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A Good Conversation

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ImageA few years ago a movie hit the big screen, The Last Samurai. If you saw that movie you may remember a scene where Captain Algren and Katsumoto Moritsugu exchange names. To Algren’s chagrin, Katsumoto declares that they had a “good conversation.” I was reminded of this scene after seeing a post on the Heart Prints blog by Missie Jenkins, (http://lissalomo.tumblr.com/post/30971919319/have-a-conversation); which led me to this…

Missie wrote:

Have a conversation….. tonight- do everything you can to have a conversation…. let the conversation be worthwhile and happy and full.  Let it be something that is honest and serious and deep and yet fun and peaceful and joyful.  Have the kind of conversation that can be life changing…one that can make you feel GREAT from the inside out.  I share this with you today because I did it and want you to do it too.  Yesterday, I was kinda having a down day— I don’t know why— but at the end of my night- I spend a long time in a great, great conversation… it changed my heart- it changed my “stinkin- thinkin”- it made me feel- well, amazing.  The conversation started with me— sitting outside on my front porch in a rocking chair… all alone with just me and my Father.  I talked to Him- I cried out to Him— I begged Him for strength and for a greater faith.  I told Him there was no way I could make it through without Him.  I told Him that I knew He knew all of my secrets but that I wanted Him to hear them from me-so I confessed to Him.  Then I told Him I loved Him.  I loved Him so much that I wanted to be better and do better because of Him.  I told Him that there was nothing and no one that mattered more to me….and I meant it.  I also told Him that I would fail Him again…. but that I wanted to try, to try hard to show Him how much it meant that He had given me life— and not just life but a GREAT LIFE.  Then I took out my Bible and I read this passage— read it- I know it is probably in  your memory but read it— For God so loved the world that He gave His ONLY son- so that whoever believes in Him would not be lost but have eternal life. — Wow.  It was something I needed to see…. it means something- it means He really really loves me. — Have a conversation.

In a time where we are pulled in what seems like a thousand directions with work, school, church activities, entertainment, and who knows what else; Missie’s reminder of what is truly important is a breath of fresh air. The bonds we have with family and with God will see us through. She was right when she said, “Wow”.

Consider how often Jesus sat with others or with God and simply had a good conversation:

Joh 6:3  And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.

Mar 2:15  Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him.

Mat 24:3  Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

Luk 19:5  And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”

Luk 10:38  Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.

Mar 1:35  Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.

My friends, take a little time today; sit and be with the ones you love, with God, and simply have a good conversation…it will do wonders for your soul.

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Words To Live By

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                From time to time I have had the privilege of looking through a ‘preacher’s Bible’. I am referring to that Bible which has been used by a preacher for many years. They are often easy to pick out among others. One of the first things you might notice is the duck-tape holding the cover together or the rubber bands around the outside to keep notes, bookmarks, and even pages from falling out. Speaking of pages, they are stained along the edges from many years of fingers seeking knowledge of God. You will not hear the crinkle of a ‘new Bible’ here.

OldBible2

                This Bible has circles and arrows pointing out one verse from another. Some places are underlined and others highlighted. CIA code breakers would have a hard time figuring out the pattern of how verses are marked and referenced. Greek words are scattered everywhere. So many notes can be found in the margins that you might think a whole book could be written from them alone. In fact, some have; Wayne Jackson wrote a book titled Notes from the Margin of My Bible.

                Thumbing through a Bible such as this is humbling. It becomes a diary and testament to one man’s love for his God. The weight and responsibility of a teacher of God’s word can be felt within the lovingly worn pages. I asked once, “how do you decide what verses to highlight? Are they just special to you or do you have some other pattern?” You see, I was interested so I too could have an impressive looking Bible. How foolish, how selfish of me.

