Thoughts On Drowning

We Are Drowning

There are few who read this blog. I am confident, though, that the right person will read it when the time is right. “Every good and perfect thing is a gift from God.”

I really appreciate the Lord’s work in my life. For years I was a crude man; a poor example of what a Christian looks like. In fact, my life would be the picture of a life without Christ. For years I could not get all the pain sorted away from the joy. Even today sorrow will sometimes take center stage in the play called “My Life.”

The Lord gives me reason to walk every morning or at least as many mornings as I am able or the weather permits. He has provided technologies…you know those inventions of men…that provide me with things to listen to as I walk. The walks are really long meditative experiences and words of preachers fill my head. Their words are the words of the Word.

This morning I was listening to Peter Hiett preach to his church, Lookout Mountain Community Church. The sermon is entitled “Lost Sheep and Church Discipline.” That congregation had suffered the loss of one of Christ’s sheep to suicide. That body of believers were in shock at the loss and Mr. Hiett preached to address their collective sorrow. Mr. Hiett could not have possibly known that a sermon he prepared and preached in October 2004 would impact a man such as me. Over a decade later and separated by over a thousand miles that sermon would cause a need to preach it again, again and over again.

Mr. Hiett provided an illustration in his sermon that morning. He told of how he was at a gathering in the backyard of friends. They had a pool. Mr. Hiett’s daughter was three years old as I recall the story. She was admonished to stay away from the pool.

His daughter apparently has a mind of her own and a propensity to push boundaries. Mr. Hiett looked out of the corner of his eyes and noticed something at the bottom of the pool. That something was someone. It was his daughter. She was flailing her arms trying to find a way to escape the pool.

Mr. Hiett tells us that he dove into the pool and rescued his daughter. As they came to the surface she gasped a breath of life and he did too. She was saved by her father and they were saved by their Father.

That story should be illustration enough, but there is more. In 1995 my daughter was three. We lived at an apartment and there was a pool in our backyard. The pool was encased by a fence. The fence made the pool even more enticing than the pool itself. My little girl hungered to be at the water’s edge.

She could not open the gate and neither could she scale the fence. Like Mr. Hiett’s daughter mine had a mind of her own. She did not press boundaries often, but on occasion she would show her independence and do a thing she was instructed not to do.

On a special day my daughter begged and cajoled me to take her to the pool. It is hot and humid where I live. In August it is particularly difficult to be outside for long periods of time. I didn’t want to go to the pool. I didn’t want to swim. All I wanted was to read my newspaper, but I could not take any more badgering from my little girl. I relented and we went to the pool.

I took my newspaper with me and my little girl held my hand. The gate opened and together we stood at the edge of the pool. I told her she could play at the shallow end and that I would sit near her. Needless to say I sat in a pool chair that was not near the place where my daughter wanted to play.

My little girl found a way to quietly and with great stealth move away from me and toward the deeper parts of that pool. I would look up from my newspaper occasionally and watch over her. I ushered her back to the area of the pool where I sat. I told her that our time at the pool would end if she chose to sneak over to the deep parts again.

That admonishment didn’t matter to her. She was laying on her stomach and chasing waves she was making with her hand. The waves would lead her to reach out and she would scoot closer and closer and eventually over the edge.

God intervened. He caused me to look over the top of my paper just as my little girl fell into the deep end of the pool. I jumped up from the chair and it what seems like a long, long time I raced to where she fell in. I reached my hand into the water and grabbed her ankle as she sank deeper into the pool.

The Lord helped me grab her ankle. He gave me extraordinary strength to pull her from the clutches of the pool.

She was upside down hanging from my grasp. I righted her and pulled her close. Her face was that of an astonished child. Her eyes were huge. She coughed a little water from her throat and sputtered, “I fell into the water.”

The fear in me was overwhelming. The love in me was greater still. I could only hold her and cry. I could only look to heaven and give thanks. Forgive me for not being attentive Lord.

Mr. Hiett continues his illustration. There is a man in the congregation whose name is Ron. Ron was at another spring time party. A young girl came to him and tugged on his pant leg. He looked down at her and asked what she wanted.

