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HE CARES FOR ME

Over the years, one of the important parts of our ministry has been to endeavor to encourage people who are going through troubled waters, and there are far more than we can ever imagine. Even those who appear to be “on top of the world” are experiencing pressures from encounters they are experiencing that others would never suspect. Most dream of the day, or the situation that will free them from such confrontations: mental, physical …all.

As pressures increase from what we might refer to as a world in chaos, and it has all of those indications and satisfactions elude us, momentary solutions create additional problems down the line; we wonder what the future holds.

I have always enjoyed the Epistles of Peter. He in no way butters up those to whom he is writing. Many times in those two Epistles, some may conclude that his verbiage is a little curt, but to me he is forthright. He is an old fisherman, and some of the stigma of the past remains.

Peter, in addressing the twelve tribes scattered abroad, has given much instruction concerning the “shepherd” of the flock, and the humble manner that should be exercised; challenging them to be “examples” because “when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory”.

Things are not about to get easier, the pressures will become greater, the challenges more potent; but “cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” Do not cast them on the Lord and then take them back, leave them with HIM, for “He Cares”. (1 Peter 5:7)

Peter reminds us again from where the pressures originate: “your adversary the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will HIMSELF perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”

Remember, He will fully equip you for whatever comes your way… mental or physical. HE CARES!

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HUMILITY

Most of us can remember that little statement: “I will give you a copy of my latest book, “Humility and how I obtained it!” After all, there can be a secret ego trip within that statement; then again, it might be a cautionary rebuke to the person to whom it was uttered.

Much is said about people who are so humble that you feel as though they are walked over by others. You probably have stepped in to “protect” the humble person or at least have felt, “why did I not step in?” when I observed that unwarranted fiasco.

Another experience that has imbedded itself into my thinking every so often is: “You know, I wish I had the amount of humility that permeated that person’s response. They were so cool throughout that situation.” I left the environment of the moment and had the element of jealousy toward such capability. Do not get me wrong, I learned then, and I continue to learn from such people. My regret is that it takes me all too long to imbed it in my thinking when needed.

We know that “before honor is humility”. Also, any service rendered should be done with humility. I will never forget the injunction presented by the Apostle Peter: “be clothed with humility.” (1 Peter 5:5) I also remember that statement by Bill Gothard: PBPGINFWMY… “Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet.”

We all know that the way up is down. When the young preacher candidated for a church and asked of the Board of Elders what type of a pastor they desired, one old-timer answered: “We want a man who, when on his knees, can reach Heaven!”

Humility is not often found in the young. It comes more so with age and a result of exposure to ego thinking. A few battle scars are usually indicative of having knocked a chip off the block. Someone said that the chip on the shoulder would indicate there is wood just above it.

Think for a moment: Humility is learned and earned.

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I LOVE YOU, STILL!

One should never tire of hearing the words of John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

From the fall of Adam and Eve, recorded in Genesis 3, there is prophecy after prophecy that unfolds the story of redemption through Christ. God in a marvelous display of His love gave us that first prophecy: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (v15) God made a promise that eventuated in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the immediate He “clothed them”. (v21)

When Christ died on Calvary and declared: “It is finished!”, that work of the promised redemption was accomplished. Every person who accepts that love, displayed on Calvary, and the person of Christ as the substitute for his sin, will experience forgiveness of sin; the impartation of a new life and the hope of eternity with God/Christ/The Holy Spirit, and the joys of that new life here on earth until that moment when we are caught up into His presence forever.

While here on this earth one might fall into a sin or sins. Seek the forgiveness of God, and be immediately restored into fellowship with Him. This may happen numerous times, and the sin might be grievous to God, but He has promised forgiveness and restoration immediately.

All of this extension of love from our wonderful Lord is most re-assuring for every child of God. There are no bounds or limits as to how much God loves the individual, as we read in John 3:16.

As a result of the promises of John 3:16, and many other promises from the sacred Scriptures, I rest in His declarations that one day I am going to hear Him say, though my sins have been many and at times revolting to His righteousness, “Ted! I still love you; and it will be as I promised, an everlasting LOVE!”

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YOUR SINS FORGIVEN!

The Gospel of Mark is a must-read Book! Jesus is presented as the Servant. The servant goes about his business immediately. You will find that word, or its equivalent more than forty times in this Gospel. As the youngster would say, “He puts his pedal to the metal.

We have been to Capernaum and as I stood on the fringes of the synagogue, I had no problem envisioning some of the things that happened when Christ is at home. It did not take long for everyone to know when He was present…still does not! He arrives and they arrive…many of them! There was no room in the Inn when He was born and certainly not here, even close to the door.

Four men arrive with a paralytic on a pallet. So intent were they to get help for this man, that even while Jesus was speaking the word to them, they ascended to the roof, dug an opening, and let the pallet down where Christ was standing.

It is important that we understand the underlying love these men had for this paralytic. I do not know all that they endured to do what they did, but I guarantee everyone present understood. Most important, Jesus understood. He saw the faith of those men. They had carried this man there, they spotted a possible route, (through the roof) went up there and dug through a house that they did not own and let him down. It does not say that the paralytic expressed his faith, but it does say that “Jesus seeing their faith”. I know the feeling of that man for I too have experienced situations that the faith of my brothers and sisters in Christ effectuated Christ’s response to my needs.

Whenever a need arises and prayer goes up to the Lord or action is taken to indicate one’s action toward another’s need, our Lord Jesus Christ responds. However, there are always a few “scribes” sitting on the sidelines with some negative comments. Jesus speaks to the occasion: “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven; or to say, “Get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”

They were “amazed” and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” Of course not! They were in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and He was asserting His power. He spoke again: “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”

He does what he is instructed. He does not linger for the TV cameras, or for the applaud of those present; nor did he go back to the “scribes” who had berated what the Lord had done, and: “They were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

Who knows what God might choose to do on your behalf or mine!

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SOUND IN SPEECH

Have you ever wished that you had bitten your tongue? In fact sometimes I have bitten mine as a reminder of what I had said indiscriminately. You can be sure I did not do it too hard; I wanted a reminder, not an emergency room treatment.

I know that the portion of Scripture to which I am referring shortly is addressing “young men”, nevertheless, I also know that sometimes, all too often, young men develop such patterns in their lives that it carry over to calloused old men; it is not just “outside” the church, it can be the caustic, the sarcastic “brother” within the Body of Christ. You have to admit, it can be very inclusive.

In the Pastoral Epistle of Titus, 2:6 and following, the young men are told to be “sensible”. When doing so they will be “an example”. What a challenge! Young men are quite impulsive, as you know. When one stands out as being “sensible” you cannot help but take notice, and if he does it with “good deeds”, it is even more noticeable.

I do not see a lot of evidence of this type of decorum inside or outside of our churches. Doctrine, to which the Apostle refers, is not put into action. There is “dignity” when a young man (or woman), puts their knowledge of the WORD into action. In fact, we are told to “be sound in speech which is beyond reproach”.

Many would prefer to address the next verse, which has to do with “bond slaves” trying to address the activity as to a “lower class”. As a young man I was walking with a lady and was unaware that what was taking place was insulting to her. She said: “You are walking on the inside of me. I am not for sale!” I had never heard of it, but I shifted my position in “high gear”. Also, that moment activated my practice to this day. While “beyond reproach” was directly referring to doctrine, it can easily encompass “dignity”.

Hopefully, this will make us more conscious of what and WHO we represent.

Praising, praying, and pegging away … Ted

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NOT JUST TWELVE

I noticed again that Jesus had multitudes, crowds that gathered to hear Him speak, to watch as He healed. They were enamored with His teaching because it was unlike that of the Scribes and Pharisees. How they were able to hear Him sufficiently to become followers is in itself one amazing fact. Yet our text, Luke 10:1, 2 says that he sent “seventy others in pairs of two, to every city and place where He Himself was going to come.”

Notice the unseemly way in which He sent them. They were to go with “no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way.” Picture oneself being given those instructions; however that was not the end, when you come to a house and enter, you first say: “Peace be to this house.”

“If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house.”

Under the conditions set forth, do you think that the man of the house will be excited about welcoming such an individual? I have to believe that it would be a lot like welcoming a homeless individual, one living under a bridge or down by the river, under the trees. I have experienced many such individuals over the years and established a system of helping without being manipulated. Jesus gave these men some tough instructions, which they obeyed and returned later excited that the response was far beyond their expectation.

Sometimes we try to “out think” the Lord. We are assured in our thinking of the experience of rejection, which none of us appreciate. I guess that we wear our feelings on our coat-sleeves! These teams returned later with joy, because they obeyed the Lord and experienced something they had not envisioned. Listen to the words of our Savior: “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the one who sent Me.” Is there not excitement in the succeeding verse: “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning?

While victory might come in various forms when we “obey” the Lord, and you and I will enjoy reveling in ecstasy, it will come. Christ was watching all the time and producing that victory.

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WISDOM

Years ago I heard Dr. Roger Andrus say: “Wisdom is getting to know things from God’s point of view.” An excellent statement!

In the Book of Wisdom, Proverbs, the “Wise man” places statement after statement indicative of the wisdom that originates from the heart of God.


2:1 “My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you,

2:2 make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding;

2:3 for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding;

2:4 if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures;

2:5 then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.

2:6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

2:7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,

2:8 Guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones.

2:9 Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course.

2:10 For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;”


There is more to follow. More of what we need and I trust, desire. There is no substitute for the wisdom that comes from God. It is food for our thinking and guidance for our direction. God alone can give us wisdom. His WORD is “a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.” (Psalm 119:105)

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WE KNOW BETTER

I guess I could use a different title for this, like, “Choosing the Best!” Everyone has their opinions about things of this nature; I try to acquire mine from the best source possible, the Tried and True that has remained so over the test of time…THE WORD OF GOD.

Doing a little analyzing I “happened” on the Prophet Zechariah 7! The prophets of old told it like it was, no “soft pedaling”. The question that was brought up was: “Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years?” We live in much the same atmosphere, go to church on Saturday/Sunday, celebrate the special days of the year, (Christmas, Easter, Ash Wednesday, etc.) “Fasted on the fifth and seventh months”, but (That is a big BUT) “you did it for seventy years, was it actually for ME that you fasted? When you eat and drink, do you not eat for yourselves and do you not drink for yourselves?” (v 5-7)

My question is pointed, for consideration by all of us. We are told in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 how to celebrate the remembrance of our Savior, not “it” but “Him”. For some, it is a mandatory time as was the case for Israel. The real reason, as explicitly set forth in Corinthians, “do this in remembrance of ME!” It is, and should be a personal relationship wherein it is focused on HIM, His incarnation (condescending to become human flesh), His substitution (His representative sacrifice on Calvary for our sins), and His resurrection (wherein He conquered death and the grave). Nothing shy of this is acceptable to our Lord!

