Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Resolutions

I do not make many resolutions every year, just to fail at keeping them within the first week. There is the problem. I resolve too many resolutions. So, should I resist resolving resolutions??

No. Resolution is the modern word for a healthy biblical principle: repentance. Repentance demands a introspective assessment, finding needed modifications, and changing.

Make resolutions. Make a long list. Rank them from 'must's to 'should's. With scissors, cut, leaving only the first two.

Why just two? Success. When the list is long, attention to each is diminished. We forget many. After forgetting repeatedly, we find ourselves UNsuccessful. We feel we are complete failures. We quit all efforts to change anything. How much success is experienced???

Picking TWO important changes allows us to focus and experience SUCCESS. Years ago I tried to be habitual at seat belt use. I was inconsistent. I ask the assistant police chief what to do. He said, "Every time you think of it, buckle it. If you need to pull over to buckle up, then stop, buckle, and go again. Just do it EVERY time you remember for one month." I thought, "This is plausible." I tried it. It worked. I always buckle now, without thinking. I was SUCCESSFUL. 

You want success in changing. So take your two high rank changes and RESOLVE to do them EVERY TIME YOU THINK OF THEM until the end of January. Enjoy your success.

What should I correct or improve?
The Bible lists of evil habits to replace. Where do you find such lists? Many listed below came from Colsians 3:5-17. Others are in Eph 4:27-28. While lists of sins are abundant, often there are no replacements suggested for the void. Please survey this list of possibilities and select NO MORE THAN TWO.

  1. Give God your guarentee. Commit to Him. Jer. 31:31.
  2. Love as Jesus loved His disciples. John 13:34.
  3. For the family, fiercely fight fornication (all sex outside of marriage). Col. 3:5.
  4. Unloose ALL uncleanness. Col. 3:5.
  5. Leave lust in the dust. Pulverize passions. Col. 3:5.
  6. Eradicate evil desires. Col. 3:5.
  7. Crush covetousness (def. avarice; greediness). Col. 3:5.
  8. Ambush anger and wallop wrath. Col. 3:8.
  9. Ignore any desire to injure, or other ill-will. Col. 3:8.
  10. Shed slander or other methods of injuring someone with words (blasphemy). Col. 3:8.
  11. Lose filthy language and obscenities. Col. 3:8.
  12. Lick all lies, especially 'white' ones, and all forms of deception with truth. Col. 3:8; Eph. 4:25.
  13. Multiply tender mercy, pity, and compassion. Col. 3:12; Micah 6:8.
  14. Culture kindness and mete out moral goodness. Col. 3:12.
  15. Help humility and modesty. Micah 6:8; Col. 3:12
  16. Make meekness mature and grow your gentle spirit. Col. 3:12.
  17. Let longsuffering be limitless. Patiently endure and do not avenge. Col. 3:12-13; Rom. 12:19-21.
  18. Faithfully forgive. Practice pardon. Col. 3:13.
  19. Love as God loves. Col. 3:14.
  20. Think thankful. Be mindful of favors received. Col. 3:15.
  21. Do EVERYTHING in God's name. Be certain God wants His name attached to your actions. If He would not, stop. Col. 3:17.
  22. Deal a deadly blow to the Devil's hopes for a home. Resist reserving a place for him in your heart. Eph 4:27.
  23. Stop stealing. Work so you can generously give to the needy. Eph. 4:28.
  24. Raze rotten speech. Say nothing harmful. Replace it. Stimulating others to improve. Eph. 4:29.
My prayer for you is to be SUCCESSFUL at living Jesus' way starting 1-1-11. God bless.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Preacher Wade

Preacher Wade and Jack were traveling from Hastings over to Hamilton Mortuary, about an hour away. Wade was to do Calvin's service, but did not know him. So he asked Jack to travel with him to the funeral home.

Quentin, the funeral director, had called on Wade, a Church of Christ minister, to perform the service. He knew of Wade's reputation for visiting with families or friends before a service. He would be gracious to everyone, even those with less-than-stellar reputations. He always found something nice to say.

Wade was also working to make improvements on Jack. Jack needed to develop a more gentle spirit. He had the reputation of being a man of plain talk, to the point of being brutal and insensitive.

On arriving, Wade asked Quentin what he know about Calvin.

Quentin: "Not much, unfortunately. The family asked me to find a Church of Christ preacher. They thought Calvin had attended a local congregation when he was a young child, but they said he had not been religious for a long time."

Wade: "Ok. What time is visitation tonight? I would like to visit with some family and learn more about Calvin. Maybe I can learn some light or good-natured anecdote to talk about tomorrow. "

Quentin: "In about an hour and a half, at 6 p.m.. Wade, don't expect too much. We may get one or two family members."

Jack: "Must not have been very much fun. Or the family is dysfunctional."

Quentin: "And don't expect friends to be here either. Wade, this one is not going to be easy, even for you."
After a pleasant meal, at the local restaurant Wade and Jack return. They find Quentin, who points to the couple standing outside.

Quentin: "There is your entire family."
Wade looked through the window to see Oscar and Ora. Their body language told him they preferred not being there. 

Jack: "This doesn't look very good. Doesn't look like any love has been lost here."
As Wade and Jack walked back outside, Wade thought to himself,"He is right. Just wish he had not said it quite like that."
Wade introduces himself and Jack to Oscar and Ora. Oscar is in his hunting vest and camo hat. Ora is wearing her faded Arkansas Razorback sweatshirt and well-worn blue jeans.

Oscar: "Shame when a man has to leave the woods for something like this. I had been studying a 6-point when I noticed the time."

Ora: (shaming him) "Hush, Oscar. Be Nice!" (Then returns her attention to Wade) Nice to meet you, Wade. Jack.

