know if you done catch the ball when it comes at your face it can really hurt. I probably ran around the court more than any other child, only to find myself under the basket waiting for a pass that never came. During actual games I never played unless we were way ahead or way behind, and then only the last 2 minutes. The minimum amount a time a child had to play. “Dad, aren’t I good enough to play more?” “Almost, Son, but not quite. Keep working on your shot.” 

The third time was in the third grade, when we lived in Altas Oklahoma. Uncle Bob (not a real uncle, but a close friend of my dads) came over a lot, and he would always play, “let’s make a deal.” “Do you want what’s in my right pocket or in my left?” “Your left.” It was a small toy, but in his right pocket was a wad of dollar bills. “Oh,” my father laughed. “Almost, but not quite.” Everyone else laughed too, everyone but me.

Third, fourth and fifth grade were really hard years for me, and one lesson I learned was, “no matter how hard you try you will never be good enough. It’s easier to be a failure than to achieve your goals, because not everyone is a winner, especially me.” I think that is why I wasn’t surprised when I read the verse,  “for all have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God” (Roman 3:23). What surprised me was that no one measured up. It gave me an unsettling joy that I wasn’t alone as a failure.

What has dawned on me is that God doesn’t see me as a failure. He sees me as worse, a sinner and an enemy. But he did everything that he could to provide a way of escape. A way far from that of a failure.  

  • But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I may have been, or see to be, a failure, but in Christ I have become more. It isn’t my own effort, but based on the act of God, in Christ. I am thankful that my Heavenly Fathler didn’t stop at “Almost, Son, but not quite.” He made a way through Christ. That’s something to rejoice about. I’m just say...

Mowing Woes

Do you know how much grass there is when you mow two acres? Let’s just say it can be backbreaking, especially when a city boy decides to bag a two acre lawn. I love my lawn, and I like the way it looks when it is freshly mowed. There is something about the clean lines. Then it rains. I like the rain too, at least until I remember the grass will grow faster and it starts all over again. A never ending cycle.

When you have lush green grass it is easy to see the cycle as something you have to bear under. But when you live in the desert, rain is a precious commodity. It is a blessing because it causes the grass to grow and your livestock is fed. When you live in a land of rock and sand, you look to the sky, and pray that it opens its wealth to nourish the earth. It reminds me of the Psalmist:

  • May he be like rain that falls
  • on the mown grass,
  • like showers that water the earth!
  • In his days may the righteous flourish,
  • and peace abound, till the moon be no more!   Psalm 72:6

The Psalmist extols the virtue of God’s blessing in the descriptive narrative of rain and mown lawn. The writer prays that God will be like the rain. He isn’t praying for rain, rather he is asking for God to fall on him and bring the kind of presence that causes refreshing and  growth. The request isn’t for a season, or even two, but until the moon itself ceases to exist. Imagine God answering that kind of prayer. What would it be like? How would it feel to have the presence of God with you all the time, to find refuge and refreshing whenever you need it?

  • If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, John 14:16
  • These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26
  • Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.. John 16:7-14

As followers of Jesus the Holy Spirit of God indwells us. In our dry times, He is ready to pour out the refreshing rain that comes from the Father. We are never alone, we are never without hope, and His presence is with us until the moon no longer exists. He is our rain on a freshly mown lawn.

In His day, the day of our savior’s return, the righteous will flourish and peace will abound. But in this day, we have the blessing of His righteousness in us, through us, and delivered through our testimonies to those who will listen.

Do you feel dry, abandoned, lost without hope? Ask the Father and he will send the refreshing presence of His Spirit, and as you walk in Him, you will be strengthened with every spiritual gift under the sun. Bring on the rain. I’m just saying…

Power That Moves You

Do you know what happens when you plug in an electrical cord and one of the frayed ends is touching the metal bench you’re working on? I haven’t felt that much energy coarse through my body since...let’s just say a long time. My arm ached a little as well as my chest. Even my Apple Watch was smoking (just kidding). You would have thought I’d be a little more careful, since minutes before I created a small electrical explosion and tripped the breaker switch. I think I will take a break from the lamp for a while.

My prayer is that God’s Spirit will come on me with that kind of power. The kind of power that makes your heart pound, your chest hurt, and fills you with more awe and wonder that you know what to do with. Jesus promised that kind of power to his disciples. 

  • “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).

And it happened, at Pentecost, the disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, were driven into the streets, where they preached the gospel of Jesus. We have that power, you know. Sometimes the Spirit hits you like a ton of bricks, but definitely He enters quietly at the moment of Salvation. Either way the power is ours. 

  • “That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Eph. 3:16).

We, also, have regular access to the power of God, but most of the time we turn away from it. We’re afraid of it, and hope that He will pass us by.  Fear grips us because we don’t know what he will call us to do. The power of the Spirit might drive us into the streets or send us around the world. 

  •  “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control“ (2 Timothy 1:7).

That’s the kind of power I want. I want self-control, so I can order my life and serve God better.  Then I want to love in such a way that lives will be touched and people healed. I want a Spiritual jolt of electricity that might not be pleasant, but it gives me new insight into my world. Let’s pray that God will give us an understanding of our faith that is electrifying and will awaken a desire to deepen our lives in Jesus. 

I am bound and determined to finish that Ohio State lamp/clock. This time I’ll be more careful. I’m just saying... 

 Waiting for the face. 

Waiting for the face. 

Of First Importance

I have a new todo app. I’m constantly trying to get myself organized, and this app seems to have it all. I can easily mark things in order of importance, due dates, even place them into a category called “someday.” It is the procrastination category, and has the most items in it. The app is also connected to my Apple Watch and I will get notifications, which can be really annoying. The other day I received a tip notification that read “people who have 5 or less items a day are more productive.” The app must not have liked all the tasks in the “someday” category.

trying to figure out what is the most important task of the day can be difficult, there are so many issues and problems that cry out to us each day. We scramble from one thing to another and hope that by the end of the day we have been more productive than not. It’s called the “tyranny of the urgent.” But what if we knew what was the most important task on the list? How would that change our day? How would it change our lives?

  • “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15;3,4). 

The Scriptures tell us that the most important information in our lives is the gospel.  That doesn’t help us with our task list, but it does inform it. Just think about it. What if you viewed everything from the lense of the gospel? In what manner would you complete your tasks? How would perform your work, treat your boss, your employees? What would your marriage look like, your parenting, or your grand parenting? Would you skip out on your classes,  cheat on a test, settle for “C” work? The gospel elevates everything because in it we have been elevated into the presence of God, and God expects excellence.

The world looks a whole lot different today. The Gospel is bringing everything into focus. Maybe, I will rethink my todo list. I’m just saying.

 

 

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