* MARIO'S CORNER IS ON BREAK AND WILL RETURN IN NOVEMBER.
“THAT’S NOT THE ANSWER I WANTED”..... October 6, 2020
I Kings 22
I worked for a county as a youth Case Manager and I got an information report that one of the kids had attacked one of my staff. When I asked the staff member what happened he said this, “____ wanted to know why none of the girls at the facility would date him and I told him, ‘Maybe they don’t like you.’ When I said that he started hitting me and yelling, ‘That’s not the answer I wanted!’.”
Go ahead and laugh – even the staff that had been hurt did! Many times, people ask a question and they aren’t satisfied with the answer they get, much like the youngster in my story. Sometimes, like kids with do, they will ask one person and the answer is not what they wanted, so they will go to someone else and ask, hoping for approval.
Growing up my brother and I would use triangulation on my parents. “Julian, Mama likes you better than me so you ask her if we can go. I’ll ask Daddy cuz I’m pretty sure he likes me. Then which ever parent says, ‘yes’ if we get caught, we can say, ‘Daddy said it was okay!’.”
In the story from the Word in I Kings 22 we see Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah coming to Ahab, king of Israel, and Ahab asking him to join in a war against Syria (v.4). Jehoshaphat wants to consult God to get a word on whether or not they should go to war (v. 5).
Ahab gathers 400 “prophets” (Hmmmm) and asks them (Note! He didn’t ask them to enquire of God) if they should go to war or not. Now these “prophets” aren’t stupid.
“Absolutely Sire! Go to battle because the Lord will make you victorious!”
Now in verse 7 Jehoshaphat asks if there isn’t another prophet of the Lord to consult. Sounds like he didn’t have a lot of confidence in those 400 “prophets”.
Here comes the “That’s not the answer I wanted!” moment in verse 8. “There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the Lord: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.”
The messenger, sent by Ahab, says, “Hey man, everybody else is giving the king good news that he will win. Please be like them and tell the king the same thing!”
Micaiah tells the messenger, “Whatever God tells me to say, that’s what I will say.” When Micaiah gets to the king, he tells him, “Go ahead! You will be successful!” (v. 15)
Ahab knows better. “Haven’t I told you to tell me the truth?” Micaiah was like, “Okay fine. I saw Israel scattered like sheep without a shepherd. And God says, ‘These have no master, let them return home in peace.’.”
This is not what Ahab wanted to hear and he turns to Jehoshaphat and says, “See? What did I tell you, he never has anything good to tell me only evil!” (v. 18)
There is more to the story, but this thought goes all through Ahab’s time as king when prophets, sent by God, confronted him, “That’s not the answer I wanted!!!”
“NOT HIDDEN!”....... September 29, 2020
Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is
given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid
from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you,
the hope of glory: Colossians 3:25-27
The other morning, I was going to make potato pancakes and an omelet for Bonny and I.
I was looking for a bigger skillet and I could see something on one of the bottom shelves but I couldn’t
We had bought our trailer from an older lady who obviously loved to cook and because of the
onset of health issues for both of us, we hadn’t fully explored all the cupboards and little places.
I asked Bonny if she could see what I was looking at and if she could reach it. She could and did!
And out from this cupboard on the floor from all the way in the back came this beautiful, barely used, skillet!
It has the “diamond-like” finish and things just slide right out of it!
Pick me! We had a hidden treasure in our house that we didn’t know about since we moved in
April of 2017!