                This kind, older preacher smiled and then chuckled. He went over to his desk and pulled out a stack of index cards three or four inches thick. They too were stained with age and use. He explained that when he was a young preacher his friend and mentor told him to begin memorizing scripture. “You’ll ne-er regret et”, he mimicked. The handwritten cards helped him memorize and keep scripture fixed in his mind. Only then would he highlight them in his Bible. I swallowed a lump in my throat as I flipped the pages. There was not a single opening without verses highlighted in one color or another, some in colored pencil, others in marker. Here in my hands was a lifetime spent following in the footsteps of the savior. My eyes tear up just contemplating the sacrifices he must have made through the years and the number of souls that will one day be in heaven due to one man’s humble dedication to God.

                I have fondly recalled all of that to hopefully encourage you in this; teachers, preachers, dads, moms, Christians, we all grow weary from time to time. Life presents us with trials that will test our faith. Sometimes we just seem to run into a case of writer’s block that lasts longer than we hoped, and other times we are afraid to become more for God than who we are now. During those times, might I suggest, if you can, look at an old duck-taped, rubber-banded, circled, arrowed, and edge darkened ‘preacher’s Bible’ and consider that God has blessed us with a great gift…His word, direction, and love, all waiting for us to simply reach out and accept it. You just may be awed at how humbling and inspiring it can be.

Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts. (Jer 15:16)

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  (Jos 1:8)

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. (Psa 1:1-3)

Who At The Door Is Standing

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DoorWhat a beautiful song and message this is! My soul stirs within me as we sing this hymn, and it makes me acutely aware of the Lord’s tremendous love and patience. Think about these words from the second stanza:

“All thro’ the dark hours dreary, knocking again is He; Jesus art Thou not weary, waiting so long for me?”

            Many people wait so very long before submitting to Jesus and becoming Christians. Thankfully He is enduringly patient. We, as Christians, often procrastinate in our coming back to the Lord after we have sinned. Christians and non-Christians alike lay awake at night, pricked by a guilty conscience. That’s what the song is talking about, during the dreary hours, Jesus is “knocking” on the door of our hearts and hoping we will reconcile with Him. Consider the thoughts of David as he expresses the heaviness he feels in his heart: (Psalm32:4) “For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.” Have you ever felt as David did? What a terrible burden it is to bear, and the really horrible part is that we choose to place that burden on ourselves!

Here is the response the Lord wants in the third stanza: “Door of my heart, I hasten! Thee will I open wide; tho’ He rebuke and chasten, He shall with me abide.”

The Lord wants to abide or live with all people. Of course, He can’t abide with all people as they won’t all submit their will and ways to Him. That is the thrust of the song. He is waiting, waiting, and waiting…standing at the doorway of our heart, patiently enduring our silence, just waiting for us to open up. The refrain of the song ends with this statement: “If thou wilt heed My calling, I will abide with thee.”If” is such a small word to have so great a meaning. “If” will keep people separated from Christ. However, if we do His will, He will be with us forever. He will be with us through the good times and the times when we don’t know how we can continue. He will be there on Judgment Day and tell God that we are His and to welcome us home.

Have you let Jesus in? He is still patiently waiting outside the door of your heart. When will you let Him in or allow Him back into your life? Don’t make Him wait long as we may not be here to answer the door tomorrow.

Lord, Give Us More

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I cannot take credit for the list below, but neither can I remember where I received it from. Regardless, I found it encouraging and wanted to share with you.

It is often the case that when one is promoting a position, and another stands in opposition to that position, efforts are made to discredit the one who stands in opposition.  This is often accomplished by “name-calling” and “false-labeling.”  However, such tactics should not dissuade one who is standing in the right.

  • If opposing homosexual marriage is being homophobic, Lord, give us more homophobes!
  • If demanding strict obedience to the Bible is legalism, Lord, give us more legalists!
  • If opposing divorce, except for the cause of fornication, is idealistic, Lord, give us more idealists!
  • If opposing women leadership in the church is chauvinism, Lord, give us more chauvinists!
  • If dressing modestly is prudish, Lord, give us more prudes!
  • If opposing abortion is right wing, Lord, give us more right-wingers!
  • If believing in the inerrancy of Scripture is fundamentalism, Lord, give us more fundamentalists!
  • If total commitment is fanaticism, Lord, give us more fanatics!
  • If believing one should be a virgin when one marries is Puritanism, Lord, give us more puritans!
  • If believing in creation is foolish and unenlightened, Lord, give us more fools!

