Desert Hills Baptist Church

 

                                                    " THERE ARE NO COINCIDENCES IN THE BIBLE"................       November 13, 2018

Numbers 22, 23, 24

 

          Relax! I am not going to quote every verse in these 3 chapters! However, I would encourage you to read the whole story of Balaam. For today, though, let’s talk about the “discussion” between Balaam and his donkey,

          First, it was not a coincidence that Balaam was sought out to prophesy against Israel. He was a renowned prophet at this time and in the area of Midian. The Children of Israel were on their way to the promised land and they were going through Midian and the Midianites were afraid of them.

          So, they tried to “hire” Balaam to speak curses against the Children of Israel. Now, we do not know what kind of relationship Balaam had with God, but we do know that every time the representatives of the king came with greater and greater gifts, Balaam sought God and God said, “no.”

          Read the first part of chapter 22 because it is important to know what was going on in people’s minds. Finally, with their last offer, Balaam tells them, “Y’all rest here tonight and I’ll ask God what He says.”

          God tells him, after he has asked, and asked, and asked, and the reward got greater and greater, “Fine! (anyone else hearing their mother? ‘Fine, if that’s what you really want to do . . .’) Go ahead but I will tell you what to say about Israel.”

          Now begins the journey! Verse 22 says, “And God's anger was kindled because he went:” Why is God angry? Look back at verse 20, “If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them;” Balaam took off! The king’s representatives didn’t ask him to come, he made that decision himself.

          “That’s okay God! I know how to handle this! I got this!”

So, Balaam is riding his donkey and making his way down the road and the donkey sees and angel with his sword drawn ready to make mincemeat out of Balaam!

“Whack! You’d better get me back on the road or I will hit you again!!!”

Again, as they are traveling through a vineyard, the donkey sees the angel in the middle of the road between two walls and trying to go around the angel she smashed Balaam’s foot in one of the walls and again he beats her!

Now the angel moves to an area where there is no way around and the donkey just falls to the ground. Balaam grabs his stick and starts beating the donkey!

Now comes something miraculous – “And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?

          The little dumb animal talks! And what is even more amazing is Balaam has a conversation with the donkey! I know people talk to their pets, but imagine if your dog or cat began to talk to you in English!?!?!

          “Why, yes Mario, I have been a good girl in the garden! Would you like to see?”

          Balaam doesn’t even realize he is talking to his donkey and the donkey is talking back! In verse 30 the donkey bluntly asks him, “You have ridden me all the time, have I ever done anything like this to you?” And Balaam has to admit “no”.

          Wait! You are still talking with an animal!!! Then the angel, who had stood in the path, reveals himself to Balaam and instantly Balaam realizes his sin and repents.

          There are a host of non-coincidences in this story, the king knows of Balaam and knows that God speaks through him. God knows what is going on between the king’s men and Balaam and God knew what Balaam was going to do – disobedience. 

          God sent His angel – it was not a coincidence that the angel was there! And God giving the gift of speech to an animal was not a coincidence because that was how He taught Balaam a lesson.

          “Hey, if I wanted, I could have your donkey deliver My message!”

          When things begin to happen to you, take a look around and see if God is “talking” to you!

          (Please read the rest of the story because it is good!)




 
 

                                                              "OH, HE LOVED ME SO"............................             November 6, 2018

 

“We love him, because he first loved us.” I John 4:19

 

Oh, He loved me so, but I didn’t know

He died alone on a tree, He bled that I might be free,

But I didn’t know.

 

          I was raised in Baptist churches even though neither of my folks were saved, that’s what you did, you raised your children in church. For over 2 decades I have no doubt that I heard the story of salvation from many preachers.

 

I walked alone, my heart had no place to call home.

I was so empty inside, but I told no one because of my pride.

Oh, He loved me so, but I didn’t know

 

          I knew the stories of the Bible from Adam and Eve to Noah and the ark, the parting of the Red Sea, David and Goliath. Even the miracles of the New Testament; Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, turning water into wine, the Lord making a mud pack so a blind man would see, to the 4 men who would not let crowds deter them from getting their sick friend to Jesus for healing.

 

I passed a church on my way, the sign outside said, “Can you meet Him today?”

I walked in the door and heard who Christ had died for.

Oh, He loved me so, but I still didn’t know

 

          Even after leaving home and being in the Air Force, I still sought out church services and met amazing Christian men, Lord (that was his last name) in basic where we sang the songs in the back of the little New Testaments with the Psalms given to enlistees by the Salvation Army, to Girma Abebe, an Ethiopian brother (and with joy I can now say that!) who exclaimed, “I just love singing about my Jesus!” to Sgt Rice, who led a Bible study in Thailand, to George Bacon, the man that loved me into the kingdom and discipled me after salvation.

 

I went down the aisle and sat in a pew, the man up front pointed and said, “Hey you!”

He said “Christ is asking please!” My heart gave way and I fell down to my knees!

Oh, He loves me so, and thank God I know! Thank God I know!

 

          November 11, 1973, Zaragoza Air Base, Spain, Base Chapel. Junior Browning (his real first name) on temporary assignment (TDY) to our base preached the Gospel and for the first time in my life I HEARD THE GOSPEL!!!

          Two dear sisters, Kim Thomas and Angie Cisco started the invitation, “God’s Final Call” and I ran to the altar! I ran! As Junior, Al Cisco (Angie’s dad), Larry Smith, and George, gathered around me and I cried and sobbed asking for God’s forgiveness filling the pages of Junior’s Bible with my tears.

          But I knew, I knew, I knew that Jesus had saved me! I had never felt so clean in my life. The hymns of faith now had meaning, “Since Jesus came into my heart!” Yes He did!!

          “Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?” Yes! Yes I am!

          “I’ll fly away O glory!” Yes I will!

 

          God led me to write that song you have just read. He birthed music in my soul! He gave me a song (“In my heart there rings a melody!” Indeed!!) and through His encouragement I am able to share who I am with folks.

 

Oh, He loves you so, do you know?

 

 
 

                                                                "CALLED TO TESTIFY"...............................     October 30, 2018


“. . . and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:8

 

          Are we immediately able, right after salvation to explain who and what we are? Usually not – it takes preparation! But – here it comes! we should get out to testify as soon as possible. Teen Challenge in New Orleans discovered this principle. Folks would come in get cleaned up and sobered up and they would be sent to the Teen Challenge camp where they would be taught for six months about who they now were.

          

           After the six months had passed, the young Christians, now with some Bible knowledge and life experience under their belts, would go back to their neighborhoods to witness to their former friends. Big problem. Six months to druggies is an eternity!

          

          “Hey man! Have you seen Willie?”

          “Oh Dude, he OD’d about two months ago.”

          “What about Skinny Jim?”

          “Man, ain’t nobody seen him since you left.”

          “Mary with the mole?”

          “She got so high they had to lock her in the nut ward.”

 

          What they learned is that they had to ground these folks as soon as possible (about 3 weeks) and then go with them back to their turf. It was more effective in leading people to Christ and it gave the new converts greater confidence in themselves and their testimony.

          

          The night I got saved, George Bacon took me into our dorm and we knocked on the doors of 10 men so I could tell them what had happened to me! I didn’t have to have great Bible knowledge or memorize umpteen dozen verses, I just had to share what had happened to me.

          

          I believe there’s a lesson in there somewhere . . .

 

 
 
                                                                                                          "TRUST"..............................          October 23, 2018

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.

Jeremiah 17:7

 

But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:

Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;

II Corinthians 1:9-10

 

          Learning to trust people. Not an easy task. Our facility sent groups of the staff to a one day training on how to function as a team and one of the things we did was a “trust fall”.

          There was a platform about 6 feet off the ground with a set of steps up to it. We would line up in two lines at the base of the platform and intertwine our arms looking like a web. Then one person, at a time, would climb up to the platform, turn their back to us and “fall” back on to our arms.

          Being in the line that was “catching” the person was kind of cool because the weight of the person was transferred to everyone in the line so no one person had to bear the weight of the falling person. That was the easy part!

          The hard part was 6’3”, 300 pound Mario climbing the steps, walking to the edge and see the smiling faces of my co-workers

(and hearing comments about trying to support me!) then turning my back to them and


F

    A

     

       L

 

           L

 

                I

 

                      N

 

                             G

 

Backwards!!!!!

          They caught me and it was a very interesting feeling putting my trust in them.

          So often trusting God seems like we are just launching ourselves off backwards into space hoping and praying that He will catch us. Yet, the Word is full of God telling us to trust Him – and that same Word is full of testimony of those who did place their trust in Him. And He never failed one person. Not one!

          A story from the Old Testament is a good illustration of this. The nation of Judah is at war (II Chronicles 20) and a horde of the enemy is coming. The King, Jehoshaphat, is afraid but he turns to God. He declares a fast for the entire nation and he prays to God for salvation and God answered him.

          (verse 17) Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you,

O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you.

 

          God tells this ruler to trust Him. God even tells Jehoshaphat that the army of Judah will not have to fight! But, they must attend and watch! And God does not fail him or the nation.

          Now comes my favorite part of the story! This is how much trust Jehoshaphat had in the Lord:

          (verse 21) And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever.

 

          He sent singers to the front line! Imagine if the President ordered the Infantry into battle but first he put The United States Army Band armed only their voices and instruments!

          That is how much the King trust in God and the result was this,

          (verse 22) And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab,

and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.

 

          God got the victory! Jehoshaphat trusted the Lord and a decisive battle was won – not by the strength of Judah’s army,

but by the arm of the Lord!

          Trust. Put your trust in God. Not always easy to do, but if you let Him fight your battles for you, you will come out on top!

 
 

 

                                                           "PRESSURE AND GOD'S GRACE"................           October 16, 2018  


“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake:

for when I am weak, then am I strong.” II Corinthians 12:10

 

          In Zaragoza, our fellowship of believers, about 20-25 of us, were meeting on base under the guidance of Ron Waggoner.

At first, we met in the rec center and the administration said that wasn’t appropriate, so we moved to the POL building

(fuel depot – Larry Smith worked there and got clearance from his boss).

          

          We had a church meeting and under the Southern Baptist Convention, which had licensed Ron, allowed us to formulate a church – Zaragoza Baptist Fellowship (of which I am a charter member) so we did. 

          

          We were also holding Youth Bible Studies, under Ken Davidson, the man that taught me the guitar through God’s guidance.

We were meeting at homes on base and usually had housefuls of young people and young single servicemen. However, shortly afterwards the powers that be decided the base chapel services were enough (the chaplains were upset because their “Games, pop, and cookies” on Fridays were not attracting any youth – many of them were coming to our study!) and actually commanded us to leave base and not conduct any meetings whatever on base.

          

           The Spanish Baptist church in downtown Zaragoza opened their door and hearts to us and welcomed us. But now instead of just 20-30 people, our church had exploded to over 100 members! That was not counting the men and women who would come for 90-day stints to the base (servicing the F-4 squadrons from all over Europe who came to use the bombing range – the only one in Europe)!

          

           It seemed the more pressure that was put on us to not use base facilities (including base housing), pass out tracts, or witness in the open (no Bible studies even in our dorms!) the more people came to know God! I’ve shared how Pastor Ron’s sermon was interrupted by Ray coming forward. There were times that the altar was flooded!

          

           In a church of about 100 (average service) Americans (on a base with about 700 people stationed there! Think about that!),

there would also be 20-25 of the members of the Spanish congregation who would come after their service to join in on the music

and sermon! Our choir was 20-30 people and two guitars!

          

           The Word was being preached, regardless of the pressure! Souls were being saved! Folks were getting baptized! The church will face pressure! And in that pressure, Jesus will be lifted up and people will be drawn to Him!

 
 

 
 

                                                                              "BE READY!!!"......................                                     October 9, 2018

 

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you

reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: I Peter 3:15

 

September 1976, I joined with 3 other Brothers from Rapid City Open Bible Church for our car ride to Eugene Bible College,    

Eugene, Oregon. We had two cars and a family friend of one of the Brothers was going to ride with us.


It was going to be about a 24-hour drive and the lady riding with us was not only just recovering from an appendix surgery,

she was also recently recovering from breast cancer. Unlike we boys, she did not rest during the entire trip, not one nap.


We arrived in Eugene in the early afternoon and went to the side of town where her family would come and meet with us.

As we arrived at the gas station and we all got out of the cars and began to stretch, she stood up, straightened and stiffened

and suddenly her eyes rolled back into her head she fell straight back onto the pavement.


What?!?! While one of the Brothers began praying and the other two looked on, I took over. Wait, what???? Yes.

You see I was just recently out of the Air Force and as a Security Policeman I was trained in First Aid and had to

re-qualify every year. You got used to doing thing methodically.


I instructed one of my friends to call emergency services and another to elevate her feet (remember this was 1976!

Treatment for shock was elevating a person’s feet). Next, I folded up one of our jackets and placed it under her head

and tried to keep her head in shade.


When she fell, one of the workers at the gas station came over (curious as to what was going on) and I asked him for

something that I could put between her teeth to keep her from biting her tongue (remember, that’s what we did in First Aid

in 1976!) and he handed me a greasy screwdriver from his back pocket!

“Give your wallet man!”


After what seemed like an hour (in reality about 15 minutes) the EMT’s arrived and took over. Her family arrived around

the same time and they were plenty worried seeing the ambulance! The lead EMT said that she was just exhausted from

the surgery, radiation treatment and lack of sleep.


What’s the point? I had been trained and knew what to do. It was drilled into my head “check the scene, send for help,

treat for shock” and when the time came I did what I had been trained to do.


“. . . be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you . . .

” What have you trained yourself to do? When the opportunity arises, a coworker begins to confide in you,

when a family member calls and wants to know about your faith, your beliefs, are you ready to give an answer?

 
 

 
 

"CAMPING IN CANAAN'S LAND OR BLESSED ARE THEY THAT HAVE NOT SEEN, AND YET HAVE BELIEVED"

                                                                                                                                                                October 2, 2018


23: Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name,

when they saw the miracles which he did. 

          24: But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,

25: And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. 

John 2:23-25

 

          Jesus could not trust people who believed on Him only because of the miracles!  Miracles are great, soul-stirring messages

and words of wisdom are wonderful.  However, if there is no change, then it was all for nothing.  

          An evangelist friend of ours told us the story of a church he was due to be speaking at and during the song service the

first night the worship team began playing and singing that great gospel song “Camping in Canaan’s Land”. The people were

clapping and singing and suddenly someone jumped up and began a “Jericho” march around the inside of the church.

          After an hour or so of singing, clapping and marching, our friend said everyone kind of collapsed into the pews, sweating

and slapping each other on the back and declaring how great it was that God had visited them. Then everyone got up and head

out to go home! He had a message prepared but the people had simply left.

          The next night the same thing happened. The team began singing some of the old songs and gradually “drifted” into

playing “Camping in Canaan’s Land”. Singing, shouting “Amen!” and “Praise the Lord!” and once again after an hour and a 

half people sat down, breathing hard and congratulating each other on a wonderful service and began to leave.

          His message from the Word left unsaid, our friend went to his motel room.

          The third night it was the same thing except just as the people started to sit down and the worship team began to pack their instruments away, our friend jumped up behind the pulpit and started preaching!

          The people were shocked, he said. They did not know what to do but sit there and listen to the Word. After that night,

they did not sing “Camping” for the rest of revival. As he told me the story I thought of the old song “Ezekiel saw the Wheel”.

One of the verses says this:
“Some go to church for to sing and shout! Way in the middle of the air!
Before six months, they’re all shouted out! Way in the middle of the air!”


          Having a great song service is fantastic. Jericho marches are wonderful. Yet is that all there is to church? Just like these

people 2,000 years ago who believed just because of the miracles, we must be careful not to forget the Word. 

