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Come with me on a spiritual Journey!

Victory Beyond The Old One Two

He was an angry man.  Had he won that fight he would have forced Mohammad Ali to fight him again and he could get his title back.  George Foreman didn’t call it the Heavyweight Title, he called it his title.  The year was 1977 and George Foreman had been on the comeback trail.  He had won five consecutive fights and that night he fought a man named Jimmy Young.  George had a devastating punch.  Usually his fights would end with his opponent on the canvas.  This fight would be different.  Jimmy Young lasted the whole fight.  When the decision was read it was Young who had his glove raised.  George was crushed as he walked around in the steamy hot dressing room.  He had heard that after a match you should never sit down.  He paced back and forth and felt weakness in his legs.  “I feel like I’m going to”, and before he could say die he passed out.

George Foreman at a joyless time in his life.

George Foreman was born in Marshall Texas in 1949 and grew up in Houston’s rough Fifth Ward District.  Looking back he called himself a thug as he dropped out of school in the ninth grade, and ran the streets.  In 1965 he joined the Jobs Corps and that decision changed the direction of his life.  At the age of 16 the Jobs Corps provided him with a connection to the boxing world.  It was in a trainer named Doc Broaddus.  Doc encouraged George to apply his fighting skills to the ring instead of the streets.

George developed quickly as a boxer.  He had a mean streak that seemed to help him when he got his opponent in trouble.  He was always able to summon the old one two at just the right time.  He made the 1968 Olympic team and after winning the gold medal he made headlines waiving a little American flag.  This was the Olympic games where two African American runners raised clinched fists wearing black gloves in tribute to black power.  In contrast George’s waiving of the American flag made the statement that he was proud of the country he represented.
After the Olympics George turned pro.  There was much learning to do but he rose in the ranks with each success.  George was 6 feet 3 1/2 inches and 218 pounds of raw muscle.  He was feared by everyone he fought because of his ability to pound his opponents unmercifully to the canvas. He won his first 37 professional fights which earned him a shot at the heavyweight champion “Smokin” Joe Frazier.  It was 1973 and George was a heavy underdog.   The fight was held January 22, 1973, in Kingston Jamaica.  Shockingly George knocked  Joe Frazier down six times in the two round fight.  Finally the referee stopped the bout and George’s glove was raised in victory.
The next two fights were more of the same for George.  He knocked out Jose (King) Roman in one round and Kenny Norton in two rounds.  He was on top of the boxing world and didn’t think he could be beaten.  Gladly he accepted the challenge of Mohammad Ali.  Ali had been the heavyweight champion before being stripped of his title for refusing to go into the army.  He was finally reinstated to boxing after 3 and a half years and lost his attempt to regain the title from Joe Frazier in 1971.  Now it was 1974 and George didn’t think he could possibly lose.  After all he was destroying everyone in his path in one or two rounds.The bout was held in Zaire South Africa and was billed “The Rumble In The Jungle”.  George came out strong like he always did.  Charging and bulling his way in he continuously got Ali on the ropes.  Ali was different than any opponent he had ever faced however.  When George hit Ali with his best shots Ali would talk to George.  “Is that all you got George?”, he repeated over and over.  George continued to be the aggressor but Ali kept George off balance with his speedy jabs later in the rounds.  Ali started laying on the ropes and inviting George to come and take his best shots.  George did not hesitate and once again he kept hearing Ali talking.  “Is that all you got George?”  In his head George had the thought that wouldn’t go away.  “Yep that’s about it.”  It was a close fight but by the 8th round George was spent.  He wasn’t used to going more than two rounds in his bouts and here Ali was still strong as the 8th round was coming to a close.  Suddenly Ali hit George with a punch to the back of the head and with lightning speed he hit him two more times.  George felt himself dropping to the mat and realized the referee was counting him out.  At the count of 9 George was on his feet but the referee stopped the fight and declared Ali the winner by knockout.It was an embarrassing loss to George and it took him awhile before he laced the gloves up again.  He was bitter at Ali and bitter at a lot of people that he felt did him wrong.  His anger was so deep that he couldn’t figure out a way to hurt all of the people that were burning in his heart.  He took his anger out on his opponents and after not fighting at all in 1975 he had four bouts in 1976 winning all of them in short order.  By 1977 George was being talked about again for another title shot.  Ali had been able to keep the title that he won from George.  George was matched against Pedro Agosto in January of 1977 and won by a first round knockout.  The fight with Jimmy Young was made and George felt that it would be the warmup he needed
before facing Ali again.Jimmy Young was a fighter much like Ali.  He was a very good defensive fighter who had quick hands.  George plowed in determined to hit Jimmy Young with the hay maker that would stop the fight.  Jimmy was able to block George’s attempts again and again and jab his head with a pestering left.  Round after round the same thing happened.  George charging in only to get sent away by Jimmy’s quick hands.  In the 7th round something different happened.  George plowed in as usual but this time he connected.  Jimmy was hurt and staggered to the other side of the ring.  George was right after him determined to put Jimmy on the canvas for good.  Somehow in his hurt condition Jimmy was able to block and duck most of George’s attempts.  George was always able to finish off an opponent when he had them hurt.  He could always count on the old one two, but this time victory would not come.  Adding to his frustration the fans started chanting loudly “Jimmy Young, Jimmy Young.”  George wondered why the fans wouldn’t chant for him?  Jimmy recovered and for the rest of the fight was able to pile up points as George punched a lot of air.
When George was on that dressing room floor he had an encounter like never before.  He felt like he was in this empty place and that the Lord spoke to him.  The Lord said, “I don’t want your money, I want you.”  When he came to he was shouting “Jesus Christ is alive in me”.  George retired at the age of 27 and went into ministry full time.  He formed an independent church and lived each day for the Lord.  All of the bitterness that he had kept inside started to go away.  His heart was full of love as he forgave Ali and everyone else that had been on his hate list.