Somehow we have missed what Israel missed. When they were abounding in prosperity (v7 and following) and forgot what God had given by way of instruction: “Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” At that time, they “refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing”. Zechariah says: “And it came about that just as He called and they would not listen, so they called and would not listen. Says the Lord of hosts; I scattered them …the land is desolated behind them… for they made the pleasant land desolate.”

The graphics were not pleasant then and they are not pleasant for our land as we behold the few that are listening.

Let us pray for a spiritual awakening!

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THE CHURCH IN TYPE

… Be filled with the Spirit

… Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, making melody to the Lord.

… Giving thanks for ALL THINGS in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to God the father

… Subject to one another in the fear of Christ

… Wives be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord

… Christ is the head of all things to the Church

… He is Savior of the Body

… Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her

… So that He might sanctify her

… Cleansed her by the washing of water with the WORD

… That He might present to Himself the church in all her glory

… Having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing

… That she should be holy and blameless

… Love their wives as the own bodies

… He who loves his own wife loves himself

… Loves and cherishes

… Just as Christ also does the church

… For this reason a man shall leave His father and mother and shall

… Be joined to His wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

(Ephesians 5:18-31)

Handle with care and prayer!

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BARNABAS

A situation develops of a disagreement in opinion, and sometimes it gets a little explosive. People who are intent that it is of significance; others are ready to say “let it go”. Then, there are those who feel that in time it will show itself to be either good or bad, just let it sit in the wings.

Saul of Tarsus had been gloriously saved on the Damascus Road. We read in Acts 8 the details of this highly educated, murderer persecuting the church. In Acts 9 we see him continuing his efforts to destroy the “disciples of the Lord”. (9:1) As he approached Damascus, we have the story of his conversion and his becoming a disciple of Christ. It was a traumatic experience as God spoke to him directly.

God confirms his experience through the “disciple in Damascus named Ananias;” With his background, Saul is able to visualize that prophecy has been fulfilled and that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah. He immediately began to “proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God”.”

THEN, he makes a trip to Jerusalem! As he endeavors to associate with the disciples, “they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.” “But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.” (9:27)

Give us more men like Barnabas. He steps in where others would be afraid to speak. He shares what God has been doing through Paul. “He had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.”

Barnabas quietly presents Paul to the disciples. There is no more argument or fear, obviously the confidence displayed is such that the other disciples are moved by the word from Barnabas. That is testimony to the demeanor with which he spoke. When you look at the meaning of his name, “son of encouragement”, and then, Acts 11:22-23, “The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.”

What a steadfast testimony Barnabas had in the formation of the early church!

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ANOTHER BASKET CASE

Remember that we spoke of Moses in a basket; well now we have an adult and a basket. Paul the Apostle had been saved while preparing to destroy the church that was multiplying in Damascus, and he had letters certifying that he was on a legal assignment. Jesus appeared to him in the form of a great light and he fell to the ground. After a few pointed words, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting”, he was blinded, led into Damascus to a man named Ananias who laid his hands on Paul, addressed him: “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

In the verse 18 and 19 of Acts 9, we read: “And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus”. He immediately “began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

As the opposition to his newfound ministry strengthened, and his own background gave him deep insight into prophetic interpretation concerning the Messiah, more and more people were turning to Jesus. Naturally, in such an atmosphere, the Jewish leaders decided to rid themselves of this man, devising a plan to do away with him.

Paul was alerted to the plot even though they watched the gates day and night? God allowed the brethren to plan a way for his escape. They “took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.”

When the Lord provides a way of escape, it may not be the most stylish of the hour, but it is a way out. Remember what He did for the Hebrew spies when they searched out Jericho? God provided a sympathetic Rahab (Joshua 2) who let them down with a rope and told them what to do for their safety and then for the Israelites when they determined to take Jericho. If you plan to be involved in the work of the Lord, do not expect comfort.

I have swung in a bosons chair close to a hundred feet, (when younger) but never a basket. I am not certain that I would have my eyes open if I was forced to use that as a method of escape today. I have to admit that I have had enough encounters over the years that God gave me peace when I needed it.

God still had a lot of work for the apostle to do and so there was the elevator to the ground floor. I have often wondered how many things from which He has rescued me without my knowing. They tell me that more books are written about the Apostle Paul than any other individual. You see how it started and you have to believe what God said to Him at the outset!

To God Be the Glory!

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TAUGHT.HEARD.UNDERSTOOD

Our family had a FAMILY BIBLE! It had all the appearance of having been around since the inception of Bibles. You might understand it’s aged look if you ever lived in Bermuda and experienced the high humidity that constantly engulfs the island. I recall how, on occasion I would look at it, especially the pictures, but never grasping the importance of its message. Although many of the precepts that it presented were a part of our family, as an individual, it had no relevance to the life-style that I envisioned for my life.

After I became a Christian in accordance with the teaching of Scripture, the embracing of Christ as my Lord and Savior, I began to notice how many homes had a copy of the Scriptures, the Holy Bible, placed in conspicuous places. However, I also noticed that the life patterns within the home did not conform to the standards of what I was reading in THE BOOK. I began to also notice that many individuals made reference to it, but inaccurately.

One day, while reading the Book of Nehemiah, some thoughts surfaced that I had not understood previously. (8:1 and following) The people “gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate” and there they requested that Ezra “bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel.” Ezra listened to their request and brought it there. Then all who had “understanding” listened from early morning to “midday” and they were “attentive”. When he opened the Book, ALL the people “stood up”. He then “blessed the Lord, the great God”. And all the people “answered”, “Amen, Amen!” Then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”

The sequence of events is stunning to envision, but it happened. “The Levites explained the law; they read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading”. In verse 9, they “taught” and “when they heard the words of the law”, they were weeping!

When did you hear of such an experience in our own time? When they heard these words, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (v10) The next thought we catch is “because they understood the words which had been known to them.”

We know that many people have copies of the Bible, but do they read or listen to it being read; are they moved in their thinking because of what they hear; does it stimulate them into action?

Is it a dust catcher in your home, or an activator, because you read it and understand it?

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SLAVES TO COMPUTERIZATION

I recall so well in my teen years, in our carpentry shop, how one of our jobs required extensive work involving the preparation of a room to hold a computer. What a job! Naturally, the computer in those days required almost an entire room being prepped for this installation.

Gradually, we have mastered the computers and even small phones can do what once required large space. Often I make a request of a family member to research something for me, knowing the speed with which they can obtain it.

Our cars no longer have a computer that cares for all of our operations, they have multiple computers. With the effort to embrace driverless cars, one can see how people will become more irresponsible about driving, and lawsuits will extend dramatically to the manufacturers. It is hard to envision where all of this will lead because of our dependence on the computer.

It is a task for a cashier to give the correct change if they are without a machine that does all the work for them. Without a high grade calculator, many of our young people would never make it through College. In Business School we were required to know through our 20 times tables.

Please don’t get me wrong, in our present economy the computer is a necessity. However, it has made us lazy in our thinking. Our son, a pastor, told me that he does not want my Library because he can get what he needs “on line” and does not need to have books and shelves everywhere in his home. You know, he is right.

This morning I read that someone said: “I have read through my Bible.” Another individual shared how they had just finished reading through their Bible and was now engaged in reading it again. Still others have shared how they have been reading through their Bible each year for years. This is exciting to hear because with each reading of each chapter, I continue to learn more and discover some gems that I missed previously.

Also, I must say thank you to those who jot a note and inform me of their involvement in distribution of the great truths of Scripture, and that they read the Word of God daily…regularly!

A verse that is prominent in my thinking, and I do not need the computer to recall, is: Psalm 119:11…”Your word I have treasured in my heart that I may not sin against YOU!” The 16th verse is another gem: “I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your Word.” While I am at it, read the 119th Psalm in entirety!

God’s Word is a treasure! Because we are like horses without a bit and bridle, we need it constantly.

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RUNNING AWAY FROM GOD

I have spoken before of Jonah, but surely some Biblical encounters of people who endeavor to thwart the plan of God for their lives is worthy of additional consideration.

There have been experiences in all of our lives when we have felt like running. Like Jonah, we have sought other directions than that of the Holy Spirit. Though the reasons may be justified in our thinking, they invariably lead to difficulties, small or great. One of the greatest problems is that we might get comfortable in our present circumstances, and just plain do not want to listen to His leading into some endeavor that requires major adjustments in our thinking.

Jonah was like that! He “hated” to think that he was called of God to go to Nineveh and preach. His reasoning was that God would do something through his preaching that would bring about repentance to the Ninevihites, show them mercy, and not pronounce judgment on them. You talk about bitterness toward others and what its roots will produce!

Most preachers would be looking for such an encounter. It would raise their esteem before others, secure additional support, plus give them “legitimate bragging rights”, which we usually refer to as “justified pride”.

Oh! Oh! Jonah is in trouble, just like any who try to run from the Lord. He takes the opposite direction and heads for Tarshish, and “the presence of the Lord”. Most people in this quandary would recognize that such action is impossible, but when you endeavor to justify your decision with such ignorance, you can almost always justify it.

When Jonah tells them to throw him overboard, he now try’s to punish himself! However, God interrupts his plans and sends a life-boat in the form of a “great fish”, gets his attention, and sends him on his way to Ninevah. From what I read, that experience in the “great fish” was not an adjustable mattress or comfy pillow experience. It never is for anyone trying to thwart the will of God!

Three days of preaching and behold, REVIVAL! Jonah heads away, takes a nap and wakes to find it more comfortable than his “life boat” experience. Now He grumbles to God. Some people cannot be satisfied with God and His working! Jonah complains. (Take a look in the mirror!) God lets him reach the end of his rope.

At the end of Jonah’s experience, mumbling to himself, and God, in a shady spot he says in effect: “I knew you would do this! You never do things my way!”

