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Come with me on a spiritual Journey!

Filling Our Tree With Love

The old oak tree looked fine.  It was over 100 years old and stood tall and seemingly sturdy.  People marveled at it’s beauty and yet one stormy night it came crashing down.  A friend and his wife heard it at around 4 in the morning.  They thought it was an earthquake the noise was so loud.  Fifteen feet from the ground the tree shattered.  Fortunately nobody was hurt as the once beautiful 70 foot tree became a 15 foot stump in the ground.  The rest was lying there for all to see.  The next morning it was alarming what was discovered.  The insides of the tree that came down had been eaten away by a disease.  It was hollow and could not stand the rigors of the wind that night. 
My dad in addition to working a full time factory job and many hours of overtime found the time to build three houses.  The only houses we lived in were ones that he built.  Since he had never built a house before he took advice from an acquaintance who had built many of the houses in the neighborhood.  The first and most important thing he learned was to build a deep foundation.  It started with digging a basement that was deep and then using cement blocks to make the foundation strong.  In all of his houses dad followed the same recipe.  Above anything else that foundation was the thing that made the house sturdy and strong.  With help from my mom they worked tireless with much faith in the process.  After the strong foundation was set they went to the next process.  He shared with me that it was one step at a time, one project at a time.  They needed to be jacks of all trades in the process.  What they didn’t know they got advice and learned what to do.  It was a work in faith but it began with building that strong foundation.  Although that first little house was not a sight of beauty to most it was strong and sturdy.  That first house was the foundation of their faith to build another.  This time the house would be bigger and better.  Yet the other two houses were built on the faith they had acquired building the first one.  Faith that told them that if they worked hard and believed it could be achieved.
 
At one time that oak tree had a good foundation.  It was solid and healthy and looked like it would live forever.  Then over time a tiny bit here and there things began to change.  A disease got into that tree.  Slowly it started chipping away.  Even though the tree looked strong and healthy it was neither.  Though it looked strong and sturdy it was really weak and brittle.
In our Christian walk we need to ask ourselves “How deep is our faith?”  Is our foundation solid and strong?  Like the oak tree many times our foundation is strong.  The problem is we let little things chip away much like the disease in the tree.  Instead of forgiving others of their trespasses like Jesus told us to do we try to hold them accountable.  We  become bitter when things are going right for them in spite of the wrong they caused us.  Because we haven’t forgiven them of whatever they did our foundation slowly starts to rot.  The good material that we started with gets poisoned in the mix.  Instead of trusting God to take care of situations and leaving all of our burdens with him we become the sin police.  We become revengeful and hateful.  Before long we find that our faith in God and people are suddenly in doubt.
Is there someone who has hurt you?  Is there someone that seems to glorify in the wrong they did to you?  We all have people in our lives that are like that.  However Jesus tells us to love our enemies.  When we follow that commandment there is peace in our hearts and not bitterness.  The disease is cured and we are able to move on in love and peace.  The tree lives on and doesn’t die inside.  In fact it grows stronger in time.  Something like this is not easy.  It is not natural to love our enemies.  It is not natural to wish them well.  However, it is not natural to die inside either.  The quickest way to lose our life spiritually is to harbor hurt and bitterness.  Send them on their way in the name of Jesus!  Give God all of your burdens and forget about them.  Love your neighbor even if your neighbor has done you wrong.  In that way you are being like Christ because he died for us even though we didn’t deserve it.
Sometimes I drive through the old neighborhood.  Since the three houses are on the same block I pass them all and marvel.  Many memories come back of the things that we did and the fun we had.  None of that would have been possible except for the sound houses we lived in.  Most of all I marvel at the old houses still standing tall after all of these years.  On the other side of the coin is the old oak tree that is no more.
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God’s Party

What would you do if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me ?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

The original song was written by the Beatles but the version I remember was sang by Joe Cocker.  It was the theme song for The Wonder years which is one of my all time favorite shows!  The story is about Kevin Arnold who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s.  The fact that he was one year older than me in the story helped me to relate to many of the episodes and similar things I went through.  All of the episodes were about Kevin and how he remembered the times of his life and his memories of his mom, dad, and his brother Wayne who was two years older.  Kevin also had a sister who went off to college and was written off the show.

