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Youcef Naderkhani, a Christian pastor sentenced to death for apostasy in Iran, torn from his wife and family because of his faith in God. He was ordered to yield his belief in the one true God and return to the belief of the false one that the country’s government demands of its citizens. He was ordered to return to a faith that he never held, for you see, he was never a Muslim, but the government claimed he had been, because that changes everything. To leave Islam is called apostasy, and that carries a death sentence with only one possible out, you must renounce your faith and return to Islam. Youcef cannot do that, even if he had been a Muslin, he still couldn’t do that, wouldn’t do that, because he is a follower of Christ and he has faith, a strong faith, a faith like I will probably never know.

His Lawyer is the best there is in Human rights cases; his name is Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, and as his name suggests, he is a follower of Islam, but he believes in freedom to practice your faith without persecution. He has taken up the task of defending Christian’s right and left in Iran who have been charged with their faith, he cares about them, he fights like a lion for them, yet even he bows to Allah. Yesterday he was sentenced to flogging, 9 years in prison, and 10 years of not teaching or practicing law, not to mention cash fines. In a show of mercy, they converted his floggings to a cash fine also, mighty big of them I think. The charges he is being imprisoned for; “they said that I had acted against national security”.

His brave response to the lower court that sentenced him is this, and it bears quoting.

 

“I have not done anything wrong. I am a lawyer who loves my country and defends the rights of the people of our land. If they prefer a humiliated, intimidated, desperate young lawyer who has never tasted freedom, I do not regard this individual a lawyer. What good is a knife that cannot cut? A lawyer must be brave, logical, and law-abiding, and I have tried to be that way. This is why I have never been summoned by the Bar Association Court.”This ruling is imposed. Even so, I will not escape and I will not leave my country. I will go to prison. Either I will come out, or I will die there.”

“They told me that my actions smell of nationalism. It was the Prosecutor’s deduction that nationalistic activities amount to apostasy. The prophet of Islam said: ‘Love for the land comes from the belief in God.’ Which one should I accept now and what should I do?”

Youcef Naderkhani is now no longer represented, when the best lawyer in the nation is imprisoned for representing you, there aren’t going to be any other lawyers jumping to represent you, yet he has faith. He sits alone in prison, 3 years running now on death row, the sentence could be carried out at any time, and he just ran out of his last worldly defender, a Muslim one at that, yet he has faith. In a country that is hostile toward him that would love nothing more than to snuff his life out because he won’t deny Jesus, yet his faith endures.

Youcef’s story has been mainstream, but there are so many that are not. People in North Korea who refuse to hide their bibles and are killed for it that we never hear of. Christians in Nigeria that refuse to hide their bibles, and their homes and families are killed, beheaded and burned because of it, yet they are powered through it all on faith.

Growing up here in America, much emphasis has always been placed on how powerful and safe we are as a country. I have been told many times by people that God blesses our country because of our faithfulness to him. I am sorry but I just don’t believe that. When I used to hear of these atrocities in places like North Korea, Iran, or one of many places in the world where you can still be killed for your faith, I used to think that we needed to use our military might and go free those people, to stop the atrocity.

That is the mindset I was raised with as an American, walk softly and carry a big stick. It is really easy to be duped into thinking you have a strong faith when your country has the most advanced military and nuclear arsenal in the world, but what about Youcef, who just lost his last lifeline to freedom? I have no doubt that his faith is in the Lord, and that no matter what happens, he will be ready for it.

This heartbreaking story made me take an account, what is my faith in, is it in the relative safety of living in a place where we currently have religious freedom? Would I be strong if all of that were taken away and I was in a jail in a strange land, with no advocate and a death order issued on my head? Or would I fall apart and tell them what they wanted to hear and beg God’s forgiveness later? I like to think the former, but I know my faith has never been tested to those lengths. Think about it, how would you do in that situation, we never know what the future holds. God Bless-JFT

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Church was about to get out, and I was thinking about the prayer room. I hadn’t been going there for a while, or working the parking lot either for that matter, for the past few months I had been taking a break because of my shoulder. Because of course, shoulder surgery impedes your ability to pray with folks who are in crisis you know, yeahhhhh. More like the fog of the medication was impeding my desire to volunteer, but that was all changing because I was done taking them. That probably has something to do with why I was thinking about something other than myself again, my head was clearing, and I felt a very strong motivation that I needed to go to the room after services.

