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Posts Tagged ‘Promise keepers’

I finished things up for the day, closed up shop, and walked across the street to the livery stable to collect my ride home. Jenny is a mule, not a nice steed or a spry gelding, but a mule, a utility piece of transportation. My father had purchased Jenny from a friend of his soon after she was broken. She was still just a yearling then, and he loved her like family for the last two years of his life. When he passed, he left her to me because he wanted me to have reliable transportation that was paid for, so I tried to seem grateful as I accepted the reins of the hideous creature and led her back to my home.

As time went by, I would go to work each day in the local township, and I would ride Jenny on the roads and lanes that lead to my little shop. My shop is not a place that provides great wealth, but rather only provides just enough to make it as long as I stay busy always. That is why my father reasoned that I of all of his children should be blessed with this cursed creature, because I was the poorest of them all.

Oddly enough, it was on Jenny’s back that I decided to take a new route to town one day, and I first saw the horse of my dreams. I rode past a horse ranch that I had never seen before, and then saw the most beautiful thing I have ever laid eyes on. I saw the horse of my dreams.

The horse was a shiny chocolate black, and in stark contract to the color on his body, his mane and tail were blonde. I came to a screeching halt on Jenny when I first saw the steed grazing behind the pretty white fence. I dismounted from Jenny and left her standing in the road, running to the fence. I stood in awe, gazing at the horse of my dreams for the first time. The horse looked up at me and against all odds walked over to me,  placing its head over the fence allowing me to stroke it’s mane. This horse of unbelievable grace and beauty was not only stunningly beautiful, but kind and approachable to boot. I stroked his head and ears, mane and neck, and thus became my daily ritual.

I began to leave for work a little early each day, and get home a bit later each afternoon because I enjoyed sitting at the fence and spending time with the horse, dreaming of what life would be like if he were only mine. One day the horse’s owner was in the pasture feeding the horse a carrot, so he came over and said hello. I asked him what kind of horse this was, and he said it was a FoxTrotter, and that they were very rare and valuable. The following day, when I was in town, I began to research the horse and discovered that the breed was in fact very expensive. It was so expensive, that I was immediately assured that I would never own one, it was very much beyond my reach. If I were to sell everything I owned, I would not have half of the money needed to purchase the horse.

That evening, I stopped at the fence to see my friend the horse and stroke its mane, when again his master came out to the pasture. I have noticed you coming by in the morning and in the afternoons each day to see my horse; you must really like him a lot then? Yes, I do sir, I said, but I will never be able to own a horse like this, because he is far to fine of a horse for my budget, I cannot afford him. The horse’s master nodded quietly and looked at the ground thoughtfully for a moment. You know son, if you would like, I would accept payments from you over a period of time if you were really serious about wanting this horse. I looked the man in the eyes and then stuck my hand out and shook his saying, yes sir, you have yourself a deal.

The year was great, I named the fine steed Nero, and rode him to town proudly each day. I would take the long way, so that I could ride from one end of town to the other, and began to leave early, so that I could show the horse off in the evening. People would come out of their shops to see us go by, Nero was so beautiful. Winter came, and I still rode Nero each day, leaving Jenny in her stall, barely remembering to feed her. I would make payments to the horse breeder faithfully at the beginning of the month. When I made the twelfth payment, I was happy, knowing I was one fifth towards having Nero paid for. One morning, as we left for town on an icy morning, Nero slipped on the ice and we went down hard

The horse doctor came from town, and told me the painful truth, Nero’s leg was broken, the best thing to do, the most humane thing to do would be to put Nero down. I was stunned, his value as a horse was now gone, my beautiful horse was now useless, and I hadn’t yet made the thirteenth payment.

Jenny pulled the wagon with me driving it under cover of darkness, we drove quietly, save for Nero’s occasional whine. We came to the horse breeders driveway, and it was now mid night or so, and my faithful mule Jenny and I were able to remove the FoxTrotter horse from my trailer, and placed him alongside the driveway.

