You can live for God anywhere! Thursday, May 20 2010 

You can live for  God anywhere!

He lived in the bulls-eye center of one of the worst times of history. Every man was doing that which was right in his own eyes!  There was no King in Israel.

Less than 10 miles from his ancestral home where he still lived, idolatry had just been introduced to Israel.

Idolatry would dominate every facet of Israeli life for the next one thousand years.  It would take a seventy year exile in Babylon to purge the southern nation, and a permanent exile of the northern kingdom to finally get rid of idolatry.

He was there to see the birth of Idolatry!

About five miles from his home one of the tribes had just forced a priest to become the priest of their tribe. They were dissatisfied with their land along the coast, and their tribe was looking to expand their boundaries beyond what God had allocated their tribe.

He had a ring side seat to watch a tribe lose its place forever in Israel. Dan’s heritage disappeared before his eyes.

He was right in the midst of a controversy that eventually cost the nation 65,000 fighting men.  He saw the results of infighting among tribes and saw the results.

He saw the grisly piece of evidence sent to his tribe and was close enough to hear the battle cries over three days that finally left only four hundred men to the tribe of Benjamin. To see a piece of a mutilated woman and the war that erupted among the people of God was no small issue!

Yet through it all he stayed true to the word of God!  When others had no regard for the law, he lived by every letter down to the smallest detail.

The world around him was going to hell in a hand basket, but he never flinched!

Let others fight among themselves.  Let others worship idols.  Let others lose their inheritance.  It never touched him!

If the law said take off your sandal and meet the near kinsman in the gate, that is exactly what he would do!

If the law said another man had first claim to the woman he was interested in, he would honor and defer to the law!

He stands as a silent sentinel to those who make up their mind no matter what others do, I will live by the word of God!

He is a testimony against every excuse maker, and compromiser that says everybody is doing it.

While his nation fell to idolatry, killed itself off, and gave away their inheritance, he stayed true to the law of God!

Is it any wonder his great grandson became the greatest King Israel ever had?

Thank you Boaz, and thanks for reading today!

Amaziah and the third sermon. Tuesday, May 18 2010 

In yesterday’s blog I introduced you to the prophet Amos.  He was an amazing man who obeyed his God and did a remarkable job.  Today I would like to continue with his mission and show you his three sermons.

His clothes were simple and probably homespun.  His language was of the simple unlearned people of the south Judean hill country.  So when this prophet of God walked into Bethel to deliver his message he started at a disadvantage.  The wealthy merchants and landowners were skeptical of this back woods evangelist.

When he delivered his first sermon, all doubts were replaced with satisfied nods of approval.  He thundered down God’s disapproval on the surrounding nations that Samaria had recently defeated on the battlefield. Around the coffee shops and gossip centers of Samaria Amos got the nod of approval.

They no doubt said things like, well he hasn’t bathed lately and his language is abominable, but he did say some valuable things!  So the balance slowly tilted in his favor and they showed up for his second sermon.  This time Amos hit a home run!

In his second sermon he climbed to the top of their preacher charts.  He preached how low down, no good, the southern kingdom was! He pointed out how the southern nation was not pleasing God.  Suddenly his clothes and language did not matter.  Amos was their man!  Their preacher was preaching what needed to be heard.  Three cheers for Amos!

Then came the third sermon.

As he took the center stage of their rapt attention, it was a sea of smiles.  They couldn’t wait for the newest sequel to his last two sermons.  They had waited all week wondering how he could ever top the last two weeks.

It started to go downhill when he called the jeweled, proud, over dressed women of Samaria a bunch of cows!  The smiles disappeared, replaced by looks of confusion.  Side-glances confirmed that there were other unhappy members in the congregation.  It erupted full bore when Amaziah the priest stood and called Amos down.

Amaziah informed Amos that his services were no longer needed in Samaria and maybe he should depart now and head south.  It was a not too polite “get out”.

Amaziah told King Jeroboam that Amos had committed treason.  Amaziah told Amos to get back to his own turf and preach his pretty little sermons.

Amos replied that he was not a prophet, but just a herdsman, and a poor one at that.