One of my favorite episodes was called “The Lost Weekend.”  It was in the fifth season and Kevin was a sophomore in high school.  Wayne at that time was a senior.  Their parents were going to go away for the weekend to an out of town wedding.  They left the boys to watch the house and to do the chores their father assigned.  No sooner had they pulled out of the driveway Wayne informed Kevin that he had other plans.  He was going to a Beer Keg party that night and his Saturday was also booked too.  On one hand Kevin was upset with Wayne that he was ditching him.  On the other hand Kevin thought of the possibilities of having the whole house to himself.  At school that day he mentioned to his four main friends during lunch that he had the house to himself.  Right away a couple of his adventurous friends suggested that they should do something.  After all how often would this opportunity come up?  Kevin was doubtful until his best friend Paul mentioned that if Kevin didn’t want to do anything that was fine.  Kevin had a responsibility to his parents.  In typical Kevin style that statement was what tipped him over the edge.  When Paul made a goody two shoes statement Kevin usually went in the other direction.  “We could do something”, he stated and suggested a poker game.

That night after about an hour of dull poker playing everyone was getting bored.  Someone suggested that they should invite some girls over.  Kevin agreed to the plan as long as everyone just invited one girl.  When the girls arrived they were not alone.  They had invited friends to come with them. Apparently they also spread the news that there was a party at Kevin’s house!  It didn’t take long before people were at Kevin’s door that he didn’t even know.  They made their way in and in no time Kevin was throwing the biggest party he had ever seen.  Kevin’s friend Chuck called Kevin from a local store where he had apparently forgot his I.D.  He was attempting to buy beer and Kevin brought his I.D. to him.  It turned out that the I.D. was a fake and Chuck wasn’t allowed to buy the beer.  As Kevin was yelling at Chuck for this whole mess they overheard a hippy group in the parking lot talking about a big party they were going to.  Some kid named Arnold they said which was Kevin’s last name.  The last person left the party at 4 in the morning and the house was totally a mess.  Empty beer cans, spilled drinks, pictures askew, messy food items everywhere, cigarette butts, and whatever else you can think filled the house when the party was over.  When Wayne came home later that day he laughed at his brothers mess.  “Boy are you in big trouble”, he chuckled.  “Wayne, you have to help me clean up this mess,” Kevin pleaded.

As Wayne was laughing about Kevin’s statement their parents pulled into the driveway.  Apparently they decided to come home a few hours early.  As his parents were discovering the destruction of their beloved home Kevin was contemplating what punishment they would find worthy of his deed.  His father surprisingly turned to Wayne.  “Wayne how could you?”  When Kevin tried to speak up his father was quick to reprimand him.  “Kevin, you stay out of this!”  To his credit Wayne took the fall.  He didn’t blame Kevin, he just told his parents that he was sorry and it would never happen again.

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In Luke chapter 15 the younger of two sons requested his inheritance.  He was going to find out what he was missing, live it up at the world’s party and have fun!  Unlike Kevin, he was inviting the party and the more the merrier.  After a while all of his high living had caught up with him.  He was out of money and the party was over.  As long as he was the life of the party and financed it he was one popular guy.  After the money was gone everyone left in search of the next fool to come their way.  Kevin also felt the same way after his party.  All that was left after everyone departed was a mess.  Nobody cared whose party it was, only that there was a party and they were happy to go.  When the night was done everyone was happy except Kevin and eventually his parents.  The prodigal as he is referred to in the Bible found himself making a living feeding pigs.  At that point he came to his senses.  Even the workers for my father live much better than I am.  I will go home to my father and tell him I am not worthy to be his son.  I will ask for a job working the fields with the other workers.  When he was still far away his father saw him and came running to meet him.  The prodigal son tried to explain that he was unworthy but his father heard none of it!  Get the fattest calf and kill it.  We are going to celebrate.  My son was dead but now he is alive!  He was going to have a party in his sons honor!  This is like how our Father in Heaven feels about us!  He wants to have a party for us once we come to our senses and come back home!