Wade: (getting to the point), "What can you tell me of Calvin's character?"

Ora: "He seemed to find great pleasure I in twisting truth. If he could, he did. You could see in his eyes how much he liked watching people squirm."

Oscar: "That man in that casket was walking trouble. If he opened his mouth, chances were it was a lie. In the last few years, it got to where you couldn't tell him anything. He would take truth and twist it up like a honeysuckle vine. He even..."

Ora: (interrupting) "He just couldn't be trusted."

Jack: "He's beginning to sound like a good-for-nothing scoundrel."

Wade: (to Jack) "Jack, don't say a thing like that. We don't know him."
(Wade could see this was not working well, so he chose a different direction.)

Wade: "What did he like doing?"

Oscar: "Jack, you ever had someone tell a white fib on you as a practical joke?"

Jack: "More than once by some fellas a work."

Oscar: " Well, if your friends are like mine, they wink at each other, and send hand signals to each other as they start one of their practical jokes."

(Jack nods in agreement..)

Oscar: "But after you were thoroughly embarrassed, they let you in on the joke, and everyone laughed some more. Right?"

(Jack, still nodding) 

Ora: "Calvin told especially hurtful lies as a joke. He would wink at you, so you might join him. But, he would never stop the joke."

Oscar: "Wade, Calvin told a big embarrassing joke on Ora to her boss. It was funny, but he began telling people the same 'joke' to people in town. Well, it got to the point where Ora lost her job. Her boss said it was because 'her reputation was hurting the company.' "

Ora: "He just kept on plotting something evil on everyone."

Jack: (to Wade) "You need to let someone else do this service. There isn't anything good in this man."

Oscar: "Mr. Wade, No! Don't do that! You are the only preacher we could find to do the service!"

Wade: "So why did you pick me?"

Jack: (in a low voice) "No one else could stand him, I guess."

Wade: "Jack! Hush!"

Ora: "Well, he is right. Wade, there won't be anyone else here tonight. We are his cousins, and we don't want to be here. No other family will come. He ruined all his friends. There are no preachers in town, Church of Christ or not, who would do his service. Do you see anyone else??"

Wade: Oscar. Ora. I always find something good or pleasant to say about everyone at funerals.

Oscar: "Tomorrow, preacher, there will be us, you, Quentin, and Jack, if he decides to come back again. That will be everyone."

Ora: There is nothing good you can say."

Oscar: "Wade, you should just read a scripture, say a prayer, and read the obit. If you try to say something nice, YOU WILL BE THE LIAR. Like Ora said, there is nothing good here."

Wade: But Calvin's accident is making this a tragedy. There has got to be something I could say nice about him!

Jack: "I know one pleasant thing you can say about Calvin that everyone will like. Say, 'He's gone.'"

What should Preacher Wade do?
Have you ever known someone who was like this? Would you tell us your (or their) story?
What could have been done to stop Calvin?

Please make your comments, stories, or advice by clicking the box below. Make sure to select either giving your name (which you can make up) or by being anonymous.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Crazed Pigs


My name is Thad. It's early Christmas morning. But I do not want to tell you the traditional Christmas story. I want to tell you a different story about Jesus.

This fall, me, Jesus, and the other guys were traveling by boat near the Gadarenes. We crossed the lake, got out, and traveled a short distance. We saw a cemetary with the Swine Growers of Galilee (SGG) beside it. Then the really weird stuff started happening. 

When we were still a long ways from the cemetary this freaky dude came running out. He ran up to Jesus, fell on his face, and began to worship Jesus. 

This guy was S-T-R-A-N-G-E. At first I could not tell if he was crazy or an epilectic. I soon found out he was possessed. He lived in the graves. I latter found out people had tried to control him with ropes, chains and shackles. Nothing could hold him. He broke free from everything. The locals told us he would wander around in the hills at night, screaming. They said he would take rocks and hit himself till his skin would bust open and bleed. See what I mean by "strange"?

Anyway, when he ran up to Jesus he started saying stuff like "Jesus is the Son of the Most High God!" Then he would beg Jesus not to torture him. 

Jesus must have recognized he was possessed. Jesus asked him what his name was. He called himself "Legion," explaining to Jesus there were actually many demons in him. (As odd as you might that that was, it was the first thing that made sense to me.) Jesus, with a tone of authority, told the evil spirits to come out of him. 

The spirits began begging Jesus not to send them to "the place." My brother Mark called it something like "the place in-between", but another brother, Luke called it the "bottomless pit or abyss". I think they were describing that place were spirits go after death --- not on earth but not in hell or heaven yet either. So as an alternative, the spirits in Legion ask if they could enter the 2000 pigs being fed next to the cemetary.

I did not see Jesus' face, but he might have smirked a bit. I think he knew what could happen. Jesus allowed them to get in the pigs. 

You should have seen what happened next! The evil spirits were more than the pigs could stand. The pigs went berserk! They began squeeling, jumping over each other, rooting up everything wildly, even biting each other. Then they stampeded down the hill into the sea. Can you just see two thousand pigs jumping in the water? 

I did see Jesus as he watched them drowning. He knew the spirits were going to the abyss anyway as each pig died. Their idea did not work.

The employees of SGG trotted off to town and started telling people what had happened. Those people came out to the sea to see the dead pigs in the water. 

What they also saw was amazing. It was a seated Legion. He had cleaned up the best he could. He was acting quite normal and thinking correctly. He was not howling at the moon. He had clothes on for the first time in long time. This sudden transformation in Legion, a change they could do, was more than they could comprehend. They, after having tried to restrain him, realized how powerful a miracle this was. Such power they could not understand. So they did the only thing they could think of -- they asked Jesus to leave the area.

