Friday, November 30, 2012

November in Review

The end of November is finally here!

At the beginning of the month, I decided that I would post everyday at Out of My Hat. I've managed to do that--sort of. On the fourth and again on the seventh, I actually posted twice--once in the morning and then again late at night. I could have scheduled the posts for early the following morning, but opted to just publish them as I finished them. One day (the second) I did post twice. 

That makes this my 31st post for the month.

Reviewing the posts from November and late October, it is easy to see that political posts or posts on controversial social issues generate the most hits. Post that have to do with religion or faith generate the fewest. Although in the early part of the year, religious posts did very well. 
A few people comment on Out of My Hat. A few more on Facebook. Occasionally, somebody will share a post via Facebook or Twitter; rarely via LinkedIn or Google+.

I still find the diversity of my reader group to be pretty amazing. Admittedly, readership has seemed to drop from the beginning of the year. Apparently some have decided that they are no longer interested in the rantings or opinions of an evolving curmudgeon, or those that once read the religious posts have decided that they no longer care for my "religion."

For those of you that are still here and still reading, Thank you!
And thanks for sharing the occasional post or leaving an occasional comment.

I wish that I could promise you that posts that wrap up 2012 and continue into 2013 would be less offensive, less controversial and less opinionated; but that would require me to get somebody else to write Out of My Hat. I will promise to write more often than I did for most of 2012. And perhaps, more frequent posts will generate more varied topics and a greater readership...or maybe not. 

After posting for 31 consecutive days (32 posts), I may just take tomorrow off.
But then again, I may have something to say...

John <><

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Challenge

It's not too many days until Christmas--less than a month.

With the passing of Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season into full swing, the signs of the coming holiday are everywhere. Radio stations are playing Christmas music. Christmas decorations and lights line the streets of the business districts. Homes are sporting the seasonal decorations. Parties and family gatherings are being planned.

It is Christmas time!

For those that recognize the holiday as the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus (that's the Christ part of Christmas), we often lament the fact that so much of the seasonal activities have little to do with the birth of our Savior. Sadly, we are guilty of participating in the festivities while condemning those that ignore the spiritual significance of the holiday.

For the followers of Jesus, I offer the following challenge:

As your conversations turn to the things of Christmas, make it a point to mention the birth of the Christ child. Ask if their family celebrations include celebrating the birth of Jesus. Invite them to your church's Christmas service. Share how you keep Christ in Christmas.

Let us, the followers of Jesus, make the commitment to share the story of Christmas this Christmas season.

Can I get an "Amen" as a sign that you will accept this Christmas challenge?

John <><

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

It's a rare night that I have trouble falling asleep. I really don't know what's up tonight (other than me), but it appears to be one of those nights. As long as I'm not sleeping, I figure that laying awake in bed is a waste of time. I decided that I'd get up and do something for a short while and perhaps sleep will come.

As a sleep aid, I decided to look back at posts to Out of My Hat that come up when I type "Christmas" into the search bar. Wow! There were some good posts. Some of them were a bit repetitive (I guess I should do a quick search before re-writing another similar post each Christmas), but good stuff just the same.

The post that I've had more hits on than any other post was from the first Christmas after I started blogging in 2006. Title was Merry Xmas. Go ahead and click this link to reread it and keep it as my number one post!

I think my favorite one was from the following Christmas season (2007). It's a good reminder to everybody that the season is for celebrating different holidays and in different ways. Be gracious as people wish you "Happy holidays" and accept it as a sincere wish of happiness for you and yours. Oh wait, I don't want to rewrite another post so if you want, you can reread it here. Maybe you haven't been following this post for the past 5 years and it will be a first time read. In either case, enjoy.

Maybe reading my own posts has brought on the necessary drowsiness that I can get a few hours of sleep (4) before the alarm sounds and it's time to face another day.

Be well.
Merry Christmas and Happy holidays!

John <><

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Our Amazing Solar System

I'm a little bit crazy. I know it.
I'm the guy that took a day off work, pulled the kids out of school for a day, and traveled several hours to make a day trip to be within the path of total annularity during the annular eclipse of 1994.
I'm the guy that called home to wake everybody up to view the Leonid meteor shower of 1998 2 in the morning.
I'm the guy that people call to ask about night sky events. They call on their smart phones that can give them expert answers rather than the regurgitated information that spills from the trivia crowded brain matter in my head.

I find our solar system, our Milky Way Galaxy, our entire universe to be unbelievably fascinating. The order of our universe is complex, intricate and beautifully perfect.

This morning I set my alarm clock for 4 AM. I got up, brewed a thermos of coffee and headed out in the 20 something degree temps (F) to find a place where I could view Venus and Saturn rising in the eastern sky. They were just 0.6 degrees apart. That's practically on top of each other, astronomically speaking.

I get that it is not a visually stunning event to witness. And yet, it is a truly remarkable event. The simple science of the planets of our solar system orbiting the sun on the same plane makes these events possible. The order of the universe could not have happened by accident. Nature does not move from chaos to perfect order; it moves from order and deteriorates into disorder.

It is the perfect design of our world, from a single celled life form to the vast expanses of space, that gives testimony of a Great Designer. It is the teleological argument that says if there is a design, there must be a Designer.

I am awed and humbled by the creation of our God. In all of His vast creation, He cares about us; about me. He knows me. He loves me. I can't understand why, but He does.

When I consider your heavens, 
the work of your fingers, 
the moon and the stars, 
which you have set in place, 
what is mankind that you are mindful of them, 
human beings that you care for them?
Psalm 8:3-4

John <><

Monday, November 26, 2012

Who is Jesus? ...and Why Should I Follow Him? (2)

Is Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah?
Is He the appointed one?
The one whose coming is foretold throughout the prophesies of the Old Testament?

