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  Unresolved issues  
  September 17, 2012  
     
 

Isn’t it time you found a new beginning in Jesus? Isn’t it time you turned all your problems over to the only one who can help. Jesus is waiting to help you. He is at the door of your life with His arms wide open. He is waiting for you to come and embrace Him in peace. His desire is to give you peace in whatever situation you are in.

Often our problems do not go away quickly. Sometimes we have to go all the way through the fire, but we can take comfort because Jesus is always with us. Jesus is telling us He is always with us and He will go through the fire with us.

I remember the story of Stephen, just before he was stoned. He was poised before the council of the synagogue to give an answer to false charges. Instead of making a plea for his life, he told the council the history of the Jews and how Jesus was the fulfillment of the “Law.” As the crowd became upset and death loomed at the door, Stephen looked to Heaven and said,

"Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).

Now is the time for a decision. Everything is placed before you; God is calling you to the Peace Table. The choice is yours: Will you place your hope in God and find a New Beginning in Christ?

 
   
     
  I can't take it anymore  
  September 14, 2012  
     
 

A preacher once told a story of a mountain climber who wanted to climb the face of El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park. Everything was going well as he began his assent. His time was going well; the path he was taking seemed to be easy. “It doesn’t get any better than this,” he thought. Then about halfway up, he dared to make a giant lunge to an outcropping just to his right. As fate would have it, he slipped and started plummeting down to the bottom of the mountain. Out of desperation he reached out and grabbed a small handhold. The sudden stop jerked his shoulder, and he was stuck on the side of the mountain, hanging by his fingertips. Time passed. The mountain climber tried looking around to find another hold or foot prop, but he could not move his arms enough to get a clear view of what was to his sides or beneath him. All he could do was hang on for dear life. Night began to settle in, and soon he could not see anything. He continued switching his weight from arm to arm for brief moments of rest, but he was losing his strength. He knew it was only a matter of time. Finally out of fatigue, his fingertips desperately clinging to the ledge and no strength left in him, he fell. Thinking of the hard landing he was about to experience he was quite shocked by the sudden stop not more then six inches below him. Rolling to the ground, because he had not expected the sudden stop, he realized he was safely on an outcropping that he could not see because of his position.

Jesus is that outcropping. He is the one who is below you, ready for you to fall into His loving hands. You have been handling your problems for so long, you do not know how to let go. You can feel your fingertips slipping, so in desperation you shift your weight to the other side. A sigh comes over you because you have found a moment of relief — a moment which allows you to hang on to your problem a little longer. However, the fatigue is getting worse, and darkness is coming over the horizon. You can see neither beside you nor beneath you. You are bracing yourself for the fall, giving in to the impact it will make. “God, why did all this happen?” you cry. The trust, you started with turns quickly to bitterness, and then it turns to blaming God. Desiring to find some satisfaction for your grief and possibly an answer to why, you point your finger at the only one who could have helped in the crisis. You shake your fist at God as slowly, one by one, your fingers slip from the ledge. Finally as if you are gasping for your last gulp of air you cry out, “God save me, I can’t take it any more!”

 
   
     
  Finding peace, rejoicing in tribulation  
  September 12, 2012  
     
 

This is the second part to the last blog.

Numerous manuscripts and the ancient fathers read the passage as, “Let us have peace with God.” instead of, “we have peace with God.” This interpretation is not saying we are unable to have peace with God, but it is saying, we must seek peace. This was something I had not considered. I had not considered that I was the reason for not finding the peace which I sought. It wasn’t much, but it opened my eyes to a new world. I started to find the New Beginnings which I sought in my tribulations.

Rejoicing in our tribulations will not to happen while we are angry with God. We need to make peace with God at whatever level we are on. This is not a command — something we must do; instead, it is a statement of what we need to do to have peace with God.

God is saying to you, “I’m here for you. I am the one fostering you through your problems, but you are angry with me.” It is at this moment God is calling you to the peace table. He is appealing to you to come to the peace table and bring all your anger and frustrations. He is saying “Come inside and let us reason together,” but because of anger you will not come in. You continue to stand outside the temple brooding over the thought of your tribulations. You pace back and forth yelling at God, “Why did you let this happen? Why are you so mean,” but God, who is at the peace table with a broken heart, says, “Come inside and let us have peace together.”

No longer are we talking about a trust issue for hope. We are now talking about a reconciliation issue. You started well on this path, but like Job you have become angry with God. Like Job, you begin to question God. You want to have peace in your life, but at the same time you want to blame someone for all the wrong that has occurred in your life. You are standing in the presence of God, and you are angry because of the tribulations you are going through.
Weeping, you say, “God, you could have prevented this. You could have protected me and my family from all this hurt. It is so unfair.”

Then you realize it is no longer God who is not at peace with you, but you who are not at peace with God. You are finally at the place where you understand why you cannot rejoice in your tribulations.

This scenario is played out in every Christian’s life at one time or another. Tribulations begin, and there is a heart felt appreciation for God’s sovereignty. A level of trust flows to God. But as the tribulation continues, anger arises. The trust which was once imbedded in our heart fades, and bitterness moves in. It becomes apparent that God’s timing and our timing do not match up. Anger moves to bitterness, which leads to blaming. Soon we begin to blame God for all the wrong in our life. We blame Him because we know He could have done something to change this wrong. But God is saying, “Your life is not wrong. I know, because I have a perfect plan for you. I am still in control, and I have your best interest in mind.” Do you not remember Paul’s writings? “. . . all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

God is preparing the table of peace. The decision to come and sit down is now yours.

 
   
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  Finding peace  
  September 12, 2012  
     
 

This is a little deep so bear with me.

When I began studying this passage, I was shocked to see how the principles did not often seem to work. I wanted peace with God and to be comforted in my trials and tribulations, but every time a problem would arise I became more discouraged. I continued asking myself what was I doing wrong? There must be something. Maybe I am not being a good enough Christian? Maybe I am not praying enough? Maybe I am not studying my Bible enough? Maybe, maybe, maybe . . . I would pray for patience, but would still be uneasy. I tried to endure, yet I struggled even more. My friends would tell me to stop praying for patience, because when you pray for patience, God sends tribulations. This was ludicrous, I thought. “I already have the tribulations, I just need the patience to see me through.” No matter how hard I tried I could not understand what I was doing wrong. The passage clearly says, “. . . we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . . and (we can) rejoice in (the) hope of the glory of God.” So what was wrong?