The horse had no value, it was worthless now so why should I have to pay the full price I would normally pay for a healthy horse. The horse could not even be used for breeding now, it had become a drain, so the trainer could have it back, it was his problem I reasoned, as I patted Jenny on the side of the neck and gave her a carrot. As we rode back home, I was so thankful my father had blessed me with the old girl.

This fictional story, while sad and unrealistic, is actually happening daily everywhere in America. Recently, I have had two Christian friends tell me that they are considering letting their houses go back because the value has dropped substantially. I personally believe that God expects us to be men and women of our word, and set an example. I just think giving a house back because it lost value is like giving a horse back because it broke a leg, what are your thoughts? God Bless-JFT

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The issue is the same, is it okay to bend the numbers a little bit, after all, since I have been told to do so, it really isn’t me making the decision is it? It is really the big boys who have the culpability for this; I am just a small fly in the ointment far downstream. Naw, I know this line of reasoning is rubbish so I don’t bother making excuses. I know God tells us thru the scriptures that worry is wrong, so that is another of my flaws then, because sometimes I still worry.

What if I refuse to do what they are telling me to do and they just fire me? What if I lose this job and can’t support my family anymore? What if I just do what I know is wrong, will it be possible for me to still strive to be a man of honor knowing I am doing something wrong? The stress builds up, and although I am praying for help, I am doing just that, praying for help, not deliverance.

So, as I have told you before, I drew the line in the sand, I refuse to do this, it is not moral, I am a Christ follower, do what you must but those are my terms. Whew, that wasn’t so bad now was it? The wise manager agrees with me, and says we will bring in legal and rework the contract, so that it will read true. I feel relief, He was with me all the way, but I bore too much of the burden, and fell very sick within a week. If only I would have let God “carry” all of it, I would not have had the stroke.

Months later, another manager, the one who ordered the number fudging in the first place starts pushing the limits again, I have to take a stand once more, but it doesn’t go away. It seems as though this issue is going to take me down before it is over, so I reach out to God. I go up the ladder and address the issue with a high ranking executive in my rather large company, and he agrees, be honest with reporting always. In the end, it is a lower level manager just above me who continues to want to push the limits of honesty, and although I have approval from all of his bosses, still he persists. When it happened for the fourth time in six months last week, I wondered what God was trying to tell me. What was this lesson oh God, what am I missing, and what are you trying to teach me? I prayed for the answers, but remained baffled, until this afternoon that is, and then the answer was delivered softly and gently to me as I dressed for work.

A man I have come to believe is a hero to our nation, and a warrior for God spoke at our church a couple of weeks back. Three Star Lieutenant General William Gerry Boykin spoke to our church, and it was awesome. The story of how he had to defend his Faith in being accepted into the first Delta force, How he was attacked by the left wing media for his faith, yet he stood strong in his faith, unwilling to placate the media mogul who was trying to bring him down. I was uplifted by this man, and invigorated to know that no matter what, no matter the pressure we are under, giving in to something wrong is never an option.

I am not really an autobiography or memoir reader, preferring a good fiction story instead, but this man had a book, and it was being sold in the bookstore at church after services. I bought one, and then stood in line to meet him and have him sign it. Now ever since I got that book, I have been reading it every day, it is a good book, but a good sized book also, and I haven’t lost interest in it at all, but rather can’t wait to read it each day.

Today, I again prayed to God for guidance as to how I am to respond to the latest salvo from this manager with a different moral character than I, and then I began to get ready for work. I went to pick up the book and put it into my lunchbox, and then I stopped and did a double take before picking it up. There, on my nightstand was the answer I had been waiting for all along. It hit me like a ton of bricks, and I realized why I had been so drawn to the book and the man of great faith. The answer God sent me was in the title, and calmness settled over me, I finally knew what God wanted me to do, I felt the Holy Spirit telling me that it was the answer, I only need to persevere.