We've already looked at evidence that this Jesus really did exist (here). Though there are some varying accounts of the details of his life, there can be no doubt that he did, in fact, live and die in Israel around the time indicated by the gospels of the New Testament.

But is this same Jesus the long awaited Messiah?

There is much that has been written of the messianic prophesies, far more than I could ever read and written far better than I could ever write. There are more than 300 prophesies in the Old Testament that either promise a coming redeemer or tell something about the coming redeemer. Many of those scriptures can be found here.

Some might say that many of these are general in nature and could be fulfilled by any number of people. It many be correct that many people could fulfill many of the prophesies, but how likely is it that only one person is able to fulfill all of them.

Scientist Peter Stoner conservatively calculated the probability of just eight prophesies being fulfilled in just one person at 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. It has been said that if you covered an area the size of the state of Texas two feet deep with silver dollars and had one marked with an X; the odds of a blind man walking along and randomly stopping to pick up one coin and having it be the marked coin would be about the same!

You can see how Prof. Stoner arrived at these numbers here.

Also contained in the article by Dr. David R Reagan are other prophesies and probabilities and some oddities that point to divine revelation. Consider the following:

One of the most remarkable Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures is the one that precisely states that the Messiah will die by crucifixion. It is found in Psalm 22 where David prophesied the Messiah would die by having His hands and feet pierced (Psalm 22:16). That prophecy was written 1,000 years before Jesus was born. When it was written, the Jewish method of execution was by stoning. The prophecy was also written many years before the Romans perfected crucifixion as a method of execution.
Even when Jesus was killed, the Jews still relied on stoning as their method of execution, but they had lost the power to implement the death penalty due to Roman occupation. That is why they were forced to take Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor, and that's how Jesus ended up being crucified, in fulfillment of David's prophecy.
The bottom line is that the fulfillment of Bible prophecy in the life of Jesus proves conclusively that He truly was God in the flesh. It also proves that the Bible is supernatural in origin.

Though it would appear, even to a casual reader, that there is a great deal of evidence that supports that Jesus is the indeed the Messiah, each of us gets to decide for ourselves what we will do with the information. If Jesus is the Messiah; if he is the Son of God; if he is God--what then?

What does His life and death mean for us? What are we to do with this information? How can it be that a God that is great enough to create the whole of the universe cares about each of us as individuals? Or does He? Is our God a god that desires to have a personal relationship with His creation?

Those are questions we'll address in another post. For now, who is Jesus--to you?

John <><

Sunday, November 25, 2012

How would they know?

Most of the people that know me, know that I am a follower of Jesus. Most know that I am an evangelist. Being a "Christian" is who (or what) I am.

However, I wonder just how long it takes people to figure that out. How well do people need to know me before they discover that I am a disciple of Jesus?
Do I guard that part of my identity?
Do I want to get to know people before I open up and share my belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior?

Evangelical Christians believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven. We believe that until one confesses Jesus as Lord and believes that God has raised Him from the dead, they are condemned to eternity separated from God. (That's the evangelical sugar coating for going to hell.)

So now the question becomes, "How well do we need to know somebody before we care enough to tell them about Jesus and give them an opportunity to receive His gift of salvation?"

Are we hard enough that we are comfortable to stand by while the people we meet are going to hell? Wouldn't we warn a complete stranger that was getting ready to step into traffic of the danger coming his or her way? Our world is littered with warning signs. Our cars warn us if are about to drive without our seat belts fastened. We are warned when a floor is wet and may be slippery. We are warned if we are approaching a high voltage area. We are even warned that coffee is hot.

We are warned of all sorts of impending dangers. Has anybody ever warned you that you can't get to heaven on your own? That saving yourself or being good enough to gain access to heaven is impossible? Jesus taught that He is the only way to the Father.

Maybe you've never really thought about it before. Maybe you would consider that since life is uncertain, examining the possibility of heaven and hell should be something that you undertake at some point -- before it's too late. If there is a heaven and hell, it might be a good idea to examine what it takes to get into one and to stay out of the other.

A short while back, I posted about the historical person of Jesus. Next up is examining if Jesus is the Messiah. Is Jesus the Son of God? Did he come to save us? And what will you do with the information that we examine?

Sounds like a good pre-Christmas topic.
More to come.
Have a great day.

John <><

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Black Friday: What does it cost us?

I know that there are many Black Friday shoppers that make a sort of weird sport-like event of the day. For some, the long waiting in lines or strategic planning of which stores to hit when has become a family tradition. Even before this year's early start on Black Friday with retailers starting door buster sales as early as 8 pm on Thanksgiving day, the big shopping day had a way of encroaching on the family celebrations of Thanksgiving.

Okay, so let's just say that I'm not a shopper. I can't say that I've never been out early on a Friday morning to get a good deal for a Christmas present; I have--twice that I can recall, and both times it was before Black Friday became the crazed, crowd trampling event that it has turned into today. Today, I can't think of an item that I would stand in line for hours to buy--at any price. 

And even if the deal saves a couple hundred dollars, is standing in line while others are enjoying family, food and friendship worth the savings? And there are those low wage retail employees that don't get the chance to participate from the shopping/saving side of Black Friday; they are there to serve the greedy masses.

I think the whole thing is pure madness.

But then again, I know that there are not too many people that would drive nearly 4 hrs to get to the ballpark 2 hrs before game time so that you could watch bp, stay for a 3+ hr long baseball game and then make the return drive home (after making the traditional post-game stop at Ted Drewe's)--all after having worked the midnight shift the night before and grabbing a few hours of sleep before starting the day long adventure. 
And yes, I've done that.
More than once.

So I guess we all have our crazy things that most other people don't understand. We'll enjoy those times with the crazy people that are complete strangers, but share our passions. We'll shake our heads in wonder and confusion at those that have their own crazy ideas of good times (like joining frenzied shoppers on a holiday) and somehow, we'll manage to survive in a society that makes room for all of us.