The son’s brother was not happy about the situation.  He found out from one of his fathers servants that his brother was getting a party.  The brother was bitter and jealous and hateful.  He decided that he would not honor his brother with his presence.  Instead he stayed away and when his father noticed he was not there he came looking for him.  The brother was bitter and his father told him how it was.  “My son was dead but now is alive”, he said.  We are never told whether the brother took his fathers words to heart and attended his brothers party.  If he did he would have had to have a change of attitude and his hatred turned to love.  Everyone at that party wanted to be there because they loved the father and were celebrating his sons return with him!

So the question I ask you today is which party are you going to?  Are you going to the world’s party where you are the life of the party until it destroys your house? In that party nobody cares and everyone will quickly leave when your resources diminish.  On the other hand you could be going to God’s party.  That is a party where you are celebrated not by what resources you have but because you have made your way back home!  God’s party is a party of love.  God has already paid for your party and everyone there loves you!  In that party you are the guest of honor!  In answer to the songs lyrics God will never stand up and walk out on us because we have sang out of tune.  He loves us and welcomes us home no matter what we do.  It is true that sometimes we get by with a little help from our friends.  God puts good friends in our lives to help us see his light in troubling situations.  However we find out from these stories that sometimes the people that we think are our friends are only our fair weather friends.  Sometimes it is our own brothers or sisters that let us down.  When the chips are down they may scatter far away.  Whatever the weather is like in our lives God is waiting to have a party for us!  It is a party of love in our honor and he is delighted to throw it because we were once dead but now we are alive!

Heavenly Banquet Table

Lifeboat Skills, Salvation Thrills!

It was the biggest disaster of it’s time.  The Titanic crash of 1912 into an iceberg resulted in 1503 people dying including passengers and crew.  Many of those lives could have been saved but weren’t.  You see some of the life boats were only half full.  Maybe it was the idea that loading them to full capacity as they were lowered into the water would be too much stress for the boats.  Later the boats were filled to full capacity and the boats held firm.  Since many of the boats were under filled there was opportunities to rescue a lot more people who were floundering in the ice cold waters.  Instead of making the attempts it was decided that rescuing others would endanger the ones in the boat and might result in the boats tipping over.  Among the cries of help from hundreds of people the lifeboats paddled away.  Within a half an hour the desperate cries ceased.

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It was a fall night at the ball field.  My softball team had won the game but I couldn’t help noticing the shortstop from the other team.  He had an incredible arm and realizing that our shortstop play was a weak part of our team I engaged him in conversation.  I found out his name was Steve and he would be more than happy to play ball with us the next year.  I took his phone number and gave him a call the following spring.  In getting to know Steve as we played ball together I noticed that a lot of things were going astray in his life.  He was a heavy drinker who drank to the point of passing out on occasion.  He was a single guy who wouldn’t settle down as he was involved in many relationships.  From my view Steve’s life was going nowhere and I thought that maybe I could help him.

After the games I would discuss life with Steve.  I was a person that he trusted and liked.  He was more than happy to share his bat with me.  It was a bat that felt perfect in my hands.  Still Steve continued down his wayward road.  A few of my teammates discussed how they went golfing with Steve and afterwards he passed out from too much alcohol.  As the summer season closed our team qualified for the state tournament.  Unfortunately Steve couldn’t work his schedule out to go.  I made arrangements with Steve to meet him at his work and borrow his bat.  Steve worked as a salesman for modular homes and he was very good at it.  He was the top salesman in the company.  I met him and he gave me a tour of the place.  Finally we sat down in his office.  I meant well and I felt I knew that Jesus could save Steve, but I went about the conversation in a round about way.  I talked to him about my daughter I had lost and told him that I had hope of seeing her again.  He assured me that I would.  I didn’t go any further with Steve and to this day I regret it.  I’m sure I thought I was easing myself in and leading by example.  I left with Steve’s bat but Steve remained in the water.