God Bless-JFT

This story is true

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I have been thinking lately about the parable of the rich young man. I know that we really try to encourage those who attend church where I do to tithe, and to do so with a happy heart. Our church has done a pretty good job of doing so, and that is great. It is good to give of your first fruits to God, and I believe wholeheartedly in doing so, but then I began to think deeper about it. You see, Jesus didn’t ask the Rich young man to give ten percent of what he had. He didn’t suggest that the young man follow the Dave Ramsey plan of ten to God, ten in savings, and eighty to bills. No, he asked the young man to give it all up.

Mark 10: 17-25

 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

When he asked Jesus what he must do to be saved, he was told to follow the commandments, and the young man told Jesus that he had in fact kept those commandments, and this part touches me particularly, “Jesus looked at him and loved him”. He loved him, yet he had to tell the young man that he still lacked something, he needed to divest his riches and give it to the poor, and “then come and follow me”.

Wow, I have wondered why Jesus didn’t just ask the young man to tithe like everybody else, why couldn’t he keep his ninety like everyone else and be considered faithful. Don’t we feel pretty good inside if we give the top ten percent to God and do so with a cheerful heart. So why was it different with the rich young man. I think it is because Jesus was trying to make a point, unless you are willing to give it all up to have a home in Heaven with Him, then you will be like the rich young man. Now the key to what I said is “willing” in how I see it.

I have thought some in the past about my life and how I have been blessed, healthy children, nice homes, good cars to drive, and although we don’t lean toward flashy, and we are rather muted in our likes and dislikes, I feel as though we would definitely fit into the same classification as the rich young man, we have a lot. As a matter of fact, I would bet that the vast majority of us who live in this country would fall into that classification also.

So, what if, rather than asking me to be a cheerful giver, Jesus asked me to go and sell everything I own, give it to the poor and follow Him, would I do it with a cheerful heart, or would I balk at having to give up things like my cars, my home, my nice job and my cushy life or would I just grin ear to ear and say “You got it Jesus, anything for You”?

Even though I do not feel like a materialistic person, I have to say that I would not be eager to let everything I have go and strike out with nothing but my faith, and that saddens me, because I want to be there one day, to the point where I am able to just trust in the Lord completely and trust that He will meet all my needs. I already know that He will take care of me, but the thought of getting rid of my every possession and having nothing gives me a little heartburn, and I feel it shouldn’t. What are your thoughts? God Bless

JFT

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Maryam and Marzieh, Imprisoned in Iran’s Evin prison for 259 days, were released in November of 2009. These two women were imprisoned because they were Christians, but not just Christians but apostates, which are Christians converted from Islam. Below is an interview they did with Sam Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries.

Sam: What was the worst thing that happened to you?

Marzieh: One of the worst was the execution of two of my fellow prisoners. I had never experienced such a thing. One of those killed was my roommate. We had spent a lot of time together. And one day they took her to be executed. For a week I was in shock that killing a human being was so easy. She lived among us, a fellow human being; I saw her every day, and we said, “Hello.” The next day she is not there.
After these executions the spirit of sorrow and death hung over the prison. There was deadly silence everywhere. We all felt this. There was nothing we could do. Everyone was under pressure. The sadness was overwhelming. We stared at each other but had no power to speak. This was the worst experience. It was horrifying and tangible.

Maryam: The worst thing for me was the execution of Shireen, who became a close friend in prison.

Sam: Did you ever fear execution?

Maryam: I never thought about execution. I thought we might be sentenced to life imprisonment because that is the punishment for women convicted of apostasy. I just thought this was something we would have to bear.

Marzieh: Before prison we talked about execution, but when we got to prison and experienced the fear of it — our way of talking changed. The very first night that we were arrested, when they threatened us, we were really frightened. We never imagined we would be so frightened; we had talked about these things before. But the atmosphere there and what happened to us frightened us beyond our expectations. We were confined to a dark and dirty room and paralyzed with fear. We could see the fear in each other’s faces. We prayed and what calmed us was the presence of God and the peace that he gave us.
I just want to add, it is easy to say that I give my life for the Lord and I will do anything for him, even die. I always thought it would be a privilege to give my life for the Lord. You say these things. I know for sure that if this would happen to us we would rejoice ultimately. But human fears gripped us. The power the Lord gave us helped us to overcome these fears, just as when we prayed in the police station, God banished our fear and renewed our strength.