In 1987 George had a desire in his heart.  He had ballooned up to 315 pounds but the unmistakable desire was there.  He decided to get back into boxing.  He was old now in boxing terms at 38.  Yet it was almost like God had given him the desire to complete the work he had started.  George started winning boxing matches again.  He was big and slow but he still packed a wallop.  George trained hard and got his weight down to 250.  Although he wasn’t the fighter he was he became very popular wherever he fought.  In a drastic switch George was the fan favorite.  Because of his popularity fans wanted to see George fight for the heavyweight title.  Evander Holyfield had the title and gave George a fight.  George fought gallantly but it wasn’t to be.  Evander kept his title that night. 
George persevered however and kept fighting.  At the age of 45 he was given another chance.  The boxing world scoffed at George.  He doesn’t deserve a chance they thought.  Michael Moorer was the Heavyweight champion.  He was a week short of his 27th birthday while George was 45.  It looked like an easy payday for Moorer as he was much quicker than the slow moving Foreman.  The bout played out that way too.  Through the first nine rounds Moore was able to use his speed to beat George consistently to the punch.  He was winning handily on all cards as the 10th round started.  Then out of the blue George connected and connected again.  Michael Moorer went down and was counted out.  George walked slowly back to his corner and landed on his knees.  In front of the whole boxing world he was giving thanks to his God for completing a chapter in his destiny!When you see George Foreman today there is always a smile on his face.  There is joy in his heart where there used to be hate.  It is hard to believe he is the same person.  He has been very successful in business after leaving the ring.  He has been a spokesman for the George Foreman grill for years.  You have seen him no doubt on commercials and his joy is contagious.  He made 200 million dollars from Salton Inc. to use his name to promote the grill.  That was substantially more than he ever made in boxing.  In looking back George is quick to acknowledge that his defeats were the best things to ever happen to him.  “I needed to suffer those defeats so I could hit  bottom and look up”, George stated.    He also adds some advice that we all can use.  “Just take one step at a time, trusting that God still has a plan for you, and he will make the best of your situation.”
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Focusing On Our Future

I’m sure that this is dating me but I can tell you that we used to use cameras to take pictures.  I’m not talking about the camera that is part of your I-Phone.  I’m talking about an actual camera.  When we used up all of the pictures on a roll we would take it in to a place to have the pictures developed.  Normally it took a few days before we got to see our pictures.  In the time delay we might have forgotten the pictures that we took.  Sometimes the picture’s we got back were way out of focus or someone’s head accidentally got chopped off.  In the old days that was just too bad but later it was something that we didn’t have to pay for.  The film company would forgive us for our flawed pictures that didn’t come out the way we wanted and didn’t charge us for the bad ones.

