Friday, March 29, 2013

Thinking Ahead...

It's Good Friday.
It turned out to be another beautiful day in the Ozarks. Spring decided to make a brief appearance as the temps made into the 60s and the sun managed to break through the overcast clouds that had been forecast for the day.

I know that there are many Christians that are honoring the day by remembering the suffering and death that Our Savior endured in our place. And I know that Sunday will be a day of celebration. But in thinking ahead, I'm wondering what Monday will hold. Will it be back to life as usual? Will the majesty of the resurrection be gone until next year? How many opportunities to tell the marvelous story of God's love will we waste in the days that follow?

Will be like the followers of Jesus in that first week after the resurrection--hiding and afraid to let others know the truth that has been revealed to us? In the modern day Christian world, we don't have to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus' followers were told (by Jesus) to wait for the Spirit to come. In seven weeks, we will remember that day--Pentecost Sunday. In the weeks that followed Pentecost, the small band of 120 followers of Jesus grew to thousands of followers. I'm just wondering what could happen in our community if we prayerfully prepared for Pentecost Sunday (May 19) and expected the Holy Spirit to pour himself into our lives and our churches and our communities with a great movement of God.

I wonder if we would prepare ourselves to boldly proclaim the truth of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts, words and lives with the love to lead others to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. Can you imagine pastors preaching in the public squares of our lands and thousands of people coming to know Jesus? Can you imagine individuals, filled with the Holy Spirit telling friends and neighbors about what Jesus has done and believers being added to the church daily?

I'm wondering if the believers at Hopedale would be willing to pray with me for fifty days that the Holy Spirit would once again empower His people to greatly influence the world around us for the sake of the Cross.
I'm wondering if other followers of Jesus that read these words would join with me.
Would the Holy Spirit empower us once again?
Would we see people being added to the kingdom daily?

I know that we don't have to wait.
I know that the Holy Spirit lives in the lives of believers today.
But I also know that we have largely ignored the power of the Spirit in our lives and in our churches.

We need a fresh touch from God!

This will be my prayer plan for the seven weeks following Easter. Would anybody care to join me?

God loves you.
Jesus died for you.
And he died for your neighbors, too. Will you be the one to share the Good News with them?

John <><

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Out of the mouths of babes...

There are times when somebody's innocent question or comment has a way of clarifying our thoughts and positions.

One of the things that preachers have said (repeatedly) over the years that has bothered me is the description of the Father and Son relationship being severed as Jesus takes on the sin of a wicked world and dies on the cross. Jesus cries out in anguish (and in fulfillment of the Scriptures), "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!" (Psalm 22:1, Matt 27:46, Mark 15:34)

In explaining this picture, I have often heard this description (or something similar):  The Father, unable to look on the sin that Jesus has become, literally turns His back on the Son.

I'll admit that part of what bugs me about this statement has nothing to do with theology and simply has to do with the misuse of the word literally. Since God doesn't really have the physical properties that we often assign to Him, the proper word to use here is figuratively, not literally. peeve.

While the above description may serve to explain what is taking place, it doesn't take into consideration that both Father and Son know what is going to happen in the end. God (Father, Son and Spirit) knows that the substitutionary atonement of Jesus' death on the cross is necessary for our salvation and that the resurrection will soon follow. Jesus knew it and mentioned it on several occasions. He told his disciples that it had to happen. The Father knew it. God is omniscient. The Plan was never to forsake Jesus and leave him to suffer our eternal fate of condemnation. He would live again--for all eternity.

At the end of Sunday morning's service, I went back to a man that was visiting. Earlier, he had told me that he grew up in the Catholic church but hadn't been to a church in more than thirty years. I went back to thank him for coming and to let him know that if he had any questions, he should feel free to ask them. He responded by saying, "I do have a question."

His question forced me to to realize that I also had a problem with the above scenario. Why did God turn his back on Jesus? Why did Jesus think the Father had forsaken him? They knew what was going to happen, right?

One of the things that we tend to forget about Jesus is that aside from being divine, he was also fully human. While the Divine Son of God knew that he must face crucifixion, the man Jesus cried out for another way. The man Jesus understood that the will of the Father would be satisfied, but the dread of the physical suffering that he was about to endure was great.

Even though we talk about the pain that he endured, we tend to think of Jesus as God and not as a man. We tend to give him the strength of God and not the frailty of man. The scenes from the movie The Passion are brutal images of the scourging and the crucifixion. The suffering that he endured is unimaginable for us. The pain of the cross was so extreme that a we use a whole new word to describe it--excruciating.

