Perhaps it was a tradition of my family only, or it could have been a tradition of international proportions among all societies. From a child’s perspective, I had no clue. The one thing I do know is that as far back as I can remember there has been a little interactive jingle that always brought bursts of laughter and great delight to a child being held by a parent. The child is sitting on the parent’s lap facing the parent with the parent holding the child on the upper arms. As the child is bounced on the knees, a little song goes like this: “Old Billy Ruby going to town, riding a billy goat, leading a hound, hound barked, billy goat jumped, old Billy Ruby fell on a stump!” With the “fell on a stump” the parent would spread their legs and while continuing to hold to the upper arms, quickly drop the child down between their legs with the childs legs still up on their lap. This would cause shrieks of laughter in the child along with an enthusiastic call for “do it again.” Usually, the activity was successfully stopped with everybody happy only after many trips of Old Billy Ruby going to town.
Every good parent enjoys seeing their child have a good time and enjoy life. Parents will often go to great extent and sacrifice in order to provide their children that good time in life. Father God is no different. If a good natural father will not give his child a scorpion if he asks for an egg, so much more will the heavenly Father not give a bad thing if the child is desiring a good thing (Luke 11:9-13). Life and lusts and opposing spiritual forces will lay bad things on a child (James 1:1-15). Jesus came to give us life abundant in every area, spirit, soul, body, family, financial, social, and eternal (John 10:10). To have that, our laughter might need to turn to mourning for a season of turning from our way to his way, but joy comes in the morning by repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In that way, as we are being held by Father God, we can experience the joy and delight of fellowship with him and having a good time in his love for us. The Bible does say he sings over us (Zephaniah 3: 17). So as he sings over you, know that he is holding you tightly to give you the desire of your heart. He wants you to enjoy the journey by trusting in him. With great sacrifice, the sacrifice of his only Son, God has provided and has in place everything you need to have that abundant life in every way. His will for you is written in his Word. Persistently take his Word and apply his Word by speaking it into your life out loud, and know the joy of “Old Billy Ruby going to town.”
I considered that since I had a couple of the very small room air conditioners sitting around doing nothing, and that we have a hundred degree weather upon us, I will just install one of them in Waylon and Willy’s doghouse. I studied it a little bit and saw how it could be done fairly easy. So I got some two by fours cut and got my nail gun out and proceeded to put together the frame. In the third shot of the nail gun, it shot double. The first nail went into the wood. The second nail, due to the recoil, went past the board and into my second and third fingers as I held the board. I laid the nail gun down and looked at my fingers and said to myself, “Well I’ll be! I shot myself in the finger!” My first thought was to go to an urgent care facility, but it was too early in the morning for that. I did not want to go to ER. So I said, “You’ll just have to get it out yourself.” I also knew I had better do it quickly while the fingers were still in shock, before the pain sets in. Working quickly, as I could tell the numbness was already starting to wear off, I went and got a pair of plyers and went to the bathroom where there was some alcohol, and proceeded to pull on the nail. It would not budge. Those coated, ring-shanked sixteen penny nails really hold, even in a finger! I knew I would have to twist and pull, and that I did, and that with force. I was glad to see it start moving, and I worked it on out. I got it washed with alcohol and bandaged up, and went back out and finished getting the AC installed. I also spent the morning painting and doing some other miscellaneous things around the house. Later, I met with an electrician and we did some work together and finished out the day.
Sometimes life hits us with the unexpected. We can either panic or praise God that it was not worse than it was, and deal with the situation and move on. One thing is always certain, in whatever situation we find ourselves, we can know that God is there to help us and make a way to deal with it. KJV says it like this: “God is faithful who…will with the temptation…make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). When the trials hit, know that through the work of Jesus, God is there to impart grace to enable us to do what needs to be done to overcome. All the glory goes to God in Jesus’ name. And by the way, at this moment my phone says it is 101 degrees outside, and I checked on them and Waylon and Willy are now snoozing in their air conditioned dog house.
I had used the water hose the day before to wash all the mole hills and tunnels back down into the grass. With the damage that is being done to the beautiful St. Augustine grass lawn, that is the least I can do to try to repair it. It is also good to wash the dirt back down into the lawn before you mow, so you don’t mow into the dirt dulling the blade and possibly throwing rocks with the mower. Early the next morning, there was one big fresh mole hill in the lawn. I took the hose and ran water down into the hill. After about two minutes of running water down into the hole, out comes Mr. Mole looking for a breath of air. The flood of water worked to flush him out to be disposed of to save further damage of the lawn. Now it is a daily thing. Any evidence of mole activity catches the water hose in an effort to flush out another mole and to wash the dirt back down into the lawn to minimize the damage done.