If you are one of the millions of crazy shoppers out there this weekend, well...I think you're crazy. But have fun doing your crazy thing. Be nice to the poor clerks that have to deal you and the others like you. Treat other crazy shoppers with respect and courtesy. Remember, they're one you.

And if shopping isn't your thing, maybe we can meet at Ted Drewe's next spring after a Cardinal baseball game...

John <><

Friday, November 23, 2012

More on Thanksgiving (part 3)

This post wraps up the re-posting of last year's thankful list from November.
I don't want to give the impression that I didn't have anything to be thankful for this year.
2012 has been a great year.
Chris, Hannah and I had a great vacation near Tulum, Mexico in May.
We've been able to spend some time with Aaron and Jenny.
I had some part in four different camps this past summer as well as opportunities to share the gospel at several churches throughout the year.

...And I am eligible to retire! To avoid tax penalties and still be able to get at my thrift savings plan, I may have to continue working for a little bit longer, but it is nice to have the eligibility under my belt.

There are many things that I seem to take for granted every day. There are even people that I take for granted. I'm sorry for that. I need to be more aware of everything and everybody that blesses me each day. Perhaps listing things that we are thankful for only during the month of November is more shallow than it is meant to be. Do we continue in our gratitude for one more week and then go back to being the ungrateful people that we are the remaining eleven months of the year? Maybe we just need to make "thank you" a more frequent part of our vocabulary. Maybe we need to make thankfulness more of an attitude of our hearts.

This was my post to complete last year's list.

This year I'd like to leave the list open. I'd like to add to it ... often.

As for this post, I'd like to close by thanking you for stopping by to read Out of My Hat from time to time. Thanks for leaving your comments and thanks for sharing Out of My Hat with your friends. If you care to follow me on social networks, I'm here on Facebook, on Twitter @magicianary,and here on LinkedIn.

However you choose to celebrate the coming holidays, I wish you well. May your days be filled with love and joy.
And may God smile on you as he has on me.

John <><

Thursday, November 22, 2012

More on Thanksgiving (part 2)

After a good meal, I'm just spending some quiet time before cleaning up the kitchen.
It's been a good day.

Here is the list of my next 10 things from last year's post.

I hope that you have had a great day, too.

Be thankful.

John <><

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

More on Thanksgiving ...

Yesterday I was driving past one of Springfield's all you can eat buffets that was advertising its hours for its Thanksgiving Day buffet. It brought back memories of a Thanksgiving long ago...

Chris and I (this was pre-kids days) were invited to have Thanksgiving dinner with friends and their family down in the boot-heel of Missouri. Since we had been planning on dinner with friends, we didn't have any holiday type food at home. On Thanksgiving Day, Chris was sick; too sick to make the trip from St. Louis south and too sick feel like being around people. By evening she was feeling a little bit better and wanted a traditional holiday meal. We ended up at one of the few restaurants still open on Thursday evening--yep, Thanksgiving Day dinner at Shoney's!

It's all about the memories.

Here are my first ten thankful things from last year's post. If you've just been following Out of My Hat since last Thanksgiving or if you just feel like the reread, enjoy.

John <><

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Re-runs

It's getting late in the day and I have yet to offer my post of the day. I've been reading (with many of you) the days of thankfulness statuses of friends on Facebook. Last year I skipped the daily posting and wrote several posts to cover the month. I thought about doing the same this year, but after reading last year's posts, I think I'll just provide links to those. They are still pretty good posts.

If you are a long time reader, fell free to skip to something new and interesting. Maybe you are fairly new to Out of My Hat and I invite you share in my Thanksgiving memories.

This first re-run was written the day after Thanksgiving 2007. Wow! Five years ago ...
... and I'm more thankful than ever!

Give thanks!

John <><

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Weekend in Review

I hope that you all had a great weekend!

I started my weekend by getting a little bit of raking and burning of the leaves in my back yard. The discouraging thing about the leaves are that there are still many more leaves on the trees. These crazy oaks will hang on to their dead leaves until a strong wind tears them loose or the new leaves of spring push them out.

I made my first burn pile relatively close to the house so had to keep it small. I'm going to plant a small garden there and thought the ash would be good for the soil. I'll have a little bit larger garden plot on the other side of the yard. The trick is in finding an area that gets plenty of sunlight and is flat enough that I don't have to do too much work level it off.

I wrapped up Saturday evening by going out for sushi with Chris and Hannah and then coming home to watch UFC 154. I probably should have made it to bed before midnight since I knew that my 4 AM alarm was going to make it a pretty short night. Never-the-less...

Sunday morning I was up, showered, packed my stuff and on the road by just after 5. The drive was about 5 hrs when you factor in a midpoint stop for a sausage/egg biscuit. Shelburne Baptist Church is one of many small, extremely rural churches that dot the Missouri landscape. It was very friendly and welcoming and I enjoyed my morning with them. After lunch, I managed a little bit of free time before making my way to the BSU on campus. While others were busy making dinner preparations, I found a couch in a back room and took a short (30 min) nap. Then it was just a matter of waiting on the students.

Dinner was at six. I made my presentation and was on the road home around 7:30. I made it home just before midnight.

As always, I enjoyed the opportunity to worship with followers of Jesus and to share the Good News of God's great love for us. I was able to encourage other to share the gospel with their friends and families and left them with the same challenge that I always offer.

I offer it to you as, as well.

Tell somebody, "God loves you," and "Jesus died for you!"

Have a great holiday week!