Make no mistake about it; Jesus--the man--suffered greatly on the cross. Would he cry out as he faced the end? Would you? Would anybody? When we think of the brutality of the cross, we would also do well to remember that the pain, agony and death of the cross was ours to face--not His. The Bible tells us that He became sin for us. He took on our sin and gave us His righteousness. He died our death.

Yes, the plan from before time began was that He would be raised from the dead; that He would live.
Yes, Jesus knew it.
Yes, the Father knew it.
But in our sin, in our guilt, in our death; Jesus was alone.

Perhaps you have never considered that you are a sinner and eternally separated from God; that you can never be good enough or work hard enough to earn your salvation. Your guilt can only be satisfied in you dying the death that Jesus died--alone and eternally separated from God; or by accepting that He died for you. Accepting that He exchanged your sin for His righteousness. Jesus says that if we will repent--stop living for ourselves--and turn to Him, we will have eternal life.

If you need some information; if you have some questions of your own, please feel free to ask. You can comment with your question and ask to keep it private if you want. My e-mail and contact info can be found in the "about me" section to the right.

Remember, my reading friend:
God loves you.
Jesus died for you!

John <><

Monday, March 25, 2013

Note to readers

Sorry to say that I have re-installed the word verification feature on the comment section of this blog. I removed it a while ago because I know that it can be a bit of a pain and I figured that I've been moderating comments since I first started blogging several years ago.

However, I've been getting quite a bit of spam comments. It's odd that they all seem to target a few select posts, some of them from years ago. Never-the-less, it is several per day and more than enough to convince me to put the filter back on.

Please comment just the same and I apologize for the inconvenience of doing so.


Surprising Information on Bible Sales

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised at the recently released information about the most popular translations of the Bible in the United States. I have to admit that I am a little surprised (and a little disappointed) by a couple of the statistics.

The top ten according to dollar sales for 2012

1. New International Version
2. King James Version
3. New Living Translation
4. New King James Version
5. English Standard Version
6. Holman Christian Standard Bible
7. New American Standard Bible
8. Common English Bible
9. Reina Valera 1960
10. The Message

The top ten according to unit sales for 2012

1. New Living Translation
2. New International Version
3. King James Version
4. New King James Version
5. English Standard Version
6. Common English Bible
7. Holman Christian Standard Bible
8. New American Standard Bible
9. Reina Valera 1960
10. New International readers Version

I am both surprised and disappointed that the King James Version (KJV) remains at the #2 spot for dollar sales and #3 for unit sales. I realize that there are still many traditional churches that insist on using the KJV but really don't understand why somebody would choose to use a translation that uses the English language of 400 years ago, especially when we know that there are better translations available.

I am pleased to see the Reina Valera 1960 in the top ten. This is the most popular of the Spanish translations. As the US becomes a home to more first language Spanish speaking peoples, it's good to see they are buying (and hopefully reading) bibles.

I am also a bit disappointed (but not too surprised) that the Revised Standard Version--Catholic Edition (RSV-CE) isn't listed among either top ten list. I know that there are Catholics that read their Bibles regularly, but as a rule, it is not something that has been greatly encouraged in the Catholic Church.

Personally, I like the English Standard Version (ESV) at #5 on both lists. I also use the New International Version (NIV) on a regular basis and use a Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) New Testament as a give away when sharing the the gospel story.

Do you have a personal preference?
Do you have a daily reading plan or time that you set aside to read The Word?

I hope that you will take the time to read through the story of the week that leads up to the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus this week. It is a grand story--the greatest story ever told!

John <><

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Timely Re-run

It's a week before Easter Sunday so I thought I would re-run a post from several years ago. I know that there are a number of new readers here at Out of My Hat due to the expansion of different social media forums.

Some of you may remember the Easter Cookies. For those that don't, here is the link.
Enjoy (and let me know if you try these).

John <><

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Rats! I'm becoming one of those people...

I'm afraid that my recent neglect of blogging has been in part due to my new toy -- a smart phone.

I have been skipping time with the laptop and getting online info from my phone. Unfortunately, posting to my blog from my phone is not a pleasant experience. I'm either going to have to go back to bringing my laptop to work for my breaks or just deciding to spend the time to sit down and write.

The good news is that I am still able to follow all of you other bloggers and keep up with your regular posts.

I am going to have to make the effort to not become a person that is so attached to the world through his phone that it becomes on of those gotta have at all times kind of things. So far it's not too bad. Recently, I found myself on an airplane and realized that I hadn't even downloaded any games that I could play without an internet link! Smart phones apparently work better for smart people!