“Hey mister. Will you hold me?” she said.

Ron told the little girl that he would later. Moments passed and that little girl was back tugging on his pant leg.

“Hey mister. Will you hold me?” she asked him.

He told the little girl he would in a little while. He watched her as she walked away.

Moments later there was a commotion at the pool. That little girl had fallen in. There was no one to jump in after her. She died at the bottom of that pool that day.

Ron was upset and could not sleep that night. He got out of his bed and determined to find out who that little girl was. Who were her parents? Where were they? Maybe he could say something to console them.

Ron walked the neighborhood and he learned where that little girl lived. He learned her story.

The little girl’s mother was single. She had recently come to know a man. That man would be with her, but only if there were no children attached.

The little girl’s mother walked from neighbor to neighbor. She walked to other family members. The little girl’s Mom asked if any of those would take her daughter and raise her. None would.

Ron learned that the little girl was only a few days ago in another backyard where there was a pool. The little girl fell in. She was rescued and she was hugged by her rescuer. She was cared for by that family. She was loved.

The stories are true. The outcomes are true. Two little girls saved and one lost after having been saved.

Is there a moral to this story? The pools are sin and each of us will drown if we fall in. We will die unless our Father steps in to rescue us. We are all little children.

Thoughts On… “Golden Toilets”

It is my habit to walk every morning. I walk in my neighborhood which is rural. From my front door through the little town of Orchard, Texas I’ll walk about three miles. The walk takes an hour or a little more. My pace is sometimes quick, but more often leisurely. I don’t really like to walk, but I do like the benefits walking gives me. I’ve lost over forty pounds because I walk daily. The walk is good. The benefits are good. But, the real reason I walk is because I listen to preachers preach.

While I walk I listen to my former pastor, David Hodges, preach the Word. His lessons in First and Second Samuel, both Chronicles, First Peter and miscellaneous sermons teach me. I listen to John MacArthur. He has thousands of sermons that can be downloaded from the Grace To You website. I’ve listened to hundreds of his sermons. A quick search reveals greater than 100 sermons in which The Revelation of Christ Jesus is featured. I’ve listened to more than half of those.

On my walk I’ve listened to sermons delivered by Ray Steadman, who is now deceased. Chuck Smith from Calvary Chapel at Costa Mesa, California and Tom Luitwieler, Pastor at Calvary Chapel at Reno/Sparks, Nevada. I’ve listened to sermons delivered by J. Vernon Magee and Jack MacArthur. I cannot recount the numbers of single sermons by numerous teachers I’ve listened to on my walks.

I do not walk alone in the mornings. My Lord walks with me. He causes me to hear His Word from many men. He leads me to experience wondrous joy and He allows me to experience woeful sorrow on these walks. For certain He reminds me in these walks and by these sermons that He is Lord of all and He will be “all in all.”

Recently I’ve been experiencing a change in major points in my theological underpinnings. The Lord has led me to hear the sermons of a steward of His Word. His name is Peter Hiett. Mr. Hiett’s testimony is both joyous and heartbreaking. Mr. Hiett is not finished giving his testimony. He is still preaching, but even he will tell that he is not preaching as the man he was, but now as the man he is.

I am not Mr. Hiett’s biographer and he certainly has not licensed me to speak for him or about him. I do find his testimony to be relevant to my own. God changed me first, then He led me to hear sermons delivered by Mr. Hiett and others to help seal the change for His Name’s sake. I will not pretend to know God’s course for me aside from a straight and narrow path. He could call me home today, tomorrow or even decades from now. One thing of which I am spiritually certain, I am changed today.

I heard a sermon given by Mr. Hiett during this morning’s walk. This was one of those leisurely paced walks. It’s a good thing, too. This was a sermon message Mr. Hiett presented to his flock in 2002. He could not possibly know this sermon would be for my benefit over a decade later.

Mr. Hiett provided an illustration. I’ll paraphrase it for the sake of brevity here.