          Christianity is not just waving our hands in the air, singing those great old songs of faith, and shouting “Amen!” It is a lifestyle,

a change in every aspect of our being and most important, it should be an intense love for the Word of God.       

          John 20:29 says, “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have

not seen, and yet have believed.” 

          The people believed He could be their Messiah in the sense of Jesus leading them out from under the bondage of the Romans, but they did not accept Him as their Savior.  As He knew what was in man’s heart, He did not trust those men to testify of Him.  

here was head knowledge, but they were lacking heart knowledge.

          So, sing! But don’t forget to read the Word!

          Shout, when He has blessed you! But don’t forget to bless Him even when things aren’t going your way!

          Because even not seeing Jesus in the flesh, we are blessed because we believe!

 
 

 
 

                                                        "YOU ARE NOT A COINCIDENCE!".........               September 25, 2018


“Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ  Romans1:6

 

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called

according to his purpose.”

 

          These verses indicate that Jesus does call people specifically.  I have said that I am a literalist concerning the Word,

and I think that there is an emphasis on the word “the”.  That is a singular word meaning a specific group of people.

Instead of just saying the word, think of it this way “the called” (pronounce it as “thee”).  That gives us a special status because

He called and we answered.

 

          Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 

          Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee,

when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. 

          Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. 

          Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou?

thou shalt see greater things than these. John 1:49-50

 

          Here in verses 47-50 we have the confession of Nathaniel and the prophecy of Jesus.  Not only does Nathaniel declare

Jesus to be the Son of God, he also calls Him the rightful heir of the throne of David! Jesus is not only the Son of God,

the Messiah, the Anointed One, He is the descendant of King David, the greatest of the Kings of Israel. He is the One who was prophesied of old, now in the flesh.  

          

           This is He whom they had all been seeking!  These meetings were not chance, nor were they random in nature, there are no coincidences in God’s kingdom! These men had been looking for the Consolation of Israel, the Prince of Peace, the Branch of David, the Messiah, and here He was.

          

          Jesus also tells Nathaniel that he believed because Jesus told him where he was. It that were not enough, the Savior tells Nathaniel in essence, “Do you think that was something? You, Nathaniel, will witness even greater things!”

          

          What promise from the Lord! My pastor from an internship in Wyoming used to tell me, “Boy, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

Nathaniel was going to see awesome things in his life, Godly things, and the miraculous!

          

           His calling and response, just as yours, Christian, is no coincidence!
 
 
 

 
 
"HOW TO MAKE A P, B, & J"................................September 18, 2018

But let your communication be, Yeayea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
Matthew 5:37
 
II Corinthians 3:12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:
 
English class, 1977. One of my friends asked the class to write down how to make a pb&j. When everyone had
finished writing, he took out a shopping bag with a bag of bread, p-nut butter, jelly, and a knife.
          He told the class that he was going to make the sandwich according to the instructions written. He then picked
up the first set of notes and followed them. “Put p-nut butter and jelly on the bread.” He took the jars of p-nut butter
and jelly, set them on top of the bag of bread and looked up.
          “No man! Take the p-butter and jelly out of the jar and put it on the bread!” So, he opened the p-nut butter,
using his fingers, scooped out a nice helping of it and began to spread it on the bag of bread!
          Finally, people were beginning to understand the exercise in communication and gave him explicit instructions. 
          How often do we, as Christians, do that to not only unsaved people, but those who have never been churched
and don’t understand our “language”? No pun intended, just a little food for thought.
 

 
 

                                                               "MY DADDY ON GIVING AND TITHING"............                 September 11, 2018


Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men

give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. Luke 6:38

 

          Drop a couple thoughts here about my dad. He did not believe in deducting his giving to the church. He did not believe in writing down the mileage when he drove his car for a church purpose. (Remembering this thought from an old country preacher friend of mine – “Don’t let someone else’s convictions convict you.”)

          But that doesn’t negate the initial thought of not deducting tithes and offerings off taxes. You and I both know that there is soon coming a day when the powers that be will make giving to nonprofit organizations not deductible.

          If people doubt that, they need to look back and see where everything you gave used to come off the top of your taxes.

Now, you can only claim a percentage. Hmmmm.

          Towards the end of his time on this earth my Daddy was more or less housebound and unable to go to church. He called my brother and gave him his tithe check and my brother drove around town trying to find Daddy’s pastor to hand over his tithe check.

Wow.

          When Mama and Daddy lived in New Hampshire, they regularly drove an hour and a half to attend church because that was

the closest one they could find that preached the Word (there’s another story there I’ll tell sometime).

          One Sunday their pastor, obviously suffering from the flu, stood in the pulpit and asked “I am not feeling good so I am going to preach on tithing. How can some of you make it on 30 or 40 dollars a week?” The people looked around at each other probably

thinking that a fever had really hit the man hard.

          “No, really, how do you pay rent, buy groceries, pay the power and phone bills on 30 or 40 dollars a week? You’re only

putting in 3 or 4 dollars and that’s a tithe on 30 or 40!”

          My folks said you could almost hear a pin drop.

          Hmmmm.

 
 

 
 

                            "THE GOD OF SECOND CHANCES"..................                September 4, 2018

                                                             

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter,” Matthew 16:18a

 

“But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan:” Matthew 16:23a

 

“And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” Luke 22:61

 

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them,” Acts 2:14a

 

When I was working at the St. Anthony Work Camp (fire crews) we had a young man (7 DUI’s and the one that

got him locked up was when he rear-ended a PARKED state police cruiser) who was the laziest worker on his crew.
The other inmates complained about him, the C.O. who supervised him complained and the Sergeant in charge of the fire crews complained about him.

At a staff meeting, the warden asked for thoughts about what we could do rather than just send him back to the Yard (main prison in Boise). Someone in the meeting suggested that the inmate be put in charge of a crew for a week or so,

in order that he might see what hard work it was to run a crew.

Our Warden approved it, although there were some who doubted it would do any good. The man was assigned to

his old crew as the supervisor (the other supervisor was shifted to a different crew) and the turnaround was stunning!

Not only was his crew the hardest working and best crew, he became the hardest worker in the crew! All some

people need is a second chance!

 

The Word is filled with people to whom God gave a second chance. Zacchaeus (the “wee little man” as the

children’s song goes), Jonah, Samson, Moses, and from the verses above, Peter.

Talk about turn around! One minute Jesus is giving him a name change, the next He is calling him out as satan!

Then after telling Peter he would deny Christ 3 times, when the rooster crows, 3 times, Jesus looks at Peter and he
remembers the words.

But! And what a great interjection! But at the day of Pentecost God moves upon Peter and he takes his position

as the Apostle of Jerusalem. The power of God moved through him to this extent:

“Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.” Acts 5:15

 

Indeed, our God is a God of second chances! What would hold you back from serving Him?

 

 
 

THE POWER AND PURPOSE OF PRAISE........................August 28, 2018

 

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him, and bless his name
Psalm 100:4

 

          When I lived in Zaragoza, Spain, after the chaplains kicked our church off the base, we would drive to the Spanish Baptist

Church downtown. It was a drive that usually took about 20 minutes.

          We would load up VW bugs with anywhere from 5-10 servicemen and teens and head out on the highway! Almost every

time we would sing choruses for the entire trip – “Let’s go up to Zion”, “Let’s just Praise the Lord”, “Great is the Lord and greatly

to be praised” (Psalm 48:1-2) and a host of others.

          Here it comes! I have told Pastor that I believe when a Christian is in a deep blue funk they should put on their favorite

worship music for at least 20 minutes. After about 20 minutes either your funk passes and you enter into the presence of God

through that worship OR you turn off the music and have a pity party! Which is better?

          So, then, by the time we got to church, after singing those praises to the Lord, we were ready for church! Worship (music)

brings us into the presence of the Lord (I read somewhere about entering His gates with thanksgiving and praise . . .Psalm 100:4). “Tune my heart to sing Thy praise”! 

          This was a fellowship that started with barely a dozen people in November 1973 that grew to over 100 (on a base of a little

over 700) and birthed at least 24 families in the ministry! Evangelists, pastors, worship leaders, and the list goes on as the

children of these folk continue now in ministry as well!

          Singing praises opens our hearts to hear Him and gains us entry into His court!

 
 

 
 

                                                     "TRAIN UP A CHILD IN THE WAY HE SHOULD GO"..........                    August 21, 2018


Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

 

          I was working in Juvenile Detention in Lewiston, ID in the middle 90’s and one Friday evening we received a brother

and sister who allegedly had stolen several vehicles.

          

She was around 12 and the younger boy was 9. As we did the intake questionnaire, the young girl was puzzled as to

why she was in detention. She kept telling us she had done nothing wrong and we needed to release her, and her brother. 

   

       Of course, we (staff) would just smile because we had heard the “I’m innocent!” line before. And as we interviewed

the brother we heard the same thing, “You can’t arrest me!” (Too late, that’s why you’re here) “You can’t hold me, I haven’t

done anything wrong!” (Uh, grand theft auto – before the game came out in 1997)

          

The longer they were with us the more adamant they became. Eventually we got tired of listening to them and put

them in their rooms, crying that it just wasn’t “fair”! They would see the judge Monday morning following.

          

After their hearing Monday they were returned to us, still claiming their innocence but now an important part of the

story came out. “Our Dad told us it was okay to take the cars.”

          

Surely you know better, right? No, they didn’t. Since they were very young, their father trained them to get into cars,

especially ones that were unlocked and had the keys in them and take the cars.

          

It was okay, the children were told. Those people didn’t want their cars anymore and their dad did need them to support

the family.

  

        There is a popular meme on Facebook that says, “If you don’t teach your children to love Jesus, the world will teach

them not to.”

   

       As far as I know, those children underwent a lot of counseling and their father was eventually arrested. But how difficult

it must have been to break that belief system. That tape that ran through their minds telling them that it was okay to take cars

(they never used the word “steal” because they knew that "stealing" was wrong).


          All of us in the church have a responsibility to help train everyone in the church – especially the young children.

To train them in the ways of God, to know the salvation of Jesus Christ, the joy of serving in the church, and an appreciation

for the Word of God.

 


 
 
                                                                 "HE IS STILL THE SAME"................                             August 14, 2018
 
For I am the LordI change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Malachi 3:6
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Hebrews 13:8
 
          I was working a unit at the prison and an inmate (he was almost 60 as I recall) was due to be released (this was in 1990)
and in talking with him he told me he had “been down” (incarcerated) since the 60’s.
          As we talked he expressed concerns about upcoming release back into society. Would you believe one of the problems
he was trying to come to grips with was driving?
          “Boss,” he started. “When I went down cars were a whole lot different than the ones I see ads for. I mean, sitting in the
driver’s seat the whole dashboard looks like a jet cockpit to me!”

          I had to think about that. In the middle 60’s this is what you could expect to see:


  
   Now look at what they would look like in 1990?


 
          What a difference! And imagine someone who had not driven since 1965 and you looked at a car today! Indeed it would look
like a jet cockpit, wouldn’t it? Yet we have assurance with God the Father and God the Son that They are unchanging.
          Salvation for mankind has not been changed to meet the times. It is still: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the
Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
 
          And we have this assurance from Jesus, Himself, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive
you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:3
 
          Our unchanging Savior and unchanging God!
 
 

 
 

                                                      “TRUST”..............                   August 7, 2018

 

Genesis 24:2 And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had,

Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:

 

          As Pastor Scott was teaching on this for Wednesday Night Discipleship, I began remembering what I knew about

what happened and I remembered an incident from my youth.

          Abraham trusted this servant with his life! Abraham’s entire being was open to the man to do with as he would.

His very life was in the hand of this servant.

That is trust! That is a trust not easily given, nor is it a trust to be taken lightly. There is something implied that says,

“Here, I am open and unarmed. That is how much trust I place in you.”

          As a naive 18-year-old in 1970, I was stationed at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base as a Security Policeman.

Every night myself and several other Airmen and along with our Thai guards, would climb aboard a deuce-and-a-half truck

(yes, I could actually climb up into the bed of the truck!) plus our weapons (M-16’s, M-60’s, grenade launchers, and ammo boxes)

and ride out to our posts.

          I had been working with a Thai guard, Boonpeng (not sure of spelling, but it has been almost 48 years!) for a few months

in a machine gun bunker. We enjoyed working together on the graveyard shift (8 p.m. to 4 a.m.) and would share our meals.

He had even invited me to his home for dinner one night.

My C-ration pack included a 4-cigarette pack (Pall Mall, Camel, but the Thais favored Marlborough’s) which I would

give to Boonpeng as I did not smoke. He was very appreciative of the gift.

Now Thai culture was very interesting (especially in the early 70’s while the war was raging). You never saw men and

women holding hands together, any kind of public displays of affection, even having an arm over the shoulder!

However, it was not uncommon to see Thai men walking together arm and arm even holding hands. Or you would see

women walking and talking arm and arm. That was their custom. There was nothing strange about it to them.

          So, one night, as we were going down the perimeter road dropping off people at their assigned posts, Boonpeng leaned

over and grabbed the upper part of my thigh and squeezed it! I froze. I mean I didn’t move a muscle!

          My friend was also saying something in Thai that I didn’t understand so I looked at “Old Sarge” (he must have been all

of 24 or 25, you know really old!) and asked him what was going on and what was Boonpeng saying.

          He told me that grabbing me by the upper thigh and squeezing he, Boonpeng, was telling me I was his good friend

and that I was trustworthy! And what he was saying in Thai was that I was a “number one” (best) “krap” (Thai for “man” or “sir”).

In other words, Boonpeng was saying I was his best friend!

          We spent 6 nights a week together in a bunker preparing against a possible assault from the enemy. We had grown

somewhat close. We began to trust each other to watch out.

          I often told this story to other servicemen afterward and for years after and we would laugh about Mario being so

embarrassed by Boonpeng’s actions. However, after I came to Christ and started reading the Bible, when I came to this

passage I understood it! I knew what it meant when Abraham allowed his servant to put his hand under his thigh! Trust!

And what Boonpeng taught me was that I could trust him, and that he could trust me.

          So, to, we must trust our Lord in knowing what He is doing. The Word says in Proverbs 18:24 “A man that hath friends

must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

          As the song says about Jesus, “He is always there, hearing every prayer, faithful and true. Walking by our side,

in His love we hide, all the day through." 

 
 

 
 

                                                                         “ARE THERE WEEDS IN YOUR GARDEN?”...                     August 31, 2018

He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon,

and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on

this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?

And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:

And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
Luke 13:6-9

 

          At one home we lived in up in Idaho, I decided to plant a really nice garden. I wanted corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, cantaloupes and other things. My friend brought over his tiller and dug me out a patch about 50 feet long and 35 feet wide. Bonny and I made little furrows and planted our seedlings.

          Every evening after I got home from work I would go out and walk between the rows and hoe the weeds and grass that

attempted to grow. Now as a child I hated hoeing when my family had a vegetable garden, but as I got older I began to appreciate

the smell of the upturned dirt, the growing vines and the smell of the water as it went over the plants.

          Up and down those rows, 5 or 6 times a week, at first I would spend a couple hours trying to cut down those weeds and

the job seemed endless! Anyone else ever have to do that? After a few weeks I noticed that where I walked in the path between the rows stuff wasn’t growing anymore! But I just kept going, 5 or 6 times a week, going through the plants and whacking the weeds

with the blade of my hoe.

          After about a month I noticed that I wasn’t spending a lot of time hoeing because the plants had taken root and the weeds

couldn’t survive in their shade! And if they snuck their greedy little leaves out in the open – “whack!” out with Mario’s hand held,

man powered weed eater! And Bonny and I then had more time to sit in the swing and just watch the plants get watered and

listen to them grow!

