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Come with me on a spiritual Journey!

Have Mercy On Me

Bart Millard used to listen to cassette tapes of Amy Grant and other Christian musicians on his head phones.  It was a way that he could get his mind at peace after dealing with an abusive father.  There was no peace in the Millard household.  His father was quick to squash any dreams that Bart had.  Something must have drastically altered his fathers dreams years ago and now he was all about making sure that his son didn’t fantasize with his own dreams.  Mr. Millard was a heavy drinker and wife beater.  It got so bad that Bart was sent to a camp just to get him out of harms way.  His mother loved him very much and thought that the camp experience would be a good retreat for him.  Bart was a stranger in the camp which happened to be a church camp.  One person that befriended him right away was a girl named Shannon.  Even though Bart was slow to open up to her she liked him as he was.  Camp offered Bart a disciplined different view of life than he had at home.  All of the campers were given journal books and they were required to take notes of what they learned and what was important in their view.  Studiously Bart took notes and it became a big part of his camp experience.

After the two weeks Bart came home.  Surprisingly he found that his mom was missing.  He was angry as he confronted his father as to what happened to her.  His father told Bart she wasn’t hurt and that she had left him.  Bart was devastated as his mother was the only one that he felt loved him.  Through the strained relationship with his father Bart tried to find himself.  He liked football and became good at it playing on his high school team.  However even in his glowing moments he didn’t get help from his dad.  His dad was a star player in high school and after Bart had a big game his dad was quick to squash his victory.  “How many of them did it take?”, his father asked.  Not knowing what he was asking Bart asked the question back to him.  His father was a running back when he played,  just like Bart.  He explained what he meant.  “How many did it take to bring you down?”  Bart said “Two or three, I don’t know”.  “Two or three couldn’t bring me down, It took the whole team to bring me down.”  Through all of the negative Bart still kept his football dreams alive.  That was until one play that happened near the end of the season.  Bart was running for the goal line when he was hit simultaneously by two different defenders.  The result was a broken leg and Bart was left without his football dream.

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Bart needed to be in another class because he was not able to play football.  He hobbled into the Dramatics class that first day and fielded the teachers questions.  “Can you act?” “Can you sing?”  Bart told her that he could neither act or sing but that he had to pick up a class to make up for not playing football.  His teacher said that he could be in charge of the sound then.  Bart began to love the sound position confident that he knew something about sound from his early days of loving the sound of Amy Grant and other top Christian artists.  One day he happened to have his head phones on as he was listening to a tape.  His teacher happened to walk by.  Unaware of her presence Bart was singing along to the music.  His teacher couldn’t help notice the beautiful vocals that were coming out of Bart.  When the cast for the upcoming musical Oklahoma was announced Bart was horrified to learn that he was cast for the lead.  “Oh no, there has been some kind of mistake here” Bart commented as he confronted the teacher.  She listened to all of Bart’s reason why he couldn’t do it.  The last one was that he had the broken leg.  “The play isn’t for six weeks she said.  You will be well by then.”  She informed him that he would perform in the play if he wanted to pass is class.  Through all of the disguise his teacher saw something in him that he didn’t know was there.  For that time she took the place of an encouraging parent that see’s things in their children and helps prepare them to use their gifts.  Bart didn’t have that at home and for the first time he was given hope.

The play was a great success and Bart was the star of the show!  He found his niche in his acting and singing role and everyone who watched was amazed.  One of the amazed people was Shannon (his camp friend) who was a high school classmate and Bart’s girl friend.  One person who thought he was wasting his time was his father.  One day his father was at a bar and he saw a brochure of the play and Bart’s name in the lead role.  Then he was overcome with pain and tumbled to the floor.   He found himself in the hospital and the reports were not good.  Bart’s father was suffering from cancer and he didn’t have that long to live.  Bart never knew about this diagnosis.  His father kept him in the dark and said that he was fine.  After high school Bart could not live with his father anymore.  He didn’t know where he was going but he needed to be somewhere else.  He hooked up with a band and became their sound man.  The band was missing one thing a lead singer.  Bart offered that he could help.  He mentioned that he could sing and become their voice on stage.  That is how he became the lead singer of the group.  He also formed the name of the band.  His grandmother always said to him “Mercy me Bart” when she was amazed at something he said or did.  The band became known as MercyMe.