I have corrected that oversight and downloaded a few other apps, as well. I have to say that one of my favorites is the YouVersion bible app. A few months ago, Pastor Terry mentioned that there really is no good reason for most of us to not be reading our bibles daily; that with smart phones and tablets, we can have our daily bible reading at any time. Pick your plan, pick your translation, read daily!

I (of course) have the social media apps a few games and several that were on the phone that I don't use.

What are your favorite apps? What apps would make my life easier? Which ones will make me smarter?
I know that I am greatly under-utilizing the technology that my phone offers--and I'm okay with that. I'm certain that I'll learn as I go and as others share their experiences and knowledge with me. Until then, I'm going to be cautious about over-using my phone and becoming dependent on AT&T for all of life's most recent updates.

John <><

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Completely Irrational

Happy Pi Day!

Pi is probably the most well known of all irrational numbers. Since it begins with 3.14, March 14th (3-14) is often referred to as pi day.

For those that are not into mathematics (rational or irrational), an irrational number cannot be expressed as a ratio of numbers.
For example:
2 can be expressed as 2/1 and is a rational number.
4.5 can be expressed as 9/2 and is a rational number.
Even .33333333... (3 repeating) can be expressed as 1/3 and is a rational number.

Irrational numbers never repeat as a decimal number and cannot be expressed as a fraction (a ratio of numbers).

From one site on irrational numbers comes this story:

History of Irrational Numbers

Apparently, Hippasus (one of Pythagoras' students) discovered irrational numbers when trying to represent the square root of 2 as a fraction (using geometry, it is thought). Instead he proved you couldn't write the square root of 2 as a fraction and so it was irrational.

However, Pythagoras could not accept the existence of irrational numbers, because he believed that all numbers had perfect values. But he could not disprove Hippasus' "irrational numbers" and so Hippasus was thrown overboard and drowned!

And I thought I had some tough teachers!

John <><

Sunday, March 10, 2013

St.Louis, Schlafly Bottleworks, Iron Barley and more...

I'm phone blogging again this morning. We'll see how it goes.

I'm up ahead of the rest of the gang and enjoying a Starbucks Americano while they get that missing hour.

Aaron and Jenny are here from Chicago. Hannah managed to break away from college. Chris and I are here with Jenny's parents and her niece. Eight in all, the whole gang.

We met for lunch at the Schlafly Bottleworks. For those that are distressed that this is a brewery,  check out the menu on their website. (I'd link to it, but haven't figured that out on my phone, yet.) Wow! What a great meal!

After an afternoon of visiting and spending time in the hotel pool, we headed out for dinner at the Iron Barley in South City. This place would've fit the "Dives" category of the Diners, Drive Ins and Dives show that it was featured on. We we're seated in the "Underground" which means the basement.  You go outside, around back, through the kitchen entrance (the back door), and down the concrete stairs to the old basement converted to a bar with a few tables and a small area for a two man blues/bluegrass team. Between the owners, workers and clientele I felt like we had stepped into a backwoods biker bar.

Holy smokes! This was some of the best food ever!  We will definitely be back to this place!

We finished the day at Ted Drewes and then visiting some more at the hotel. We'll visit some more today and then we'll each make our way back to our normal lives. I think the eight of us have consumed enough food to feed a small village.

It's been a good weekend.  Time to wake 'em up and enjoy the kids for a few more hours before they leave for home and school.

Have a grand day.
John <><

Friday, March 08, 2013

The Ministry Month in Review

It has been a little while since I've sat with the intent to write a meaningful post. This post won't mean much to most of you, but it helps me to keep things in perspective as life tends to hurry by.

Typically winter is a slow time in my ministry programs. That's okay, we all need those times to reflect, retool and recharge our areas of ministry. From time to time I have the opportunity to perform a magic program for a Valentine Day dinner at a church, although it has been several years since I've done this. This year I received three calls for the same Saturday night!

Pastor Jim Erwin won the first call contest by contacting me through LinkedIn, a social network for business contacts. This was my first booking made through LinkedIn! And although I have served with Pastor Jim in the past, this was my first trip to the First Baptist Church of Washburn MO. I hope to be able to serve there again in the future.

The following Saturday night found me in Buckhorn MO at the First Baptist Church of Buckhorn for the annual Pulaski County Association Evangelism Conference. I shared the message of salvation through the use of illusions on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday nights. I was at two of the association churches on Sunday morning and Sunday evening and shared a message about telling others about our wonderful Lord and Savior, Jesus. I had an opportunity to reconnect with some of the evangelists that have greatly encouraged me in my ministry and to hear them preach great messages during the four day conference.

