Friday, September 27, 2013

The Wondrous Hugs of Jesus

Matt: 11:28  Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you
   rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
   and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

So hold me Jesus 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace
   Rich Mullins  "Hold Me Jesus"

My wonderful father passed from this world some three years ago, and I miss him each day! My
memories always include the times when he brought comfort, physical comfort. He smelled like
Cherry Blend pipe tobacco, frequently. I loved that aroma! Memories' focus from earliest on are
holding his big hands, riding up on his shoulders as we walked, being tucked in and kissed good-
night, but most of all, the hugs! Those were enveloping hugs, full body, lost yourself hugs, hugs that
took away any bad stuff and made the world just seem right!

Being a 65 year-old, divorced male causes a decline in "hug" possibilities, and when they do
occur, they tend to be polite sorts of hugs. Kind of..."How you doing?" hugs. Even hugging my beloved daughter must include a measure of care... after all she is my daughter.

Well, I have found someone not only worthy of hugging but someone that forces no limits on
the hug quality and length. Jesus. In scripture, He repeatedly tells us to hand over our cares,
our fears, our sadness and tears, our problems... you see the picture. He is not limited by time,
place, dimension... in any way. He gladly reaches into this world and beckons us to take
advantage of His love and care. His shoulders are broad, his arms welcoming. He wants and
desires to be the center of our lives and the place where we honestly share the things of our

Here's the great part. Open your arms wide enough, often enough and wish with your very
soul, and He will HUG you. It's a hug your soul can feel and, if you get quiet and just
accept, it's a hug that you can actually feel. No kidding. Just give it a try and love Him and
trust Him with all that burdens you. Smell that Cherry Blend?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

on a "Need To Know" basis

I just love agent Jethro Gibbs. He's a tough guy with a warm heart. There
are many times when, during a typical NCIS episode, he is approached for
information. His usual response is ,"That's on a need-to-know basis, and
you don't need to know!"

Well, we are all on a Need to Know basis and we DO need to know! We
simply do not know when our time on this earth will come to an end. There
is no guarantee that we will be here tomorrow or the next day. That
realization brings to mind some need to's.

We need to make the most of each day we are blessed to live. 

We need to make sure we let those we love know that they are dear to
our hearts! May as well tell them you love them every day!

We need to have our "house in order." That has nothing to do with
how clean I am keeping my apartment (thankfully) but everything to
do with making sure important things are completed for when we are no
longer here.


This should be the number one goal in our lives; the relationship we
have with our God and creator, with Jesus our Savior and with the Holy
Spirit, within us. This relationship needs to be one we are building
each and every day of our lives. We should strive to pray, to read His
word and to praise and worship Him, bring glory to His very name. 

Eternity awaits us. It seems abundantly clear that we will spend this
post-life existence in one of two ways. We will either by taken to live in
Heaven with Jesus, whose blood provided a residence there, or we
will live eternity in the absence of God!  It's an easy and blessed choice!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I'll take "perfection" for $100, Alex

I appear almost daily at a local McDonalds for coffee and morning
paper. I try to avoid the food when I can.

There are a few folks who also frequent this restaurant in north
Texas, and I would describe them as conservative, Republican and
Texan, to the core. Most of the conversation, centered around Fox
News on the TV monitor, is such that I just keep quiet and read my
Columbus Dispatch on the Kindle.

One morning, it was announced that the current governor of Texas,
who I would also describe as a real Texan, had decided that he would
not run for re-election. This, apparently, was met with some consternation
by the group and the following conversation ensued....

Texan: Well I don't blame him for not running!

Texan 2: My neither! Why some folks seem to think he's way too
left and some not conservative enough.

Texan 1: Yes, it's as if people expect him to be perfect!

Texan 3: Yes and we all know that No one is perfect!

Well, at this point, because I saw an excellent opportunity to raise the
level of this conversation, a bit, I said...

Tom: Well, there was, of  course, one person who walked this earth
who was fully perfect, always.


Texas 2: (After a protracted silence...)  Oh, that's right... Ronald Reagan!!!

Tom: Ah.... I was thinking of our Lord Jesus Christ.


That's why I usually remain quiet!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Perfect: for one day!

