Fence Straddling

Gunsmoke & James Arnes. The Lone Ranger & Tonto. Paladin & Have Gun will Travel. Roy Rogers, Dale Evans & Happy Trails to You. Rawhide & Head’m Up, Move’m Out. The Virginian.

I suspect the old west barely resembled the lifestyle portrayed in these old shows I grew up watching.

But one thing for sure, cattle-rustlin’ and horse-stealin’ brought the ire of the hard-working farmers, ranchers and law enforcement. These no-goods met harsh punishments. Most of us understand what “get-a-rope” means.

Evidently, there were sheep-rustlers in Jesus’ day too. Some no-goods sometimes broke through the sheep pen wall or climbed over it to rustle sheep!

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

The evil one has quiet a team of rustlers. On the spiritual side are the thieves of out-right false religions and Christian sects with false doctrine. Then there are the body and mind destroyers of drugs, alcohol, and gluttony. And don’t forget the relationship murderers of lust, adultery, and sexual perversion.

Jesus said in John 10 (read it here) that anyone who does not enter through the gate is a sheep-rustler. And then He said that He is The Gate. We must enter the sheep pen through Him and only Him.

He is The Shepherd who protects the lives of the sheep and gives them all they need for abundant life.

Jesus’ analogy divided His listeners. Some said He had a demon. Others argued a demon-possessed man could not open a blind man’s eyes.

Jesus still creates a sharp divide today. Either we are for Him or against Him. Either we are hot or cold, or worse lukewarm.

Lukewarm means one is trying to “straddle the fence!” If you’re “on the fence,” guess who comes in that way? Rustlers! Jesus is “The Gate.” Get off the fence! Go 100% with Jesus!

Our Father, thank-you for sending Your Son that we may have real life and have it more abundantly! We commit today to get off the fence and go 100% for our Lord.

NASCAR

Washington D.C. clearly heard the gospel that day. President Obama and the first lady heard it too.

The preacher’s claim to fame wasn’t a pulpit in a mega church, but a NASCAR driver.

I don’t watch NASCAR. But I have heard of Darrell Waltrip. His arrogance, passion, aggression, and desire to win made him one of the most disliked drivers on and off the track.

His beautiful, godly wife for 45 years stuck with him, prayed for him, and gave him Bible verses to put in his car as he drove.

Darrell accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and his life was dramatically transformed.

As he concluded his 28 minute talk at the National Prayer Breakfast, the verse he left everyone thinking about was Proverbs 18:10.

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Proverbs 18:10

This verse echoes in my mind two days later since watching the video. Darrell Waltrip knew personally what it means to run to the Lord Jesus, the strong tower of salvation, find the safety of his salvation, and have his life transformed.

His message? Good guys go to hell if they don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior. Only those who accept Jesus go to heaven. You can be a “Good Ole Boy,” but without a relationship with Jesus Christ and you will go to hell.

If you have 28 minutes, watch it HERE.

Children with Special Privileges

Quentin would die as a fighter pilot in World War I; Ted became a highly decorated soldier who saw service in both World Wars; Archie became a businessman; Kermit grew up to become an adventurer and soldier of fortune; and Ethel served as a nurse in France during World War I and later became involved with the Red Cross.

As children they had a very unique experience in common. They had access to the Oval Office of the President of the United States! Can you imagine?

They are the children of President Theodore Roosevelt and his wife, Edith . (See Photo)

As believers in Jesus Christ we have access to the throne room of God! We are the children of God through a second birth.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16 NLT

As a child of the King, we have special privileges.

1. We can come BOLDLY into God’s throne room at any time. This does not mean arrogantly, but confidently. We are his child!

2. We can receive MERCY when we mess up. We all mess up. With a genuine sorrow for the sin and full intent to turn from it we will receive his forgiveness and mercy.

3. We can find GRACE when we are weak, incapable, and need resources, which is just about all the time.  These grace-gifts are given freely to His children. We have not because we ask not.

Freedom to stroll into the Oval Office to consult with a sitting United States President seems like nothing compared to the privilege we actually do have to boldly enter God’s presence any time we choose!

Our Father, what an amazing privilege to write these words knowing you see and hear them. Thank-you we can come into your very throne room boldly and confidently as your child. Please have mercy on us in our sins. Please provide all we need to serve You effectively and faithfully.

A Loose Grip

Golf experts write a lot about how to grip a golf club. The tighter you grip the club the more likely you will hit a bad shot.

My brothers have ski boats that create huge wakes. We use a small surf board to actually surf on those wakes. The more relaxed you can stay the more likely you will be able to surf successfully.

The more you try to squeeze, hold, and demand the love of your grandchild, the more likely they are to push away. There is a delicate balance of letting go with love in order to receive the returned affection we grandparents crave so much!

The abundant life we all want comes much the same way. We attempt to buy it, build it, store it, accumulate it, get healthy enough to have it, work out enough to get it, yet abundant living alludes us.

This morning Paul’s words struck me to the core. Paul held a loose grip on life. He relaxed on the surf board God had given him. He didn’t seek to squeeze, hold, and demand that life serve him.  The apostle Paul said:

But I do not account my life of any value or as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24 ESV

What a powerful statement! Notice how he summed up what he valued more than his life on this earth. He loosened his grip on life to:

  1. Do God’s will: “if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus” and
  2. Tell the Good News: “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

Jesus said:

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.  Luke 17:33 ESV

Our Father, we hold on so tightly to this world and the things in it. Help us today to lose our lives for You and the gospel. Forgive us for holding on to the things that will pass away while ignoring the things that will last forever. Help us to let go of life so we may do Your will, share the good news of Jesus, and find Your abundant life.