Jesus never stayed where he was not wanted.

Jesus lead us back to the boat. While we were getting in, Legion came running. He began to beg Jesus to let him come along. Tom and Bart started making a place for him when Jesus did something unexpected. I do not think I will ever forget it. 

Jesus gave Legion a purpose and a mission. "Go home to your friends," Jesus began. "Tell them the great thing Jesus has done for you. And tell them how he had compassion on you," he said.

Jesus started with a crazed man. His life was completely out of control. Jesus not only removed the problem but also gave direction and purpose for his life.

Thanks for reading my less-than-traditional Christmas story.

Till later,


Does life seem out of control? Do you have so many problems you are afraid to count? Are the problems 'un-fix-able'? You don't know what to do with yourself? Why are you on this planet? Is life supposed to have purpose?

Jesus is the answer to every question. 

Start by reading an easy-to-read version of John. Learn who he is -- God's Son. Begin today! If you search for him, he will get life under control and give you purpose and direction.

If I can help you, email me. (LINK TO EMAIL)

Friday, December 24, 2010


Christmas can be confusing unless we keep focused. The holiday of modern America is far too much focused on merchandising and gift giving of the THINGS, which God wants de-emphasized. The cliche is correct: Jesus is the reason for the season. And although I do not think Jesus was born on December 25th (the shepherds were watching flocks feeding on GREEN grass.), any time of year we can focus on Jesus is good.

Jesus Came 
Jesus came to this world as was foretold he would. Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah and he told us where Jesus would be born. It was Isaiah who told us of the virgin birth, a miracle by all standards.

What He Left To Come
Jesus left perfect unity with His Father. When he took on the life of a mortal, he offers eternal life. He left the prestigious position of being at God's right hand, a position he would regain after His ascension. And he forfeited his glory he had with the Father. (JOHN 17:1-5).

The Reason He Came and What That Meant
Why should he give up so much? The simplest reason is the most profound: He loves you and me. This love brought him from heaven. This love caused him to heal and cure the impossible. This love compelled him to teach us how to please God even when other people are opposed. His love prompted him to show us how we can have a hope of being with him and his Father.

But all these facets of His love do not compare with the ultimate act of love. He himself said the greatest love is one that dies the substitute death for a friend. He died in my place to appease God's wrath (ROM 1:18; 3:23) and buy me back (ransom me) from Satan. 

On December 25 it is alright to remember Jesus in a Bethlehem barn wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a feed trough. But please, go one step more. Remember: The manger was just the beginning step in a life dedicated to saving you from sin.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cell Cycles and Church Growth

Cells go through cycles as a natural part of life. Most cells in the Animalia and Plantae kingdom spend 90% of the time PREPARING to divide and grow. They reproduce cell organelles (mitochondria, Golgi apparatus, ribosomes, lysosomes, Rough Endoplasmic Reticilum and the Smooth counterpart, etc) in a phase know as G1. In the S phase, DNA is replicated (a second copy is made). Next is G2 in which the volume of the cell increases dramatically. 

The final 10% of a cells cycle involves mitosis or nuclear division (the two copies of DNA separate). As each of the four phases of mitosis occur (Prophase, Metaphase, Anaphase, and Telophase) the cell changes shape radically. An animal cell which is often an irregular circle becomes more like a 2-nut peanut shell. Finally the "pinching" on the middle of the shell (Telophase) occurs creating two independent cells.

But seeds are a bit different. They are still alive but in the state of quiesence. This G0 state keeps the cells maintained, but they do not grow, divide, or use energy. Everything is prepared, poised, and stored, ready for action.

When a seed gets wet in the spring, "dormant-like" enzymes are triggered into action. If oxygen is in good supply in the soil, the cell chemistry is activated toward growth. As the temperature of the soil increases, so does the activity of the enzymes. All this causes the sead coat to split open, and the embryonic plant in the seed emerges utilizing all of its stored energy. 

Is it necessary for a farmer to know all this for him to be successful? Certainly not. Mark 4:26 and following agrees.

He knows to scatter, or plant, the seed. He goes to bed and gets up the next day. He repeats this many times. While he is doing his work to prepare for harvest, the seed germinate (the entire process above), makes leaves, forms fruit, and fills out the fruit. At the right time, the farmer puts his sickle to the wheat field to harvest the grain that can sustain his family.

Whether we know all the intricate parts of how life is maintained and reproduced is not as amazing as to just watch life "happen".

In the same way, we may know all the intricate parts of what a church need to grow, but still can not MAKE it grow.

Maybe Paul had it right in his statement to the Corinthians. He planted. His co-worker Apollos watered. BUT GOD GAVE THE INCREASE. Progress happens on GOD'S TIMETABLE.

Should we pray for "planters" and people to "water" a congregation? Or, should we simply pray for God to bring the harvest soon??

Monday, December 20, 2010

"I Can't Remember..."

When I was fresh out of college I worked full time as a preacher. It frustrated me to no end when middle-aged and older Christians would tell me "I can't remember scriptures as well as I could when I was younger." I accepted their statements as true.

Now that I have reached middle-age I have observed something about remembering scriptures: USE THEM OR LOSE THEM.

I know, that is no great new revelation. And what it implies about these Christians is not new either.

People don't forget what they use. Teachers USE eye-reading skills looking for the unforgettable "I-don't-get-it" look. Timber cruisers don't forget how to calculate board feet in standing trees. Knitters don't forget their basic patterns. Anyone USING their skills do not forget the fundamentals.