          Throughout the summer and into harvest season I continued to attack what few weeds had the nerve to try and take root.

I developed a habit – get the weeds out so the plants could grow! And you know what happened – we had fresh cukes, maters,

melons, corn on the cob and other stuff to eat.

          Why? Because I developed the habit of getting rid of the weeds in my garden! Wednesday night Discipleship, Men and Women’s Bible Study, Singles Bible Study are to help us get the “weeds” out of our lives so the Lord can “grow” us! Plug into something!

And I am excited to see what God is doing in each of our lives!

 
 

 

                                                           “ALMOST PERSUADED”..................                            July 24, 2018

 

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me
to be a Christian.   Acts 26:28

         
          “Come to church?” “Oh brother Mario, I’ve got to get my life cleaned up first.” “No you don’t! Just come to church!” “I’ve got to get my life cleaned up.”

          This was a true conversation I had with the head of a family I knew fairly well. I had worked with some of them in the oil field and knew that some of them had been raised in church. But, that mentality of getting cleaned up before coming is hard to overcome.

          Sad thing is, shortly after Bonny and I were practically begging the family to come, we got the 2 a.m. call. Their son, in a freak accident, was dead. He was driving a pickup truck with a friend and in the fog they hit a light pole and they were doing less than 30 miles an hour.

          The young man and his wife had just had an argument and she had left to go stay with her mom in Texas. She had to turn right around and come home to his funeral. Believe it or not, Bonny and I were coming home from New Orleans and there was a bad accident on the road in front of us.

          It was the wife of the dead man and they had been coming down the road and they spun out into a field. No one was hurt severely but they were hurt. Another of the man’s sons passed away shortly after in another freak accident.

          You and I know that just coming to church may not have changed things as far as having accidents. But there is always the possibility that an eternal decision could have been made that would have affected the whole family.

         Why take the chance of waiting until you get cleaned up? Do you take a bath before you get in the shower? (Borrowed from Mike Warnke). How can we persuade people that seem on the cusp? I am reminded of the governor in the book of Acts (and a line from one of the most famous invitational hymns) “Almost you persuade me”.
 
 

 
 

                                                                “ANOTHER THERE ARE NO COINCIDENCES”.............                          July 17, 2018

 

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches
in glory by Christ Jesus.     Philippians 4:19

 

          In 1995 Bonny and I were returning home to St. Anthony, ID after visiting friends in Lewiston, ID. We were driving our 1975 Plymouth Fury Sport and taking highway 12 that winds through the forests and the Clearwater River. We were heading through Lolo Pass between Idaho and Montana.

          I kept hearing a strange noise coming from the front end of the car but couldn’t determine what it was. We passed through Missoula and got on I-90 East bound. The noise kept getting worse and worse, but after Missoula there wasn’t any where to stop so we limped into Deer Lodge, MT.

          It was early evening when I stopped at a gas station and I could tell that I had lost a front wheel bearing. If you’ve never lost one of those, it is an experience you don’t want to repeat! I didn’t have enough money for a motel, so I began looking through the phone book for churches.

          Having been associated with many kinds of churches I called the local Assembly of God and spoke with Pastor Green. He came, and I limped along behind him to a motel (the church had an arrangement with this motel) where we dropped Bonny off so she could get some rest.

          You’re probably wondering, when am I going to get to no coincidences, right? Well, Pastor Green called a friend of his who was a retired mechanic and he was one of the Chaplains at the state prison in Deer Lodge! But wait, did I forget to mention at the time I was working as the Swing Shift Supervisor at the St. Anthony Work Camp and the ad hoc Chaplain?

          So now, not only was this man a mechanic and a Christian and a Chaplain in a prison but had his own shop where he and I with Pastor Green, changed the wheel bearing (no charge). And the next morning after buying us breakfast and fellowshipping, Pastor Green sent Bonny and I on our way.

          It was just a coincidence that Pastor Green was home. It was just a coincidence that a Christian brother the pastor knew was a retired mechanic. It was just a coincidence that the mechanic was also a minister in the prison system. It was just a coincidence. It was just a coincidence. It was just a coincidence.

          I do not believe in coincidences! I believe that the God I serve loves and cares enough for His children that He will make a bad wheel bearing (it came out in pieces and the mechanic brother just looked at me and shook his head!) last until help was provided.

          God will allow us to cross paths with other brothers and sisters in Christ and we can meet each other’s needs. So, whose needs can you meet?

 
 

 
 

                                                        “WHO ARE WE TO IMATATE?”........................                            July 10, 2018

 

For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak. John 12:49-50

 

I am a little over 3 years older than my brother Julian and I was 10 years older than my youngest brother Jonathan. Julian and I grew up as friends and we talked to each other as a 12 and 9-year-old would.

Jonathan was 2 and he was learning how to put sentences together, so he was learning how to talk by listening and imitating Julian and me.

One night at the dinner table (my Dad was in Vietnam at the time) Jonathan looked at my Mama and said, 

“Did you know you’re stupid?” Time seemed to stop and then Mama (remember this was a long time ago and Mama made us boys promise we wouldn’t write a tell all book until she and Daddy were dead and gone) slapped him in the face.

“What do you say?!?!?” she shouted.

“I’m sorry!” Finn blubbered, through his tears.

“You’re ‘sorry’ what?” Mama snarled.

“I’m sorry you’re stupid!”

 

I’ll pause while you stop laughing. Done yet? Okay, how did he learn to converse? By listening to his two older brothers who called each other “stupid”, “idiot”, and a host of other names. He imitated us.

Paul, in Ephesians 5:1, says, “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;” In some versions (NIV for example) they use the word “imitators” in the place of followers.

Then the Apostle makes this astounding statement in I Corinthians 11:1, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”

Wow! Jesus tell us that He only said what the Father told Him to say. He only did what the Father told Him to do. Then Paul tells us to follow him AS he followed Christ!

 

               Who have we been imitating?
 

 

                          ”THE CHURCH OF TODAY”..................    July 3, 2010

“My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” Proverbs 23:26

 

When I returned to the US in 1975 I was stationed in Rapid City S.D. and had been saved about a year and a half. In Spain there was no American TV (even on base) and the only radio we had was Armed Forces Radio Network which had no religious programming at all.

          One day, after returning stateside, I was tuning my radio, looking for a Christian station. I heard a man speaking about Jesus, God, and the Bible. “Great!” I thought. I listened for a short while until the man speaking said this, (paraphrase) “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God was not preached from the time of the Apostles until I went on the airways in the 1950’s.”

          My whole being went, “Say what?!?!?!?” I knew that wasn’t the truth. I knew it, even with my elementary knowledge of the Word. That was not true! I found out at the end of the broadcast that it was Garner Ted Armstrong of the World Wide Church of God and I knew right then I would not listen to this man or read any of his publications.

          That is why I believe that what our church and the Youth leadership do, discipling the youth concerning the Worship Service and all of its aspects, is vital to our church today!

          Now! Let’s not wait until they are in their late teens early twenties and determine “Now you are mature enough to handle this”. No! Now! How else will they gain the spiritual maturity that they will need to fend off the world, fend off the peer pressure?

          I remember the day I sewed on my E-4 (sergeant). It was like you were suddenly gifted with responsibility. It was only a matter of time in grade (how long you were an E-3) and how well you did on a test of your knowledge to earn that 3rd stripe. Never mind if you were not a people person – you are now a supervisor! 

          Tada! A little fairy from Personnel comes and taps you on your head with a swagger stick and presto-change o – you are now competent! It was not until after I made E-5 (got a “rocker” under my 3 stripes) that I went to “Base Level Management” to learn how to be a supervisor and that was 3 years later!

          Pastor can tell us (from his experience in the world) that just because someone is a great stocker it does not mean they will be a good supervisor. So too with our youth. We do not know the course or path that God has laid before a young person, but if we do not teach them how to be mature, how to be a servant, how to be a Christian (!) then  . . .?

          Yes! Teach, train, disciple, pour our very lives into them. I see the dignity and gravity of men like Les, Shannon, and Robert when they perform the duties of an Usher. I watch the soberness and somberness of the men Less and Shannon as they speak with those who come forward responding to the 3 invitations.

          The young ladies who lead us in worship, Sister Kim(s), Arlene, Dawn, and others, display a grace that people respond to. I could go on, but you get the sense of what I am saying. These are attributes that need to be instilled into our young people. 

          The ladies who come forward; Virginia, Karen, Nancy, and Crystal to minister to people responding to the invitation are a blessing – young people, learn from them!

No self-deprecation here, but I am in my late 60’s and as much as I would like to be able to sing for another 50 years, I want to know, who will come now beside me now, who will be able to take my place when I can no longer carry the high notes?

          Who is the young man thirsting to know God as Pastor does? As an elder brother in the Lord once said, “Never mind where is the God of Elijah, where are the Elijah’s of God?!!?”

          Who is that young lady who will be willing and able to lead the Women’s Bible Study in the future? And in the meantime, is willing to sit at Sister Kim’s feet (figuratively) and learn of her graciousness?

          Where are they? They are in that balcony! So, church, let us older ones tell them how much we appreciate them coming, Sunday after Sunday. Teach them now how to be confident Christians, solid in their faith. Let them know that we, the church body, care for their spiritual wellbeing. A pastor I sat under taught our church this: “Youth are the church of today, not tomorrow!” Why? Because tomorrow may be too late!

As my college president once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” 

 
  

 
 
                                                                                            “FILTHY LANGUAGE”.......................                                                  June 26, 2018

                                            

Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. James 3:10

 

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying,

that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Ephesians 4:29

 

          I was a young man with over 4 years in the Air Force and I had a terrible vocabulary. My jokes were filled with coarse language, cursing, and slurs. Even my friends (non-Christians) noted how bad it was.

          Then that one night, November 11, 1973, God saved me. I repented of my sins and cried and begged for His forgiveness and acceptance. And as Jesus promised in John 6:37 “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” He accepted and received me!

          I was forgiven! What a sense of relief! What a sense of having been cleansed! It was like nothing I had ever experienced. It went beyond beautiful.

          I went to work that night (as a Security Policeman) and was assigned to the Armory. Troops getting off work (around 1030) came up to the window (a grated window with an upside down “T” shape cut out to pass the weapons through) began to check in their M-16’s and .38’s.

          They were supposed to place them in the window one at a time, so I could check to make sure they were unloaded and to grab the individual’s weapons card (so someone else could not check out their weapon) and exchange it.

          But they were in a hurry to get off duty. They began cramming rifles and revolvers into the “T” to the point where I had weapons falling inside and on to the cement floor! So, I told them exactly what I thought of them.

          My spirit may have been renewed but my tongue certainly hadn’t been! I used every curse word I could think of! We finally got things sorted out, cards exchanged, weapons cleared and put back into their slots, and I dropped the solid sheet metal piece to cover the window.

          I sat down in my chair to rest and there is no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit came and talked to me. “That’ll be enough of that!”

          And I knew He was telling me to clean up my language. “No corrupt communication . . .” “ . . . blessing and cursing . . .” From that point on I knew it was my responsibility to mind what I was saying.

          Have I failed in that? Yup! Have I repented when I realized it! Yup! Yup! Is it easy? Nope! Those curse words and slurs are still around me, but I do my best not to fall into them!

          So, if you, like me, find yourself on the verge of using filthy language, practice what the Psalmist said, “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 89:1

(and for those who know me, yes, this is a scripture song I know!)
 
 

 
                                                                              TRADITIONS OF MEN” Part II...................                   June 19, 2018    

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men,

after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Colossians 2:8

 

         You’ve seen how I have worked in the corrections system in Idaho. My first assignment was at Idaho Correctional Institute – Orofino, going to whatever post they assigned me. On my first day I was told to meet another officer at the “Star Foyer”. I had no idea what they were talking about!

         What “star”? Which foyer? I mean there was a foyer by the administration offices, another on the second floor where the lieutenants offices were located, and there was a foyer in the basement where the library, Correctional Industries, and shops were. Which foyer?!?!?

        As I was going up and down the stairs looking for the officer I finally heard him call to me. He was down in the basement, standing in the foyer. “What took you so long?” He asked.

         I told him I didn’t know where the “Star Foyer” was. He told me I was standing on it. I looked down at the tile and back at him and he started laughing.

         When the facility was first built, there was a “star” inlaid into the floor with the four points: North, South, East, West.       

                                  But at some point in time it had been covered up with new tile. Old timers (and even myself from then until I left) still called it the “Star Foyer”. Why? Because it was tradition!

         

Pastor Scott often says, when giving our 3 invitations, that it’s not out of tradition, but out of conviction. We want to see people saved. We want to see the saved obedient. And we want the saved and baptized believers to be a part of like-minded people who want to see the lost saved.

  



                                      "GOD GETS THE INCREASE: Part 2………………                June 12, 2018 

A longtime friend of our family had fallen ill and after having an illness that left her semi-comatose she passed.

Mama was called by one of the daughters and she told Mama that as her mother lay in the bed, unresponsive and slowly fading from this world, she suddenly looked up at her daughter and said, “Do you see the angels?”

          “No, Mama I don’t. Do you see Jesus?”

          “No, just – oh there He is!” and with that she passed.

 

          That moved my mother because their friendship began when my folks were young (late 20’s) and they remained friends for almost 50 years. This woman knew my folks “when”. She was one of the first ones that encountered Jesus and shared with my Mama. 

          Mama didn’t get saved until she was in her 60’s and even though she heard the Word many, many times (huge follower and supporter of Jerry Falwell) and knew the Bible, she had never committed herself to Him. 

Yet, lovingly the Father kept putting people in Mama’s path that encouraged her, prayed with and for her, and eventually she surrendered herself to Him. My brother has told me that one Sunday at the invitation, Mama turned to my Daddy and said, “Hilry, I don’t think we’ve ever made a commitment!” And with that they went forward (both of them in their late 60’s) and placed their faith and their trust in Jesus Christ – to 

          We do not know the impact we have with our unspoken testimony! Who will we meet in heaven that are there because they “watched” us? Who will be there because they believed our testimony? Who will be amazed at seeing us there because we saw and heard their testimony – even though they did not know us?

 

                                      

                                                                       "BLUE JEANS, A CRAYON, AND ATONEMENT"............       June 5, 2018

“even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing

of water by the word,”  Ephesians 5:25b-26 

What do Blue Jeans and a crayon have to do with Atonement? 

          “Don’t get your jeans dirty!” Famous last words from my mother as I headed off to school – 5th grade. Of course I got dirty! I was a kid! We played outside at recess; baseball, football, tag and a host of other games that involved boys pushing boys down into the grass and dirt.

          But, like sin, I didn’t realize the problem until the ride home on the bus and then there they were, both knees with stains, grass and dirt, just like sin stains our souls. What was I to do? I had to think quick because I would at my stop soon!

          Aha! There was my friend who had his box of crayons! I asked to borrow the blue one that was closest to the color of my jeans and I covered the stains! Problem solved!

          Just like the Children of Israel would come once a year to the Passover and have their past sins “covered” by the blood of the sacrifice lamb, I “covered” my sin (disobedience to Mama) – all the while hoping I would not get found out.

          But wait! There’s more! Numbers 32:23b “and be sure your sin will find you out.” 

          Uh oh. Those 9 words were drilled into Mario’s head as a child. My mother would repeat them to me time and time again when she had found something I had disobeyed her in. “and be sure your sin will find you out.” 

          One day I come home from school all happy and ready to change from my “good clothes” into my “play clothes” (how many of you had those?) and go outside. There stood Mama, with not only my jeans (looking a little streaky) but also my father’s good khakis (he was a Chief in the Navy) also with streaks, blue no less.