I began breaking down the passage to its smallest parts, trying to analyze the very core of the passage. First I looked at faith. The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). Faith is needed for a foundation, but faith is something that grows. It is not something that springs up overnight. Faith must be grown, and the growing comes from experience (the last part of the passage). In my faith, I was confident God would meet me at whatever level of faith I was on and grow me from there.

I then read the fist verse over. I thought on the part of being justified (Romans 5:1). I understood I must first be justified by God to be accepted as His son. I had accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and believed in the perseverance of the saints. I knew, being a Christian, that I would always be a Christian. I also understood I was not the person who did the justifying. It is God who “justifieth the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). I knew I was ungodly before becoming a Christian, and if it were not for Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross I could not be made godly. Jesus is the one who came and washed away my sins. So as I examined the first section of these first verses, I was looking pretty good. This started to give me hope (not the archaic definition).

Since I had been and am justified by faith and was trusting in Jesus to see me through my problems, I should have received the “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” but I had not. Why? What was the problem? Where was the peace that I had been promised? This continued to trouble me, until I noticed in verse one a little asterisk by the word “we.”

We will conclude in the next blog.

 
   
     
  Tribulation  
  September 10, 2012  
     
 

Tribulation works patience, and patience allows experience to flourish. Tribulation forces us to work toward hope, which is trust and reliance.

The Greek word for experience in this Romans 5:4 is dokime (dok-ee-may). It means, “a proving trial, a tried character, a specimen of tried worth.” Jesus is this “tried worth.” He has promised us as Christians He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus is a “proving trial,” for He has already gone through everything you or I could possibly go through. Jesus is a “tried character.” He has faced the trials and tribulations of life and has proven Himself worthy. Jesus knows the pain of losing a loved one. He knows the shame and embarrassment of being rejected by His peers. He has felt the humiliation and pain of being spit upon, abandoned, condemned for no reason, and finally crucified. There is nothing you will ever experience that Jesus has not already experience. Simply put, you can trust Jesus for everything. Jesus has the experience to say, “I know how you ‘feel’; I’ve been there.” And, because of Jesus’ experience, He gives us hope. Jesus is someone you can trust and rely on in times of doubt. Jesus is the solid rock to whom you can anchor your life. Isn’t it wonderful to know that whenever you have a problem there is no need to worry, because Jesus, who has already been through it, is there with you? He will take complete care of you and your problem. Isn’t that wonderful? However, if it is so wonderful, then why is there still the anguish of the problem in your life? Why are you unable to anchor yourself to the risen Savior? Why are you not able to rejoice in your tribulations, like the passage says, “. . . and rejoice in hope of the glory of God”? Could it be because you are struggling with the first part of the passage, “. . . have peace with God. . . ”?

 
   
     
  Experience?  
  September 6, 2012  
     
 

Teenagers often believe they have the answer for everything. This was true in my life. I remember when I was a teenager. I thought I had the answer to any conceivable problem. If there was a problem, I alone could see the whole situation clearly, and could give the correct answer. Boy, did I make a lot of mistakes. My father once told me, “Son, since you have all the answers, you need to quit school, move out, and get a job before you get older and realize you forgot what you think you know.” Naturally, I was crushed. However, my father was right, because he cared for me and was trying to keep me on a straight path. Often we act similarly to this.

Knowledge comes from experience. To have the answer for the problem, it takes some experience with the problem. This is where many of our problems lie. We want to experience everything in the world, but we do not want the baggage that comes with the experience. A good example would be television.

Television allows us to have a pseudo experience of someone else’s experiences, without leaving the comfort of our couch. By extrapolating the experience from the television program, it allows us to skip the troublesome baggage that the other person had to experience. This also gives an artificial appreciation of an experience, which leads us to a false understanding of the experience. In reality, we don’t have a clue about the experience.

Think back to the first of this book and the discussion of acquaintances who try to comfort us in times of tribulation. The situation brought about an attempt to comfort without having personally experienced the trauma the person was going through. They are viewing us as a television program and trying to be empathetic by saying they know how we “feel.” However, all they can perceive is a television version of what is really happening in our lives. This is not to say we do not need people to comfort us in times of trouble, but we would be more willing to listen to someone who has shared the same grief and pains than someone who has never experienced the situation. A good example would be if you had just lost your only child. You would be more willing to listen to a parent who had also lost a child than to a person who has never had a child. Frankly, there are no simple methods for experience. Experience comes only through experience (I know that was deep). One must be patient in the midst of tribulations and believe God “works all things together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

 
   
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  I can't stand it anymore!  
  September 5, 2012  
     
 

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:(Romans 5:3,4).

How can we glory in our tribulation if we can’t even see over the trouble we are in at this time, much less glory in our tribulations later? This is probably true, but look at what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV):

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

God is faithful, and He knows our limits. He will not let us fall nor be tempted beyond what we are able to bear. God knows what He is doing, and He knows tribulations are good for us, even if we do not think so. There is an old Arabian proverb which says, “All sunshine and no rain makes a desert.” If life were nothing but blue skies and no rain, life would get real boring and dry pretty quickly. Tribulations allow us the opportunity to appreciate the good days. They allow us to begin a process of trusting God in the rough and turbulent times. (Sometimes this might be without a choice.)

During World War II, soldiers were often faced with unbeatable odds. Today these soldiers tell stories of how they went up against those odds yet somehow managed to win the victory. They also tell of lifelong friendships forged, in foxholes, under fire. The soldiers learned how to trust each other in the heat of battle, thus securing friendships and developing trust that would last a lifetime. These friendships are not made on a whim, instead these friendships are fused together under fire and in time of need.

God often acts in the same manner. Jesus knows, for us to trust Him, He will need to be there during the difficult times. And in knowing this He stands in our place of need during our tribulations. He stands in our place, shoring us up under fire.

 
   
     
  Why Do We Not Have Hope?  
  September 4, 2012  
     
 

There is a story of a man who was doing well in life. He was doing so well, he was probably at the pentacle of his career. He had it all: a great career, a great family, a great house, everything one could imagine. One day he decided to go up to his cabin in the mountains for a weekend retreat to sharpen his mind for the following week.