Then it happened, the moment that was so incredible.

Amos turned those blazing eyes on the man Amaziah.  Amaziah stood there insulated with wealth, position, and power.  He was dressed in the finest clothes, educated in the best schools, and had all of society’s approval.

Facing him, was a simple country farmer with raggedy clothes, no schooling, and buried under society’s anger.

However, this country boy was God’s man.  When he spoke all the authority of heaven backed up his words.  He pointed the long finger of judgment at Amaziah.

He spoke to Amaziah and said your wife will become a harlot in the streets.

Your children will fall by the sword.

This land shall be divided and will go into captivity.

And so it was.

When anyone chooses to openly and publicly withstand God’s man, God always reacts with the same action toward them.

Amaziah made the fatal mistake of rebuking a God called, God sent man.

God have mercy on anyone who is foolish enough to follow the footsteps of Amaziah!

Look beyond his clothes, his grammar, and his education.  Look carefully for the touch of God on his life.

And whatever you do, never under any circumstances, lift your voice against a God called, God sent man.

Thanks for reading today!

When Justice Was For Sale To The Highest Bidder Monday, May 17 2010 

It was the most prosperous time in their history.

Money was flowing.

The Northern Kingdom of Israel was being led by the dynamic and charismatic Jeroboam II.

Jeroboam had waged successful war against Israel’s hostile neighbors and won control of the trade routes that poured wealth into Samaria.

The land was fertile, the rains fell, and the bumper crops swelled their barns and their bank accounts.  It was a golden age.  Public buildings were being built.  Private residences were large and expensive.  The public worship was now ostentatious and full of pomp.

The rich landowners with total disregard for God’s law,  built great personal estates.  They did so at the cost of dispossessing their poor neighbors.  The poor were further treated badly by the greedy merchants who used unjust weights to buy and sell grain.  These dishonest merchants mixed husks with barley kernels.

More and more of the people were being forced to sell themselves and their children into slavery.

Justice was for sale to the highest bidder!

The wives of the rich demanded more and more luxuries.  No one seemed to give a thought to those who were cheated to pay the tab of the greedy.

No one that is except God!

Ten miles south of Jerusalem, a poor farmer heard an inner voice speak to him.  He was of the poorest part of society.  He dealt in Sycamore figs.  The modern equivalent of someone who gathers cans along the roadside to get money.

His name was Amos.  He left Tekoa to challenge the greatest nation on earth at the zenith of it’s wealth and power.

Has there ever been men like those prophets of old?  Fearless men who gave account to no one but God!

When that poor country boy walked into Bethel, don’t you know his eyes were wide?  No doubt his mouth was hanging open.  He had never seen anything like this in the poor region he lived in.

He walked the streets and saw the luxurious homes of the wealthy.  He saw the opulence of the rich and famous.  He observed women reclining on ivory inlaid couches, feasting on meats and drinking exotic wines while they listened to the lastest popular music groups (Amos 4.1, 6.4-6).

He saw a nation that was hardened by selfishness and greed.  He  spoke to them about the need for their hearts to be touched with the needs of the poor and oppressed.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Does God still care about injustice?

Is Justice for sale to the highest bidder in your life?

Thanks for reading today.

The Ugly Christian Wednesday, May 12 2010 

Many years ago when I was in High School I was required to read a book for English class.  It was called “The Ugly American”.

You never know when you pick up a book how it will impact your life.  I was not prepared for the effect that one book would have on my walk with God.

The book is a satire written by some former State Department men who evidently disagreed with the government’s policy of dealing with the growing communism threat globally.

Back then, we were in what was called a “Cold War.”  It was not open conflict with Russia, but rather Democracy and Communism both trying to sway countries to follow their example.

The feeling at the time on the news and in the press was that the whole world would go one-way or the other.

The book is about an engineer that was independently wealthy and decided to go to Asia and attempt to educate the people there and better their lives.

It called “The Ugly American” because the engineer is a large ugly gangly man.  All his life he has been conscious of his appearance.

When he helps the people there with simple projects he is no longer ugly, but is in fact very beautiful to them.  He shows them how to use bicycle parts to irrigate their crops and saves them backbreaking labor they have practiced for years.