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MercyMe was having moderate success playing to limited crowds.  With every little success Bart was living the dream.  Unfortunately his excitement with the band consumed him.  Shannon felt like she wasn’t important to Bart anymore.  She broke up with him and told him they were through.  Because of his father Bart didn’t want to let anyone know the real him.  He was afraid to dream even as he was having success.  Shannon sensed that and was very hurt that Bart’s world really didn’t include her.  He felt bad after they broke up and would call her from the road telling her how the band was doing.  Unfortunately he was always talking to her answering machine as Shannon had given up on him.  The group was fortunate enough to have an agent in the crowd one night.  He heard the sound and was somewhat impressed.  He liked what he heard but knew there was something missing.  The agent agreed to go to the next concert on the groups bus.  Once again he noticed the same thing..the music was good, the talent was there, but something was missing.  What was missing was discovered when he heard their last long.  It was a passionate song that moved the crowd to tears.  He told the group he was leaving them, but that he was leaving to find them a bigger venue and to bring some music industry heads to see them.  He also told Bart that the concert was just OK but that last song was fantastic.  “Try to sing all of your songs like that” was his advice.

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After the concert in the new venue Bart and the group sat in the dressing room awaiting the results.  Their agent was talking to the elite’s of the industry when Bart could not stand it anymore.  Against the wishes of the band Bart got up and disrupted the meeting.  He wanted to know what they thought.  The hard truth hit him like a brick in the back of the head.  They see hundreds of groups and to them MercyMe was nothing special.  They rated them as a local group that would never be anything more than that.  The combination of their words and the words that his father put in his head years ago was too much for Bart.  He returned to the rest of the band and told them he was through.  Maybe he was wasting his time after all.

Bart returned home to find that his father was treating him wonderfully.  Not knowing how to respond Bart let his father have it.  His father told him he had been thinking a lot about how he had lived and had been listening to a lot of christian music.  He had asked God for forgiveness.  Bart was not in the forgiving mood.  In his mind his father had destroyed his dreams and he was bitter.  Later he happened to be looking through some papers and there was the medical report on his father.  Now he knew his father was dying but the bitterness remained.  Bart was having a battle within himself that came to a climax when he found his father collapsed in the barn.  Instead of mercy he found himself with a baseball bat in his hands.  “Go ahead”, his father urged.  But slowly Bart put the bat down and helped his father up.  The act of helping his father as he put all of his weight on Bart seemed to open the door of forgiveness and mercy to Bart.  From that time until his father died Bart was his best friend.

After his father died Bart was in a state of self reflection.  He was amazed at the change that his father had demonstrated.  At the same time he realized he needed spiritual depth in his own life.  He reflected back to the time when he was at camp and took those notes in his journal.  He actually dug out his old journal and started re-living his thoughts at that time.  Page after page he noticed one line that was getting embedded in his head.  The line written numerous times in his journal was “I can only imagine.”  He got back with the band and that phrase was in the front of his mind.  He started writing a song from just that title and the words just seemed to flow.  They made a tape of the song and sent it to their agent.  Right away his agent knew they were onto something.  Bart sang the song with compassion that he had never heard before!  The agent sent it to people in high places in the industry.  Amy Grant heard the song and fell in love with it.  She wanted to do the song on her comeback tour with the groups permission.  Bart was in the audience as Amy was about to sing the song.  When the magic moment came Amy couldn’t do it.  Instead she called Bart from the stands to sing his song.  The crowd was in awe as Bart passionately sang his song that he dedicated to his father.  Deeply moved they gave him a standing ovation.  Amy gave the song back to Bart and the band and it became a number one hit on the Christian music charts along with a hit on the main stream charts too!  It was the song that launched the group MercyMe to heights nobody had imagined for them.  I Can Only Imagine was voted the number one song of the year!  They would go on to record other powerful hits because instead of just lyrics Bart was singing with a passion he had never had before.

In our christian walk like Bart we can lose the passion that we had when we first believed.  Slowly we may start questioning as the world puts their views into our minds.  The result is a dead listless doubting believer who has lost their uniqueness in the world.  Jesus addressed this problem in Matthew 5:13.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its
flavor, with what will it be salted? It is then good for nothing,
but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.