          My “sin” lay exposed and the consequences were swift and meaningful! Then there was the talking my mother did about me ruining my father’s good uniform!

          Atonement – covering. Hebrews 10:4 says “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” All those sacrifices did was “cover” the sins of the past, it did not erase them. And those sacrifices did nothing for any future sins. The people had to come every year just to have their past sins covered.

          God in His infinite mercy washes us clean through and by the blood of Jesus Christ! Eventually after several washes, my jeans were gotten rid of the grass and dirt stains, my dad had to get a different uniform because the crayon stained his uniform severely and he was unable to wear it.

 
O now I see the cleansing wave!
The fountain deep and wide;
Jesus, my Lord, mighty to save,
Points to His wounded side.

The cleansing stream I see, I see;
I plunge, and O it cleanest me!
O praise the Lord it cleanest me!
It cleanest me, yes cleanest me!
  


 
 

                                                               "NO COINCIDENCES FROM THE BIBLE"...........                          May 29, 2018

Part I


"When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip,

Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?"  John 6:5

 

The feeding of the 5,000 is a remarkable one in the Gospels in that it is the only miracle that is recorded in each Gospel

We find this story in Matthew 14, Mark 6 and Luke 9 as well as here in John 6.  This story is so unusual that it rated a mention,

a retelling, in all of the Gospels.  Except for the Resurrection no other miracle is recorded this way.  

          

The feeding of the 5,000, a miracle in and of itself! Thousands of people gathered to hear Jesus, yet out of those thousands only one brought anything to eat!         “There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” John 6:9 – but I will come back to  this!

 

         Yet this does not dismay our Lord! Instead, He starts giving commands and then Jesus gives thanks for the meager portions

and tells the disciples to start passing out the loaves and fishes and then he tells them something interesting: 

“and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise

of the fishes as much as they would.”


Everyone ate as much as they could! There was no lack! You want another loaf of bread? Here you go! Oh, you wanted fish

with that? Let me just get you another one!


The enormity of the feeding of so many with so little is not to be lost on us! And there is more to the story! After everyone has eaten as much as they could, Jesus then commands His disciples:

“When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.


Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.” John 6:12-13

Not only did every person eat all they could, then the disciples picked up “the fragments” and it amounted to 12 baskets!

I won’t get into why 12, suffice it to say, that after everything, there was 12 baskets full!

          

They gathered 12 BASKETS of bread.  The implication here is that they were not little flower baskets or even picnic baskets.

No, they were the kind that they used to carry fish to the market.  A BIG BASKET. 

          

Now, let’s go back to the thought of coincidence. Look at verse 6 of John 6.

“And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.

          

Jesus knew what He was going to do and He was asking Phillip what he thought. The disciples had already walked with

Jesus and watched Him perform the miraculous in healing people and in the previous chapter (5) Jesus had gone to the pool where an angel was reported to stir the waters, and commanded a man lame for over 30 years to pick up his bed and walk – and the man did!

          The disciples had witnessed the nobleman of chapter 4 begging Jesus to heal his child – which Jesus did – long distance! 

          

It was no coincidence that the people flocked to Jesus, whether to hear Him or to ask for healing, they showed up! It was no

coincidence that only one person in that entire crowd brought anything to eat and it was of such a small amount that making

it stretch just to feed Jesus and the disciples was unreasonable.

          

Yet Jesus, blessing it, multiplied the bread and fishes to feed many thousands! No coincidences! God, the Father,

had prepared the Son for this event! It was not a coincidence! Not happenstance! It was ordered by the Father and carried

out by the Son!

          

No coincidences!

  


 

                                                                             “WITNESSES UNTO ME”.....................                            May 22, 2018

“and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost

part of the earth.” Acts 1:8

 

          Do you remember a Christian, before you were saved, that there was no doubt in your mind that they knew Jesus?

I had met a several.


          The most special, and first, was an Ethiopian Christian man by the name of Girma Abebe (Probably not the correct spelling but it was almost 50 years ago!) and was stationed at Williams Air Base, AZ with me in 1970.


          Our base was a pilot training base, so we had Americans, Jordanians, Iraqis, Ethiopians, and Israeli officers and their flight crews stationed at the base. Girma accompanied his pilot and crew.


          I sang in the base chapel choir because I loved to sing (now, there’s a surprise!) and one Saturday evening Girma came into the chapel as we were practicing. I do not remember what song we were practicing but when we finished it, this man, beaming with a smile like you wouldn’t believe, said, “I just love to sing about my Jesus!”


          I could not recall someone ever talking about Jesus on this intimate of a level! Not any of the pastors I sat under had ever said anything like this – referring to our Lord as “my Jesus!”


          Of course, we just kind of starred at him as if he had just parachuted in through the roof, but something drew me to him. He spoke about Jesus as if he really knew Him. I had head knowledge of Christ, but not heart and whatever this man had it pulled me to him.


          As I said, that was almost 50 years ago but his relationship with Jesus made an impact on the then unsaved 18-year-old Mario. We didn’t become fast friends and I never did write to him, but his words stuck with me and still do!

          How about you? Was there an on-fire, witness for Jesus that influenced you – even before you were saved?


          Better yet, are you one?



 
 

                                                                                       “HE WHO KNEW NO SIN”...............................                    May 15, 2018

II Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin;

that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.


               I worked at the state prison in Orofino, Idaho in the late 80’s through the middle 90’s. I encountered and supervised hundreds of male and female inmates. In all that time, and of all those men and women, I only met and knew of one person who was innocent and everyone (staff) at the prison knew she was not guilty. The court knew she was not guilty, but they had no one else to place the blame on and because she could not prove her innocence she bore the brunt of the penalty of the law.


          This young lady was incarcerated on multiple charges not the least of which was embezzlement (hundreds of thousands of dollars) and she was serving a very long sentence. She had come in one day to her job to find everyone from the office gone, files strewn throughout the offices, the bank accounts emptied, and the local police investigating.


           She no knowledge of the crimes committed or where her co-workers and business owner had gone to. When she came in the police arrested her as an accomplice and she had no way of proving her innocence.

          

       She hired an attorney who began working on her case and had found substantial proof of her innocence; documents, phone records, and statements from witnesses. However, the day she was to appear in court to begin her trial, her attorney did not show as well as the evidence that would have exonerated her. Her attorney had suddenly come into a large amount of money and had left the country for South America taking with him all of the evidence establishing her innocence of the charges.


            She was given a court appointed attorney and because she had no evidence to support her plea of not guilty, the case was very short. All of the evidence pointed to her being complicit in the theft of the money as well as the destruction of financial records. Even though the court acknowledged that in all probability she had not committed the crimes, there was no way to prove it, so she was sentenced.


      To the shareholders justice had been served and even though no one received their monies, they felt justified in this woman receiving the sentencing because someone had to pay the price.


          She did her time with her head held high and was respected by staff and inmates alike. Everyone knew there was one innocent person in prison who did not deserve the punishment meted out.

            

            How similar to the punishment our Savior endured for our sakes! He who was innocent, took the stripes upon His back for us. He who had never committed one sin, not one infraction of the Law, had never even talked back to His mother or disobeyed His earthly parents, became sin for our sake.


        Yes, we who were liars, thieves, backstabbers, godless heathens, denying the very existence of God, are forgiven! We walk in newness of life because Jesus the Christ willingly became the Lamb without blemish to pay for the sins of mankind.


          But unlike my friend at the prison, no prison bars could hold Him! The Judge of all Creation placed the sin of the world on Jesus Christ and the Lord paid the penalty – death! But, Jesus rose from the dead, the firstborn of many.


          He became the example of righteous living! He is our Lord, our Savior, our Redeemer, our King, and God come in the flesh and will return to this world to take His bride, His church, home where we shall live with Him forever.

          

         Christian, reflect on this – “Jesus paid it all”, “Calvary covers it all!”, “There is none other name under Heaven given among men whereby we MUST be saved”!  To the glory and praise of His Excellent Name – Jesus! 




                                                                               “GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GIVER”.........                                           May 8, 2018

 

“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity:

for God loveth a cheerful giver.” II Corinthians 9:7

 

          Did you know that my name is in this verse? Really! Some of you may know that my first name is “Hilry”. It was my father’s first name and his father’s first name, but I grew up as “Mario” (that’s another story in itself!).

          Looking at the word “cheerful” and finding what Greek word Paul used, we see it is “hilaros”. So my name, Hilry, comes from the Greek word for cheerful, but we can also see where we get the word “hilarious” from! God loves a hilarious giver!

          Now let’s talk about giving – cheerfully! I was the Assistant Pastor at a church in Lewiston, Idaho in the late 80’s and the pastor decided to use some of the young people to take up the offering one Sunday morning.

          Up the main and side aisles the young men went, offering the plate to folks. One of our regulars “Bob” (not his real name of course) just passed the plate to the next person in the pew without putting anything in. (Side note; he owned several businesses in the area and was known to have money)

          The young man (he was about 7 or 8 at the time I think) received the plate from the folks in the pew behind and then again, he presented it Bob. (Now as I played the piano for worship I was able to see the whole thing taking place) Bob looked up, took the plate and again, passed it to the next person in the pew.

          When the plate was given back to the youngster, once again, he presented the plate to Bob, but this time the young man held on to the plate and held it firmly in front of Bob.

          Bob was embarrassed and it showed! He finally reached into his back pocket, took out his wallet and (obviously) grudgingly put some bills in. Satisfied the young man brought the plate forward to place on the altar.

          Later, as pastor and I were talking about the service, he remarked that maybe we should have that youngster take up the offering all the time! Now, I know that was funny, but think about the verse!

          God wants us to give our offerings, tithes, gifts, with cheerfulness – not grudgingly or with regret!

          A good friend of mine, Hank Thompson (I have permission to mention him by name!) when he finally started going to church (in Rapid City, S.D.) with his wife (Sharon was our choir leader – and a wonderful one at that!). The very first sermon he heard from Pastor Earl was “You can’t out give God”.

          Hank, who owned a mobile home business in the city, decided to put God to the test, and put in an amount he really couldn’t afford. That next week his business boomed. That was a great thing for him!

          So, the next week he went to church again. And again, Pastor Earl said, “You can’t out give God.” Hank decided to put God to the test again! And guess what happened?

          Yup, his business got even better! But now something changed in Hank! Not only did he surrender his life to Christ, not only did he become a “cheerful giver”, but Hank became a witness of the Living Christ through his own testimony quoting the verse “My grace is sufficient for thee”!

          

So, then, let our testimony be loud and clear! Let our giving be with gladness of heart – because God owns it all anyway!

 
  

                                                                                                          “HOW SHOULD WE PRAY?”..........................                                                  May 1, 2018 

Luke 18:1-5 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. 

Being definite when we pray. In Pulpit Speech I spoke on “Definite, Determined, Persistent Prayer will accomplish the impossible for the child of God”. I have since just referred to it as “DDP”. My basis was from R.A. Torrey’s book, “The Prayer of Power and the Power of Prayer”.

          The reference in the Word comes from the story of the widow in the Gospel of Luke 18:3-5. Familiar set of scripture, yet its impact is far reaching. She was 

  1. definite – this is what I need, 
  2. determined – I have to have it, and 
  3. persistent (love this) “Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”

          Another thought, Jess Wall, our campus manager (maintenance) once told a group of us that prayer is finding God’s will for situations and then agreeing with Him. Too often we get the picture that we are begging for scraps from God’s table or that we are begging and pleading with Him to do something He really doesn’t want to do.

          To the contrary! If we would seek His face (that means – ready for this? Cuz I think I heard it from Pastor Scott! – getting quiet before Him and giving Him a chance to reveal His will to us!) He would show us His will. Then when we pray in accordance of His will, things will happen!

          And by being definite, determined and persistent in His will, the remarkable will happen!

 

 

                                                                                                                  “VICTORY IN JESUS!”……………………                                                     April 24, 2018

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” I Corinthians 15:55

 

“O victory in Jesus, my Savior forever!

He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood!

He loved me ‘ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him!

He plunged me to victory, beneath the cleansing flood!”

 

“Hallelujah, what a thought!
Jesus full salvation brought, 
Victory, victory;
Let the pow’rs of sin assail,
Heaven’s grace can never fail, 
Victory, victory. 

Victory, yes, victory.
Hallelujah! I am free,
Jesus gives me victory;
Glory, glory! hallelujah!
He is all in all to me.”

          At church service one evening during testimony time, Brother Max stood up and proclaimed that now he knew that victory wasn’t spelled “V i c e r o r y” (cigarettes)! He had been battling and had had indeed gotten “victory” over his problem.

          We are victorious! I do not want to die, but I do not fear death! 

“If I die, I’ll live again, Oh glory halleluiah!

If I die, I’ll live again, Oh glory to His name!

If I die, I’ll live again, Oh glory halleluiah!

I’m sanctified, I’m holy! I’m on my way to glory! Cuz,

If I die, I’ll live again!”

Jesus has paid the price for us! “Jesus full salvation brought”. “Jesus paid it all”! Not some, not most, Jesus paid it all and because He paid it all we have – 

Victory in Jesus! The grave could not hold Him and when the trump sounds the grave will not be able to hold the dead in Christ!

  

 

                                                                                                “THE POWER AND PURPOSE OF PRAISE”...............                                                    April 17, 2018 

Psalm 100:4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

          When I lived in Zaragoza, Spain, after the chaplains kicked our church off the base, we would drive to the Spanish Baptist Church downtown. It was a drive that usually took about 20 minutes.

          We would load up VW bugs with anywhere from 5-10 servicemen and teens and head out on the highway! Almost every time we would sing choruses for the entire trip – “Let’s go up to Zion”, “Let’s just Praise the Lord”, “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised” (Psalm 48:1-2) and a host of others.

          Here it comes! I have told Pastor that I believe when a Christian is in a deep blue funk they should put on their favorite worship music for at least 20 minutes. After about 20 minutes either your funk passes and you enter into the presence of God through that worship OR you turn off the music and have a pity party! Which is better?

          So, then, by the time we got to church, after singing those praises to the Lord, we were ready for church! Worship (music) brings us into the presence of the Lord (I read somewhere about entering His gates with thanksgiving and

praise . . .Psalm 100:4). “Tune my heart to sing Thy praise”!

          This was a fellowship that started with barely a dozen people in November 1973 that grew to over 100 (on a base of a little over 700) and birthed at least 24 families in the ministry! Evangelists, pastors, worship leaders, and the list goes on as the children of these folk continue now in ministry as well!

          Singing praises opens our hearts to hear Him and gains us entry into His court!



                                                                                                                          

                                                                                                        "I'VE GOT YOUR 6!"................................                                                  April 10, 2018

 

          Normally I like to put my scripture reference right after the title. This time I’m going to save it for the end because I believe it will be better – but that’s just my personal opinion!

          I take great delight in writing “letters” to the young men and women in our church who are in the military and go across “the pond” (as we used to say) to defend our freedoms. I believe there is something to actually holding a piece of paper in your hand knowing it came from the states.

          One of the things I almost always say to them is “watch your six”. That is a military expression for “watch behind you!” and when you are with other soldiers, someone is always watching your six.

          In the Christian realm and from the Word we know that God walks with us, beside us, in front of us leading. But what about our spiritual “six”? What does the Word say?

 

For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward.” Isaiah 52:12

 

Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.” Isaiah 58:8

 

          Hmmm. The glory of the Lord will be my rereward? Better drag out the old Webster’s Dictionary and find out what that means.

 

          “Rere´ward` n. 1. The rear guard of an army. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, published 1913 by C.”

 

          Now let’s really think about that! Our God is an army of ONE! And not only does He go before us, walk beside us and indwell us – He watches our six! God is our rear guard! 