Sam: How did the guards treat you?

Maryam: When we were arrested most of the guards treated us badly, especially when they knew we had been involved in evangelism. They would curse us and would not let us drink water from the public tap or use the wash basin. But this changed and eventually they asked us to pray for them.

Sam: How did the other prisoners treat you?

Marzieh: Some called us “dirty, unclean apostates,” but their opinion changed and they asked for forgiveness. We had become an example to them and they would take our side.

Maryam: At Evin Prison the well-educated political and business prisoners called us “mortad kasif” (unclean apostates). In less than a month everything changed. As they got to know us, they were curious about our faith, they respected us and called upon us to sort out arguments they had between themselves.

Sam: Did any other prisoners come to faith?

Marzieh/Maryam: Yes. There were those who accepted Christ. When we were in Vozara [the first prison the women were taken to] we prayed the sinner’s prayer with many of the prostitutes. They prayed themselves and we prayed for them. But there were others who were too frightened to confess their faith. There were many who were impacted.

Sam: What message do you have for the thousands who prayed for you when you were in prison?

Marzieh: I would like to thank them for their prayers and support, and the letters they sent us. During this time it wasn’t just Maryam and Marzieh who were imprisoned, but all these prayer warriors. This was a great encouragement for us. We felt their presence alongside us. So please keep praying for those who are in prison for their faith, believers in Afghanistan and Pakistan and other places. Don’t think that your prayers are unimportant.

Sam: What happened to the thousands of letters you were sent?

Marzieh: We heard that people sent us letters in prison, but we didn’t get any of them. Just hearing that people sent us letters was a great encouragement to us. And what’s interesting is that the guards who opened our letters read the Bible verses and the prayers and were impacted. We know this because they told us and mentioned some of the verses from the gospel. I can’t thank [those who sent letters] with all that is in my heart; I can say “thank you,” but this is not enough.

Maryam: I thank them. It’s true we didn’t see the letters they sent, but we knew there was a large group supporting us. This was a huge encouragement to us and helped us to stand firm. We heard from our guards that forty to fifty letters were coming every day. They saw how Christians stood together to support their own. This was something that gave us hope.

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“If you never allow yourself to get into a position where you need to be rescued, then God does not have the opportunity to perform a miracle in your life”. ~The Holy Spirit, whispered to me, 2011.

The three men looked at one another and were calm. There was no temptation to give in to the king’s demands, so they simply replied to him the following.

Daniel 3:16-18

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

I imagine these bold men, Heroes of the Bible to me, and I picture them unsheathing the sword of truth and holding it high, knowing they were drawing a line in the sand before a very powerful and proud king. They had made their stand, there was no more talking needed, the fires were stoked, and they were thrown into a furnace so hot it killed even those who threw them in. But they had something else when they went into that furnace; they had the shield of God. The shield of God is something that comes when you wield the sword of truth and take a stand for what is right, prepared to face the consequences. They didn’t know that they would live through the furnace, but they knew that God was with them. This is one of the Bible stories that sends chills up my spine because had they just given in and bowed before the idol, this would have all been a non issue.

Challenges to our faith, to honesty and integrity still come to us regularly, and if we choose to not take a stand and do what is right, God doesn’t get to perform a miracle in your life, as he did with Daniel and the lions, David and Goliath, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I have been reading a lot lately about faith, and I believe the trust that all of these Bible heroes showed in God was rooted in their deep faith. I truly believe God still performs miracles like those above in today’s world, but we have to trust in Him, we have to be willing and able to un-sheath the sword of truth and hold it high in His name, and then the shield of God will appear in your other hand, and you will fear no more.