In Bart’s case as in many of us our salt loses it’s flavor by our lack of forgiveness.  In life there are people or circumstances that if we let them can cause a deep dark unforgiving spirit to come over us.  This is not the will of God.  He wants us to have our hearts pure so that his love can flow through us.  Everyone who listened to Bart noticed how talented he was.  However his words alone weren’t able to move people.  It was only when he let God change his heart and take away the hurt that Bart was free to express his love and compassion.  The same thing affects many of us today.  We may say all of the right words but we are not convincing.  The flow of love has been blocked by hurt, anger, and an unwillingness to forgive.  Our passion has been replaced by the religious ritual of trying to do the right thing without true love in our hearts.  By forgiving everyone we open the door to God’s love and blessing.  When Jesus died on the cross for our sins he demonstrated his mercy for all of us.  By having mercy on those who have wronged us we exhibit his living love within us.  What miracles could God  do through us when we all have a forgiving spirit?  Using Bart’s words “I can only imagine.”

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footnote:  Shannon saw the change in Bart’s life and today they are married with 5 children.  MercyMe has released some of the most powerful Christian music in the last few years that were able to crossover to the adult contemporary stations!  A movie was made called I Can Only Imagine and it hit the big screen in 2018. The description of the movie was stated as follows… Based on the incredible true-life story that inspired the beloved, chart-topping song, I Can Only Imagine is a song that brings ultimate hope to so many – often in the midst of life’s most challenging moments. Amazingly, the song was written in mere minutes by MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard. In reality, those lyrics took a lifetime to craft.

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An Audience Of One

When Carson Wentz star quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles came into the league he wanted to start a Foundation.  His agent and others advising him advised against it.  “Most players coming into the league wait four or five years to do that”, they told him.  Carson didn’t want to wait.  Then again he wasn’t like most guys coming into the league because he thought quite differently than the average 24 year old.  He considered their advice but then a thought entered his mind.  I have no idea where I will be in four or five years.  Hopefully I will still be playing this game but nothing is for certain and it is no given I will be in Philadelphia still.  He wanted to make a difference in the lives of people and so a simple question popped into his mind “Why wait?”

Carson Wentz starts AO1 Foundation to help the less fortunate

The Carson Wentz AO1 Foundation

was launched in 2017 and its mission is to “demonstrate the love of God by providing opportunities and support for the less fortunate and those in need.”

Carson’s Foundation has three major objectives. To provide shelter, food and education for underprivileged youth; to provide hunting opportunities for disabled people; and to provide service dogs to those who need them  So where does this drive in a man so young to help people in need come from?  Maybe part of the answer can be found in his AO1 Foundation mission statement.  “To demonstrate the love of God by providing opportunities and support for the less fortunate and those in need.  In that statement we see “the love of God” and therein lies the drive in Carson’s life.  That and a tattoo that he has on his wrist “AO1” which stands for “Living for an audience of one, Jesus Christ.”

Wentz found the Lord while in college at North Dakota State. He went to church weekly growing up but it wasn’t for spirituality as much as it was for his family.  It was something that he thought was a good thing and went without a deep commitment.  In college all of that changed.  He joined a prayer group with some of his teammates.  Again it seemed like the right thing to do as he built relationships with guys on the team.  As a freshman he was approached by the senior quarterback on the team named Dante Perez.  As they were stretching during a practice Dante asked him if he ever reads the Bible?  Wentz first thought was that the guy was bringing his religion to the wrong place.  After all we were at football practice not church.  Then they ended up meeting and Dante mentored Carson in his faith for about a year.

“I remember just having some college mentors, some former teammates kind of just help walking me through the Word,” he added. “And I ended up reading the whole New Testament of the Bible in the first three months of my freshman semester, and it just became real to me.”Carson Wentz

 That realness grew the remaining years of his college experience.  At the time of the 2016 NFL Draft Carson was rated as one of the top Quarterbacks coming out.  But something far deeper was on his mind.  I just remember praying almost every day. ‘Lord I don’t know where I’m going to be, but just put me in a place where I can grow closer to you.’ He came through big time,” Wentz said.  As the number 2 pick in the NFL Draft Carson was off to Philadelphia where he found the perfect fit!
In his rookie year Carson was named the starting Quarterback when Sam Bradford was unexpectedly traded to the Vikings.  The team originally planned to have Carson sit and learn his first year.  Obviously his practices changed plans as the Eagles traded their starting quarterback and named Wentz their quarterback for 2016.  Wentz did not disappoint.  He became the first rookie quarterback since 1970 to win his first two games of the season and not throw an interception. Carson started all 16 games and the Eagles finished with a 7–9 record.  He threw for a league-record 379 completions by a rookie. His 379 completions also set a single season franchise record.  The Eagles were very happy with their first year quarterback and the future looked bright!  But nobody could have predicted how unbelievable the 2017 season would be!
 Philadelphia Eagles v Los Angeles Rams