"antique & vintage cameras make great decor accessories especially for that well traveled collected look - great way to repurpose old cameras especially paired with old maps & old books (maybe 2 mismatched as a "pair" of bookends)" Carolyn Williams, Antiques Dealer, Atlanta

The problem that we have today is that multiple things are coming at us all of the time.  With social media running rampant and 24 hour news always in our face it is harder for people to stay focused than ever before.  We may not have trouble focusing short term on an upcoming test or plans for dinner but we have a terrible time with long term focusing.  Of course that is where service industries have grown in recent years.  Services like retirement planning, wills, and supplemental insurance try to make us focus on things that may affect us or our families in the future.

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We have lived in our house a long time.  The other day we had a roofing salesperson  come to our door.  It seems that a house across the street had been re-roofed by this company.  They mentioned that new shingles should be put on a house every 20 or 25 years.  Ours were last done 23 years ago.  Yes it is probably time for us to make the plunge and have the work done.  However it is hard to focus on the future. The roof is not leaking and it looks fine.  Re-roofing a house is very expensive.  There used to be a car repair commercial that I have always remembered their little slogan.  Unfortunately for them I have long since forgot the name of the company.  The slogan went like this “You can pay me now, or pay me later.”  It is talking about dealing with a little problem before it turns into a bigger one.  Long ago Benjamin Franklin had a quote that dealt with the same issue.  His quote was “A stitch in time saves nine.”

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We are told to plan for the long term and are encouraged to have a plan for when we are not around anymore.  It is basically a plan for who gets which part of our assets.  It is important to think about these long term situations because life is not guaranteed for any of us.  Yet many people neglect the more important question.  That question is “What happens to us after we die?”  It’s a basic question that has been asked as long as humans have lived on the earth.  With Jesus in our heart’s we don’t have to worry about our long term future.  In fact we can look forward to a time when we are re-united with our loved ones that have went on before.  We can look forward to eternal life and joy unspeakable.  You see Jesus came to earth to take the unknown and make it known.  When we are sorrowful for our sins he throws them out and doesn’t hold us accountable much like the company did for the old photo’s that didn’t turn out!  He tells us to fear not because he is with us!  He gives us the Holy Spirit while we are here to guide and teach us!

Just like we should plan for the future do not neglect the Jesus plan for our eternal future.  With Jesus the plan becomes crystal clear.  The picture is always focused because Jesus has made it that way!  “In my fathers house there are many mansions”, he states in John 14:2.  “If it were not so I wouldn’t have told you”, he continues.  “If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there you may be also.”  Jesus has made securing our reservation for eternal life simple.  He has already paid the price for our sins by dying on the cross.  He wants to bring our eternal future into focus.  If you would like to secure your future repeat this simple prayer, believe it in your heart, and receive him in a child like way.

Lord Jesus,

Forgive me of my sins, come into my heart and save me.

I want to live forever with you in heaven.

Thank you for saving me

I give you my life while on this earth.

In your precious and holy name

Amen

 

 

Bare Spots In The Grass

They called him “Killer” and he killed the hopes of many teams with his long high home runs.  The thought of facing Harmon Killebrew in a clutch situation made pitchers squirm.   He developed the strength he needed to hit his massive home runs by lifting 10 gallon milk cans as a Idaho farmhand.  While still in high schools Herman Welker a U.S. Senator from Idaho and a baseball fan recommended him to the Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith.  Griffith sent a scout named Ossie Bluege to scout him.  Watching Harmon hit a ball over a fence 435 feet away (a feat never accomplished before on that field) made Ossie’s decision easy and he signed Killebrew to a contract for the Senators.  Killebrew had also excelled in football as a Quarterback and had aspirations of playing college football.  All of that changed that day as Bluege saw the unmistakable potential in young Killebrew.  His decision was one of the best ever in baseball.  Killebrew went on to play 22 years in the big leagues.  His list of accomplishments are many.  He hit over 40 home runs in a season eight times.  He led the league in home runs six times and in Runs Batted In three times.  He won the most valuable player award in 1969 when he hit 49 home runs and drove in 140.  He blasted 573 home runs in his career which at the time of his retirement was 4th all time.  His home runs were majestic and he created fear for the opposition when he firmly took his stance like a giant rock at the plate.  He was the first player to ever hit a ball completely out of Tiger Stadium to left field (only 3 have done it since).  They painted a seat at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota that one of Killebrew’s blasts had rocketed into some 530 feet from home plate!  His home run records were even more amazing considering that his home fields were among the biggest in all of baseball.