Mr. Hiett, early in his career, served as a Youth Pastor. He found an old toilet and determined the old toilet could be put to good use. He did not say that he cleaned the old commode, but we should assume he did. That old toilet was painted gold and put on a platform. An old plumber’s plunger was discovered and it, too, was painted gold. The “golden throne and scepter” were brought to the youth and it became a symbolic reward for them. Do something well, do something scriptural, learn a lesson or just be a good kid and that child would be rewarded with time on the throne.

The “Golden Toilet” was used for a time until a child went home to his mother, Rita, and asked, “Why do those kids worship a toilet?” Rita was perturbed and sent the Youth Pastor a letter spelling out all the reasons he should not allow such celebrations in their church.

Needless to say Mr. Hiett was hurt by Rita’s accusations and he reluctantly agreed to put the “Golden Toilet” in storage. The “Golden Toilet” was put in a closet, at the back of that closet, in the darkest regions of that closet. It was covered by a tarp and left to be forgotten.

Mr. Hiett believed the matter to be over until he received another letter from another mother, Paula. Paula and Rita were in the same Women’s Bible Study. Paula reported that she was in the closet, the back of that closet, in the darkest regions of that closet and discovered under a tarp that old “Golden Toilet.” Paula complained that “Golden Toilets” should never be allowed in their church.

Mr. Hiett instructed one of his young assistants to go into that closet, the back of that closet, in the darkest regions of that closet and take the “Golden Toilet” from under the tarp. The assistant was instructed to destroy the “Golden Toilet” and place it in the dumpster with the other trash. The assistant did as he was instructed.

Mr. Hiett on the other hand remained miffed and upset that his “Golden Toilet” was the cause of such division. Rita and Paula did not have the same understanding of the “Golden Toilet” Pastor Hiett had. He grew angry and thought to leave the church for the sake of his “Golden Toilet.”

Mr. Hiett suffered a crisis of faith. He raced out of the church heading nowhere in particular. He was running from nothing in particular but from everything in general. His flock was challenging his “Golden Toilet” and he was reluctant to give it up. He became resentful because others did not see the “Golden Toilet” as valuable as he perceived it to be.

I may have missed a broader meaning to Mr. Hiett’s “Golden Toilet” testimony or I may have narrowed it too much. I see the “Golden Toilet” as my theology. What do I hold to be so valuable that I will grow resentments toward others because they do not agree or do not see my “Golden Toilet?”

There was much more to Mr. Hiett’s sermon, but it was the “Golden Toilet” illustration that impacted me most. I suppose I have my own “Golden Toilet.” I am confident the preachers I’ve mentioned above have theirs, too.

My theology has changed and for the better. Mercy will not be shown to those who are not merciful (James 2:13). It is not possible to be merciful when resentments are harbored. It is not possible to be merciful when hatred is stronger than love. It is not possible to be merciful when you are looking down your nose at another.

Mercy is the answer. After all it was His mercy bestowed on us all when Christ was obedient to the point of death on the Cross. It was His mercy given to us all when He looked out to heaven and said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” It was His mercy shown to us when a blade was pushed into His side and His blood covered the sins of the world.

Mr. Hiett finished his illustration by telling of his dash into darkness at breakneck speed. He went to the other side of Diablo Mountain and pondered his future. Mr. Hiett met Jesus there.

I’ve rushed headlong into the darkness too many times to count. I’ve met Jesus there. Many times I didn’t know it, but looking back Jesus always met me there.

My theologies have changed. The “Golden Toilet” has been destroyed and placed in a dumpster. From this day forward I pray the Lord will lead me to build no more “Golden Toilets.” I pray He will help me recognize the “Golden Toilets” of others and to give them latitude by way of mercy to display their “Golden Toilet” in ways that bring glory to God.

You can hear Mr. Hiett’s sermon. It was given on July 7, 2002. There is a great irony in this sermon. Mr. Hiett did not know when he gave this sermon that a “Golden Toilet” would eventually lead to a change in his theology and where he preached it. Read Mr. Hiett’s testimony here.

We can make our theology an idol. We can grow so proud of our opinions and of our Biblical interpretations that we lose sight of greater Truth for the sake of our “Golden Toilet.” Pray with me that our beliefs do not keep us from knowing the Truth. Pray that our minds remain open to hear Him even when we think we hold the last word on this or that. No one person knows it all and it seems to me fool hearty to defend vigorously what might not be scriptural or true.