It was a Saturday in February the following year.  I was away that day and a message was left on my answering machine.  It was a good friend of Steve’s that we had brought to the ball team with him.  The message was stunning…Steve was dead.  Apparently he was on his way to one of his girlfriends in the morning.  He was driving rather fast down the road when something happened.  Nobody knew if he passed out or had some kind of heart problem but Steve plowed his truck into the rear of another car at a pretty high speed.  Steve was dead at the scene.  To this day I have regrets of the lost opportunity I had with Steve.

I have read that over 90% of Christians have never led someone to the Lord.  Most Christians don’t even think about it.  Jesus told us in Mark 16:15 to “Go unto all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”  With the fact over 90% of Christians don’t I have to wonder why not?  One reason might be that we don’t have a plan.  The old saying comes to mind..”If we fail to plan we plan to fail.”  Another reason might be that we are comfortable where we are in the boat and don’t want to get out of our comfort zone.  We need to realize that our boats are not full.  There are many who are searching and you or I might be the ones called to reach them.

We’ve been taking this Soul Winners class on Tuesday nights the last few weeks.  Jeremy who is my pastor is teaching the class.  Jeremy has perfected a plan that he uses that has won many souls for the Lord.  It is a simple plan that is designed to get the person to a place where they need to make a decision.  If you think about it that place was where you and I were before we became Christians.  I literally felt like that if I didn’t accept the Lord when I did there would be no more opportunities.  I don’t know what would have happened but that was the message the Holy Spirit had put in my heart.

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The conversation works with both people we know and people we don’t know.  After an exchange of pleasantries the first question to ask is “Do you like to talk about spiritual things?”  Normally people don’t mind or are even interested in such conversation.  Our society leads us into a direction of being inclusive and listening to everyone’s point of view.  Normally the answer is yes.  Jeremy states that if the answer is “no” it is time to back track and back off.  However, if the answer is yes the next question is…”Have you ever considered becoming a Christian?”  This question is answered in a variety of ways, from Yes to I already am, to NO.  The next question is “If I asked you what a Christian was what would you say?”    Jeremy calls this the litmus test.  It shines a light on where they are and what they believe.  Listen to their answer and then ask them if they would mind if you shared with them 4 scriptures of what a Christian is.

Here are the 4 scriptures.

ROMANS 3:23….FOR ALL HAVE SINNED, AND FALL SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD

ROMANS 6:23..FOR THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH, BUT THE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE IN JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD

JOHN 1:12     YET TO ALL WHO RECEIVE HIM, TO THOSE WHO BELIEVED IN HIS NAME, HE GAVE THE RIGHT TO BECOME CHILDREN OF GOD

REVELATION 3:20  BEHOLD, I STAND AT THE DOOR AND KNOCK.  IF ANYONE HEARS MY VOICE, AND OPENS THE DOOR, I WILL COME IN AND EAT WITH HIM, AND HE WITH ME.

At this point say their first name…as an example   “John, Jesus is knocking at your hearts door right now!  Will you let him in?

If they say yes ask them to repeat after you…

Lord Jesus, forgive me of my sins and make me your child.

I am sorry for my sins and want to live forever in heaven with you.

Thank you for saving me.

Amen

Ask them if they were serious when they prayed.  If so reassure them that they are born again and that Jesus is now dwelling in their heart.

Jeremy has assured us that this is not a gift it is a skill.  Some people praise Jeremy saying he is so gifted in soul winning.  Jeremy has practiced and made himself better much like when we practice a skill for improvement.  It isn’t a matter of a gift it is a matter of willingness.  Are we willing to step out of our comfort zone and rescue the lost and dying?  Many people cross our paths every day.  As Christian’s how willing are we to reach out in faith and pull them into the boat?  I don’t know if Steve would have accepted the Lord that day those many years ago, but the pain that I have of  not putting him in a decision making position is still with me. How about you?  Would you be willing to put somebody like Steve in a position to get saved?  As the light of the world we are called  to hear and respond to the cries of the dying before their voices fade away.