The Bible refers to the ministry of the word to the church as “the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26). Sometimes there are moles in our life, doing damage to us on a daily basis. We don’t see the real culprit; we just see and have to deal with the evidence of its activity. Because he is operating in concealment, he continues to do his damage unchecked. The value of having the living word in our heart and before us is that the word of God has the ability to go into the hidden places and flush out and expose the real cause of the damage being done in our lives. It is the “washing of water by the word” that brings the real cause of things to light so we can be set free. Many times physical sickness has its root cause in a hidden spiritual or mental or emotional condition that was allowed to persist to the point of affecting the body. The good news is that through the word of the finished work of Jesus, these root causes can be seen and dealt with which will in turn bring about an improvement in or a complete release of the physical results of that cause. The Bible says if any are sick among you, call for the elders who will pray the prayer of faith and anoint with oil, and confess your faults one to another and pray, that you may be healed. As we humble ourselves to allow the word to penetrate our lives, that word will bring to light the hidden “moles” that are causing the problem so there can be a release and a healing. If the lawn of your life has some mole hills of sin or sickness in it, the washing of water by the word will be a sure help to you in Jesus’ name.
As I proceeded to pump gas into the van, the gas station TV came on the screen of the pump to give me some of the latest trendy news and trivia. Some stations have this service provided. In the category of sports, the announcer told how such and such player stole a home run from a hitter. I then watched as a major league player knocked a ball deep into the outfield with the ball about to just clear the top of the fence. The running outfielder jumped up with all that he had with arm extended up as far as he could reach, and with his body slamming into the back fence, he made the catch, stopping the ball from going over the fence. What an awesome catch! What a demonstration of training, focus, timing, and total commitment.
That’s what it takes to get the things of the kingdom of God. Jesus said unless we forsake all and take up our cross (death to self) daily, we cannot be his disciple (Luke 14: 26, 27, 33). The good news is that if we do let all things be subservient to the Lordship of Jesus, who is the Word, over our life, then we can do all things through Christ who is our strength. One of the most recent “things of the kingdom” was the healing of my back. After I had done what the doctor said to do and was still in pain, after a period of two weeks of boldly speaking the word of God out loud to my body to line up with what the word says, there was a breakthrough that has freed me up to this very moment of being pain free. The diagnosis was scoliosis, cartilage worn out from between the vertebra, and severe arthritis. The solution offered for the rest of my life was either to just grin and bear it, or go on a pain management program where I took drugs the rest of my life, or surgery. I did not want any of the three options. I got a word from God. “With violence” I applied the word to my body daily, like I would apply salve to a sore, speaking the word to my body out loud, with praise and thanksgiving for my deliverance. All I know is that I am pain free and have been that way for going on four months. But I’ll tell you what it took. It took some training, focus, time, and total commitment. I had to run after that ball with all my heart and strength, not thinking about any fence I might slam into. In Jesus’ name, I stole the home run of that condition of life, and I am still in the game with no pain. I understand the normal Christian life is a life of total commitment to doing it God’s way no matter what. Death to self, life in God’s power – that’s good.
We noticed during this time of hot weather that it seemed the air conditioner was running a lot but it was not getting all that cold in the house. We had a service tech to come out to check the unit, and while I stood there, I watched him clean the outside grill of the unit and add two pounds of refrigerant. Now, with every minute the unit is running, maximum cooling is taking place. This keeps the house cool with less effort. When the heat is on, your AC equipment needs to be operating at optimum levels. The automatic shifting of my van has changed. It seems to lug down more before it will shift into a lower gear. I am told by some that with 150,000 miles on it, it could probably use a transmission flush, with a change of filter. The filter is designed to keep contaminants out of the transmission fluid, and everyday wear and tear can clog the filter restricting the flow of fluid. With that procedure, it should shift in a timely manner.
There is a principle in life that most everything needs maintenance. The longer you put off maintenance, the greater the repair when it finally breaks down or stops. Just as with mechanical things, this principle applies to one’s spiritual life. If we neglect to nourish and give attention to our spiritual life and relationship with God it will end up non-functional. The good news is that there are things we can do to nourish a good relationship with God. The wear and tear of life can leave us clogged with debris. A good flushing and cleansing by the blood of Jesus will clean the filter, and with an infusion of the fresh fluid of the Holy Spirit, things can run smoothly in the spirit man for prompt shifting and moving with the Spirit. Just like being filled with refrigerant keeps things cool when the heat is on in your house, staying filled with the Holy Spirit just like they were filled in the book of Acts helps keep things cool when the heat is on spiritually. Through the blood of Jesus, the Spirit of God, and the through the faithful Word that we have been given, we have all the provisions to maintain our spiritual house and our spiritual vehicle at optimum operating levels. But we must turn from our neglect and turn to the God the tech, to have his operation and directions for proper maintenance. We don’t tell him what to do and how to do it. We submit to him to allow him to do it his way according to his Word, for our good. With that, we can live in his plan of abundance and peace physically, spiritually, and eternally through Jesus Christ.