And there you have it! “My way” always seems right!” God in His graciousness straightens us out with what He wants. But Oh the bumps along the road when one try’s to “run away” from Him and His instruction!

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GUNS

A topic of conversation, unquestionably! Yep! Left, right or in between, the opinions are “cemented” in our thinking, and anyone with an objection to my thinking is wrong.

I found a pistol in a burnt down house when a pre-teen and threw it away. During World War 2, when still a pre- teen-ager, we were digging trenches and crawling through fields with 303’s preparing to “defend” our little Island. Desperation filled everyone’s mind, and we were adamant about defense and victory. In Alaska, I was prepared for hunting and protection from an un-invited “animal” whose path we shared. When leaving Alaska, I saw no need to keep my 357 magnum or 8mm rifle; and now, at this stage of life me-thinks, do I need it? Yes? No?

My thinking changed from time to time because of circumstances; surroundings! My age, my motivation toward our surroundings, my value toward my life or another’s life, and probably my value toward death! After all, how important is it to survive this moment, which could be “death”, (Of which I am certain we are aware) as compared to that same moment for another? No easy moments, right?

Also, one might consider the era in which we attained enough “shoot ‘em up cowboy” films, who always won; and the TV (next week’s movie had to go on). The wars, the obvious solution to every problem or confrontation… a gun!

And now, the “games” available to “bump off”, to “erase” people with the finger on a mouse instead of a “trigger” of a gun! One has to observe that the gravity of a situation like this has impacted the thinking of our society. We are in trouble!

Life has become cheap! We treat it like these games, and fail to realize the impact on individuals… society in general. Accountability is a misnomer! Murderers, etc. are placed in confinement, not true Correctional institutions (another misnomer); and all at the expense of the taxpayer because we have allowed this gradual deterioration of our morals, and we are “worshiping” the “elite” of “accomplishments” and God has “become” a stranger in His created world.

Anyone can secure a gun without using the legal manner mandated. It reminds me of how I locked my keys in my truck. It was far from the most grandiose section of a city. I approached a man and said simply: “I know the reputation of this area; how long will it take to retrieve my keys? “Three minutes!”,was his reply. Sure enough, I was driving home in less than the three minutes.

The heart of the problem is the hearts of the people who use the weapons, and because that is basically rebellion toward God and His Word. Man, born with a sin nature remains that way unless he makes a decisive decision toward Jesus Christ, and continues to follow Him. Otherwise, he is subjective to his old nature, and there are no limits to what he determines to be acceptable.

Until God is paramount in our thinking in society, we can expect further deterioration. May I inject into your thinking a thought from yesteryear and every year: “Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:29) He can and will revolutionize our thinking. Him alone!

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DAILY DIGESTIVES

Is Jesus Christ part of the daily routine of your life?

While reading Luke 9 today, I was made aware of that little word “daily”. Thus, the reason for my question at the beginning!

Jesus had asked the question, “But, who do you say that I am? Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” It was a straightforward answer concerning Christ’s identity. It is a question that has been continued to this day, 2020 years later. It bears an answer to each of us today. It cannot be escaped! Who do you, I, believe that Jesus Christ is?

Jesus immediately identified Himself! However, in doing so, He made it known that the identity of the person prophesied in the Old Testament as the Christ to come was in their midst and that He was that person. Even so, as He proceeded to do this, there was obviously confusion in the minds of the disciples. They anticipated that the promised King would assume His reign at that time. They did not contemplate the mountain peak and valley that preceded that rule and reign.

Jesus then revealed many details of the coming three years concerning Himself! If they chose to follow Him, there was something that they would be required: “He must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.” This was not some simple activity to pursue, this was a DAILY COMMITMENT. It was following a person who would be an imposter in the minds of many. There would not be any accolades in their choice and thus that DAILY commitment. It would never be the most favorable choice. The end result would inevitably lead to a choice of “to save one’s life” or “lose his life. No easy choice.

The discussion continues with a very solemn presentation: “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whosoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23-26)

If one follows the Lord Jesus, it is because they have made a choice. They can look into the details of what to expect, but it will not be a “routine” choice of something well-accepted. However, it will invariably become the most significant choice of their life, and it will become the most popular person of history that a one can choose. It leads to a “DAILY” routine. It leads to a RISE and SHINE! It leads to eternal rewards.

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MARRIAGE CONCEPTS

Over the years it has been my privilege to conduct numerous weddings. It did not take long for me to realize that the majority of people had ideas about what they wanted included in the vows they were making. It took less time for me to decide what I would or would not accept. While I can appreciate the effort to make the wedding “unique”, this is not a time to make it into “show biz”. This is a time of public commitment before your friends, relatives, or associates of both man and woman to a life of oneness, till death would separate you.

I realize that some will immediately quote from the Scriptures, (Matthew 5:31, 32) that divorce is permitted for “unchastity” or sexual impurity. While that is true, it does not say that it cannot be forgiven and a marriage rebuilt. One of the greatest chapters on “love” is found in 1 Corinthians 13 (Please read) and anything that is “childish” (v11) should be put away and buried in “perfection”; (v10 that will eventually be ours). Forgiveness begins here and now, not just then. I read somewhere: “Forgiveness is not transitory!” …I also read, “Faith ends in sight, Hope ends in presence, Love never ends.”

There are other things we discuss at length that I see as relates to marriage, but I only mention these as being so prevalent in our society.

I used to ask that in the event your marriage has problems, I am the first that you should call. Will you promise that to be the case? After I discovered that I never received a call, and some went on to divorce, I gave up on that! However, I have retained, after explaining what I believe and what I will be saying in the ceremony, you may want to withdraw your request that I perform your ceremony. Some have, and I was glad. Some have not and I was distraught.

As the Apostle Paul said: “Love is the greatest!

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MANIPULATIVE GIVING

Much is said in Scripture about giving, and additional thoughts surface constantly on tithing. The New Testament emphasizes giving that should originate in the heart of an individual as over against tithing. In reality, the Old Testament giver gave far more than 10% if you add all of his required gifts that should be brought to the Lord. (For a springboard, read 1 Corinthians 12.)

For some reason, there are those that we encounter that give generously to the work of the Lord, (Churches/Christian Organizations,etc.) that think they are entitled to recognition or “chief seats” in response to their generosity. They forget that one of the gifts that God gives to certain individuals is the provision of their ability to give (Romans 12). Again, that being the case it is to be done with “no strings attached”.

James, in that little Book on practical Christian living, makes mention of how the ushers are prone to seat people in accordance with their attire. Remembering the manner they sat in the Synagogue, the Christians were doing the same thing. You talk about rebuke? James lets them know that Christians should be above that process of seating those that looked more prominent in more prominent places. That type of mentality for the Christian is not to be tolerated.

A brother in Christ asked on one occasion, “Pastor! When we have a dinner here at the church I noticed that you have a coffee pot in your hand and are visiting with each table and pouring coffee. That would not be the case in my previous church.” I looked at him and said simply: “It’s my style. Everyone in the congregation is equal and I want them to know that. By the way, everyone is wearing shoes and I do not have to wash their feet or carry a towel to wipe them.”

I love to remind us all that our giving should be worship! Shy of that amounts to unacceptable giving and probably has a hidden agenda.

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SO YOUR MEMORY IS SLIPPING

The memory “game” is most interesting… especially when your children and grandchildren say: “Pop! You are getting old; which is the truth! However, the cobwebs of aging that flirts the brain makes me go searching for what I should have remembered.

Of one thing I am certain. When in college a few years back, someone called my attention to Ecclesiastes 12 and like every young preacher, I knew I was going to have fun preaching about “old age” in due time. I will get to the end of the chapter when I have repeated some of those old fashioned, yet true, statements.

Verse 1 says to: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” because the time will creep up on you and you will say: “I have no delight in them.” I should realize my eyes will age a bit and the sun, moon, and stars will become darkened and clouds return after the rain; then the watchmen of the house tremble (hands and knees) and men stoop ( the spine), the grinding ones stand idle because they are few (teeth), the windows (eyes) grow dim, the doors (hearing) either mixes up what is said or do not hear at all, in fact, it becomes hard to converse and you end up saying “What did you say?” Terrors on the road (fear) and then comes the “sound of the bird sings softly” (hearing), the “grasshopper drags himself along”, (It will not stop with the walking cane) the “golden bowl is crushed”, (the skull) and the pitcher by the well shattered.”

Finally, death takes its toll and the mourners arrive, we return to dust” (as man was initially) and the Spirit to God who gave it.

Look what we “old timers” look forward to… but with Christ as our Savior and Lord, we exit here and arrive there with no more prescriptions!

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DISTORTION

As I write this, we are in the midst of the impeachment hearings. Everyone is right, so they say; you and me? We are supposed to decide who is telling the truth, and to do so by evaluating everything we hear, including the commentators of the news media. Let’s face it, we have established our liberal or conservative conclusions a long time ago, and we become the interpreters of what we hear from our “established criteria.”

When “Moses and the elders of Israel” charged all of the people in Deuteronomy 27 with their responsibilities before the Lord when crossing into the Promised Land, they spoke a cumulative account of laws to which the people replied: AMEN! It was more than a “swearing before the courts”, because it was before God. Usually we add to that: “So help me God!”

I have concluded that someone is being “deceptive” in these hearings, and I do not have the responsibility of determining who that might be. There are sufficient men in that room, to seek the help of God, to make that determination. If they could only seek the mind and heart of the Lord, I believe that like Israel, they could say a hearty AMEN to verse 19 of Deuteronomy 27.

There other injunctions, laws, to which they’ve agreed on that occasion. Try reading the entire chapter. Principles, principles, principles! Few are the people that I spoke with over the years who did not think that verse 25 is being applied: “Cursed is he who accepts a bribe to strike down an innocent person.” And all the people shall say, “Amen!” needs application immediately. I do not want to imply that I present this as an accusation on what is current, but it is noticeable that people are elected to position on other people’s money; they are salaried with other people’s money; they retire on other people’s money; and they remain “questionable” to a large majority of our population.

The challenge to come out of this quandary in our current circumstances is one that remains a matter of prayer. Please do not “deceive” us!

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WHEN IS IT TOO FAR?

As I watched a portion of the State of the Union address, like many of you, I was appalled at the action taken by the Speaker of the House in shredding that speech. It was not what was in the speech; it was arrogance toward our governing system. While I understand the objections each party has toward the goals within the various parties, there is a time and a place toward implementing those goals. This was not the time or place! To invite someone as our president to share their view and then to besmirch them publicly was disgraceful.