In 1984 Killebrew was elected to baseball’ hall of fame.  As a kid I remember Killebrew batting and his raw power at the plate.  I remember teams fearing his thunder and walking him whenever it was convenient.  However, the story that he told that day put a whole different light to what I think about when his name comes up.  At these events someone comes up and introduces the recipient with a nice speech.  Then it is time for the recipient to give his.  Harmon humbly told a tale about his parents and what he said still brings tears to my eyes.  You see his brothers and him regularly played ball in the yard.  After awhile his mother noticed that they were making bare spots all over the well kept green grass.  With her eyes on the unpleasant sight that these spots had caused she complained to her husband one day.  His statement back to her put everything in perspective.  “We are not trying to grow grass”, he said, “we are trying to raise boys!”

The Bible has a lot of examples where people put the wrong thing first and weren’t focused on the ultimate goal.  In Luke 11:37-41 it reads that Jesus was invited to a Pharisee’s house to eat.  The Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not wash before eating as was the Jewish tradition.  Jesus took this opportunity to condemn the Pharisees  for wrong thinking.  39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.  He was telling them that the important thing was not following rules but having a clean heart.  Another example of focusing on the wrong thing can be found in Luke 10:38-42.  Jesus and his disciples were coming into a village and Martha opened up her house to them.  Martha and Mary were sisters and were preparing the meal but when Jesus came Mary sat at his feet and listened intently to his message.  Martha got upset and this is what happened.  She came to him and asked, “Lord don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.  Once again we see that Martha was concerned more about the worldly things while Mary did right in her hunger for the spiritual.

Sadly in our Christian walk the same types of things happen today.  There are people who feel that it is important to build a bigger church or make sure that the young people have something to entertain them.  They may be consumed by the amount of money the church receives or the types of people that attend their church.  We have to ask ourselves, What is our true purpose?  The right way of thinking should  always be the spiritual one.  We live in an age where people want to go to beautiful big churches.  On the other end of the scale Christians want to build the fanciest churches.  Is this the right way of thinking?  Isn’t this the same thing that Jesus talked about when the Pharisee was putting an emphasis on what the cup looked like on the outside without regards to the inside?  The important thing is not if the church is big or small or in between, it is it’s spiritual heart.  Is it clean and doing things for the right reasons?  Are we making decisions after getting direction from God and attempting to do what he wants instead of our own will?

Harmon Killebrew was not an extra large man.  He was only 5’10 and weighed around 215 pounds.  Yet when he came to bat he made a big difference in the game not only by his enormous home runs but also by the fear he put into the other teams head.  Yet without the forethought of his loving father all of that might not have happened.  I still shake my head in amazement over the wisdom of that statement.  “We’re not trying to grow grass, we are trying to raise boys!”  I pray that  as Christians we will stop trying to grow grass and start focusing on what God can do through us!

Restoration

I was sitting in my car at a stop light.  Pulling up to the light in heavy traffic I saw out of the corner of my eye an SUV pulling into a driveway on the other side of the street.  Frantically it was going back and forth trying to get traction without success.  With the conditions as they were I could tell that the SUV was accelerating much too fast for the conditions.  It was an awful day out.  All of the other schools were closed that day but our University remained open.  Although it took me twice as long to get to work I had made it.  Now I was on my way home and the conditions were icy and treacherous.  Because the conditions were so bad everyone was driving extremely slow.  This caused the traffic to crawl and jam as I slowly pulled up to the light.  The SUV on my side was still trying to turn itself around and the driver was getting frustrated.  It was then that I saw the SUV backing up directly at me.  Suddenly I realized  it was dangerously close and I pressed on my horn but it didn’t do any good.  There was a crashing sound and I knew I had been hit.  I struggled out of the car against the elements.  The lady got out of her SUV and met me where the damage was.  Strangely though when I tried to locate the damage that she had caused I couldn’t find it.  The traffic was bumper to bumper and the light had turned and people were ready to go.  The lady was anxious for me to let the incident go since no damage apparently was caused.  Instead of exchanging insurance policies and calling the police I decided that miraculously my car had not been damaged and called off the search.  When I got home a few minutes later I inspected the side of my car once again and discovered a huge dent by the fuel tank.  Apparently since she was driving an SUV her bumper hit me much higher than where I was looking.  I became upset with her for driving so recklessly in awful conditions.  I was also upset with myself for not discovering the damages and letting her go without consequences.  Most of all I was upset that my car was damaged.