In the first 5 games of 2017 Wentz threw for 1,362 yards and 10 touchdowns against only 3 interceptions.  NFL insiders and reporters mentioned him as a Most Valuable Player candidate.  Week after week Wentz led the Eagles.  They didn’t win every game but they were winning most of them.  The Eagles fans had been waiting for years for a quarterback that could lead them to a Super Bowl win.  Since their last championship in 1960  several had taken them to the cusp only to disappoint in the end.  13 years ago another young quarterback named Donovan McNabb started the season 8-1 just like the Eagles record with Wentz after 9 games.  That team finished with a Super Bowl appearance but they lost the big game.  The Eagles fans were hopeful that Wentz could take the team one more step and win the Super Bowl.  This feeling left a Philly fan to be quoted as saying in a recent ESPN the Magazine article that the Philly fans were “cautiously hysterical.”

As much as Wentz and his teammates were stirring up the Philly fans Wentz was also stirring up the Philly clubhouse.  His vibrant faith led to some of his teammates wanting a relationship with God that he had.  What they saw was expressed by the words of Carson himself “I’m very open about my faith,” Wentz said. “I’m not going to hide from it or back down. I also like to try to walk the fine line in being too much and hitting people over the head with the Bible – that’s not what I’m about.

Prior to their October 12th game against the Carolina Panthers, wide receiver Marcus Johnson requested to be baptized at the team hotel. “Seeing how they’re living, how they’re committed to it, I felt like it was God just pushing me, like, ‘look, you can’t keep making excuses anymore. You’ve go to make that decision. Are you going to take that next step in your faith, or are you going to continue to make excuses?”

The Eagles have formed a band of brothers who have Bible Study together and pray together.  They have several members of the team in the brotherhood.  The significance  of their faith as it relates to football was best expressed by linebacker Jordan Hicks.  “When you find something or someone to play for, and you’re not just playing for yourself, naturally it will make you play harder and give you a purpose,” Hicks said. “We play to honor Jesus Christ. That’s what we play for. It takes [the pressure] off our shoulders. Honestly, it makes us play harder in a sense, just understanding the humbling fact that it’s not about us, it’s about him, and glorifying his name.”

It was late in a week 14 game against the Rams. Carson and his team were near the Rams end zone and Carson went back to throw.  Nobody was open so he started to run.  As he neared the goal line he got sandwiched between two Ram players.  He scored the touchdown, which was called back because of a penalty, but Carson was hurt.  He stayed in the game and threw the ensuing  touchdown pass but something was wrong with his knee.  An MRI showed that his ACL was tore and would need surgery.  His season was over and apparently the hopes and dreams of the Eagles and their fans. usa-nick-foles-eagles.jpg

A Christian brother on the team named Nick Foles stepped into Carson’s role.  He was a veteran quarterback who was disillusioned with the sport he loved only 18 months earlier and questioned whether he should stay in the game.  He decided to sign with the Eagles and back up Wentz.  Little did he know the circumstances that would come about.  Now he was depended on to lead the Eagles the rest of the way.  In a fairy tale ending the Eagles led by Foles advanced through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl  Foles was brilliant against the powerful New England Patriots and Philadelphia had won their first championship since 1960.  Their fans were hysterical and the city of Philadelphia was proud of their Eagles! 

When the game clock showed the game was over the Eagle players celebrated on the field.  The Super Bowl trophy was presented to the team in a special ceremony and smiles and high fives were everywhere.  It is a time when many winning team members of the past would go out and celebrate their victory with drinks.  That is why the unusual scene that took place in a little room was so nice to hear about.  It came from a twitter tweet from Tony Dungy (the ex NFL coach).

After all the celebrations and confetti Justin caught up with the 3 Eagles QBs Nick Foles, Carson Wentz & Nate Sudfeld along with Zach Ertz who scored the winning TD. They were in a room by themselves—praying and thanking God. It was great for him to see that.