 

          “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

 
 

 

                                                                              "LEARNING TO CRAWL FIRST"................................                                 April 3, 2018

 

Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,

which is your reasonable service. 

 

          As Pastor Scott spoke of learning to crawl before you walk, I thought back to my first year of Music Theory. There were rules! My teacher (and one of my music mentors) Jerry Wood would hand back my work and tell me, “You can’t do this yet! You haven’t learned the rules.”

          “But,” I would reply, “I’ve been doing this on the guitar for almost 20 years!” You see I learned the guitar before I knew much about how music worked. I knew chords and finger placement, what sounded right, and how to change keys during a song (modulate).

          But there were rules! You aren’t allowed to do “X” until you’ve learned why. For Jerry it must have been like trying to hold back a team of horses intent on running wild. For me it seemed like he was holding me back, keeping me from doing “cool” stuff.

          The next year I had Sister Hunt for my Theory professor and by that time I not only had learned the rules, but I had taken Choral Conducting which gave me knowledge of accents, style, and leadership.

          Because it had come to me easily, I could write a piece of music with 4 parts that I knew would sound good because I knew the rules of music writing. When it came time for my Winter Term final, I wrote 16 measures at one sitting because I knew it was good.

          Excitedly I waited for my final to be returned with a grade and then in my school mail box it came! I pulled it out and saw a little red “A” and a yellow sticky note. I was ready to receive the congratulations on writing a spectacular piece of music.

          “The only reason this is an ‘A’ is that it is ‘A’ work for a second-year theory student. However, this is not as good as you can do.” 

          What?!?!? Don’t you understand I have 6 other classes that I’m writing or taking finals on?!?! I was hurt. Why? Because I had followed the rules, yes, but had I really given it my all?

          No. I just went through it quickly knowing it was good – but not my best.

 

          So, Spring Term came and I worked almost from the beginning of the term on my final work titled, “The Call”. I put in everything I had learned from every music class over the past two years. All the bells and whistles. Crescendos! Fortes`! Slurs, slides, everything.

          And turned it in and waited. And waited. And waited. Then one day, during finals week, it was there in my mail box!!! Oh man was I excited!

          I opened it and there was the red “A” and a yellow sticky! Now Sister Hunt will tell me how great a job I had done. Now she will recognize my genius (snicker, snicker). And what did the sticky say?

          “This is more like it.”

          What?!?!?! I gave you the best piece of music I had ever written, complete with all the symbols and notes and all you can say is “This is more like it.”

          Yes!! Why? Because neither she nor Jerry ever expected me to produce just “A” work, they wanted my best! And they would not and did not accept anything less!

          So, you tell me, do you have a mentor who encourages you but will not accept anything less than your best? Then find one! The hymn says it best.

 

“Give of your best to the Master; give of the strength of your youth;

Throw your soul’s fresh glowing ardor into the battle for truth.”

 

                                                                         

                                                                                             "SEEING THE WORD COME TO LIFE"...............                                       March 27, 2018

                                         

I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. John 10:14

 

          I am reflecting on the post from the church, Desert Hills Baptist Church, on Facebook. I had the opportunity to see this passage of scripture come to life while stationed in Spain.

          When I was there in the early 70’s, I was told that a flock of sheep had the right of way, no matter where. So, one weekend I was working as Flightline Supervisor at least three, if not four, flocks of sheep gathered in the middle ground between and on the taxiway and the runway grazing.

          I could see that the flocks had mingled as the shepherds gathered off to one side chatting with the dogs laying at their feet. Then one of the shepherds waved to the others, whistled for his dog and called his sheep.

          Amazingly those sheep who knew his voice got up from resting or eating and began to follow him. The other shepherds also went different directions and began calling their own sheep and the sheep were obedient to their master’s voice!

          Just so Jesus is not just a shepherd, but He is the “Good Shepherd”. He calls to us through His Word and we are known by Him and we know Him!

          

          As a young Christian it was wonderful to have seen the Word Come To Life!




  

                                                                                    "WHO'S IN CONTROL?"...............                                                 March 20, 2018

 

Galatians 5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

 

          In talking about people needing to control so many things in their lives, running hectically from here to there, it reminded me of those guys that would come on the Ed Sullivan show that would spin plates on skinny poles. They would get one up and spinning, then two, and a third, but pretty quick he would have to go back to #1 and put some more spin on it before it fell off. I’m sure you are getting the picture.

          At some point in the act the man would have 15 or 20 plates all spinning on their poles and he was running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to keep up with all of them. And then disaster would strike! He would run to rescue a plate but it would fall and as he was diving to catch it before breaking, another would slow down to the point it was falling off and then it was like dominoes falling.

          Want another picture of control? (You know I like “visual” aides). Picture a room with the floor completely covered with mousetraps. They are all set and all have a single Ping-Pong ball placed on the bait trap. 

          You throw in one Ping-Pong ball and it is like popcorn. One goes off, launching its ball into the air, then another and another until total chaos reigns with snapping traps, balls bouncing everywhere until the last trap releases and the ball stop bouncing.

          Now imagine trying to scurry around the room with a small net trying to catch the balls before they set off others and watching your own feet so you do not dislodge a trap or its ball. If one could do it, that would be control!

          Spirit led. An evangelist was conducting meetings and had been scheduled to be at the event for a week. Every day, though, it seemed that he got sicker and sicker. Barely making it to the platform to speak and although people responded to the call of God, he would almost collapse into the motel bed after services.

          He prayed constantly asking God to heal him yet whatever the malady was, it continued. He tried everything, aspirin, pain meds, Nyquil, everything – but nothing worked. Finally he asked God what was going on?

          He told us that he felt God speaking to him and asking just one question, “Did I tell you to come here?” “But, Lord, I’m an evangelist! This is what I do!”

          “Did I tell you to come here?” was all he heard in reply. He searched his own heart and realized that while it was in God’s service he was evangelizing, he had not sought the Lord about where he was to go! He would just book events as he felt led.

          He asked forgiveness for getting ahead of God and by morning the illness that had plagued him was gone! He finished the meetings but to date, he seeks the Lord’s leading when the requests come in.

          We are to be led by the Spirit, not the other way around. We are not supposed to out and start things and then ask or expect the Lord to bless it! Find out His will and you may find yourself a lot calmer.

 
 


                                                                                                "PATHFINDER OF THE SEAS",,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,                                          March 13, 2018


Psalm 8:8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

         

           I love science! I love men of God who find the secrets of this world in the Word! Example? Matthew Maury, who is called “Pathfinder of the Seas” and the “Benefactor of Mankind”. 

          A naval man who, due to injuries, was confined to a desk job in the early 1800’s. But this man knew the Word! Psalm 8 says, “The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.” It was he who read the Word, believed and began to compare the logs of ships and brought forth the idea that there were “rivers” or “paths” in the oceans and in the air (winds) which made the Atlantic transit (in the 1800’s) faster, ergo cheaper.

          In the 1700’s it took an average of 6 weeks to cross the Atlantic. After applying the principles Maury gained through his studies of ships’ logs and charts, the cross could be made in 14 days! An amazing thought brought to light because a man believed the Word!

          His monument has this: 

·  M F Maury's monument with text "Pathfinder of the Seas" (Matthew Fontaine Maury) monument; Monument Avenue, Richmond, Virginia (west end of Monument Avenue) 

·  The inscription reads: "Matthew Fontaine Maury, Pathfinder of the Seas, the genius who first snatched from the oceans and atmosphere the secret of their laws. His inspiration, Holy Writ, Psalm 8:8; Ecclesiastes 1:6." 

·  In his right hand is a pencil and the compass. 

·  In his left hand is his Winds and Currents Charts 

·  Leaning against the chair is the Bible that he used constantly for his explorations.

 
 

                                                                                                                ”ANSWERING THE CALL OF GOD”.........                                                   February 6, 2018 

          The Call of God on one’s life. That call that exceeds the Call of Salvation – it is the Call of Purpose. In the 1990’s I was a teacher (senior high) at a Christian Academy that used the Accelerated Christian Education program. I was privileged to speak at a chapel and I was prepared for it.

          I was in a nice shirt and tie, dark pants (Wednesdays everyone dressed for church) but I was barefoot. No socks, no shoes. Just Pastor Mario’s 13EEE’s flapping on the floor. Were they giggling? You bet! And that was the other staff! The kids, especially those from my class were howling and pointing.

          Then I told them the story of Rees Howells – The Intercessor (I recommend his biography). Rees Howells was a young man who worked all day in the mines in Wales and would walk many miles at night to attend Bible Studies in other cities.

          One night as he was walking and praying, his custom was to remove his hat while he prayed, he said that he felt the Holy Spirit speak to him and tell him if he wanted a life of power in the Lord, he would have to make the decision within 24 hours. Otherwise Rees could just be a common Christian.

          Rees said that it was not a problem as he wanted to see the power of God moving so he told the Holy Spirit that he agreed. The Holy Spirit moved on him but one thing happened; when Rees went to put his hat on as he went on his way the Spirit forbid him. In no uncertain terms Rees knew that the Spirit had spoken to him and would not allow him to cover his head!

          This was in the early 1900’s and custom dictated, in Great Britain, it was unseemly for a gentleman to appear in public without a hat on! So Rees went hatless and God moved through him through his intercessory prayers. Ofttimes when he would arrive in a city to speak or lead prayer, the leaders of the church groups would greet him and try to offer him spare hats or even volunteering to buy him a new one.

          He always, always refused and God answered his prayers. To make the children understand what a social oddity this was, I taught chapel barefoot. I asked them if I looked ridiculous? YES! They shouted at me. Do I look foolish? Again they all shouted YES!

          That is what it was like for Rees Howells to appear in public in early 20th century England without a hat! Now what impact did he have? Many have credited his intercession of prayer and the prayer group he started, to be a decisive factor in the victory over Nazi German in WWII. Those crediting Howell’s intercessory prayer being a decisive force includes Haile Selassie I, the Emperor of Ethiopia until 1974.

          I believe you could say the Rees Howells answered the question of his first priority being God’s will with a resounding Yes!

 

  

                                                                                    “LITTLE IS MUCH!”……………….                                                                  February 27, 2018

It was nearing the end of school June 1977. I had accepted an offer from a small church in Edgerton, WY as summer Youth Pastor and I had enough money to get there but my car was in desperate need of tires.

As I was coming out of the library [there’s a miracle – Mario actually studying!] one of my best friends asked me to step out into the parking lot where he could talk to me. My thought was, “Guess I’m going to get rebuked for something.”

Wes said that he had just gotten approved by the VA to attend our college and had sent him back pay and he said he asked God what to do with his tithe. Wes said God told him, “Give it to Mario” and with that Wes handed me a one hundred dollar bill [remember how much that was in 1977!] and said, “God said yes so you can’t say no.”

I had told no one of my need! No one knew I needed tires – except God! I gratefully took the money and that afternoon I went down to the tire shop and had re-treads [what are those Mario?] and I was able to get all 4 tires re-treaded and it cost $89.90 – you know where the $10.10 went! It went into the offering as my tithe on the tithe!

Why do I mention his name, Wes? Because this man listened to God in the hour of my need. He stood at my wedding to Bonny and we have stayed in touch these 40+ years and over the last year or so, taking care of Dad's estate in Washington, Bonny and I have spent with him and his family in the Seattle area.

He is STILL a man of faith with a woman of faith at his side and 4 wonderful children. God is good . . . 
 
 


                                                                                          "OUR IDENTITY"........................                                                          February 20, 2018 

Colossians 3:1-3 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

 

Ephesians 6:17a And take the helmet of salvation,

 

I Thessalonians 5:8 and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

 

          How do we identify ourselves? When I was in the Air Force I carried a helmet when I worked on the perimeter of the base. It was the typical American military forces helmet and was easily recognizable.

          It was different than the helmets of other nations or armies. I could tell an American G.I. from a North Vietnamese regular army troop. During World War II, it was easy to distinguish between an American, German, Japanese, English, or French soldier’s helmets.

          Those helmets identified you as a member of that nation’s army. That was how you were known and to which country your allegiance was to.

          When I was working in the oilfield as a contract hand for Packard Inc., I wore a yellow, hard plastic hardhat with the company insignia on the front. As I moved on to work for Shell Oil Co., I was given an aluminum hardhat with the Shell decal that let people know I worked for Shell.

          There was a myriad of companies in the oilfield and the colors ranged from blues to greens, yellows, browns, reds, and aluminum. Gulf, Texaco, H&B contractors, Brown and Root, Chevron, etc. all had hats with their own color and decal to show the company.

          

          Paul tells the believers at Colossae who their (and ours as believers) identify is hid in – Christ. Then he writes to the Christians at Ephesus and Thessalonica concerning the helmet of Salvation.

          That helmet, which every believer is given, helps to identify us to both God and to the enemy! It goes before us as a beacon telling the spirit realm that we have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and we belong to Him!

          Just like the thousands of different oilfield workers seeing my Shell hardhat knew immediately who I represented, the helmet of Salvation announces who I represent and to Whom I belong.

          That is your identity Christian – blood bought and purchased by the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus the Christ. So now, when someone asks, “Who are you?”, you can give the answer!



                                                                                                   

                                                                                            "COMPLACENCY"                                                         February 13, 2018



          I am a graduate of the Idaho Corrections Academy 90-1A from September 1989. We were the largest graduating class, 125 Corrections Officers, as Idaho was opening its new maximum-security prison. My friend Matt Slover and I were going to be assigned to the mixed men and women’s prison in Orofino after graduation.

          

          Around my six-month anniversary of being on the job, I was working the women’s unit and they were coming back from chow. I singled out 4 or 5 to “pat down”. As I finished with the last one she turned and looked at me and said, “If I had anything on me you wouldn’t have found it with that search.”

          

          What?!?!?!? I went back to my office and did some introspection. I wrote a letter to the director of the academy (a retired Air Force colonel and I had a great relationship with him) and one of the other staff members who had been instrumental in my training.

          

           I told them that what the inmate had said was like a bucket of cold water thrown in my face. I had become complacent. It wasn’t like dereliction of duty but my search was perfunctory at best, just enough that if she had been carrying a machine gun I might have found it.

         

           It is easy to get complacent about searches, count, radio procedures, checking locks. You’re in a rush to get things done on your shift so maybe you take a shortcut. You don’t look as hard as you would have fresh out of the academy.

          

           We had a lot of transfers in and out of the institution as you can imagine. We also would hold folks overnight for transport to and from other state facilities as well as counties. 

          

           Every time an inmate came into the institution they were strip searched and their clothing was searched. When they left they were strip searched again. One morning as we had a bunch that were getting ready to board the bus, a friend of mine was searching an inmate’s state issued shoes and discovered $1200! That’s right, twelve, $100 bills rolled into a small tube tucked into the toe of the shoe! I was there working the electronic doors keeping a visual on activity.

          

           He was flabbergasted at what he found. Do you know why? He was the one who had searched the same inmate the night before when he had come in! The inmate had no contact with any other inmates in the prison and had been placed in a cell that had been thoroughly searched before placing him in it.

         

           Complacency. Forgetting to make a note for the next shift about something that happened during your shift. Not using proper technique when searching an inmate, their cell, or common areas. Not putting handcuffs on tight enough. It is simple things.

          

           Complacency in our Christian walk? Are we as excited now as we were the day we were saved? Do we take the same level of joy in sharing the Gospel that we used to? Is church a place of worshipping the Lord or is it a duty?

          

           Get up, have a cup of coffee, eat a tired breakfast sandwich, get dressed, jump in the car and go to church. Sit through Sunday School, check the time, then head into the sanctuary for worship service. Sing the songs, check what time it is, watch the plates come around for offering, check the watch, listen to Pastor pray, check the watch and wonder where you’ll go for lunch.

