Be Careful

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Strategically set throughout the stadium by skilled experts, a series of powerful explosives waited for detonation. It wasn’t an overnight take down Texas Stadium game plan. The implosion of large structures never is. Months of planning and weeks of setting charges in precise locations preceded the plumes of smoke, dust, and debris that rose from the collapsing building. If your heart can take it, Cowboys fans, you can relive the moment on YouTube. Just click this link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14OQByZRxWc

As I sat thinking about it, I fired up ye old laptop and done a little research and here’s what I found on Wikipedia about implosions.

“Implosion is a process in which objects are destroyed by collapsing (or being squeezed in) on themselves. The goal is to induce a progressive collapse by weakening or removing critical supports. Therefore the building can no longer withstand gravity loads and will fail under its own weight. These explosives are progressively detonated on supports throughout the structure. Then, explosives on the lower floors initiate the controlled collapse.”

Wow! How much does that sound like the way stories in life often go? You know, those last few sentences before you read the words, “the end”.  All along the devil has been planning your destruction placing a charge here, a charge there. Each one, one at a time, set at those strategic points where you are most vulnerable; the load bearing walls, the piers, and beams that undergird and support the superstructure of your life and relationships with God, family, friends and others you know and interact with each day.

Followers of Jesus beware. That innocent cup of coffee in the breakroom you begin looking forward to with someone, not your spouse. Those posts you Like and Share on social media. Those harmless, meaningless things we say and do that skirt along the razor’s edge of appropriate, ethical behavior. A break from church a few Sundays, missing a night or two of prayer time, or bible reading; I know, you’ll double up tomorrow night – of course you will.

What these tiny little insignificant, don’t mount up to much things most always turn out to be are small blocks of C3, sticks of spiritual dynamite awaiting the enemy to detonate. Plumes of smoke, dust, and debris will follow.

Some of the best advice we can offer ourselves and others to keep those protective walls up and our spiritual houses intact comes in the words of a song I learned as a child in church:

Be careful little eyes what you see

Be careful little eye what you see

For the Father up above Is looking down in love

So be careful little eyes what you see.

Be careful little ears what you hear

Be careful little ears what you hear

For the Father up above Is looking down in love

So be careful little ears what you hear.

Be careful little tongue what you say

Be careful little tongue what you say

For the Father up above Is looking down in love

So be careful little tongue what you say.

Be careful little hands what you do

Be careful little hands what you do

For the Father up above Is looking down in love

So be careful little hands what you do

Be careful little feet where you go

Be careful little feet where you go

For the Father up above Is looking down in love

So be careful little feet where you go

The Humpty Dumpty Challenge

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Whereas I would never encourage anyone to take the Humpty-Dumpty challenge; that is pretty much what we are doing whenever we step outside of the boundaries God has established for us – all of us. Believer or non-believer, devout Christian or adamant atheist, the Bible overflows with principals applying to all. I don’t like to call them “rules” as no one likes being told what to do – I get that. So, for the sake of being less abrasive, let’s just refer to them as principals, spiritual guidelines for good living. And if that sounds still a bit rough around the edges, then we can knock off the burrs and just call them, suggestions.

I mean, the Bible says DON’T, but you can lie, steal, kill, maim, defame, defraud and be as Humpty-Dumpty as you want to be perched up on that arrogant wall of self-centeredness, self-indulgence, and greed. After all, not doing those things is just a suggestion, right? Entirely your choice. But God’s word also suggests should you fall off that wall, and you will fall, you are going to fall apart. Then all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will not be able to put you together again – Oh! But wait. Have you already taken the Devil’s version of the Nestea plunge? Was the pool empty? That’s unfortunate. Hurts, doesn’t it?

As so much devastating pain, heartache and heartbreak can be avoided, the destruction of children’s lives averted, I will always advise against taking the Humpty-Dumpty challenge, and for good reason. But if you are already picking up the broken pieces trying to figure out how and if they can ever be put back together again. I’m sorry, but the answer is No, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t be able to put things back together again for you. However, although the king’s horses and the king’s men can’t, the King can. May I suggest, taking what’s left to him. He goes by the name of Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – Jesus. He is a restoration expert specializing in broken lives.