Many of the Eagle players were soaring.  Yes it was wonderful winning the Super Bowl and making thousands of Philly fans happy.  But there was a more powerful force working on the team and in the community.  Jesus had become real to an Eagle team that will be remembered for their faith long after their Super Bowl glitter fades.  When Carson Wentz found out his season was over he tweeted Proverbs 3:5-6.  The Bible verse Wentz cited reads: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart / And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”  Clearly that path is heading straight in the game of life no matter what happens in the game of football.  His audience of one is surely pleased!

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This Is A Test

This is a test. How many times have we heard these words in our lifetime?  Usually it comes from that crazy radio message stating “this is a test of the emergency broadcasting system, this is only a test”.  It is followed with a siren sound for ten seconds.  Then the voice comes back and tells us what to do if this were a real emergency.  It is kind of like the fire drill tests we got so accustomed to in our grade school.  Line up single file we were told as the alarm loudly went off.  Then we calmly marched out one of the exit doors and ended up on the playground far away from the school.

I have this recurring dream.  It is a dream that I am back in college and there is a class that somehow I have just discovered that I have.  I have missed the whole semester and now they are having a test on the day I walk into the room.  I am not prepared and fear starts to set in.  The nightmare continues as the professor hands out the test and I am totally stumped as I sit there in a cold sweat.  Needless to say this recurring dream is not fun and it seems to play into a fear within me of not being ready for a test.

As a student I recall many times the teacher would surprise the class with a pop quiz.  It was bad enough to get tested when you were given warning, but these pop quizzes seemed to be totally unfair.  Looking back I’m sure that there was a reason for these surprise quizzes.  Perhaps the teacher wanted to find out how many of their students were following the lessons.  How many were comprehending what was being said and were able to apply the lessons to their knowledge?

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Looking back on those school day tests today I can their value.  There has to be a time when the rubber hits the road.  There has to be a time when the teacher grades their students on what they have learned.  Being there and listening to the messages aren’t enough.  Maybe I was there in body but my mind was on the ball game we were going to organize after school.  Maybe my mind was on a million other things besides the subject at hand.  I may look like I was there all of the time but my test scores could tell another story.

In our Christian walk some people expect life to go smooth all of the time.  They might think that when we become Christians we won’t have anymore problems.  Like the teacher, God lets us go through tests.  We may be on the proverbial mountain at times but we also find ourselves in the low valley.  The valley is meant to be a temporary place that God lets us enter. When we find ourselves in the valley we sometimes go on an emotional roller coaster.  Why am I in this place?, we might ask.  It’s easy to get down and depressed.  This is not the will of God for us.  He wants us to be content wherever we are.  He wants us to grow while we are in the valley.  Have you ever noticed that mountain tops have no growth?  Down in the valley is where we find the healthy grass and beautiful flowers.

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Life will take us to both mountain tops and low valleys. The test is in both instances.  How do we give glory to God when we are on an emotional high?  What is our attitude when we are in the valley?   Like the radio warning “this is only a test.”  When we are content and happy in whatever situation we are in it makes God happy.  It is not true that circumstances can totally make us happy.  We have seen miserable lottery winners and famous people that kill themselves.  The happiest that you and I will ever be is not based on outside circumstances but who is on the inside.

One time Jesus was on a boat with his disciple’s but he was peacefully sleeping in the back.  A storm came up suddenly and the boat rocked.  The disciple’s got scared and feared that they were going to die.  They woke Jesus and said Teacher don’t you care if we die?  Jesus stood up and rebuked the storm.  “Quiet be still”, he said and the storm subsided.  The disciples failed this test but the message is clear for us today.  When we have Jesus with us there is no need to be afraid no matter what situation we are in.  God loves us and like he calmed the storm he will calm the storm inside us when we put all of our trust in him.  Remember this is only a test!

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My Spiritual Exam

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

Just like I need a physical
to find out how I am
It’s time for me to ask my Lord
for a spiritual exam

He’ll ask me many questions
Can I be honest with myself?
Thinking that I’ve got it made
could be harmful to my health

Is my gear shifted into drive
or is it stuck in park?
Does my light shine on others
or do I leave them in the dark?

Is my salt being poured out
or is it all for waste?
Does it flavor when it’s poured
or has it lost its taste?

When he gives me the vision
to see how I can be
will I make excuses
or let the Lord use me?

Will my spirit be broken
so my life he then can mold?
Or have I pushed the button
to put the Lord on hold?

When I leave the great physician’s room
will I be better than I came?
Or have I made my mind up
to keep my life the same?