In the verses above Paul states that there is a “mystery” but God has made it “manifest”. Matthew Henry,
in his commentary on these verses, said this:
“This mystery now, in the fulness of time, is made manifest to the saints, or clearly revealed and made apparent. The veil which was over Moses’s face is done away in Christ, 2 Cor. 3:14. The meanest saint under the gospel understands more than the greatest prophets under the law. He who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than they. The mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, Eph. 3:4, 5. And what is this mystery? It is the riches of God’s glory among the Gentiles. The peculiar doctrine of the gospel was a mystery which was before hidden, and is now made manifest and made known. But the great mystery here referred to is the breaking down of the partition-wall between the Jew and Gentile, and preaching the gospel to the Gentile world, and making those partakers of the privileges of the gospel state who before lay in ignorance and idolatry: That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers together of his promise in Christ by the gospel, Eph. 3:6. This mystery, thus made known, is Christ in you (or among you) the hope of glory. Observe, Christ is the hope of glory. The ground of our hope is Christ in the word, or the gospel revelation, declaring the nature and methods of obtaining it. The evidence of our hope is Christ in the heart, or the sanctification of the soul, and its preparation for the heavenly glory.”
There is no longer a mystery! God is no longer hidden from view! There is no need to go searching here, there, or anywhere to find Him! The “treasure” of Jesus is available for all! The riches of God’s glory have been dispensed upon Gentiles! No longer a separation between Jew and Gentile, free or slave, male or female!
God has torn down that separation and now we, Gentiles, are joint heirs! We have the privilege of Jesus dwelling in us! And because He dwells in us, we have HOPE! And that HOPE is Jesus Christ, God’s Son,
the Savior of the World!
“JESUS IS THE LIGHT!!”........ September 22, 2020
I remember a time when my pastor and I went to a local bar because one of the women in the church asked us to come get her (she was having problems with her husband and she was afraid to leave by herself).
We went into this bar in the middle of the day and as we got inside and the door shut behind us, it became almost pitch black.
I do not think we were just experiencing the shutting out of the sunlight. It was also the spiritual darkness that was in that place.
I can remember as we talked with that husband and wife, every time someone came in or went out and that shaft of sunlight came in through the door, I felt like a moth drawn to the flame. It seemed as if my entire body and soul was shouting “I must have light!”
I am not saying every bar that is darkened is evil or full of spiritual darkness, but this one was. I could not wait to get out of there and as we left, I felt the oppression leave my spirit.
Well, Jesus promises us that if we trust in Him, we will not walk in spiritual darkness. Listen to what the apostle John says,
“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
I John 1:7
Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, will cleanse us from our sins if we walk in His light. We have seen that Jesus said that the natural man loves darkness
(And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. John 3:19). We also know that Jesus, as the Light, exposes sin, gets it out into the open, where once it is exposed, it no longer holds control over the person.
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” II Corinthians 4:6
“But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” I Thessalonians 5:4-6
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;” I Peter 2:9
"LEARNING FROM YOUR MISTAKES"........ September 15, 2020
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and followed the sins of
Jeroboamthe son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom.
II Kings 13:2
In the 1950’s we were living in National City, CA (close to San Diego). We had a brand-new home (we visited the site as it was being built) with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a nice garage and a good-sized back yard (to my 8-year-old memory!). A great place.
On the backside of the garage there was a small cactus patch (I have no idea why, it just was!) with several kinds of cacti. My parents told me (not Michael or Julian, just me!) to say out of the cactus patch because of the thorns. I had an entire back yard to play in.
But, to my 8-year-old brain, I thought, “I can get through there (barefoot!) without getting stickers.” Uhhh, nope! Every single time I went into that little patch I got stuck! In my ankles, toes, bottom of my feet, and consequently my hands as I would reach down and try to pick the thorns out!
Mama would not have to spank me because I would already be crying! It hurt! But . . . a few days later I would do the same thing. My mind would convince my body, “This time we’ll do it!” Uhhh, nope!
Wash, rinse, repeat. I don’t remember how many times I did it, but I do remember sitting on the floor with one or the other of my feet in Mama’s lap as she sat on the couch with a pair of tweezers pulling them out one at a time.
As I read through chapter 13 and 14 and 15 and 17 and 21 and 23 AND 24 for a total of 14 times just in II Kings that phrase kept repeating – “he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord”. Fourteen times!
(Impressive voice over) But wait! There’s more! Seven times (1/2 of the fourteen times!) the verse ends with “made Israel to sin.” Now how many times have you heard “You can’t make me!”?