What does that tell us about Christians who forget fundamental passages? Does it imply they are not active? Are they USING soul-saving passages like John 3:16; 15:14; Matt 10:32; Luke 13:3,5; Acts 17:30; Mark 16:15-16? Are they teaching how to stay free from sin using Rom 6:1-12; 12:1-2; Col 3:5-10? What scriptures do they USE, or make reference to, when someone has died (1 Thess 4:13-18, 2 Tim 4:6-8--my fav)? Are they answering the question "Why does God allow the good to suffer?" with memorized scriptures or stories (from Job)?

I also have noted over these few years how those same people were variations of hard-packed soil, shallow soil, or thorny soil. Nor have these individual tried to keep things fresh in their minds, as you, my faithful readers have. (I frequently thank God for you, whoever you are, wherever you live.)

So as a blog writer, should I concentrate on teaching the fundamentals again or should I, outside this medium, find ways to help Christians to get busy? 

Please tell me your opinion in the comments section.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Making Comments

In the last few days I received an email from a reader who wants to make comments. He says he has tried repeatedly, but is unable.

Meanwhile, I have tried to determine the problem. I have entered comments and have no problem. Another person, whom I know, has been making comments successfully (as you may/may not have read).

So, help me determine if things are working like they should or not.

Would you please attempt to enter a comment? Here is what you put in. Either 1)Works for me; or 2) It is working.  That is it. Just those few words will help US determine if there is an extensive problem that needs further research.

If IT DOES NOT WORK, then send me an email saying "IT DOES NOT WORK!"  You can either click the link or send it to:

Thanks so much for your help.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Teaspoon or Gallon?

When I was a child I built entire road systems, cities, and little country houses complete with underground parking in the middle of mom's flower beds. (Underground parking was NOT a good idea!). Later I learned how road systems were measured in MILES, cities were measured with construction DOLLARS, and all houses were measured in SQUARE FEET. 

Measurement was becoming important.

Jesus talked about measurement in Mark 4. He did not talk about miles, dollars, or square feet. He talked out how to treat people. UNITS of measurement are important to Jesus.

He wants you to realize that the quantity of life given is measured. If you give someone a THIMBLE of help, care, or compassion, you should not expect to receive a TRUCKLOAD of help, care, or compassion when you need it. The UNIT of measurement you give is the SAME UNIT of measurement you can expect to receive. 

So if I consider that someday I might need a gallon of help (and you will), I need to be helpful to others by the gallon, not the teaspoon. 

When a family friend is incarcerated, what unit will you use with the family? When brothers in Christ are ill, what is the best unit to use? When any teacher is not 'connecting' with the class, how big of a cup of kindness should students use? 

What unit did Jesus use:
  • When Peter's mother-in-law was sick?
  • When he cast out demons?
  • With the withered hand man?
  • When he said "Father, forgive them. They don't know what they are doing"?
  • When he tried to correct the Pharisees?
  • When he told Thomas to put his finger in Jesus' wounded hand?
  • When he asked Peter three times "Do you love me?" ?
  • When he told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you."?
  • When he died to forgive you?

What unit you use today can be determined by situations. Is kindness or criticism needed at work? How much love or correction will you use with your friends? Does your mate need gallons of love, or a 1/2 teaspoon of correction?

What unit do you need?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Parable of Salt and Ketchup

My neighbor and I slipped some matches out of the kitchen and headed for the woods behind the house. We had decided to 'smoke' something non-addictive, and would not get us into trouble with our parents. No, it was not 'Mary J.' or tobacco. It was honeysuckle. Young boys could light up a short piece of honeysuckle vine, with its hollow center, and pretend they were tough. Together we 'smoked' about 10 inches, proving to ourselves our intestinal fortitude.

When I got home from my escapade, mom announced we were having one of my favorites for supper -- fried potatoes. She hyped it up this night, causing me to commit enthusiastically to eating an exorbitant amount. When those gems were finished cooking, mom made sure they had plenty of salt, and lots of ketchup on the side, just like I liked them. 

Little had I realized what was happening to my tongue while I was pretending to be tough. But it became very apparent with the use of salt and ketchup.

The intense heat from my 'smokes' had slowly split my tongue. The salt and ketchup caused a fiery feeling on the tongue.

When I quickly slowed down eating ketchup and salt laden potatoes, mom turned on the 'guilt trip'. To cover up my pretensions, I kept eating fire. Again and again the flames burned my sore tongue. It was too much torture to continue . I to confessed my actions. (Mom later said she had smelled the smoke on my clothes).

Hidden actions were revealed.

Where do you find light fixtures? Which are the under the kitchen sink or the couch? That is right, neither.

What is the purpose of lights? Is it to reveal things hidden by darkness?
Jesus tells us in Mark's account of the parable of the lamp, lights are not under baskets, but are on lamp stands. Why? To reveal the hidden.

His point is everything will be revealed. 

Is he talking about everything needed for salvation, or is he talking about every sin and evil deed being uncovered? Answer: Yes. Both. God has given us, revealed to us, everything that pertains to life and godliness. Read Eph. 3:3-5 or Col. 1:26. Everything needed for salvation is in the Bible.

God has also given us, revealed to us, how all sin will be revealed. Even the Old Testament had such passages. Read Heb 4:13 or Rev. 20:12-13

Have you been hiding something?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Psoriasis and Priorities

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that is non-contagious, according to Wikipedia. It produces extra skin (thicker) with red blotches, white-scales or both. 

Those suffering from this disease, are certain to tire of the problems associated with it. But how valuable is the cure for a disease that returns?

Much earlier in my life I made simple commercials for a low-power television station. Now I view commercials with a caustic eye, critical of how they control viewer thought processes to reach their desired end. Either the producers are incredibly brilliant, we (viewers) are extremely dull-minded, or we are amazingly stupid. 