The authors illustrate how the communists live among the natives but the Americans live in ivory towers.  Their criticism of American policy and technique are very glaring.

The part of the book that grabbed me over forty years ago was about the engineer’s wife.  While her husband was working with the native people she decided to try an experiment on her own.

It involved a broom.  She observed the old people of the village had bent backs.  She thought it might be from using short handled brooms.  She was sure they would not take any advice from an outsider so she put her plan in action.

She went out into the jungle and found some long reeds and cut some down.  She then made a handle for her broom from one of the long reeds.

As she swept her porch, some of the elderly people came and watched her.  Then the old man asked her about the reed. She said he could have one of hers but they could go into the jungle and get as many as they needed on one water buffalo.

What followed in the book is what influenced my life for the last forty years.  This is what happened.

And it was not until four years later, when Emma was back in Pittsburg, that she learned the final results of her broom handle project.  One day she got a letter in a large handsome yellow-bamboo paper envelope. Inside, written in an exquisite script, was a letter from the headman of Chang Dong.

Wife of the engineer:

I am writing you to thank you for a thing that you did for the old people of Chang Dong.  For many centuries, longer than any man can remember, we have always had old people with bent backs in this village.  And in every village that we know of the old people have always had bent backs.

We had always thought this was part of growing old, and it was one of the reasons we dreaded old age.  But, wife of the engineer, you have changed all that.  By the lucky accident of your long handled broom you showed us a new way to sweep.  It is a small thing, but it has changed the lives of our old people. For four years, ever since you have left, we have been using the long reeds for broom handles.  You will be happy to know that today there are few bent backs in the village of Chang Dong.  Today the backs of our old people are straight and firm.  No longer are their bodies painful during the months of the monsoon.

This is a small thing, I know, but for our people it is an important thing.

I know you are not of our religion, wife of the engineer, but perhaps you will be pleased to know that on the outskirts of the village we have constructed a small shrine in your memory.  It is a simple affair; at the foot of the altar are these words.  ”In memory of the woman who unbent the backs of our people.”  In front of the shrine there is a stack of the old short reeds which we used to use.

Again, wife of the engineer, we thank you and we think of you.

For me as a seventeen-year-old boy, my life purpose suddenly became clear.  No matter what else life demanded, my first purpose was to live in a manner that people could see a better way.

I have not always succeeded, but I have always striven.

May God help us all to unbend the backs of the people we live around.  When you make their life better you will never be ugly.  They will not care if a woman has long hair and no cosmetics.  When their back no longer hurts, you will be beautiful!

There should never be an ugly Christian!

Thanks for reading today!

I would have been a Christian, but for Christians! Monday, May 10 2010 

To try and be a Christian has been the most difficult task I have ever undertaken. It goes against all my natural inclinations.  I have had to change my thought processes.  I have had to alter my reactions.  I have had to curb my behavior.  I have had to corral my emotions. I have had to address my lifestyle.

I have had to love people I wanted to hate.  I have had to hate things I wanted to love.  I have had to forsake things I wanted to hold on to. I have had to hold on to things I wanted to discard.

I have had to become a new creature, a new creation.  Old things have passed away.  I have had to start all over again. I have not been a resounding success.  I have not always passed with flying colors.  I am trying. I want to be a Christian more than anything else in this world.  It is the only accolade I seek.  When I die all I ask is that people can say, “He was a Christian!”

It is tough to do.  I admit it is hard. It is hard to turn the other cheek.  It is hard to love your enemies.  It is hard to do good and pray for them that despitefully use you.  It is hard not be angry at a brother.  It is hard to not call him a fool. When they sue me for my coat it is hard  to give them my cloak also.

It is hard not to judge my brother. It is hard to love by the mandates of Christianity. Being a Christian is the hardest job I have ever undertaken.  I have been at it for over 45 years and I am still trying.

I am not talking about acting like a Christian, I am talking about being one.

Sometimes I do not know how to be a Christian.  I want to, I try to, but it is so against my emotions, my thoughts, my natural reactions and tendencies.  If you can say you truly have made it I congratulate you!  It is a monumental task and the effort of a lifetime.

