Friday, February 27, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But life went on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is my story.
This is my testimony.

John <><

Monday, February 23, 2015

Quiet time thoughts...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think I have some work to do.

John <><

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It might not be as far away as you think.

John <><

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pulaski Association Evangelism Conference

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

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

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

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

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


John <><

Monday, February 16, 2015

Good Food for a Cold Winter Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bon Appetit!
John <><

Sunday, February 15, 2015

From the Kitchen!

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

Healthy Living (by an unhealthy guy!)

John <><

Friday, February 13, 2015

Writers are Readers, Right?

One of the pleasures of a little more leisure time is having the time to read.

In the coming weeks, I hope to post about some of the books I'm reading (or have recently finished) and perhaps get some suggestions for reading material, as well. In recent years, I haven't been much on works of fiction other than an occasional read from one of my author friends. I've been leaning more towards books on apologetics, health, science and other works that are more about learning than about escape. I am certainly not opposed to works of fiction; I just haven't given much of my limited time to it, recently.

I'm in a constant battle with myself over time spent reading articles in my social media news feeds and time spent reading more worthwhile stuff. Not that there isn't worthwhile material on the news feeds, it's just that you have to sort through so much crap to find it.

It might be time to sort through my Twitter account and eliminate accounts that I follow like I did my Facebook account several months ago. The truth is that I scroll past many of the posts without ever really checking them out. I am learning from them, though. I do find that I'm more likely to click a link that has a picture than one that just has an address link. So...I guess I should include pictures if I want people to click on my posts!

Currently, I am beginning to read more as research for my own book. I don't have any self imposed deadlines and am not particularly motivated to be in a hurry to get anything published. I'm more interested in just moving in the right direction ... and to keep moving, even if it's slowly.

I'll spend more time with you later. Right now, there are books to be read, other posts to be written and life to be lived!

Have a grand weekend!
Be well,

John <><

(I just added the bookshelf pic for the link!)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"God told me to..." and other things I hate to hear people say.

I hate to use the word hate, but sometimes I can't think of another word that really describes how I feel. I guess I could say that it really disturbs me when..., but I feel like that is its own kind of PC/patronizing kind of phrase.

Maybe I'm just jealous that God doesn't speak to me in such a clear voice that I can say, "God told me..."  I have certainly prayed over situations and felt that God was leading me in a certain direction. I have shared in sermons and posts things that I feel that God has revealed to me as I read the Bible. But I can really only think of one time when I felt the confidence to say that I heard God speak to me about a matter that I was praying about.

When a politician says that God told him (or her) to run for office, what do you say when you lose? That God didn't say you would win? That the hundreds of thousands of dollars of others people's money spent on your campaign was for your personal growth? That God was defeated by ungodly people at the polls?

When God tells you to quit your job and move to another city and it doesn't work out, was God wrong?

I know that we often go through hardships that make us stronger and prepare us for things to come. I believe that God uses our past to help us in the present. I know that I have no understanding of God's ways nor knowledge of His plans. I know that I have misread God's instructions and direction in my own life as much, or more than pretty much everyone I know. Maybe I need to have more faith that God really is speaking to me and my decisions are not clouded by my desires.

Okay, so I'll concede that maybe I just don't understand how somebody can be so certain that their actions are by God's command. I'm still going to find it difficult to place a lot of trust in that person, but I'll relent from my hatred of the phrase.

I was going to go on about a few other things that bug me, but I'll save those for another post.

I should mention that there are things that God does clearly tell us. He commands us to love Him and to love one another. He commands us to tell others about his love and grace. Best of all, He tells us that he loves us!

Whether or not God spoke to me in an audible voice or through his Word, I do believe that God told me to tell you that He loves you and sent his Son, Jesus, to die for you.

John <><

Monday, February 09, 2015

Fat, Dumb and Happy

Fat, dumb and happy -- a phrase generally used to describe someone that is oblivious to the situation around them and goes about their life as if there was nothing wrong.

It's unfortunate that I have harshly criticized others for their complacent ignorance in the past when I can say that find myself in that very place today. It has been a short while (six months or so) that I have really avoided most "news" channels on TV. I am careful about what I read as news on the internet (choosing not to get news sources from Facebook and Facebook friends). As a rule, I would say that I am uninformed, or at least under-informed, about most current events today. Another unfortunate reality is that I would still do better than most Americans that believe they are well informed but have believed the lies they've been told by today's media outlets. (Sigh)

I didn't watch the Grammy's last night and don't know, nor do I care who won. I have no idea about the latest news on Kim's big butt or if it is still in the news. I read the text of President Obama's address about the realities of religion in the past and don't get the big offense that conservatives are taking from it. I didn't watch yesterday's Blackhawks/Blues hockey game but know that the Blues lost. I know that next week pitchers and catchers report to MLB's Spring Training Camps, but have to keep in mind that nothing that happens on the diamond is of any real importance ... to anybody that doesn't have a financial interest in the game.

