Go By the Numbers

I overheard a phone conversation to learn that a certain handicapped person’s toilet seat was broken. I volunteered to run by on my way to work and put a new one on right quick. I knew it would only take a few minutes and I would be gone. I went across town to the location and saw the size, type, and color and went back across town to Home Depot in Benton to pick one up. Because of the way it was mounted on the handicap fixture, I decided that instead of it having plastic hinges like the broken one, I would get one that had metal hinges so it would hold up better. I went to the selection of toilet seats, saw the metal hinged one hanging over its bin of boxed seats, raised it up, grabbed a box, and took off to pay for it. I was wasting no time. I will “git ‘er done” so I can drive on to Arkadelphia and go to work. When I got back to the house and pulled the new seat out of its box, I was irritated to only discover that the seat had plastic hinges (a customer or someone had placed the wrong seat in that bin) and the holes in the tubular structure of the handicap toilet seat frame were not quite large enough to receive the new screws. With a twinge of exasperation, I drilled the holes slightly larger, and when I mounted the seat I saw that by design, the way this seat mounted, it would not take long for it to break also. So I removed it, drove back across town, and made sure, by the numbers, that I was getting the right seat. I went back across town, got the seat installed satisfactorily, and finally went on to work. When I grabbed the first seat I assumed it was the right seat in the box because it was in the bin under the metal hinged seat. I did not check the numbers.

We can assume that our spiritual life is OK because we feel like we are OK and have a sense of peace. (We can sit in a hen house for 20 years, but that doesn’t make us a chicken.) We need to check the numbers on the package to make sure they correspond with the numbers on the lid. We need to check our life out with what the Word says to make sure we are right with God the Bible way, and in the full blessing of what Jesus Christ has done for us. With the steel of the Word as our confidence, we have a source of strength to hold up under the pressure. Plus, when that day comes when we cross over to the other side, that same source of strength in the Lord will be our place of refuge and blessing for all eternity. It pays eternal dividends to go by what is written.

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Don’t Feed the Ducks

As a kid raised in rural Arkansas, I lived on a small acreage on which we had various farm animals. My Dad went through a time of having some fowl that went beyond the norm. In addition to the regular farm fowl of chickens, we also had some pheasant. They were wild and crazy, always trying to fly through the roof of the pen. We had quail that were raised from eggs that we incubated. I don’t know if there is any cuter baby fowl than a baby quail. And, somehow, I don’t remember, we obtained 25 wild mallards that had to have their wings clipped to keep them around. A mallard duck is also a beautiful bird. We lived in an old, worn out house before we tore it down and built a new one. It had the old double hung, single-pane windows with the window weights inside that would rattle when you raised the window. I slept in the summer time with that window up for cooling with no screen on it. For some reason I got the bright idea that if I threw some corn out the window, it would be fun to watch the ducks eat and carry on. Early one morning I did just that, and sure enough those ducks found it and thoroughly enjoyed it. Well, next morning about daybreak, guess who was back at the window and guess who got fed corn again! This became routine. It seemed harmless enough. But then, it was realized that when it rained, with twenty five ducks outside your window putting out more than what they took in, a smelly loblolly was created. Plus, no matter if you wanted to sleep in, twenty five ducks outside your bedroom window at daybreak, demanding their breakfast, is not conducive to deep, blissful sleep! Eventually the ducks got hauled off to a friend’s large pond, but the lesson I will never forget.

We can engage in something that seems fun and harmless enough to only learn that there are consequences in the end. Feeding your ducks might be fun for a while, but the Word will stand true, sooner or later we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7,8). The good news is that through what Jesus Christ has done for us, we can sow into his kingdom and reap eternal good. Are you caught in the trap of enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season? (Hebrews 11:25) Repentance and faith in Jesus can get you out of the trap, although the consequences might still be in place. If you don’t want your life to have a disturbing, loud, mess on your hands, then don’t feed the ducks out of your bedroom window.

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SWOT Analysis for God’s Way

I recently learned of a strategic planning technique called a SWOT Analysis. The acronym stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. If a person examines the business, the organization, the relationship or oneself by this guide, understanding can be obtained of what is needed to advance into a greater good and effectiveness. We are approaching a new year. The next 50 days or so would be a good time to apply the SWOT Analysis to all areas of our lives to help set our goals for the coming year.

The Word of God says, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5) The standard by which we can examine ourselves is Jesus Christ himself and the truths and principles of the Word of God. Concerning ourselves and our personal relationships and our interactions with others, we can observe the life, ministry, and attitudes of Jesus and readily see his strengths and our weaknesses. This is why the message of Jesus to the whole world was “repent”, be changing your mind and your attitudes and the way you do things in order to line up to God’s ways (Mark 1:15). When we believe the good news and line up to God, and God’s mind, and God’s attitudes, we are on the road to well-being and prosperity. Will there be adversity and even outright opposition? Absolutely! But with our lives committed to go with God, the grace of God is released in our lives to carry us through to victory.