Sunday, November 18, 2012

On the Road

Giving myself a pass for today. Actually I'm up one post for the month anyways.
I'm heading out to preach at Shelburne baptist in Trenton MO this morning and will be at North Central Missouri College this evening. That's about 10 hours of drive time, one service, one dinner and show (with about 6hrs in between) before I'm home again.

John <><

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Moving On ...

The GOP machine continues to play the blame game in trying to determine what went wrong and how Gov. Romney lost the election so badly.
Romney blames the gift giving promises of Pres. Obama and the voter/takers for the loss.
Red states are petitioning for secession.
The President says that Gov. Romney's financial plan was rejected by the voters and feels some kind of electoral blessing to implement his plan.
The GOP controlled House says they retained majority status to keep the President from implementing his plan.
We are a divided nation.

After months of political ads, debates and campaigns; after billions of dollars being spent on buying votes and favors, we are back to where we started. Certainly, there have been some subtle changes; a few more Democrats in the House, some new faces in the Senate, but essentially we're back to a Republican controlled House, a Democratic controlled Senate and a Democrat in the White House.

Did we learn anything positive from the past four years or do we continue to nothing for the next four? Do the extremes of the parties hold enough power to continue in an all or nothing negotiating posture where nothing gets done or can the reasonable members of the parties finally step up and recognize that compromise is going to be the way to solve our nation's financial woes?

It's time for our representatives to move on.
It's time to get out of the campaign mode. It's time to stop politicking for the next election. It's time to just do what needs to be done. It's time for our representatives to do their jobs.

And it's time for us, the voters, to hold them accountable.

John <><

Friday, November 16, 2012

Men of Reason: Where have they gone?

Have you ever looked at your list of Facebook friends and wondered where some of them came from?

Recently, one of mine sent me a message asking how we knew each other. The truth was -- we didn't. I know that he and his wife were referred to me by a mutual friend of Filipino heritage. This mutual friend was trying to help me connect to my own Filipino heritage.

Today, we met for coffee.

Part of what prompted the meeting was a note asking about our political differences in the presidential election aftermath. It was nothing confrontational or anything, just curiosity of what motivates somebody to vote democratic over republican. I enjoyed our chat.

As we talked about our differences without getting mad, offensive or defensive, I wondered what has happened that we no longer seem to be able to do this simple thing in Washington. We were just two men that shared our political, social and economic philosophies with each other and respected the other's opinion even though we may not have been in agreement. All-in-all, I don't think that we were too far apart. He is more center-right; I am more center-left.

I think that we were in some agreement that our two party system has moved to the extremes of the parties and that our representatives are more concerned with representing their parties than they are with representing their constituents. They can either vote the way they are told to vote or they can go home. None of their legislative proposals will be heard. They will get no good committee assignments. They will get no help running for re-election. If they won't follow the party line, the party will replace them with somebody who will.

I am sad that there is still so much political posturing going on about the impending fiscal cliff. I'm wondering if we are going to see a repeat of the earlier waiting until the last possible moment before kicking the can down the road again. The only reason we are here today is because our legislators didn't do the job set before them in the past. This isn't a cliff; it's a pit of our own making. It seems like a huge waste of time and resources to dig this gigantic pit so that we can now build a bridge over it or negotiate our way around it. For most reasonable people, it would have made more sense to to start the bridge building years ago.

But there's that word again -- reasonable!

Perhaps the few new Senators and Representatives can bring a little voice of reason to their respective parties. Perhaps they can talk like problem solving citizens instead of political puppets. Perhaps they will realize that they don't owe allegiance to the parties, but to the people. Perhaps men and women of reason will be heard.

But I doubt it.

Pray hard.
Preach the Word.
Make friends.

John <><

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Returning to Northern Missouri

Hopedale Youth Project Eternity (HYPE) took a little break from our study of teens in the Bible and I got to share a few optical illusions and talk about deception--mostly self deception. It's weird how we can deceive ourselves. I mean, how can we lie to ourselves and be convincing enough that we believe the lie to be the truth? When you put it that way, it sounds impossible. And yet, we are skilled enough that we do it quite often. We also talked about following Jesus; about being disciples and about making disciples. It was a little bit of a continuation of Sunday's Bible study lesson.


This weekend will find me travelling north to Trenton MO once again. I'll be spending Sunday morning at Shelburne Baptist Church and Sunday evening at the Baptist Student Union (BSU) on the campus of North Central Missouri College.

Sunday evening will be the Thanksgiving dinner that the BSU puts on every year and will be the third time that I've been asked to come and entertain and share the gospel with the students that come to dinner. Even though the day is a long one (9+ hrs of driving, morning service, evening dinner and several hours in between), I always enjoy the interaction with the students. Besides, I would drive a great distance for the opportunity to preach on any Sunday--anytime.

It's always nice to be asked back to a venue. Of course it does mean having to come up with some new effects to share. On the plus side of that, it's only a two year college so the audience rotates through quickly. I'm sure that at least one person will have a fun time (I always do)!


I will get back to the apologetics next week. I think that I'll make that a weekly topic on sharing why you can trust what the Bible tells us about God, Jesus, heaven and hell.

John <><

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Under the Weather

I don't know if it's fall allergies or if I've moved to a sinus infection/cold. In any case I'm definitely a bit under the weather today and not in much of a mood to keep up with the daily blogging for November.

So I'm going to give myself a pass on writing today and just share a couple of sources for the phrase "under the weather" with you.

I've always enjoyed finding out how phrases and sayings came to be so here are just a couple of possible origins for "under the weather."

site one
site two

Back at it tomorrow.

John <><

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Who is Jesus? ...and Why Should I Follow Him?

I suppose that it is fair to address those two questions before we ever get around to discussing the things that Jesus taught. If we are not first convinced that there was such a person as the Biblical Jesus of Nazareth, we certainly are not going to get very far discussing the teaching or authority of what is perceived as a fictional character.