This led me back to what I had envisioned when the invitation was extended. We all knew the possibilities and the timing. Weather there was an impeachment or not, it would be an awkward experience for all involved, politicians or the general public.

I have thought about some of the Biblical encounters which turned into fiascos because of a hardened heart. The account of David and Bathsheba would be illustrative. He saw her taking a bath and immediately lusted. Discovering that she was a married woman, he had her husband placed in the front lines of a battle, hoping for his death, and that would justify his having Bathsheba for his wife. (Entire story: 2 Samuel 11, 12) You do not play tootsie with God! What a story this entails!

The action toward Paul as he preached in Asia was repulsive. He had to be rescued via a basket; he was stoned and left for dead at another encounter; flogged with 40 lashings at an additional location. (2 Corinthians 1 & 2) Nothing swayed him from his commitment to honor Jesus Christ.

Bitterness is terrible! It becomes a corruption of an individual and knows no limits. I could address other situations from Holy Writ; this is sufficient!

Folks, let’s get back to Biblical principles and not be so vindictive with those who disagree with us. Luke 6:35 is a strong admonishment… “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”

For now, let’s hug them to death! It is Heaven’s measure!

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CRUMBS

It was another one of those “perfect” mornings that we take pleasure in on a consistent basis in Arizona. I was enjoying my coffee in our screened porch, watching and listening to the water dropping into the pond from our little “waterfall”, and appreciating the variety of birds feeding next to the mandarin orange tree.

The bird feeder is such that the larger birds cannot get into it to eat. That does not deter them from arriving in grandiose fashion. The finches arrive, in their array of colors, and clinging to the side of the feeder, they are able to gather as much food as they desire. In the process of their flitter and flutter, they knock out sufficient food for the larger birds to enjoy on the ground. This morning would be no exception. The larger birds were getting the leftovers… reveling in them.

This process had been continuing for quite some time when the following thought traversed my brain. This was like the story in Matthew 15 where a Syrophoenician woman came to Jesus to have her daughter healed. Her daughter was “cruelly demon-possessed”. I might inject that the majority of us would not recognize demon possession today if it were on our doorstep. We would find some medical diagnosis for its description.

The woman made no pretense about her problem. She called it as she saw it, even though it was her daughter. She obviously had more insight into Jesus than even the disciples of Jesus. They would send her away; she would appeal to Him until her daughter was healed. The social problem, she being a Syrophoenician, created a negative environment and every effort was applied to remove her from contact with the Savior. Jesus, Himself, used her to promote a marvelous truth concerning His ministry to mankind. He told her of His intention: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” It is then that we hear that phrase to which I mentioned earlier: “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

When one admits their situation to Jesus and falls humbly in adoration, we can expect to hear marvelous truths from His heart to ours. “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” At that moment, her daughter was healed. Read from the Book of John, chapter 1, verses 11-13: “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him (Jews). But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

The birds taught us a Biblical principle, did they not? As a non-Jew, I am invited to take of the “crumbs”. Those crumbs were extended to both Jew and Gentile, as we read in John 1. Their rejection of Jesus opened a door of reception for us.

Call it crumbs if you want, but it has become a “feast” to those of us who have believed on Jesus as our Savior and the substitute for our sin.

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CROSSES

They hang them from their ears, around their necks, and on their fingers. They can be found in plated or solid gold and silver. They carve them, pour them, and erect them, some even burn them.

You can find them almost anywhere on the face of the globe. They are worn by the foulest of individuals, erected on mountaintops, and hung in cars. Often they are bowed down before on Sundays and carried symbolically in church services.

I have purposely asked numerous people of recent, “Why do you wear a cross?” The replies all have been in the same fielding area: “I think it is beautiful” or “I don’t know”. I was appalled! Not one person responded with something like “It reminds me of the price that Christ paid for my sin”.

The cross was a symbol of curse; there was nothing beautiful about it. The Psalmist wrote of the ignominy of it all in chapter 22. Isaiah in the 53rd chapter declared, “There is no beauty that we should desire Him.” Scripture declares, “Cursed is everyone who hangeth on a tree.” (Gal. 3:13) Jesus hung upon that cross (or tree), accursed for your sin and mine. “He bore our sins in His body on the tree.”

In man’s effort to make the appalling appealing, he has hung a crucifix in gold and bedecked it with jewels. There is nothing more revolting than the effort of man to utilize every effort to make his sin of crucifying the Son of God more readily acceptable. The repulsiveness of Calvary must never be allowed to become acceptable. Man has taken the weakness of man (his guilt concerning the death of Christ), and has made it an object of profit.

Re-live the ignominious act of 2,000 years ago. There never will be anything beautiful about what one beholds, except, “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

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CREATOR OF ALL

Our visit to Biosphere 2 was an experience long to be remembered. While my brain does not revel in the scientific realm, it is sufficiently adaptable to comprehend with fascination something of this magnitude. As long as you are in physical shape to handle the walking and humidity in the various phases, include it in your plans.

Having completed our tour and preparing for departure, a thought penetrated my mind. Here we are, endeavoring to produce a situation that is self-sustaining, but having to utilize everything necessary for the experiment from Biosphere 1. It was an exciting moment! They had done a monumental work and yet had to rely on the Creator Himself for the provision of the material for such a performance.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”(Genesis 1:1) In the succeeding chapter’s elaboration continues on the what, when and how. Try as man might to explain it away with his theories, the truth is that God is the creator of it all. While they argue about the management process, we live in the present system under the providential hand of an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God who carefully manages it for a consistent operation from day to day. (Psalm 19) The local boys, scientists, depend upon that fact for their experiments in all areas to retain accuracy. John in his gospel indicates (1:3cf) that Jesus Christ was the creator of it all. He is life itself. He is the guarantee of a continued existence following our 70 years, plus or minus, on this earth. According to John 14:6, Jesus alone is the way to heaven, and He alone is worthy of our worship.

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CONSIDER THIS…SOME THOUGHTS ON HEAVEN…

It is a prepared place for a prepared people! No clearer statement can be found than that of John 14:3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” It was Jesus who said that. He had the authority to so proclaim.

Being a very practical person, I guess I should start at that point…Heaven is always treated in Scripture from a practical point of view. Herbert Lockyer noted: “The thought of Heaven becomes an Element in the Formation of Character… ‘Do not lay up treasures upon earth; lay up treasures in Heaven.’ (Matthew 6:19) Character is all that we take to Heaven. The thought of Heaven Raises our Estimates of the Values of Others…’See that you stumble not one of the least of these little ones, for their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in Heaven.’ How we treat people here depends on our perception of Heaven. (Matthew 18:10) The thought of Heaven is Associated with a Perfect Social Order upon Earth…’Thy will be done on earth.’ How? ‘As it is done in Heaven.’ (Matthew 6:10)” He, Jesus, gave us the pattern for living on earth that originated in Heaven.

‘The Apostles related Heaven to earth in several ways: ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ (Hebrews 13:5) Not some distant star, but a realm that is close by. In Heaven there are Divine Principles Governing our Human Life. ‘Our citizenship is in Heaven.’ (Philippians 3:20) Our word for politics originates from that word citizenship…literally ‘Our politics are in heaven’. That should always be the origin of our thought pattern/conclusions. In Heaven we are shown God’s Program for Human Society. (Revelation 21) ‘I saw a new Heaven and a new earth.’ Our concept of Heaven determines our actions here and now.

Heaven is a place, and yet its exact location is not given to us. In Acts, we see Jesus ‘caught up’, Stephen ‘looked up” and in Revelation, John saw the Holy City ‘coming down’. (Acts 7:55; Revelation 21:2; Ephesians 4:10) When I look up and the Aussie looks up, we are looking in opposing directions. This is not a problem for our God who is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient.

While human terms were used throughout Scripture to describe Heaven, they do not always embody exactly what Heaven will be like. They give us a perspective that is understandable down here but would be beyond the realm of our thinking if exactly verbalized. Paul, the Apostle, noted this when trying to describe his vision of Heaven in Corinthians. The reason, of course, for this necessity is that there, everything is perfect. Here, everything (including you and me) is imperfect. We have the additional limitation of time and space… not so in Heaven.

We often think of Heaven and, sadly, our concepts are self-oriented; whether it is ‘what is there’ or ‘who is there’. The real beauty of Heaven is that Jesus will be there! We shall see Him in all the effulgence of His glory. We will be able to thank Him personally for dying for our sins on Calvary; for taking our place; for extending to us salvation through GRACE.

How does one get there? In the words of John 1:12,13 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Out of the multitude of verses with reference to heaven, I note: “For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” (Hebrews 9:24) “who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” (1 Peter 3:22 NASB) These quotes refer back to the person who said: “I go to prepare a place for you.”

Like I said at the beginning; Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.

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CONSIDER THE COST

As we sat eating dinner together and feeding the birds, something kept “spooking” them. Initially we began to blame each other for making sudden noises, the type of thing a family does when gathered, ribbing each other a little.

Something in me kept saying, “It is an outside source that we cannot see.” I watched closely, hoping to spot the cause of this action that produced such pandemonium. Fleetingly I spotted a hawk in the distance and announced that I had spotted the problem, but the hawk had already distanced itself from us.

The birds had settled for their routine again and we began to endeavor to identify each one. With the next scattering of birds, our daughter blurted out, “There it is, over in the palm tree.” It was something you dislike seeing, but would not miss it for the world. The hawk was trying to get into a nest and the bird of the nest, the size of a sparrow, was fighting the hawk trying to keep it from grabbing the babies. Back and forth it flew, hitting the hawk time after time, refusing to allow the bridling to become the meal of this vulture bird. It appeared that this little parent would risk its life to guarantee the safety and security of its offspring. We were sufficiently removed from the tree so we could not determine if the hawk was successful, but we knew that the bird was successful in its endeavors as the hawk left the area.

Naturally, I had to analyze this activity by the birds and see if a principle applied. It was not hard to visualize the parent in defense of the offspring. It is quite natural for a parent to want to stand with his or her child and fight, even unto death. I guess that is one of the reasons it is hard to understand a parent allowing an abortion. It is another reason that those who have abortions suffer guilt for so long afterward.