I put my name tag on, and settled in the comfortable chair and began to look over prayer request cards, as a friend stopped by and said hi. While he was chatting with me for a few moments, asking what I had been up to, where I had been and so on, a man entered the room and went directly to the wall across from me. He knelt and went into prayer, and I gave my friend the look that told him I may be needed soon, and he took the hint and left.

The man was average build, so average in fact that if I were to have to describe him to police, I would have a hard time, he was incredibly average. He was 40-50ish, dark tanned, someone who spent his days outside, and he was praying fervently, I don’t know how to explain that, but I could tell that he was in deep communion with God from the time he hit his knees. I have seen people pray like this before when they have had family members near death, or when they were wracked with guilt over a sin, or were afraid their marriage would end and they could do nothing to save it. I looked away to give him his privacy until he finally stood and turned around to face me, and what I saw was not what I expected at all, but quite the opposite.

I stood and said hello, my name is Jim, and asked him if there was anything I pray with him about. He shook my hand, but his face was not troubled in the least, on the contrary it was a mask of peace as he looked me in the eyes and said Hi, I’m Mark, what can I pray with you about?

I didn’t know what to say, I thought as we stood there shaking hands. His were hard, the hands of someone akin to working hard for a living, but he just looked into me with those eyes. He wasn’t there to make conversation, and I felt as though the man was looking right into my soul when he looked at me. He wasn’t smiling, he just had that look of peace on his face as he stood there and waited for me to tell him what he had come to hear. I could swear the man knew my story when he looked at me, had he been sent, had he looked over the shoulder of his Boss at my page in the book of life before he had been sent on this mission? I didn’t know, but I definitely knew something “different” was going on.

I hesitated, isn’t it funny, I am a prayer room guy, there to help others who are going through a hard time and maybe need a little help and support, yet when it came to me it was different. The first thoughts that went through my head were “I am a prayer room guy, I am here to help you, not the other way around” as if because I wore the little nametag on my shirt that meant I had my act together (do we ever do that as Christians?).

His stare, it just continued, and he didn’t talk, he just waited as I vacillated, he knew my story I am sure, but he waited, because I had to open up. That is what this had all been about, hadn’t it? I wasn’t supposed to go to the prayer room to pray for someone else tonight, someone was coming to the prayer room to pray for me. I was coming out of this hard time in life and God was telling me “enough, it’s time to get back to work, you’ve milked that shoulder all you’re going to, so stop feeling sorry for yourself and let’s get back on task son, it’s time to get your head back in the game”.

So I told Mark what I needed prayers for, we sat, and he prayed for me. After he finished, he shook my hand again, placed a hand on my shoulder, then walked out of the room, I haven’t seen him since, nor do I ever expect to again. Yes, I do go to a big church, and it is easy to miss seeing people, but that is not why I don’t think I will ever see Mark again, I don’t think I will ever see Mark again because I believe he was sent from heaven, I am pretty sure Mark was an angel. Hebrews 13:2   Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

I know one thing, I was a different man when I left the prayer room that day than I was when I went in, feeling strangely healed in many ways. Whether he was an angel or not, I have no doubt God placed Mark in my path that day. God Bless-JFT

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It began simple enough, with common sense questions I began to ask myself. The guys at work knew me as someone who liked the finer things in life, frugal yes, I would get the best deal on the finer things in life, but none the less, the labels mattered to me. One day, I sat looking at the watch that had started it all, the most expensive one I had ever purchased. Christmas was coming up, things were tight and I felt like a real self centered jerk walking around with a $2300.00 watch on my wrist that did nothing a Timex wouldn’t. Oh, true it was good to 300 meters on a dive, problem was, no humans were good for 300 meter dives, so when the submersible recovered your body, it’s pilot would at least get a nice watch in the deal. I grabbed my camera and began taking the pictures for E-bay, I was sad to see it go, but I could no longer justify the luxury, besides, I still had my collection of Seiko automatic dive watches anyway. They weren’t Omega, but they did keep time, and cost less than a quarter what the Omega did. Sigh, I clicked “list”.

