On one of my early morning walks, fog coated the trees with moisture. A revelation occurred! No, really, not a dream, but a real revelation. The fog hung on thousands of spider webs draped in the trees!

The fog revealed the most beautiful scene as the sun rose and hit the drenched webs! I took several pictures, I couldn’t resist!  (Click to see photo Here)

Of course, we know these webs were skillfully built and strategically placed to enslave a bug! When a bug hits the web, the spider rushes out, spins strands of web around and around the victim, and later, well, you know.

Thousands of webs have been skillfully built and strategically placed by the evil one to enslave us too.

Our eyes sparkle at the beautiful way each web looks, but then we grieve greatly when a friend, relative, we ourselves get entangled.

These webs are all too familiar!

  • A funny beer commercial entertains us on Monday Night Football, yet alcoholism traps our loved one.
  • A neat list of “do this and don’t do that” seems attractive, yet we end up as judgmental legalists.
  • A craving for a comfortable lifestyle draws many of us, yet we become apathetic about those in need.

But there’s good news! And the good news, ironically, is that freedom, real freedom, is found in becoming a slave to Jesus Christ.

So Christ has truly set us free.  Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. Galatians 5:1 NLT

When you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord, you enslave yourself to the perfect Son of God, then you become truly free!

Everyone serves someone or something! Serving Jesus makes us free! So don’t go right back into serving that old sin that spun a web around you in the past. Stay truly free in Christ!

Our Father, thank-you for setting us free from our sin and addictions. Show us how to use your power today to overcome that pesky thing that wants to enslave us again. Your salvation removed the penalty of sin, daily You give power to resist sin, and praise your Name, one day You will remove the presence of sin!!! Thank-you for real freedom in our Lord Jesus Christ!

Two-a-Days

Two-a-day’s. Boy, do I have vivid memories of two-a-day’s! In grades 8-12 I played football.  Every August we had an early morning practice and a late afternoon practice for two weeks.  We called those grueling, exhausting, get into shape, felt like we were going to die, football practices two-a-days.

Many times I wanted to quit! But the old football coach’s slogan would ring in my head, Quitters never win! Winners never quit!

How many times have you heard someone say, “Don’t give up!”  How many times have you have said it yourself?

How many times have each of us thought about giving up or wanted to give up?

The apostle Paul certainly had many reasons to give up in his life.  He was run out-of-town, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, snake bit, flogged, imprisoned, rejected, chained, starved … well, you get the picture.

Yet in the letter to the Philippians, while he is in prison, he gives one of the greatest pep talks in Scripture!

And then in the letter to the Galatians he tells them, “Don’t give up!”

So, let’s not get tired  of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone – especially to those in the family of faith. Galatians 6:9-10 NLT

Monday, I was on the receiving end of those who didn’t give up. The Disaster Relief Team showed up at my house to cut, haul, trim, and clean up … for four hours!  Thanks Gary Moore, Bill Gibbons, Harry Partlow, Jay Dirksen, Glen Barr, Dave Finton, and David Merkle!

I was humbled to be served by a group of Christian brothers who expected nothing in return.

So, let’s not get tired of doing what is good. Give God the glory in it. God will see to the harvest of the work, so trust Him. Now, don’t give up! I know you will feel like giving-up sometimes, but take each opportunity God puts into your day today, and do something good to someone. Especially do good stuff for your fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ!

Our Father, thank-you for doing good for us by sending Your Son Jesus to die for us and give us grace, forgiveness, and eternal life. Help us today to do good stuff just because we should and expect nothing in return. Thank-you for the promised harvest You will give in Your perfect timing.

T – R – O – U – B – L – E

Billie Sue’s grandfather, Lex Smith, loved to do word puzzles in his retirement years. He would sit for hours filling in the squares with letters.

In the those last days, he would spell the same word out loud over and over again. I can still hear him saying the letters again and again.

“T – R – O – U – B – L – E.”  “T – R – O – U – B – L – E.” “T – R – O – U – B – L – E.”

I’m not sure why he got stuck on that one word. But he did.

Jesus talked about “trouble” too.

Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34 HCSB

We can get stuck on tomorrow’s trouble too.  Jesus knows our tendencies. How easy it is for us to get focused on something that might or might not happen tomorrow. In doing so, we miss living today to the fullest!

Yes, tomorrow will come with its trouble, but why live it today in our minds before it actually happens? Plus, we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We could end up worrying about things that will never happen anyway!

I’m just as guilty as the rest of you. Worry sneaks into my thoughts when I don’t stay focused on the truth of God’s Word and His Son Jesus.

So, how do we do that?!