I have worked at the same job for almost twenty-two years, and in the last year, I have been “told” to submit reports daily that I feel are less than honest. This is the first time in over two decades that I have ever been told to do something I feel is not right. It first began around last Thanksgiving, and my superiors were hostile when I questioned doing it. You see, it was their boss, a new manager who had started it, and they were afraid to make waves. Long about late February, after much prayer, discussion with my wife, pastor, friends, I made a decision. I had to stand for the right.

I went three levels up, to the new managers boss, and calmly told him that I would not be doing it anymore. I explained that I am a Christ follower, and that I knew that what I was being told to do was not right, and I was willing to leave my job over it, it was a moral issue to me. I felt a sense of peace come over me; I knew God was going to take care of me either way as I drew my line in the sand. The manager calmly told me that he would get with “legal” and have the report changed so that I was comfortable with it. And he did, right had triumphed, and I felt the shield of God surround me warmly.

When we work in a secular world, we sometimes work for people who are accepted as good, decent honest people, yet their moral character is different than ours. They are willing to fudge the numbers, or tell a little white lie on a report and they don’t feel the moral dilemma about it that we as Christians do, such is the case with the young new manager I work with. As time passed, this same issue came up again, although in a slightly different scenario, and once again, I was being told to report falsely. Even my peers this time told me I shouldn’t make waves, it isn’t that big of a deal, just let it go and sign on the dotted line. Exasperated, I returned to the same place I did before, first God, then spouse, and friends and pastor for counsel. The answer was the same, I would rather live in a shack and have a clean conscience that compromise what I know is right for worldly security.

I was calm as I went to work on the fourth of July, and wrote an e-mail to a man I have never emailed before, the man who manages all of the power plants in my company and requested a meeting. I was confident as I walked into the office to meet with this man, because I knew that I had the shield of God around me, and I was wielding the sword of truth. I started the meeting by informing this man that I was a follower of Christ, and that Jesus guides my heart and mind, and that I know what I am being told to do is wrong. I explained to him that I was willing to let it all go for this one issue. He sat and listened, and then he agreed with me that it wasn’t the right thing to do. He assured me that this would all be taken care of as we stood and shook hands. Once again, the shield of God surrounded me.

When I told my friends the story of how this had ended, they told me I was gutsy and brave, that I had stood up in the face of persecution. My reply was that I have never been persecuted, people in China, North Korea, Columbia, Egypt, Iran and many others face persecution, I just stood up for what was right.

The shield of God is an amazing thing, the knowledge that you are being steered and guided by Him, the creator of the universe. Refuse to compromise what you know is right, draw a line in the sand and take a stand for what you believe, and you too will feel this amazing power. If God is for us, who can be against us?

God Bless-JFT

This is a true story

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Sam sat nervously in his office, several of his large clients were coming in today to meet with him, and they had not given him an agenda on the meeting. When they arrived, pleasantries were exchanged; they sat down, and dispensed with their kindness immediately. They wanted something that Sam had told them was impossible several times, but they just would not let up. You see, Sam owns a franchise to a large insurance company, and while he has some freedom, he does have constraints from corporate on some items.

The clients Kept on, even when Sam told them he just couldn’t do it. Then the meeting got worse; they said they were willing to bring in their legal team to leverage him with a lawsuit if he didn’t give in to their demands. Sam was shocked. The exec’s left the room and even threw out a deadline for him to comply. He placed his head in his hands and thought, “what can I do”. The accounts were large; they would definitely affect his payday if he did not comply with their demands, not to mention legal fees. What they were demanding was wrong, it wasn’t what they had agreed to, it was just morally wrong. Sam reached across his desk and picked up the phone, he called his brother in Christ, a friend in whom he could seek counsel.

The exec’s walked back into Sam’s office, smug smiles on their faces. They knew Sam would comply, in this economy, he would be a fool to say no. Plus, he had called them back so soon, there was no way it would be no. Sam shook hands all around as they sat, and then shuffled some folders around on his desk, then handed a folder to each one of the three exec’s. He then stated that he had decided to release them from their contracts. Integrity is not only important at home, but at work also, and when faced with doing business in an underhanded way, he had decided he would rather have less money and sleep well at night. He then stood and held out his hand again, “good day, gentlemen”, as the stunned exec’s rose as if in a trance, and Sam ushered them out of his office.