As he was driving along, his car began to sput and sputter. Then about halfway up the mountain, the car died. Angrily the man hit his hand on the steering wheel and announced a few choice words. Disgusted with the car, he got out and slammed the door. After kicking the tires a couple of times, he decided to push it to the side of the road. Since he was almost to the cabin, he decided to walk the rest of the way and take care of the car in the morning. So off he treked up the mountain hoping to make it before nightfall. As he got about a hundred yards up the road, a big truck came barreling around the curve and slammed into his car from behind, forcing the car off the side of the mountain with a single hit. The man stood there stunned as he watched his car roll end-over-end down the mountain. Finally, the car burst into flames as it came to rest at the bottom of the mountain. With his mouth gaping open, he raised his head just long enough to see the truck continue up the road. “Now what am I going to do?” he asked himself. As the shock of the incident began to wear off, he thought, “I guess I will get up to the cabin and wait until morning, and then walk to the nearest phone and call for help.” So once again he continued up the mountain, frustrated about his car.

As he walked along, a wind began to blow in over the mountain tops, letting a small rain storm form. The storm quickly turned into a drenching rain, and the man was quickly soaked from head to foot. Without any type of shelter or covering, he muttered to himself about what a dreadful day it had turned out to be. Desperately he walked on. Soon the rain turned to sleet as the temperature dropped. Then the sleet turned to snow forcing shivers all over his body. Freezing, he told himself, “Around the next bend I will be at the cabin where I can get out of these wet clothes and into my old hunting clothes.”

Hastening his steps, he longed for the cabin and the warmth he so desperately needed. Emotions of relief overwhelmed him as he came around the bend. Relief turned almost to excitement as he saw the drive which led up to his cabin. But as he broke into the clearing he noticed smoke rising from where his cabin once stood. Shocked, he walked over to a tree and started pounding his head against the tree crying over and over, “Why God, why?”

As if on cue, the clouds parted and a brilliant ray of sunlight broke through, focusing directly on the man. Then a deep booming voice bellowed from heaven saying, “Because some people just tick me off!”

Do we not often feel the same way the man in this story felt? Do we not often believe God is the “ultimate killjoy” of the universe, His sole desire being to make mankind suffer with tribulations to keep us on some type of “spiritual” leash?

Fact is, God love you. We just get so caught up in the now we forget about the Who.

 
   
     
  Getting there  
  August 29, 2012  
     
 

So yesterday we left the disciples in a storm having to wake Jesus up from His nap. And as we have been applying this story to our lives we have discovered a few things.

1. We are called to be obedient to the Lord and do what He says without knowing where or why we are going. Sounds odd to the worldly, but to grow in faith we must trust the Master.

2. Storms always come in our life. An old Arabic saying is, “All sunshine and no rain makes a desert.” This is so true. Our faith is tested in the storms. As Paul says our qualities are tested in the fire (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).

3. We can be assured that God never sleeps, He knows exactly what is going on and He will see you through.

So how can we know that God will see us through? There are a number of passages that talk about this. A simple New Testament passage in Philippians 1:6 that God will complete what He started. Or in the Old Testament, when Moses wanted a sign that He was doing the right thing God told Him, “and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.” (Exodus 2:12). I think I would want something sooner. You know, like Gideon. But isn't this how we grow, through faith and trust.

So what about the disciples on the boat? Why were they chastised for not having any faith. Simply because they did not believe they would make it to the other side—their destination. They were caught up in the ‘here and now’ and lost focus of the journey to get to the other side. The, “Why they were going,” they did not know, but getting there they were told, "He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea” (Matthew 8:18).

We forget that God is always in control. Getting to where He is sending us might be difficult, but you will arrive if you trust Him and do not give up.

 
   
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  Storms while following  
  August 28, 2012  
     
 

Yesterday we saw how our lives are a lot like the disciples. God gives us our “marching orders” but often without any destination. We are to follow without knowing where or why. That might seem odd to the worldly, but to live by faith it is perfectly normal.

There have been times in my life that I knew God telling me to go and then after a lot of prayer and deducing I knew where and why. Sometimes I deduced where right, but often times I didn't see the why until years later. I might have thought I knew why at first, or even while I was doing what I was told, but when I look back in my journals I see God changing me for His purpose—the Why.

However, how often do we take off on the journey God has called us to and hit a major roadblock or storm in our journey. You know, the journey God told you to take—or did He? That is often what we think when troubles come and the world seems against us. “Did I hear God correctly?”

Think about the disciples in Matthew 8. How they obeyed without knowing where or why they were going, they just did. Then a storm blows in and they felt that all was lost. Also, I want you to think about this for a minute. Four of the twelve disciples were seasoned fishermen who grew up on the lake. They had been in many storms. They knew how bad the weather could get. So if they were panicking, I think I would be also. Then to top it off, the one they were following was asleep—calmly asleep.

I cannot tell you how often I find this to be true in my walk with the Lord. God says, “Go.” I go. Then everything turns upside down. My journey hits the storms of life and I feel Jesus is sleeping, not worried about me. However, I know this is never true. God said, “I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). The storms of life will come, but the truth of God will always overshadow the world with His love for you. He is never asleep, but always watching over His children.

 
   
     
  Going to the other side  
  August 27, 2012  
     
 

I heard a story the other day that God was looking down at Earth and saw all of the evil that was taking place. After a little thinking, He decided to send an angel down to Earth for a few weeks to see what was going on.

When the angel returned he came before God and gave his report. “Yes, Lord, it is really bad on earth. Fact is 95% of the people are bad and only 5% are good.”

God thought about that for a minute and wanted to give the people a fair chance, so he decided to send another angel down for another couple of weeks. That angel returned after a couple of weeks and gave the same report—95% bad, only 5% good.

God thought to Himself about this, knowing this wasn't good. After a few moments He decided to send an email to the 5% that were good. He wanted to encourage them and give them a little something to help them keep being good.

Do you know what was in the email?

You didn't get one either, . . . huh? Well, I guess we are stuck with each other.

Just to let you know, the joke is not original by me ;)

Anyhow, the other day I was reading during my devotion time about the story of when Jesus and the disciples were caught in a horrific storm and how Jesus calmed the sea. I know that we have all heard the story before, possibly in Sunday school. However, there are a few things that just leaped out at me from the pages.

First, Jesus told them to get into the boat to go to the other side. Doesn’t that sound odd to you? I mean, Jesus didn’t tell them where they were going? Or did He just some vague direction, “the other side?” And, to top that off, He didn't tell them why they were going, just get in and go.

Matthew 8:18 says, “Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea.”

Maybe that is it, Jesus was afraid of crowds? I don't think so. Actually, Jesus didn’t just get in the boat right then, but stayed to talk with a scribe for a while and then launched out. Now He might have told the disciples why and where they were going, but I doubt it. Why? Because often this is the way God grows our faith and His kingdom.

Our faith grows by being obedient to His directing. How many times in the Bible does God tell people to go without telling them the destination? Abraham, Moses, David, the disciples . . . I believe this is the way He still works today.