That's the challenge. Care to try? Here's some obligatory information before
the start:

1- God cannot accept even one sin because he is Holy
2- God, through loving GRACE, and the blood of His son, Jesus, has provided
     an opportunity to have our sins forgiven
3- Those forgiven sins include sins of the past, present and future
4- We must accept our need for redemption, repent and turn to our Lord Jesus
     in a lifetime relationship of the heart wherein He resides as out Savior and

Okay, those are some basic preliminaries. Now, the challenge. One full day,
from wake to sleep, of sins. That would include sinful thoughts,
sinful words and sinful actions. 
After all, Jesus was able to do this for approximately 33 years. Okay, He may
have had some advantage in being fully God as well as fully man, but He
was perfectly without sin because He had to be.

I will confess that I'm just presenting this challenge with the full knowledge that
I have absolutely NO SHOT! In one of my previous blog entries I suggested that
I cannot make it from my door to the parking lot without sin. (keeping this
in the family frame, I will just hint at one of my personal problems...)

Poetry in Motion
Johnny Tillotson

..Poetry in motion,
  See her gentle sway,
  A way down by the ocean,
  Could never move that way.

Yep, it's a real problem, even when I try my hardest to have it not be.  But, I still
would challenge all to try.

Realistically, the goal, it seems to me, is to show appreciation for the GRACE given
through the loving-kindness of our Creator by making an attempt from the heart
to avoid sin, and when slippage occurs, to go to God, apologize, repent and move
onward. He loves us and knows we sin. We love Him by giving our all to be holy!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Blessed Surveillance

Luke 12:7  But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Many folks have expressed concern about the government programs that
seem to be intruding into our lives. The NSA, the FBI, the CIA, TSA.. the list
goes on. Are our emails being flagged and shared with folks that we haven't
sent them to? Are there cameras everywhere that record our movements
here and there? (1984 reference) is Big Brother watching?

One obvious reaction to all of this is to lack concern if one's life is as
boring and simple as mine! We can always argue about whether or not
these types of interventions are necessary in today's world where
terrorism is a term we hear often.

Well, we ARE under surveillance!  The living God knows all! Because He
is omnipresent and omniscient, He is aware of everything at all times. 
Amazing, isn't it! The Bible tells us that His awareness of us, right down
to the hairs upon our heads (and there are fewer and fewer on this head)
is a loving, caring value that He places upon those He has created. Jesus
was assuring those He spoke to that God certainly valued even the
sparrows that fall from the sky. We, therefore, should not be worried.

So how do we feel about this constant surveillance? I am reminded
daily that God is fully aware of my sinful thoughts, words and actions.
This is a deterrent that guides and shapes my ways because, despite my
sinful nature, I desire NOT to disappoint God, the Spirit and Jesus, who
died for me. There's no hiding from His awareness of my life. He knows
my inner heart...reads me like a book, as it were.

God doesn't need to hack into my heart, doesn't need satellite imaging,
doesn't need a wire tap nor hidden cameras. He is right here and that,
in my opinion, is a good and comforting thing!

Praise His Holy name!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Saddest Kiss of All

Matthew 26:49  Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed Him.

It's more than a bit embarrassing to note that despite being an English teacher
for many years, and having a liking for idioms and colloquial expressions, I never
knew what the phrase.."The Kiss of Death." meant. That just shows the
frightening reality that people can so easily live their lives outside the knowledge
of the Bible, Jesus and the Gospel.

It's obvious that Judas was sending a signal to those who were about to
apprehend Jesus, one that he had previously discussed with them in exchange
for a handful of silver coins. It is also obvious that Jesus foreknew which of His
disciples would betray Him.

Matthew 26:23-25 The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will
betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to
that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not
been born.
Then Judas, the one who would betray Him, said, "Surely you don't mean me,
Jesus answered, "You have said so."

There is scripture that suggests that Satan entered Judas about this time. It's
interesting to wonder about the chain of events that we know had to play themselves
out for the divine plan for salvation to occur. The savage treatment and horrific
death that Jesus was to encounter were necessary and inevitable. He knew what
"the cup" entailed and willfully accepted the role that He had to play.

Judas may not have had a choice; it may have been part of the plan. He may have
had free will and made the decision based on some sort of rejection that the
messiah could die before doing what was expected or he may have been driven
by satan...  we can only speculate.