My mind went to Philippians 1:20 and the few verses that follow: “According to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

The Apostle Paul saw the honor and knew the privilege of defending the cause of Jesus Christ. The cost of his own personal life was to be secondary. His eternal life and his love for the One who had given Himself in sacrifice for Paul’s sins was what would make him throw all caution to the wind. “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it. (Matthew 10:38, 39 NASB)

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COMMUNICABLE / COMMUNICATED

The company had a reputation for safety procedures that could not be surpassed. Their demands seemed somewhat ludicrous, yet there was no faulting them.

When a contractor was asked to bring his entire crew into their plant for safety instruction prior to beginning the job, he obliged. The men, with their foreman, arrived at 7:00 a.m. sharp.

It was 8:45 a.m. when the contractor arrived and saw his crew departing from the building. He approached the foreman and asked: “Did you just finish the safety class?” “Just!” was the reply. After pausing, the contractor asked: “Did anyone inform the instructor that none of these men speak English?” “No one!” answered the foreman.

This true story is amusing but pathetic. To think that all that was said fell on “deaf” ears, of what worth was it? My mind goes back to teen years when we jokingly noted: “that the teacher was overwhelmed by the exuberance of his own verbosity”. This instructor was quite verbose and articulate but sufficiently ignorant to test the waters and discover the comprehension ability or the receptivity level of his audience.

Communication from God to man has always been a high priority. From His walking with Adam in Eden and sharing His heart with him (Genesis 3), God demonstrated his love and concern that we would understand Him.

Of what worth is it for us to display our intelligence and reveal our ignorance? It was said almost two thousand years ago: “However, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind, that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (I Corinthians 14:19)

From Pentecost (Acts 2), when God demonstrated His love and concern for mankind by the ministering work of the Holy Spirit enabling each person to be able to hear the Word spoken in his own language (verses 6, 8), to the present time, God desires to commune with His own. Others, specifically those who are not Christians will give a broader interpretation, ever making accusations and assertions that will belittle truth from God. It started then, it continues to this moment.

The Word of God was communicable; the Word of God is communicated. This was our mandate then and now. Can it be made simpler than this communication from God’s Word? “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” (John 3:16, 17)

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CLASSY

It was the late 40’s when our family went cruising through the Islands of the Caribbean… St. Kitts, Antigua, Montserette, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Barbados, Grenada, and Trinidad and on to Guyana. Seeing for the first time the flying fish, the steel bands, the mangoes, Lord Nelson’s Dockyard and Sam Lord’s Castle, a fascination unequalled enthralled us. The Leeward Islands captured us from the moment we saw that first mountain on the horizon that looked like nothing more than a cloud in the distance, to the moment they faded from view across the stern of the ocean liner.

We had some very serious problems develop in our family and my father, determined to “get our act together” mortgaged the family home and took the family aboard the Canadian Steamship’s, Lady Nelson, for 28 days in the Caribbean. I did not recognize then what he was doing, but after he and mother had celebrated their 50th Anniversary, I realized what they saw in real value that could not be seen by others.

We had not been accustomed to all that one was to receive on such a trip. Seven pieces of silverware was initially rather confusing. We reveled in a large bowl of fruit always present in the cabin, our tub filled with hot water by the room steward, tea and crumpets, unbelievable menus, and dinner with the Captain of the liner. My Dad told me that the best pineapple in the world was found on the island of St. Lucia and the next morning after we left St. Lucia, he was on deck cutting up pineapple for each passenger who wanted a piece.

It is not hard to recall his comments shortly after leaving Bermuda. “The ship will be taking on people beginning at St. Kitts. They will not live on this deck, but rather will move to the bottom deck in the back of the Lady Nelson and there they will care for themselves as they travel!”

When leaving St. Kitts we went aft that night to see what might be taking place with people who were traveling “steerage” – sleeping bags, hammocks, blankets and some sleeping on the piles of rope scattered around the deck. They would be moving from island to island. I listened to the conversation and found it interesting, at times scary, and at other times amusing. I listened late in the evenings when they sang their calypso songs, enjoying as I do to this day the uniqueness of its style.

That was over fifty years ago. This morning I was reliving those 28 days and was reminded that on that ocean liner there were several classes of people traveling with a variety of accommodations being provided… and I had the best that could be offered.

We were not living in plush accommodation for we could not and would not appreciate half of the things they would have to pay for in those cabins. Neither were we traveling steerage where we would slug it out for ourselves. Please, note that these people were completely satisfied to just “get by” in their travels, singing all the while with little more than a cane over the shoulder and their entire possessions wrapped in a sheet or towel.

We were traveling with every need being met and with lots of little niceties being thrown in. Comfortable is really not adequate to describe what was ours for that month of luxury. Our Dad made a sacrifice that enabled us to have this wonderful experience and I treasure the memories even now.

God made a sacrifice… His Son. He emptied Himself! His provision of all of the riches of Heaven is available to us through that sacrifice. Because of His riches that are bestowed upon us as His children, we can enjoy a fulfilled life.

The sevenfold roll call of blessing in Ephesians 1 — chosen, predestinated, adoption, accepted, redemption, forgiveness, inheritance… shows some of what we have. Ephesians 1:18, 19 further elaborate why we are traveling with “the hope of His calling”. The riches of glory and “the exceeding greatness of His power” area part of our own personal possessions. Understand me, we do not deserve these, nor is there any entitlement to them; we are only recipients of His provisions.

You can travel “steerage” if you want, or you can embrace all of what is provided for you in Christ Jesus.

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CHUCKIN' WILLIE

Naturally, we tend to remember the idiosyncrasies of people more quickly than the consistent positive traits that should remain in the mind. Such is the case when I think of a relative, my uncle by marriage, who, in our immediate family was sometimes lovingly referred to as “Chuckin Willie”!

You wonder why? Though I do not recall ever hearing a curse word from his mouth, the word “chuckin’” was his substitute. Gratefully, it replaced words that in this modern era people consider a necessity to utilize but in far too many cases are completely foreign to the text of the conversation.

He chewed tobacco and could spit as straight as an arrow. He suffered a handicap on one leg but managed to climb the 185 steps of Gibbs Hill Lighthouse daily. With six children and a constantly sick wife, he repaired shoes, made nets for the fishermen, tended a garden, and prepared much of the food for his family. These things in addition to his main job as a lighthouse keeper demonstrated his desire to be a good father and husband.

Through difficult times, there were occasions when people would assist Chuckin’ Willie by providing gifts for the family. While you might have thought you would hear him speak flowingly of his gratitude toward such generosity, the most I ever heard him speak was a phrase that incorporated these words: “It was no more than they should do.” I was not with him twenty-four hours a day, and perhaps if I were, I would have heard such expressions as: “Thanks! While you had no obligation to share this with us, we appreciate it ever so much.”

Thanksgiving is not the only day to say “THANK YOU!” to our wonderful Lord. The attitude: “No more than He should do” permeates our society.

While reading Psalm 147 the picture of praise and thanksgiving to God is predominant. Perhaps the discipline of daily thanking God for at least ten items of which we have been cognizant throughout the day would form a good habit. Avoid repetition by writing specific items and pledge not to repeat the same blessing in one week.

That “no more than He should do” mentality will gradually slip into the past; the present experiences of life with praise and thanksgiving at every bend in the road will be more in keeping with what God wants and deserves from us. I hope that such an attitude will be what others will remember concerning you and me.

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CHANNEL MARKERS

We were in Nawiliwili on the Island of Kauai. It was our last port before returning to Honolulu. We viewed the harbor into which we had docked and thought about the maneuvering that this large vessel must do in order to get back out into the ocean. There would be little room for error. If the wind should rise, the entire process would be more complicated than ever.

Standing on deck, I was reviewing the events of the previous week when a Norwegian Cruise Line ship had run aground in Bermuda. There they have a long narrow channel, close to twenty miles, that finally enters Two Rock Passage and subsequently to Hamilton Harbor. One stands on the deck and thinks: “I could jump from here to land, the space is so narrow.” The ship had missed the channel markers and buoys that would have kept it free of the coral reef that held it firmly. Finally the tide came in about 12 hours later and they were able to get on their way.

Just as quickly, my mind went back to a day that I had spent on a tugboat in New York Harbor. Our tug had been the instrument used to move several ships from their docks. I recalled how we sensed our insignificance as we approached one of the super-tankers that carried oil and how I was assured that the tug would move it without any problem.

Now, here we were, moving ever so slowly away from the dock. I watched the channel markers intently. All the while, I marveled at the power of the thrusters that did much of the work, assisted by the tug. We moved sideways until it seemed we would touch the other side of the harbor, gradually angling into position. Then came the forward motion; the water was being pushed against the bulkheads close by. Hardly clearing that hurdle, we immediately had to make a 180-degree turn to avoid going into the shore that was directly ahead of us. With that completed, the tug released us and we headed for open water.

Through all of this, I thought about the Captain of our liner and his ability. Granted, he had to be a professional and proficient at his responsibilities or he would never have been accorded the privilege of becoming Master of such a ship. I felt comfortable under his control and marveled at his prowess.

That which left us with a sense of assurance was the fact that this man was watching the channel markers. He had to follow the guidelines established for operation of the vessel, and he had to abide by the channel markers that said in effect: “Go here and not there.” He could not fulfill his duties, maneuver in safety, or take this liner to its destination without abiding by the channel markers. Feeling had to yield to established laws.

God has given to us His Word. It is the established Law. It is the textbook on Eternal Life. Deviation from it leads to shipwreck. A man reaches the harbor of safety and eternal life as he yields his feelings and his opinions to God and the criteria of His established manual. Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) Review John 10:9 – “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Verse 11 says: “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” There is NO OTHER WAY to Heaven except through the Lord Jesus Christ. HE is the channel of safety and security… there is no other way.

We encourage you, our reader, to place your faith in HIM as Savior and Lord. Determine to act in accordance with His established Word, the Bible. You will never arrive at the destination of Heaven without such a commitment. His channel marker is that guarantee.

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CHAMELEONS

Friends in Bermuda gave me a screen saver for my computer. They wanted me to have pictures of Bermuda as a reminder of “home, sweet home”. One of those pictures is that of a chameleon.

As children we found them a challenge to capture. We were fascinated with their ability to blend into their surroundings by changing color. We strove to be sure that our latest find surpassed everyone else’s.