“…I desire to do your will, O my God,
your law is within my heart.”

Psalm 40:8

The Proving Of My Faith

by Lewis Hamilton
From the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

It’s easy to praise the Lord
when I’m on a mountain high
or I’m soaring in the air
up where the eagles fly

It’s easy to praise him
when life is going right
and it doesn’t seem the devil
is putting up a fight

But what will I do when troubles come
and I’m not feeling the power?
Will I cling to my faith in him
when I’m in my trying hour?

When I reach my lowest depth
will I take time to pray
or will I lose my grip on faith
and let it slip away?

Unproven faith is not faith at all,
this truth of faith I’ve found
The proving of my faith comes only
when I’m on my lowest ground.

Therefore, among God’s churches we
boast about your perseverance and
faith in all the persecutions and trials
you are enduring.

II Thessalonians 1:4

Roll Away The Stone

He has risen!  It is the story of our faith.  Without the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead our faith would be dead too.  Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and discovered that the Stone had been rolled away.  It was a massive stone that had been put in front of the opening to make sure Jesus’ body was not stolen.  So Mary goes into the tomb only to find that Jesus is not there.  She runs to John and Peter two of Jesus disciples with the sad news.  “They have taken our Lord and I don’t know where they put him.”  The two disciples run to the tomb only to find that Mary was right.  The stone is rolled away and Jesus’ body is gone.  Not knowing what to do next the disciples end up going back home.  Mary is standing outside the tomb crying.  As she wept she looked into the tomb and saw two angels dressed in white seated where Jesus’ body had been.  They asked her why she was crying?  “They have taken my Lord and I don’t know what they did with him”, she stated.  Suddenly Jesus appeared but Mary did not recognize him.  Thinking he was the gardener she said “sir, If you have carried him away tell me where you have taken him and I will go get him”.  Jesus said “Mary” and Mary realized that it was Jesus and he was alive.

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Like the stone blocking the tomb there is another story years before of how God symbolically used stones to give Moses a lesson for his people.  Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt and had just crossed the Red Sea that God had parted for them.  That was the miracle where he made the sea part for them to get through but roll back to swallow up their enemies that were after them.  Going through the desert they came to Mount Sinai. God called Moses to the top of the mountain so they could talk.  The rest of the people were to stay down below and clean themselves up to prepare for when Moses came back with instructions from God.  Moses went up to the top of the mountain to meet God.  He stayed for 40 days and nights.  God wrote in his own writing the 10 commandments and put them on two tablets of stone.  When Moses came down from the mountain with the two stones in his arms he noticed that the people had grown impatient and had made an altar with a brass calf.  Moses was so upset that he threw the tablets to the ground breaking them in hundreds of pieces.  God ended up having Moses chisel two more rocks down to tablet size and gave him the ten commandments again to write on them.  The commandments were never symbolized as a way to salvation.  They were given because God loved them and gave them rules to follow that would be best for them.  It’s like loving parents telling their children to get home by 11 or don’t eat all of that junk food.

Ten Commandments (Decalogue) - Large 10 Commandments - Photo Museum Store Company

How many times do you tell your kids not to do something only to find that they disobey?  How many times in the spur of the moment do we make the wrong choice and for that moment we don’t consider the rules.  My dad used to tell me a story about a day that he was driving and came to a yellow light.  It was one of those lights where it was a 50-50 as to if he should go through or stop.  He decided to go through.  Just after he went through the light there were blinding lights in his rear view mirror.  He was getting pulled over.  When he mentioned to the officer that the light was yellow the officer told him that while he was under it the light turned red.  It was the letter of the law and the officer was determined to enforce it.  That ticket greatly affected my dad’s view of traffic lights from that time forward.  If he were driving up to a light and the light turned yellow you could bet your life his car was stopping.  Sometimes he stopped that car so suddenly it almost threw me on the floor.  This was before the time when we all wore seat belts.  One time dad made one of his stops and the car behind him rear ended his car in the back.  The driver mentioned that he thought dad was going through.

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A friend mentioned the other day of an episode with his dad.  His dad was driving with the family along narrow winding roads in the mountains of Tennessee or Kentucky.  As he was winding down the mountain he noticed the blinding lights of a police car in his rear view mirror.  The officer asked “Do you know how fast you were going?”  Truthfully the father did not know.  The officer had pulled him over in a loving way reminding him of how dangerous it is driving down the mountain.  “We have had many cars not make a turn and I just wanted to make sure you were not one of them.”  That story stayed with my friend all of these years.  The officer in his memory pulled them over because he cared about them.  He did not recite the letter of the law to them.  He did not give his father a ticket.  He just wanted to warn them to slow up and be safe.