Take for example the advertisements of pharmaceutical companies. You are told the astounding results of their medication while showing you pictures of people without any disease living life to the fullest with large smiles of contentment. Producers want you to think their product will make everything wonderful again, regardless of whether we have just had a heart attach, or have death-causing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Fortunately, the government requires them to tell you the negative side effects. This is more difficult for producers to overcome. But they do very well by using either our inattentiveness or our stupidity. The legal requirements are quickly met while continuing the barrage of images of 'cured' people with happy families in 2-second scenes of recreation. 

Were you listening or watching?

One drug that begins with the letter "S" is used to treat psoriasis. The producer creates thoughts of their drug giving perfect, beautiful skin. Quickly you are told the side effect could lead to death. 

Lead to death??? Friends, did he just say you could DIE if you that use their product??

How valuable is nice skin? Is dieing an acceptable cost to having pretty skin?? Will your skin look good as people file past your coffin??


Ok. We have a problem, and it is NOT our stupidity.

One problem is our dullness or inattentiveness. Jesus quoted Isaiah as saying the Jews were dull-hearted, not listening, and with closed eyes. The Apostle Paul told Christians from a Jewish background their dullness was limiting what he could teach them. 

The second (and MOST IMPORTANT) problem is losing track of what is important. Search for His kingdom and what is right. Re-establishing relationships with offending(-ed) brothers BEFORE attempting worship. Correcting self before correcting others. Loving God supremely. Being ready and willing to give.
An answer to our priority problems should begin with focusing on things above and not on things down here (COL 3:1-2).
What commercials have you seen that change your thinking? 
What experiences have you had at re-establishing priorities?
Please rate this blog, or kindly write a short comment or answer.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Good Soil

When Jesus begins discussing the fourth soil, he does things differently.

Instead of explaining the condition of the soil, he just used a few basic terms and was done. The first he described as 'wayside' soil, giving listeners an image of a beaten-down, hard-packed, unchangeable and unproductive soil. In the second, the 'stoney-ground' soil, the mental picture was one of ground with rocks everywhere, too shallow to grow anything of value. The third soil, 'thorny' soil, brought the visual of ground full of dandelions, thistles, briers, and Johnson grass. This dirt is too busy with growing unusable things that it will not (implying choice) produce suitable fruit.
The fourth kind of soil is called 'good' in the NKJV. The Greek word is more rich in meaning -- "beautiful, excellent, surpassing, USEFUL, excellent in nature and characteristics". In one word Jesus set the standard for all 'soils'.
What is different in this soil? First it is pliable, that is manageable and responsive. It is not hardened and packed by sin. Second, it has depth. It has the characteristic of being sufficiently deep enough to support obedience and endurance (choice implied). Third, it it rich and cleared. It is fertile enough soil to support something besides sand burrs. It does not have conflicting interests. 
When this 'soil' hears the message, it takes it upon itself to use it to a constructive, effective, and practical end. This is pictured as other plants like itself.
This 'end' is quantified as 30 times, 60 times, or 100 times greater than the single seed that entered the soil. The soil causes the production of many new plants.
What is the product of this excellent soil? Jesus does not exactly say. His point is NOT about the product, but the soil.
Please, consider these questions.
1. What are the qualities that makes a person good 'soil'?
2. Where do these effective qualities originate?
3. Can these qualities be improved? Increased?
4. How do we remove the inappropriate qualities and add the effective ones?

Please answer in the comments, or rate the blog.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Eavesdropping at the Church Building

Allow me to set this fictitious scene for you. This scene could happen in any church where the elders are trying to lead a congregation to being more productive. 

The elders, Kirk and Phil, have noticed that the attendance has been falling off for the past several years. They are deeply concerned because each number represents a soul that should be growing and making new Christians. These men know they are responsible for those souls. They have a good tool with Preacher Vick, who feeds the congregation well. 

This night they met with Preacher Vick to discuss the situation and how they, as a three-some, could change the course of the congregation. As we approach the preacher's study, we stop and begin eavesdropping in on a conversation already in progress.

Kirk: "Well Suzie is a good example of several others. She works swing shift and often pulls doubles."

Phil: "She is a good example. I don't know why she thinks she needs to work so much. As an RN she makes good money, and Sam (you know he is Suzie's husband) is an auditor at the steel mill and makes more than $70,000 a year.

Kirk: She thinks she has to drive that black Lexus, and he loves traveling in that motor coach every holiday. I think if he could get the time off from work, he might just travel all the time.

Vick: What about Troy?

Phil: He is so worried about the Taliban, Afghanistan, military actions and all the politics involved. You do know he is an OIF vet? When he is not working, he is watching CNN, Fox News, BBC America news, or reading the papers. He is a 'local authority' on America's middle east policies. He is expecting another 9-11.

Kirk: Don't our members remember what happened to Rusty and his family?

(You remember how hard they worked, scrimped like Scrooge, and invested everything looking toward retirement. Everyone in town knew they were rich. Then 9-11 happened, stocks went south, Rusty was divorced, then went broke, and someone in town said he was homeless and staying at the Union Street mission at night.)

Phil: And don't they remember what happened to Ed and Charlotte? They were rich, but they were killed in that terrible accident. Don't our members remember all the kids fighting over the money, the court battles over property, the hatred the split up the kids. All because Ed and Charlotte thought wealth could fix anything.

(The silence between them is long. Then you hear Phil again, his voice sounding like it has a large lump in it.)