Remember the verse just before verse 34? Verse 34 begins with “Therefore.” So what is it “there for”? The solution and a very familiar verse:

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Matthew 6:33 HCSB

All those “things” we worry about God provides for us if we seek His kingdom and righteousness first.  First? Yes, instead of first worrying about things, we seek God’s kingship and righteousness first.

Someone observed, “Today is the Tomorrow you worried about Yesterday.”

Worry is all about putting “things” first instead of God’s will. Remember Jesus’ instructions on how to pray:

Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 HCSB

How do we “seek first the kingdom of God?” We seek to do His will on earth today! That’s an all-encompassing focus that takes up all our attention today. When we focus on doing His kingdom work today, we are not focused on the “things” that will “trouble” us tomorrow.

Jesus is in the life-changing business!

Our Father, we confess our sins of worry and ask your forgiveness. Thank-you that we don’t need to worry. The “things” of this world are temporary.  Your word and kingdom will last forever! We ask for your ever-present Spirit to teach to live by faith, not by worry.

Mighty Mouse, Superman, & the Road Runner

Cartoons fascinated me as a child. The make-believe world of animated characters, creatures, and super-human stunts still grab the attention of my grandchildren today.

Does anyone remember the Roadrunner dropping an anvil on the coyote? Or do you remember Mighty Mouse flying through the air at supersonic speed and punching the villain in the nose?

I vividly remember as a child wishing there really was a Superman or a Mighty Mouse to come at just the right moment and rescue people from their impossible circumstances!

This morning I read this wonderful promise:

God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. Psalm 18:30

It was written by David in praise to God when God rescued him from Saul and his army. But the description David gives of God rescuing him would be a challenge for any animator.

Check this out this imagery in Psalm 18:

Then the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the mountains shook; they quaked because of his anger.
Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from him.
He opened the heavens and came down; dark storm clouds were beneath his feet.
10 Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew, soaring on the wings of the wind.
11 He shrouded himself in darkness, veiling his approach with dark rain clouds.
12 Thick clouds shielded the brightness around him and rained down hail and burning coals.
13 The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded amid the hail and burning coals.
14 He shot his arrows and scattered his enemies; great bolts of lightning flashed, and they were confused.
15 Then at your command, O Lord, at the blast of your breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare.

The Holy Spirit inspired David to write this! We have our hero!  We have our rescuer! He is our Lord!  He is our God. Whether He rescues us from our here-and-now circumstances of life as He did with David or He rescues us ultimately in heaven, He is our hero!!!

Our Father, thank-you when you rescue us, heal us, or get us out of the messes we or someone else make. You are a great and awesome God beyond our imagination. Fill us with faith today in You. Whether our enemy is a physical illness, a human terrorist, an Ebola, a spiritual attack, or a discouragement, please give us the faith of David to face it knowing You are always with us.

 

Hey Doc, I Got this Pain …

Whether its aches and pains or a serious form of cancer, its often on our minds. Health is a big deal! We each are keenly aware of what’s going on inside our bodies. Sometimes we worry that we don’t know what’s going on with a particular discomfort.

One of our brothers lost consciousness in the worship service this past Sunday morning. We again are jolted with a reminder of how frail we are. We thank God he is ok.

Life on this earth is fleeting. How quickly a diagnosis can change everything!

Healthcare is a hot topic.

This is nothing new. The Psalmist centuries ago had many of the same thoughts we do today about our health.

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” Psalm 73:26 NLT

The Psalmist gave us a dose of reality and hope at the same time!

I am thankful for a people called Balboa Baptist Church who truly care for each other. Our Deacons’ Family and Touch Team ministries are active! The Sunday School classes pray for each other and stay in touch with each other! I am truly grateful for such a loving church!

A few weeks ago I went to the Heart Hospital to sit with a church member during a spouse’s surgery. Sixteen church members showed up too!

Yes, our health may fail and our spirit may grow weak, so we need each other in these times of grief, pain, and fear.

But, in the second half of Psalm 73:26, the Psalmist gives our eternal hope! God remains our heart’s strength because He is ours forever! Our ultimate hope is in Him, not our health.

Jesus spoke of the heart too. The health of our physical heart may wane. But the health of our spiritual heart can stay strong. No, actually our spiritual heart can grow stronger and healthier regardless of what life throws at us!

“Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.'” John 7:38 NLT

Jesus demonstrated His power to heal any disease: the blind, the lame, the epileptic, the leper, the paralyzed, the demon-possessed, and He even raised the dead! But whether he extends our life here a few more days, months, years, or decades, our hearts can be strengthened forever and living water can flow!