It is fair to ask if there are any ancient texts other than the Bible that give evidence of the life of Jesus. The answer is a resounding, "Yes!"

Even without looking at specific texts, we know from the history of Rome that the followers of Jesus were slaughtered in the Colosseum as entertainment for Nero and the citizens of Rome. If this Jesus never lived, a lot of people died for nothing.

Okay, you can say that many people can be caught up in false teachings and false prophets and these delusional Christians truly believed in the imaginary Jesus. After all, still today there are many that think of God as imaginary.

So, is there evidence outside of the Bible that testifies that Jesus was a real person and did the things that the Bible (and His followers) claims He did?

Fortunately, once again, the answer is yes.

Probably the earliest writing (and the best preserved writing) is from a Jewish slave to a Roman officer and later servant of Caesar Dominitan. Flavius Josephus wrote Antiquities of the Jews and is considered to be an authority on Jewish history. In addition to this writing, there are nine other (ten total) non-biblical texts from non-Christians written within 150 years of the life of Jesus. By comparison, there are only nine that mention the Emperor Tiberius.

The Quran, written 600 years later, also refers to Jesus. But the Muslims do not believe in the divinity of Jesus, only that he was a prophet to the Jews to direct them towards the future prophet Mohammed.

Lee Stroebel's A Case for Christ and Norm Geisler's and Frank Turek's I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Athiest are two good reads that cover evidences of Jesus and his fulfillment of Biblical prophecies.

The evidence is strong that the person of Jesus existed and even that he performed many miracles.
Next we'll take a look at the divinity of Jesus.

John <><

Monday, November 12, 2012

Go ... Make Disciples

Yesterday's youth group Bible study was centered around the final command that Jesus gave in Matthew's gospel; the command to make disciples.

I think the main problem among evangelicals today is that we cannot teach the things that Jesus taught unless we know them, and we cannot know them unless we are first disciples ourselves. Too often, we claim to be "saved" by Jesus but we have no designs to become students of his life and teachings and therefore, we are unable to fulfill his command of making disciples.

I offered a challenge; an opportunity to the young guys in our class. I offered to study the life and way of Jesus with them in a personal way. Whether we actually meet or work through studies via e-mail, Facebook or some other venue, we will look at the things Jesus taught in his stories, sermons and way of life. I know that Sunday School is supposed to fill that purpose, but let's be honest -- it's pretty light and only for an hour per week.

Fair warning: Many of those lessons may find their way to Out of My Hat.

I'm going to encourage my non-believing friends to continue to read these posts for two reasons.
1) Jesus taught some good stuff.
Even if you choose not to follow Him as Savior and Lord, you can learn a lot about how to live peacefully with fellow human beings.

2) I think that Christians often get this backwards. We tend to want people to choose to trust Jesus as Savior and then we'll teach them the things he taught. I think that if we will just teach Jesus and his ways (make disciples), the Holy Spirit will move in their hearts to bring about true followers.

Have a great week.
Share the simple message -- "God loves you" and "Jesus died for you."
...and study to teach the deeper messages of the Bible; become a disciple of Jesus.

John <><

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lazy, Dreary Sunday Afternoon

It's raining in the Ozarks this afternoon.

It feels like a good day to do ... well, nothing.

I've sent Veterans' Day texts to my Navy brother and Army National Guard (retired) sister and called my dad (Navy). Thanks to any of you readers that have also served in our country's military forces.

Now I'm just putting off working on rearranging the garage clutter so that I can actually get my car into it before the winter sets in. I also have the continuing project of getting all of my magic stuff into place in my room in the basement.

I have also been inspired to make a deliberate effort and regular writing--not just blogging, but writing articles, short stories, devotionals, maybe even a start towards that book that is fighting its way out my head. I always come away from our monthly writers' meetings thinking that I need to write more. This month it's a little bit different, though.

Our guest speaker Ethan Bryan, author of Run Home and Take a Bow, really managed to paint a different picture about writing. For him, writing isn't something that he likes to do as much as it is something that he has to do. It is his calling. I think that I've been ignoring the fact that there is a God given need to write that also resides in me. It's been buried under the things of what I want to do and what I have to do. You have those things, don't you? Things that you are putting off for the day when you have the time for them? Maybe it's time to make the time for writing. I guess that means less time on Facebook and Twitter. I guess it means less time watching mindless entertainment on TV. I guess it means that I need to make good use of the time that I no longer spend watching baseball (only 140 days until Opening Day 2013)!

So in addition to publishing daily (at least for Nov.) here at Out of My Hat, I'm going to work on just writing. We'll see where that takes me.

What is your calling?
Have you been putting off the thing that is inside of you and is struggling to get out?
Have you been telling God, "I don't want that gift. I'm not going to use it?"

"I guess it comes down to a simple choice really -- get busy living, or get busy dying." Shawshank Redemption 

John <><

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Today is our monthly meeting for the Ozarks Chapter of American Christian Writers.

These monthly gatherings of committed writers always inspire me to write. I've been trying to force myself to publish something every day this month here at Out of My Hat. It may not look like I'm actually writing every day since I sometimes write in the morning one day and then late at night the same day for the following day's post. I know that I can schedule each post to appear at a set time, but I usually just hit "publish" when I'm finished writing.

Today is a cheap post.
I'm just taking the day off from the post election rantings as I join the rest of the country in a collective head shake and sigh as we watch the posturing begin anew in our nation's capital.

I'm sure that readers of Out of My Hat are also readers of various other blogs or internet news sources so you have probably read countless articles analyzing the successes and failures of the various campaigns, as well as the breakdowns of the voters and the effects of the billions of dollars that were spent on advertising.

In any case, we can rejoice that the political ads are history, until the next time...

Moving on to more pressing matters: the holidays are upon us! Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day. It is a festive time of year and we ought to set aside the things that divide us and enjoy the food and festivities of the season.