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Almost invariably with rules there are exceptions to the rule.  If you are racing to get someone to the hospital in an emergency you might run a red light or two.  Is this lawful?  No, but it might be practical because you are doing it in love.  Even though God gave the ten commandments out of love he knew that they would be broken.  Symbolically when Moses became upset and broke the 10 commandment tablets it was like the ten commandments would be broken too.  There is a difference however in breaking a rule in love and in hate.  One day Jesus came by a pool where an invalid man had been laying on his bed by it for 38 years.  (You can find this story in the Gospel of John chapter 5 verses 5-15.)  Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be made well.  The man answered saying “I have no one to put me in the pool.”  You see an angel had stirred the pool waters and anyone entering the pool would be healed.  As you can imagine there was always a stampede to get into the water.  The man however had no means to get in.  Jesus did not say “Here let me help you into the pool.”  Jesus knew the real source for healing.  What he did do was command the man to take up his bed and walk!  The man on command took up his bed and started walking.  I can imagine the excitement that came into his life and the amazement others around him were feeling.  They had seen this man laying there by the pool for years and now he was carrying his bed and walking.  After he advanced for awhile with his bed on his back the religious lawyers called Pharisees stopped him.  It happened to be the Sabbath day and they told him it was unlawful to carry his bed on the Sabbath.

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n 2013 in the United States alone 2,220,300 adults were in federal, state, or county jails.  That is almost 1% of the adult population.  Those people are in physical bondage as they are locked up with no place to go.  We can find statistics on the number of these people there are but nobody knows the statistic on how many people are in spiritual bondage.  I can only tell you that the number is in the millions.  The spiritual bondage comes from people trying to live by the rules.  You might say “Shouldn’t we live by the rules and isn’t it a good thing?”  The answer is yes but we have to realize that if our heart is in the right place the rules will take care of themselves.  When the religious rulers asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was he answered this way…37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

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So my questions to you today are Do you live your life in love?   Are you concerned with others obeying the rules and holding them accountable when they don’t?  Are you willing to forgive and forget or do you hold grudges? How is playing by the rules affecting your life?  Has religion made you miserable?  Are you trying to please God because you fear him or because you love him?  Do you go to church in fear or in love?

When the stone was rolled away from Jesus’ tomb it was a sign of hope!  It was a sign that something supernatural had happened!  When we give our life to Christ something supernatural happens to us too!  No longer are we living in bondage blocked by doubt and fear with no hope.  Now instead of depending on religious rules to justify us we have a loving heart and the voice of the Holy Spirit telling us we are saved.  Our life that was once a dark tomb blocked by a large stone is now an unblocked lighted vessel for his use. Let God roll that stone that is blocking your way and let him empower you to change the world!  Go in love and peace and let his love freely shine for all to see!

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Galatians 5:1

 

Let There Be Light

You may be surprised to know that Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb.  Edison came out with his patents in 1878 and 1879 but the light bulb was in the works since 1802.  Many inventors sought to improve the light bulb.  The trick was to make a bulb that would light and also last.  While many attempted this feat through the years it was Edison who came up with just the right combination.  He had to find the right filament and have it vacuumed just right so that it would sustain light.  Edison’s pursuit of making the light bulb work was looked at as strange.  Someone once asked him “Aren’t you discouraged that you tried 1,000 different times to make the light bulb work and each time you failed?”  Edison’s answer was on the contrary.  He found one thousand combinations that didn’t work.  In his mind it was a process of eliminating what wouldn’t work which led him to what would.  So Edison did not create the light bulb but he did create the first one that would shine brightly for a long period of time. Original Edison Bulb

Today we take the light for granted.  We walk into a room and without thinking we turn on the light.  Only when the light does not come on because of an electricity outage or a burnt out bulb do we give it a second thought.  It’s not like it was when the electric light was experienced for the first time.  Can you imagine the first time someone attempted to read a book under their new electric light?  I’ll bet they were used to reading under a kerosene lamp.  You’ve probably seen them in old movies and how the light would flicker.  It had to be just a little better than reading in semi-darkness.  “What a miracle”, they must have thought.

