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Archive for July, 2010

The bright blue purple flash lights up the sky, as the soon following roar of thunder echoes through the forest. I sit on the porch watching it all unfold before me; I have always been amazed and thrilled by the weather. I have stayed up late many times watching the night sky light up with lightning and listening the unique sound of thunder rumble. One time I was in the mountains hunting with my brother and we were caught in a thunderstorm during a blinding blizzard, which was very interesting.

I have wondered before why God created lightning storms, tornados, hurricanes, typhoons, extreme heat and cold. I have thought that lightning was placed here as a thing of beauty for us to behold, to revel in the beauty that God has created, but something else has come to my mind. Many people do not view lightning as a thing of beauty as I do, many fear it because it can strike anywhere without warning. Tornados strike fear into the hearts of anyone who has witnessed their devastation and lived in the zone where they are common. Anyone who is coastal knows there is always a fear of a hurricane, typhoon, or a tsunami.

In Genesis 1:26 we read;

 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, [b] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

There is no animal on the face of this earth that we do not have dominion over, as is shown in the above scripture. We have the ability to control any fish, from the great white shark to the largest whale. We have the ability to control every bird from the smallest hummingbird to the largest condor, and every animal on earth, no matter its size or ferocity. God gave us control of all creatures on the earth, but he does not give us the authority to control the earth itself, that is His job.

Man in his quest for power over the years has the tendency to get, as my father would say “too big for his britches”. We have achieved many things on this planet on a large scale, but we do not have dominion over the earth. I think God uses the weather to send us messages sometimes. He has already explained the reason for the rainbow, but there are other messages I see. A lightning bolt, while beautiful can strike wherever it wishes and have deadly consequences, as can a tornado, hurricane, tsunami, or earthquake. I believe they are all meant to be a lesson to us to remain humble, knowing that we are not really as in control as we think.

So next time you witness the beauty of a lightning bolt, remember it is God showing you His power and His authority over this earth, and that He is sending us a beautiful reminder like the rainbow, only with a different message. We are powerless against anything he does not give us authority over. As for me, I will stand in awe of his mighty power and my ability to control nothing he has not allowed.

God Bless

JFT

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Today, someone I have known for a long time passed away. He was at the end of a long illness, and he was up there in years. Even though we are Christians, and we have the hope of salvation, saying goodbye to someone is a hard and painful thing. His name was Robert, and he was my first wife’s father, my girls’ grandfather, or as everyone seems to know him, Pepaw.

Pepaw and Memaw were married for many years, and I have had the privilege of knowing them since I was about five years old. Pepaw was a very hard worker for many years before his retirement, and then he took another job and retired from that, all in all, he only had two jobs in his entire life. Memaw’s name is Wanda, and she was a homemaker who raised four kids total in her career as a mom. Sounds great and very heartwarming so far, I wish I could just leave it all at that, but I can’t. Times were not always good, many times they weren’t, you see, before Pepaw became Pepaw, he was just Bob, and unfortunately Bob was grouchy. Bob worked long hours at a large grocery shipping warehouse in a freezer at forty below zero. He would work twelve to fourteen hour days, and when he would come home, he just didn’t have a whole lot left for the world.

Wanda came from a home that was all about love, where family members were close and showed that they loved one another daily. Bob came from a godless home where love was more scarce, a “watch out for number one” attitude prevailed in his home as opposed to the “Love thy neighbor” attitude that Wanda grew up with. What one would see in their union was fire and ice, Bob the fire, Wanda the Ice. Complete opposites, and opposites usually attract, because God knows that opposites temper one another. Bob became a Christian.

As time went on, Bob became ill in his later years, he had cancer, a serious one that was supposed to take him out of the picture for good. Many people prayed for Bob intensely in this scary time. Bob became very frightened of death during this time, and began to think about his life choices, he came to have regret, and regret of course usually leads to repentance. Bob changed as a man, he became “grateful” for the people he had hurt in his life that prayed for him so fervently. Bob became “kind” to those around him and began to return the love of others. Then something miraculous happened, Bob was healed, he went into remission.

The years that followed were payback years, he was going to pay back some of the love he had been shown by others. His entire demeanor changed and my daughters said “Papaw’s not mean anymore, he’s changed”. Pepaw and Memaw then began to enjoy their marriage like never before. They had a good run before his final illness caught up to him in the end. He had Alzheimer’s disease in the end, and it is what finally claimed his life. As I sit thinking, I am happy for Pepaw, he had a shot at redemption and he took it, and he became grateful, happy, and blessed. I feel sorrow for Memaw, her partner for many decades is gone and I know she is terribly lonely. You see, the mistake all of us make when we are young is we think that people, and marriages must be perfect right from the beginning, when in fact that is something that if you work on all of your life, and you are blessed enough to see, you should count yourself lucky.