 

I Don’t Like Talking about It

I often get overwhelmed and depressed. There, I said it. I didn’t want to say it. I don’t like talking about my weaknesses.

I fall into the trap that many other pastors do. We often feel we must appear to have it all together all the time.

We don’t have it all together all the time! But you already knew that, didn’t you!?

I would rather talk about my spiritual gift inventory that reveals the strengths of teaching and encouragement. I would rather point to (brag about) the things I’m “good at.”

I regularly pray rebuking these spiritual attacks attempting to defeat me.  I ask often that these feelings of inadequacy and depression be covered by the blood of Jesus. In Jesus’ name I tell Satan to get behind me and out of my life. I use memorized verses to replace the thoughts that want to tear me down.

Why can I be honest about something I really want to pretend doesn’t exist? Because the apostle Paul with all of his strengths, letters he wrote, sermons he preached, churches he started, and mission trips led did the same thing!!!!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

Admitting my weaknesses helps me realize that the grace of Jesus Christ is enough for me!

Being honest about my humanity helps me see His power at work in my weaknesses!

Only by admitting my weaknesses can the power of Christ truly rest upon me!

Jesus did not suddenly appear on eath as a victorious, conquering King. He revealed himself in weakness. He came as a helpless baby dependent on his mother. Even in Christmas we celebrate power revealed in weakness!

Since the Son of God became weak to show God’s great power and love, how much more must we follow in His steps!

Our Father, we are weak, dysfunctional, and damaged in many ways. THANK-YOU that Your grace is enough for us, Your power is perfected in our weaknesses, and the power of Christ rests upon us in spite of ourselves. We admit to You our many weaknesses so that today Your power will shine brightly through us. Thank-you for the constant presence of Jesus in us who makes this possible.

Nose Prints on the Window

Everyone pressed toward the window to get a peek. The two dozen people had waited for quite a while. A tangible excitement filled the room.

Grandmothers, Grandfathers, Great-grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and friends gathered for the event in Hot Springs. Then there she was! The first grandchild on both sides of the family and first great-grandchild too!

Our son dressed in scrubs and mask held her up to the window proudly. Eventually he handed her off to the nurse to do those newborn things.

What added to the suspense, our son and daughter-in-law had decided not to tell us her name until after she was born.

We saw our son ask the nurse for something. They left the nursery. He came back in with a plain white piece of paper and held it up to the glass.

Quickly-printed big letters spelled, ‘MOLLY MAE.’ An audible joy filled the hallway knowing her name for the first time.

Even with the advanced medical technology and understanding we have of a developing baby in the womb, the birth of a baby is still an extraordinary event!

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God who does all things. Ecclesiastes 11:5 NLT

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

As you celebrate Christmas this year, remember how amazing this birth is. He is God’s Son conceived in the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” are appropriate.

As amazing as any birth is, the birth of the Son of God is even more amazing!

Bethlehem overflowing with those coming for the Roman census afforded little privacy. Born in a place animals rested. A feed trough served as a baby bed. The birth announcement was a sky full of angels. Just some local blue-collar workers out taking care of some sheep pressed their noses to the window that night.

And the Father did all of this knowing full well His perfect Son would be the perfect sacrifice for a world full of sinners – us!!! Oh, and his name, the name that is above all names, “JESUS!”

Press your noses against glass with a fresh amazement this Christmas!

Our Father, we “Oooh” and “Aaah” at the amazing grace you shared with us at the birth of Jesus. We thank-you and praise you!

 

Love and Boldness

My TV consumption has dropped considerably. I watch an occasional football game and some news.

I recently watched one of the new detective dramas. The underlying tone disturbed me. “Hate crimes” provided the theme.

Now I believe prejudice is a sin. Eliminate it from your attitudes and actions! But, to me, it is obvious that this “hate crime” legislation is the foundation in America to persecute Christians. In fact, it already is.

If I disagree with someone does not mean I hate them. But now, in America, if I disagree with the abortion law, then some define me as a hate-monger. If I say that homosexuality, adultery, or pornography are not good lifestyles, then some define me as having a “phobia.”

Society’s treatment of first century Christians “scattered” them. That means they fled for their very lives! Their society defined them as haters of Caesar and haters of Judaism because they loved the Lord Jesus Christ..

America is quickly moving back to this barbaric attitude that condones the imprisonment and even killing of Christians.  To love God more than this world, stand for salvation in Christ alone, and call sin a destructive force will increasingly cost us more.

As a nation, we have moved back to the secular attitudes the early Christians knew in the first century. Peter and Paul in the New Testament faced these situations with courage and spoke the gospel story of Jesus Christ.

Don’t lose hope! Jesus still changes lives! The love of God in John 3:16 is still the center of the gospel.

What was true for the Psalmist centuries ago is still true for us today!

O Lord, how many are my foes!

Many are the rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill.  Psalm 3:1-4

Our Father, the tide is shifting just as you prophesied in Your Word. Keep us confident in You. We believe in Your Son Jesus Christ as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We believe every knee will one day bow to Him. Thank-you that you love us and live in us. Fill us with boldness and love.