If I pause for a few minutes while writing, up comes the chameleon. He is a constant witness to me of the necessity of not changing to blend in with the current surroundings, but to maintain an unquestionable commitment to Jesus Christ. This blog will probably never become anything “significant” to the general public. It is intended to develop as one believer shares its availability with others. It is to constantly endeavor to drive Christians to the realization that God and His Word are paramount.

There are many that name the Name of Jesus that are “wolves in sheep clothing”. I asked someone recently to name for me a statesman. As they sought the recesses of their mind, I prodded: “Lots of politicians, but few who fit the category of statesmen, right?”

There is much going on that has an identity they refer to as “crossover” and concepts that tie people to the “world“and to “Christ”. I ask simply, “Is this possible or is it chameleon in character?”

Matthew 6 indicates comparison and contrast throughout. There is judgment of self and others; there are gifts that are good and bad; two ways — broad and narrow; two beliefs — true and false; two faiths — professors and possessors; two foundations — rock and sand; two teachers — Jews and scribes.

The challenge of identifying a chameleon is not always as simple as it first seems. The cloak of deception through imitation becomes confusing as compared with those who outwardly mock and scorn the Savior. Yet, the challenge is there for us to heed. Loving a person does not necessitate acceptance of his belief system or practices.

God calls us out from the world and into Christ. To do this in accordance with Scripture, we must be “separated unto Jesus Christ”. (Romans 1:1)

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CARDS A-PLENTY

Seated, though not too comfortably, I gazed at the array of greeting cards that bedecked our entertainment center. They ranged from the humorous to the deeply spiritual, with everything in between arranged in rows.

What I found to be of special interest was the fact that there had been little time to inform our friends about the surgery that I would undergo. The Dr. laid out the facts and I said: “Let’s go for it.” That was 3.00 in the afternoon of Dec. 30. On Dec. 31 at 7:20 AM I was in surgery. Late afternoon of Jan. 1 I was back home from the laminectomy. The cards kept coming, with quite a few from people we did not even know

All of the cards, the telephone calls and e-mails were deeply appreciated. How information relayed from one to another is beyond me. These get-well greetings caused my old brain to retreat more than 30 years. I went back to Grand Rapids, Minnesota. One of the Elder’s wives stopped by my office and dropped off a card entitled: “Slow Me Down, Lord”. She had crossed out the “Me” and replaced it with: “Slow Ted Down Lord”. Elvira is now home with the Lord, but her prayers were answered when God put me flat on my back. The timing was not appropriate as far as I was concerned, but it would never be with someone like me. I have had a hard time slowing down, but I recognize that when the surgeon said: “Either he changes his lifestyle or I will see him again soon” was a very strong warning. It reminded me of his opening statement after looking at the MRI…”You are a strong candidate for paralysis.”

Why do I share this with you? I am reminded of all of the words that are recorded in those cards and the pleasant effect they have ministered to me during these days. I am also reminded of more important greeting cards that have been found in God’s Word. I share a few of those with you.

“The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) “Casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) “I am the good Shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me.” (John 10:14) “Who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4) [All verses from the NASB.]

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CAPABLE HANDS

I shared with my wife how the snowstorm, fog, and ice had left my hunting pal and I stranded on a lake thirty miles from the highway in Alaska’s interior; how, when we left, we took off from the lake going in a circle on one pontoon, breaking a thin layer of ice. Her immediate question was, “Weren’t you afraid?” I replied: “I was in capable hands.”

That type of experience had been my lot on numerous occasions while pastoring and doing missionary work in Alaska. It had caused me to say often, “I would rather be in the hands of the “bush pilots” under crash-conditions than in the hands of a normal pilot under routine conditions.” I honestly felt that way.

Once we were flying a 185 Cessna over the Wrangell Mountains and preparing for a descent into the crater of the volcano when observation of our altimeter suggested that we might reconsider. The arrow indicated swift ascent and then descent; the blowing snow on nearby Mount Drum clearly indicated questionable weather conditions for such a descent into the mouth of the crater. A quick calculation indicated we were virtually acting like an elevator at that point… no forward progress; just straight up and straight down. I could honestly say that knowing the “bush pilot’s” experience, I never felt uncomfortable or concerned for “I was in capable hands.”

Many have been the varied experiences of life that has placed me in sometimes “capable” and sometimes “in-capable” hands. Yet, I have always felt as a Christian, “I am in capable Hands.” That assurance comes out of verses like: “My times are in thy hand” (Psalm 31:15), or, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever.” (John 14:16)

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CANDLEHOLDERS

I had been looking for cedar to do some turning on my lathe. It was impossible to find what I wanted and so I gave further thought to what might serve as a substitute. I decided on redwood. The candleholders were for the doctors involved in my surgery a few years ago.

As I made the decision to use the redwood, it was with the idea that this particular wood comes from trees that stand majestically above most other trees. You may have your own “redwood” doctor, but mine are Dr.’s Florendo, Jilly and King. When it came to nursing care, there was Scott and Barbara. Certainly there were others involved who were quality caregivers, but these individuals and their personalities were special to me. Each seemed to excel, and, in my thinking, was a shade above the rest.

The lathe work became fun. I do not enjoy making each piece identically, but use my imagination to create each one a bit different from the others. The end result was that they were special.

We began looking for candles. As we chose different colors, we recognized that they still produce the same color light when burned; that is the whole principle behind a candle. It burns so that its light may remove darkness and provide a measure of safety to the beholder. So may it be with every believer in Jesus, to “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:18 NASB)

In the past, potters used wax to repair cracks in the pottery and make it useable. If it was without wax, it was considered perfect. I have thought often of those involved in patching up this old vessel of clay that was far from perfect. Some were involved in the physical work and others in the spiritual development.

Some of the candleholders were designed to have a chimney surrounding the candle. As I polished those pieces of glass, I found myself praying: Lord! I need to be clean in order for the light to shine through me. I want, more than ever, to be a light reflector. Help me to that end!

While the candleholder and the candlestick combined should be placed in a position that produces usefulness… never under a bushel basket, there is the necessity for us to burn our light to accomplish the best of service for our Savior, Jesus!

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A BELIEF THAT BEHAVES

That is what Guy King entitled a sermon from the Book of James. It is because James does not focus on theology; rather, he deals with practical Christianity.

We have lots of “professors”, those who identify themselves as Christians but live like the “devil”. As has been said over the years, “Go to a funeral and you wonder who the preacher is speaking of, because we have never seen any indication of this noble character that now occupies the coffin”.

As Jewish people turned to Christianity they began to experience opposition, which developed into persecution. So intense was the persecution that it was like quick-silver being stomped on. Many felt the need to abandon Jerusalem and it is to these “twelve tribes” that James writes.

Remember, it is to those of this new found faith that he is writing. He addresses them as needing “pruning”. His desire is that they become more in keeping as having experienced “refining”. In fact, there is constant reference to the Sermon on the Mount. Again, James takes them “to the woodshed”, so to speak. And, what does he enjoin upon them?

So, you are going through persecution, Rejoice! We need to learn endurance! It is what they were going through… quit complaining! God is teaching us endurance; He is teaching us how to be humble as he applies discipline. He has promised that we shall experience crowning when we complete the course, approval of God, and in case you fear death, “must we live?”

All of those things are brought to our attention in the opening verses of James Chapter 1. As I indicated previously, R E J O I C E!

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BUILDING BRIDGES

During the years that we have traveled to Wikieup on Route 93, we were cognizant of the dangers inherent in the journey each week. I counted the crosses erected on “Dead Man’s Corner” – 16 visible without stopping the car. But, that was not the sole stretch of road that needed to be straightened; it will take them 10 years or more to dole out section after section for construction. When Reader’s Digest included it in its list of most dangerous roads, I knew that statistically my thoughts were verified.

An early segment of this construction involved the area at the Santa Maria River. It would become a major project that saw the erection of a new bridge and the demolition of an old one. It would be raised considerably, creating the necessity of new approaches and massive amounts of concrete around reinforcement steel to capacitate dual banked lanes in each direction.

Hardly had we begun to utilize this new stretch of highway when another bridge began construction at Kaiser Springs. This one will be more complicated than the previous bridge and at its completion; still another will begin at Burrow Creek.

Building bridges are necessary to upgrading our highways for many reasons; including the fact that time takes its toll. Deterioration sets in unobserved in most cases; nevertheless, it must be dealt with and certainly we cannot expect to handle increased traffic in outmoded or weakened conditions.

All of this leads me to think of situations that need to be BRIDGED. Husbands and wives need to realistically evaluate the strength of their marriage and actively engage in rebuilding. Children and parents need to re-establish long broken relationships, not waiting for the other to act. Friends of yesteryear need to be re-connected. None of these will be accomplished as long as we determine that we have to prove we were right for what happened initially, that the other individual must also apologize.

It is time to be big enough to rise above the pettiness of the past, to forgive, even if the other person still thinks he or she is not responsible. The Holy Spirit can do a far superior job on all of us if we do things with the dignity of a disciple. The Lord gave instruction in detail in both passages, Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 11, which we are not to wait for another to come crawling and clawing. Like the father of the prodigal son, run to meet them, forgive them, and celebrate together over restoration. (Luke 15)

So, you think I harp on this subject? You are on target! It is one of the most repulsive sins that I know to exist in our churches. Pick up your tool of forgiveness, and start building some bridges.

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BUZZARDS EVERYWHERE

After driving one hundred twenty miles to Wikieup, Arizona, we were anticipating getting out of our car, stretching the limbs and greeting old and new friends. All of that was interrupted as we turned off the highway and started up graveled Chicken Springs Road.

The Wikieup Bible Church is located on the side of a hill overlooking the little town of Wikieup. Approximately five miles before one enters the town, you can spot the little church sitting all alone. It has remained a beacon in that town for many years. Interestingly enough, it is not always appreciated or endorsed by many of the townspeople. There are spurts when it seems to advance and, suddenly, some circumstance in the community, unrelated to the church, will cause the church to be blamed and people disappear for a period of time.

This morning as we climbed the road to the church, we noticed that there were numerous buzzards and vultures flying around the area. There was no noticeable smell of decomposing animals or such, yet they were moving from side to side of the road. It seemed a little out of place.

On my left I noticed a “church” that has been there for years. In reality, it is a cultic group. The people that attend there are well thought of in the community. They are good citizens. However, the teaching of that group does not follow the dictates of Scripture and, try as I might to consider them Christian, nothing would allow such an inclusion. I found myself thinking: We have different kinds of vultures on every hand today.