Phil: Vick. Kirk. I just don't want my brothers to struggle like I have. Kirk, you are the best brother I could ever have. I remember the night you came over and talked with me about how much time I was spending on motorcycles. You knew how much I enjoyed them. The ride, travel, talking about cycles, making long-weekend trips, going to bike shows, and so on.

Kirk: I remember how hard it was to talk to you.

Phil: It was you that showed me how much time and effort I put into this 'hobby' and how little time I gave to God. Even with your constant help, it was so hard to re-adjust my life. I was losing my soul and not being a productive Christian by making other Christians. What is accomplished if my brothers are doing what I did. It was so hard to change.

(You note the long pause, and feel a lump in your own throat as you remember Phil's changes. You know you are doing the very same thing. You think about how much time you spend going to yard sales, then selling your 'treasures' on Ebay and Craigslist.)

Phil: Where can I find the warnings or teachings in the New Testament about riches and stuff? Kirk, do you remember the passages you showed me?

Kirk: Phil, I'd have to look them up again. But, I can find them. Vick, hand me that Cruden's Concordance in the shelf.

Vick: (Getting up to get the concordance) One set of scriptures is in 1 Tim. 6. It talks about how rich people should work on being rich in good works.

Phil: Isn't there one over there close to it that tells rich people not to trust in their riches?
Vick: Here you go Kirk. Yeah, Phil there is. It is 1 Tim 6:17. I was talking about verse 18.

Kirk: Ah-ha! Here is a good one. 1 Tim 6:8 then 9, and 10, too. They are about being content with basics because the rich face traps that kill their souls. Remember the 'love of money' passage'? It's here too.

Phil: I remember a story of the rich young ruler. He walked away sad.

Vick: I read a blog the other day...

Kirk: (interrupting with a joking tone) YOU read blogs??

Vick: Well, not just any blog. It is by this brother of ours over in Arkansas. I believe it is called TheStruggle. He had one a few days back on the soils of Mark 4. It was on the thorny ground.

Kirk: Yeah, that it a good reference. Here it is. Mark 4:18 and 19.

Vick: That blog writer reminded me of three ideas. Let's see. First, there was the anxiety over the times or ages people live in. Second was how riches trick people into a false sense of security. Now, what was that third one?

Phil: (with a little chuckle in his voice) Kirk, did you hear that? He forgot something he read.

Vick: Oh! Now I remember! He said the Greek words indicate how one can crave the things they do not have. It is like the desire for what has been forbidden. He said we spend our time and effort chasing what we are not supposed to have.

(Knowing these there men, you can just see them stop talking and begin looking at each other for a long time. They don't speak. You know the wheels in their heads are turning.)

Kirk: Vick, we invited you to meet with us tonight because Phil and I have been noticing our attendance has been falling off. And we have seen how only a few members are evangelistic.

Phil: Kirk, I think the Holy Spirit has just given us an answer.

(Another short period of silence)

Kirk: You may be right. The very people we were talking about have experienced the three ideas.

Vick: So an answer to our attendance AND church growth is found in the thorny-soil part of the parable?

Kirk: I thinks so.

Phil: I do too.

Vick: Ok. So how do we get this 'new' discovery into the minds and hearts of the congregation? You want me to do a sermon on the subject?

Kirk: I don 't think it will be fixed that easy, do you Phil? I mean, we are talking about several families making a major shift in their attitudes and actions.

Phil: Yep, you are right. Three big ideas and more than just my family, Kirk. So, how are we going to get this done?

(This silence is extended.)

Kirk: Phil, this may take a combination of several things, not just one separate action.
Phil: Yeah, and some longer-range planning.

Vick: Are you talking six months or a year?

Kirk: I think a year or so. (Brief pause). Phil, I have several things in mind. What do you think about a combination of two sermon series, a classroom curriculum focused on these three ideas, plus you and I doing selected home visits.

Phil: For a rough framework, this sounds good. We could start with these. What if we combined a few of these into a special event, say, a retreat for the men as heads of households?

Vick: A retreat? Has this congregation ever done that before?

Kirk: I don't think so.

Phil: I don't think so either. But I have heard of retreats being done by congregations before. And I know of seminars, like Marriage Enrichment, that does almost the same thing. But at a retreat we could have a set of guest speakers, and learning activities, small-group discussions, and meals together. It would be an intense effort to cause men, and their families, to change.

Vick: You realize that the people you were talking about earlier would be prime targets for such a retreat. And that will take at least six months of prep to get them ready and committed to attending this event. You certainly would need to visit with each of them very early in the effort.

Phil: (to Kirk) He's right. So who would do this with us?

Vick: I could visit with some teachers at the two Christian Universities to learn more. Then I could get back to you. Would that help?

Vick: That might work. Let's finish up tonight by jotting some notes and begin planning this.

(You realize how much these men care for the congregation. And you realize you need to stop eavesdropping, and go home where you can pray for these men and their plans for the future, whatever they decide to do.

Would you please rate this blog? Is it meaningful to you? What are some solutions to the problem of Christians focusing on the things of this world and not on Jesus and His ways?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Commercials -- Awgh!

I saw the one tonight for DayQuil that almost fools us.

Man in a car. DayQuil in the seat. Driver in heavy coat. Man comes banging on window while seeing the words "Never take a sick day, On Game DAY". Driver climbs out of the car, shedding his coat and shirt. He reveals the same NFL symbol on his chest that his two other friends have. 

Good commercial? Well, it made the point very well for Vicks DayCare.

Here is their mistake. They want you to think the three friends are going to a professional football game to stand shirtless in a snowy-cold stadium. The symbol they proudly wear is that of the New Orleans Saints.

Did you catch it?

They are going to stand shirtless in the New Orleans Superdome at 72 balmy degrees, which is warmer than my house at this moment. 