If you can read Matthew chapter five, six, and seven, and measure up, I salute you.  I am still working on it.

Mahatma Ghandi was a world changer.  He is the father of modern India.

In Mahatma Ghandi’s autobiography, he makes a statement that is crushing.

Ghandi went to Oxford University and encountered the teaching of Jesus for the first time.  He said he had found what he had searched for all his life in Jesus’ teaching.  On his way back to India, he stopped in North Africa for a few weeks.  It was there he encountered some so called Christians.  When he boarded the ship for India he had discarded the teachings of Jesus.

Ghandi: I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians

His statement was “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. I would have been a Christian, but for Christians.”

I do not want to just say I am a Christian, I want to be one!

Thanks for reading today!

How will YOU die? Tuesday, Apr 27 2010 

How will YOU die?

He was cold! He was way beyond the kind of temporary cold that gives you shivers.  The cold he felt was way down in his bones, and had been there for weeks.  He wished for the thousandth time for the cloak he left in Troas.  Life would be easier when Timothy arrived with the books and parchments.

Six feet away, across his cell was a large rat.  They eyed each other with measured tolerance.  He had long tired of trying to make the rat leave for good.  The rat always came back.  It was no longer worth the effort to accost the rat.  He and the rat certainly weren’t friends, but they had learned to co-exist.

He reached over and picked up his writing instrument and parchment. The voice inside him told him to write.  So he dipped his quill in the borrowed ink, and began.

As he formulated the words that were appearing in his mind, another part of his mind began to go back over the years…..

He smiled as he remembered that day on the road.  It seemed like just yesterday.  Then there was the time in Arabia.  The years began to unfold like a novel, like a slow motion reel.

He drifted back through the years, the cities, the trials, the beatings, and the stonings.  Once again he asked himself if he had done all his master had asked of him.  He honestly could not see any way it could have turned out differently.

The other part of his mind returned back to the parchment, and he began.

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course.  I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness….

He finished the final words of his last letter. He was well aware he would never again pen another syllable.

He heard the jingle of keys. Marcus came into view.  Marcus was his most recent convert, albeit secretly.  He said to Marcus,”It’s okay, I understand.”  Tears began a slow roll down Marcus’ cheeks.

He rose, straightened, and started for the door, and noticed the rat seemed to be smirking.

The stairs seemed steeper than he remembered.  The light of day was blinding.  He had lost count of the days in the underground cell.  Slowly he looked around.  Spring had arrived, his last spring of his 67 years.

He saw the executioner waiting.  How far?  Maybe a hundred steps?  He started the final one hundred steps of his earthly journey.   He drew up at the chopping block.

With one long last look around the Appian Way, and a smile for Marcus tear stained face, he knelt and placed his head on the block.  The Roman official placed a check next to his name on the slate and nodded to the ax man.

In one slow movement, while heaven held it’s breath, the ax was raised. It paused for a fraction of a second, then in blinding speed arched downward.  His head, severed from his body rolled over the edge of the block and dropped to the ground and rolled twice.  Unseeing eyes on mortal earth stared upward.

In the immeasurable moment when head and body were separated, his spirit was free.  He was free of the hardships, free of the privation.  He was free and approaching the gates.

The gate was also about one hundred steps.  He could see the crowds cheering.  It was that great cloud of witnesses he had written about in his letter to the Hebrews.

They were all there.  Some were from the highlands of Galatia, others from the sea coasts of Macedonia.  There were some from Caesars’ household, and some converted rulers of the synagogue.

They were waiting, cheering, and welcoming him home.

And then there was Jesus for the first time.

He never quite remembers those last few steps, he only remembers falling at Jesus feet.  And the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

So Paul, the Christian sage of the ages died.

How will YOU die?

Will you be bitter?

Will you have regrets?

In the prison, Paul called himself “The prisoner of the Lord.” He knew that no mere, mortal Caesar could imprison an apostle without his master’s assent.

Do you see your prison as approved by the master?

How will YOU die?

Thanks for reading today!