Sad to say, many professing Christians cannot discern the buzzards or vultures that are attacking them daily. They want to include everyone in the family of God, whether they have repented of their sin and embraced Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior or not. Paul had much to say to Timothy about such persons. Second Timothy 3 would be a good starting point, although the entire Epistle is filled with stern warnings.

Someone noted that these buzzards are a little ahead of schedule this year. The Scripture warns us that, as the waning days of history approaches, the devil and his cohorts will increase their efforts to steal the Scriptures from the hearts of the saints.

Paul warned the Ephesian believers: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10-12 NASB)

Just like the folk at Wikieup, we too need to be aware of the Buzzards and their intention.

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BREAD

How in the world can such a variety of bread be made from the same basic ingredients? Beats me! However, there it is on the shelves of our Super Markets day after day. I am one of those guys that would prefer a hard roll and butter over any piece of Danish or doughnut. In fact, a couple moved here from upstate New York and opened a bakery with lots of goodies, but my first request was a hard roll with a bit of butter. It remains my preference as I visit them every so often.

When I spent much time in the Cake Shop Bakery in Bermuda with my good friends, Uncle Frankie and Aunt Belle, (no relationship except in Christ), it was hard for me to find a piece of bread to eat. They produced the greatest cakes and pastry one could buy. When I had a meal with them, I would prod her a little and say: “Is this Uncle Frankie’s Cake?” Her retort was always: “I do not serve the bakery cake, I make my own!” And that she did. It could not be beat.

They call bread “the Staff of Life”. It is obvious that it probably forms the most basic ingredient of our diet. Although I’m not a big bread eater, I would probably enjoy more of it except I don’t want to reach a point where I must look in a mirror to see my feet.

Wouldn’t it have been exciting to be with that crowd that experienced the multiplying of the bread and fishes by our Lord Jesus? Have you ever wondered where they procured those other eleven baskets in which to place the leftover food? Jesus, shortly after that miracle in John 6, spoke about His being “The Bread of Life”. Interestingly, He started that discourse by saying: “You sought me… because you ate the loaves and were filled.” He then told them to seek: “Not the food that perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life”. Further, He said: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and He who believes in Me will never thirst.” (John 6:35)

Several things I know about bread; it is to be Broken, Received, Eaten, Assimilated, and Distributed. Jesus, as the bread of life, is to be embraced in the aforementioned method spiritually. Jesus said that “unless I eat His body, I have no life in me”.

A further thought: We do not eat haphazardly. It is important that we feast on Jesus consistently day by day. The method to do so is by reading the Scriptures, meditating on what has been read, and then applying our discoveries.

Now I think I’ll have a hard roll with a bit of butter.

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BOUNDARY MARKERS

It is as vivid today as it was in my childhood… that moment when my father stood on the corner of his property and said: “This is the corner of my property. The center of that stone marks the spot where my line stops and your uncle’s starts. There are three more at each of the other corners indicating our boundary.”

I looked at the property markers — concrete poured into those old-fashioned kerosene cans that were sunk into the ground almost two feet deep. You can be sure that there was little likelihood that they would be moved by anyone. There would be no necessity for a surveyor to come back and repeat his job any time in the near future. This was a common practice back in those days and on my visits to Bermuda today, I can still see boundary markers in many locations.

When we purchased our home in Sun City my neighbor informed me that the previous neighbor had infringed on her property with his border. Rather than argue, I simply moved my markers to her satisfaction, two to three inches. If the next owners want to argue, let them pay the surveyor.

There was a time when boundary markers were vulnerable to relocation. Imagine how much property could be illegally obtained by moving the marker just one inch per month. God’s people are committed to moral integrity and warned not to be a participant in such conduct. While the first part of Proverbs 23:10 gives warning, verse 11 reminds us that “their Redeemer is strong”. God is caring for those who are abused and ultimately one gives account to HIM; again, if I do not “give my heart to discipline”, I will experience discipline from the Lord.

We had many clearly defined boundary markers, if you please, in years gone by that no longer exist. We saw them as narrow, old fashioned and any other expression that justifies our “more mature status”. We did not entertain the world on Saturday and the Lord’s crowd on Sunday. The church held fast on issues such as divorce. Preachers proclaimed the sin of homosexuality as such and warned of God’s impending judgment. These are but a few of the old-fashioned boundary markers that have been replaced with “more thoroughly refined scholarship”.

It is time to re-establish our boundaries and entrench them so deeply that they are not vulnerable to the whims and wishes of men. They wait for us to hold the line and show the way.

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BORDERS

Our years of ministering the Word of God has necessitated that we travel a little more than the average person. Always, we are conscious of crossing borders between countries, states, even towns and cities. Sometimes, we have run into humorous situations, but other times we have met the rigid process by the determined officer examining our papers.

Crossing from Bermuda to the U.S.A. is most simple because the U.S. keeps immigration and customs officers stationed in Bermuda. That flight is treated more like a domestic flight.

We have never encountered a problem crossing from the U.S. to Mexico or coming back. Admittedly, I have heard all types of stories, but by obeying the laws of each border, we move freely from one country to the other.

One of our most interesting crossings was from Jordan to Israel. We were required to stand back from others and take a picture with our camera pointed to the sky. I would suppose that if I intended to blow anyone up, it would be me.

Years ago we were crossing from California to Arizona. We had been living in Alaska and fresh fruit was not available in abundance in our locale. We purchased a good amount of grapes to enjoy as we drove across the desert. However, we were informed that it was not permissible to take them across state lines. I backed the car up and we enjoyed our grapes before crossing that border.

You might recall how God set a “border” at the bottom of Mt. Sinai. (Exodus 19) The people were not to touch that border, or they would die. The 12th verse said: “You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.’” God set bounds for His people then, and He sets bounds for His people today.

A beautiful portion of Sacred Script that shows some clear-cut borders would be found in Ephesians 4 and 5. For instance, Paul told the believers that they should not follow the manner of the Gentiles of that hour: futility of mind, ignorance, hardness of heart, callousness, sensuality, greediness, deceitful lusts, falsehood, anger, stealing, laziness, unwholesome words or grieving of the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 4:17-32) He also followed that with what should be the goal of every believer: “Be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” More was said following this.

Did we not say that there are borders for believers? These borders are not porous, as those of our country. They are legitimate borders that the Christian should do everything in his power to observe. The 30th verse of Chapter 4 warns concerning grieving the Holy Spirit, while the 18th verse of Chapter 5 enjoins upon us the filling of the Holy Spirit.

God is not being parsimonious in establishing borders. We are a “chosen” people. We have been chosen to a high and lofty calling. Any borders established are to enable us to be “imitators of God, as beloved children”. (Ephesians 5:1)

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BIRTHDAYS

The calendar declared it; it was my birthday. I have had a few of those over the years, and like the rest of you, every 365 or 366 days another appears. I am not pushing for an abundance more of them, nor am I hoping not to see another. I just choose to let the Lord handle the counting of the hairs on my head and the numbering of my days. (Matthew 10:30) I live with the anticipation that one-day He is going to call: “Ted!” I am going to answer: “Coming!” I will hear Him say: “No, you are here!”

I recently jotted it down this way:

My friends are quick to greet me,

On this my special day

Whether they are envious, or sorrowful,

Who am I to say?

I know I’m closer Home than I have

Ever been before,

While some of them are closer to

Heaven’s welcomed door.

They had their fun at razzing,

And some have shared concern,

I’ll let them in on a secret —

I’m just ONE-DAY CLOSER HOME!

I am not an alarmist, but I know that we are 2,000 years closer to that moment when Jesus said He would return. I live each day with the realization that it could be my last and if it is not, I await the moment when it will take place.

In light of these birthdays that we celebrate, I remind you that first of all you should be ready for death. It can strike momentarily or in the distant future, but it is an appointment that all must keep. (Hebrews 9:27) In the interim, KEEP LOOKING UP, for when the outlook is bleak, the UP-LOOK works.

A reminder: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 NIV)

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BE CAREFUL OF YOUR LEADERS

We received a phone call one morning. A friend of ours was tired of taking cold showers and, at my convenience, would I try to repair his shower faucet.

I had been at this home a couple of months ago to replace a cartridge in the Moen faucet in the bathroom. Moen faucets contain cartridges that can be reversed by simply turning the inner stem 180 degrees. When installing, we must check by running it for a few minutes to make sure that we have the hot and cold on their respective sides. That day, I was in a hurry for a combination of reasons. I ran the water until it was warm and assumed that it was adjusted properly. I completely forgot that it was summer time and I should wait longer for the hot, hot water.

For those not familiar with Arizona, hot water tanks are often in the garage and when the temperatures are exceptionally hot, the water will follow suit. Two things happened simultaneously; there was not the demand for hot water in the shower because of the location of the hot water tank, and, by turning the handle in the opposite direction in the sink, they could get the combination of tempered water desired.

To add a little confusion, they took a vacation and we took a vacation and nothing was said about the problem that existed. They simply turned to the available water supply. What was not realized was that, psychologically, they were being programmed. When returning from vacation, they turned the shower handle in the wrong direction, as they had been doing with the sink, and acquired only cold water.

Once the problem was corrected, which only took about a minute, I said: “Do you realize that I deceived you into believing a lie? Before you realized what was happening, the psychological mind-play went into effect and you thought what you were doing was right. One needs to check out their leaders. I led you astray!” We were able to joke about what had happened and how it happened; then, we talked about it from a spiritual concept.

The Scripture warns about teachers who lead believers astray. Paul advised Timothy, in 1 & 2 Timothy, to watch out for those “deceivers”. Arrays of leaders fall short of the stipulations for leadership in that Epistle. Some of the doctrine we hear propagated today has led many saints into ignorant practices. Some of our worship is worldly; some of our financial endeavors are far removed from Scripture; and a lot of what is going on is psychological and manipulative. Instead of Holy Spirit empowerment, the spirit of the flesh prevails. We are being “psyched out” into believing numbers to be an indication of God’s approval. We simply “turn the handle” in the opposite direction.

The church of this hour needs repentance, refining, refreshment, REVIVAL… “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)

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BEYOND HOPE?

Returning from Lake Havasu recently, we passed through the town of HOPE. Like many other “towns” in Arizona, it has small, minute enclaves of folk; so small that, if you blinked, you missed their existence. Some of the farms we passed were larger than the town itself.