When I slid the packaged watch across the counter at the post office and walked out, I somehow felt lighter, I felt better, and I didn’t miss the watch anymore. I had been telling myself that when the kids were all grown, I would get another, now I wasn’t so sure. What did it matter?

Several years later, I wanted to go see the girls, I was really missing them, and it had been a while since I had been there, Brooke had just moved to Dallas, Lauren was still in Arkansas. With all of these tuitions I could have been CEO of G.E. and things still would have been tight, considering the two girls still at home were in Christian high school too. I didn’t even ask, I knew the answer before hand, the money just wasn’t there. I thought about something then, and I went in and looked at the Seiko watches on my dresser, then grabbed my camera. It was much easier letting go of all of them than it was the first one, and now I was watch-less, but I did still have a cell-phone that kept time I thought as I hurried through the terminal to catch my flight to Dallas first, then Little Rock.

I was able to do much more than I ever imagined by just cutting out some of the fluff, but it didn’t stop there. I then began to feel the urge to further question myself. If God came here and asked me what one possession I really enjoyed, what would it be? TV, naw I don’t really care too much about that, I could part with the computer too, cell-phone, no problem, hmm, Hey I really like my quad, yes, that would be it. God, I would have to say, I really enjoy my quad, and I want to thank you for blessing me with it. I am able on my days off to get on it and head out into the mountains by my house exploring, taking pictures, having a great time in nature. Yeah, I was really fond of my quad.

What if, Jesus told me to sell my quad and give the money to the poor, would that bother me? Are you kidding me, Of course it would bother me, take the TV, take the house, the stuff, but c’mon, not the quad, that is like my link with nature, anything but the quad, not the quad Jesus, take my tools, my wife’s truck ;-), just not the quad.

It became a realization to me that I had an unhealthy relationship with my “Off Highway Vehicle”, it had become a material possession that I was way too fond of. I stood in the garage looking at it and I actually turned right there, I began to loathe it on the spot, because I realized what all of this was leading up to, it had come between God and me. I didn’t need to sell everything I had, I needed to change my heart and I needed to stop falling in love with stuff. But the quad did need to go, because it would be a reminder as long as it remained in my garage that I “had” been in love with my possessions. I listed it on Craigslist later that day.

My wife bought me a non-dive watch for father’s day a couple months after I had sold off all of my dive watches. It is not a known name, not automatic, and not expensive, but it is the most valuable watch I have ever owned, because someone I love took the time to go out and pick it out for me. All of the others I chose, they were self-service, and they meant nothing in the grand scheme of things.

I can tell you there is nothing more freeing than no longer yearning for that next thing, no longer caring about having the latest and the greatest, and for letting God take over and helping you to shove those possessions that once meant so much to you out the door. I am sure I am not “there” yet, I am sure the watches and the quad were only the beginning, the house could be next, or perhaps my truck, I just hope that I am open minded to the Spirits guiding when it happens. After all, what here on earth besides kindness, love, family, and spreading God’s Word really matter anyway, isn’t it all temporary? God Bless-JFT

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So what do you think, the 911 or the 944 he asked me as we went out the front door and headed for the garage? We can put the top down on the 911, it is a little nippy but it has seat coil heaters that will keep us warm, or we could just forego the convertible and stick with the 944, all luxury anyway. I never gave it a second thought, the 911 I said as the garage door rolled up revealing the two freshly waxed bright red sports cars under the light.