In my life, God often gives me a journey without a destination, just, “Go.” No plans, no road map, just a command—“Go.”

So I think about this story, if I was one of the disciples, would I have gotten into the boat without asking why or where? Would I have questioned Jesus like Peter often did, or would I have gotten into the boat by faith?

Think about this the next time God tells you to do something. Think about the story of the disciple having the faith to get in the boat without a plan. Maybe the story will help you understand the workings of God better in your life.

 
   
     
  Taking some time off  
  August 7, 2012  
     
 

I want to aplogize in advance, but I am going to take two weeks off to get ready for a message series God has laid strongly on my heart. the series is 'Forgive'

Pray for me as I study what it means to forgive.

 
   
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  Change is not always good, but always necessary  
  August 6, 2012  
     
 

I pastor a small church in “true” Northern California. The church, when I arrived, had about eighteen attenders—if they all showed up. I remember on my first Sunday, which was Father’s Day, that we had eight people in services and four were my family and two were visitors—I really didn’t think God knew what He was doing.

Today, we are still a small church, however, we are averaging about sixty in morning services. We now have a regular worship service, a Kidz Club, and a Youth Church all going on at the same time on Sunday Mornings. Yet it hasn’t been all fun and games. The first year I was at the church we baptized eight people, including my daughter who was the first I baptized in the new church. Last year we baptized sixteen and this year we baptized four. This is more than has been baptized in the past twenty-five years. However, it has taken some changing that hasn’t always been good.

When I say “Change is not always good, but always necessary,” I mean we have to change with the times. The message stays the same, yet the way the message is delivered has to change. However, the change is not always good for those who like the old ways—whether traditional or not. Sometimes people don’t like to change—OK no one likes to change, but change is all around us and we can either embrace it or fight it. Fighting it doesn’t seem to work, it only wears you out. So if you can embrace it and take the good and leave the bad wouldn’t that work?

The church where I am pastoring is about to have to face this dilemma. It will not be easy, but it is necessary. I ask you to pray for the church and the changes we are destined to make.

 
   
     
  I'm the hall monitor  
  August 3, 2012  
     
 

I and my family have been watching the Olympics this past week. We really enjoy the competition and the feats these athletes do. As we were watching the opening program with the parade of athletes we started talking about the 2008 opening ceremonies—you know, doing the comparisons.

It was then I remembered the flag-bearer of Chinese delegation Yao Ming (who at that time played for the Houston Rockets) and a nine-year-old boy named Lin Hao. Lin Hao just happened to be a pupil from the 2008 quake-hit area in southwest China’s Sichuan province. The 7.9 quake struck May 12, 2008 and killed 69,197 people and left over 5 million homeless.

The 2nd grader, Lin Hao, had survived the earthquake at his school where the entire structure had collapsed. He spent hours digging himself out of the rubble, but that was not the impressive part. After Lin Hao had escaped the rubble he went back into the collapsed school and was able to save two of his classmates. On the third attempt into the rubble Lin Hao was stopped, however, he insisted on going back in to help his classmates. When asked why, Lin Hao said, “I was the hall monitor, it was my job to look after my classmates…”

We need more hall monitors today.

 
   
     
  Somebody like me?  
  August 1, 2012  
     
  Jason Crabb is one of my favorite music artist. He really hits home with his music. This one really grabs me---because sometimes I see me in this.  
     
   
   
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  Don't point me out!  
  July 30, 2012  
     
 

I was going to title this, “The Man with the Withered Hand” but I believe “Don’t point me out” is a better title.

In Luke 6:6-11 there is a story of a man who had a withered hand. The story is told in Luke to emphasize how Jesus had upset the religious rulers by doing non-religious things on the Sabbath. However, I do not want to cover Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath. I think that is clearly understood. And, I think if we heed the words of Billy Graham with how we are to respond to the Sabbath, we will do just fine.

“Jesus tells us it is OK to help your ox out of the ditch on the Sabbath. But, if your ox gets in the ditch every Sabbath, you need to either get rid of the ox or fill up the ditch.”

Billy Graham

So what can we look at? Maybe the Pharisees and how they plotted against Jesus? Possibly. Maybe the crowd and how they stood on the sidelines and watched everything transpire? (sounds a lot like today). Maybe we can look at the anger our Lord felt towards the hardness of their hearts.

looking around at them with anger, [Jesus was] grieved at their hardness of heart,

Mark 3:3

You are probably surprised at how much there is to talk about in this little six verse story. However, there is one part, one story, one person we have not mentioned — The man with the withered hand.

So who was he and how did he become this way? These are questions we really don’t know. An old tradition says he was a stone mason who lost his ability to work after an accident. Thereby, he was reduced to the life of a beggar. Yet on the other hand the language gives the impression he was born with a withered hand. Whatever the cause there is one thing we can all relate to about this man . . . Sometimes life seems so unfair.

When we look at the word “withered” in the Greek, xeraino (xay-rah́-ee-no), the word means to wither, to dry up, or for a part of the body to be deprived of its natural juices. Whatever the reason, the hand was of no use.

Another part of this man's life we need to examine is he probably struggled to provide for his family As we know most people are right handed. This is the predominant working hand. Maybe that is why Luke tells us the hand that was withered was his right hand. It could also be that Luke might have been addressing a religious stigmatism that the Jews had in their culture.

"According to Levitical law the right side of a person was considered clean. The blood of the sacrifice was put on the lobe of the right ear, that he might hear and obey the word of God; on the thumb of the right hand, that he might execute rightly the service and work of the Lord; and on the big toe of the right foot, that he might walk in the statutes and commandments of the Lord and tread the courts of the tabernacle blamelessly."


Dr. W. A. Criswell, The Believer's Study Bible

The right side of a person was considered clean, where the left was considered unclean. Fact is, in the days of Jesus, after you went to the restroom you would use your left hand to clean yourself, not the right.

Thus, this man was not only physically damaged, but to the Jew he was religiously damaged. That would have played a lot on his psyche which would have made him psychologically damaged as well. Bottom line—this man struggled. He struggled with severe needs. He was a man who would have had difficulty earning a living; providing for his family; and unable to worship God in the synagogue.

Oh, there is one thing I forgot to mention. During the worship service in the synagogue, men had the responsibility to read from the Tanakh (Jewish Bible). They would take turns by coming up to the Ark and reading the passage that the Custodian would point to. Yet, for this man with a withered hand he would be rejected every time it was his turn---you know that had to hurt.