          

           Sermon time! Check the watch, . . .

          

           Do not become complacent in your walk with Christ! Do not become complacent in your relationship with the Brothers and Sisters! Do not let the Word become just a set of random self-affirmation statements! Do not let the invitation time become a signal to gather your belongings so you can head out the door and beat the crowd to the restaurant!

         

           Do not become complacent!

 


 
                                                                                            "THERE ARE STILL NO COINCIDENCES!".........                                    February 6, 2018

 

          It was summer of 1974 and I was coming back to the states on leave. I flew civilian air line from my base at Zaragoza, Spain to Madrid and then went to Torrejon Air Base and planned on catching a “hop” to the states.

          I checked into the BOQ [Bachelor Officer’s Quarters] and then called the tower to find out when the next aircraft would be flying to Pease, N.H. I was told it would be 2 or three days later so I prepared myself for a couple day stay.

          I saw that there were another airman’s things on the bunk next to mine and in those days I carried several of the old Chick Tracts – “This was your life!” and others. I put one in the shared bathroom [with the guys next door] and displayed some on my bunk around my Bible and prayed that I would have a chance to witness to my roommate.

          I was in the bathroom and I heard him come in and I grabbed a tract and as I entered the room we both presented each other with a tract! This was a Brother in Christ! His name was Harry Cometo and we began to share with each other.

          Another couple young men came in and we all decided to go bowling. As we introduced ourselves and what we did, Harry said that he was a Crew Chief on a KC-135 – an Air Force refueler. As the other guys said who they were Harry asked me where I was going and when.

          I told him I was headed to Pease [my parents lived an hour and a half from the base] but there weren’t any flights scheduled for at least 2 if not three days. One of the other men said, “Hey I’m a Crew Chief on a 135 and we’re headed to Pease in the morning. We’ve got room and I’ll clear it with my skipper.”

          So for the cost of a .92 box lunch not only did I get a ride to home earlier than I thought, but the cockpit crew were men that I had bowled and played softball against at Pease before I got transferred to Spain! [You know I’m going to say it! “No coincidences!”]

 

          That is not the end of the story! Not only am I coming home a couple days early and I know the crew, but I had the privilege of sitting in the co-pilot’s chair and hold the yoke of the plane! Granted it was on auto pilot, but I can truthfully say that I have “flown” a KC-135!

          [Radio announced voice over!] But wait there’s more!

          When it was time to head back to Spain, my dad dropped me off at the BOQ at Pease and again I checked with the tower and again I was told there was nothing for 2 or three days leaving. A fellow Security Policeman that I worked with in Spain, Fred S. was now at Pease! I had gone down to the Security Police station because many of my friends were there [but they didn’t know I had gotten saved so here was my opportunity!] and Fred was on duty and saw me and asked what I was doing there.

          I told him I was headed back but there was nothing leaving. He said, “Let’s check anyway.” Fred! There’s nothing leaving! “Let’s check anyway.” Okay, I’ve got nothing to lose.

          We went to the tower and Fred asked if there were any 135’s headed for Spain and – c’mon you can guess! That next morning I was on a flight headed back to Spain! I didn’t drive the aircraft this time, but I did lay down in the belly where the “boomer” [that’s the airman who drops the “boom” and matches it to the jets who need to refuel] laid down and I got to play with the controls a bit.

                                                 Coincidences? Not hardly, not hardly – because God is good . . .! (I can hear the echo in your mind!)

 


                                                                                         "KEEP READING".................                                                  January 30, 2018
                                                                                                 

                                                                                                      Psalm 34:19a Many are the afflictions of the righteous:

          “Yes, Brother Mario, many are the afflictions of the righteous!” I have heard that for almost my entire Christian life (almost 45 years so far!) from many

well-meaning brothers and sisters.

          I heard it as a Sunday School teacher, as a pastor, as a minister in general – I have heard it and heard it. It is almost an excuse for us to drop our heads and slowly shake them back and forth as we sigh.

          Keep reading!!! Did you notice when I put in the scripture reference I included the letter “a”? That means I am only quoting the first part of the verse!!! Only the first part! Look at the rest of the verse –

          “but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” I would put that all in bold and caps but I don’t want you to think I am yelling at you! I want us to keep reading!

          Do we have “afflictions” (troubles, ills, tests, trials)? Absolutely! “But . . .” I teach that when you make a statement and follow it with “But . . .” it usually means “forget what I just said!”

          Have you heard someone say, “I love you but . . .” and you know what comes next is not “love”. “I knew it was wrong, but . . .” and that person is about to give themselves an excuse for doing the wrong thing.

          So then, the psalmist tells us that yes, we will have and face afflictions – BUT God will deliver us from them all. As pastor has said, and many others before him, when we are tempted God will provide a way out!

          So, the next time someone says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous:” be sure to follow it up by saying “Keep reading! but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.”

          Wait! There’s more to “keep reading”.

          “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” I Corinthians 2:9

          How easy it is just to quote that verse when we are at a loss how to help someone. The Apostle Paul, here, is quoting from Isaiah 64:4, “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.”

          See, Mario, that settles it! The New Testament is agreeing with the Old Testament.

          Hold that thought.

          Keep reading!! Verse 10 of I Corinthians 2 says this, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”

          So, now the question for us is, have we asked the Holy Spirit what God wants to reveal to us (individually)? And how can we find out? Just praying, “Okay Lord, show me something!”?

          No, just like I have tried to do with this beginning thought of my stories, there are no coincidences for the Christian! Look around you and ask God to reveal Himself in everyday things!

          Read His Word! The Word is filled with no coincidences! Do we think Phillip just decided, “I think I’ll take a walk into the desert just because!”? No, the Spirit moved on him.

          Imagine Moses wandering around and seeing the burning bush and then thinking, “That’s cool, I’d like to get closer but I’ve got other things to do so I’ll just bust out of here.”

          Jonah and the whale. Coincidence? Yeah, sure. Freak storm. “Hey guys, just throw me overboard! Wow!!! Look at the size of the whale! Maybe I’ll just slide down inside it and see what flavor of seaweed is there.”

                                           So, look for God, read His Word, pray that He would reveal Himself to you and when He does – tell people!

 





                                                                                             "BULLIES"..............                                                                     January 23, 2018

                                        I Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”

          School bully? Let me tell you a story. In my freshman year of high school I was plagued by Victor Q. Incessant teasing, name calling, tripping, you know the drill. Well summer came and we did not see each other at all. I had gone out for JV football (summer of ‘66) and we had two-a-days for about 3 weeks before the start of school.

          I also had a growth spurt. I went from 5’6” to almost 6’2” in less than a year. Didn’t put on a lot of weight, but boy howdy did I get tall! I did not realize what the two-a-days were doing to me physically.

          I was running, exercising and being part of a team.

          On the first day of the school year I was sitting at a desk waiting for class to start. In walked Victor and he thumped me on the back of my head and said, “What’s up Smith?!?!?” (snickering). I stood up and realized that I now towered over Victor!

          I looked “down” at him and said, “Not much Q.” (using his last name). At the same time several of the Varsity line stood up and gathered around me and asked if everything was all right. (Our Varsity line at Brunswick High School, ME averaged 250 pounds and they were either lobstermen’s sons [ever lift a full lobster trap?] or their fathers were potato farmers [can you say 50-100 pound boxes of taters?].)

          Victor had not gained one inch that summer and now not only was I “bigger” than the bully, but the “big boys” were my friends! So much for Victor’s power and control over me!

          Bringing it to today. How often are we, Christians, bullied by the enemy? Pastor Scott is discipling our church on Wednesdays and his teaching many times is about how to overcome by growing in the Lord!

          Stop letting the enemy bully you! Learn to recognize his tricks! He sneaks around and whispers in the ear hoping that a Christian will give him entrance!

          Like I did physically, we need to grow up spiritually to be the man or woman of God! Hear what the Word says: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

                                          “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:” I Peter 2:2

  

 

                                                                                                                    "JOHNNY B. MEETS GOD".......                                                           January 16, 2018

Romans 10:10-15

 

          Let me tell you a story of “Johnny B.”. He was in the Security Police as was I. When I first met him he was the most foul-mouthed, unregenerate person I had ever met.  He bragged about his exploits in drinking and carousing.  Jeff, a Christian brother, every morning at guard mount would say to him “Hey Johnny, Jesus loves you.”  Johnny would usually just curse at him or tell ungodly jokes to Jeff.  But Jeff never gave up.

          And there was the one Sunday evening we of the Zaragoza Baptist Fellowship were all at the little Spanish church in downtown Zaragoza, Spain, having service. A few minutes into the service we could hear the doors open.  We all turned to see who was coming in and it was Johnny and his wife.  Most of us were speechless as he and wife came down the aisle and sat down in one of the pews.

          After service we all went to pastor’s apartment for pot luck.  Ron (our Pastor) and his wife and kids, Jim D. and his family, Charlie, ten or so of us single guys, teens and Johnny and his wife met in the apartment.  After dinner the ladies took Johnny’s wife to pastor’s bedroom and all the men went into the living room with Johnny.

          Johnny was sitting in an easy chair and we gathered around him. Charlie, kneeling in front of him, put his hands on Johnny’s knees and told him how just a few weeks ago he had sat in that very chair and received Jesus into his heart.

          The upshot was Johnny got saved that night.  The next day Johnny went into the base radio station (where we had live feed from the US) and turned off the live feed!  People were used to Johnny getting on the radio and making announcements for upcoming events on base. 

          He started off with something like this, “This is Johnny B. and I just want to tell everyone that last night I got saved!”  He continued to tell his story of how the Savior came into his and his wife’s hearts that evening before and saved them.

          It was unbelievable!  Everyone knew Johnny!  If someone as hard-hearted as Johnny could get saved, if someone as sinful as Johnny could give his heart to God, then so could others.  And people got saved because God changed Johnny.

 



                                                                                                                     “LIGHT”................                                                               January 9, 2018

John 1:4-5: In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

At the end of our young people presenting “A Charlie Brown Christmas” Pastor Scott explained how Jesus is the Light of the World but the World does not want light – the world would much rather stay in darkness.

Many years ago, when Bonny and I were Assistant Pastors, our Pastor, Sam, received a call one Sunday afternoon from one of the congregation, Vi. She and her husband had been coming but he was battling alcohol addiction.

That Sunday afternoon he had taken her to one of the bars in the lower parish (Plaquemines) so he could drink. She called pastor to come get her and he called me to go with him.

As we walked into that bar (it had been many years since I had gone into a bar intentionally!) it was early afternoon and as the door began to close, the outside light dimmed until it was gone and it got dark. I mean, couldn’t hardly see my hand in front of my face dark!

Oh, there were a couple lights here and there, but coming from the bright Louisiana sunshine into that dark (physically and spiritually) bar, my body cried out for light!

As Pastor Sam and I sat talking with Vi and her husband (he did not want her to leave) every time someone came in the door and sunlight would stream in I wanted to run to it and out that door!

Yet the patrons in that bar would just blink at the light and wait for the door to shut so they could return to the darkness.

The darkness in this world should bother us.  What did Paul tell us in II Corinthians 4:4? “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”

Not just that the enemy has blinded our friends and family members to the Light of Christ, but that there is a spiritual darkness all around us! So, what should we do?

Ephesians 5:8 “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:”

Ephesians 5:14 “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”

We did leave after ten or 15 minutes and took our sister with us. Her husband was angry, he was mad, but he made no move to stop us. And the light was wonderful!

Do you walk in the Light? Has Jesus given you Light? Then remember that wherever you go, whatever you do, as a born-again believer in Jesus you are the light in a sin-darkened world. Pray that His Light surrounds you and affects all within your sight!

  

 
 
                                                                                                  “LOVE DOESN’T KEEP A RECORD”………                                  January 2, 2018 

I Corinthians 13:5 (KJV) Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

(NIV) It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

 

One of my Brothers from Zaragoza was very generous in lending people money. “Hey Jeff! Can I borrow $5 till payday?”

And almost always the answer was yes.

When Jeff would loan out the money he would get his little black notebook and write their name, the amount and when payday was.

There came a day when Jeff looked in his book and saw that many people owed him money and their promises of paying him did not happen.
He didn’t want to confront them and ruin the relationship they had, but he did want his money back.

He shared with us that he more or less began to complain to God about those in his black book that owed him and what should he do about it?

God led him to I Corinthians 13 – the love chapter of the Bible – and as he was using the New International Version he saw the translation above –
“love keeps no record of wrongs”.

Jeff said he looked hard at that verse and began to think of those he had loaned money to and realized that when they didn’t pay him, he began to have harsh feelings against them.

When he realized what he was doing, he told us that he tore up his little black book and “forgot” the debts and asked the Lord to forgive him for his attitude.

Did he get all of his money back? Not as far as I know, but he did get some of it back. Guys would show up at his door and return the money they had borrowed.

                                                                        “Love keeps no record of wrongs”. For Jeff it was a lesson learned."
                                                                                                                    



                                                                                                    "NEVER SAW THAT BEFORE".................                                     December 26, 2017

                                            John 6:21; Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.

          When I was teaching the Gospel of John as a Wednesday night study, I was constantly seeing verses as if for the very first time. Remember Jesus walking on the water to the boat with the disciples who were afraid they would drown? He enters the boat and calms the sea and the winds down. Great miracle!

          Yet I had missed something. John 6:21 “Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.”

          My friend, that boat/ship was translated around 3 miles! We know how big the Sea of Galilee was and the Word states they were in the middle of it. That is at least 3 miles from land and yet, as soon as the Master entered the vessel they were “immediately” on the other side at the specific location they were headed to!

          I have known the story from a youth (hello VBS!), preached it, taught it, studied it – but never saw the end of that episode of the story! And yet it is there in plain sight. God’s Word is unfailing! Indeed, His mercies are new every morning!

                                                                                                                       "Be blessed!"




                                                                                                      "CUT ME".........                                                             December 18, 2017

He knew there had to be more

                                             Romans 1:12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

          In December 1994 one of my thyroid glands became so swollen it had to be removed. My doctor, Dr. Hamm, came in after the surgery and asked if I would be willing to be interviewed by medical students (training to be doctors) and I told him I would.

          The first young man came in and he is probably a good doctor by now. He was neatly dressed in his white coat, stethoscope around his neck, clip board in one hand and his “satchel” in the other (with a racquet ball racquet poking out).        

          He began his questionnaire (yes, no, when, etc.) very professional. Unfortunately for his as I began answering his questions, the anesthetic began to adversely affect me and I had to grab the garbage can! I looked up and saw the horrified look on his face and I told him,

          “Hey, if you’re going to be a doctor you’d better get used to this!” And Bonny, sitting beside me just nodded in agreement.

          He finished and left us and a few minutes later the other gentleman came in and we believe that he is a GREAT doctor. His tie was askew, white coat unbuttoned, hair messy and clip board loaded with papers going every which way.

          He got to the question asking how many surgeries I had so Bonny and I counted and told him (at that time) we had over a dozen surgeries between us. He asked what they had been and when we answered he asked,

          “After all of these procedures, how can you have the positive attitude you both have?”

          Bonny and I looked at each other and we both said, “It is our faith in God.” And we explained a bit about who we were. His eyes lit up and he said “I am a Catholic and I just got saved and I knew there was more to this!”

          We testified to this young man for almost an hour. And he finally looked at his watch and hurriedly finished the questionnaire and left. I did not get sick at all (that I remember) the entire time we were talking. He walked away blessed with the knowledge that there is more to the Christian life!

          When I was able to return to church (after doc gave me permission) during testimony time I stood up, pulled my shirt collar down so people could see my scar and bandages and I said, “If this is what it takes for me to help bring someone into the Kingdom, CUT ME!”