We stopped to admire the church building and then proceeded on our journey. A few hundred yards later, we observed a sign that read: “You are now beyond Hope!” The humorous intended double-meaning caught the eye and demanded mulling over.

I can remember as a child using that expression concerning another individual. While a few years of maturity caused me to avoid such utterances, I have to admit that some individuals seem to pose more of a challenge than others. Probably, some feel that way about me.

People, “beyond hope”, too numerous to calculate, have crossed all of our paths. Some have had alcohol problems, sex problems, greed problems, financial problems, ego problems, (the list is endless). After extended efforts to assist them in their plight, we feel like throwing up our hands in disgust or frustration. Thankfully, God does not do that with us!

Ann was such a girl! Her life was a mess. Inevitably, it led to AIDS. It was in that situation that she finally dedicated her life to the Lord. She then wrote a booklet about her hopelessness until she found Christ. In that booklet, which was sent to me following her death, she wrote a personal note concerning her journey and her contemplation of seeing Christ, now that she was forgiven. My own personal conclusion was that God, seeing the hopelessness of Ann’s humanness, put His arms around her and said: “Ann! You cannot deal with things down there. I will just take you Home.” He did!

There is never a time in this journey through life that we are “beyond hope”. While it may have that appearance to our humanness, there is ever the comforting thought of the thief on the cross crying out for forgiveness. We must never lose sight of Christ’s response: “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Then again, there is the truth of 2 Corinthians 6:2… “for He said, ‘At the acceptable time I listened to you, and, on the day of Salvation, I helped you.’ Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’-

You are not beyond hope. Today; call upon Jesus for your Salvation!

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BACK TO THE SPRING

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

John 4:13-14

While reading a book of recent by Dr. Vance Havner, my mind went back more than fifty years. We had just begun dating and I was visiting Patsy’s home, close to Chester, Pennsylvania.

We went to the Chester Park and made our way along the footpath to a spring that fed the creek. At the spring, we drank some of the purest water ever. It was a delightful experience that has rested in my mind these many years.

Several times over the years, I have passed close to the spring but have never visited it. I was told that when the “hippies” took over the area in the 60’s, they created problems for the spring; on top of that came the “druggies”. Most people no longer visit the area for fear of being harmed. The spring is there, but few are those that visit or linger near it.

Enough is said in Scripture concerning springs to warrant attention. It is significant, inasmuch as the setting of Scripture is basically that of desert. Springs were important to survival. They commanded the attention ascribed to them. God made multiplied promises to Israel in Isaiah 58, among them we find: “And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (Isaiah 58:11) “Like a spring of water” is deeply meaningful; especially to the parched lips and throat of a desert dweller.

Perhaps a verse, like that where David said, “Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate!” (2 Samuel 23:15), would impart to us the value that people placed upon water. When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, He said: “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13, 14) This was one of the most marvelous truths she had ever heard. Her forthright request: “Sir, give me this water…” was probably the attitude of the multitude.

All too frequently, the child of God has allowed others to impede his frequent visits to the “spring” of life Himself. He has passed close but has not enjoyed the pleasures he once knew. He is putting up with chlorinated, fluoridated, carbonated, or imitated water. He is in need of returning to the Living Spring! He will put a little spring in his holy walk.

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BIOSPHERE 1 OR 2

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

GENESIS 1:1

Our visit to Biosphere 2 was an experience long to be remembered. While my brain does not revel in the scientific realm, it is sufficiently adaptable to comprehend with fascination something of this magnitude.

Having completed our tour and preparing for departure, a thought penetrated my mind. Here we are, endeavoring to produce a situation that is self-sustaining, but having to utilize everything necessary for the experiment from Biosphere 1. It was an exciting moment! They had done a monumental work and yet had to rely on the Creator Himself for the provision of the material for such a performance.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) In the succeeding chapters, elaboration continues on the what, when and how. Try as man might to explain it away with his theories, the truth is that God is the creator of it all.

While they argue about the management process, we live in the present system under the providential hand of an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God who carefully manages it for a consistent operation from day to day. (Psalm 19) The local boys, scientists, depend upon that fact for their experiments in all areas to retain accuracy.

John in his gospel indicates (1:3cf) that Jesus Christ was the Creator of it all. He is life itself. He is the guarantee of a continued existence following our 70 years, plus or minus, on this earth. According to John 14:6, Jesus alone is the way to heaven, and He alone is worthy of our worship.

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BEEN HELPING GOD LATELY?

This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel:

‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’

Says the Lord of hosts.

zECHARIAH 4:6

Over the years I have frequently struggled with that very idea. Oh, no! I never said it directly, but here and there I knew that without me, He might fail.

Remember how I told you about my waterfall and pond in the back yard? It isn’t big, but with a little imagination we might picture Bridal Veil or Horsetail Falls outside of Valdez, Alaska. And Blue Basin in Trinidad has never left my mind even after more than fifty years. Again, this is not Niagara, but just a simple little pond with a small amount of water running freely.

However, just as I expected, we began to attract birds to our little oasis in the back yard. It has become exciting to watch the ever-growing variety that has dropped in for a visit. I expect the list to increase because I decided that with a little help from me, God could feed those birds a little easier than that to which they are accustomed. Yep, I put a feeder out there and overnight, they e-mailed each other and it has already become an interesting scene.

One of the doves decided that by his standing on the feeder he could eat till his heart was content. He also knocked enough seed into the well of our mandarin orange tree to help feed everyone else. Then, he dropped into the well and cleaned house, scattering all the birds. Not even the big black birds attempt to move the “General” of the feed trough. Now I am asking myself, “What type of a problem have I created by taking things into my own hands?”

Here and there in the years of service for Christ, I have sometimes seen others, and more often myself, taking things into my own hands and giving God a little help. I prayed about something and impatiently jumped into making it happen. I have watched preachers play psychological games with people and say we should be depending on the Lord. While we say we will pray, we prey. It is a sick time for our society and for the work of the Lord in particular. We often affront God by trying to assist Him to our desired end. As this process moves into gear, more people might gather and before long we discover that we have created some unanticipated monsters.

I know that the birds’ “belly filling” will either slow down or I will be obligated to turn the whole bunch over to the Lord, which is what I should have done in the first place. But no, I just had to assist HIM because I thought I had a good idea.

“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6 NIV)

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A TALL HEADSTONE

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Philippians 2:8

Had you grown up where I did, one prominent headstone in the graveyard of St. Anne’s Church, Southampton, Bermuda would have caught your eye, just as it did mine. That churchyard, like so many of the churchyards in Bermuda, is surrounded with graves. There, just five or six graves from the front entrance to the church, you can readily spot a marble monument. In fact, the name Loblein catches your eye as quickly as the monument itself.

I recall as a youngster admiring that marble monument. Naturally, such admiration required multiplied questions to both of our parents. I learned much about this man who owned about a dozen grocery stores prior to his death. The stories abounded on his business zeal and popularity throughout the Island. I learned that on the day of his funeral, horse and carriages (the mode of transportation in that day), extended for more than a mile. People from every walk of life sensed an obligation to be present for the burial of this man who touched so many during his lifetime.

In my late teens I was working for Libby, McNeil & Libby as an accountant. We had considerable dealings with O.R. Loblein, Ltd. A transition was taking place about that time. Cars had arrived on the Island and Supermarkets were to become the mode of food supply. In a very brief period of time, O.R. Loblein, Ltd. would become a name of the past. Today, I doubt that many of the younger generation of Bermudians even know that such a company existed. The majority would look at that monument and wonder: “Who was he?” The name does not appear in the telephone directory.

Monuments are interesting to read when visiting a graveyard; some of the oldies draw forth a chuckle, while others raise questions about the how’s and why’s behind it all. Occasionally, one will tug at your heartstrings. Most of them serve for a generation or two but gradually become someone of the forgotten past. I have often driven over some bridge or highway and wondered: “Where did this name come from?”

While monuments serve a purpose, more importantly, we must ask ourselves, where does this all fit into the present. If there is a monument that should be left, it is one life being engraved into the heart of another. It is not just a name on a brick; it is the sacrificed life being engraved into the life of another.

I have stood beside the graves of our young men who have died with valor in the service of our country. They deserve recognition. Behind the scenes are the parents of those young men who will forever be forgotten. There will be no marble monuments for them, yet, they paid a stupendous price to raise those fellows and help them to arrive at a maturity level that said in effect: “Others first. Self second.”

I look often at crosses that represent the person of Jesus Christ being sacrificed for the sin of humanity. I wonder if it is nothing more than a “good luck charm” or some other object of little importance to the one wearing it. I keep asking, “Has it engraved its message into the heart of the wearer.”

Where might one consider the focus of his ministry? Are we looking at things or people? A most beautiful illustration of the “monuments” that people should consider erecting is portrayed for us by Jesus Himself: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11 NASB)

Perhaps our interest should be heart-stones rather than headstones.

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A TRANSFORMATION

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:1-2

I stood fascinated with the butterfly that had landed directly in front of me. It precipitated reflection on my childhood when caterpillars would be watched with fascination until such time as a cocoon was formed and the amazing process of metamorphosis would begin.

Those days permitted the time necessary to extricate oneself from the chores of work my parents wanted performed and become the biologist I would never become. Alas, the day would come. The cocoon would give way to the emergence of a beautiful butterfly. Gradually the wings would spread, and finally it flittered away to bedeck the landscape with color that harmonized with the rest of the surroundings.

It appears to me today that there were many more variations of butterflies when we were “kids”. But, then I saw thru the eyes of a child. What about metamorphosis? Is there something about this process that has a significant spiritual application? The process is spoken of in Romans 12:1, 2. My life should not remain conformed to the world and its standards, but rather undergo a pattern-transforming process. Thru the mind renewing ministry of the Holy Spirit, there emerges a philosophy of life that embraces the Holy Scriptures as authority and its teachings as appropriate for application in my life. From the thought pattern of pleasing oneself and friends, there emerges the desire to please God. This, of course, discloses a heart transformation–for up to that point, everything is anti-God. “His good, pleasing, and perfect will” gives indication that God has been at work within.

For many years, the mirror in our bathroom had a butterfly in one corner. It served as a constant reminder, (as though one glance of my image in the mirror was not sufficient), that ere I move too far, let me pattern my life after the Lord Jesus and thus find transformation from the desires of a sinful heart to what God’s will is for my life.