Whether admitted or not, there are still some absolutes in life. If you throw a rock up in the air it will come down, and the sun is always shining whether we see it or not. However, we live in a society in America that leans heavily in the direction that anything goes, if it feels good do it, and what is wrong for one might be considered alright for another. A perspective of God has grown to be that he has given us some moral suggestions to live by if we want to, and if we don’t want to do it his way, there are no consequences. There is a mindset that we can figure out how to put this life together without God’s help, not needing to follow the manufacturers guide book and directions. Just follow your human reasoning, follow your feelings, follow your lusts and desires, and sincerely follow your own religion. God is just one god among many gods.
Really, is that right? Or, is it this: Just as the law of gravity, and just that as the sun is always shining are absolutes, it is an absolute that there is one Father God, one Son, Jesus Christ, and one Holy Spirit who magnifies the name of Jesus Christ. His name is Jesus Christ, not some other religious name. It is an absolute that Jesus is all that he said he is and that every knee shall bow to him and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord. If you want to sincerely believe the sun is made out of fire flies and the moon is made out of cottage cheese that is your privilege, but that does not mean you are correct in your belief. Even if millions and millions of people believe of fireflies and cottage cheese, that does not make it correct. The same absolute God that made the law of gravity and the sun in the sky also said to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned…for the wages of sin is death” (Mark 16:15,16; Romans 6:23a). God gave an absolute plan for every person to know Jesus. Every person that has light is to share the light. If that does not get done so the whole world comes to believe in fireflies and cottage cheese, that is not God’s arrangement, nor his fault.
The truth is absolute: Jesus is Lord. We either take our responsibility to stand with that, and share that, or, we refuse it. It is an absolute that every one of us will face God. The time to get it right is now. As long as we can know the effects of gravity and know the sun is shining somewhere, it is time to get it right. After that, it is absolutely too late.
As I was coming to a stop, I felt a slight jerk of the van and noticed a puff of bluish-white smoke coming off my left rear trailer tire. Once I let off, it seemed to roll okay, but what I discovered was that as I held light pressure on the brake the back trailer tire would “grab”. By “tapping” the brake I completed the present mission of assisting in a move, but I had to find out Monday what was going on. After describing to the mechanic what was happening, we did a thorough investigation. We looked at the electronic control, and didn’t really understand what it was doing. We took the tires off and examined the brakes. We opened the electrical connection on the trailer and found it to be okay. We did replace a rusty connection that we found there while we had it open, and saw that I needed to put some silicone on the opening where the wires went in to keep the moisture out. While I was standing there as they were putting the tires back on, it clearly came to me, “Look at the box again.” So with a determination to look that electronic control box over real good, I went and by tilting it down and getting my nose right up in there where it is, discovered a little slide button with a maximum/minimum indicator on the top of the box that was out of sight. It was slid all the way over on maximum. When I saw that, it all started coming back to me. I remembered how that when the control box was first installed, I adjusted the strength of electronic assistance to stopping the trailer with that little button. I had forgotten. We put the button on minimum and it was fine. The mechanic and I both confessed ignorance and carelessness, failing to inspect that control box thoroughly to understand how it worked.
A lot of times we must be reminded of the simplest, most basic things in order to maintain a successful and victorious walk with the Lord. The key is to hear what the Spirit is saying and obey his voice. If we acknowledge him in this way in our daily walk, he will show us the way we need to go and bring us through (Proverbs 3:5,6). Plus, in the process of dealing with these trailer brakes, I was able to give the mechanic the testimony of how Jesus healed me of my back problem through my verbal application of Luke 3:5. He gladly received the word and was encouraged to apply that same word on a consistent basis to some physical issues he was dealing with. So, with the trailer getting “fixed” and the new found fellowship we enjoyed, everything worked out for good.
On the Sabbath day Jesus healed a man who was born blind. This caused quite a commotion amongst the religious authorities. An inquisition was set up by them to find out all the details concerning the event. One conclusion they came to was that Jesus could not be a true prophet of God because he did this healing on the Sabbath day. The man’s parents were called in to test the validity of the man being blind in the first place. They affirmed he was born blind. For fear of losing their membership in the synagogue, they would not commit to knowing how he got his sight. When the man was again queried, he told the inquirers that he did not know if Jesus was a sinner or not, but one thing he did know was that “I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).