This SWOT Analysis is good for every pastor and every church. We can see what Jesus did and what the early church did and ask ourselves, “What of this are we doing, and what of this are we not doing?” With some gut honesty and by laying all reasons and excuses aside, we can get a clear picture of what our goals for our church and our ministry needs to be. If we embrace a doctrine that limits the operation of God in this modern day saying that the power of God is not like it used to be, that certainly needs to be laid aside with the understanding that the Word says Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). When we can clearly see where we stand and where God wants us to go, then we can set our goals in line with God’s way and we can give ourselves to him to be and to accomplish what he wants us to be and to accomplish. That is a good thing for the coming year!

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Happy As a Pig in Mud

I was probably somewhere between eleven and thirteen years old. The barn situated on our small farm was about 75 feet from the stock pond. It was a hot and dusty summer, and we were keeping some hogs in the side shed of the barn. Knowing how pigs love to wallow in the mud, I decided to bring water from the pond and provide a mud hole for the pigs. I got a 5 gallon bucket and proceeded to tote water. The pigs responded with grunts and squeals of delight as they rooted around in and wallowed in the mud. I remember it took lots of water to make a nice, big, loblolly. It was a lot of hot work for this skinny little kid, but when I reached a stopping point, I perched right there on top of those old rough fence boards and thoroughly enjoyed watching those pigs enjoy their mud hole. Years later, as a father of four, I thoroughly enjoyed watching my children enjoy things in which they delighted. Today, I enjoy seeing grandkids laugh and play as they enjoy the swings and other good things that are provided for them.

Jesus said if you, as an “evil” or “natural” parent enjoy seeing your kids partake of and enjoy good things that you provide them, in the same manner the heavenly Father enjoys seeing his kids enjoy good things from his hand. Jesus affirmed that the Father won’t give you anything bad, and if you will ask, seek, and knock, he will give you the Holy Spirit to assist you in your daily walk through this life with his supernatural gifts and power (Luke 11:9-13). In another place Jesus said it was the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32). Our heavenly Father enjoys seeing us prosper and be in health even as our soul prospers (3 John 2). Satan, has come to steal, kill, and destroy, Jesus has come to give life and life more abundant (John 10:10). Any mentality that might beset us that says God lays hard things and bad things on us to teach us a lesson doesn’t fit. Yes, he will be with us when the hard and bad comes, and we can learn good lessons from bad things in life, but we can know of a certainty that God is always for us and not against us. God has good things for us, not bad things. Your summer might be hot and dusty and your spiritual ground is parched and dry. Remember that if you ask, seek, and knock, God will thoroughly enjoy pouring out for you a blessing of living water through the Holy Spirit in which you can wallow and be as happy as a pig in mud.

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Follow the Signs

I don’t remember whether I was on the super slab or if I was on a side road, but I was travelling behind a clean looking dump truck. I was up close enough to clearly read the neat block-lettered sign on the back of his dump bed: Warning Stay Back 200 Feet. Not Responsible for broken glass. As I thought about how clean the truck looked and bemused the fact of why they put that sign on the back, I suddenly heard a loud “Whap!” I instantly knew it was the sound of a rock hitting the windshield and cracking it. I looked in the direction of the hit and sure enough, there was the small star of a crack. My reaction was, “Well I’ll be! Here I was just sitting here thinking about what that sign said, and the very thing happens to me!” We must do more than just sit there and read the sign if we are going to keep from getting hit by the rocks of life. As soon as we read the sign, we had better take some evasive action. To delay is to make ourselves more liable to take a hit.

Lot was told that the city he was living in was going to be destroyed. He got up and went out to tell his son’s in laws to get out of the city, that it was about to be destroyed. They thought he was joking. They did not take the word that was given to them seriously. I am sure they sat around and talked about Lot among themselves, laughing at the message he was giving them. Even Lot, on the morning of the great destruction dilly-dallied around so that the angels had to grab him and his family by the hand and literally drag them out, the Lord being merciful to them. So they were brought out of the city and the Lord rained fire and brimstone down on Sodom and Gomorrah destroying everyone and everything in the corrupted place. Even after all that, Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19).

Life and eternity is no joke. Jesus is the sign that is given to us to experience abundant life now and for all eternity. If we sit there and just read the sign and muse on its meaning and we never commit our lives to him to allow him to give us his life and guide us in his way, then we open ourselves to eternal destruction. You don’t want that rock to hit your glass. With the sign given, quickly turn your life to Jesus and obey what his Word says to do. Ask to be filled with and led by his Spirit. As we are quick to follow his way, he will take us by the hand and lead us out of the place of corruption and destruction and bring us into a place of present and eternal peace and rest.