The 911 already had its top down, and was a sight to see with its flared wheel wells and the wide whale tail on back above the engine grill. It was flawless, there was not a scratch anywhere on either of the cars, and although I have never really been a car guy, the only car that has ever stolen my heart was Porsche. Were I ever to buy a car, it would be one of these I had often thought. The 944 was a nice car, I mean Tom Cruise did make it famous in that movie “Risky Business” after all, what was it he said? Oh yeah, “Porsche, there is no substitute”. But that wasn’t my style at all, I would take one if someone gave it to me of course, but the 911 was the one that held my heart, no, not heart, lust. Matt 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.

Think fast, he said as he chucked the keys at me and I caught them in midair. Dude, you know I can’t keep doing this, if I wreck this thing I would have to sell my house to pay for it, if I even owned my house anyway, which I didn’t, the bank did. He would just laugh and say “you worry too much, c’mon, let’s go have some fun, after all, that’s what insurance is for right? It purred as I turned the engine over and pulled out of the garage onto the street, headed for a main thoroughfare. He reached over and turned on the state of the art Blaupunkt stereo, setting it to some serious rock as I punched it out onto the main road. As I zigged and zagged in and out of traffic with the music blaring I remembered the movie “Against all odds” and the street race scene between the 911 driven by Jeff bridges and a Ferrari Testarossa driven by James Woods. That was where my love affair with this car had begun.

As I came up on an intersection where we would be turning right, I turned on my blinker and began to slow, but my friend said don’t slow, punch it. I didn’t get it, it seemed dangerous but he was an old guy, probably 36 or 37 and I was like 24, so I did as I was told. The car took the corner at high speed without even a hint of slide or slip, it was pure beauty. If our wives had known what we were doing they would have been really ticked, but you know, they probably did know. As I would drive his 911, he would regale me with stories of how he had begun working at a fast food restaurant and worked his way to the point he was at now, where he owned a finance company and was filthy rich. He was also house speaker for the state legislature, he had his fingers in a lot of pies, we had met at church. I was so impressed with him, I wanted to be just like him, after all, he was a Christian so that had to mean he was okay, right? If he could do it and make it sound so easy then maybe I could too. Matt. 6:19-20 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal”.

 That was over twenty years ago, and we lost touch with time. I saw him not long after I was divorced and struggling to start over again, bumping into him at another church. He shook my hand and said “My condolences or My congratulations on your divorce, whichever fits”, then he smiled and patted me on the shoulder, then turned and walked away. Spoken like a true politician I thought as I watched him walk off, a comment for each scenario that might or might not exist, without bothering to take the time to find out.

The lure of things shiny and red, fast and powerful or glittery and exclusive is one of the best things the devil has in his bag of tricks. If he makes us want something so bad that we begin to lust after it, then we are willing to often times work our fingers to the bone to get it. If we get to that point, then he has won, because when we begin to work our fingers to the bone to get something we want, we take our eyes off of God, and our focus is on the material. He also will mask our materialism with words that are more palatable than “greed or materialism”, words like “collector, enthusiast or hobbyist”. I know about these things because I have had to deal with them first hand, seeing things and wanting them, thinking about them for a long time until I could get them, watches were a vice. My kids laugh and call me a “former watch junkie”, and while it sounds funny, it is representative, I used to spend a lot on them. Just two days ago, I had to interface with a very nice man from headquarters at work who is a peer.

As we were chatting I noticed he had on the exact model of dive watch I used to own and I mentioned what it was and that I used to have one. He smiled and began to name off the other watches he had too, all big name, big dollar watches rated for diving. Ah, you are a collector huh, I asked? No, I don’t have the money to have the watches I really want he said, although he had just told me the watches he had, and I knew the combined value was at least $10,000.00. He then told me the ones he wanted but couldn’t yet afford, and considering the ones he already had and the fact that he didn’t even consider himself a collector, I had no doubt that he would find a way to get the ones on his list.