Working with juveniles in a correctional setting, I would hear that almost every day. It was if I had the power to “make” them do something. “You need to go to your room.” “Make me!” and outside of physically restraining them (which was done on occasion when they were a threat) there wasn’t really anything we could do at the time.
Now, let’s consider Israel. The king would “make” Israel to sin? Did they have no back bone to say “No, that’s wrong King!” Were there not prophets in the land that warned both the rulers and the people?
Of course there were! The king probably didn’t have to do much to get the people to sin. Just like my brain would tell my body, “Hey, we’ll get it done this time!”
Well, the people, just like my body, would agree – “sound good to me!” And then came the consequences! Mine were minor in comparison to what happened to the nation of Israel. I had a few thorns that could be removed. Israel, because they sinned (not just because they had a king who refused to follow in David’s footsteps) would face death! Slavery under oppressive rule.
They would be removed from the land – and to the Jew, dwelling in the land meant salvation to them; i.e. God is okay with them and allows them to stay. But when they sinned, God would allow an enemy to come in, tear down their homes, synagogues, destroy their crops, just make the land desolate.
Yet the Children Israel did not learn! Time after time after time they would get crushed and would cry out to God for deliverance and He would send a deliverer!
And as soon as that deliverer was gone (died or just faded away) they would willingly go back to following idols, false gods, and into sin.
So, my friend, if you find that you are constantly picking thorns out
of your feet and hands . . . repent and get your heart right with God!
“WHY DID HE HAVE TO DIE?”...... September 8, 2020
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give
an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
I Peter 3:15
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Easter season 1969. I was at my friend’s house, Jimmy V., and on TV they were playing an Easter movie showing the crucifixion of Jesus. As the cross was lifted up, Jimmy turned to me and asked, “Why did He have to die?”
I was the one who went to church. I was the one who went to Sunday School.
I was the one who should know. But all I could do was fumble around and mumble some words.
I was not saved! How could I testify to something that I did not believe?
Did I believe Jesus existed? Yes. Did I believe the stories about Him healing people and casting out demons? Yes.
Had I asked Him to forgive my sins? No. Had I received Him in heart and
made Him Lord of my life? No. That is why I had no answer for my friend.
Were anyone to ask me that question now, I have an answer! You, my friend,
if you are a Christian, repented, confessed, and received Christ, you have the answer when someone asks you!
Why did Jesus die? Because His sinless and innocent life became the ultimate sacrifice for sin! The hymn puts it this way, “Praise the Lamb for sinners slain . . .”
And what is every Christians’ obligation? To be ready to give an answer of
the hope that is in you! Who is the hope? Christ in you, the hope of glory!
"A PLACE WHERE DREAMS COME TRUE"...... September 1, 2020
I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.
I am sentimental. I keep things that hardly have any value at all. I still have a U.S. Air Force ticket book
that I used in the middle 70’s. Notebooks with rough drafts of reports I would later type. All kinds of strange
things because they bring a pleasant memory.
One of my favorite memories dates back to the middle 50’s when we lived in National City, CA
(next to San Diego) and Daddy took the family to the newly opened Disneyland! Just saying that name brings a flood of memories for me.
When Bonny and I were in the college choir (76/77) someone in one of the churches donated tickets for
all of us (30+) to go to Disneyland for the day. One of my absolute favorite rides was Peter Pan. It held a charm for me.
Many years later, when I was completing my degree, Bonny and I again went to Disneyland and of course, I stood in line for the Peter Pan ride! It was just coming on to twilight and all the lights, sounds, and smells seem to make the time perfect.
A few people ahead of us was a father and son. The father was holding his son cradled in his arms as the young man had an obvious physical infirmity. Because of his issue, they were given the opportunity to go to the head of the line and I heard the man say to his son, “We’re next! We’re going on Peter Pan!”
The child had very little, if any, control over his arms or legs, but when the dad told him they were next the child began to excitedly wave his arms about and kick his legs.