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Lot Lingered

The Lord instructed Lot to leave the city because he was about to destroy it. Lot lived in the Sodom and Gomorrah area where sexual perversion was rampant, and God decided to clean house. He does have the right to do that. He can do it with water, with fire, or with anything he so desires. But Lot apparently sort of had one foot in the world and one foot hobbling along with God. He was dragging his feet about getting out of the city. The Bible says Lot “lingered” (Genesis 19:16).The angels of the Lord had to grab him and his family by the hand and literally drag them out. By the mercies of God, they were taken outside the city. He was then told to run to the mountains and not look back. Lot did not like that. He said he was concerned with what evil might befall him in the mountains, so he requested to go to the next city. That was agreed on and off toward the city they went. All seemed to be going well when a terrible thing happened. Lot’s wife looked back to where they were coming from, and the Bible says she turned to a pillar of salt (verse 26). Lot about lost it all by lingering from making the exodus, no doubt because of his attachment to the world. Worse than that, Lot’s wife becomes a dead, good for nothing pile of dirty salt by her attachment to the world, and longing to be a part of it.

Jesus said whosoever does not forsake all that he has cannot be his disciple (Luke 14:33). God has set things up so there is total blessing that comes from total commitment. So often, through his mercy, he blesses us in spite of us. But his perfect way is like joining the army. You exchange your life and your rights for his life and his rights over you. As you are trained in this way, you become an instrument through which God can speak, act, gain dominion, and set captives free in every way and be blessed. Lot lingered and lost his wife and about lost it all. When God calls us to follow him, we don’t need to linger with one hand holding to him and another hand holding to “them.” There is extreme blessing in loving the Lord our God with all (that is “all”) of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27). He’s talking about leaving all behind and loving all around as being a way of life. Deviation from this is lingering and positioning ourselves to lose. Rather than being a lingering Lot, we can choose to be a lover of the Lord with all our hearts. That’s the way to abundant life in every way. Love God instead of linger with the world.

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In God We Trust

In the pursuit of independence, with the liberty to live and worship in the way one so desires, this country was born. There was persuasion from a dominating force, Great Britain, to keep the thirteen colonies under their jurisdiction. The people in pursuit of liberty chose not to submit to their demands. Lethal force in the form of the British army was used to bring the people back under their control. Lethal force was met with lethal force. The revolt was known as the Revolutionary War. George Washington led the people to victory and the United States of America was born. We celebrate this independence on July fourth. Our motto is “In God We Trust”.

In every person there is an innate desire to be free. We all want to be free spiritually, mentally, emotionally, in family, financially, socially, and eternally. The good news is that God wants us to be free in all these areas. He has provided the way for that freedom by sending Jesus Christ who obtained this for us. Man, in his pursuit for freedom, has come up with all kinds of religious beliefs and activities and systems of mental and emotional disciplines and exercises to be free in those areas. There are programs to address the pursuit of freedom in families, financially, and socially. Jesus came and boldly declared “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). He made it plain that he was the path to the Father for eternal freedom. He also plainly said that he came to give life abundantly for every area of life. And, he told us that there is a thief who is out to steal, kill, and destroy that abundance (John 10:10). That thief is Satan, who is working through sin and walking about with lethal force to rob us of our liberty and keep us under his jurisdiction spiritually, physically, and in every way. We can submit to his desires if we so choose or we can declare our own revolutionary war. We can submit to God and truly be born again, be filled with the Holy Spirit and power, and truly get the Word of God in our hand and mouth. In this way we can meet lethal force with lethal force, and through faith in Jesus Christ declare, obtain, and maintain our independence from Satan’s power in every way. The work that Jesus did for us is lethal force to the power of Satan. Because of Jesus, we can apply his word by his Spirit and fight to take our liberty in every area of life. In this way, with praises to his name, we can be free and adopt the motto: In God We Trust.

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Right Mama?

I was standing in a line at Wal Mart with a young mother and her two children right ahead of me. In the lower part of the shopping cart sat a three year old boy, and in the upper part sat his younger sister. The mostly unintelligible words from the three year old boy flowed incessantly, except, interjected regularly, maybe every 20 or 30 seconds, was a clear “Right Mama?” The Mama would always patiently answer “Right” and offer some type of answer in response to his barrage of young syllables. I asked the young Mama how many times in a day did she hear that question. She said many times, and, that no other answer such as “yes” or “ok” would suffice, rather, he had to hear “right.” It seemed this little boy was constantly making observations and offering his thoughts and opinions and solutions, but in it all, he would constantly check with Mama to see if he was on track with the “right” line of thinking.