Materialism is like the old saying, if you throw a frog in hot water, he will jump out and live, but if you put him in a pan at room temperature and set him on the stove, and slowly bring it to a boil, he will die because he won’t see it coming. I think of the parable of the rich man, the problem wasn’t that he had possessions, the problem was his heart, he liked it all too much. The “stuff” had become his god. Who is your god, is it the One who sent His Son down for you that you may have everlasting life with Him in heaven? Or are you serving the god of money, the god of prosperity, are you a collector or things, is there anything that you own that would give you real heartbreak to part with if you had to choose between “it” and “God”?

Be Blessed-JFT

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Trust in God, He will never let you down, ever! Love always, Tina. I smiled at the note as I placed it back in my fabric Scooby-Do lunchbox I carried in my briefcase and zipped it shut. Today was the day, they were going to make the announcement within minutes now, and I just had a feeling my ship would dock this time. It had been many years of hard work and waiting, and watching people like Stu pass me up, but sometimes God uses situations like that to stretch us, to grow us into who he wants us to be. Stu was a, well, there is just no other way to put it, Stu is a suck up. He would sit around the office with his feet up doing nothing, but he would jump to the bosses beacon call, he was quite the pet. We were all on to him, all of us except the boss that is, and a few of the pretty secretaries in our office. When it came time for promotions, I was passed over; Stu was selected for the job. Since then, Stu is making a hundred grand more, and he left his wife and kids for Steph in reception.

I smile and shake my head as I remember how angry I was when I hadn’t gotten the job, all I could see at the time was how a man I saw as inferior to myself was selected over myself. Stu had been divorced twice since he had divorced his wife, bringing the total to three. He wasn’t dating anyone these days, he had gained about 100Lbs and was now referred to as “beef Stu” behind his back, I actually felt sorry for him these days. There was a ruckus outside of my office, so I mentally prepared myself for the big moment. There was cheering and clapping, I quickly sat at my desk and straightened my tie in case someone had brought a camera, but no one entered. The longer I sat there, the laughing and cheering faded. I heard a chime indicating I had received an email as I looked down at my computer and the subject line read “organizational announcement”. I grabbed the mouse then stopped myself and quickly said a prayer, asking God one more time to please bless me with this job, then I clicked.

Without thinking I threw the small ceramic cup my son had made me for fathers day that said “worlds best dada” at the wall behind the door and it exploded. Then, I quickly masked control and grabbed my briefcase and strolled out the door with a huge fake smile on my face. I told the pool secretary I would not be returning today and kept walking as she fired off a flurry of questions that I ignored. I had to make it out of here before someone wanted to chat about the woman they hired from outside the company that had been in the email. I hopped into the elevator as my phone began to buzz and I ignored it, I was too busy cursing in four different languages to realize it was ringing. How could this happen, this was worse than when that idiot Stu had gotten the job. This time they passed me up to hire a total stranger.

I turned into the park and stopped at the small magazine kiosk that bordered the entrance. I bought a cheap cigar and lit up as I continued on, I hadn’t smoked a stogie in years, but I was just so upset, I think I deserved one if I wanted it. I walked around the lake as joggers and mothers pushing strollers walked and ran by, some gave me “looks” as I puffed away angrily, I knew Tina would be disappointed, right now I didn’t care. I found a park bench at the far end of the lake and sat down by myself as a breeze began to blow. What would my wife think, what kind of un-promote-able loser had she married, I could not seem to get past the place where I was, I had prayed to God until I was flippin’ blue in the face, trying to do things right, yet here I was.

