Looking Forward to the New Year!

Well, 2017 has arrived and I came along with it.  I hope that I can say the same when 2018 gets here.  That may sound strange, but then shortly after 2016 arrived, with me in tow, I challenged that.  That is, I went into the hospital last January and proceeded to have a very unexpected triple bypass!

I had not had any health problems for, well, all my life!  I made it to 61 years old with only one kidney stone that lasted just a day or two some ten or twelve years ago.  Aside from occasional poison ivy or a cold or the flu, I had not had any problems.  I didn’t even have a regular doctor.  I had no medical history to report to the doctors and nurses when I went into the hospital!  No problems – no meds – until now.  Just basically all of a sudden I had upper chest pains and a little burning when breathing.  I passed it off a few times as being old and overweight, but then came the one that did not go away in two minutes.  I knew something more serious must be going on in there.  A quick trip to the local hospital and then a transfer to a bigger one and a couple of tests confirmed artery blockage!

A few days later I had a triple bypass.  A few more days and I was home.  Two months later was my first of 7 trips out of state in 2016, including three out of the country!  Two of those were to the mountains of Peru!  Meanwhile, the church I pastor bought property and totally renovated and redecorated it.  We bought the 9,000+ square foot facility in July and moved into it with it nearly redone by the end of the year!  Between my trips, working day and night at the new site, overseeing the whole project, becoming the team leader for the Peru missions project, my almost daily workouts to regain my health and strength, and a few book signing events, it has been a very busy and full year.  Full of new things.  Full of strange emotions.  Full of work.  Full of muscle pain!  Full of blessings!  Full of joy!  But nonetheless FULL!

I am kind of hoping that 2017 is a little easier.  I do, however, plan on two trips back to Peru and a vacation trip or two.  And then there is still work to do on the new church building.  I have book number three coming out any day, so there will be more book signings.  I have a paint job to do for a friend later this month.  There are some special family events coming this year.  I have my ongoing pastoral duties, as well as the new Bible study I started last week………

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Peru Reflections

It has been a little over a week since Melissa Meadows, a young lady from our church, and I returned from a mission trip to Peru with a couple of other team members..  The effects of such a trip do not wear off easily nor soon.  I’ve looked at the pictures repeatedly, written in a journal a little about the experience, and talked about it quite a bit (imagine that!).

I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts about the trip:  1)  It was a great trip – a good mixture of experiencing another culture, sight-seeing and enjoying God’s creation, making new friends, sharing God’s Word and work with others – both in the mountains and in the city, and watching God at work among the people of Peru as well as our team.

2)  It was a special treat to be a part of Melissa’s first mission trip and watch her grow spiritually and even excel, right before  my eyes!  To have had even a small part in making that happen is a great blessing!

3)  The task of ministering to the people of that mountain region is very daunting, but God is more than able.  Looking to the future is a bit overwhelming, yet looking back, we can clearly see how God has already done great things, so there is no doubt He will continue. Financial needs, travel concerns, health blessings, language and cultural differences, spiritual preparations – God met and exceeded all our needs!

4)  A follow-up trip really soon would be very beneficial.  How could it happen and who would go?  Could we possibly return soon ourselves?

5)  The trip was harder on me physically than I thought it would be.  My back and chest muscles were really put to the test with long plane rides, bumpy car rides up and down the mountain roads, lots of walking in the mountains and city, and not much sleep.  (For those who might not know – I had a triple bypass surgery on Jan. 23rd of this year!)  But God is good and I more than survived – I really enjoyed the trip!

6)  And speaking of survival – Melissa and I had planned to go last summer, but the rest of the team did not materialize.  I hated disappointing her, but we just could not go then.  So, we determined to try again this summer.  Meanwhile, we discovered that I had several blockages in three arteries and had to have a triple bypass in January.FB_IMG_1466560036382  I wonder now if I would have survived the trip last summer!  Could I have made such a trip in the high altitude with that kind of blockage and with little chance of any quick medical response?  It seems to me that perhaps God saved my life by postponing the trip until this year!

7)  What does the future hold?  I don’t know, but God does!  So, we’ll just try to follow His lead.

 

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The Road to Jerusalem – Part 1: Why Go?

At our church, we meet on Wednesday nights for bible study and prayer. We are going to be doing a study series I am calling “The Road to Jerusalem” which will lead us up to Easter Sunday. I’ve decided to post some short devotional thoughts about each lesson. Our first study is called “Why Go?” and the scripture passage is Luke 18:31-34.