 

A few scriptures come to my heart when I think of Memaw and Pepaw,

 Genesis 2:18, 21-24.

18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

  But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

 23 The man said,
       “This is now bone of my bones
       and flesh of my flesh;
       she shall be called ‘woman, ‘
       for she was taken out of man.”

 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

God Bless and Keep You

JFT

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When was the last time you went to a bar with a friend and drank soda or tea so that you could build a friendship with them? Oh, that’s right; we Christians don’t go to bars, silly me for even bringing it up, because we don’t want to “cause” another to stumble. In fact, we are cautioned against this in;

Romans 14:13 make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way .

The famous scripture that causes us to watch what we do, where we go, and who we are seen with, but the above scripture, which I have heard quoted all of my life is actually incomplete, there is a whole first half to the scripture that folks just conveniently seem to leave out.  13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way .

Doesn’t it sound more complete now, you see, the Pharisees who were always trying to trip Jesus up were big on appearances. They liked the robes, they liked the piety, they didn’t hang with people who were not of their ilk, in short, they were arrogant narcissists.

When Jesus was questioned by the chief priests and elders in Matthew 21:31 Christ had this to say;

 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

Christ had a habit of hanging out with those who were low in spirit, and prostitutes could be considered low in spirit for the most part. Prostitutes do not do what they do because they set the trade as a career goal in high school as something they aspired to. It isn’t something they do because they enjoy it, it is something they fall into because everything else in their life has crashed and burned, and it is what they have left. They are completely broken people. Christ was drawn to completely broken people, the low in spirit, the least of these. He was appalled at the arrogance and smugness of those who didn’t need a Savior because they felt justified by the law.

I cannot relate to the tax collector, except to think that they were always looked down on by that society at the time, maybe they were known to be dishonest. Scripture pairs them often with prostitutes and classifies them as sinners, and I can’t help but think they may have been of low spirit also. But make no mistake, they were a priority to Jesus and he went where “they” were, he didn’t give them an invite to dinner at the Temple. In Mark 2:15-17 we read;

15While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” 17On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

I have often thought about what others would think about me if they see me in a bar, or some other place that Christians generally associate with bad behavior. Would it cause them to stumble? If we are not doing anything to cause someone to stumble, then we need to get over the stigma. The Pharisees were judging Jesus because of the company he kept and he basically told them to “get a life” (my words of course).

If we are going to lead sinners to Christ, we need to get out of the church, the work isn’t there, but rather out in the world. We need to be as Paul describes in 1Cor 9:19-22

19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.

So just think it over, are you in the church building, or out in the world? God Bless

JFT

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He was breathing hard as he was moved from one cell to another and the heavy steel door was slammed behind him. Spectators walk through sticking fingers through the iron bars and making comments. Some of the inmates are angry and charge the bars as the spectators yank their hands back to the safe zone.

Will is going to be executed tomorrow, he has already heard his jailors discussing it openly, some sad for him, others indifferent to the killing. They have seen so many of them they are no longer affected by it. All of a sudden a group of people come in and offer him a stay of execution and a pardon for his crimes. He is taken from the jail, moved to a halfway house to recover until someone agrees to take responsibility for him.

Oliver is a wreck, he is nervous, pacing, begging those who come by to look at him to please intervene. Please, I am too young to die; I have much to offer so please give me a chance. He paces nervously hoping someone will spare his life, he will be executed tomorrow morning if no action is taken. People look at him, he is not attractive, he is scrawny and is just downright ugly for the most part, and why would anyone come to his defense?

Will is happier in the halfway house, but he knows it is only a temporary stopover. The people are kind enough, but he knows not to get too attached at this point, because people are fickle. One day, he is surveyed by a group of people who think he deserves a second chance, so they take him home to become a part of their family. His new home is nice, he has more than he could ever ask for, but he is hesitant to believe in it, whenever he trusts he gets burned. So he cautiously settles into his new home, not quite ready to trust yet, but willing to try.

Oliver has a look of panic on his face, won’t someone love me enough to keep me from my death. He puts on his best happy face trying to win over someone’s heart, but his heavy breathing gives him away, he is terrified. A group of people see him, and they see something in him that no-one else does, and they fall in love with him. He is released from his prison, given a stay of execution, a full pardon, and a shot at a new life. Oliver doesn’t know what to do or how to react, it takes time like with Will for him to settle down, become trusting and blend with the family.

In case you haven’t figured it out, Will and Oliver are our pet dogs, and they were both rescued at the last moments before they were to be put down. The fear and terror were definitely there, I am sure they had some idea of their impending fate because of the way they acted prior to being rescued. They have since become a part of our family and we love them very much.