Deer hunters are in the Missouri woods this weekend. I wish you all success in thinning the population so that I don't have to make a personal contribution to the effort by hitting one with my car. Be safe, friends.

I'll leave you with a link to a song from the latest CD from my friends at Calling Glory. (I've been listening to them as I write.)
John <><

Friday, November 09, 2012

Clowns to the left of me; Jokers to the right...

Now that the 2012 elections are over and our duly elected reprehensitives head back to DC to continue with the ever maddening partisan gamesmanship, is it time for the reasonable Americans that find themselves center-right, center-left or pretty much in the middle and without representation to form a solid, moderate third party?

I'm not talking about a fringe element of the left or right like the Tea Party. I'm talking about an organized party of reasonable thinking, define the problem/find the answer kind of citizens; the kind of people that are willing to put the good of the country above party controlled agendas.

There are Independents that fit the bill, but the problem with Independents is that they are ... well, independent. They go to DC and then have to chose whether to caucus with the Democrats or the Republicans and are very limited in what their small, reasonable voices can do to influence the power of the larger party.

What if centrists (still with extremes of center-right and center-left) could come together enough to oust the extremes from both sides and actually--what's the word I'm looking for here--oh yeah, govern!
How cool would it be to actually have legislators that legislate, executives that execute and enforce that legislation and judges that judge?

I know that there are many of us that feel stuck in the middle without a representing voice in DC. We aren't liberal enough to feel comfortable with many of the views of the Democrats and aren't conservative enough to go along with the Akin/Mourdock/Walsh/Ryan anti-science, govern by my religion philosophy of legislation. If we cannot find reason within the two parties, I say it's time to forget trying to reform them and it's time to replace them.

Unfortunately, I have no idea how to go about bringing on such a political revolution. There has to be somebody with the same thoughts that can unite those of us that are political centrists into an organized movement of citizens that will speak for the real majority of Americans. If you think that is possible; if you think that is necessary then share this post far and wide. Let's begin a moderate movement that can break the gridlock that impedes the governance of our great land.

John <><
(Share it with your representatives, too. Maybe it will stir them towards getting something done.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A Final Word of Encouragement

There have been many posts that deal with the outcome of Tuesday's election. Some have been thoughtful and encouraging. Many have been negative, angry and hurtful. There have been posts from sore losers and poor winners.

The most troubling ones have been the posts from Christians that seem to face the future with a sense of fear and doubt. How can children of the King be hopeless?

The letter that follows was written to encourage a small group of friends and is posted here with permission. I hope that it also encourages you.

John <><

... just wanted to send along some encouragement for you today and this week.  Last night, I was keeping track of folks' comments on Facebook as I watched the election results unfold.  Like you, my heart was filled with swells of both expectation and sadness throughout the evening.  

     I don't know how you voted yesterday, nor do I really care.  What I do know is that I saw several of you voiced your displeasure at the results of the election.  I saw frustration bubble over into rage at what was taking place.  And, quite frankly, I saw some hopelessness in your posts.

     Personally, I share many of your concerns and fears about the direction that our country is heading.  Right now, my head is spinning over the idea that recreational marijuana and gay marriage has been legalized in a popular vote of the people in certain states.  I'm reading the writing on the wall, and when I hear the media state that the way that I believe is no longer mainstream and that issues like these have become "civil rights issues," I get worried.  I don't completely understand how some people feel the way that they do racially, and I wonder if my own kids and grandkids will feel the same way about me and my beliefs about homosexuality someday.  I fear that they will one day have to deal with people calling them bigoted because of their Bible-based beliefs.

      Let's be clear:  President Obama is not the problem.  Democrats are not the problem.  As Christians, we know that we are in a constant battle with the principalities and powers of darkness.  Our concern should not be directed towards men... they are fallible, weak, and many times self-serving.  This is true not only of politicians, but ourselves as well.  If we look really deeply into our own hearts, we'll see the struggle between the "old man" and the "new man"... between the flesh and the Spirit.

     But, I promised encouragement, didn't I?   Like I asked Sunday night:  do we believe that the Bible is true?   Completely true?   That God's promises apply to us just as much as they did to those that we read about?   If so, here's the encouragement:

"The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of them that trust in Him shall be desolate." (Psalm 34:22)

"Behold, He that keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps." (Psalm 121:4)

"I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust ate..." (Joel 2:25)

"The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next.  Everything in creation is being more or less held back.  God reigns it in, until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead.  Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens."  (Romans 8:19-21, MSG)

"Their Redeemer is strong; the Lord of Hosts is His name.  He will fervently plead their case so that He might bring rest to the earth."  (Jeremiah 50:34)

"No, in all things we have been made more than conquerors through Him that loved us.  And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from God's love.  Neither death nor life, angels nor demons, or fears for today nor our worries for tomorrow... not even the powers of Hell can separate us from God's love."  (Romans 8:37-38)

These verses represent literally just a fraction of the words that God speaks to us in times of concern and worry... He promises that He will be our strength for a new day.   He says that we will mount up with wings like eagles.  If we truly believe that His Word is true, verses like these should fill us with hope.   Hope not held in a man, or a country, or a government... but hope held in the One Who holds the world in His hands.  Last night didn't take God by surprise and, make no mistake, things will get worse before they get better.  There is an endgame to all of this, after all.  But the One Who spoke this world into existence also dwells within us, granting us peace and hope to face what is thrown at us.  We talked Sunday night about the fact that God WILL give us more than we can handle in order to draw us back to Him.  It is my prayer that we as Christians will begin to truly seek God's face and turn from our unrighteousness, that He might be glorified.