The Spider Web Monday, Apr 26 2010 

The Spider Web.

All of life is like a spider's web!

Reading Brother Ballestero’s blog today brought to my mind a portion of a book by Robert Penn Warren.  The title is All the King’s Men.  It is considered an American classic, rated the 36th greatest novel of the 20th century.

It is really written about a famous Louisiana politician who became governor of Louisiana and then a United States Senator. He was killed on the steps of the State Capitol in Baton Rouge, at the age of 42. His name was Huey Long.

In the book there is a young man who becomes his assistant.  On several occasions there is a philosophical diatribe on life and it’s long-range effects. On one such occasion the subject is the spider web. The young man’s name is Jack.

Jack is informed that all of life is like a spider web.  It stretches out and sometimes appears empty.  But just one touch and the entire web reverberates and begins to hum.  The spider feels it and out she comes to claim her victim.

It is an excellent analogy.  Life is interlaced and every act and deed we do sends the vibrations out through our life and those we touch.  None of us are an island to our self.

The sad tragedy of the book illustrates the spider web effect.  Jack is told by the man running for governor, Willie Stark, to find something in the life of another man to ruin him.  That man is a judge who has been like a father to Jack all his life.

Jack asks what if there is nothing on the Judge? Stark says there is always something!  So Jack digs in the Judge’s past until he finds something.  When Jack goes to the Judge and presents his evidence that the Judge took a bribe, he thinks it is over and done with.

Little does he know he touched the spider web!

Soon after in the book, Jack is at his mother’s house and the telephone rings.  He hears his mother begin to scream.  He runs to see why, and she screams at him.  Well Jack, you finally did it, didn’t you?  You just had to do it didn’t you?  She says Judge Irwin just committed suicide!

You just killed you own father Jack!

Jack had never known who his father was.  The Judge had always treated him like a son.  Jack was stunned!  He touched the spider web, it hummed, and the spider came out to claim her victim.

Life is indeed a spider web.

When you touch it, all of life is affected.

Thanks for reading today!

Noblesville Indiana New Church Sunday, Apr 25 2010 

New Church in Noblesville Indiana nears completion

Calvary Apostolic Church, pastored by Garry Streeval is nearing completion of their new church. The church has a total of approximately 23,000 square feet.  It is on a new location near the growing areas of Noblesville.  Noblesville is located in one of the fastest growing counties of the United States.

It has been a dream come true for Pastor and Mrs Streeval, after 35 years in Noblesville.

The Streevals came to Noblesville March 7, 1975 and started having church in a converted garage.  Their only member was their young daughter Beth.  The last 35 years have seen constant, careful, consistent growth.  Today there is a growing thriving congregation in this city just north of Indianapolis.

Dedication of the new church is tentatively set for July 30th.

View of auditorium from the baptistry.

View from the balcony.

Main entrance foyer.

Main entrance, with beautiful chandelier (Pastor Streeval and Rev Garrett)

Basement: fellowship hall.

As I post these pictures I realize they do not do the building justice.  My recommendation is to come and celebrate their joy on July 30th, and see the beauty of this church for yourself!

Congratulations Pastor Streeval and congregation!

The Daily Grind. Saturday, Apr 17 2010 

Good morning blogging world!

Sleepy and bleary eyed, I wonder again how many people in the world keep the crazy schedule of an Apostolic minister? 🙂

Returning home after being at 33rd annual meeting in Beebe Arkansas. Too much food and too little sleep!

Dr Scheel and his family and church are never surpassed as hosts.  They are incredible!

44 years ago, a 17 year old, single young man, hitch hiked into Beebe with his worldly belongings in a cardboard box and a paper sack.  He was starting a church.

This was to be his second church.  He had already pastored one church and even built a new church building at 14 years old.

2 and 1/2 years later he married a young lady named Vicki, and they started their family.  A couple of years later and their firstborn came into the home.  A son followed four years later, then  three years later the baby girl joined the growing family.

44 years of victory and tragedy, joy and pain, and through it all a great work for God.  There is now a beautiful church plant and congregation.  Congratulations to Dr Scheel and Pastor Scheel for this landmark celebration.