The reality is that this kiss of sadness was one of many events
that brought about the greatest gift ever given, the grace-filled path to
redemption and reconciliation with God. A gift paid in full by the blood of


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Take a Knee (s)

These titles are fun! Taking a knee can be an adventure for someone my age, 65.  
In a sports vernacular, it means purposely ending a play with the realization
that the eventual result of the competition had already been decided. For
we men, taking a knee, usually one, is sort of a common position, if you will,
for purposing marriage to a lady.

Prayer can also involve taking a knee, or two. There really aren't prescribed
ways that we must speak to God. Jesus presented his disciples with a prayer
format in The Lord's Prayer. It was a guide or sequence that contained the
components for a proper prayer to the Father. Different people pray in
different ways, at different times. The most important thing is to pray a lot,

I have found, and would recommend, getting down on both knees, wherever and 
whenever possible to commune with God the father. Yes, getting down and
managing to get back up can be challenging, but it seems to me that this
position of reverence, of supplication, of dependence sends a message that one
is very aware that God is above His creation and that the one in prayer
is glorifying and in a position to praise. I've never been one to think clearly
on my feet, anyway! 

I have the luxury of access to our church and can, therefore, find time 
during the day, to drive up and walk down the aisle to speak with my father
in heaven. It's quiet and calm so He can hear me, even if I am speaking in
reverent softness. It's just He and I. 

Try it if you haven't.... it's a wonderful communication, and you don't need
that cell phone!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


I purposely give my daughter, Olivia, a journal each holiday season because I, myself, never
took the time to write down events that happened along this 65 year journey."Depending
on my memory"has become a bit of a joke!

My career was as a classroom teacher. I spent thirty-four years teaching middle
school English in the Worthingon, Ohio school system. I wouldn't trade those years
for anything; they were filled with wonderful students, great teacher friends and
many many good memories.

I cannot name the date, month or year beyond saying that this moment of revelation
occurred some time in the middle of my career, and transformed me both as a person 
and a teacher. It's been too long to remember what I was teaching, but I CAN recall the
atmosphere or feeling in that moment that may have led to my epiphany.

It was one of those teaching moments when things were just going right! That room

was filled with a bunch of great young people who were following my every word and
movement. (I never did a lot of sitting while teaching!) For whatever the reason,
the moment just froze in time. Along with this extended moment came a realization.
A major realization. 

I was not just teaching some lesson on literature or grammar, I was standing in front
of God's souls, precious young people who were children of God, created lovingly
to be on this earth. And that wondrous God had given me the privilege to be the focus
of their attention. The moment passed; the lesson never left me.

Never underestimate the effect you have on those you love, those you encounter, those
you impact. I learned, at that moment, to respect and care for those young people to
the maximum of my ability. They were precious...they were human children...they were

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Enigmatic Alpha and Omega Lamb

Had some fun with that title, but... there is no equal to the mysterious, splendid
God/person, Jesus Christ. 

John 1:29   Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.

His arrival on this earth was quiet and foretold His goal of servitude to mankind and
His Father. He came as an unassuming man who walked among the imperfect,
healed afflictions and spoke the truth. 

When one thinks of the images of Jesus, He comes across as gentle, often surrounded
by children. I know that it was almost shocking to me to understand His scorn and
challenging words to the Pharisees. His compassion for His followers is truly evident
in His teachings and His walk. His words were full of warnings, of the need to
treat others well, of the goal of loving His Father with all one's being, of wanting
people to not be afraid. He was the ultimate teacher who made it clear that there would
be judgement upon the earth. His courage is beyond question; he marched ahead
toward a torturous death upon the cross because of His love for mankind and His
Father. A victorious God/man who rose in triumph over death and Satan.

Revelation 22: 12  Behold I am coming soon!... I am the Alpha and the Omega, the
First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

The power of these words, spoken from Heaven, is symbolic of the Jesus one
meets in Revelation; a powerful Lord who has defeated the armies of Satan and ushered
in the end times, the new Heaven and Earth, the final judgement. He is the
all-powerful Lord over all creation and one doesn't have any difficulty understanding
His glory, His sovereignty and His Strength. I don't believe that He is the
antithesis of the Lamb born into the world; He is simply the completion of
the embodiment of our glorious savior and king.