That incident happened a couple of winters ago and the car has been very driveable.  However every time that I filled up the gas tank I would see that dent and became upset with that lady.  It was because of her that the dent was there and seeing it constantly reminded me of that day and her hurry for me to set her free.  Although I wanted to get the car fixed I couldn’t justify spending hundreds to restore an old car.  One day a few months ago my son came over for lunch.  He was parked properly on the other side at the foot of our driveway.  As I was leaving to come back to work I was in a hurry and forgot he was back there.  When I turned my wheel to enter our street I heard a clunk.  My front side had bashed into his car.  Feeling sick to my stomach I got out to assess the damages.  Fortunately there were no damages to his car but mine had a big dent in the front.  It was then I decided that I was going to have the car restored.

It was like that old joke about the guy who dropped fifty cents in the toilet.  His friend noticed that he was purposely dropping quarters into the same toilet.  “What are you doing?” the friend questioned.  It seems the man had debated if it was worth it putting his hand in there for fifty cents.  He explained to his friend “for fifty cents no, but for two dollars yes!”  Now that I had two unsightly dents in the car I was ready to invest.  However, I wanted someone to work with me.  I called several body shops and explained my situation on their answering machines.  Finally I got someone on the line with my last call.  “I have an older car”, I explained “and I need someone to work with me.”  “Instead of all new replacement parts I was hoping you could pull the dents out.”  “I’m not carrying collision insurance on the car and it is all out of pocket.”  Surprisingly he was very cooperative and had me bring the car right over.  His workload wasn’t very heavy and for that I was extremely grateful!

In the Bible there are stories about restoration.  These are not car restorations however.  They are restorations of relationships.  A couple come to mind.  One which we all have heard is about the prodigal son who took all of his inheritance and blew it on wild living.  His father was quick to forgive and forget when the son humbly made his trip back home.  Another one was the relationship that Jesus had with Peter his disciple.  Peter was admonished by Jesus because he was always saying things that came to his mind without thought.  When Jesus told his disciples that he was going to the cross Peter took him aside.  “Never Lord, This will never happen to you.”  In Matthew 16:23 it states that Jesus turned to Peter and said “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  As Jesus was going to the cross Peter was questioned three times about their relationship.  Each time he denied knowing him.  The third time he reacted violently swearing loudly and claiming “I do not even know the man.”  In Matthew 26:33 Peter said “though all men will be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.”  In verse 34 Jesus answers him saying “that this night before the cock crows you will deny me thrice.”  After Peter’s third denial the rooster crowed fulfilling the prophesy.

After Jesus was crucified Peter had given up the cause.  Jesus has died and it is all over for us was his thinking.  He encouraged the other disciples to go back to where it began and what they made a living doing.  They went back to being fishermen and were on a boat with their nets in the water.  Through the whole night they caught nothing and were very discouraged.  Suddenly they saw a man on the shore and he called out “cast your nets on the other side.”  Reluctantly they did and the net gathered so many fish that it broke.  Realizing the miracle they also realized that the man was Jesus and they were ecstatic.  Jesus didn’t lecture them about what they were doing out there or why they had given up.  He was willing to restore the relationship despite their lack of faith.  Peter especially was grateful because much like how the disciples mended their fishing  net Jesus had mended his relationship with him!

Slowly the figures were added.  As I sat in the office the calculator was working away.  I’m sure that with each cost the owner was remembering my words and discounting each item.  At the end I was amazed at how little the cost was.  Having received estimates for the original dent I knew what the ball park figure was.  Yet he was offering to do the job for two dents at less than the others did for one!  He had mercy on my situation much like how God has mercy on our lives.

Perhaps you have an old friend that you don’t talk to anymore.  Maybe something happened that broke your trust.  Maybe there is hurt whenever you see them or think about what they did.  This is not how God wants us to be.  He wants to restore our friendships.  In order to do this be the one who makes the first move.  Be the one who asks for forgiveness.  You will be surprised how the ice will melt and how you will begin to feel happy again.  Happy that there are no grudges only love.  Happy that you have put hate behind you and grateful that God has restored your joy!

When I’m fueling up my car now I don’t see the dent anymore.  I don’t even think about that lady or feel the anger that I felt.  I only see the car all repaired and looking great.  Usually I forget that it was ever damaged.  That is how God see’s us when we ask for forgiveness.  He forgets all of our past sins.  He restores our relationship with him much like my car was restored.

 

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.

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/

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