     So, truly pray for President Obama... he carries a weight on his shoulders that none of us can fathom.  Truly pray for our leaders, that they would seek Jehovah God in all that they do and dictate.  And pray for yourself, that you will have the strength to strive to walk closer to Him today than you did yesterday.   Know that I love each of you, and because I care about you, I send you these tidings of hope and joy.

     I found this song ( ) on my iPod as I drove into work today... it seemed appropriate.  If you choose to listen to words, let the promise of God being sovereign wash over you.

Election Day: It's not what you think

One last comment about election day--
Okay, so it's probably not my last comment about election day, but then again, I'm not talking about a political election.

I'm talking to my fellow followers of Jesus and encouraging them to be certain of their election.
Read this short passage from 2 Peter 1:5-11.

Did you get that? Look at the qualities that Peter tells us to add to our faith: goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love. He says that possessing these in increasing measure will keep us from being unproductive and ineffective in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus.

Then he tells us to be certain of our calling and our election.

Are you a follower of Jesus?
Does the fruit of your walk give testimony of your following?
Are you giving verbal testimony (saying that you're a follower) but not living a life that demonstrates that you are actually a follower of Jesus?

From time to time I encounter people that will realize that they are not really followers of Jesus. They have said that they are. They really want to be His followers. But self examination leads them to the conclusion that are not and never really have been a follower of Jesus.

So, I'll ask again--Are you a follower of Jesus?
Would you like to be?

Call me. Text me. Send an e-mail. Leave me a comment.
Eternity stands in the balance.

John <><

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Playing Church: A Change of Heart

I've said it myself.
I've heard others say it.
It's always said with a tone of frustration or weariness.

It sounds something like this -- I'm just so tired of playing church.
We say it like the environment at church has something to do with our state of being.

Have you ever said that?
Have you ever felt that way?

I understand that any community of people (including a local church) has issues of politics, leadership, finance, etc. Some of that can be frustrating. Some of that can distract us from God and distract us from our relationship with God. I can understand that frustration and have been in that place.

But as I've thought about this, I've decided that it is really just a matter of perspective. When I'm at church on any given Sunday (or Wednesday night), it's fair to ask, "Why am I here?"

If I am there to worship, or there to teach--then doing those things is not playing church. If my walk outside of church is less than it should be, then maybe I am playing church. Or maybe it would be better if I called it playing Christianity. Fixing the issues that surround the frustrations of what the "church" is or isn't doing is not going to solve my frustrations. Only fixing the the issues of what I am or I am not doing will solve my frustrations.

As the church provides for corporate worship, bible teaching, wholesome fellowship and opportunities to minister, we have to bear the responsibility of doing our part. Our part in following Jesus has to continue beyond the church doors. If we aren't taking responsibility for our own Bible study; if we aren't taking responsibility for sharing the Gospel; if we aren't about faithfully following Jesus -- then we are responsible for just playing at our Christianity.

Just playing church?
Yeah, I need to stop that.
Pretending to follow Jesus?
Yeah, I need to stop that, too.

There are people with physical needs -- food, clothing, shelter, jobs. Maybe we can help some of those people. That would be following the teaching of Jesus.
There are many more people with spiritual needs -- prayer, encouragement, salvation. Sharing the Gospel of God's love and salvation, being there to minister to them and meeting their physical and spiritual needs are the callings of the followers of Jesus. Are we going to be followers? Or are we going to go to church so that we can pretend to be followers?

I, alone, am responsible for how I follow/worship/honor God.

John <><

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Facebook Wisdom

You and I both know that there is a great deal of information and misinformation that finds its way to the grand social medium of Facebook. Sorting through the piles of manure to find the gems of truth is a daunting task. Fortunately, one of my Facebook friends has done the hard work for us.

He posted this as his status and gave me permission to copy and paste it to my status. In giving his permission he said, "Copy, copy, copy away. I hope it gets a million hits."

I few others have copied it and posted it as their status but it deserves to be read by many more people.
To make it easier for you to share, I'm posting it here at Out of My Hat. You can simply share this link so that everybody can benefit from the wisdom that he has gleaned from the postings on Facebook.

Thanks to Facebook, I now feel very well informed as to the issues our nation faces and the basic differences between the big parties are very clear. So the summary of what I have learned is: If I vote for the one guy we will have no jobs, outrageous debt, become slaves to China, get nuked by Iran, dissolve the military, ban God, Bibles, and guns. Have all our problems instantly solved by raising 
taxes on a handful of evil rich people. People will have children just to abort them. The nation will be secretly run by Islam. George Carlin will be the smartest person to have ever lived. Gas prices will remain at record highs, but the earth will heal. The government will decided who gets to see the doctor and who doesn’t. Academic and financial achievement will be capped because everyone needs to be average. If you work you will have to support 100 who don’t. Terrorism will be defeated with warm smiles and free hugs.
Then there is choice number two. All the poor people will die instantly because there is a huge advantage to keeping the poor people poor. The rich will be, well, rich and pay less in taxes than a secretary. Birth Control will be illegal and Row V Wade will be instantly dissolved somehow. My black friends will be placed in chains. All women will be raped. Schools will collapse. Student loans will be outlawed. College will be a rich kid’s game. People will not be allowed to have abortion because we need more children just to make more soldiers to steal more oil. The earth will collapse because one more pipeline will connected to Canada. The nation will be secretly run by Salt Lake City. Gas will be $.87 again. Detroit will fall off a cliff. Starting a business is like becoming a slave owner. Grandma’s social security will be stolen to make more nuclear weapons. Banks will collapse, but not Swiss banks, because that is where this guy keeps his money.
But no one will do anything about illegal immigration, because they need that Hispanic vote to win.
What a world we live in. Happy voting, Tuesday.

John <><

Christmas 2012

It is difficult to believe that Christmas is just a couple of days more than seven weeks away. I've noticed the local Christian radio station has already started playing Christmas music.