Can't wait to fall on my knees in His presence! What a glorious moment that will be!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Wondrous Curse of Free Will

God's plan for this world included the concept of human free will. A creation that had
no free will brings to mind things like "The Borg," where resistance was "Futile!"  A creation that is controlled like a puppet show would surely not provide satisfaction. Although
mankind quickly fell into sin using free will , I would suggest that God foreknew this
as an eventuality as part of His plan for eventual salvation through the Lord Jesus

Nevertheless, free will creates all sorts of problems and dilemmas because we are
broken and susceptible to sinful wrong choices. If it is really free will, then I would
suppose that God does not control or predetermine what our choices will be. I do
believe that prayer and faith may lead to clarity of choice. I am sure that God does
not want or encourage us in any way to make choices that are sinful. The fact
that only one human being ever made all the right choices means that God is aware
of the pitfalls that come along with human free will. This world and the influence of
the great deceiver make choices difficult even if we have the best intentions.

God, nonetheless, has provided some safety nets. His word in His Holy Book offers
hope and direction through the lives of those within. The Holy Spirit within us
makes us aware, when we grieve Him, that we have reason to repent and pray for
guidance. Being in the presence of fellow Christians and the church provides 
encouragement and support when we need it and even when we, on our own, may
be unaware of a choice poorly made.

Of course, the most devastating and calamitous decision would be to reject the
gospel of Jesus Christ, a decision that would literally be eternally damning!

The greatest provision is the Gospel message of forgiveness, atonement and
love that asks us to accept the One who died on the cross to make us righteous
through His blood and acceptable to God. It was always part of the plan. We are
created beings blessed by the love and will of our holy God.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Our Underestimation of God

An infinite God can give all of Himself'
to His children. He does not distribute Himself
that each may have a part, but to each one
He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were
no other.

A W Tozer

I love Tozer! I invite you to read the above quote several times so that its
message may sink in. 

As we study and experience the qualities of God, we have every reason to be amazed
and fearful out of respect and awe. We may be created in His image, but we are
obviously so very very different from Him. That's what makes Him holy, holy holy.
The concepts are very tough to get a hold of; His transcendent abilities, such as the
ability to be in all places at all times, His knowledge of everything that is happening,
even every thought we have, just seems unbelievable... because it is.

Yet this awe and respect may have the effect of making Him appear distant. We
may have the feeling that we simply can not possibly matter in the scheme of things.
How could the creator of he entire universe care for our daily comings and goings,
the path our lives take, the tears that fall when we are sad.

Well the Bible is full of scriptures that suggest, much as Tozer has stated, that these
incredible characteristics and Godly abilities, do, in fact, make it fully possible that
God knows each hair on our head, each tear that falls, each care and concern. He
wants and wills to be an active part of our lives because He created us and loves
us. He delights in our successes and has compassion for the roadblocks that this
world throws our way.

He also has expectations; that we will be aware of the incredible opportunity created
by the very death of His own son. That we will strive to live lives of righteousness
because of the blood of Christ, that we will strive to humble ourselves and follow His
ways with diligence and consistency.

He is God... we are His children. What a comforting thought!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The TRINITY at The Shack

This is an interesting combination, eh? Probably one of the most difficult concepts for we humans to attempt to understand is the notion of the Trinity, and one of the most 
controversial manifestations of that concept is revealed in the book, The Shack. 
One God in three persons... Christianity may be monotheistic, but this makes things,
If you haven't read the book, a man trying to recover from the tragic kidnapping
and murder of his youngest daughter, is beckoned by a mysterious note
back to the very location where his daughter was killed. The
fact that the note is signed, papa, plays a part in his decision to return since his
wife refers to God in this manner.
Long story short, he is met after a transformation of the location from winter to
spring, by God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The presentation of these three persons
in one God is what many find problematic or worse. God is pictured as a large,
black woman, Jesus as a plain-looking middle eastern handyman and the Spirit as
a shimmering entity that comes and goes. The story never suggests that Father God
is female in gender, only that this manifestation will help this grieving father as he
attempts to come to terms with a world where tragic things happen.
The interaction among these three God components is very interesting and, to me,
rather refreshing.  Their purpose is to guide the father through a process that allows
him to understand sorrow, grief and God's love for him, his daughter and us all.
Personally, I feel this book, that became a sensation, could be considered a success
if it allowed people to spend some time thinking about the tri-une nature of God,
the love that He has for those He created and the realization that He is in control of
all things at all times. 
Sounds like a book report...but if you haven't read this book, you might enjoy it.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Atheism is a lie

One of the best parts of blogging is that one doesn't need to argue, just state an opinion.
I have never known or met an atheist. I have certainly spoken to people I would call

I simply do not believe that anyone, in the depth of his heart, can deny the existence of a
creator. Having been born in the image of He who created us, I contend that there is an inborn
desire to know God. Even someone who has never entered a church or picked up a Bible,
must "see" around them the design and beauty of a creator. It is this innate need to find God
that leads me to believe that an atheist is simply not telling himself the truth.