So what about us? Maybe some of us have something that causes us not to get ahead? It makes us believe/feel life is so unfair. It holds us back! Even though life is so unfair, you still want to have some normalcy. Some normality. So where do you fit in?

 
   
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  What if...?  
  July 26, 2012  
     
  I thought this was cool.  
   
  Get your free copy at  
  www.TheChosen-Part1.com  
   
     
  Witnesses?  
  July 24, 2012  
     
 

What does Mary Magdalene, Paul the Apostle, and the woman at the well all have in common? They were all touched by Jesus and became the greatest witnesses for the gospel this world has ever known.

Too often, we do not help those who are in desperate need because we do not want a new "project.” We feel it would take a large part of our lives, and time, to a disciple a person like Mary Magdalene who was possessed by demons and traditionally was believed to be a prostitute. The lifestyle is just too much for us. Thus we pass them a few coins and send them to the soup kitchen or shelter. However, we fail to realize these are the greatest witnesses for Christ.

All three of these mentioned: Mary Magdalene, Paul the Apostle, and the woman were dramatically changed. They each had a "Christ" experience and their lives were never the same. Mary was always seen at the feet of Jesus; Paul left his "occupation" and became the PR man for Jesus; and the woman at the well, she became an evangelist that very moment leaving behind everything in the world that mattered to her.

Today, the church wants stable people, good hard workers that will "pay" their tithes and do the work around the church---and we need them. But the best witnesses for the kingdom are those who have hit bottom and are restored by Jesus. They are the witnesses that Jesus had.

 
   
     
  Comment by Jackie Paulson, a professional book reviewer on The Chosen  
  July 23, 2012  
     
 

Wow, this is a great story. It touches death, and the reality of gangs. It talks about demon possession and how it affects a person. I was in suspense... I said, “What is going to happen next?” I have experienced odd things concerning my teenager as well. I have had to say, “I bind you Satan in the name of Jesus,” to ward off evil spirits of sorts myself. It is my belief that we have God’s chosen people on earth and then Satan’s chosen people on earth as we are here living now in the 21st century. I cannot wait to purchase your book or books.

 
     
   
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  People sometimes say the stupidest things—especially during a tragedy.  
  July 23, 2012  
     
 

Sometimes it is a sound bite that has no context. Sometimes it is trying to fill the void of silence. Then sometimes it is trying to fix the problem that cannot be fixed. These are often the reason people sometimes say the stupidest things—especially during a tragedy.

I have read a couple a dozen blogs this weekend about the shooting at the theater in Aurora, Colorado. Some were very good, while others were looking for a soapbox to get their point across. Take for example the interview held on American Family Association and reported on Right Wing Watch.

Fred Jackson, news director for the American Family Association, took to the air and blamed the cause of the shooting on the liberals in the media and churches. Especially the churches that “deemphasizing the fear of God and the Bible.” Later in the interview “Jackson and co-host Teddy James of AFA Journal said the shooting is a sign of God’s judgment for the failings of the public education system and liberal, mainline Protestant churches that affirm gays and lesbians.” (Right Wing Watch Blog)

I have always noticed it doesn’t take long for someone to start blaming others even though they might not have any connection. On one side there is the conspiracy of the Left who blames the problem on a lax in gun control—”It is the Right Wings fault.” Yet on the Right it is the liberals fault for provoking the wrath of God on America. Is one true and the other false? Or do both have a part to play? (That’s another blog).

Speaking of sound bites that were taken way out of context—Dr. Rick Warren’s tweet from Friday has been all over the bogs. In a short Tweet Warren wrote, “When students are taught they are no different from animals, they act like it.” The comment went viral as bloggers and news media thrashed Warren, saying he compared a mass murder to problems with the teachings of evolution. However, come to find out, the tweet was not a comment about the Aurora shooting at all, but a comment to a dad about sexual promiscuity.

“TWITTER’S limit on words allows no context for statements. A lack of contxt causes misinterpretation. So when you tweet what’s on your mind, people preassume (incorrectly) that you are talking about what’s on THEIR mind. This is a clear example. My tweet was a brief response to a question to me about SEXUAL PROMISCUITY. It had NOTHING to do with the tragedy in Colorado.! I had received this email from a dad: “Pastor Rick, my daughter told me her teacher said in class “There’s nothing wrong with sex with multiple partners! Sex is a natural, inate drive, and any attempt to limit it to one, single partner is a manmade construct.” THAT is what I was commenting on. Unfortunately, you also incorrectly presumed the context.” (Rick Warren’s response to James McGrath’s blog Exploring Our Matrix)

However, there are some really good blogs that are popping up because of the tragedy in Aurora. Blogs from people who were there and remember this is not the norm nor the final word on the hope of America. One blog I really like came from a blogger who was inside the theater with her daughter. She writes:

“He [God] is not the cause of evil, but He is the one who can bring comfort and peace in the midst of evil. It’s been amazing to see the outpouring of love from so many people after this unthinkable act. Yes, there was one evil act, but it is being covered by thousands, possibly millions of acts of kindness.” (Maria “A Miniature Clay Pot” Blog)

So what are we to do? What words are there that will comfort or strengthen a person during a tragedy? In all my years as a pastor, I still fall back on what Dr. Steve Lyon taught me in seminary. Shut up and go. It is not the words that comfort during a tragedy, but a touch.

 
   
     
  It has been a while  
  July 20, 2012  
     
 

Well, it has been a while. I would like to say I got a lot accomplished, but that would be telling a lie. Unfortunatly, I let time pass and didn't get back to blogging. One day led to two... two to a week... a week to a month... (you know how the rest goes).

I find this very thing just like going to church---or falling away from church. One week leads into two... two to a month... a month to six months... you get the picture.

How about surprising our pastors this Sunday and show up for church. It will do you good.

 
   
     
  Greatest Mom Ever!  
  May 14, 2012  
     
 

Greatest Mom Ever!

I know every one thinks their mom is the greatest mom, and I do not want to disagree. Moms are the best—especially my mom. However, for my two girls their mom tops the scale with her unselfish devotion and strength of motherhood she lives out every day.

My wife, Kaye, doesn’t get enough recognition for all she does. Not only is she a great wife, a wonderful mother to our two daughters, and a person who is always taking care of the house-hold, but she also does so much more. If there was a poster child for a person who goes above and beyond it would be Kaye.

As I mentioned, Kaye does a lot for the family, however, she is also a full-time volunteer at almost everything. During the school year Kaye volunteers at the local elementary school as a helper in the third grade. She also lends a hand in the cafeteria, the office, the library, and where ever else they need her.