It occurred to me that Christ has rescued us from certain death at the hands of the evil executioner and his lake of fire. Christ didn’t “need” to rescue us for His own devices, but the love He has for us spawned compassion for our situation. He paid the jailor a very high price to secure our freedom. To be more precise, there was no higher price that could have been paid for our freedom, it was the price of His own blood and suffering, that we might be able to come home with Him and become a part of His family.

God Bless

JFT

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My boss is looking for someone who can take on the new project, who knows the equipment, who understands the software, who can perform. I have been working on it at home on my spare time, and have actually gained a fairly good command of the software, and I know the equipment it interfaces with well. I raise my hand and say that I would be happy to give it a shot.

My boss, who is double degreed looks down his nose past his readers and gives me that “not gonna happen” look, and then says well, we are looking for someone who is degreed. Knife through the heart, doesn’t matter the preparation that I have put into trying to learn everything, it was all for not. I smile and say “oh, okay, well thank you anyway” as the boss turns and walks away before I even finish speaking. I stand there, less of a man than before, because I have been judged, and judged unworthy because of my pedigree. The boss has not seen me perform with the software and equipment, and he doesn’t care, I have been written off, and it stings.

I get in my car and drive home, moping a bit, feeling sorry for myself more than I should. Life doesn’t allow me the luxury of having a pity party for long though, my cell phone rings and my wife informs me she will be working late, and asks if I can stop by the store for a few things on my way home. Yeaahhhh, I breathe out in obvious annoyance and close the phone. I pull in and park at the grocery, and as I get out of my car, a man approaches me and says that he has lost everything and is just trying to feed his son, and was wondering if I had a couple of bucks to spare.

Clearly not happy about being approached by this master scamster, I decide that if I give him anything, he is going to have to earn it. I ask him “if you are trying to feed your son, where is he”? The man then points to a beat up old car, and waves at a small boy in the passenger seat who return the wave. He then looks back at me with shame in his eyes, and it hits me in the chest like a sixteen pound sledgehammer. I am doing the same thing to this man that my boss is doing to me. I am judging him from a perceived point of superiority.

King Solomon asked God to bless him with discernment in judging, and I ask God for that daily too “now” but I have not always done so. When we ask God for that and for wisdom, he is very pleased with that, as denoted in the story of Solomon’s dream. Discernment in judging means I don’t need to question someone on their qualifications to receive a gift from me, as a gift never needs to be qualified for anyway, you either give it or you don’t. We will be scammed, we will be wronged, but that is a part of being a follower of Christ. Our kindness, generosity, and willingness to help out a complete stranger are trademarks of those who wear Christ on their hearts. Praying for discernment in judging means we want to be led by the Spirit in making wise decisions, and in order for that to work, we must submit to the will of the Spirit, and be ever looking for the gentle nudges the Spirit sends our way as a guide.

Let us be careful not to look at others from a standpoint of superiority based on our station in life, or based on theirs. But rather on the value of their souls to God, which levels the playing field for ALL of us. God Bless

JFT

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It’s Sunday, after church about lunchtime, mullets were in, and Michael Jackson was still topping the charts, I want to say maybe 1987 or so. Back then, I was a young early twenties married guy with one small child. We had a tradition back then of going to church, then afterward going to lunch with someone from the church, usually another couple in our age bracket that we could relate to. Getting a table without a wait (funny how much we will do to not wait) back then depended on whether you stood around chatting with folks or put the petal to the metal, today, we were putting the petal to the metal, as were many others.

Our car was the winner, as we pulled in first to the parking lot followed by two others in short order, plan B may have to be used, send in wife to secure table while I finish parking car (cause these suckers are thinking the same thing you know). Well, it looks like we have the lead on them; plan “A” will still suffice. Car two, a beat up old “pinto” for those of you not yet forty, a pinto was a step above one of those razor scooters kids buzz up and down the street on. Not really a skateboard, but not yet a car, kind of in between. Anyway, a Pinto pulls in to the spot on my left, which happens to be a handicapped parking place. Now this was in the time when it was still law that you had to have a front license plate, and his plate was regular, not handicapped.

At about the same time, a foreign dignitary, or so I thought pulled into the slot across from the pinto. The car was a super long snow white Lincoln continental with all the trimmings. We still have not made it out of the car yet, my wife was probably taking my little girl out of the car seat, when an entourage pops out of super long car. A man exits the front drivers side door exposing a large cross on the door with the name of a prominent local church below, and opens the rear door for the royalty, oops clergy that was riding in back. As the fine suited pastor and his dapperly dressed better half exit their coach, he notices the “least of these”, slacker in the handicapped slot minus the plate or placard and sees his project for the day. He straightens up, tells his wife to stay there, and in his best authoritative manner heads straight toward the Pinto.

