Monday, March 02, 2015

Living in the End Times; Does it really matter?

I have heard this for a number of years -- "We are living in the end times!"

It always comes from well meaning Christians that think they are well versed in end time prophesy and view all of the bad things in life as signs of the last days. But does it really matter?

The simple truth is that, for any one of us, the last day could be today. If the idea that we are living in the end times motivates fellow believers to share the gospel, I guess that is a good thing, but let's face it --
   1) Life has no guarantee for tomorrow
   2) Most of them aren't going to share the gospel anyways.

Their cry of living in the end times becomes a story of the boy that cried, "Wolf!"

Whether the end of time comes tomorrow or the life of an individual ends tomorrow, the results will be the same.
In Missouri this past weekend, there were a number of deaths from weather related traffic accidents and there were a number of people murdered. I'm sure that there were other natural deaths, deaths from disease, or other deaths from other unexpected causes.

For each person that didn't live to see Monday, it was the same as if Jesus raptured His church.

Around the country, people have been making their preparations for winter storms. NASCAR fans are making plans to watch next week's race, baseball fans are ready for the season to begin and basketball fans and hockey fans are preparing for the end of their seasons. We save money and make plans for retirement. We save for our kids' educations. We make all kinds of plans for the future and give no thought to eternity.

What will happen to you when this life is over?
Do you believe in an afterlife?
If so, how are you preparing for it?

If you haven't been following Out of My Hat for very long, you need to know that I believe that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. I believe that when He said that no one comes to the Father except through Him, He was telling it like it is...No one gets to heaven except through Jesus!

I don't know what your beliefs about heaven and hell are. I don't know what plans you are making for the afterlife. But I do know that you need to give it some thought, and you need to have a reasonable amount of faith that you've got it right.

I'm open to your thoughts and comments on the subject. I am not going to get in a fight with you over your beliefs and I will not be disrespectful towards you. I moderate all comments so I won't allow anyone else to be disrespectful, either.
Please, feel free to weigh in with your end time thoughts or your thoughts on what follows this life.

My thoughts are pretty simple.
God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Still Being the Dad

This afternoon finds me at a walk-in clinic with my baby. She's not really a baby anymore (23), just my baby.

She had to leave her car at work yesterday and needed a ride to the Dr's office today. We'll go have lunch when we're finished here and then I'll drop her off at her car.

As an independent young woman, she probably hates having to rely on her dad. As for me, it's still nice to get to be dad once in a while.

John <><

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Weekend Snow; Winter Rant

It is a quiet Sunday morning in the Ozarks. Many church services have been cancelled today because cancelling church services and other activities is what we do in the Ozarks whenever there is a little bit of snow on the roads.

On one hand, it doesn't bother me that there are so many cancellations due to winter weather. On the other hand, we have become a bunch of weenies. To be fair, maybe Southwest Missourians have always been weenies. Having grown up in Central Illinois and lived in both Northern Illinois and Northern Iowa, making cancellations the norm for a couple of months of the year is a little bit ridiculous.

Certainly personal responsibility and personal limitations need to be recognized, and some common sense needs to be exercised. But when events are cancelled because some people that shouldn't be out will try to come anyways...really?

So it's not safe to be on the roads to go to church today, huh? My guess is that the gas station next to the church will be open and people will be there. I'd bet the restaurants will be open and some of your church people will be out to eat today. People will be going to work today. People will be going to the grocery stores, going to friends' homes and going out to play. You might not want to be out. You might not need to be out. If you think it's too dangerous for you to be out, stay in. But in general, it's not too dangerous to be out.

I know that there are other factors in play. I know that churches and businesses worry about liability issues if they can't get their lots cleared and their walkways are slick. We think that we have to make decisions for others because they may make bad decisions about their personal limitations. But let's face it, we're winter weenies.

Personally, I'm enough of a winter weenie that I'd leave it all behind and move to a sunny beach if I could convince my wife to move with me! But while I'm here, I'll go out if I need to or even if I want to. If I had to be at work today, I'd be there. Fortunately, I don't. Somebody else can talk to the snowplows and snow blowers as they clear the runways and taxiways!