Then there is Girl Scouts, coach-pitch softball, picking children up so they can go to school, hiding Easter eggs, delivering lunches for the needy, and that is just during the week. On Sundays and Wednesdays she volunteers at the church to teach the children while setting on committees like the social and the maintenance. I’m telling you, I married up!

However, this Mother’s Day, Kaye went above and beyond with a selfless act that just shows what a great mom she is. Instead of asking for candy, flowers, or diamonds she asked for something that the girls would like. She wanted to take the girls, and myself, to see The Avengers —-how cool is that!

Thanks Wife! You’re the greatest mom ever!

 
   
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  Don’t point me out!  
  Part 4 of 4  
  May 11, 2012  
     
 

So what have we discovered thus far?

* Your fault, my fault nobodies fault, things happen.
* Sometimes life isn’t fair.
* Jesus knows where we are and He wants to heal.

Today we are going to look how this man, with the withered hand (Luke 6), was caught up in the moment. He went to worship in the synagogue as he probably did each Sabbath. He might have arrived just before the time to start and then, because of the stigma surrounding him, snuck to the back of the room trying not to be noticed—but God had other plans.

As we have seen, this man was caught up in a controversy between the religious leaders and Jesus. The leaders were wondering if Jesus would heal on the Sabbath. The man with the withered hand was there to worship in his traditional fashion, but in the heat of the controversy he was told to expose himself for all the world to see.

“Open up,” “confession,” “tell all,” these are words that we, as individuals, hate to here. We never like to hear the phrases in the Church, “Come forward,” or “Come to the alter.” It leaves us with a sense of vulnerability and a loss of personal space. We tell ourselves (and sometimes the preacher) “The alter call is for the lost. It is for the new comers.” We might even say, “What if people heard that I went forward, they would expect me to live a different way?”

Jesus is calling men/women out. There is no such thing as a closet Christian. Just like this man with the withered hand, Jesus told him to stretch forth his hand for all to see. I imagine the man would have hesitated. He knew that everyone knew about his problem (that is obvious from the story), but there is a difference in thinking everyone knows and to expose yourself for everyone to see.

The man had the same decision that we do—trust.

Either we expose our lifeless and broken life or we don’t. But the one thing that is clear, if we don’t come out, if we don’t stretch forth our withered hand, we won’t get cleaned.

Argue with this as much as you will, but ask yourself, “How is that broken life working out for you, lately?”

 
   
     
  Don’t point me out!  
  Part 3 of 4  
  May 10, 2012  
     
 

Cecilia, my eight year old daughter, came to me the other day with a book of Bible stories. She had it opened to the story of the man with the withered hand. She had been listening to me talk about the message of the story and made a connection. I thought it was sweet that she left the book with me and told me I could use it as I prepared my sermon. Sometimes life is great!

As she walked away I noticed the picture in the book. The pictured showed Jesus standing in the center of a room holding out His hand to a man who was stretching out his hand to Jesus. Jesus was dressed in white with his tunic wrapped around Him, while the man was dressed in a very colorful blue with an orange robe. Yet, the thing that caught my attention was not so much the streaking forth of the hand, but that there were so few spectators (three to be exact). That was kind of odd. I would think there would have been hundreds of spectators in that synagogue. After all, this was one of the largest cities in Galilee. However, the artist probably wanted to make the scene easy for Jesus to find the man with the withered hand—if only life was that easy.

I was thinking of this man who was struggling with physical, psychological, and social struggles. Where would he be sitting in the synagogue? Would he be at the center of the crowd? Would he be up front? Or, would he be like us, trying to blend into the shadows in the very back? I think the back. However, this brings up an interesting question, “How did Jesus find him?”

I started thinking about Jesus going through the crowd looking at each person seeing who needed healing. Then I thought of something ridiculous, Jesus bobbing and weaving trying to find someone to heal. Then I thought both were foolish. Jesus was there to do God’s will, thereby, He would have known where the man with the withered hand was.

This story strongly applies to us. Often times we are like this man with the withered hand. We feel that God does not know where we are or what is going on in our lives. However, God knows exactly where we are. He is not bobbing and weaving trying to find someone to heal. No, instead, Jesus knows where we are and I believe He is getting ready to call us out.

 
   
     
  Don’t point me out!  
  Part 2 of 4  
  May 9, 2012  
     
 

Sometimes life seems so unfair.

I ran across a song sung by Jason Crabb called "Sometimes I Cry." It is a song that just grabs at my heart every time I hear it. The chorus goes:

But sometimes I hurt and sometimes I cry.
Sometimes I can't get it right
No matter how hard I seem to try.
Sometimes I fall down,
Stumble over my own disguise.
I try to look strong,
As the whole world looks on,
But sometimes alone I cry.

For more than two decades I have been working with hurting people. Sometimes they are the cause of their own hurt; sometimes they are the victim. Sometimes they are the cause of their own demise, but sometimes the circumstances of life changes and they hurt. It seems sometimes life is so unfair.

I know that every reader can relate to what I am saying. Or as the late John Wayne said in Big Jake, "Your fault, my fault, nobodies fault," life just seems so unfair.
I think of the man in Luke 6 who had a withered hand. As we started to examine the story yesterday, we learned the hand was withered, shriveled, and of no use. Luke also recorded that it was his right hand, giving the appearance that this man possibly was injured in an accident like the Gospel of Hebrews suggests. This would have had not only a physical hardship on the man, but a psychological and religious hardship as well.

To the Jews the right hand was considered clean, where the left hand was considered unclean. To offer the left hand to a person was tantamount to cursing him. Knowing this, the man with the withered hand would not have been able to participate in the activities at the synagogue or the Sabbath. He would have been considered unclean. That would have lead to a social stigma and a psychological hardship, one that obviously he did not ask for. From one accident this man with a withered hand had his life spiraling out of control.

You know he had to have struggled. You know he had to have hurt. His fault, their fault, nobody's fault—life seemed so unfair.

 
   
 
 
 
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  Don’t point me out!  
  Part 1 of 4  
  May 8, 2012  
     
 

Can you imagine what it would have been like to have met Jesus when He walked on earth? To behold Him face to face. To listen to the Master teach His disciples. What glory that would have been.

However, we have to ask, “What would have drawn us to Him?” I mean, today we have the Holy Spirit who reveals the continual presence of Jesus in our life. Yes, He is seated next to the Father, but He is also fully God — omnipresent. Yet, what about, “in the days of His flesh” (Hebrews 5:7), what would have attracted us to Him. Didn’t Isaiah write,

He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.