“Young man, don’t you think a handicapped person deserves this spot a little more than you” he calls to the man still sitting behind the wheel, as the clergy’s minions utter a “yeah” from a distance. I am vaguely reminded of a bully at school who had an entourage follow him around and every time the bully would say something, they would say “yeah” like it was their own idea, but at least they agreed fully. The young man who was probably in his early thirties looks up through the windshield and just stares with disbelief at the Pharisee, I mean preacher man who was so boldly accosting him. Without another word, the man opened the door to the Pinto and stepped out into the parking lot, reached into the back seat (you know where this is going now) and pulls out a crutch, actually, a pair of crutches. He then proceeds towards the front door in classic tripod fashion, two crutches, and one leg. For a fraction of a second, you could have heard a hubcap drop, but then the well meaning preacher can’t let well enough alone and begins to put his other foot in his mouth. “Oh, I see now, well if anyone deserves that spot you do Son, you should get a plate”. He looks to his minions for the nod that he nailed that one well, and they don’t disappoint him. And they all merrily headed up to the door to place their name on the list for the first available booth.

My wife and I sat in stunned silence in the car, no longer caring whether we got a table, actually no longer even hungry. We put Brookie back in the car seat, backed out and went elsewhere, the thought of having to possibly chat with them, or listen to more of their blather while we waited for a table was too much for us. As I pulled out and looked at the snow white tuna-boat of a car, I noticed there were stickers on the back and side windows that said “clergy” in good sized lettering. At the time I didn’t know what Clergy even meant. What those stickers were really saying is treat me different, I am an insider with God and I matter more than you.

I have often wondered about the young pinto driver, was he a follower of Christ who understood what a jerk this guy was. Or was he a man who was actually searching for the truth in his life, and decided to not even give God a chance because of the judgment he faced at the hands of this windbag. How do we present to people in our everyday lives, as loving folks who will give a stranger the shirt off of our backs, or as religious insiders in an exclusive club that you must qualify to enter. God Bless

JFT

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עבד נרצע (Bond Servant)

What is a Bond-Servant?

Exodus 21:1-6

“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him.  If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free. “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

We discussed this in church this weekend, the concept of what it is to be a Bondservant. A Bondservant is one who has freedom, yet chooses to serve of his own free will rather than to live a life without obligation to the master. Another thing that struck me was that when a choice is made to serve the master, it is a choice for the rest of your life, and that you will be marked by having your ear pierced with an awl in public, so that everyone knows the decision you have made. So often I feel as though I go through periods of service and periods where I do not serve regularly, which is a nice way of saying I go through periods of laziness. But I have been marked by my Master and I belong to Him solely, yet I sometimes find it hard to keep up the faithful service to Him. Instead of being marked by having my ear pierced with the awl, I have been marked with His blood; He was the one who was pierced for me.

Galations 1:10  For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

Wow, if I were trying to please men, I would not be a Bond-servant of Christ. Where does that go, how far do we take that? Do we take it to work, if we seek to serve our superiors are we guilty of not serving Christ? Let’s look at the scriptures, and to those who are Spiritual mentors to many of us today. Did Paul seek to please those churches that he wrote to, or to encourage, mentor or admonish them in love when they went astray?

Romans 1:1   1Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, (A)called as an apostle, (B)set apart for (C)the gospel of God,

Paul, a great and encouraging man, a Bond-servant.

 James 1:1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.

James, Bond-servant.

2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:

Peter, a Bond-servant.

Jude 1:1   Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ:

Jude, Bond-servant.

 Revelation 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John.

This Lord we serve came down on this earth not only to save us, but to set an example to us for how we should live our lives, and for how we should serve Him and His Father in Heaven. Yes, there is even an example of Christ with regard to the Bond-servant.

Philippians 2:5-7    Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

The scriptures paint a pretty clear picture, the Apostles were also Bond-servants of Christ, and set that example for us. Christ set the example of being a Bond-servant to others in all he did too, as the above scripture mentions. He emptied Himself of his royalty, of His Sovereignty as God, to be like us, and to set the example for how we should go about the business of living our lives. The beauty of becoming the Bond-servant is in the choice, you see God could force us to do whatever He wanted, after all, He is God. When He created us though, he gave us free will, to go however we wish. How happy He must be when we choose Him over freedom and disobedience. How do you feel when a loved one gives you unconditional love and loyalty, and you know that no matter what, they will stick with you through thick and thin, good or bad, that they are bonded to you for their life. It warms your heart, so it is with God when we choose to walk with Him always and heed His gentle leading. God Bless

JFT

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