Okay. Rant is over.
I need to get dressed to go out and get Chris her fountain soda fix! I'm way more afraid of her without a soda than I am afraid of driving in the winter weather!

John <><


Friday, February 27, 2015

Testimony

Testimony  [tes tuh moh nee] 1. Law. the statement or declaration of a witness under oath or affirmation, usually in court.

I am not under oath, nor am I in a court of law. However, this is my testimony.

Recently, I was asked by an old friend about having been raised in the Catholic Church and now being a Baptist. It's a fair question and a bit of a complex answer. I say the answer is complex because it will pose difficulties for both my Catholic friends and my more evangelical Baptist friends.

In reality, I tend not to think of myself by a denominational label such as Baptist. This may come as a real shock to many, as most Baptists (especially Southern Baptists) wave the Baptist banner as if it is the only real Christian denomination and all others are merely posers. I prefer to think of myself merely as a follower of Jesus.

Among the more zealous Baptist members are those that would believe all Catholic adherents to be cult followers and destined for hell. Many Catholics believe Catholicism to be the one true Christian church.

I think Jesus would be disappointed in all of us.
But, I digress.

I missed finding Jesus as Lord and Savior in my upbringing in the Catholic Church. I can say with great conviction that many of the Catholics I know are heaven bound and know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. While they haven't had the same experiences as most evangelicals, Jesus is as much their Lord as he is to anyone else.

For me, and for many Catholics, it didn't happen there. I didn't find Jesus as Savior in the Catholic Church. I found a lot of rules and a lot of man made ritual that appeared to be more religious control than God centered. There seemed to be too much of the Pharisee influence and not enough of the genuine God worshipers. It actually seemed (to me) that there was more worship of the Catholic Church than of God. If you are reading this as a Catholic, check that. Make certain that you are following the Jesus of the Bible rather than the Pope in Rome. Although the Pope may be a good man (and I'm sure he is), he can't redeem your soul and secure your salvation.

In any event, when I left home for college, I pretty much stopped going to church.
Looking back, I'd say at that point in my life I was in a spiritual wasteland. I did believe in God, but it was pretty much desert out there. There was no fertile spiritual ground and nothing was growing.

But life went on.

I met Chris and she was a born again believer that had been raised in a Southern Baptist Church. At the time we met, she wasn't going to church anywhere. However, finding a church home would be important to her once we got married.

One of her friends was a minister in the Christian Church. One day we were at his church and he gave me a Bible. I still have it. I also owned a copy of The Way (a Catholic paraphrase). I wasn't sure what the difference was at the time, but found a little bit of comfort in each of them.

When Chris and I got married, we did so without a priest at the wedding. Even though it wasn't a big deal to me, it was a huge deal to my family, especially to my dad! Of all of the things that I have done wrong in my life, this is the thing I regret most. I really had no idea how much the Catholic faith mattered to my parents, nor did I have any idea of how much my parents were involved in the Catholic Church. I thought the Bishop went to everybody's house for dinner!

That action had its consequences.
And still, life went on.

After we got married, we moved to Northwest Indiana and I was working for 84 Lumber. We lived very close to Hyles-Anderson College and were a little ways south of Hammond Indiana. One of the part-time employees at the lumber yard was a student at the very conservative bible college. He (David Presson) took the time to talk to me about how I could know my eternal destination by trusting in Jesus as Savior. He walked me down the (now very familiar) Roman Road and showed me my sin, my need and my Savior. The Jesus he told me about was familiar in the sense that I knew about him; I just didn't really know Him! A neighbor of mine and classmate of his (David's) came to my apartment the following day to see if I had any questions about my conversation with David.

On that morning, in the living room of my apartment in Crown Point, Indiana, I trusted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I was baptized at the First Baptist Church of Hammond Indiana on the following Sunday morning. Not long after that, we moved to St. Louis and my real spiritual growth took place in a small South City General Baptist Church under the tutoring of one of my heroes of the faith, a man by the name of Gene Rainwater.  (If you decide to click on his name and read that post, you might want to grab a tissue first. It still brings tears to my eyes.)