As Bonny and I watched this I thought to myself, “This is a place where dreams come true.” The child, for just a few brief moments, was going to ride with Peter and fight the pirates! He would be accompanied by “Tink” as their “ship” sailed through the sky, was shot at by cannons from the pirate ship, and had a wonderful view of Neverland.
Just as finished thinking that Disneyland was a place where dreams came true, the Spirit spoke to me and said, “My church should be the same.”
Oh, my friends, listen to King David! “I was GLAD when they said ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’”
Let us come to church with gladness! Let us enter into that place where we minister to one another! Let the
church be a place where dreams come true!
I need fellowship! I love to sing His praises with my brothers and sisters! Come before His presence with singing! Enter into His gates with thanksgiving! Enter His courts with praise!
When you sing and praise God the Father and Jesus, your whole outlook on life will change! Get yourself into His realm and find peace, joy, fulfillment and purpose!
"PREACH THE WORD!"....... August 25, 2020
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
I mentioned in another story that my folks drove around an hour and a half to attend a Bible believing and teaching church. There was a church not too far from them that they attended for a short while until one particular Sunday.
The songs were the songs of faith and love. Offering was taken and prayers invoked. People settled down and the pastor began his sermon. He read from a Reader’s Digest magazine an article about alligators (or crocodiles, not sure which) and that was his sermon.
My parents, even though they were not saved at the time, knew this wasn’t right! As ministers/pastors/teachers in the Body of Christ we are given the responsibility to teach and preach the Word of God!
It is one thing to quote from an article as it pertains to the subject of the Kingdom. However, to make an entire article about the animal kingdom without any scriptural or spiritual emphasis is misleading the congregation.
The next Sunday my folks drove from their home in Enfield, N.H. to Concord, N.H. and that is where they attended for a number of years.
As a former pastor and Bible teacher, I know that I called to share the Gospel with the lost. I am to use the Word to encourage Christians and build them up in their faith. As a musician, I not only play and sing, for His glory as He is the One who gave me those gifts, but I am to share my musical knowledge with others so they can play and sing to the best of their abilities.
That is why I have written these books and told my stories, so that,
dear reader: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened;
that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches
of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
And:These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
I John 5:13
Finally: That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the
knowledge of him:
"MISSING THE MARK"....... August 18, 2020
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law:
for sin is the transgression of the law.
I John 3:4
“The Greek word for “sin” is hamartia, an archery term for “missing the mark.” We could say that sin is not just making an error in judgment in a particular case, but missing the whole point of human life; not just the violation of a law, but an insult to a relationship with the One to whom we owe everything; not just a servant's failure to carry out a master's orders, but the ingratitude of a child to its parent.”
As a child my parents sent me to the Boys and Girls Day Camp in Newport, R.I. There were many activities; swimming, boating, hiking, and one of my favorites, shooting a BB gun!
There we were, 8, 9- and 10-year old’s, lined up facing a huge archery target that had already been peppered with other youngster’s attempts at hitting the “bull’s eye”. We were allowed, if I remember right, 3 or four shots at the target.
I marched up to the line, the staff member cocked the BB gun for me and I “aimed” down the barrel, squinting my eye like a sharp shooter (Davy Crocket?) and fired. I lowered the weapon and nodded my head at the target as if to say, “Right in the bull’s eye!” (which by now was just a gapping hole from all of the other BB’s).
Looking back, there’s little doubt in my mind that one of the holes on the outer rings was probably mine! I had missed the mark!
Fast forward 9 years and I am in Basic Training and they hand me an M-16 but no ammunition to put into my magazine! We spent an entire day learning nomenclature (“a system or set of terms or symbols especially in a particular science, discipline, or art” the names of the different parts of the rifle.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nomenclature) and performing what was called “dry firing”, making sure of your position, aiming then, on command, moving the selector switch from “safe” to “semi” and then squeezing the trigger.