All of my ignorance makes writing a blog pretty difficult.

I doubt there are very many people that care to know all of the things that I don't care about. What is there to write about when you are uniformed or apathetic about the great stressors in most people's lives. (Did you know that gas prices are going up again?)

As much as I enjoy writing and would like to spend some time every day doing so, I just don't know if that's going to continue to be the case.

I guess I'll just write about the things that are important to me and not really worry if anybody else cares to read or not. There was a time when I wrote what ever popped into my pea-brained head and didn't care about who agreed or disagreed. I managed to alienate many readers and even some friends. At some point I sold out and began to write what I thought people would read and come back for more. Shame on me.

I don't know what is next for Out of My Hat. I think I'll go back to the archives and read some of the early posts, some of the popular posts and some of the not so popular posts. I think I'll need to decide if writing is for me to vent or if it matters that I share ideas and stimulate thought. It's pretty obvious that this post is just a rant to help me sort things out in my own head. If you've manged to stay with me this far, let me give you a little gem that you can take with you today.

It's the least I can do.

God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Friday, February 06, 2015

Spiritual Health Reality Check

Most of you are aware that I have recently taken on some pretty big health changes. A little over a year and a half ago I made the decision to get healthy. I started to eat better. I cut out junk food, fast food, most processed foods and most starchy foods. I started eating less at a time and eating more often. I ate more fruits and vegetables, fewer calorie dense foods and drank more water.

After I dropped about 30 pounds, I started walking ... every day. On most days it was around two miles. On many days it was more. I walked in the rain. I walked in the cold. If it was too bad, I rode a stationary bike. For about six months, I exercised with very few days off.

I knew that to get from being very overweight and in poor physical condition to being more healthy was going to take three main things; changing my diet, getting some physical activity and time.

I managed to lose 54 pounds in a year, 60 in the 54 weeks before my 54th birthday.

I'm sharing the high points of my physical journey to better health because I think the the same process needs to take place in a spiritual health journey. When I take the time to make an honest assessment of my spiritual health, it looks a lot like my physical health once looked -- overweight and badly out of shape.

To change my spiritual intake, I'm going to have to cut out a lot of junk food. I've already managed to reduce exposure to some negativity in the way of people interaction, but there is so much more that needs to be cut out. I've been spending a lot less time of Facebook where there is a pretty constant stream of rants, lies and childlike whining. I've pretty much quit watching any "news" stations that all seem to have their own warped ideas of how and what they report as news. In many ways, I've become less informed about the things that are going on in the political sphere, the economic world and even the lives of many of the people I know. In truth, these things have very little to do with my day to day life. I have little or no power to change them. They have little to no impact on how I will live today. And worrying about them, gossiping about them, getting other people to worry about them serves no good purpose, whatsoever.

It's just junk food for the mind and soul. It's the kind of stuff that fills you up so that you are unable to enjoy the good wholesome, encouraging stuff that you need for a healthy attitude and healthy spirit. Filling up on that crap all day and then expecting to be spiritually "healthy" because you've managed to read a few chapters in your Bible is like pigging out on donuts for breakfast, burgers and fries for lunch, snacking on chips, cookies, and twinkies (do they still make those?) all day and then feeling all healthy because you have a salad for dinner.

We know that it doesn't work that way physically (we keep doing it anyway), why don't we see that it doesn't work that way spiritually. Not only is there a need to fill up on good conversation and interaction with like-minded people, but there is an even greater need to stop filling up on the toxic conversations and interactions that are killing your spiritual growth.

And as much as we need to change our spiritual diet, we also (desperately) need to get some spiritual exercise! We need to -- uh oh, get this -- practice what we preach! We need to DO something!

I know that there are people of different faith backgrounds that read this, but for the moment I'm going to address those that share the same Christian beliefs that I have.

Being a (spiritually) healthy Christian is going to take more than going to church on Sunday. It's going to take more than reading your bible every day. It's going to take more than preaching about going to church and reading your bible. And it's going to take more than only hanging around the church with other spiritually unhealthy believers.

I think that it's time for me to get some spiritual exercise.

Like with establishing a habit of physical exercise (I've started, stopped and restarted numerous times), it's going to take some time.