No matter what names the world and even some Christians may call you, if you stand for the truth, the Lord will call you “right.”  Give it some thought.

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (I Jn 1.5-7)

Are You a Slave?

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James begins his epistle by talking to Christians about how they face trials in life which test their moral character and loyalty to God. Simply existing or surviving through temptations is not enough. Our spiritual reaction and earthly conduct matter to God.

Chains

                He talks about serving the lord from the position of being a bondservant. See how he begins his letter, “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.” James is not the only one to say this; Paul, Peter, Jude and John all identified themselves as servants, bondservants, and even slaves! Slaves? Really? I thought that we were to be free in Christ, after all, Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”. (Jn 8.32)

                Isn’t a slave a person who is bound in chains and forced to do what his master says? Aren’t they deprived of their personal freedom? Well, yes, that is exactly right. In most cases this results in poor treatment, harsh punishment, and social upheaval. Just look at how the Hebrews were treated in Egypt.

                Jesus is a different type of master however. He said to “take up our cross and follow Him.” (Mt 16.24-27). Could it be that He understood because He too had a cross to bear? Christ also said for us to ‘ take His yoke upon us’, that He is ‘gentle and lowly in heart’, and ‘we will find rest in Him’ (Mt 11.29).

                Perhaps we misunderstand sometimes simply because we have just not had the right experiences. Would it be different if we had witnessed what happened in this story?

                The meaning of doulos (servant) is well illustrated in the story told by Clayton Wallers: They were in Africa trying to translate the N.T. into five different dialects and came to the word “redeemed.” They would take each word and explain it as fully to the people as possible and then asked them what word in all five dialects explained it best. They spent 30 minutes explaining the word “redeemed” and asked them for the correct word. The word they gave meant, “to take the neck out.” The translators decided they needed to explain the word better, so they started all over, but the men said, “No!” They said they understood exactly what the word meant but that the translators did not understand the word they gave back as its meaning. Back when the slave traders came over to capture their people they put their necks in chains. If one of the locals who was rich enough and a freeman he could buy back one of these people and they would “take his neck out.” Their custom then was to bow down in front of this person and become his slave voluntarily for the rest of his life.

                This is exactly what Jesus has done for us! He has spilled His blood so that we could be purchased in our sinfulness, cleansed by Him, then set aside for God’s use for life, and as a faithful servant we have the hope and promise of eternal reward with Him in heaven after we depart from this world. If that is what it means to be a bondservant of God, then put the chains on me! How about you? Are you a willing servant of the Lord? Think about it.

Are We Men of Honor?

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MedalOfHonorHonor is honesty, fairness, and integrity.

Honor is having a high respect for someone because we see their worth.

Honor goes hand in hand with ‘glory’ when we talk about the glory of God (Mt 6.13, 16.27, 19.28, Heb 2.7). 

And…

Honor is greatly lacking within our culture, nor is it taught to our young men enough.

                Perhaps you have seen the movie The Last Samurai, where Tom Cruise plays Captain Woodrow Algrin, a celebrated Civil War hero. Due to the atrocities of war he has both witnessed and participated in, Algrin is obliged to drink himself into an endless stupor in an attempt to forget war’s horrors. Interestingly, the Japanese government hires Algrin to teach modern warfare to His Majesty’s poorly equipped army, where he is captured in their first battle by the last band of remaining Samurai warriors.

                The word samurai literally means “ones who serve”, and they follow a strict code of ethics called bushido or “the way of the warrior.” The life of the samurai was one of physical hardship, absolute devotion to duty, and above else, honesty and bravery in all things.

