Saturday, November 28, 2009

An Invitation

I know--the last thing that many of you need is one more blog to read. But since I have a new one that I'm following, I wanted to share it with you.

Bible, Baseball, Burgers and Bar-B-Que--it sounds like something that I'd write, doesn't it? Actually, it's written by my son, Aaron. In the About Me section he writes, "I like the Bible. I like baseball. I like burgers. I like Bar-b-que. The number of things I like more than these four "B"s can be counted on one hand."

I'm looking forward to reading the insights of a young man that is preparing for the ministry. I'm a bit jealous that he gets to more ball games than I do. I don't mind that he's a better (and more adventurous) bar-b-que cook. I share in his quest to find the ultimate burger and look forward to hearing what he is learning from the Bible.

Follow along with me and see what kind of blog this becomes...

John <><


Friday, November 27, 2009

A Gift For the Holidays

This morning, Black Friday in America, I will avoid the mass madness of the gift hunting crowds and give a gift to some very needy person. During the holidays, those that have cancer will continue with their chemo treatments and will continue to have a need for blood platelets. Many people that are having surgeries will need blood, and the accident rate from the many highway travellers will be on the rise as well as the associated blood need. Unfortunately, it is also a season that donations often drop.

It's an easy give to give. Take a few moments over the next few weeks and stop by your local Red Cross or local blood bank. A unit of platelets will take an hour or so, a unit of blood will only take a few minutes.

John <><

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


While the date, time and place of the first Thanksgiving can be debated, and the thanks that we give can be to our God, to some imagined being or to no one in particular (yes, even atheists celebrate Thanksgiving and give thanks--although I'm really not sure that I completely understand this); it should be noted that when President Lincoln made the declaration that the United States would set this day aside to give thanks, it was to give thanks to the Almighty God that had blessed and watched over our country.

We had been embattled in a great civil war. Many of our young men had given their lives on both sides of the conflict. And yet, our country--these United States of America--had endured.

This is the proclamation that set the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. (It was changed to the fourth Thursday in 1941.)

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

-- Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, 3 October 1863.

John <><

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Price vs. Value

It's odd how some things can cost little and yet have great value and other things can be very expensive and mean little to us. I guess it's because the price is set by the seller and the value is set by the receiver. Perhaps I find myself dwelling on these things now because it's the time of year when we are all looking for great deals at the stores and the stores are gearing up for the really big sales on "Black Friday" and leading all the way up to Christmas.

Each December, the Ozarks Chapter of the American Christian Writer's Association has a Christmas/Winter reading meeting. Our regular monthly meeting becomes a time for writers to share a Christmas or winter themed story/poem/prose that they have written. I didn't participate in last years reading (although I did the monthly devotion using this story) but have decided to write something this year. Of course that means having to write something for Christmas...

As a procrastinator of great reputation, it goes against my nature to begin this writing project so early--the meeting isn't for another three weeks. But I have this idea that is already rolling around in my head (and there is lots of room up there for things to roll around!). I wish that I could just say it rather than having to write it down--kind of like the way I preach. Once I've read the Scripture, studied the background, organized the thoughts in my head and said it to myself over and over, I generally preach from the overflow of preparation and trust in the Holy Spirit's guidance, using few (if any) notes. It's just like telling a story.

So I still have to put this together in order to get it onto paper, but here are my thoughts on the price of the Greatest Christmas Gift verses the value of the Gift:

In my heart, I know that all of Christendom celebrates the birth of the Christ-child on December 25th, hence the name Christmas. I know that we also think of this Child as God's great Gift to mankind. Today we know that this Jesus, born in Bethlehem, will one day become the sacrificial lamb and shed His blood on our behalf. At Easter we will think of the suffering and sacrifice that the man-Jesus endures in our place. Somehow we always miss the sacrifice that the God-Jesus made at His birth. Maybe it's because we see it with the eyes of the receiver of the Gift. Let's try, for a moment, to see the Gift through the eyes of the Giver; to recognize the cost of this great Gift. I think that we may find the sacrifice at the birth of Jesus was a far more costly gift than the sacrifice at the Cross. Of course, they both go together. One without the other is of no value to us.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote that Jesus, having the nature of God, set that aside and took on the nature of man.

Think about that for a moment. He lowered Himself from the High Throne of God to dwell with humans--as a human! He set aside the characteristics of God and took on the characteristics of man. In a moment He went from being Omnipresent to being confined to the finite boundaries of the human body. The once Omniscient God would have to learn as a child learns. And the All Powerful, Omnipotent God of the Universe would become utterly powerless. He would experience hunger and be unable to feed himself. If he wanted fed, he would have to cry. If he was cold, he would have to cry. When he soiled himself and needed to be changed, he would have to cry. (It's kind of hard to think of Jesus with a dirty diaper...I wonder if it stunk?) If he just wanted to be held by his mom...God would have to cry.

It boggles my mind.

I know that the thirty plus years that Jesus spent as a human are nothing in all of eternity, but to Jesus the man--it had to have been thirty long years.