On the Thursday of the same week, the ReFRESH conference in Branson MO was taking place. I missed the Thursday evening session, but made it for Friday's morning and afternoon sessions. I had some things to get done before flying to Chicago on Saturday, so I also missed the Friday evening session.

Saturday I flew to Chicago via Atlanta and had a wonderful conversation with a fellow laborer in the Kingdom--but that's a story for another day.
On Sunday morning I shared the message in magic with the kids from Holy Trinity Church in Chicago. I stayed with Aaron and Jenny and had a nice visit.
On Monday I was able to attend the church's weekly Chicago Plan meeting.  I have always been thankful for the church's ministry to Aaron and Jenny and the way they are helping him in developing into a pastor/servant, but seeing this part of the discipling first hand has given me a greater appreciation of the work that HTC is doing in developing the next generation of leaders in our churches.

And any trip to Chicago is going to include some great food! I did enjoy the awesome Chicago Dog, Polish Sausage and Italian Beef sandwich that the Haymarket Pub and Brewery served. No, I didn't have that all in one visit, after Aaron and I had lunch there, we had to make Jenny happy by going back for dinner!

Tuesday, I arrived home in time to get to work and finish out the work week.
The week also included a lunch meeting and evening business meeting in our own Tricounty Baptist Association to complete the work of calling a new Director of Missions.
Tomorrow, we're off to St. Louis for the weekend to meet with the kids (Hannah, too) and have a day to relax a little bit.

Right now, there seems to be a lot of things going on that would indicate that the coming year will be filled with ministry opportunities. Maybe that forced day off every pay period from the government's sequestration will end up being a good thing for me.

God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Too Busy To Write

It's been a few days since returning home from my weekend event in Chicago. I know that I need to write about several of the things that happened on my trip, but early morning after a mid (and with a full day ahead of me) isn't really the best time.

I'll get to that soon enough.

I'm still trying to figure out blogging on my phone. The last post didn't post with paragraphs like it was written. I think I have that figured out, but it wouldn't surprise me if I just have to go post it and then edit from my computer later.

I'll keep working at it and try to fire off a post when I get a break on the mid tonight.

No promises, though!

John <><

Monday, March 04, 2013

Mobile Posting Today

I'm getting used to my Samsung Galaxy S3 and writing my first post on it while waiting on Aaron. We're at the Lawndale Christian Fitness Center. Aaron was telling me about this church run center and all of the ways that the Lawndale Christian Church ministers to the community around it. This is a church that is really sharing God's love with the people living in the neighborhood. Too often we find ourselves thinking of mission work as something that takes place in a far away land. This view often causes us to miss the needs in our own little corner of the world. _______ It's now time to turn in so I can catch my early morning flight. I've had an enjoyable day with Aaron and Jenny. I'll write more about my trip when I have a real keyboard in front of me. John <><

Friday, March 01, 2013


So here it is--March 1st!
Looking back, I see that I didn't do a very good job with regular posting in February. Oh well. That's behind me now.

I've spent the past week getting re-energized. Last Saturday through Tuesday I was at the Pulaski County Association's annual evangelism conference. It was great to get to meet with my old friends and fellow laborers in the Kingdom. Just hanging out with these men of faith gets me pumped up about sharing the Gospel. Listening to them preach and receiving their encouragement is enough to really get me fired up.

I spent today in Branson MO at the ReFRESH conference.
WOW!!! Some serious motivation going on there!

Aside from the great speakers and music, I received encouragement from several of the contacts that I made during the day. I got to meet a few people that I have been in contact with through Facebook, talk with some pastors that I haven't seen in quite some time, hear reports of great ministry that is going on at some of our Missouri college BSUs and how other ministries around the state are thriving.

Although the conference is geared towards reviving, refreshing and encouraging pastors, a small time evangelist like myself also found great energy and encouragement.

All in all, it's been a grand week.

I'm still struggling with some low back pain from muscle spasms. Unfortunately, the position that seems to aggravate it most is sitting. Muscle relaxants have helped a little, but keep me from going to work. I'm not looking forward to the time I'll be sitting tomorrow as I make my way to Chicago for a Sunday service with Holy Trinity Church Chicago.

I'm certain the discomfort of travel will be nothing next to the joy of serving with Aaron, Jenny and the HTC leadership to make their annual all church service a big day for the Kingdom work in Chicago. And I'll have a couple of days to visit with the kids before I head back home.

To all of my fellow pastors/preachers/evangelists, preach hard this weekend. There are souls that are counting on you to be sharing the love and the truth of the Gospel.

John <><