Janice Alvear spoke the first night.  The day speakers were Greg Riggen and Tim Bourn.  William Davis was the night speaker.  All the messages were outstanding.

No one surpasses Lighthouse Pentecostal Jesus Name Church in christian hospitality.

Lighthouse Jesus Name Pentecostal Church, Beebe Arkansas

My thought today is the “Daily Grind.”

We have a fireplace in our sanctuary.  When we have tried to use it the ventilation is poor and our members with asthema have not been able to stay in the room.  The fumes were offensive to their sensitive allergies.

Someone suggested we use logs made from coffee grounds.  I did not know there was such a thing.  I checked. There was.

We tried it and every single person with allergies felt comfortable with the “new fire.”

Someone had found a use for used coffee grounds!

Coffee beans grown and harvested somewhere thousands of miles away, now ground up and used, still had a life!

The grind and purging had taken any irritant out of them and they are perfect as unoffensive fire.

Isn’t life like that sometimes?

The grind of life wears off our rough edges and makes us tolerable to people who might be sensitive.

Even though Life is so “daily”, the daily grind has a benefit.  When our fire burns after the daily grind, it is an acceptable fire.  The toxins of pride and self will have been flushed out with the brewing.

The man who walked across America was asked what discouraged him the most.  Was it the mountains?  Was it the burning desert? His reply……

It was the sand in my shoes, that almost drove me to quit my journey!

May I encourage you today to see the “Daily Grind” as part of God’s brewing process to remove the offensive particles out of your life?

Is it possible that someone can now tolerate, and even enjoy, the warmth of your life, because of that “Daily Grind?”

Just one more reason for that tantalizing, wonderful cup of brew every morning!

Thanks for reading today.

It’s A Slip And Not A Fall Friday, Apr 16 2010 

If there ever was a tale of American Leadership and perseverance, it is that of Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln was born into poverty in 1809.

Throughout his life he continually faced setbacks and defeats.  He twice failed in business, lost eight elections, and suffered a nervous breakdown.

Defeat and failure were often beckoning him, inviting him to quit, but he refused that invitation, and his story is one of extraordinary perseverance.

This is the sketch of his life:

In 1816, Lincoln’s family was forced out of their home, and he had to go to work to support them.

In 1818, his mother died.

In 1831, he failed in business.

In 1832, he ran for the Illinois House of Representatives and lost.

In 1832, he lost his job.  Later that same year, he decided he wanted to go to law school, but his application was rejected.

In 1833, Lincoln borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business, but by the end of the year he was bankrupt.  He spent the next seventeen years paying off that debt.

In 1834, he ran for state legislature again and lost.

In 1835, Lincoln was engaged to be married, but his fiancée died and it broke his heart.

In 1836, Lincoln suffered a total nervous breakdown and was confined to his bed for six months.

In 1838, he sought to become Speaker of the state legislature and was defeated.

In 1840, he sought to become elector and was defeated.

In 1843, he ran for Congress and lost.

In 1846, he ran for Congress again; this time he won and finally made his way to Washington.

In 1848, Lincoln ran for reelection to Congress and lost.

In 1849, he sought the job of land officer but was rejected.

In 1854, he ran for Senate of the United States and lost.

In 1856, he sought the vice presidential nomination at his party’s national convention.  He got fewer than one hundred votes and lost.

In 1858, he ran for the United States Senate again and lost again.

Then in 1860, Lincoln decided to run for president….

I mean, based on what?

His track record?

He won and went on to become one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States and one of the finest models of leadership in modern times.

In a speech, Lincoln said, “The path was worn and slippery.  My foot slipped from under me, knocking the other out of the way, but I recovered and said to myself,

‘It’s a slip and not a fall.’

Prov. 24:16 For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

Failure is never final.

If you have failed, get up and try again.

“Life’s real failure is when you do not realize how close you were to success when you gave up” Anonymous

“The only real failure in life is the failure to try” Anonymous

“My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at His feet”  Mahatma Ghandi.

“Failure is the tuition you pay for success.” Walter Brunell

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” Bill Cosby

Thanks for reading today!

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