I was distracted by the sound of heavy breathing as I looked up to see a jogger cooling down and looking at his watch, obviously checking his heart rate. Hey man, mind if I share that bench with you for a few, he asked? Uh, sure I said as I moved my briefcase to the side. He was a young guy, no more than 22, with tattoo sleeves. His arms were completely covered, every square millimeter from his shoulder to his wrist, both arms. He wore a beanie stocking cap over a thick mop of curly black hair, and had a weeks worth of beard stubble on his face. Thanks man, he said and he sat right down, then quickly remarked “not to be nosy, but dressed in a nice suit as you are, I would think you could afford a better cigar than that”. I began to respond, and found my tongue tied as I noticed a slight grin on this guys face, he was messing with me, he didn’t know me and he was messing with me. He had the strangest eyes, they were a lavender/purple hue, a color I have never seen before. I was about to tell him to mind his own business when he stuck his hand out and said pleased to meet you, names Jay. I hesitated a moment, and then I finally gave in and shook his hand and told him my name was Todd. Before long, I had begun to actually confide in him about the events of my day. He would just nod and listen, and so I continued and told him about my faith and how my family and I were Christians, and how we had built our lives around God. This young guy with the beautiful eyes and the many tattoos was a great listener, he would just sit, and listen, and wait.

So I finally cut to the chase, I didn’t really know what to think of God anymore. I had prayed fervently to God, asking Him to bless my labor that I may advance. I had worked long hours at the office sacrificing where others hadn’t, I had tried to set a good example for others, I didn’t cheat on my wife, I didn’t drink to excess, I deserved that job. Jay was nodding with emphasis at every point I made, doggone right you do, and you deserve more than that to boot, now I was nodding, I liked this guy.

He looked at me and asked “so when you pray, do you pray for like, a “BMW”, or maybe a boat or motorcycle, his face taking on a mischievous smile. What about a summer home in the mountains huh, you could pray for that. No, no  I said, that isn’t the kind of thing you pray for I said as Jay sat there with a quizzical look on his face listening to me. When you pray, you don’t pray for things that are luxury items like cars, boats, motorcycles and cabins, those are not needs, but rather wants. He looked at me seriously and said “what is different about that job you want, how is it different from praying for a BMW”? His face had taken on a whole new look, and I felt as though I had just been blindsided, “it is completely different Jay, you don’t know the situation so you shouldn’t be making judgments” I said. He just looked back at me and seemed a little older now, then he looked down and slowly shook his head. How much money do you make Todd, he asked? None of your business I said, as I stood up hotly!. He looked up and said one hundred seventeen thousand dollars, and change, that’s how much. My jaw sagged as he continued.

You have a nice house in a better neighborhood, Tina is a stay at home mom, you have a warm place to sleep, comfortable furniture. Did you know that once He started His ministry, the Son of Man never had a place of His own? You have cars, a house, furnishings, a great job, yet you are not satisfied, you want a better job, because you want to further glorify yourself, because no one appreciates you enough. Well, I say there is no difference between that and praying for a new car when you already have a great one, there is no difference. Who are you I asked really? Jay, I already told you, Jay See, actually those are just my initials though. J.C. my mind raced as he stood to leave, wait I asked and he turned and smiled kindly at me. Todd, just relax brother, just relax and realize that true rest lies in surrender. Realize that there is a larger plan at work, then He placed a hand on my shoulder and jogged past me. I turned to watch Him run but He was gone, there was no one there, the sidewalk was empty. I began to make my way back to work, tail between my legs. God Bless-JFT

 

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“God will never give you more than you can handle”. How many times have you heard that phrase before, or used it for that matter? I will be honest, I have never liked it because I think it is meant to give us false comfort in thinking the threshold of our endurance must be close, because after all, we are about at our snapping point, right?

Abraham was a favorite of Gods, there was no doubt that God loved Abraham, but Abraham must have been wondering what was going on. God told him he was going to be a daddy with his wife Sarah at a hundred after a lifetime of barrenness, only then to command Abraham to kill that much cherished son on the altar of sacrifice. I would imagine Abraham was grieved beyond what he could handle as he tied Isaac to the altar and raised the knife above him.