If we can tell how much a person cares by the gift they give--the thought that goes into it, the cost to the giver, the time and preparation, the presentation--then we can know that God loves us. Paul writes that "...God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

I think that we could also say that God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ became one of us. He was perfect and without sin but became sin for us. He took our punishment--our death-- so we can live.

There is never a question about the cost of a gift. Oh you may be able to find a bargain or haggle with the seller over the price but once the gift has been purchased, the cost doesn't change. that's a different story. The value of a gift is determined by the one receiving the gift. How much do you value the Gift of Christmas? Will you set it aside and not give it a second thought? Will you want to take it out and show it off? Will you be willing to share it with others? Would you be willing to just tell somebody of the wonderful Gift that you've been given?

I know that it's bad form to inquire of the cost of a gift. So let me just tell you--your gift was expensive. What you do with it; how you value it, is up to you.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Merry Christmas,

John <><

Friday, November 20, 2009


I heard this Bible verse used earlier this week-- Psalms 109:8. It was used in reference to President Obama and was used by a pastor in a meeting of mostly pastors. As usual, I just hung my head and shuddered at the ignorance that seems to pervade otherwise intelligent beings and moral men and causes them to say the most stupid, hateful things.

Sadly, these things aren't out of their own devotional readings of the Scriptures, but come from the loud mouthed radical right that are more interested in political victories than in the promotion of righteous behavior and the "love your neighbor" parts of the Bible. As stated in this video, I should have said something to call attention to the incorrect and hateful use of the Word of God.

Please, Brothers in Christ, let us not allow this kind of misuse of God's Word to continue. It's not funny. It's not holy. It's not right. And it's not what Jesus would do.

John <><

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I have mixed feelings about posting this link. On the one hand, it's embarrassing (we're not all like that). On the other hand, it's kinda funny.

Anybody that's gone to church for any length of time or listened to a variety of preachers, has heard somebody take some Scripture out of context and build a sermon around it--but this guy really takes the cake!

John <><

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sharing the Joy of the Holidays (yes I said Holidays)

It is the Holiday Season! Already we have received numerous catalogs and sale ads that proclaim, "Just in time for the Holidays!"

Along with all of the wishes for "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings" come the seasonal complaints from Christians that that are offended by the use of "holiday" instead of Christmas. We'll say things like, "It's not a 'holiday tree' it's a Christmas Tree." We'll protest and boycott stores that have "holiday" sales but feel good about getting a good deal at a "Christmas" sale. I know that I've posted of these things in the past.

This year I want to offer a new alternative to the usual complaints:

How about we just smile and say, "Thank you...and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!" We don't have to be smug or condescending. We can (and should) be absolutely sincere in our wish for there happiness and well being. At some point we're going to have to face the fact that WE are the minority--and we shouldn't be surprised. Jesus told us that road to destruction is broad and the way is easy. He also said that the road to life is narrow; the way is hard and few will find it.

How about we just share some love this year? What if we become peace makers and men (and women, of course) of goodwill? What if we bear glad tidings of Good News? I think that we could have a great Christmas Season and maybe help somebody else to have a truly meaningful Christmas, too.

There may even be an opportunity for a quiet moment and private conversation that you can ask somebody, "Why do you celebrate Christmas?"

Don't be surprised if you hear that it's a time for celebrating with family and friends or that it's mostly for the kids or any other reason. You may even run across somebody that celebrates the pagan holidays surrounding the winter solstice.

You can put them on the defensive by telling them that they're wrong and that the real reason for the season is the birth of Jesus or you can just tell them that the reason you celebrate is to recognized that "...God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
You can ask them, "Who is Jesus to you?" Listen to their answer. They are not wrong--you didn't ask them, "Who is Jesus?" You asked them to tell you who Jesus is them.

You can even ask if you can tell them who Jesus you.

I know that not all of my readers are Christians--some don't even believe in God. To all of those that do not celebrate this season as a recognition of the great love that God demonstrated in the little town of Bethlehem (and later on the Cross at Calvary)--I wish you a happy holiday season. I truly wish that you and your loved ones enjoy the time that you have together and the festivities of the season. I also wish you a peaceful and prosperous new year. And it is my prayer that you will come to know the God that loves you and the Savior that died for you.

To my Christian readers and friends--Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Go and tell the story. Tell it in your homes. Tell it in your churches. Tell it to your friends. Tell it to your neighbors. Over and over, tell the story: God loves you...and Jesus died for you!

John <><

Just for Fun

I picked this up from my blog-friend, Mike. While the title of this post says Just for Fun, there is plenty of truth here so pay attention!

Guys Rules For Women
At last a guy has taken the time to write this all down. Finally, the guys' side of the story. We always hear "the rules" from the female side. Now here are the rules from the male side. These are our rules!

1. Men are NOT mind readers.

2. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

3. Sunday sports. It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.

4. Shopping is NOT a sport. And no, we are never going to think of it that way.

5. Crying is blackmail.

6. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one:
Subtle hints do not work!
Strong hints do not work!
Obvious hints do not work!
Just say it!

7. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

8. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

9. A headache that lasts for 15 months is a problem. See a doctor.

10. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 Days.

11. If you won't dress like the Victoria's Secret girls, don't expect us to act like soap opera guys.

12. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.

13. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

14. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

15. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

16. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.

17. All men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

18. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.

19. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," We will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

20. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

21. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine...really.

22. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as baseball, the shotgun formation, or golf.

23. You have enough clothes.

24. You have too many shoes.

25. I am in shape. Round IS a shape!

Thank you for reading this. Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight. But did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping.

Enjoy the weekend--

John <><

Friday, November 13, 2009

Now What?

Last week a man found himself in court because of a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) offense. It wasn't his first. The judge fined him and took away his driver's license. The very next day, this same person gets drunk and then gets behind the wheel of a car. He drives (at about 80mph) into traffic that is stopped. The young man that was in the car that was hit suffered severe head trauma and after a few days was removed from life support and died.

Perhaps there will be a day when the young man's family will hear of a life that was changed from the organs that were harvested from their loved one--sight from his eyes, a better quality of life from his kidneys or life itself from his liver or heart. Today there is just grief and the unanswerable question--How did this happen?

It is now obvious that the drunk driver cannot be allowed the freedom of choosing to break the law and driving drunk. He needs to spend the rest of his life without access to a car. I don't care if he gets drunk everyday ... in prison--but he needs to be sentenced to life in prison for taking this innocent young life.

My heart breaks for the family and friends of both of these men, but especially for the ones that will be burying their loved one this weekend.

John <><

Life is short and we have no promise of a tomorrow. If you were to find yourself standing before God today, and He asked you, "Why should I let you into My heaven?" --How would you answer? Could you give evidence of a perfect life?

The Bible tells us that we've all sinned and that the price of our sin is death--eternal separation from God. The Bible also tells us that God has given us a gift: Jesus has paid our debt--He died for us. To accept this gift of eternal life, you must believe that Jesus is Lord and profess your belief before God and man. As always, if you have questions or wish to discuss these things, my contact info is in my profile.

Monday, November 09, 2009

'Til Death Do Us Part

Last night there was a wedding at our church. It was not the first marriage for either the bride or the groom. This is not a judgment on them or on anybody that has been through the tragedy of divorce...just John thinking out loud (so to speak).

In the morning service, we heard of four couples that celebrated anniversaries this past week. A young couple--their seventh, and the twelfth for another couple. Then came an older couple celebrating number 50 (sorry guys, but if you're celebrating number 50, you're an older couple!) followed by friends celebrating number 62!

Wow! 50 years together! 62 years together!

What is it that allows one couple to remain faithful for all that time--to continue to love one another and stick it out through the hard times, and others to set aside their lifetime promise? I'm not wondering about why people get divorced--those reasons are often obvious. I'm wondering why (or how) people stay married. Is it as simple as keeping a promise? Is it as simple as loving and forgiving mistakes? 62 years--there had to be many times that this couple could have given up on each other and society would have shaken its head and went on without a second thought.

I wish that I could say that it's because they are committed Christians (they are), but we've all known committed Christians that get divorced--even ordained ministers. Is it just that that generation had different moral standards? Maybe, but divorce in nothing new (we find it in the Bible). I wish that somebody would share the secret of a successful lifelong marriage. I know that it can't be simple...or easy. If it was, we would all have long successful marriages.

Chris and I are at 28+ years...a far cry from 62. If you have a comment to help us make it the distance, please share it.

To the Langstons (50) and the Georges (62)--I tip my cyber hat to you! Congratulations to the four of you and my God grant you many more years together!

John <><

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Paybacks are a ... Blessing

It's been almost two years since I wrote a post about a friend that went out of his way to help my son when he had some car problems and was away from home. Today it's time for payback.

It will come as no surprise to those of you that have been reading for a while--I'm a big fan of intercessory prayer. I believe that God hears us and honors our prayers when we pray for one another. I also believe in name dropping. Just as I would desire that you pray for me by name, I think that there are benefits when I pray for others by name.

For example: you may often include in your prayers a prayer for our military personnel that are fighting overseas. I think that this is a worthwhile prayer--but I'm sure that if you have a friend or relative that is deployed you would mention them by name. I know that many Christians have a list of people that they pray for on a regular basis. If you are one of those people (or if you would like to start a daily prayer list) I have a couple of names for you.

Justin and Jarrod Bridwell are sons of my friend, Brian. They are both Marines that are heading to the Middle East. I know that Brian and his wife must be extremely proud of their sons. I also know that they will be praying hard for them over the coming months. Here's the thing--I've already told Brian that his boys will be in my prayers. I'm asking you all--my blog readers and Facebook friends--to put them on your prayer lists as well. It's a small thing to ask of you. It's a small thing to ask of God. It's a big thing to Brian and his family to know that there are many Believers presenting the names of Justin and Jarrod Bridwell before the throne of God every day. If you have family in the military service that you would like for me to include in my prayers, feel free to post their names in a comment.

For my friends in the USA, we live in a great country. We owe it to our service men and women to honor them with our prayers. All of them have somebody at home that misses them and worries about them and is waiting for their safe return. So if you think of it, when you offer up a prayer for Justin and Jarrod, remember their mom and dad, too.

John <><