This past Sunday at church we watched a powerful video of one of our own who stepped outside of the boundaries of God’s plan for his life and fell, then to experience the miraculous work of God in restoration. You can see the video at the c|Life Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/clifec/videos/10154451820741443/?pnref=story

A Baby Changes Everything

It’s that time of year.

Just Thinkin'

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“This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him” (1 John 4:10 – The Message)

Back in the dark ages before marriage and the birth of my children, life pretty much went my way. Do what I want, when I want, and most of the time, how I want. With money in my pocket a smooth ride and a different girl accepting my invitation for a date every weekend, life was grand. My usual evening itinerary on weekends was taking my lady of choice out to eat at a nice restaurant, followed by a movie or concert, then cruising Buckner Boulevard for a few hours – gas was cheap, and girls were plentiful. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the one catching the girls; it was the car. The only thing I seemed to catch was the tab, but…

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My Pursuit To More Fully Know

 

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” ~ Matthew 24:35.

In the course of my personal studies, I have found every nugget unearthed but a fragment of a greater vein untapped; Behind every answer a question mark. In the pursuit of understanding biblical truth, the road traveled is both broad and narrow, often without guardrails. When broad, there is a tendency towards a dogmatism neglectful of further inquiry – scripture has said enough, we say, but has it? Did I miss a question mark? I must approach with a cautious yet open mind not jumping to conclusions because a majority says so.

When the road is narrow, the task is often staying within the boundaries of reason without dismissing a challenging possibility even though skirting along the edge of probability. All available evidence from all fields of study applicable to the pursuit must be weighed and processed without bias.

There are no shortcuts. The serious-minded student of scripture will understand the road less traveled is the right road to take. Sometimes daunting? Yes. But always rewarding. The objective for me is to be on the cutting edge without being on the bleeding edge. To discover and expound truth in accurate and relevant voice. To this quest, prayer and collaboration are essential ingredients. Seeking the leadership of the Holy Spirit and the counsel of peers are not options but required components, invaluable assets making the journey far less burdensome and well worth taking.

The last page of my journey to share the blessed hope of the gospel I seek to understand more fully and communicate more effectively will remain unwritten as in death; I hope to pass the torch, the baton of life to another runner who will “run with endurance the race that is set before us,

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” ~ Matthew 24:35.

In the course of my personal studies, I have found every nugget unearthed but a fragment of a greater vein untapped; Behind every answer a question mark. In the pursuit of understanding biblical truth, the road traveled is both broad and narrow, often without guardrails. When broad, there is a tendency towards a dogmatism neglectful of further inquiry – scripture has said enough, we say, but has it? Did I miss a question mark? I must approach with a cautious yet open mind not jumping to conclusions because a majority says so.

When the road is narrow, the task is often staying within the boundaries of reason without dismissing a challenging possibility even though skirting along the edge of probability. All available evidence from all fields of study applicable to the pursuit must be weighed and processed without bias.

There are no shortcuts. The serious-minded student of scripture will understand the road less traveled is the right road to take. Sometimes daunting? Yes. But always rewarding. The objective for me is to be on the cutting edge without being on the bleeding edge. To discover and expound truth in accurate and relevant voice. To this quest, prayer and collaboration are essential ingredients. Seeking the leadership of the Holy Spirit and the counsel of peers are not options but required components, invaluable assets making the journey far less burdensome and well worth taking.

The last page of my journey to share the blessed hope of the gospel I seek to understand more fully and communicate more clearly will remain unwritten.  I hope in death to pass the torch of life to another runner who will “run with endurance the race that is set before us, [always] looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. . .”.