Adjustments to the budget would have to be made until he could replace the clients, but they could handle it. A peace undoubtedly provided by the Holy Spirit came over Sam and he stopped being concerned about it then and there, He knew God had his back.

1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV)   do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

 

So what would have happened if Sam had chosen the other path and had made changes to the contract just to accommodate the execs? The contract is not unlike a covenant between two parties. Had Sam broken his company rules, fudged on the paperwork a bit, and given them the farm, what then? Next time it would be something else, and Sam would have been less likely to say no. It gets easier and easier to use the loopholes in life once you have taken advantage of them. It gets easier and easier to get your way on a technicality if that is the path you choose.

My belief is that every time we utilize a loophole, every time we utilize a technicality, a little piece of our integrity floats away. Once you have lost your integrity with others, it is very hard to get back with people. Trust lost is easier to regain than integrity lost, and without integrity, will anyone listen to you when you want to share the gospel?

Where are you, when faced with what Sam was faced with, would you let the paycheck go and “know” that God will take care of you, or would you cling to the money? It is very easy to talk about faith, about morals, but when we find ourselves on the firing line, we need to remember God allows His people to be tested. He will allow us to be tested also, the question is, will we pass?

God Bless

JFT

This story (fiction) based loosely on real events.

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“He leads me beside the still waters”. I have often wondered what that meant, what was the significance of the still water. I surmised that it is because still waters are relaxing. If there is a current, it is a lazy one, and it is usually deep quoting another phrase, “quiet waters run deep.

Families gather at still waters, in many places, people will have a family get together at the local swimming hole in a creek or river. When I was a kid, spending my summers in the south, that’s what we did. There was always a thick rope hanging from a tree that we would swing out over the water on then let go. The water was calm and deep, so there were no worries about cracking your head open, you could relax.

To the contrary, fast waters are not relaxing. They are typically much colder, and they require much more work. You have to tread water, and you have to constantly fight the current to prevent being pulled downstream. They are the opposite of still waters, still waters being a great place to relax and just cruise.

In the early 1900’s, a church group went down on the Mississippi river in Illinois for a potluck and swimming, and were shocked to be attacked by a bull shark, or a pack of them. It was so far inland that they never gave sharks a second thought; they let their guard down, relaxed and planned a peaceful fun afternoon. The sharks who are actually able to come far into fresh water had staged an ambush, knowing the area was frequented by swimmers, swimmers with their guard down.

As a boy, swimming in the rivers and lakes of the south, I knew no fear. I cannot count the times that I was swimming for an hour, and got out of the water to see a water moccasin (cottonmouth snake), deadly as a rattler, slithering through where I had just been swimming. I would throw rocks at it, then go right back in for another swim. I had much less fear (wisdom) as a child.

Satan is like a snake or a bull shark; He lies in wait while we are resting in the still waters. While we are recharging our batteries and catching some R&R, He is sizing us up. He is a predator of opportunity waiting to swallow us up. People who have been attacked under similar circumstances have said they never saw it coming, one moment; they were leaning back having a great time, then the next they were in a battle for their life.  Satan loves the still waters too; the places and times when we lay our defenses down and relax.

Stay busy in your consistent following of Christ, not ever taking a break in your faith, because that is what he is counting on. He lies in wait for you at the still waters looking to devour and destroy. Stay busy spreading the Word, keep in the fellowship of other believers, going it alone doesn’t work for an antelope in Africa that is being stalked by a lion, the solo antelope or water buffalo is what the lion seeks, hopes for. It is no different for us; followers of Christ are constantly being stalked by the evil one who seeks a crack in our defenses. He lies in wait. 1 Peter 5:8

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Stay busy doing His work, keeping in the fellowship of others who believe as you do, and don’t spend too much time in the still waters. The rapids, while they require more work are safer from a spiritual standpoint. God Bless

JFT

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