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Back in the Day

“Back in the day, we sang from hymnals in church, and everybody wore their Sunday morning best to church. Anybody and everybody could sing in the choir, and we didn’t have all those high-falootin big screens and text-to-give nonsense. Yep, God moved back in the day. And candy bars were a nickel, too. Those were the good old days.”

If you’ve lived long enough, you have a “back in the day” when things were done differently. The Pharisees lived every day stuck in their “back in the day”, and most missed the new life Jesus introduced. “The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’” They accused Jesus of forsaking the Jewish “back in the day” tradition. Yet Jesus desired to give them a new day so much better than they had ever known.

We think we know how church should be today—up to our specifications—the way it used to be. Look around you. Young families are flooding through our church doors. People are giving their hearts and lives to Jesus. Lives and futures are made new every day by God’s power. Yes, growing churches look much differently today than they did twenty-five or fifty years ago. And that’s a good thing! Don’t sit in church with a judgmental scowl on your face. Don’t miss what God is doing today and what He desires to do in your life. Join the living!

In a few years, should the Lord tarry His second coming to earth, today will be the “back in the day” for our young people.

“Father, forgive me for all my wrong thinking and speaking. I want to move into the middle of the activity of God in my church and in our world today. I trust you, Lord, and I thank you.”

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV).

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24 KJV).

Totaled!

There I was, driving home from an out-of-town trip, minding my own business, when all of a sudden, I topped a hill and there it was in the middle of my lane! I had nowhere to go while driving 60 MPH in the outside lane with no shoulder and no choice but to nail it dead center! And that’s what I did! As I gripped the wheel my precious, sweet, little Elantra jerked as it rolled over that heavy chunk of metal whatever-it-was. I knew there had to be damage underneath; I just didn’t know how much.

“God, just take care of me and my little car. Help me get to a safe place. Help me, Lord.” One second later and over the next hill was a log truck stopped in my lane, and the driver was exiting the cab. My conclusion? Something important to the function of that log truck fell off, disabling the log truck. My little Elantra and I just happened to be the next vehicle in line. I missed the log truck; I was traveling much slower now.

Same prayer as above repeated many times over the next few minutes until my baby on four wheels died while I coasted into the parking lot of a small business.

That piece of metal took out the radiator, transmission, motor, bent the frame, and busted a hole in my floor exposing carpet from underneath. It almost became a front seat passenger! God watched over me the whole time. Thank you, Lord.

Totaled! My sweet little car still looked beautiful on the outside with not even a scratch. But underneath was an entirely different story.

How often do people look so gorgeous, all together, every hair in place, nothing to indicate anything less than complete perfection on the outside. But underneath is an entirely different story. Brokenness, pain and loss; damaged, bent and busted; beyond repair. However, there is hope. A new beginning is possible. And it only comes through Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).

I have a new car!

Don’t Farkle. Sparkle!

Gene and I got together with a few friends recently for a fish fry dinner and a game. Anthony can catch ‘em, and he knows how to cook ‘em! His friends know how to eat ‘em! Afterwards, with full bellies we proceeded to clear off the table and play a round of Farkle.

Farkle is a game of chance played with six dice (forgive me, Lord), where the rules are simple and the object is clear: Be the first one to reach a score of 10,000 points and try not to farkle! It happens when a player takes a chance and rolls for more points, and it backfires. Farkle! Lots of laughter and ribbing follows!

Rick was having a good night. He was taking chances, rolling the dice, and racking up the points. “Okay, Rick, it’s your turn. Now farkle!” His reply? “I don’t farkle. I sparkle!” I love it! He went on to win the game.

As a child, sparklers were my personal favorite at our July 4th and New Year’s Day celebrations. A sparkler can split the darkest night with its bright moving points of light. I had to be careful though and make sure I lit another sparkler before mine went out.

Here’s my thought: Don’t take a chance on your salvation. Know you’re saved and on your way to heaven, and then share your light with others. One sparkler lights another, then another, then another. Don’t farkle. Sparkle!

Surely there are fish fries, fun, and laughter with friends new and old in heaven!

“Arise, shine, for your light has come” (Isaiah 60:1).
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
“Let your light shine before others” (Matthew 5:16).
“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).

Checked Out

I want to talk about being “checked out” today. By that, I don’t mean the check-out line at Walmart. And I’m not inferring how boy checks out girl, or girl checks out boy, or girl checks out other girl’s shoes. Actually, if truth be known, we are always mentally “checking out” everyone we come in contact with every day. None of that.

Think about this. Was there ever a time when you were present in body in a classroom but absent in brain? Of course! We’ve all had those moments! What about present in church, physically sitting on a pew or chair, but miles away in thought or dreams. Be honest.

Where am I going with this? Here it is. More important than being physically present when I read the Bible, can God put a “P” for present beside my brain, heart, and spirit when I open His Book?