Thoughts from Jimmy Joe

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Thoughts on Psalm 103:8-17 by my friend, Jim VanBibber

“8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. 10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. 17 But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children…”

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Often my fleshly mind (Rom 7:15-20) has responded to that aspect of my own dark heart by defending my own ungodly thoughts and sinful actions. Misery! I have even thought how fortunate God must be to have such a nice guy as me affiliated with his cause. Blindness!

If I compare my “best self” to another human selecting the most offensive things about them, then I always will judge myself okay or good enough. What? Am I crazy? Yes!

The Holy and Righteous Lord opposes the proud mind and the one who trusts in his own righteousness. But there is true spiritual freedom in acknowledging the truth revealed by God in his word. I am a radical sinner but one who has received the radical forgiveness of God by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. I now have received new life in Christ.

This Psalm is a sweet balm to the heart of the child of God who trusts in the merciful and gracious God! He knows that we are dust and prone to transgression. Our lives are so brief. May we find comfort that he “does not deal with us according to our sins.” It is a gift from God that we may call him, our Father in heaven.

What’s Your Pool?

Typing the words “stupid questions” into Google, I selected “50 Stupid Questions Asked on Yahoo! Answers” and began reading some seriously absurd questions that made me wonder what train these people fell off of. Be that as it may, at the pool of Bethesda, Jesus asking a man who had suffered from an incurable illness for 38 years if he wanted to be healed seems like a dumb question too (see John 5:1-15). Personally, I can’t think of ever having been ill and wanting to stay ill. I mean, at the first sign of a cold, I’m headed for Walgreens or CVS to stock up on NyQuil. But, according to one commentator, a Middle Eastern beggar could have made a good living begging for handouts in that day, so the question may have been fair to ask.

Regardless, there was a legend surrounding the pool suggesting that an angel would, from time to time, come down and trouble the waters. The first person who came into contact with the pool afterward would be cured of his or her illness. Whether the legend is fact or fiction, no one knows. Perhaps it had something to do with sacrificial animals being washed there before being offered to God that gave life to the legend. Your guess is as good as mine. Nonetheless, many sick people believed it to be true and gathered there every day, hopeful that today would be their day.

For many of us here in the 21st century, the therapist’s office is a pool of Bethesda, where we sit in the waiting room, hoping today will be our day. For some, it may be the offices of J.P. Morgan, Charles Schwab or Smith Barney. And, sad but true, others look to the church as their Bethesda, coming week after week, waiting for the man standing behind the pulpit or at the lectern to stir the waters. They hope to get in before the waters stop churning, but they never move an inch.

Had the unfortunate man at Bethesda been there the longest? Was that why Jesus went to him? What are we to learn from this story, anyway? There are many lessons wrapped in these verses, but here are a few things I think about :

1) Contrary to what some believe and teach today, the baptismal waters are not a fix. The waters themselves cannot wash away sin.

2) No matter how long you have been looking, the answer is the same today as it was when you first began searching: Jesus.

3) Never give up on God. Look to Jesus, and it just may be that today is the day you will find what you have been looking for.

Failed

Recently a lady I know shared of her feeling abandoned by Pastors. I once served the church she was a member of and was honored to celebrate her husband’s life when he passed. Many times I had sat at their table drinking coffee from my special cup she kept exclusively for me talking about the Savior we both loved. Although years had passed since serving as her pastor, that was not an excuse for my failure to visit with her and her special daughter after the funeral. Although she singled no one out, I was immediately convicted; I owed and extended an apology but the hurt I felt in my failure and continue to feel feels unerasable.

As ministers, we tend to become so involved in getting the gospel out to a lost world that we forget about the believer who feels lost in the world. Too, we sometimes make the tragic mistake of seeing a person strong in their faith walk and fail to recognize them being as human as we are, especially when misfortune unexpectedly crosses the threshold of their life and walking in faith exacts an emotional toll making it hard to keep walking. Heavenly Father, forgive me for my failures and my blindness.

Yes, pastors are human and subject to messing up, I often do. For this reason, I have always insisted that our eyes stay on Jesus – he will fail no one.