Our Father, thank-you for caring people who come alongside each other in times of challenging health issues. Thank-you for Your Spirit who comes alongside us to give us eternal health with a river of life that never runs out!

We Agreed

“We agreed” carried us through the difficult challenges! “We agreed” became an anchor point for everything we did after that.

The decision to move to Hot Springs Village and accept the pastorate at Balboa Baptist Church created a transition in our lives with some painful steps. Transition always produces stress.  Stressful times always stress relationships. The marriage of a “preacher” and his wife are no exception!

But, we agreed this was the wise thing to do.  We agreed this was in the center of God’s will for us. We agreed “finishing well” in life meant moving to the Village.

But then came the ripping and the tearing of buying, selling, and moving . Loss produces grief. A sense of loss came over both of us as we purged. We had to let go of some “stuff.” We sized down. We know now many of you have experienced the same purging, moving, and transitioning!

But we agreed it was only “stuff.” We agreed that none of this “stuff” will matter a hundred years from now anyway!

Agreement solves a lot of issues! Our marriage didn’t survive this little bump in the road, it thrived!

The word “confess” means to agree. Do you “agree” with God about who Jesus is?  It solves a lot of eternal issues. It requires some purging and letting go of some “stuff.”

Our agreement as a married couple to move solved a lot of other issues. But the most crucial “agreement” is between you and God about who Jesus is.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 1 John 4:15 ESV

God lives in you and you live in God when you agree with God about Jesus. Do you agree Jesus is His perfect Son risen from the dead? What a thought! What a reality! We are indwelled and surrounded by the God of the universe in personal relationship if we agree with God about Jesus!

Do you agree? This is the most important agreement you will or will not make. It impacts how you live now. It impacts how you spend eternity!

Our Father, we praise you for being a loving Creator. We rebelled against you in our sin. Thank-you for offering to each of us the greatest gift possible: salvation, forgiveness, relationship, redemption, and your presence in us and around us! Father, WE AGREE! Jesus is Your Son, risen from the dead, alive and well, the sacrifice for the sins of the world, and now our personal Savior! Thank-you!

She Jumped!

A rock wall cliff jutted out and stood 155 feet tall. The little Junior High girl easily climbed to the top with a couple of High School boys following her. She had been there before many times. This was the first time for the two boys.

Looking up 60 feet doesn’t look that tall.  But when you look down, well, it looks more like the Empire State Building!

The three reached the top and looked over the edge. I could see the blood run out of the two boys faces and their knees get weak.

The little blond-headed cheerleader stepped up to the edge, stepped off, gravity took over, she pointed her toes down, made her body rigid, held her arms closely to her sides, and entered the lake like a pin-prick.

The two boys swallowed their pride, climbed down to a lower level before jumping.

The little girl is my sister, Jill.  The place is Lake Greeson, near Murfreesboro, Arkansas.

My dad and I sat in the ski boat below.  We retrieved my sister.  We chuckled at the boys’ sudden change in courage and getting showed-up by a little Junior High girl!

To jump from Chimney Rock had been a family tradition for many summers.  (See photo)  The photo has the namesake rock, shaped like a chimney, but in the background is the big cliff.  (Of course it is illegal to climb on it today.)

That big rock is still there today and looks the same as it did 50 years ago. It still calls, “Climb me and jump!” Its a universal cry, whether you would even think of doing it or not!

I can still remember …

  • climbing the side of the rock with excitement and anticipation.
  • looking over the side from the top and that excitement turning to fear.
  • pushing that fear aside and jumping.
  • the rush of adrenaline as I hurled quickly to the lake below knowing the depth was over 100 feet.
  • the sting of hitting the water.
  • returning to the surface of the water and inhaling a breath of fresh air!

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:4 ESV

God is completely trustworthy! He is like the stability and consistency of a rock! He also calls us take steps of faith and trust Him! What is The Rock calling you to do to obey Him today? Will you jump?

Our Father, we praise you because you are our Rock. We place our trust in You today knowing that it is a trust that will endure forever and forever, because you are our God forever and forever! Help us to obey you today in the little daily things of life. Help us make those little “jumps” of serving someone today that can make an eternal difference in their eternity. Thank-you for the breath of fresh air of faith each time we resurface from an obedient act.

 

Praying Scripture

Have you heard of the concept of “praying Scripture?” We know God inspired His word and it is holy. By praying what the Scripture says, we can know we are praying in the will of God.

I like to write my prayers, because when I write my prayers, my mind tends not to wander to the dozens of other things that can get my attention.  Writing prayers keeps me focused.

Here’s an example. Take a passage of Scripture and try it yourself!