In this passage, Jesus tells His disciples that they are going to Jerusalem where He will be taken captive and turned over to the Gentiles for torture and death, but will rise from the dead after three days! What a bomb shell of information to drop on these men! It says they didn’t understand. He mentioned that Old Testament prophets had predicted such things about Him. Apparently they hadn’t grasped that either. They had witnessed miracles, listened to sermons, ministered with Jesus to the poor and needy and broken-hearted, and much more – but apparently, didn’t get it. Get what?

I’d say they didn’t get that the road to glory is a tough road – filled with suffering and sacrifice. Jesus did it willingly and calls us to do the same. We think we deserve the blessings of the kingdom without the pain and cry out when we get the problems. The question remains – Why Go? For Jesus, the answer was because it’s right, it’s necessary, and it’s the only way others will be able to enjoy the glory as well. He has never been self-serving, never looked out for His own welfare, never shirked His calling or responsibilities or destiny. Why should we do the same? For the same reasons, plus one – because He did it for us.

For the study outline and helps go to http://www.cccpana.com and click on Study Archives, go to the menu for Choose Study and scroll down to the Road to Jerusalem Series.

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My State of the Union Address

Not Good!

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The Greatest Valentine

Here are the lyrics to a song I wrote long ago:

A box of chocolates, a fancy card, a candy heart, a rose –

A thousand ways to say I’m thinking of you.

“With all my heart”, “To never depart”, and on and on it goes;

But none compares to the way God said, “I love you!”

If it’s a valentine to say, “I’m thinking of you”,

If it’s loving to ask, “Will you be mine?”

If making sacrifices really says, “I love you”,

Then a rugged cross is the greatest valentine!

If Cupid’s dart can pierce your heart and make you feel brand new;

If giving presents says, “There’s none above you,”

Then how much more is there in store in Jesus’ love for you?

He sacrificed His life to say, “I love you!”

If it’s a valentine to say, “I’m thinking of you”,

If it’s loving to ask, “Will you be mine?”,

If making sacrifices really says, “I love you!”,

Then a rugged cross is the greatest valentine!”

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My New Book!

Last year I had posted here for a little while a poem I wrote about the Nativity story as found in Luke 2 in the Bible.  I called it “Twas the Night Jesus Was Born”.  I had shared how it came about as a story for our children’s ministry.  However, I had to take it down shortly – because I sent it off to be published into a book!

It’s done now!  I have published for the first time!  It’s official release date is July 9, 2014, but it’s out now on the publisher’s web site and through me and a few other places I have established as points of sale.  It is a soft cover, fully illustrated children’s book and Tate Publishing of Oklahoma has done a great job for me.  They provide a link in the back of each book for a free audio download of the book and there is an ebook of it, as well.  There are plans to make coloring book and 3D versions, too.  I developed a web site for the book and announced it on facebook and so far the sales have gone very well.  I was just interviewed for the newspaper that serves my old hometown and I will be doing a book signing soon at a bookstore in the mall there!

I’m pretty excited about it for a couple of reasons.  One, though not the more important, is that if it even sells moderately well, maybe I can quit painting houses to supplement my income as a pastor of a small church and do that through the books.  Two, and this is the better reason, that the book will help keep Christ in Christmas by giving hundreds (dare I say thousands) of parents and grandparents an easy way to share what I consider the true message of Christmas with their children.

If you would like to read more about the book – and maybe even buy one or two – you can find out all about it at http://www.twasthenightjesuswasborn.com

Update on 6/23/18 – Tate Publishing closed its doors.  I had published a second book with them and was working on the third.  The first two are only available through  me at the moment (see the above listed website) until I find a new publisher to help me with them.  The third one has been published by Redemption Press and can be purchased in many places, but the best is still through MY website!  Unfortunately, at this time there are no ebooks of any of the three.

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Happy Hypocrisy!

Wow!  It has been almost forever since I last blogged!  Anybody remember me?  I have had so much to do and write that I sort of shelved the idea of blogging, but I just need to get this said for it is now the season of Happy Hypocrisy!  No, I’m no Scrooge – I enjoy Christmas.  I love Jesus and He is the reason we celebrate.  I used to love Christmas, but sadly we have commercialized it too much and over-filled the calendar with it’s activities, so, now I would have to say I enjoy it.  Love Jesus, enjoy the celebration.