It has been a lot of years since then. I have grown a lot, but still have so much more to grow, to learn and to become.

Today, I am a Southern Baptist Evangelist. I have opportunities to preach the Gospel of Jesus in churches around Missouri and in other states. Sometimes I preach as most pulpit preachers and sometimes I use magic and illusion to tell the story of salvation in Jesus. I am still amazed and humbled that God has called me to this ministry and blessed me with the opportunities that He has placed before me.

I am a simple man.
I believe that we have souls that will live beyond our physical bodies.
I believe that there is a God that has created us in His image.
I believe that we will spend eternity in heaven or in hell.
I believe that we are all sinners and that the consequence of our sin is eternal condemnation.

And I believe that Jesus has paid our debt.
He has redeemed our souls.
He has offered us eternal life.

Can a person know if he/she is going to go to heaven or hell?
The answer is, "Yes. You can know."

The Bible says the if you can say with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and you believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.
For it is with the heart that one believes and is justified and it is with the mouth that one confesses and is saved.

That is my story.
This is my testimony.
Questions?

John <><




Monday, February 23, 2015

Quiet time thoughts...

I'm enjoying our afternoon down time on the Monday of the Pulaski Association Evangelism Conference. The typical schedule for this conference is to begin on a Saturday night with an evening of music and worship led by the music evangelists that are in attendance. On Sunday, we are all in different churches within the host Association for both AM and PM services.

Then we meet on Monday and Tuesday mornings from 9:20 - noon, and on Monday and Tuesday evenings from 6:15 - 9.

There is some really good preaching and it is always a grand time of worship led by our music people. Associational conferences like this one are quite rare. In Missouri, it is one of only two such conferences (that I am aware of) that still take place each year. I feel extremely blessed to be invited to participate, year after year.

Churches that hold revivals or crusades are also in decline. In many cases, larger churches feel they have outgrown the need for revivals, newer churches feel that revivals are too old fashioned and smaller churches feel like they can't afford to bring an evangelist in for a revival. While it is hard for me to say if any of these are true or not, I can say that most of us will come if our expenses are covered and for whatever offering is received. We are located throughout the state and many times are close enough that no lodging expenses are needed or can make some arrangements to help cover that.

I really do wish that more pastors would utilize the gifts that are given to those that are called to serve as full-time (or part-time) evangelists. Even if your event isn't a traditional revival or crusade, there are many ways that we can serve your churches.

I am so excited about what will be taking place in the coming year for me. I have already scheduled events for the spring, summer and fall. I have been asked to preach for several revivals and also to provide the message in magic for other church or community events. With the air traffic gig behind me, there is little to get in the way of scheduling events.

In the past, I have not done too many revivals. There may be a number of reasons for this, but one of the evangelists shared some thing in his morning message that I really needed to hear. He was speaking of himself, but what he said fit for me, too.

This is what he said:
"Maybe if people could see more of Jesus when they see me, I'd book more revivals."

Wow!
I think I have some work to do.

John <><


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Warning! Warning! Warning! --Three Warnings for today!

It is strange how we often view the warnings of impending danger.

Apparently, it is our tendency to give greater value to the nearness of the danger than it is to value the intensity of the danger.

For example:
Even though the weather forecasts are often wrong, people will make a mad rush on the stores for bread, milk, and other food items if a severe winter storm is forecast for the coming day. We will heed this warning to the point of major inconvenience now so that we can comfortably endure being trapped in our homes for a short period of time. The threat of being trapped at home with our current provisions is seldom life threatening, but we will still take great steps to avoid any discomfort.

However,
With relative certainty, you can tell people that inactivity and obesity will cause many serious diseases and lead to premature death and they will pretty much choose to ignore that warning and continue on their lifestyle of poor health. (I know. I was that guy!) It will probably take a heart attack (presuming you survive it) or serious health diagnosis (cancer, diabetes, etc.) before we decide to change our ways and begin to live a more healthy lifestyle.
Even though the danger is real and relatively certain, we will often choose to ignore the warnings until the danger is imminent. We will continue to eat crap and sit on our ever widening butts until it is time to pay the price for our indulgences. Then we will wonder what happened and what magic pill can fix our sick selves.