May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ. 2 Thes.3.5

Our Father, please lead us,

  • from deep within our hearts,
  • from the stirring of our souls,
  • from the use of each moment of time in our lives,
  • from our toenails to the tips of the hair on our heads …

into

  • a full-blown understanding,
  • a totally encompassing comprehension,
  • a moment-by-moment living-it-out today …

of

  • Your love for us,
  • Your love expressed through us to others,
  • Your love revealed in the sacrifices of time & money,
  • Your love flowing through us because You are in us …

And give us

  • Christ’s attitude of patient endurance for serving You,
  • Christ’s perspective on anxiety and worry,
  • Christ’s reaction to difficult circumstances,
  • Christ’s power to not just wait, but have His mind while we wait,
  • Christ’s tangible presence made known to us in real ways many times today.

Father, please lead us into a full understanding and expression of Your love.  Please lead us into a full understanding and expression of Your Son’s patient endurance. Genuine love comes from You, Father, so we seek You today.  Patient endurance comes from the continual presence of  Your Son, Jesus Christ, living in us, so we depend on Him today.

The Lord is far from the wicked, but hears the prayers of the righteous. Prov. 15:29

 

 

I Love My Dad

He was a strict disciplinarian while I was growing up. Yet he was very generous as well! My Dad is 79 years of age and lives in Glenwood. He takes care of dozens of cattle, plays golf, and goes to the Sale Barn (the cattle auction) every Thursday. He served as a Deacon at First Baptist Church in Glenwood for 40 years before requesting to became inactive due to health issues.

Yes, he generously gave his discipline and his gifts. I knew he had a standard for his oldest son to meet. I knew quickly and painfully when I didn’t meet that standard. Yet I remember vividly on the evening on my birthday one year when he brought home a brand new, red Western Flyer 26-inch bicycle with the plastic streamers coming out of the handle bars, chrome fenders, and lots of shine! Years later, he paid for most of my college and seminary education! So generous!

Yet I remember one little flaw.  He said he would get me a baseball glove when I got a certain age. I don’t remember the exact condition I had to meet to get it. He forgot too. I just remember he promised a new baseball glove. I never got it. A friend had loaned me his old glove. That glove was a good one, broken in, and worked just fine! I used it for years until it was stolen.

That’s such a minor thing now. But as a child, it seemed like a big thing. An adult said they’d do something and it didn’t happen. (Dad, if you are reading this, I love you and hold no grudge!)

But here’s the deal: words can be so fleeting. Promises can be made and so easily broken. Politicians promise all kinds of things and don’t deliver. A parent tells their child something and then forgets to deliver.

So I am greatly comforted by the words of Jesus when he promises that everything He said is true.  Without a doubt, without a forgetful moment, without a flaw, His words will happen!  Everything he predicted WILL come to pass! What an assurance!

Our perfect Savior, our Lord Jesus said:

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Matthew 24:35 ESV

Our Father, thank-you for sending Jesus. Thank-you for the assurance that every word you spoke through your Son will happen. We praise you for never forgetting what you promise. Our confidence in You grows as we read and meditate on Your word. This planet with its land and oceans and sky will pass away, but Your words will not! Praise Your Name!

Chirping

That cricket on my back porch is chirping loudly and persistently. He doesn’t let up. This has been something I’ve loved about moving to the Village. I can hear the sounds of nature instead of traffic!

Now, back to that cricket. Chir-rup, Chir-rup, Chir-rup, Chir-rup, Chir-rup … The joker’s chirpper just keeps on a-chirping!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12 ESV

I was meditating on that verse when I noticed the little chirpper chirping. What an insight! Our believing, trusting, rejoicing, hanging tough, and praying ought to be persistent just like that chirpper!

Rejoice in hope.

Hope is the confident assurance of our salvation and destiny of heaven! Re-joice, Re-joice, Re-joice, Re-joice, Re-joice, …!

Be patient in tribulation.

Patience is being able to see the big picture and hanging tough till the prize at the end is revealed in spite of the troubles along the way. Pa-tient, Pa-tient, Pa-tient, Pa-tient, Pa-tient, …! (Thanks Polly for the “Hang Tough” Sunday School lesson this past Sunday!)

Be constant in prayer.

Prayer is communication and communion with the Father in such a way He can tell us at any moment what to do and we do it. We mistake prayer often as only trying to get God to do what we want him to do. Pra-y, Pra-y, Pra-y, O-bey, O-bey, Pra-y, O-bey, …!

So, do some spiritual chirping today!

Our Father, we rejoice constantly that you have provided complete hope and confidence in our salvation through Your Son Jesus Christ! We hang tough with patience in the troubled times of life because we know how it all comes out in the end! We commune with you all day ready to obey at a moment’s notice.