The Bible says that if we will acknowledge God in all our ways he will direct our path (Proverbs 3:6). With this we need to develop our walk with God so that praying should be our first resource instead of our last resort. We naturally go about trying to work things out and when we fail and have exhausted all avenues, we finally start calling on God to help us. It is sort of the old “when all else fails, read the directions” syndrome. If we would get the directions right up front, it would not be trial and error. A successful leader surrounds himself or herself with people who can give good, sound advice. What a privilege to be able to walk with and surround ourselves with the highest wisdom of the universe. The Bible says Jesus is made unto us wisdom and right standing with God and purity and complete deliverance in every way (1 Corinthians 1:30). In him we have it all, and for us to not draw on that complete provision in daily life could be called sheer stupidity. His help is just an acknowledgment away.

Rather than living in the habit of him being our last resort, would it not be much better to be living in the habit with him being our first resource? He will be happy with our companionship and constant communication, and as a child, of us laying our case out there and listening for his response. He will patiently hear our rambling syllables with much understanding and offer a response of guidance and confirmation. Throughout his word he tells us, “Talk to me child, I’m listening.” “Right Mama?”
Psalms 4:3; 10:17; Luke 11:9-13; Romans 10: 9-13

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Full Throttle

I needed a boost. I had a 45 minute drive ahead of me and my peeper lids did not want to stay open. I have never had one of those energy drinks. I have heard they are not that good for you, but I figured a little energy drink would be a whole lot better for me than falling asleep at the wheel. There’s a whole assortment of drinks to choose from. There is Monster, Red Bull, 5 Hour Energy, and on it goes. After a brief perusal of the ingredients on some of them, I decided to go with one called Full Throttle. It had some B vitamins in it and was of a citrus flavor. It didn’t taste bad, but regardless of the taste, it was going down the hatch. I think it must have done some good because I did not get drowsy on the trip, nor for quite a while into the late evening. Mission accomplished. With the name of the drink I was reminded of my flying days. When you taxi the plane onto the end of the runway to take off, and the word comes from the tower to take off, you give the plane full throttle. With that, you can get up enough speed to get the plane off the ground. If you don’t give it full throttle, there will be a messy incident at the end of the runway.

When you read the words in red in the Bible, you find Jesus saying things like you cannot serve God and money (Luke 16:13) and he talked about leaving all for the kingdom of God’s sake (Luke 18:29). He said that he who finds his life shall lose it and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it (Matthew 10:39). He said he who does the will of the Father which is in heaven, the same is his brother, and sister, and mother (Matthew 12:50). Throughout the teachings of Jesus, he called for a total commitment – full throttle. And that’s good, because if we just go part way with him, we are setting ourselves up for a crash. If we give ourselves to believe all his word and embrace all of who he is and what he has done for us, then faith connects us with the power of God. By the power of God we can get the plane off the ground in every area of life – spirit, soul, body, in family, financially, socially, and eternally. Total commitment opens us up to the life and power of God that goes beyond mere intellect. God does not have us to forsake intellect. Rather, he has us submit our intellect to him so his power can enhance it. Intellect can only go so far. His power has no limits. Full throttle is a choice we make based on the facts of his word. If we want to get off the runway to fly in his power, we must give it full throttle.

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Hit the Save Button Now!

It has probably happened to everybody who has operated a computer. Because it has happened to me, I now have a little yellow post it note on the keyboard of my computer that says, “Save it quickly.” I recently heard my step-daughter, Lisa, relate this story that happened in her work place. One of the workers in the office spent a whole day painstakingly entering data into the computer. She was shown in the very beginning what to do to save her work. She apparently was so focused on getting it entered just right, that she went the whole day without ever hitting the save button. At the end of the day when she exited out of the program, she apparently hit “no” when the little “do you want to save this” window came up. In an instant, the whole day’s work vanished. That was data entry. It can be entered again. Spontaneous creative work cannot be reentered. The first lesson to learn in operating a computer is to get into the habit of saving your work. Don’t flirt with fate. Lisa also related how she had done a sizeable amount of work on the computer one time and just as she was about to save it, the electricity went off in the building. Her work was lost.

We are all a unique creative work of God. He did not make a mold to make several copies of you. You are it, the one and only. When Jesus laid his life down for you, it was not for one of several of you, and if one does not make it, no big deal, another one will. No. If you don’t make it, that piece of work is lost forever. One aspect of God’s salvation for all mankind is that it is like a business transaction, like working with a document on a computer. You choose to do what needs to be done to save the document that is before you. The Bible says the word of God is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart, that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Whoever believes on him will not be ashamed. God is rich toward all that call upon him, for whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:8-13). The first step in knowing that when your computer shuts down, the piece of work that you are will be saved, is to simply hit the save button. Do the business transaction with God. Give him the reins of your life. Then whatever else needs to happen in your life, you can read it in God’s word, he is faithful, he will be working in you to make sure you get what you need with no loss. Don’t let the electricity go off on you before you get saved and all is lost.

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