In the same way Edison was a miracle for bringing physical light God wants us to be spiritual light to all we see.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:15-16 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  We may ask How we can be a light to others? 

I have a friend who stopped to buy gas a couple of weeks ago.  He went into the gas station after pumping his gas to pay.  There was a feeling in his heart that he should talk to the lady behind the counter about Jesus.  Right away doubt started to creep in to his mind.  The lady will probably think I am weird, he thought.  Still he decided to listen to that small voice within him.  He started talking small talk to the lady and then asked her if she liked to talk about spiritual things?  When she commented that she did he went further.  He asked her if she were a Christian?  He got her to talk about what she thought a Christian was and found out that she had not actually asked Jesus into her heart.  He led her in prayer to receive Jesus Christ as her personal savior.  When they finished praying the lady surprised my friend.  He was happy that she came to know Jesus but what she said made him do a double take.  “You are a miracle!”, she exclaimed.   “For the longest time I have been so depressed and down”, she admitted.  “Then you came in and brought light to my life”.  “You are truly a miracle!”  Image result for gas station worker

Like Edison we have something to share with the world.  However our gift is far more valuable than his.  He only made light in a physical sense.  We have the power through Jesus to give people light for their soul.  That lady that my friend talked to is not an isolated case.  There are millions of people out there who do not know Jesus.  The Bible states in 1 John 5 verse 12 “Whoever has the son has life, whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

I’m afraid that many of us take God’s miracle in our lives for granted.  We have lost our excitement and desire to share our light.  We don’t even think about people living in darkness.  We’re glad that we are in the light and condemn others who aren’t.  God is calling us to be a light in the darkness.  He is calling us to be that miracle that enters someones life and brings hope.  We can only be that miracle if we are connected to the power source and desire to share his light.

When Edison and his team finished the first light bulb he asked a young boy to carry the bulb up the stairs.  The boy was super careful knowing how precious the bulb was.  The boy was too cautious as he climbed the stairs.  As you probably guessed he tripped and dropped the bulb and it tumbled down the steps and smashed.  It took Edison’s team 24 hours to re-make the lighting miracle.  When they finished Edison asked the same boy to take the new bulb upstairs.  That is the kind of forgiveness God has for us.  If we mess up he is always willing to give another chance.  Too often we don’t do anything because we don’t want to take a chance.  In the spiritual realm if we follow the Holy Spirit’s voice we always carry  a bright light.  The light he gives to us shines on forever and instantaneously replenished if we get tripped by the enemy.

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As we begin this new year I challenge you to do something different.  Instead of making New Years resolutions that soon will be broken try this.  Pray every day for an opportunity to spread his light to a dark world.  Look for opportunities and ask God to lead you.  Listen to his still small voice within you.  The Holy Spirit will speak to you if you are willing to take the time to listen. This will feel strange just as Edison was looked at for being strange.  However, if we are persistent we will realize that we are not alone.  The Holy Spirit will be working with us.  Edison’s gift of lighting up a room was rewarding, but God has a reward far greater to those who are willing to shine his light in someone’s inner darkness.  Don’t hide his light, let it shine, let it spread, and become a miracle in someone’s life today!

2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Genesis 1:3-4…Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.…

#1 A Missing Light On My Computer

#1 A Missing Light On My Computer (August 22, 2017)

Lightenload story of the year for 2017

She entered my life through the internet.  But her light was far brighter than any computer.  It inspired me and comforted me in my time of stress and doubt.  The eclipse came and went but the sun didn’t stop shining.  Much the same as my friend Lydia.  https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/a-missing-light-on-my-computer/ -c8f08eb35ac5e929.JPG

#2 The Lost and Found (July 12, 2017)

#2 The Lost and Found (July 12, 2017)

The memory of our missing dog reminded me of the lost and found.  https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/the-lost-and-found/

#3 Restoration (April 16, 2017)

#3 Restoration (April 16, 2017) When my car was repaired and restored it reminded me of the restoration job that God is willing to do in our lives.  https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2017/04/16/restoration/

 

#4 Accident Forgiveness

#4 Accident Forgiveness (November 5, 2017)

A recent car accident made me realize that all things do truly work for our good!  (Romans 8:28) https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2017/11/05/accident-forgiveness/

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#5 God’s Party

#5 God’s Party (March 10, 2017)

This story compares the Wonder Years disastrous party episode with the party that God will be giving.  https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/gods-party/ 

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