 



                                                                                                          "I BRING MESSIAH!"..............                                                         December 12, 2017

         In 1987 just after graduating, Bonny and I worked as janitors for the American division of John Labatt called Chef Francisco. We knew all of the Vice Presidents, their secretaries and many of the other office workers. Many just greeted us with a nod or a request for special cleaning when they saw us.

          With Christmas 1987 closing in I asked one of the VP’s (his first name was Ted) secretaries if I could come in and present a “singing Christmas card” to him. She asked what songs I would sing and I told her it would be the first lines of some of the Christmas hymns.

          Then she called in the big boss’ secretary who asked me if I would like to present the song at their company Christmas party. Being the ham that I am I agreed.

          At the same time my pastor asked me to speak one Sunday evening service and I chose the title “I Bring Messiah!” I spoke of how wherever we go as Christians we bring the Lord with us. However, believe it or not, I was a little intimidated about singing in front of all these muckity-mucks from work.

          Bonny reminded me that this might be the first time these people would actually hear the words of the Christmas hymns.

O come, O come, EmmanuelAnd ransom captive IsraelThat mourns in lonely exile hereUntil the Son of God appearRejoice! Rejoice! EmmanuelShall come to thee, O Israel.

God rest you merry, Gentlemen,Let nothing you dismay,Remember Christ our SaviorWas born upon on Christmas Day.To save our souls from Satan's power,When we had gone astray.Oh tidings of comfort and joy comfort and joy!

Oh tidings of comfort and

Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

Let earth receive her King!

Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room

And heav’n and nature sing

And heav’n and nature sing

And heav’n and nature sing

 

          There were other great hymns with these that I sang the first line of that told of Jesus and who He was and the reality of me having the privilege of bringing the Messiah to these people was humbling.

          The day came and I put on my tuxedo and Bonny had on a formal gown and we showed up at the party (which was being held at a local restaurant in a back room). We stood around for a couple minutes with people who saw us every day nodding in our direction but obviously not recognizing us.

          The secretary “dinged” her glass and then said, “Does everyone know who these folk are?” pointing us out. People shook their heads and she said, “These are our janitors Mario and Bonny Smith.”

          Now all of the people’s faces lit up! “Why, of course! They empty our garbage and clean our restrooms. That’s who that is, we just didn’t recognize them all dressed up.”

          She told them I had a special gift for them and I began to sing a Capella. It got so quiet there and the bartender shut off the muzak for the rest of the place so everyone in the restaurant was listening to me.

          After I finished the people outside the room and inside applauded and many came up and congratulated both of us.

          From that time forward until we left and moved to Idaho, when they saw us in their offices or in the halls we would be greeted with, “Hi Mario! Hello Bonny!” Good story huh?

                                      "It also opened opportunities for us to minister to people because they saw our sincerity of our love for Christ!"



                                                                                                    

                                                                                                  "SHELL TESTED"……………                                                December 5, 2017

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.


A friend of mine, a welder by trade, told us how he qualified as “Shell tested”. Shell Oil Co. had one of the most exacting tests for welders and to be declared “Shell tested” would almost guarantee a welder with a job anywhere in the oil field.

Part of the test was to weld two joints of two inch or 2½” pipes together – both being about twenty feet long. The first thing the tester would do is x-ray the pipe and look for any imperfections in the weld itself. If you left a pin hole or a tiny piece of slag in the weld, you had to grind it out and re-weld. Then it was x-rayed again.

If that passed, then one end of the two joined pipes was put into a vise and secured. The tester would attach a come along chain to the other end and using a truck or winch they would pull the pipe into a U shape and beyond – they were testing the strength of the weld! And if your weld held without cracking or breaking, you passed.

                                                                                                                 "Is your weld being tested?"

 

  

 

                                                                                    "THOUGH YOUR SINS BE AS SCARLET".................                                November 28, 2017

“Lay aside the garments that are stained with sin and be washed in the Blood of the Lamb!

There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean, Oh, be washed in the Blood of the Lamb!

Are you washed, in the Blood, in the soul cleansing Blood of the Lamb! Are your garments spotless, are they white as snow? 

Oh, be washed in the Blood of the Lamb!”

Isaiah 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Going to church in Rapid City, South Dakota, one Wednesday night in the early winter, I passed by an unbroken field of freshly fallen show. It was amazing to see! White, pristine, without footsteps, animal tracks or trails.

As I looked on that field the verse from Isaiah came to mind. No matter how what sins I had committed, God had washed my soul in the Blood of the Lamb! My sins, which were as red as red can be, became as white as snow!

I was so excited that when I got to church I went downstairs to where the youth were meeting and shared it with them. When God opens our eyes to something special in His Word, it is hard not to testify of Him!

Many years later I was working at the state juvenile facility and one Sunday morning in the winter, the field across from the campus was white with an unbroken fall of snow.

There were religious volunteers in one of the classrooms we used for services. I knew many of the volunteers and knew that they were of a different religion that despised the cross and the crucifixion itself, but I could hardly contain my excitement and shared with them the verse and how wonderful it was that Jesus washed our sins away.

My testimony was met with blank stares. They did not and could not share in my excitement because they did not understand that they could have their sins washed away by the Blood of the Lamb!

                                                                 "Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? Be washed in the Blood of the Lamb!"




                                                                               "LOVE DOESN'T KEEP A RECORD"...........                                                      November 21, 2017

 
I Corinthians 13:5 (KJV) Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
(NIV) It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

One of my Brothers from Zaragoza was very generous in lending other people money. “Hey Jeff! Can I borrow $5 till payday?” And almost always the answer was yes.
When Jeff would loan out the money he would get his little black notebook and write their name, the amount and when payday was.

There came a day when Jeff looked in his book and saw that many people owed him money and their promises of paying him did not happen. He didn’t want to confront them and ruin the relationship they had, but he did want his money back.

He shared with us that he more or less began to complain to God about those in his black book that owed him and what should he do about it?

God led him to I Corinthians 13 – the love chapter of the Bible – and as he was using the New International Version he saw the translation above – “love keeps no record of wrongs”.

Jeff said he looked hard at that verse and began to think of those he had loaned money to and realized that when they didn’t pay him, he began to have harsh feelings against them.

When he realized what he was doing, he told us that he tore up his little black book and “forgot” the debts and asked the Lord to forgive him for his attitude.

Did he get all of his money back? Not as far as I know, but he did get some of it back. Guys would show up at his door and return the money they had borrowed..

“Love keeps no record of wrongs”. For Jeff it was a lesson learned.

                                                                            "Remember, Love keeps no records" 
 

 
                                                                                        "YOU HAVE THE POWER"..............                                                         November 14, 2017

Acts 1:8 “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea,
and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

I try to find spiritual applications to everyday life and here is one of my favorite lessons the Lord taught me.
One day when I was a roustabout in the oil field, my “pusher” (crew boss) gave me the job of refilling all of the fire extinguishers on an oil platform.
There was probably over a dozen if not many more.

I was given several 50-pound buckets of Ansul powder and dozens of compressed gas chargers. The powder was light blue, sticky when wet,
and was very light so the slightest breeze would cause it to swirl around me light a tornado. By the time I got done I was light blue from nose to toes!

First, I had to take the security tab off of the gas canister (charged at 800 psi), unscrew the lid of the fire extinguisher and pour out the old powder.
(Clouds of powder, clouds.) When that was done I put a large funnel in the tank and poured powder from the bucket into the tank.
(More clouds of powder and because it was hot and I was sweating, I became blue colored and slick.)

After I put the lid back on I would take a new gas cannister, screw it onto the tank and put the security tab on the trigger. Good job Mario!

But as I was working I prayed and asked the Lord to give me an application to this hot, dirty, dusty, work. 

If you encounter a fire and you have a 50-pound bucket of Ansul powder, you can throw handfuls or even small bucketsful of that powder on the fire
do you know what will happen? Nothing! That powder will do nothing when used that way to put out the fire.

However, (and that is an important word!) if you press the trigger on the extinguisher, and engage the gas, you can direct the nozzle at the
fire and the powder comes out with force, creating a cloud of powder that robs the fire of oxygen. No oxygen, no fire!

The powder without power is almost useless! Look again at this verse from Acts - 
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me . . .”

So, let’s break it down.

What will we receive? Power! 
From Whom? The Holy Spirit! 
Why do we need the Holy Spirit’s power? To be witnesses!
Witnesses of Who? Of our Lord Jesus!
“But I don’t talk very good, Lord!” You know, Moses tried that and God sent him Aaron! God has already empowered you with His Holy Spirit –
the third member of the Trinity. God is already in you to help you witness!
“But I don’t know how to witness!” What “how”? We are talking about Jesus! If He saved you, isn’t that the most wonderful news you have ever had?
Then tell someone what Jesus did! That is witnessing!
“I don’t know what to say!” Again, the most miraculous thing ever to happen to a human has happened to you! Jesus saved you so that you might live
with Him forever! 

How can we not tell people?

God has given us the power to witness! If you are having a problem getting started, ask God to make the Holy Spirit’s power real to you! Ask Him to
provide you opportunities to share your salvation with others.

You have the power! You have the authority! So tell somebody what the Lord has done for you!

                                                                        "Tell somebody what the Lord has done for you!"
 

 

                                                                                          "WHO NEEDS TO SEE?".............                                           November 7, 2017


“At the Cross! At the Cross! Where I first saw the light . . .”Some years ago in Orofino, Idaho, Bonny and I went to our church’s picnic one Saturday for food, fun, fellowship and games. We were all playing volleyball and Pastor Al kept missing the ball almost every time it came his way. Of course, we were all laughing at him

until he grabbed the ball and said,“Hey! I just got brand new glasses with bifocals! I see big ball, little ball, big hands, little hands! I don’t know ball to hit with what

set of hands!” Which only made us laugh the harder!


When I was 16 my folks took me to the eye doctor on the base (Daddy was in the Navy) and the doc put those huge steam punk looking googles on me and asked, “What do you see?”

“Sir, I see a blank white wall.” So, he adjusted them several clicks and with a satisfied look asked, “Now, what do you see?”

“Sir, I see a blank white wall.” So, he adjusted them several clicks again and asked again if I could see anything.

“Sir, I still just see a blank white wall.” He asked me if I was messing with him and I told him no, so with many clicks he said, “Now?”

“I see a blank white wall with some black lines.”

The doctor turned my dad and said, “Chief, your son is blind.”

After more testing it was discovered that my eyesight was 20/450. That means that while normal people (20/20 vision) could see clearly an object at 450 feet, I had to be 20 feet away from it to see the object clearly.

Glasses were ordered and the day my brother and I picked them up at the Base Exchange I was excited to put them on. We went outside to the shuttle bus shelter and I said,

“Julian! I can see the ships!”

“They’ve been there the whole time.” He said.

“Yeah, but now I can see them clearly!”

Where before the ships at the piers were just one gray blob, I could see individual ships, their numbers, the masts, everything!


The apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see through a glass, darkly;” 

November 11, 1973. Zaragoza Air Base, Spain, the Base Chapel. The guest speaker was a man by the name of Junior Browning (yes, his first name was “Junior”) and he preached the gospel to a young airman who did not wait for the altar call before practically running to that altar to surrender his life to Christ.

Two dear sisters, Angie Cisco and Kim Thomas sang the invitation, “God’s Final Call” and for me it seemed to be His final call! I responded, repented and received Jesus as my Savior, Lord, and my God. Now my vision was no longer shadowed, blurred or blinded – it was clear!

No “double-vision” as my Pastor, Al, talked about. No more “Big Man Upstairs” that was just some big blob. No, my God made Himself real to me and took away the spiritual blindness!


                                                                                              "To God be the Glory!"



 
 

                                                                                    "TRAINING IN CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES"...............                                            October 31, 2017

 
Let me tell you a story (I can hear you now, “Oh boy! Story time with Mario!”). In the early 80’s we were attending an Assembly of God in Boothville/Venice, La.
Our Pastor, Anthony Marquez, preached a sermon one Sunday called “Blackberries”. 

          

Our church had experienced growth that stunned the community. It went from a fellowship of 6-10 people to over 200 in less than two years. Anthony applied
some of the same principles that Pastor has spoken of; preaching repentance and seeing people either getting right or leaving because of the “heat”.

          

What does blackberries have to do with anything? I’m glad you asked (snicker, snicker)! Well, one day Anthony and his family were picking blackberries
(they grow wild in Louisiana and abundantly. Usually harvested in April/May) and he said as he was moving through the brush there were times when he
would find handfuls and there were times he would only find one or two.

          

However, he said when he would only find the one or two they were huge! As he began to ponder the situation he felt God speaking to him.
I’ll try and paraphrase. “The Lord began to show me that there are times when the church is flooded with people who come forward to be saved. Then there
are times when no matter how hard I preached there was hardly a response but when someone did come, they became solid Christians.

          

God told me that during those times when growth seemed to plateau, it was the time that we (as a church) needed to disciple the new believers. This was a
time when we needed to train them in Christian principles and to prepare them to minister to the next group of people who would come.”


                                                                                                               "Hmmmmmmm"



 
                                                                                                 "COMPARE YOUR WALK WITH CHRIST"................                                      October 24, 2017

 

          I was talking with one of my cardiac rehab workers Friday while I was doing upper body weights, and I told him about my friend who was a

          body builder and had a life-sized picture of Lou Ferigno’s biceps posted on the wall of his workout space .

          The idea was to compare your arms with “The Hulk’s”. At the time when Ferigno played “The Hulk” his bicep was 22½”! That is almost two feet around!

          Of course, I had to put my arm up for comparison. I was dwarfed!

          Ephesians 5:1 says, “Beye therefore followers of God, as dear children;”

          No less than 19 times in the Gospels Jesus says “Follow Me”. He is our example! We are to compare ourselves to Him!

          The hymn says,

          “Footsteps of Jesus, that make the pathway glow.

          We will follow the steps of Jesus, where ‘ere they go!”

 

          When I was first in college, one of my professors was working (during the summer) on his doctorate at Notre Dame – and he was younger than I was!

          I looked at him and thought, “What is wrong with me? Why don’t I have degrees?”

          First of all, I had spent my first 6 1/3 years after high school in the Air Force and although I could take some classes, my schedule did not

          permit me to go full time.

          Why was I comparing myself with him? The Word says I am to follow Christ, not someone else’s educational program!

          I even compared myself to my pastor in Louisiana. Here he was pastoring a church of over 200 and he hadn’t gone to college at all!

          What was my problem?

          Do not compare your walk with God with anyone else!

          Paul told the Corinthian church, TWICE, to follow him AS he followed Christ!

          We are to compare ourselves with Christ and with the man or woman of God He has called us to be and no one else.


"Why was I comparing myself with him?" 

 

               
                                                                                                               "GOD GETS THE INCREASE"..............                                      October 17, 2017

In the mid 80’s while living in Oregon, Bonny and I went to an event that featured Mike Warnke. Afterwards as we were leaving this young lady (about Bonny’s age) came up and said, “Bonny?”

          Bonny was startled and remembered her name, Gia. It seemed that she and Gia had gone to high school together in Seattle in the 70’s more than 10 years before. Gia was so happy to have run into her and was excited to tell us about her conversion to Christ and she attributed it to watching Bonny’s walk in the Lord.

          I’ve spoken before about people watching Christians and basing their acceptance of Christ on the other person’s walk. Of course Bonny started thinking about all the things she did and said that were not Christian-like, but like many others, Gia was blinded to it.

          All she saw was someone who claimed the name of the Lord and lived it to their best.

          Our testimony is not just in words but deeds as well! When I was in Spain there was one fellow Security Policeman we all witnessed to; Kramer. He was a self-avowed Satanist (I think mostly just to keep the Christians at bay) and told us all in no uncertain terms that he wanted nothing to do with Christ, God, the Bible, etc.