The next day we went to the range and fired our weapons. Man-shaped target at 100 yards. Piece of cake – right? Not for me. I had to requalify because I had too many misses. Yes, I missed the target – missed the mark.
As I became more experienced with the weapon, my scores improved. Then came the day where we went to the long range. The first pop-up target was 250 yards. The target would only stay up about 3 seconds. I was able to knock that one down.
Then there were targets at 300 yards. Same 3 seconds, and I was able to adjust and hit that one too! Then the target shifted to 500 yards – over a ¼ of a mile away!
My turn came and I waited for the target to pop up. There it was! I aimed and fired and I could see the dirt spout just in front! I re-aimed and fired and there was a small gout of dirt just over the head of the target! Once again, I adjust my sights and fired but again the shot was in front of the target which now flopped down, its 3 seconds over.
The Range Master tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Well, son, you sure scared him!” I had missed the mark.
John, in the verse above, describes sin as “missing the mark”. What is the mark? Jesus. He is absolute perfection! He walked this world without committing a single sin – in thought, intent or deed.
As a matter of fact, in John 8 verse 46 Jesus demands of the religious leadership, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” The NIV says it this way, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” And they could not, so their answer was to attempt to stone Him!
I often miss the mark, being sarcastic or flippant, thinking inappropriate thoughts to someone who cuts me off in traffic or someone going the wrong way in the store aisle – can’t they see the signs and the people who are going the right way?
Yes, we all miss the mark, but there is a solution! I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Have you missed the mark? Then tell Jesus! Why? Because He will forgive you and cleanse you!
Want to feel spiritually clean? Confess your sins to Him.
YOUR VALUE........... August 11, 2020
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all
that he had, and bought it.
My friend John was our neighbor in Lewiston, ID and he was the pastor of the Church of Christ there. He was always doing something to keep the people’s attention during his sermons.
One Sunday he told them, “Today I’m going to show you something no man has ever seen and after today, no man will ever see it again.” With that he began to bring the message.
When he finished, he started to walk off the platform and greet people. Then someone asked “Aren’t you going to show us something we’ve never seen?”
John stopped, reached into his pocket and pulled out a peanut still in the shell. As he broke open the shell to expose the nuts, he said, “No man has ever seen these peanuts before today.”
Then he took the two nuts and ate them! “And no man will ever see them again!”
Yes, he had held their attention all sermon because they wanted to see something they had never seen.
Isn’t that like God? He takes a shell that everyone can see and then He takes out the nut (yes, I’m smiling at the analogy too!) which no one had ever seen! The nut is the valuable thing.
There is protein, fiber, vitamin E, zinc, copper, magnesium and a host of other things good for you. In the same vein, God looks at the husk of your former life and throws it away – it has no value!
But He keeps the inside! What value to you have? You are worth so much that Jesus bled and died for you. Then He rose from the dead and gave you eternal life!
That is how much value you have! Want more? You have love, joy, peace, longsuffering, and other attributes from the Holy Spirit and every single gift of the Spirit is of value! And the price of that value? Christ’s death, burial and resurrection!
Don’t let the enemy or any human ever tell you, Christian, that you are valueless.
As the verses tell us, we are the Pearl of Great Price because it cost Jesus everything to buy us.
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
I Corinthians 6:20
Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.
I Corinthians 7:23
“GO FIND DADDY!” and “GUNCLE HALLRY!”........ August 4, 2020
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we
shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him;
for we shall see him as he is.
I john 3:2
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.
Even so, Amen.
When my brother Jonathan was a little fellow, about 2 years old, Daddy’s ship docked (USS Gridley (CG-21 Guided Missile Cruiser) at Treasure Island (Bay Area) to the cheers and “welcome home!” from the families. Hundreds of men (crew compliment was almost 400 hundred) lined the rails, anxiously awaiting the “Liberty!” call.
After the call came and the men began walking down the gangways, there was a large group of Chief Petty Officers (of which Daddy was one) that were on the pier and Mama said to Jonathan, “Go find Daddy!” and off he toddled.