I think that it's odd that they will be playing primarily "Christmas" music for the next eight weeks when they always play songs about Our Lord and Savior. Throughout the year, they never play secular songs, but during the Christmas season they will play seasonal songs like Frosty the Snowman, Winter Wonderland, White Christmas, etc. Not a big deal--just an oddity.

Each year, we have this great opportunity to share with people of all backgrounds and beliefs the reason for celebrating Christmas. For the next 50 days, let's be very mindful of the opportunities to share the reason for the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

John <><

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Decision 2012

For anybody that is still undecided about which candidate they will vote for in Tuesday's Presidential election, I want to share these two interviews that were done by Ed Stetzer and published on his blog.

The first is Why Vote for Governor Romney and the second is Why Vote for President Obama.

I hope that you find these to be informative.

John <><

Friday, November 02, 2012

Getting to the Polls

As we enter into the weekend prior to election day (and to the end of this cycle's annoying political ads), I hope that everybody (that hasn't already voted) is making plans to get to the polls.

Several weeks ago, I requested to have Nov. 6 off at work. I've done this to make myself available to help people get to their voting places. If you live in Southwest Missouri and know of somebody that needs a ride to their polling place, have them contact me. They can leave a comment here, send me an e-mail, or give me a call.

In spite of the fact that Missouri is primarily a red state and I'll probably be taking people that will vote in opposition to my own vote, my main objective is to get people to the polls. Since I don't know if there will be anyone that wants to take advantage of this offer, it would help if any requests would be made at the earliest opportunity. I prefer to avoid the peak times (early morning, lunch hour, evening) but will be available all day.

Pastors, if you have people in your churches that need a lift, give them my number. Facebook friends, do you know of somebody that needs a lift? Put them in contact with me.

Let's all get out and vote.

My prediction is that either President Obama or Governor Romney will become the President of the USA.
Either Senator McCaskill or Congressman Akin will become the Senator of Missouri.
... And God will remain on His Throne.
Those that vote against Romney, Akin or any others like them will not burst into flames and be condemned to eternal hell fire (at least not for their vote).

Maybe we can re-learn good manners and treat people with differing opinions with respect. Maybe we can learn to ignore the hateful vitriol that the politicians and the political spin doctors spew (and will continue to spew) on a regular basis.

Whether you view your vote as a civic duty or an incredible privilege, please vote.
We are the USA
...and that's what we do.

John <><

Non-partisan Disaster Solutions

The past few days have shown many pictures and clips of President Obama and Governor Christy working together to take care of the Superstorm Sandy destruction.

In the aftermath of 9-11, both parties came together to work together to rebuild NYC and to direct our military efforts in retaliation to the enemies of the USA and those that harbor them.

It is clear that we work well when the citizens of our country are facing a crisis, whether by natural disaster or by attack of an enemy. I'm just wondering how long it will be before our elected representatives will realize that we are facing an economic disaster when it comes to the ever increasing National Debt. It is a crisis that is worthy of non-partisan solutions.

I want to point out that I have purposely used the term "non-partisan" instead of "bi-partisan." I want to see us solve our debt crisis as Americans rather than as Republicans and Democrats. I also want to clarify two terms that are often used interchangeably when that are not interchangeable.

The deficit is the difference between what we spend each year and what we take in. It is the amount we borrow to meet our extravagant spending habits. It what increases our total debt. Even though the deficit has decreased in recent years, the simple fact that we continue to spend more than we take in means that the debt continues to increase. To pay down the debt, we have to eliminate the deficit.

To eliminate the deficit, one of three things has to happen.
We can spend less.
We can earn more.
We can use some combination of the two.

I really hope that our Congress will work together after the elections to work for all Americans. A part of me believes that if President Obama is re-elected, we stand a better chance of getting things done for the simple reason that there will no longer be a reason for the partisan crap that would keep him from re-election. I'm afraid that if Gov. Romney is elected, the Democrats in Congress will pull the same obstructionist garbage that the GOP has been doing for the last four years and we would continue in our debt spiral.

Sometimes you just want to slap those people and tell them to grow up! They act like junior high kids fighting over who is the most popular kid in the school. It's too bad that our representative are more interested in representing their parties than they are about representing their people.

Maybe Gov. Christy could help President Obama bring the parties together and work the budget as if it was a natural disaster. It may be entirely man-made, but it is a disaster just the same.

John <><

Thursday, November 01, 2012

October 2012: Recap

October 2012 was a good month!

It's always a little weird as I head into the fall months from a ministry perspective. For the past several years it's been well into the summer and my fall calendar was still pretty blank. Then the calls for a revival and a couple of other events roll in and I end up with a fairly busy fall.

This year was no different. I taught an afternoon class on sharing your faith at an Ozark church (OHC), had a weekend event at the end of September in Piedmont MO, a week long revival in nearby Cape Fair, a Trunk or Treat event in Lamar, and wrapped up October with a family event at Springfield's South Haven Baptist Church.

In all of these events, I was privileged to be able to tell people of God's love and how He has provided salvation for those that trust in Jesus. There were professions of faith and commitments to share the gospel story.

Cool, huh?

In addition to the ministry stuff, I've managed to drop a few pounds and get back to a healthier lifestyle. I'd like to keep it up and lose through the holidays. For now, I've got the right mental attitude and that's always the key for my success. I've also got a brother that is checking up on me and encouraging me along the way (thanks, Steve).

And even though I only manged five posts in the month of October, I think I've managed my way through the writing blahs and can get back to posting more regularly.

November begins with an event of great family pride: my youngest brother will receive his Commission as an Officer in the US Navy today. My youngest sister (Ret. Indiana National Guard) will be there to present his first salute.

Congratulations, ENS. Hill!

John <><