Another case of ignored warning:
Jesus is coming!
His return will be the end of time and we will all face the final judgement.
And even if you believe that will not happen in your lifetime, at the end of your lifetime (which can be any moment) you will face Him and be judged for your life.
I am not a doomsday prophet. I hate it when I hear Christians say that we are living in the end times! The simple truth is that it doesn't matter if we are living in the end times or not. The end of time for any person can be any moment and the time to prepare for it is NOW!

You may get a last minute warning! You may have your brush with death and get the chance to make last minute preparations. You may have a long, drawn out terminal disease that allows you the time to reconcile with God and receive His grace through Jesus.
Then again, you might not!

So while you're picking up some rock salt for your driveway or food for the pantry; while you're jogging on the treadmill or recovering from your Insanity workout -- think about this: How are you preparing for eternity?

It might not be as far away as you think.

John <><

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pulaski Association Evangelism Conference

This coming weekend is the beginning of the 2015 Pulaski Association Evangelism Conference.

I don't know how many years this makes for the conference, but I believe I've been able to attend all but one year of the ten or so they've had.
Saturday night is a dinner and then a night of musical worship led by all of our attending music evangelists. Somewhere around the middle of the program I'll have a few minutes to share a message using some kind of visual illustration. Although I hesitate to use an illustration that does not use an illusion of some sort, once again, this year's Saturday night message will not.

Sunday morning and Sunday evening will find all of the evangelists preaching and singing in different churches throughout the association. We will gather together again on Monday and Tuesday mornings and evenings to hear some pretty good messages and worship together with some good music.

I'll do a little magic on Monday and Tuesday evenings and I get an usual opportunity to preach in the Monday morning session. I am really looking forward to the conference this year. I already have several revivals and events scheduled for the coming year and hope to be able to work with churches from the Pulaski Association, too.

I would encourage other pastors and church staff to consider calling your evangelists for this year's events as soon as possible. Many churches are already booking fall events while others have not yet scheduled spring or summer events. If you have the events on your calendars, you should consider scheduling your speakers at the earliest opportunity.

#GiveEmHeaven

John <><


Monday, February 16, 2015

Good Food for a Cold Winter Night

Normally recipes find their way to my other blog, but I hesitate to put this over there because I doubt that you could classify this as healthy food. Oh, it's good food and I wouldn't say that it is unhealthy, but it does have a lot of fat in the way of cheese and cream.

In any case, I just threw a few things together to come up with my own Chili Verde con Queso y Limas.

1 lb dry lima beans
2 boneless chicken breasts
3 cups shredded Colby/Monterrey Jack cheese mix
1 cup shredded asiago cheese
1/2 cup cream
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup chopped spinach leaves
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 onion (chopped)
2 jalapeno peppers (chopped)
4 Serrano peppers (chopped)
garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper to taste

I did the quick soak on the lima beans, bringing them to a boil in a pot for 2 minutes and then covering them and letting them sit for an hour.

I put the chicken breasts in the crock pot on high with some garlic, chili powder and 2 cups of water.

After rinsing the beans, I moved the chicken breasts and remaining liquid to the pot with a little more water and continued to cook them on med/high heat. The limas went into the crock pot on high with 2 cups of water and 2 cups of chicken broth.

I added the rest of the ingredients as they were ready. (The only reason I added the shredded zucchini is because it was in the freezer for green smoothies!) I added the cheese a cup at a time to let it melt in slowly.

When the chicken breasts were fully cooked, I chopped them up, added them (along with the remaining liquid) to the beans and continued to cook on high for about 90 minutes, seasoning it to taste.

I was pretty pleased with the way it turned out!
If you give it try, let me know what you think.



Bon Appetit!
John <><

Sunday, February 15, 2015

From the Kitchen!

For those of you that don't follow my other blog, you might want to check it out for a couple of pretty good recipes!

Healthy Living (by an unhealthy guy!)

John <><