Secret Agent Man!

I know there are many Secret Agent’s out there!  My prayer is that you will let your light shine for all to see!

Secret Agent

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

I keep my beliefs to myself
as much Lord, as I can
Please don’t make me testify
I’ll be your secret agent man

I‘ll mingle with my co-workers,
we have to get along
But deep down in my spirit
I’ll sing your gospel song

They’ll never know just how I feel,
I’ll hide it, that’s my plan
I won’t stand out from the rest
I’m your secret agent man

I go to church on Sunday
I hope that is enough
But talking to my fellow workers,
that would be too rough

Bless me Lord, as I sit there
as quiet as a mouse
Bless the things that I do
and everyone in my house

For you know Lord, I do my best
well almost all I can
Please don’t make me stand out
I’ll be your secret agent man

The Lord talked to me the other night
while I was sound asleep
He told me I was wrong
in the attitude I keep

He said he’d be ashamed of me
if I was ashamed of him
So there he changed my attitude
after I confessed my sins

Now I don’t cover up my light
I shine it all I can
There is no place in God’s army
for a secret agent man.

corresponding verse Mark 8:38

Who Is Following You?

When I ran on the Cross Country team in high school our coach gave us a bunch of stapled pages of inspiration to start the season.  One of the pages contained a poem I’m about to share.  This poem was intended to give us the right attitude in our upcoming competitions.  I have never forgotten this poem and it’s words can inspire us in every battle we go through.  They can help us to look at life from a positive view!

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The Man Who Thinks He Can

by Walter D. Wintle

If you think you are beaten, you are

If you think you dare not, you don’t

If you’d like to win, but think you can’t

It’s almost a cinch you won’t

If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost

For out in the world we find

Success being with a fellow’s will

It’s all in the state of mind

If you think you’re outclassed, you are

You’ve got to think high to rise

You’ve got to be sure of yourself

before you can ever win a prize

Life’s battles don’t always go

To the stronger or faster man

But sooner or later the man who wins

Is the one who thinks he can

As Christians we need to take the promise that God gives us in Psalm 23:i6 to heart!  “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.”  Too many of us are followed by doubt and despair.  We think that things never go our way and we say the words at any sign of turbulence.  Christian people say things like “story of my life”, “things never work out for me”, “I just have bad karma,”,  and”Only bad things happen in my life.”  Get off of that negative roller coaster.  The problem is you are not putting God first in your life.  When you do remember his promise.  “Surely goodness and mercy will follow you!”  Speak the words and believe them every day.  Sure there will be turbulent times but rest assured that God is with you!   He will fulfill his destiny and purpose for your life as you come to realize that he is on your side!  Remember that goodness and mercy are running right behind you!

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#1 What Does It Mean To Be Saved?

#1 What Does It Mean To Be Saved?  March 12, 2016

How would you answer this question?  A health scare at the beginning of the year caused me to re-evaluate my answer.  The lightenload story that was most popular in 2016 and most meaningful to me follows.

https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/what-does-it-mean-to-be-saved/

#2 Jesus Loves You Nicky!

Jesus Loves You Nicky!  January 23, 2016

If you think that God couldn’t possibly love you because of how bad you have been please read this inspiring story of grace!

https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2016/01/23/jesus-loves-you-nicky/

#3 My Little World And Yours

#3 My Little World And Yours…April 12, 2016

Each of us have our own little world and I came to the conclusion that sometimes it is healthy to expand it!

Click below for the story!

https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/my-little-world-and-yours/

#4 A Little Rain Sometimes

#4 A Little Rain Sometimes…June 4, 2016

Discovering all of the benefits of rain I had to ask myself if I was a good rainy day person?

https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/a-little-rain-sometimes/

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#5 A Tale of Two Hearts

#5 A Tale of Two Hearts….August 21, 2016

Hearing about different people’s reactions to circumstances in their lives made me realize that we choose how we look at the world.

Click below to read the story!

https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/a-tale-of-two-hearts/

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