Jacob was chosen by God for a big task, he was going to be the father of the nation of Israel, he would become Israel. His life was not easy though, he was deceived by his father in law Laban much in the same way he had deceived his father Isaac to steal his birthright. He had heartbreak as his daughter was raped, then his sons slaughtered a whole community of men. Then his dear son Joseph went missing and it looked as though he had been killed by a vicious animal. He grieved bitterly, and life was never the same, then there was a plague in the land and all was nearly lost, his family could no longer even feed itself, he needed to send his sons to Egypt to buy food. He watched them ride off and he wondered where the blessing God had promised was, he didn’t feel very chosen right now.

Moses had seen God more times than he could remember, first in that strange bush that burned yet was not consumed, that is when he first knew he had been chosen. God had spoken to him many times since, in the form of a pillar of a cloud or a pillar of fire, or even in the evenings when he went out of the settlement to his own tent and the pillar of cloud settled at his door. God would converse with him, giving him guidance, telling him what to do, building him up when he was discouraged. Then, the days up on the mountain receiving the law and the commandments, he had seen God, until after he had gone down and found his people in debauchery. Moses had been so stunned by what he found that he dropped the commandments that God had carved in stone with his fingers, breaking them. God was really mad, he wanted to kill them all, and Moses told God to kill him instead because he was their leader. God relented, God showed mercy, but there was a price, Moses would no longer be able to see Gods face from now on. Moses looked out at these people, led from Egypt through the Red Sea on dry ground, their pursuer Pharaoh and his men slain. They complained about food, so they were fed manna from heaven and quail, everything they needed always provided, yet they whined and complained constantly. Moses did not feel chosen most of the time.

David thought back to the day that he was tending sheep and his dad had sent word for him to come home now. He got back wondering what was up only to find the old priest Samuel waiting with a horn, as David approached, the priest said, “he is the one” and began to anoint him with oil from the horn. He was told that he was chosen by God to lead Israel. He would face lions, bears, and then the giant Goliath, killing them all. He could feel the power of God protecting him, putting him where he needed to be in the kingdom. He was eventually even assigned to work with the King, and the king loved him dearly, that is until he began to try to kill him. David had gone on the run, and been chased by King Saul and his men, determined to kill him. David had run until he had become half crazy, and was at his wits end, now here he stood in the dark with a dagger in his hand and his master and nemesis before him. The king didn’t know David was close enough to cut his throat as he relieved himself, But David knew it wasn’t time, so he was satisfied with taking a trophy, a piece of the royal robe as proof. King David would be a great ruler never to be forgotten in the history of the world, a true man of God. But he probably didn’t feel very chosen as he stood at the back of the dark stuffy cave watching Saul and his men go to the bathroom, he probably felt cursed.

The stories continue in the same pattern, disciples, Apostles, Jesus, etc… People are chosen to do Gods work and that is when the going really gets tough. God uses the hard times to condition us for the task ahead; a battle tested warrior is always a better leader. So be careful with that phrase God will never give you more than you can handle. God Bless-JFT

Matthew 10:34  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”.

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2012, a time when many people throughout the world examine the previous year and look to the coming one. Upon doing so, they see in hindsight many places where they wish they had done better, so along comes the inevitable “new years resolution”. New years resolutions in many cases involve weight loss and or a promise of regular exercise in the year to come. In other instances, people will set hard goals such as getting a new job by the end of the year, moving into a house “of our own” by years end. All it requires is a little elbow grease, determination, discipline, and taking the bull by the horns, right?

Discipline is a trait to be sought after always, elbow grease is always something that has worked well for me too, and a dogged determination has helped me to excel in the business world to a place where I was able to provide well for my family. But determination and taking the bull by the horns have a dark and selfish side to them also, and have probably set me back in life more than they have advanced me.

I will just tell you, I am not a fan of making new years resolutions, when I was younger I made them and failed at them. As I grew older, I stuck with them longer and got wiser about not making big lists and setting unachievable goals, but the truth is, I do not make them these days, and don’t intend to start, at least not in the “usual” sense. When I decided to stop using tobacco, it was on January 8th, and it had nothing to do with the New Year, when I decided to lose weight and exercise regularly, it was just because I knew I needed to do it. Now don’t get me wrong here folks, I am not saying my way is “the” way, it is just the way that works best for me. If a new years resolution works best for you, and you are able to accomplish things in that manner, God bless you, it just has never worked for me.