So how should I approach God’s Word? Empty. If I really desire to hear and learn more about God, His character, who He is, who I am, and what He wants me to do, I must approach Him empty of self. I can be so full of me that there is no more room for Him! This is not a good place to be for it will stifle my spiritual growth.

What’s the answer? Get rid of the mental and spiritual junk. Do this exercise with me. Stand up. Place an imaginary empty box on the floor beside you. Remove all the unwanted space hogs from your everything but physical self, such as preconceived beliefs, judgments, conclusions, and let’s save the worst for last—disobedience and sin. Put an imaginary lid on that box. Now kick it into oblivion!

That done, you and I are now ready to sit at Jesus’ feet, look into His face, and receive His love and precious truth for our lives. We sit quietly, repentant, humbled, and needy. We can hear Him clearly now because the clutter is gone. We are intently focused on Him. We learn and grow in our walk with Jesus.

My prayer: “Show me, Lord, what I don’t see and teach me what I don’t know.”

“But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12).
“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18).
“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground” (Psalm 143:10).

Are You an Anyone?

I’m an anyone. The Bible mentions me in King Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple. “…when an enemy besieges them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, and when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among your people…being aware of the afflictions of their own hearts…then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act” (1 Kings 8:37-39 and 2 Chron. 6:28-30 NIV).

If there was ever a time when we need many “anyones” to pray for our nation, it is now. I think it is safe to assume that you are an anyone. Therefore, both of us have a crucial part to play in the salvation of our nation. Must America suffer a major catastrophe for the “anyones” to fervently pray? We must pray for America now.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6).

From Devastation to Dessert

Have you ever eaten a grasshopper?  The closest I’ve come to downing one was as a child while fishing at my grandfather’s pond.  I would catch a grasshopper in the tall weeds and bait my hook and then feed the fish.  Once I decided to try one.  It was crunchy, then squishy, then out it came; I was totally unimpressed.

God gave His permission to the Israelites to eat these hoppers in Leviticus 11:22.  “Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper.”  Even today, they are considered a delicacy in many countries of the world.  However, there is a darker side to the lowly locust.  A locust and his billion friends have formed plagues since pre-history, devastating crops, and causing famines.

“And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten” (Joel 2:25 KJV).  Has the enemy ever stolen something from you?  Yea, me too.  But God gives us this promise in Joel that He will restore.  It was said of John the Baptist, Jesus’ forerunner, that he came to restore all things (Mark 9:12).  By the way, I find it interesting that the diet of John consisted of locust and wild honey (Matthew 3:4).  Jesus spoke of John in this way, “For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” (Luke 7:28). Think about this:  How much more of a Restorer is Jesus Christ, the Living Son of the Living God?

“He restoreth my soul” (Psalm 23:3).  “‘But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 30:17).  “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).

The most painful years of my life are now producing the most fruitful years of my life.  “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him” (Psalm 40:3).  “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up” (Psalm 71:20).

The very thing the enemy uses to steal life and sustenance from mankind, God can use to restore life and blessing.  Get ready!  Dessert is on the way!

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever.  Amen” (1 Peter 5:10-11).

The Grief Door

At first I couldn’t find the door.  For a long time, I was locked inside that dark room of grief, consumed with my loss and thinking of little else.  It was a darkness that could be felt (Ex. 10:21).  I lost track of time, and to this day almost four and a half years since my daughter, Jamie, left this world for heaven, I can’t give you an exact timeline of significant moments and realizations along the way.  I’m sure it’s different for everyone who has lost someone they love to death.  All I can give you is a description of my journey through the door.

I am reminded of Job who experienced much darkness as he walked through extreme loss.  As a matter of fact, dark and darkness are referred to at least thirty-five times in the book of Job, more than any other book in the Bible.  He knew.

One day I saw it—narrow slivers of light piercing the outline of a door.  I squinted.  It seemed miles away, but I began to walk sluggishly toward the light—hands extended.  It seemed to take forever.  I finally touched the door, then the doorknob, slowly turning it, gently applying pressure.  More light dispelled my darkness.  Was it true?  I felt hopeful, and suddenly I knew I was not destined to this dark room for the rest of my life.  I’m glad I got up and started walking toward the light.

“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (Matt. 4:16).

I’m no longer a prisoner of the darkness.  “You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light” (2 Sam. 22:29).  I now live outside that dark room.  I made the choice back then, and I still make the same choice every day.  Jamie would not want it any other way.  I’m thankful I opened the grief door.

However, that dark room is still nearby.  Sometimes the wind comes out of nowhere and blows the door open and I glance inside, but now I have a choice.  At times I stand in the doorway.  Other times, I choose to step inside and remember.  I always leave the grief door open when I’m inside, and I don’t go far.  I can also walk away from the door.  It’s easier now to come and go.  That dark room no longer wields its controlling gravitational tug on me.  I know that as time continues to roll, more distance will form between me and that door, but it will never completely fade from view.  It just gets easier to stay on this side of the door.

Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, has stripped darkness of its power and unrelenting pull.  “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46).

Because You’re My Friend and I Care

“How did I get here?” I heard my friend ask.  His world was literally shredding around his feet—wife, kids, and his sanity.  I thought of Jesus’ words to Simon Peter.  “Simon, Simon!  Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32 NKJV).

What does Peter do?  He quickly denies the truth of Jesus’ words.  But the Lord’s gaze penetrates Peter’s heart and He sees his struggle with pride and self-sufficiency.  He knows Peter’s real problem is a heart issue.  Peter’s delusional thinking has clouded his reality, and he has believed Satan’s lies: I’m okay. Jesus and I are buds! We’re tight! I can take care of myself.  However, truth will very soon slap him in the face.  How did he get there?

I enjoy baking, and I have a sifter that I’ve had for forty-five years.  Slightly bent out of shape and no handle, it still works great.  Sifting separates the clumps from the rest of the flour mixture.  The clumps are either crushed or thrown away.  I would not want to be a clump.  Then there was the time I dropped a five-pound canister of flour, and it exploded in the middle of my kitchen floor.  I wiped up white dust for weeks.

Satan sought to destroy Peter and prove to the world that he was nothing more than chaff to be thrown away.  Jesus saw the wheat, the good in Peter.  Even though Peter hit bottom (a dreadful place to be), Jesus still desired to use Peter’s life to glorify Him.

I have learned over the years that Satan is enormously subtle.  Almost invisible and undetected, he tries to squeeze his big ugly toe into the screen door of my life.  He is also very patient.  He doesn’t care how long it takes him; he just wants in.  The only defense I have against him is the Word of God.  A daily and balanced diet of God’s Word and time spent in His presence will reveal and expose that big deadly toenail from hell before it turns into a full leg, which makes it much more difficult to slam the door shut.

The cure for “How did I get here?” is truly humbling myself before God and true repentance—more than just an “I’m sorry.”  It is a heart issue.  It is a spiritual issue.  We must go back to the place where we left God, and we will find Him there.

Now is a good time to pray.

The Truth, Please

“I don’t believe in heaven or hell.  I believe that this life is all there is, and when we die, it’s all over and we turn to dirt.”

“You’re free to believe what you want to believe, but it doesn’t change the truth.”  Have you had a similar exchange with an unbeliever?

“What is truth?” Pilate retorted (John 18:38).  Jesus was standing directly in front of Pilate, and yet he still missed it.  Maybe he should have asked, “Who is truth?”  You see, Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, is inseparable from the Bible, the written Word of God.  To know one is to know the other.

How many of us never crack open our Bible?  It’s right there in front of us on our coffee table, and we totally miss it.  Whether we believe in Jesus Christ and the truth of His Word or not, it doesn’t change who He is.

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).  “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33).

Don’t miss Him.  Isn’t it time you take a closer look at Jesus?  To do so will require you take a closer look at His Word, the Bible.  Get to know the Truth for yourself.  When your heart beats for the last time, it’s too late then.  There is no turning back the clock.  Enjoy the many benefits/blessings of knowing Him better today.  These include:

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Do you ever click the refresh button on your laptop?  When I open my Bible and begin to read, it’s like clicking refresh.  I must remind myself daily, or refresh my memory if you will, of Who He is and what He has done for me.  In the process, I see Him more clearly and know His truth more surely.  I can totally trust the One who died for me.

“Connections,” a daily devotional, will assist you in reading the Bible and knowing the Truth.  Click HERE.

A Familiar Inner Conversation

“Something doesn’t feel right.  Something is definitely missing.  I don’t understand what is happening right now.  I love my dad and I trust him.  He has always told me the truth in everything.  I heard him tell the servants that we would return to them.  He just told me that God Himself would provide the lamb for the burnt offering.  But where is it?  I’m acutely aware of a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I watch my father build an altar for the burnt sacrifice.  Then he turns and walks toward me with tear-filled eyes of love and a rope in his hands.  It’s decision time.  I’m young and fast.  I could run down this mountain and escape his reach, but like I said, I love my dad and I trust him.  So I close my eyes as tears run down my face; I choose to submit and obey.  I’m all in.”  You can read the rest of Isaac’s story in Genesis 22:1-19.

About 2000 years later, Jesus chooses to submit and obey His Heavenly Father.  I’m so glad He did.

Now, another 2000 years later, I have had that all too familiar inner conversation.  “Something doesn’t feel right.  I don’t understand what is happening.  I love the Lord and I know He loves me.  I trust Him.  He is faithful and true to His Word, and He has never let me down.  However, the fact remains: I don’t like where I am right now.  It’s very uncomfortable.  And it’s decision time.  I could run down this mountain of testing; or I could submit, trust, and obey my Savior and Lord.  I choose the latter.  I’m all in.”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).