                Algrin is enamored with the samurai lifestyle and it’s unique code of conduct. After a winter living with the samurai where he sobers up and faces his demons, Captain Algrin joins these last remaining noble men in their honorable cause. One scene in particular sums up his belief in the importance of the samurai code. The leader of these brave men, seeing that defeat was imminent, considers taking his own life rather than suffer the shame defeat would bring.

                “Shame?”, Algrin says, “Shame for a life of service, discipline, compassion?”

                “The way of the samurai is not necessary anymore.”

                To which the captain responds, “Necessary? What could be more necessary?”

                Although this is simply a movie, there is truth in that statement. Consider that the very life of Christ was filled to overflowing with service both to God and to men. He taught the importance of self-control and self-denial when it comes to our lusts, while encouraging us to be steadfast and constant toward God. Additionally, can you find any greater example of compassion than that of Christ? Our creator came to earth as a man and offered His life, taken in the cruelest way possible, in order to redeem each and every one of us; and to give us the hope and surety of eternal life with Him.

Necessary? What could be more necessary? 

                Jesus was the living definition of honor. I want my son to be an honorable man. I want him to stand strong against the evils of the world and be prepared to weather the storms of adversity. I wish for him to cherish, protect, and value women and children. To stand with God while the world ridicules and abandons Him.

How about you? What do you want people to see or to think when your son’s name is spoken?

What are you willing to sacrifice in order to teach him that?

It’s Sooo Hot

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HotWeatherSummer is here, and you know what that means…it’s going to be HOT! But if you listen to the radio, the temperature is not the only thing that is hot. There are hot deals on cars, on vacations, and a great summer sale on cell phones, but to be honest these are not the hot items I am thinking about today.

                You see, just the other day I heard a young Christian lady say…”I know, Isn’t he sooooo HOT”. Needless to say, this grabbed my attention. Turning around, I saw this young person standing with her friends looking at what I think was a picture of some popular teen celebrity on her cell phone. Yes, I know what you may be thinking. What is the big deal, they are just kids goofing off, and they don’t talk the way we used to. Perhaps, but what really disappointed me is when I saw one of the girl’s moms look at the phone, snicker, and say “Yeah, he’s pretty hot.”

                OK, to be fair, maybe I did not understand what being hot really means. So I asked. What was the answer? Being hot is good looking, cute, a babe. Years past the phrase may have been a ‘teen heartthrob’. One young lady said, “it doesn’t mean anything, it’s innocent.”

                To be honest, I was not totally convinced. The phrase “he’s hot or she’s hot” just seems more sexual than that. So I asked our good friend Google to see what other teenagers had to say. Here are some of the more prevalent answers.

  • Yup, hot to me is based on pure looks.
  • A guy that makes you want to drool when his shirt is off.
  • Curves, curves, curves.
  • One young man said, “it is a girl you would have sex with, but would not want to date.” (By the way, this comment had 341 likes, 3 dislikes).
  • One young lady said, “a hot guy is one you just have to get (into his pants) with. (She had many other girls liking her comment).

                So what does it mean? Is it simply a cute guy/girl, or is it a potential frivolous sex partner? If you search for “hot” on Google images (I do not suggest doing this without your ‘mature content’ filters set), the first several pages are pictures of people (mostly women) wearing little or no clothing.

                Young people, does it truly matter how you personally are using the word when so many others that hear it think immoral thoughts when it is said? You may use it in an innocent way, but when others hear you say ‘he is sooo hot’, do they think the same thing? Parents, if you heard a young person call your daughter or son hot, would that make you feel uncomfortable, or would it be OK if they were looked at as a sex object by others?

                I know that was a blunt question, but now is not the time to be quiet and make excuses for the words we use. No matter what your age, if you are a Christian, you represent Christ! I can’t imagine that He would have seen and young lady and said, “Whoooo man, she is sooo HOT!”  Do you?

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. –Col 4.6

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