One of the things that I noticed about all of the new years resolutions I used to make is that they were usually all centered around me. Let me give you an example, if I want to lose weight it means I am not happy with how I look or my eating habits, “I” want to have better control over that part of my life, get the weight off and be in control of myself. By resolving to begin a regular exercise regimen, “I” wanted to be more disciplined in that part of my life, to have consistency to the point to where I would work out daily and be athletic and tone because I wanted to look good and be in better control of that part of my life. The same with what I used to call my career, “I” wanted to be in control of my career path, to be in constant upward movement, because if I stalled in a position, then I would grow stale right. A good employee in corporate America always has his head tilted slightly up right, looking at the next rung?

Yes, I did underline them, the words control because my new years resolutions were always about me gaining a little bit more control in my life each year. I am so thankful that God has seen fit to reveal to me this truth the way He has, because I never realized it until He did. I no longer feel I have a career nor care about having one, I just have a job that I have been working at for 22 years, and am blessed that it provides for my family. I don’t care about ever moving up anymore, and I actually don’t care if I move down one day, as long as it is where God wants me, I am fine with it.

So, here is where I am at, 2011 was an action packed year. In late February or early March (not sure which) it was discovered that I had a stroke. I had come down with a severe migraine headache that lasted 9 days, and on the 9th day, my Dr. sent me in for a brain MRI and discovered the stroke purely by accident. It had already occurred, and whatever damage had occurred was irreversible by this point because it was “acute”. The neurologist ran many tests, and was happy to report that there seemed to be no effects that he could find and he even referred to it as a miracle. My new motto became “if a part of your brain is going to die, it might as well be a part that doesn’t do anything”. The stroke was ruled a stress stroke, as my arteries were clear. I made a decision then I was going to make some changes in my life, that is when I began hardcore mountain biking 4-5 times a week, and changed my diet. I lost 60# and many of my health problems went away, but the difference this time was I really just put everything in God’s hands. Instead of going “on” a diet, I just stopped eating about four or five of my favorite foods, and prayed to God for strength. I prayed for God to do with me as he would like, and He transformed my health.

The migraines would become a way of life for me, called “cluster” headaches, they usually linger in mind numbing pain for a week or so, and daily medication is the only thing that keeps them away. But during these headaches, I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit like at no other time in my life; it is as though He carries me through them. 2011 brought a lot of personal growth for myself and my family with God; I went back to college in the fall, taking biblical studies. It was a huge step for me, and I am blessed and happy to be able to do this, I am continuing in the spring also. My brother was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gering’s disease) this past fall, and then in November, the fine Dr’s at Mayo Clinic Scottsdale were no longer able to find his disease, so his 3-5 year death sentence was returned to a normal lifespan, the Dr. just shrugged his shoulders and said he couldn’t explain it, but we could, it was clearly God working behind the scenes.  The year ended with my second oldest daughter graduating from college and finding a wonderful job in Dallas, just down the street from where her older sister lives, so at least my girls are together. Seasoned with trials and pain, all in all the year was wonderful in all of its blessings.

So if I had to say what I resolve to do in 2012, it would be this. I want to spend more time this coming year than I ever have before talking to people about the Lord. I want to care less about the material things of this world in the coming year, and more about the people in it. I would like to be a better husband, father, son, brother and friend than I ever have been before in the coming year. I want to man the controls of my life less while still being disciplined, yet turn the power of control over to God more and more, I want my will to be His will daily. And lastly, I suppose it would be that it “does” matter what other people think about us, it matters that when they see us, they see Godly men and women of character and love. These are not resolutions for 2012, but goals I have for coming closer to God and doing his work not only this year, but for how ever many more there are that lie ahead. God Bless-JFT

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