Thoughts On: A Human Being Vs. A Christian Doing

Proverbs 12:11
He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.

Visions for a spirit filled future are blessings from the LORD. He chooses each of us for specific tasks in this life. He gives training, strength and courage to fulfill the ministries He ordains.

A spirit filled vision may be as basic as service to people. Feeding the hungry, bringing water to the thirsty, or giving counsel to the lost.

The inspired vision to serve is a gift. However, the gift is useless if we do not take the necessary steps to move from worldly pursuit to heavenly wisdom. Seeing a hungry man, but not feeding him is to be a human being. Seeing a thirsty man and not giving him water is to be a human being. Sharing sorrows with loved ones, but failing to pray for them with them is to be a human being.

Heavenly wisdom moves His child from being only a human being to being a Christian doing.

The Father plants in us a desire to serve His creation; even those who hate us. He does not give us the desire to leave it fallow in our hearts. He has an expectation that we will nurture His gift. He has an expectation that we will act on His gift.

A farmer’s crops do not grow because the farmer wishes they will. The Father gives the land, the seed and the rain. The farmer uses all of these to bring from the land crops ripe for harvest.

Matthew 21:28-32
28“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

In this parable Jesus gave praise to the son who was the Doer. He goes on to say that people of low reputation understood the Gospel and they believed. The elite did not see and rejected the Truth.

I pray you have big plans. It is my hope you have grand expectations. More importantly I pray you will make the LORD the preeminent Adviser in your plans.

Is the LORD your High Counselor?

James 4:13-17
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Be blessed today in this knowledge; the Father knows your heart. He knows your weakness. He gives you the power to overcome. Make your plans with His leading. Follow His growth chart. Act on His gift and strive to please Him.

(Adapted from “Walk With God: One Year Devotional.” Tyndale House; 2004)

Thoughts On… Happiness Or Joy

Happiness is an emotion we experience every so often. It’s a powerful emotion. It’s the kind of emotion we find ourselves pursuing.

Happiness is like a powerful drug. Once we have tasted it we want to taste more of it. Our bodies; our minds want to experience more of it. We deliberately seek happiness.

Happiness is envisioned in opening gifts at Christmas morning. Happiness is the anticipation of receiving something. For most of us we find happiness in watching our children and grandchildren express their happiness at their good fortune on Christmas morning.

Happiness is the emotion we feel when walking hand-in-hand with out beloved mate or your baby no matter how old your baby may be. Your baby is happy and secure in the knowledge you are close-by. Your protection is near.

Happiness is being surprised by your friends on your birthday. They remembered your birthday. They thought enough of you to remember your birthday.   Happiness is laughing at a good joke.

We all want happiness. We pursue it in our jobs and try to bank happiness. Happiness is an ideal that we chase and reach for.

Happiness is dependent on circumstances and circumstances change. My friends, happiness passes away. The toys that brought happiness rust. The loved ones we count on disappoint us. Those we put so much stock in for our happiness die; our parents, loved ones, friends.

Happiness deteriorates. One day; inevitably that thing that brought happiness is gone.

JOY, ON THE OTHER HAND, RUNS FAR DEEPER THAN HAPPINESS.

Joy’s root is in Christ where happiness is rooted in a happening. Christ is permanent and the joy in Him is forever. Happiness is fleeting.

Joy is the confident assurance that Christ Jesus is at the center of life and of living. Joy is the knowledge that God, The Father, has taken away our sins through the everlasting love of Christ Jesus. Joy is the knowledge and understanding that God is at work in our hearts.

Rom 8:31-39

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Joy is knowing that God will be there for us no matter what!

Philippians has been called “Paul’s Joy Letter.” It is an epistle full of love and expressions of grace to a church in Macedonia that has supported Paul and encouraged him. It’s an epistle full of love and expressions of grace through the Holy Spirit written directly to you and to me. It’s a letter written to encourage us. It is a letter reminding us of God’s affection for us.

There is real joy in Christian living and this letter points that joy out to us.