Such toughness.

Such intelligence.


'Shoulder Of The Road'

Are you like me? Once I have something figured out an idea I don't want to do anything to it? I like putting it in a 'cubbie hole' and leaving it there till I need it.

So if you are like me, then you may struggle with this parable in Mark 4 like I am. I MUST take this 'figured out' parable out of the 'cubbie hole', think it through AGAIN, and then RE-CONSIDER my conclusions.

This code talk about soil quality has been familiar since childhood. I have spend most of my studies and sermons on either Matthew's or Luke's account. But studying Mark's chapter 4 version has forced at least 3 changes in my thinking about the first of the soils.

The first change deals with where the seed goes. I read several versions like NKJV, KJV, NASB, NIV, Youngs Literal Translation., The Message, Easy To Read V., and others. The translations (or paraphrases) differed as to where the seed went. So, I used a Greek interlinear bible with translation abilities. It has a neat word ("PARA") meaning beside or near. The seed fell NEAR / BESIDE THE ROAD. 

For years I considered these folks to not have the ability or opportunity to be responsive to God's word. They were the highway, so hard packed, like pavement or concrete, that God's powerful message COULD NOT GET IN. 

But Mark records this as being the 'shoulder of the highway', a notable difference. Some highway shoulders, in Arkansas at least, have grass flourishing through the asphalt. These people are reachable. God's word is getting in. It says "when they hear..." Rom. 10:17 says this is the beginning point for faith. I am rethinking their possibilities.

The second point being reconsidered is based on "akouswsin", to hear. This word, sounding much like "accoustics", includes the hearing of sound. Generally, it means more. It includes "perceiving", "considering what is being / has been heard, and "comprehending" a thought.

These meanings carry heavyweight implications. This implies a PERCEIVING the word (seed) as being from God. COMPREHENSION is present. They CONSIDER what is being heard. God' word is at work. 

I had previously thought these folk COULD NOT be reached because the message was removed too quickly. I did not know what God was going to do with these people on judgment day. Now I know. They PERCEIVED, COMPREHENDED, and CONSIDERED God' message of love, grace, and consequences, and chose to nothing. Doing nothing equals deciding against. They will receive God flaming vengence.

The third item to be re-considered is based on the first and second, namely why Satan is able to remove the word so quickly. Certainly Satan wants it gone as quickly as possible, before it can have its full effect. Satan can not remove God's word by force. But Satan can and will remove the word from anyone not positively choosing God's way. 

Since these 'shoulder-of-the-road' souls have considered the message and selected against acceptance of God, Satan moves quickly before they can do any re-considering. He "carries away" anything without roots. 

Are these souls worth my effort at evangelizing? Yes, since I can't easily tell how 'hard packed' a heart is. God has made me, a servant, into a seed sower (with your help in this blog). And now that I know they are capable of dealing with God's message on an intellectual basis, it is my responsibility to make sure they have a chance. 

It not be terrible if on the judgment day on of these "hard packed" people looked at me and said, "You never mentioned Him to me."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How Deep Is The Well?

Up till recently, I had spent almost 25 years using a 35-foot deep x 3-foot diameter well. For many years, even with seven of us at home it was sufficient. But a few years ago, supporting two families and a very dry summer, the old well 'went dry' eight times. 

For those readers with a constant supply of 'city' water, let me explain. A 'dry' or 'near-dry' well translates into no showers, only wash cloth bathing. It means carrying the clothes to the coin-operated laundry. Don't wash the car or anything else.

What was the problem with my well? It was too shallow. It had no depth to serve as a reservoir.

There is a direct correlation between my old well and some people Jesus talked about in Mark 4:5-6, 16-17. The correlation is based on depth.

A near-literal translation of the passage finds Jesus telling us of a commonly known fact: Some people are like "ground full of rocks". This section of mankind "do not possess much ground" and their "soil is not deep," the text says. They are like my well, not much there to work with.

At this point I see two possibilities that Mark does not answer. Is Jesus speaking of their intellect? I really do not think so, but can not say for sure. Or is Jesus saying they have not placed the "seed" DEEP "in themselves". This would seem to fit the context. I think Jesus is NOT talking about their ability, but about how people prioritize His seed or word. 

Seed must be planted deep enough to allow the plant enough root to provide plenty of moisture for transpiration, life processes, and reserve. Plant seeds too shallow and the plant will be tortured by the intense heat of the summer sun. Death by drying is certain.
And remember, all plants will face the heat.

Jesus' explanation of the code talk (parables) said these with 'stony ground' interest will "feel the heat" of peer pressure, opposition, tribulation, being 'between a rock and a hard place', or some type of persecution (according to the Greek word). 

Jesus said when these difficult times come, the stony-ground-ers will SKANDALIZO (Transliterated Greek word). (Do we get the English word 'Scandal' from it? Maybe.) They cause a scandal by:
  • showing how displeased they are.
  • showing how indignantly treated they are.
  • showing how they can not be trusted
  • promote the distrust of someone who should be trusted and obeyed.
These are worse than the 'hard-hearted' people. They are scandalous because they work against the word.

So who am I? Or, who are you?

PLEASE make sure you plant God's word DEEP. How?
  • Read it! Read it! Read it! If you do not read, YOU WILL BE TOO SHALLOW!
  • Memorize, memorize, memorize. What did the Psalmist say?
  • Think about it. Think about it. Think about it.
What happens when we do? Psa 1:3 says "He shall be like a TREE, PLANTED BY THE RIVERS OF WATER, that brings forth its fruit in its season, WHOSE LEAF WILL NOT WITHER, and whatever he does shall prosper." (NKJV; emphasis mine)

That makes it worth the struggle!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Code Talk

This title sounds like espionage.