The reason I am posting is simply to counter the movement against it.  Too much ado about nothing.  It’s not that Christmas and the reason for it are nothing,  It’s that the objectors to Christ in Christmas, Merry Christmas, nativity scenes, etc. say THAT isn’t real or true and want us to stop it all!  They say celebrate the holiday without Him.  Duh.  We have the holiday because it was designated as His birthday.  It’s a birthday party – His!  Like it or not, that’s why there is a Christmas.  If it’s not real, then what’s the harm?  If it is nothing, then why all the ado?  If it is real, but not your “thing”, so what?  Don’t celebrate my birthday without inviting me and don’t celebrate His without inviting Him.  Folks seem to think that is okay!  Enjoy the party, but don’t include the One for whom we have the party.  Don’t mention His name in the greeting (Merry Christmas!).  Don’t display any references or depictions of His birth, but by all means have the party!  Call off school, take off work, give gifts and celebrate, just don’t tell anyone the real reason why.  In fact, let’s completely change the reason why and tell those who want to keep it real that they offend us when they do.  So WE shouldn’t celebrate the real reason and meaning of the season, but THEY can celebrate their way.  In the name of Whatmas?

Such hypocrisy!  They are the tolerant ones?  They can say “Happy Holidays” and wish people peace and joy after stealing our holiday and kicking out the “party honoree”?  In the spirit of love and peace and celebration, they want to take OUR party away from us and cry “foul” if WE try to hold on to it!  I would be ashamed.  THEY apparently have no shame.  And it doesn’t stop at Christmas!  It is anything to do with His name and His Word!  The whole Christian belief is taboo now.  Such hypocrisy!  In the name of tolerance, they won’t tolerate Christianity! Believe the Bible to be true? Then you are made fun of in academia, practically black-balled in show business and politics, cursed and abused in the media and social media – but… “Happy Holidays, to you!  We are tolerant, progressive, evolved thinkers – you believers, sit down, shut up and go along or else!”  Such hypocrisy!  

I must add, that though sad and deplorable it may be, it is not surprising.  By and large the world hated Jesus when He was here.  It is not shocking that they still do.  What I am appalled by is the utter ignorance and hypocrisy in their actions and statements.  Does it really seem right to anyone that it’s okay to believe and practice whatever you want – as long as it’s NOT Christianity?  THEY can party for NO reason, but WE cannot for our reason.  They say “you can, just don’t force it on us.”  They can force us to quit what we’ve done for over a hundred years (Christmas celebrations) in the name of someone we’ve loved and worshiped for over a couple of thousand years (technically, since the beginning of time).  But somehow, lately it has become “forcing it on them”.  Christians can do all the same things non-Christians can do?  Not hardly!  THEY can practice non-belief publicly and speak blasphemy, and denigrate Christians and their beliefs; Christians are to keep their beliefs and practices quiet and private and never speak out against any practice of others.  If they do, they have judged someone and are bigots and haters, all the while others are free to judge and hate Christians and their beliefs!

Since when can’t we judge behavior and actions?  We want our schools to do it.  We want our justice system (police and courts) to do it.  Employers do it.  Parents ought to do it.  Even psychiatrists do it!  But don’t do it in the name of religion!  Have we become so ignorant that we don’t know the difference between judging and being judgmental?  One is discerning right and wrong behavior – the other is the attitude taken toward the person.  Obviously, the problem isn’t judging an action, behavior, or belief.  Rather it is the choice of the standard by which we judge.  And once again, we are being told what we CANNOT use as the standard – the Bible.  Well, WHO says?  Why is it better to use standards determined by politicians, Hollywood, academia, or the latest fad and enforced by threat and abuse in the name of tolerance and freedom (ha!)?  Obviously, it’s NOT a better standard, just theirs.

So, to wrap it up: do or say what you will about Christmas and, by extension, Christianity, but be honest and fair and leave the rest of us alone to celebrate as we always have.  We are not forcing you to agree or even go along.  If you don’t want CHRISTmas, then have your own holiday or none, but leave ours alone.  If you want the birthday party without “the birthday Boy”, go ahead, but let us go ahead and include Him.  If you don’t want Christmas to be what it really is, then go ahead and go to school, go to work, stay away from gift buying and giving; don’t haul out the holly, deck the halls, trim the tree, nor sing the songs.  It’s okay.  Just don’t tell us that we have to stop because of you.  We’re not telling you that you have to join us.  You are welcome to, though. 

So, try to enjoy life – while we have a Merry Christmas!

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