Philippians 4:4

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

Paul has suffered more for his Christian walk than many men could bear. He was flogged and beaten multiple times. He was run out of town on a number of occasions. He was penniless and he was hungry. He was ill without cure.

 Philippians 4:11, 12

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Paul’s joy rests in the strength he prayed for. He was enabled by God “…to rejoice in the Lord always.”

Paul’s purpose was to walk as Christ in Him led him to walk. Everything in Paul’s life was joy in his relationship with Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:8-11

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Even in times of need our hearts as Christians are filled with joy.  When our lives are full as Christians we share our joy.  This year reach out to the Lord.  Ask Him for the strength and power to hold and know the righteousness of Christ is in you.  Share His love.  And, as always thank Him for His grace.  Amen

More Thoughts On… Our Blessed Assurance In His Keep….

I am beyond just grateful for the knowledge that I am secure in Christ Jesus. Describing the assurance of salvation seems impossible. In Scripture, however, Christ Jesus explains how His obedience to His Father brings to those of us who believe a place in God’s “Keep.” Remember a “keep” is a safe place where treasures are made safe from any outside threats. In God’s “Keep” no marauder, neither spiritual nor physical can separate us from the love of our Father.

We Are Kept In His Name…

John 17:12

While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

Only one of Christ’s Disciples was lost. Every other Disciple was kept safe by Christ’s presence by His love. Christ’s ability to protect His own comes not from a power intrinsic to Himself. Rather, His power comes from His Father. “I kept them in your Name….”

We don’t have the ability within us to comprehend the extent of God’s love and the lengths only He can take to protect us from the world.

His power is so complete that He allows us free will to reject Him. He had the power to create people who would fall to their knees in worship at the simple mention of His Name. But, that is not our God’s way. He blesses us with freedom to choose Him. He blesses us with the freedom to build a relationship with Him.

We are in His “keep” because we seek to be. Once there He protects us from all evil.

We Are Kept In Joyfulness…

John 17:13

But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

Our lives are fulfilled in Christ’s joy.

Jesus told His Disciples of His death, His time on the cross and of His resurrection. The things He told them must have been very difficult to process. In fact, Peter said he would never turn away from his Lord. We know from Scripture that all Christ’s Disciples abandoned Him that fateful night in Gethsemane.

Jesus also told them of His Resurrection. On the day Christ Jesus was accused through the time He was hung on the cross I imagine the followers of The Way to have been very frightened men and women. Their Lord was being accused and abused by the rabbinical leaders of their synagogues. He was being marched from palace to palace to be spat upon, mocked, and beaten. Eventually, Christ Jesus was marched to Calvary.

We all know this testimony of our Lord. He was hung on the cross and there He died. His lifeless body was taken down before the end of the day and buried in a rich man’s tomb. After three days He rose again.

His Disciples had his “…joy fulfilled in themselves.” Can any of us imagine the elation in Peter or John as they raced to the tomb? Were they breathless when they entered and found His Body gone?

We Are Kept From The Evil One….Kept From The Ways Of The World…

John 17:14, 15

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.

Christians are hated across the world. In some places the hatred for what we believe is so profound that murder rests in the hearts of evil men. The evil one causes one man to hate another man. Christ causes one man to love the man who hates him.

The ways of the world are bound in flesh and in the desire for sinful things; for worldly pleasure. Our Christ asks His Father to protect us from the evil one; to protect us from the desires of the world; to lead us to joy that is ever lasting.

The “world” listens to the evil one. Christians hear the Spirit of Christ in their hearts.

The evil one hates Christ and will do anything He can to keep us from Him.

Remember, Christ Jesus is praying for His Disciples and He is praying to God for us. His Words will not be returned to Him void. Our Father honors the Son and His prayer for our keeping is a blessed assurance.

We are not of the world….

John 17:16

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

Our belief in Christ Jesus and The Father’s mercy; His grace, separates us. He begins the new work in our hearts. He takes us from fleshly to spiritual. He takes us from desiring our own way to seeking His Way.

We are witnesses of God’s mercy and grace. Our testimony is our freedom from sin in the world.

We praise Him, honor Him, and bring glory to Him. We are “kept” in His presence.