There are times I get tired of hearing politicians. When asked a direct question they talk in great patriotic themes all around the subject while wrapping themselves in the red, white and blue American flag. I think they do this so Americans will be impressed by the rhetoric and not by the answers. They are answering in a kind of code.

I recently watched an episode of Law and Order in which a rap artist was interrogated by the police. But if you did not know slang, you heard the answer but did not grasp the meaning. He hid information directly in front of their eyes using a code.

And Jesus was not a fool either. There were occasions when Jesus hide his message in a code. Why? Here are a few ideas I learned from commentators.
  1. He fulfilled prophesies.
  2. He confused the Pharisees' spies.
  3. He challenged listeners to greater spiritual discernment.
  4. He knew Hebrew people were familiar with this style of teaching.
  5. His teachings would be easier to remember.
  6. He disguised powerful teaching in a language Pharisees could not use in court.
One commentator said he "taught those who wished to know truth and confounded the opposition."

Jesus was open to the twelve (and us) as to why he used these codes called parables. He put the information in front of some listeners knowing they were spiritually so insensitive they would not perceive nor understand.Jesus hid spiritual truths in  stories like The Sower (Soils), The Lamp, Growing Seed and Mustard Seed.

Does this mean that a reader of Jesus' stories (parables) who does not understand is hopeless? NO!

Christians are told the scriptures are "able to make you wise". Those lacking wisdom should ask God. He liberally gives wisdom without fuss.

So where is the struggle? It is more than just hearing the code, but in comprehending. It is one thing to hear or read Jesus' parables, and it is another to understand. It is most important to translate the understanding into action.

Listen to the code, understand, and do.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Family Redefined

I watched on Cold Case a story of a tragic family. The mother turned work-a-holic to avoid being around her husband and kids. The father created a child porn website featuring a boy he had bought from a kidnapping-gone-bad. The actual son had been the 'star' of the website, thinking what his father was doing was real love, up till he became a teen when he was relegated to a support-the-father role. To say the family had problems is being too kind.

In the Bible I read of a man who left his mom, leaving the her care to the younger brothers and sisters. His work made him very popular. 

One day his family came to check up on him. They were having trouble getting to see him because of the crowd. They sent word to him that they were there. He asked the messenger something like "Who are they?" Then he redefined his family with a famous quotation.

How does God feel about families? Let's just see.

Jesus redefined his family as the doers of God's word. These family members do not deceive themselves, nor do they forget what they are told. It is these family members, the ones obeying God's instructions, that will have their work blessed.

Do we need to redefine our families? What will it take to redefine a family?
What kind of family-life did Jesus have?
Please rate this blog, or make comments. thanks

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Am Blessed!

Above and beyond having a loving, gracious God and His sacrificial Son, I have a host of things to be thankful for. So, I make my list public in hopes that you, the reader, will be able to identify some of your blessings God has given you, too.

I have a loving, talented woman, who just short of 20 years ago, accepted the engagement ring held in the hands of a teddy bear inside a Christmas-wrapped box. She contines to stick with me through difficult days.

I gladly claim all 5 kids (2 mine; 3 hers). They make life full. 

I get to be 'Papa' to five sweet ones. From the youngest pair (twins) to the 6-year-old I get to love them all.

Our basic little house is warm in winter and cool in summer. It meets all our needs.

I am thankful for the computers that open the internet, with its wealth of information and services.

I thank God every time I ride that Honda VTX1300 and the freedom it brings.

I am grateful for a TV large enough to see every detail without squinting, and Dish HD

I am thankful for being allowed to capture families and friends with my Nikon D40. It is not the 'top of the line', but it does all I need. And to capture images of insects in such detail as to remind me of their maker is satisfying.

To have a small piece of countryside where kids can play baseball, hunt Easter eggs, or shoot fireworks is a great blessing.

To watch my 89-year-old mother functioning independently at her own home is amazing. I know how blessed she and my deceased dad have made my life. God has blessed me.

I have former students come up to me to thank me for giving them hard work, and how share how successful they are becoming because of my classroom demands. They continue to bring satisfaction.

To have a 'Droid' that has a keyboard where I type this blog in the middle of the night, is a rich blessing. And to be able to contact most of my friends and contacts by phone, text, and email from a single device is wonderful.

I have a job that helps me pay my bills.

I have plenty of food.

I drive a old truck that is comfortable and yields 27 mpg. It has its dents and imperfections, but I can get from point A to point B just like people driving their fancy $35K vehicle. I am blessed.

And there has been almost 1350 readers from more than 12 countries who have read these simple blogs. Many have complimented me personally in a variety of methods. I am most appreciative for EVERY reader.

Should I mention my clothes? Reasonable health? 

I won't forger my friends and brothers in the Ukraine, Belarus, China, Zambia, South Africa, and many other countries? 

What about sight? Smell? Taste? Touch? Hearing? 

How can I forget all my teachers in grade school, high school, Harding, Henderson, Southern Arkansas, Cossatot? 

What about the members of the Prescott Church of Christ?

Shall I forget the multitude of people in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri who have listened to sermons and talks over the last 39 years? 

And all my Alpha Omega brothers, who still love to be together, shall not be forgotten.

I am thankful for tears. Many have been like screams to God because I need his help. He heard them and answered.

Have you been reminded of your blessings?

I know this has been good for me. To shed a few tears and wipe my nose while making this list reminds me of the countless ways I have been blessed.

Is it any wonder that when I blow my head on Thursday near that big turkey and mass of 'fixins', that my eyes will be drowning in liquid joy? And all I will be able to say is...