          I rode Patrol with him once and he told me if I wanted to listen to my music I needed to use an ear piece because he didn’t want to listen to it. We all spent many hours praying for Kramer but it seemed the harder we prayed the further it drove him away.

          After I came back to the states I was talking with one of the brothers, James, who was still in Spain. He was telling me how everyone was doing and then he told me that something exciting had happened to Kramer.

          They were on patrol one afternoon and James said he looked at Kramer and just said (paraphrase), “Isn’t it about time you gave your heart to Jesus?” and Kramer said yes!

                                                             "Plowing, planting, weeding, watering, but again God gets the increase!"

 

                                                                                                  "AND NOW FOR THE REST OF THE STORY".................                             October 10, 2017


As Paul Harvey was famous for saying, “And now, the rest of the story!”

 

          I left Zaragoza and the fellowship in July of 1975 for my next duty station in Rapid City, S.D. I wrote a few letters and sent a box of tracks and literature to the brothers back in Spain, but as time went on and the years passed I lost track of my friends.

          Sometime in the 90’s I was able to find my old pastor, Ron Waggoner, in a web search. As we caught up with each other and how his family was doing I asked him about some of the brothers and sisters from Spain and he started getting really excited.

          Our little fellowship, which had about 100 people attending on an average Sunday, had launched ministries! As a matter of fact, out of 100 attending, Pastor Ron told me there were at least 22 or 23 FAMILIES in full time ministry (as I was at the time)!

          Brother Ray, the man who watched John Bickett for 6 months telling God if John stayed “saved” for six months, then he too would receive Christ – and he did!, was an evangelist. 

          One young man who had married on of Ron’s daughters, Charles Morris was in the ministry (he had been here in Las Vegas for a few years). Another, Ken, and his wife pastored in Kansas City and have even bers of the Spanish Baptist Pastor and they pioneered a work in Dodge City and are there to this day! There were many more stories of exciting ministry that had been birthed out of that little fellowship in the mid 70’s Zaragoza, Spain.

          Acts 8:4 “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.”

          Just as those who were transferred out just before I arrived, we were sent out, whether to a new base or to discharge and the Word of God was brought with us!

          So now, take a good look around some Sunday morning or Wednesday night. Who has stepped forward to answer the call to ministry? Have you been called? Look in the balcony and pray for the youth that God would call them and that they would respond!

 

                                                                                        "What ministries is God birthing at Desert Hills right now?"

 

 

                                                                                                 "MISSIONARY IN THE MISSION FIELD"..............                                                  October 3rd, 2017 


“Wherever there is sin, there is a mission field and the Christian nearest it is a Missionary”
 Bob Harrington, Chaplain of Bourbon Street, quoting one of his seminary professors.

          Paul the Apostle makes his plea to have his case heard by Caesar and unwittingly the Roman government sent him into the mission field! 

          When I arrived at Zaragoza Air Base, Spain, in August of 1973, I had just missed a great revival on the base. When I came there were two families, the Smith’s and the Cisco’s, a half dozen teens and a couple airmen.

          When the revival came, by way of a missionary who preached the Word to the men and women servicemen and to the families, the base commander, a full colonel, and one of the chaplains were among the dozens that were gloriously saved!

          It started to have an impact on this small base (about 700 permanent party Air Force folk but every 90 days the Air Force sent air wings for training so that was another 100-200 people coming from bases in Italy, Germany, England, and Turkey) and the Word was being preached, the lost were being evangelized and saved!

          The Air Force, in its infinite wisdom, decided that too many “religious” things were happening so orders were cut and people (Christians for the most part) were transferred out to other bases. Christians being sent to new mission fields!

          During the time I was there, several Security Police were sent to a little radar site in southern Spain, Moron Air Base. It was a joint Air Force and Navy site with about 125 permanent party personnel.

          They were sent there while Zaragoza Baptist Fellowship was in revival AGAIN! One young believer was asked to go to Moron and he said, “Why should I go when we are having revival?!?” and said “no.”

          Out of over 100 Security Policemen, the supervisors came back to him, the only person they asked twice. And he told the church, after he returned, “My brain was saying ‘No.’ but my mouth said, ‘Yes!’.” And he went.

          When he arrived, he was the only saved person, as far as he could tell. Then one day at the post office he saw a 3X5 card announcing a Bible study at a house. He went to the house and there was a young couple who had just gotten saved right before they were sent to Spain.

          They knew nothing about the Word and even though this young man had only been saved about a year, they wrung him dry! They wanted to know everything he knew. So he told them.

          Meetings began being held on the base and people began to come and hear the Word. A local missionary came on base and taught the people, the Airman from Zaragoza showed them what he knew from the Word.

          He returned to Zaragoza after 90 days and was back in fellowship. As the church was kicked off base (the new chaplain didn’t like the competition! We were teaching the youth of the base scriptural principles but the chaplain was giving them cookies, pop and playing games) we were meeting at the Spanish Baptist Church downtown.

          A few months after he returned the church, once again, was in revival! (Common theme) One night a lady from the fellowship of believers in Moron, came into that Spanish church and when she introduced herself (and her 9 children) everyone was curious as to why she had come all that way.

          Pointing at the young man she said, “We’re here because of him!” and went on to tell us that over half the people on the base (civilians and military people) had received Christ!

          Because of the Airman? No, because God moved upon the government to send this young man with a testimony to a group of people who needed to hear the Word!

                                                              "Are you where you are because God placed you there?"



  
                                                                                                     "HERE'S A GOOD ONE"...........                                                       September 19th, 2017

I was a Corrections Officer for the state of Idaho. My friend and I published a bulletin, for the prison, entitled “Getting to Know You.” because of our high turnover rate. It was not unusual to have as many as 6 or 7 new officer’s in a month, almost 10% of a staff of one hundred.

 

We provided news and general info about new and old staff as well as interviewing the Director of Prisons and our own Deputy Warden, Pam Sonnen. When I interviewed Pam I asked, “If there was one thing you could tell all of us at the same time, what would it be?”

 

She gave, to me still, one of the best pieces of employer to employee advice I’ve ever heard. “Please come talk to me before I have to fire you.”

 

Understand the pressure Corrections Officers face, low pay, working with the worst people in the state, long hours, over time [in my first year at the prison I had 7 full weeks off and did not use 1 hour of vacation – that’s how much OT I had because we didn’t get pay, we got comp hours], and having administration and supervisors looking over your shoulder and questioning almost every decision you made.

 

So many times people were susceptible to whisperings of inmates. “Hey Boss! When you leave would you drop this letter off on your way home? I missed mail call.” “Officer Smith, can I get a cup of your coffee?” “My! Don’t you look nice Ms. So-and-so!” as the inmate flicks an imaginary piece of lint from the uniform.

 

Yes, simple things. Until you realize they are just a prelude to something bigger.

 

“Please come talk to me before I have to fire you.” Pam told me almost without exception she could rescue an officer at the brink of being fired if they would only come talk to her!

 

Spiritual application: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18

 

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” I John 2:1

 

                                                 Sounds like good advice from God, ““Please come talk to me before I have to discipline you.”

 

 
                                                                                                          "FEEL FREE TO LAUGH...........                                              September 13th, 2017  


Luke 6:38 “Give, and it shall be given unto you; goodmeasure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” 

          I can relate to this verse! And of course there is a story. 

          When Bonny and I were Freshmen in college we had one teacher who was chronically late. 5, ten, even 15 minutes late every time! Often I would lead the class in testimony to fill the gap.   

          I worked at a nicer local restaurant that had a bar inside. On Friday and Saturday nights I would hear a knock on the little door under my drying table and I would open it and grab a very clean 5 gallon bucket and fill it with fresh ice.

          As I was sharing this with the class I told them I was often reminded of this verse, “Good measure, pressed down, shaken together.” which is what I would do to the bucket of ice. In the middle of the story our professor walked in.

          When I got done I asked, “Brother Simmons, can you relate to this verse?”

          “Brother, the only time I can relate to this verse is when I watch you eat!”

                                                          

                                                                                          "Feel free to laugh, feel free (because I did!)."

 

 
                                                                                                  "WHITE WALLS"...........                                       September 5th, 2017

As Pastor Scott was speaking about Paul calling the High Priest a “whited wall” in Acts 23:3 (just covering up the rot) I thought about the time I was stationed at Williams Air Base, AZ in 1970 and living in WWII barracks as a Security Policeman.

          It seemed that every year the Civil Engineering squadron would tour our barracks and condemn it. Within a couple days we (Security Police) would receive gallons of paint (usually white or grey) and we would paint the barracks top to bottom.

          A week later C.E. would come and “inspect” our barracks and before you could say “General Curtis E. LeMay” (Chief of Staff of the Air Force 1961-1965) our barracks passed inspection! It was no longer condemned (that is until the next inspection!).

          Indeed they were “whited walls”. Looked all nice and new on the outside, but the inside was filled with rot, mold, and decay.

          Many times the world looks like that. Shiny, blingy, flashing attractive lights or clothing, yet on the inside it is death, decay and rot.

          Don’t be fooled by how nice something – even ideas! looks on the outside! Check under the hood, kick the tires, and look for signs of a cover up!


                                                                                  "Ask the Lord to show you the truth of the matter! Test the “spirit”!

 

                                                          
                                                              "SEARCH LIGHT...A BOAT, THE FOG, TRAVELING AT NIGHT, AND FAITH"..........                  August 15, 2017 


One morning, after working as fire watch all night in the oil field, I was piloting my Jo boat (30 foot workboat) back to the dock. It was still dark and it was very foggy. You couldn’t hardly see 20-30 feet ahead of you. It was normally a thirty minute ride from the warehouse to the dock through the canals going by the wells and other facilities. It was so foggy that even passing within 50 feet of a platform I was unable to see the lights of that platform and that 30 minute trip took a couple hours. The way through the canals there were pilings every 50-100 yards along the route on my right side. As long as I stayed to the left of the pilings I would be in the channel and didn’t have to worry about sandbars or running aground. The pilings had very wide strips of reflective tape towards the top to help guide the boat drivers. But the fog was so thick it was hard to see from one piling to the next! I kept the boat at idling speed (just in case I did hit a sand bar or land it wouldn’t be at full speed!) and I used the spot light on top of the cabin to search out the next piling on my trip home. Often I would spot a piling and slowly go past all the while desperately flashing the beam back and forth trying to find the next one. Many times I would lose “sight” of the last piling but still not be able to see the next one. Yet I knew that there would be another one somewhere up ahead and each time when I felt the most anxious, I would see the next piling and there was a sense of relief! I was on the right course! A little like faith, right? We believe that God has set out a course for us and He has provided “pilings” (the Word), the “reflective tape” (individual verses), and especially (Ahhh, you see it coming!) “The Light!” Jesus Christ, our Savior. A Christmas musical I sang in during college had this song in it “Light of the world, Light of the world, Light of the world come shine through me!”


So as the chorus of that famous hymn says: Thy guiding radiance above us shall be a beacon to God, to love, and loyalty.


                                                          "Yes, just like the search light I used to find my way home, He is Jesus, our Beacon, the Light of the world,

                                                              pointing the way to salvation for the lost and guiding His church through the night and fog of the world."

 

 all

                                                                                                                "Chicken Mario"........                                                                     August 8, 2017


I make a dish called “Chicken Mario” with rice, deboned chicken, the Cajun trinity (onion, garlic, celery, and green peppers – I know that’s 4 things not 3, but nobody said the Cajuns were good with math!). Our pastor and his wife came over for dinner and she just had to have the recipe.

          A couple weeks later we were talking and she said she had cooked “Chicken Mario” for some friends but they didn’t like it. I asked the following

(and the answers say it all)

 

Me “Was your chicken bad?”

Her “I didn’t have any chicken so I used turkey!” (yes there is a difference!)

 

Me “Was the rice not cooked right?”

Her “I didn’t have rice so I used potatoes! And I didn’t have any onions or garlic so I used mushrooms!”

        You didn’t make “Chicken Mario!” I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t my dish!

          So, then, that is what happens when one strays from the recipe – whether it is cooking or the Word!

          “Well, we think of the Old Testament as just good stories, you know parables are just made up stories with good morals.”

          “Salvation is just the start! Now you have to . . . (fill in the blank and it’s usually not found in the Word, but that’s okay . . .)”

          “We believe that Jesus is just one of the ways to God and if that’s what you believe, that’s fine.”

          “We’re all children of God.”

 

          No, God is exact in His Word regarding salvation and being considered a Child of God. When people stray from the Word or try and add something to it,

then just like the sister who didn’t make Chicken Mario, it’s not Christianity.

 


                                                            "Once You Know what Motivates You"...........                                    August 1, 2017                                     


Since my earliest memory I always got up in the middle of the night and got something to eat. 4 or five pieces of bread, tablespoon of peanut butter, left over chicken, whatever I could find.

My parents became frustrated because of my nightly excursions and when they caught me they would punish me. Frequently I would spend the day in bed, no books, no toys, and especially no TV.

Yet it did not stop me. There was something that drove me and when I would wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning I had to get something to eat! The threat of punishment was outweighed by the prospect of eating.

So there were many pleasant Saturdays that I spent in my PJ’s in my bed with nothing to do. And during the summer, and whenever school was not in session, it was the same thing.

But I had to get something to eat! And I could not explain why. All I knew is that I was hungry – or at least thought I was.

This behavior continued during my teen years and into my time in the Air Force. We had machines that would heat up a cup of chicken and noodles, beef stew, or soup and I would be steady dropping in my .35 [yup! It was that long ago!] into the machine and pushing the button.

College days. This was a little more of a problem because a group of us young men stayed in a house owned by the college and there was a curfew. Yet somehow I would leave and go to the 24 hour store around the block and get an old, barely warm, shriveled up hot dog.

Even after Bonny and I were married I would raid the fridge late at night or early in the morning. I had to get up and eat, I had to!

It was 1982 and I was 30 and Bonny and I went to visit my folks in New Hampshire that summer. My family is a story telling family and we were all sharing stories from days gone by.

My mother made this statement, “From the time you were 2 until you were 4 when you got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom you had to pass through the kitchen. Your father and I would leave you a half sandwich or a piece of chicken, just a little something to nibble on.”

I was stunned! Didn’t they realize what they had done? They took this almost blank computer [my brain] and programmed it to get something to eat in the middle of the night! And they did that for almost two years!

Neither of them could tell me why they stopped but they remembered me getting up night after night and going through the kitchen in search of something to eat and they remembered punishing me for it.

When Bonny and I got back home to Louisiana, I knew that I had no will power over this thing! But what I did know is this verse,

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” II Corinthians 10:5

So I was almost instantly delivered from my eating habit! Uhhhhh, no. But every night I woke up and I felt that urge to get something to eat I DID NOT say that I was strong enough to battle this myself.

No, I quoted the Word! Over and over, night after night I would repeat this verse. “No! I am not hungry! I will bring this thought, this want to, into captivity and tell it that my desire will not override my God.”


So here is what I learned and what I know. Ready? You might want to write this down where you can see it if you are fighting a battle.

“Once you know what motivates you, it no longer controls you.”

 

Now if you want to give control over to that thing that hinders you, embarrasses you, separates you from your relationship with God, go ahead. But if you are tired of letting something or someone control you, cast down that imagination! Anything that puts itself ahead of God, even a thought, take it captive and say “No! I will not let you run or control my life!”

Do I still battle those thoughts sometimes at night? Yes! But what do I do? Get up and go to the fridge? No! I will quote that verse to myself because I know that I cannot allow it to take precedence over my relationship with God.

 

                                                                           “Once you know what motivates you, it no longer controls you.”                           

 

                                                                                

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