Having recently had an MRI, I was diagnosed with scholiosis (curvature of the spine), severe arthritis of the spine, and the cartilage between my vertebra was worn out. The compressed nerves accounted for the sometime debilitating pain in my right leg. I was brought to a place of desperation. I did not want to live on pain medications the rest of my life, and I did not want surgery. In seeking the mind of the Lord on the matter, I was directed to Joshua 1:8. For Joshua to lead the Israelites into the promised land, he was to keep the word of God in his heart to do it, and he was to “meditate” or “mutter” the word of God out loud day and night. By doing this he would prosper his way and have good success. Just like I was directed by the doctor to take a short round of medications each morning and evening, I felt like God was directing me to apply healing word to my situation morning and night. I was to speak it out loud. The word that I received was Luke 3:5 “every valley shall be filled…and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth”. I have been saying, “In the name of Jesus, I apply this word of God that says every valley of missing cartilage shall be filled. This crooked spine shall be made straight, and the rough places of arthritis shall be made smooth.” I have applied this morning and night and as many times in between that I wanted to. After doing this for about two weeks with no results, one day, there was no pain. I have continued with this word in my mouth on a daily basis for about two weeks with no pain. With the blind man that Jesus healed, I can say I don’t understand how it is working, but one thing I do know, I am not experiencing pain to this day and I am drug free. I give God all the praise.
It is the spring of the year and the plant and flower industry is in full bloom. It is easy to come away from the store with the added baggage of a flower or two. Some will last only a season, and others will come back next year if we are willing to expend the energy to put them in the ground and take care of them. It seems that each year at least one new flower bed is made at our place, and this year is no exception. Barb is a highly proficient bargain spotter, and when she came across some good-looking lilies marked down to only a dollar a piece, we became the proud new owners of six oriental lilies. When I was informed of all the abundance of beautiful flowers and good looking plants at that store, and that I really needed to see them, of course, I was ready to go see for myself. So in order to incorporate those six bargain lilies into the landscape, at the store we saw some phlox and some petunias, and it all began to materialize. We could put a new bed by that blank shed wall with a row of the orange lilies along the back, which will grow 2 or 3 feet tall. Next we could put a row of the light purple phlox, which will grow about 18 inches tall. Then we could put an assortment of the white, purple, and reddish colored petunias that grow about 12 inches tall all across the front and fill in some blank spaces. So that bargain of six dollars of beauty was transformed into some amount of double digits of beauty. Plus we get to break up some new ground with the shovel, add some soil amendments, mix it all up real good to make a top notch bedding soil, and get our new plants in the ground in a brand new bed. That’s OK. I believe that is why God put the first family he created in a beautiful garden. He wants us to be together with him in his presence and together enjoy the beauty of his creation. That’s the way he started it all in a garden (Genesis 1-3), and that is the way it is to continue. When sin came in to destroy that beauty, he made provisions through his Son, Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice of his life, to put it all back together again. He came to give life and life more abundantly. Bad choices in line with the enemy’s deceptive plan of destruction can ruin it all. But choices made to embrace and line up to God’s plan of life in Christ Jesus is a beauty beyond description. We can enjoy God’s beauty in God’s garden, if we will. It is being willing to exchange our life for his: “Lord, I give you my life, and I receive yours.” In that garden the roses never fade.
Many years ago I had occasion to float the Caddo River on an inner tube. I think that was my first time to do it, and I don’t remember ever doing it again. I do remember being momentarily pinned to a tree branch that was down in the water. Everything was smooth and gentle, a lazy day floating the river. I allowed myself to get over to one side of the river and come up on the tree branch down in the water. “Not a problem”, I thought. I will just grab hold of it and go around it.” Everything was calm and gentle, but when I got to the branch I was very surprised at the force behind me that not only was pinning me to the branch, but it was pulling me under the water! It happened to fast and so forceful, a momentary bolt of panic shot through me as I realized this was no game. That river could just calmly and gently drown me! I never knew there was such force in operation, while it all looked so peaceful!
It is easy for us to float through life with everything appearing calm and peaceful on the surface. We can splash and frolic as we float down the stream and enjoy the sunshine and the beautiful day. The forces we are dealing with are very powerful forces that are much greater than we realize. We are operating either under the power of sin and death or in the power of the righteousness of God and life. The power of God’s righteousness in Christ Jesus, when he is truly the Lord of our life, carries us down the middle of the river away from the snags and branches in the river. The power of sin and death takes us to one side or the other, where the snags of transgression and the branches of willful sin stick out into our path of travel. Everything is calm and peaceful and it is a beautiful day, until we are pinned to a branch and a force greater than we can resist takes us down and drowns us in eternal death, separated from God’s presence forever. The calm river deceives us and takes us out without mercy. Jesus came to take our sin away and fill us with his Spirit and guide us in the river of life each day. His blood sacrifice is our righteousness with God forever. We can trust him. We cannot trust our goodness and righteousness. We can embrace and rely on his finished work and sacrifice for us. He is faithful, he will carry us through. Thank God for Jesus Christ who will safely carry us down the peaceful river of life to our home in him forever.