Changing my spiritual diet is going to mean getting good nutrition from reading the Bible and other good, spiritually nutritious books as well as cutting out the toxic junk that tries to make its way onto my spiritual plate.
Getting some spiritual exercise is going to mean that I will have to have some interaction with people and bring them the Good News that God loves them and Jesus died for them. This will take more than just preaching at them; it will take building relationships with them and teaching them the ways of my Lord and Savior (making disciples).

And like with the physical part, good spiritual health is going to take some time.

Be patient with me, my friends.
I'm working it.

John <><

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Going with the Flow

It's another beautiful day in the Ozarks -- a sunny, but cool winter morning. There is a light dusting of snow and frost on the street in front of my house that will melt off pretty quickly today. It is not supposed to get too warm today, but the weekend is supposed to be very springlike in its temperatures.

In keeping with my introverted tendencies and my retirement isolation, yesterday's personal interactions total (other than Chris) was 1. That was the guy that came to do the appraisal for our re-fi.

Today will be different as the Missouri Baptist State Evangelism Conference begins in Springfield. This afternoon and tomorrow will find me greeting old friends and talking about evangelistic events and revivals that will be taking place throughout the state this year. It would be a tremendous blessing to book a couple of events.

One of the things that I've noticed in my mini-isolation period is that I don't keep up on the news very well. There is plenty of unreliable news available on Facebook and there are good news sources in my Twitter feed, but I tend to ignore most Facebook links and just haven't felt the need to follow up on many of those Twitter links. Right now, my little corner of the world is a peaceful place and I like it that way.

I managed to get somethings done yesterday without interacting with anyone else. I didn't have the radio on for news or music. The house was ... quiet. It was wonderful!

Today will be different, but that's okay. I'll stop for coffee on the way to the conference and I will enjoy my time talking with old friends. If I feel like I need to get away, I can. I'm sure that it will be a good day. There has been no real stress in my life this week and I don't expect any today. Plans have been pretty loose and I am just going with the flow.

So far, it's been a pretty smooth ride.

John <><

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Time Management

How many times have you heard some old, retired person say, "I'm so busy now that I don't know how I ever had time for work!"

Okay, so I'm not that busy yet, but there is something on my calendar for every day this week and something for every week this month! Granted, some of it is just personal stuff and has nothing to do with work or ministry of any kind, but it's still something that has to be done or someplace that I need to be.

I'm slow, but I have been making the transition to using the calendar on my phone rather than carrying a day planner or pocket calendar. I'm trying to get used to checking it daily but it's still a habit in its formative stages. I know that there are many features on this little device that I carry with me everywhere (my "smarter than me" phone) that I do not use. I think it's kind of a generational thing. Yesterday, I was taking notes on my phone and got a couple of looks from others at the meeting. When I had the chance, I let them know that I was using it to keep notes, not ignoring what was being said.

In any case, I'm curious about how others manage their time. some people seem to be very good time managers while others never seem to get things done. Some work very hard at it. Others make it look easy. Some people take great pride in letting you know how busy they are and why they can't do one more thing. Other very busy people always seem to be able to make time for one more thing.

Calendar, clock, alarms; how do you manage your time?
How do you guard your time? How do you block personal/family time, study time, exercise time, down time?
How do you keep from wasting time?

Without that eight hour work day, the hour and a half of travel time and the get ready for work time, I have about ten additional hours to manage on my own. Before, somebody else had control of that time. I want to make it productive. I could use some help in figuring out how to do that.

I know, it's definitely a first world problem...and it's my problem, not yours. Still, if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

John <><

Sunday, February 01, 2015

It's February!

While much of the country is getting snow this weekend, the Ozarks managed to get rain (when it was above freezing) and wind (now that the temperature has dropped).
On the one hand, that's good since you don't have to shovel rain or wind! On the other hand, I was kind of hoping for some wintry weather just because I don't have to get out in it!

We have had a pretty mild winter so far, but there are still plenty of days ahead and I doubt that we'll escape unscathed.

But it is February!

February is the month that pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training Camp!
February is the month that baseball gets underway.
February is the month that baseball fans across the country realize that if baseball is starting in Arizona and Florida, then spring is just around the corner! I can already taste that ball park hotdog!

I know, I know. February is more than just baseball.

For me, it will also be a time for me to plan much of my ministry calendar.
With two evangelism conferences (one at the beginning of the month and one at the end) I hope to make a few contacts and secure a few dates for camps, revivals, special events, etc. The year is already shaping up nicely.

I hope that you enjoy your February!

John <><