I'm skipping the ridiculous notion that our ancestors crawled out of a pond somewhere and
evolved into humans. Things do evolve but not cross-specie. Even on the days when I
wake up slowly and feel like slithering, I'm human and related to humans, only.

I'm perplexed that anyone could go through life feeling that there is no purpose, no meaning,
no hope, not future beyond this life. When such a person reaches his final moments, they may
state that they know no God, yet I am wondering if they, deep down, are searching and
praying, to themselves perhaps, that there is one.

Can people simply turn away, decide not to believe or place themselves in the position of'
God themselves? Yes, we are all able to reject God since He gave us free will. I wouldn't
suggest it! Nevertheless, I still believe that atheists are simply telling themselves a very
dangerous and ill-advised lie. I find this very sad, indeed.

God is the reason we live this life; praise Him and glorify Him with your lives!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Twice born..Once dead

All we humans are complex, differently unique and created by God. The two things we all
have in common are being born and facing death. I don't remember my birth in much detail, and that's probably a very good thing! In a previous blog entry I called the birth process Miraculous, and I stand by that assertion!

One of the things I found most odd prior to truly accepting Jesus into my life was the concept
of being Born Again. Like the man who questioned Jesus about the idea of retuning to the womb,
I found the concept almost amusing. I believe that Jesus makes it perfectly clear that this
rebirth is a prerequisite to being a part of God's kingdom. That makes things a lot more serious;
it's a process of changing from lost to saved, from world centered to God centered, from
prideful to humble...I could go on. It's a process performed at the heart level, it's passive
in the sense that it is done to us, not by us. Serious, yet simple in the sense that we simply have
to give our lives over to Christ Jesus.

Now on the other end of things, we all are mortal. The wages of sin is death. All of us will
face this inevitable end, even though we often refuse to accept it until it is happening. Having
a spiritual tie to Christ and to God makes it less fearsome. I truly am no longer afraid of
death, yet I am fearful of the dieing process. The fact that there is the eternal hope provided by
the gospel, that Jesus conquered death in his resurrection and that we are saved by grace to
an inheritance in the family of God, make this end point a lot less fearsome.

But...we do not want to die twice! That second death, yes second death, is the one facing those
who have rejected God. It's the death that follows judgement, the judgement faced by all of us
in the end, where we stand before God on our own merit or on the merit of the Son of God.
We cannot save ourselves from the wrath God holds for our sin, but we can accept
salvation through the atoning blood of our precious savior, Jesus.

As Rich Mullins says in the song,:" Everyman, "  There's room for everyone at the foot of the
cross! I'll see you there!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The cartoon on your shoulder

Remember (I'm dating myself, here) the cartoons where a person about to make a decision
had two little characters on his shoulder? One was a tiny angel with halo; the other was a tiny
demon complete with pitchfork! Kinda cute..... maybe not.

The understanding of right and wrong seems to be inate; we have a conscience provided by
our creator in whose images we have been created. I can remember feeling guilty at a very
early age! Now some ignore this moral thermometer; there are some who are labeled a sociopath,
someone who either does not know right from wrong or who chooses to ignore the difference.
But, sociopaths are the exception. So if we know what's right and wrong......?

Well, that little devil on your shoulder is very very powerful! He is the personification of sin and
he is cunning, wise, knows us all too well and is quick to provide rationalization when we let
him lead us astray. The Bible talks about putting on the full armor of God. That armor is
specifically designed to help us fend off the sinful nature that is within all of us. We need all
the help we can get because the "pull" of sin is a substantial enemy. We can believe that we are
strong, that we can make the right decisions, that we can remember the cost Jesus paid on the
tree to provide atonement for our sins... and yet, it seems that even that cannot erase the temptation
to fall back, to sin and to disappoint.

Not so easy to flick that little demon off of our shoulder, is it? Go ahead, put on that armor and
fill your heart with the determination to do what is right. That and prayers to God will help make
this battle a bit more even.