Isaiah 53:2

So what would have drawn us to Him? I mean, if the Holy Spirit was not drawing people to Jesus it must have been something else? Could it have been all the miracles? The feeding of the thousands? Raising the dead? What? When you look at the Old Testament many of the prophets did what Jesus did (not all). So what would have drawn us to Him? I believe it had to have been His compassion.

There is a story in Luke 6 about a man with a withered hand. The placement of the story by Luke, as well as Matthew and Mark, is to stress the issue of who is lord of the Sabbath. However, I do not want to write, for now, about Jesus being Lord of the Sabbath. I think for the most part that is clearly understood. And, I think if we heed the words of Billy Graham with how we are to respond to the Sabbath, we will do just fine.

“Jesus tells us it is OK to help your ox out of the ditch on the Sabbath. But, if your ox gets in the ditch every Sabbath, you need to either get rid of the ox or fill up the ditch.”

Billy Graham

Instead, I want to write about the one person who was caught up in this controversy — The man with the withered hand.

Who was this man? How did he come to have a withered hand? These are always questions I ponder when I read a story like this. One tradition from the Gospel of Hebrews says the man was a stone mason whose hand was crushed in an accident. However, the language of the story gives the impression that he was born this way. The Greek word used for withered, xeros, means a member of the body that is deprived of their natural juices; to be withered or shrunken. Also, Luke identifies the hand as the right hand, possibly meaning he had a difficult time supporting himself.

Either way, whether he was born this way or was the victim of an accident, he probably was left to a life of begging. Struggling to get by, always in the rear watching the others get ahead. Today, we could say he was living from “paycheck to paycheck.” Whatever the cause there is one thing we can all relate to about this man . . . sometimes life seems so unfair.

Tomorrow we will examine how sometimes life seems so unfair.

 
   
     
  Reinventing oneself  
  May 7, 2012  
     
 

Reinventing, starting over, making over, starting anew — whatever you call “it,” it is a process— a process of moving from where you are to where you want to be.

I am personally in the process of reinventing who I am. There really was nothing wrong with who I was (or am) it is just that I have lost focus and have fallen into a slump.

I use to know who I was and what I was going to do with my life. God had called me to preach the gospel—which I do regularly. But one thing led to another and I have found myself 60 pounds over weight, barely making my bills, and taking my God-given talents and wasting them. Friends and family say, “That’s just the way things are.” But is it really? Does everything change as you grow older? Can you not still strive for the dream you once had?

So hear I am, today, reinventing myself. Not that there was anything bad with my old self, it is just that I long for the dream God gave me. It is going to take work. It is not going to be easy, but here I go getting back on the path.

I hope you stay with me and see how I do as I reinvent who I am suppose to be.

 
   
     
  The Day After Pentecost  
  May 4 , 2012  
     
 

It had to be an impressive site! 3,000 plus people standing on the banks of the Jordan River looking at Peter, who was standing waist deep in the water where this group was just baptized. Peter, that great apostle who preached that wonderful Pentecostal sermon, "repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 2:38), stands there looking back up at the people. What a message! What a moment! The broken hearted coming to Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit! What an event!

The Bible records that about 3,000 were added to their number that day. All because the Holy Spirit showed up and a small group of 120 people were willing to go out into the street and be used by the Holy Spirit. So there they were, 3,000 plus standing on the banks of the Jordan River looking down at Peter in the water. The elements of the sermon Peter preached are completed. Every thing he told them to do is done. So, . . . now what?

Haven’t you every wondered what took place the day after Pentecost? It’s like having a great revival moment at your church: everyone is touched in some way by the Holy Spirit. Then they go home. The next day they awaken with the idea, "Now what am I suppose to do?"

We in the Church seem to have all the answers, "Live like Jesus lived!" or "WWJD!" or "FROG." That’s great, but what is this suppose to look like? What am I suppose to do? When Peter walked out of the Jordan River and looked at the group of people standing on the banks, the church was in its "infancy" stage. I can imagine the questions coming to his mind as he tried to explain to them what needed to take place. Some were only staying in Jerusalem for a week or so. Others were residents of that great city. But one thing was clear, the "Great Commission" and the "Great Commandment" had to be brought out and worked through.

 
   
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  The Master's Hand  
  May 3, 2012  
     
 

Her hands were deformed, bent, and gnarly. Her body broken and confined. Pain and anguish wracked every moment of her life. To simply pick up a fork to eat took will and courage. Yet, through all the suffering she never gave in to the pain; to her she had a life filled with hope and joy that was succumbed to an existence of a wheelchair.

Music had dominated her family for generations. Her father, John Wesley Brooks, and her mother, Mary Ellen Eshelman Brooks, encouraged her as a young girl to play the organ. She had so desired to continue the family legacy of music — yet, the Master, had other plans for her. As she inspired to fulfill her parent’s wishes and become an organist, her dreams were soon cut-short as she was hijacked by that dreadful crippling disease called arthritis.

Her name was Myra Brooks - Welch and to many she remains an unknown. She was more than a mere woman who was confined to a wheelchair since the early 1920’s. She was a writer who wrote beautiful poetry that captured the hearts of thousands. Her life is a story of being an over comer of situation and struggle. Once, while believing she was being pitied by a close friend, she told him, “And, I thank God for this,” while patting the arm of her wheelchair. But even through her triumph in tragedy and her beautiful writings she is still an unknown to the world.

Welch was a prolific writer and poet even at an early age. Later in life she was given the reputation of being “the poet with the singing soul.” Often she would wheel herself over to a desk, pick up two pencils, one in each hand, then with the erasers down she would fight through the pain and type out wonderful heartfelt poems that reflected the joy of her heart. Never bitter from the confinement, she went on to write three volumes of poems that were published by Brethren Publishing. Yet, it is the "anonymous" poem that she wrote in 1921 that has touched almost as many lives as Amazing Grace.

It is said that she wrote the poem in thirty minutes after hearing a speaker address a group of students. Not wanting to take credit for the work, believing it was a gift from God, she submitted it anonymously to her church bulletin and later to the Gospel Messenger, who published it on February 26, 1921. For years the poem was read in churches and other gatherings, but always with the credit, “author unknown.” It would be like hearing the first movement of Symphony 5 and never knowing it was composed by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Then one day, at an international religious convention the poem was once again read before a large audience, yet this time there was an unanticipated surprise. As the custom had become, the reader would finish the poem to a teary-eyed audience. Their sniffles echoing around the room, yet with a smile on their face as their hearts were blessed by those beautiful words. Also, as seemed to be the custom, the reader, with tears in his own eyes, would bestow the credit, “author unknown.” However, this time the ending would be different. This time the answer to everyone’s question would be answered as a man slowly stood from the side of the audience and said, “I know the author, and it is time the world did too.” As every eye turned to the man with hearts pounding in anticipation, the great mystery was solved, “It was written by my mother, Myra Welch.”

Finally the author of this blessed poem was known. No longer would the poem The Touch of the Master’s Hand be tainted with the words “author unknown.”

The poem has inspired so many. It has touched the hearts of the destitute and the needy. It is a poem that has brought hope to tragic lives. It is a poem of hope and gladness. Yet for me the poem has so much meaning and will never be read the same as it was when I heard it read, one Sunday evening, at an old church on Santa Paula St. in Fort Worth. Read with the raspy old baritone voice of David “Davy” Crockett.

 
   
  Download the entire book, "The Master's Hand"  
   
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  Discovering Hope for Today  
  May 2, 2012  
     
  What is meant by the word hope? "I hope things will work out." "I hope I will win the lottery." "I hope I will get the raise at work." The phraseology which is used the majority of the time seems to be as a "good luck" word. The word hope is used not of character or meaning but of chance.

Webster defines the word hope as: "1) archaic: TRUST, RELIANCE. 2) a desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment." Webster’s definitions hold to both the "good luck" definition (2), and the archaic terms, TRUST, and RELIANCE (1) which is what the Bible teaches.

Is it not interesting that when describing individual desires, the word hope is used as "a desire accompanied by expectation"? However, when the word hope is used to describe the future state of something we desire to lean toward, the archaic form of the word is used, although half-heartedly.

Hope is often used with a negative thought or a wishful thought at best. By transcribing the word hope to hopelessness, the thought turns from trust and reliance to a thought of desperation or despair. Or by rendering the word hope into hopeful the idea turns to a desire or wish. But the question must be asked, "Why do people view the future state of humankind in either hopelessness of hopefulness at best?" "Why is there not a reliance or trust in the future of humankind?"

I believe the Bible has the answer to these very questions.
 
   
     
  All or Nothing  
  May 1, 2012  
     
 

It was the bottom of the 4th inning with no one on base. The pitcher looked over his left shoulder with a snarl. He took the first signal the catcher gave him and shrugged it off. The second signal came and then a pause. After a moment he shrugged that signal off also. Finally, the pitcher nodded his head and the catcher bounced into position. His legs spread apart into a catchers squat. His glove extended just below the bat. The umpire arched forward over the catcher-then everything seemed to pause, that is, except for me. All I thought about was what I was going to do if I hit the ball. I watched the first baseman standing by his base acting as if I would be lucky to see first base. The shortstop actually went into his stance ready to charge a chip ball. The outfielders merely swatted flies as they waited for me to strike out. My heart began to pound as the pitcher hurled the first pitch.

"Strrriiiike!" the umpire yelled as the ball whizzed by me and slammed into the catcher's mitt.

"Keep your eye on the ball!" my coach yelled from 3rd base. "You can do it!"

I can do it. I thought to myself. I cam hit this ball and win this ball game.

"Strrriiike two!" were the words I heard next.

Strike two? What happened? I looked back at the umpire in confusion, I wasn't ready, and I surely didn't know the pitcher was ready.

I stepped out of the batters box and looked at my coach. His head nodded forward with his chin slunk into his shirt. I could see the disappointment on his face. This game meant a lot to the team and I was going to lose it for them.

I never was all that great at sports. I had played baseball since the seventh grade. Now I was a sophomore in high school and the team was hoping to go on to the state tournament. I never minded being a bench warmer; often it was fun just keeping up with stats and cheering on the players. But for some reason, I started developing at that time and the coach thought I should come off the bench and play in the game.

Sure my coordination had improved and I became stronger, but I had one very big weak spot-I had no confidence. I had warmed a bench for the past three years and now, out of the blue, my coach believed I should play in one of what I considered the most important games of our season. I had already been up to bat once in the game and I struck out. I didn't believe it would be any better the second time at bat.

"Watch the curve ball!" someone yelled.

Curve ball, what's a curve ball? How do I know what one looks like? Boy, was I pathetic!

I stepped back into the batters' box and again watched as the series of events repeated themselves. The pitcher looked over his left shoulder and took the signal. The catcher bounced back into position. The umpire arched over the catcher and braced for the call. And, at that very moment I made up my mind. I was going to swing.

What do I have to lose,and I thought to myself. It is all or nothing. I was going to strike out swinging or I was going to hit the ball ...

You are probably wondering what happened at the ball park in Roosevelt, Oklahoma, that fine fateful day as I stood in the batters box watching the pitcher play out my life with his final pitch? Well it ended something like this:

. . . the pitch was thrown and I braced for the swing. I kicked my left leg up to give the bat as much power as I possibly could. I briefly watched the ball not knowing if it was a curve, straight, or whatever; all I knew was I had to swing the bat, and swing the bat I did. As the ball approached the plate I did as I always had done; I closed my eyes. I never understood why I closed my eyes when I swung the bat, but I did. I believe it might have something to do with the anticipation of an object hitting another object. This is one reason I was never a good catcher, although I did try.

Anyways, all I remember after closing my eyes was hearing a tank.

It was somehow different than any other time I had hit the ball. This time it was the sweetest sound I had ever heard. I opened my eyes and began to run, but at the same time I found myself doing exactly what my coach told me never to do. I watched the ball. I couldn't help it, the ball was flying high and it had distance. It was as if there was something mystical between the bat and the ball that made this ball fly farther. And then like magic, or because the center fielder was playing too far in, the ball dropped right over the 300 feet sign. That's right! I hit a home run! The only one I ever hit. Sure I had hit a couple of base hits, a few doubles, and I think I might have hit a triple in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, but now things were different. Now I had joined a club like no other. I joined in the ranks of the home run hitters club. I hit a home run! And not just any home nun, I hit one dead center over the center field wall (well, fence for that matter).

I remember rounding first base and watching the ball land just outside the fence. I could not believe it, as neither could anyone else on my team, especially my coach. But as I rounded third base my coach did what he did to all home run hitters, he stuck out his hand to shake my hand and swatted me on the rear. I had entered the club! It was all or nothing, and I took the all, and that has made all the difference.

 
     
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Circumstances never dictate who you are—only Christ. What if through a word a person could be set free from their bondage of sin? What if a person could find healing from a past wrong they did, or was done to them? What if that healing was permanent? read more.
   
   
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