Only to stop suddenly because there were more “Daddy’s” than he had fingers and toes! Confusion! He looked back at us and Mama kept encouraging him so he turned around again and faced the sea of men in their whites with Chief’s caps on their head.
Then he recognized his Daddy and ran to him and hugged him as Daddy picked him up.
Gunkle Hallry. We had life long friends, the Ledbetter’s, a Navy family as well, that we had crossed paths with many times. One of their sons, (cannot remember which one, only that he was about 3 at the time of this incident) was on base with his dad and he saw a Navy Chief. The man was dressed in Khakis and wore a Chief’s hat.
Letting go of his father’s hand, boy the ran to the man grabbed him around the leg yelling, “Gunkle Hallry! Gunkle Hallry!” (“Uncle Hilry! Uncle Hilry!”) of course the man did not have the foggiest idea of who this child was or whose he was! He was frantically trying to free himself from the grip of this 3-year-old!
The youngster had become accustomed to seeing my father in his uniform over many months, so he naturally associated anyone dressed like a Chief to be “Gunkle Hallry”.
We will have no difficulty in recognizing Jesus when He appears! He will not be hidden and there will not be a multitude of “messiahs” for us to have to filter through in order to find the real One!
And . . . the entire world will see Him! “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him . . .” Not some, not just the Christians, but every human will see Jesus in His glory and they will begin to cry! Wail! Have you ever heard someone really wail? Now imagine an entire world crying out because of Jesus!
They know He is the measuring stick and they don’t measure up. They know He is Holy, Holy, Holy and that they are not. And they know that judgment is coming.
Not so the Christian! It will be a rejoicing for us because we know Him! (Kind of like the character in “Elf” when his supervisor at the store says, “Santa is coming and Buddy the Elf shouts, “I know him! I know him!”) There will be no fear, no wailing, no worrying! He is our King and we willingly serve Him. We willingly bow the knee and declare with our mouths, “Jesus Christ is Lord!”
We shall see Him as He is – The King of Glory, our Great Redeemer and our Saviour! Of that there will be doubt!
”BROTHER LISTER, THE RETIRED LOGGER”..... July 28, 2020
We were Assistant Pastors in a small town in Oregon, Dexter, and we had an older couple attending the church, Brother and Sister Lister. Brother Lister had spent decades working as a logger and even in his 80’s had a barrel chest, muscular arms and a hard-working demeanor.
One week he took me fishing on the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. To get where we were going, we had to walk about a mile into the woods. Over fallen trees, across streams, and through blackberry bushes.
While I was in fairly good shape (I was a janitor and spent 6-8 hours 5 nights a week mopping, vacuuming, sweeping, bending and stretching to do the job and I was in top singing shape – good lungs!) I was har put to keep up with this 80+ year-old brother!
He would nimbly jump over the tree falls, go through the blackberries with hardly any scratches and when it came to getting across a deep stream, he hopped up on a log (about 6 inches in diameter) and scampered over it like it was a four-lane highway! (I sat down a skootched my way across – remember my balance when I told the story of the oil field? That was two surgeries before!)
Eventually we came to his fishing spot, which we could have driven into, and caught our limit of trout. It was a great day. But it wasn’t over!
His wife, Sister Lister, along with Bonny had made us a feast for lunch! There was fried chicken, left over roast beef, potatoes (baked and mashed) macaroni and cheese, home grown green beans and fresh corn on the cob, biscuits
and rolls (not store bought!). And I know there was more but I can’t remember the main meal because next was
Pies; blackberry, strawberry/rhubarb, and pecan. At least two different cakes and ice cream! Homemade ice cream!
I tried sampling a little this and that, but I couldn’t even come close to Brother Lister! He had at least 2 heaping plates
of lunch and at least a couple pieces of pie a slice of cake and some ice cream! All the while Sister Lister apologized
for not having much to put on the table!
One Sunday morning before Sunday School, Brother and Sister Lister came in and his arm was bandaged and you could see bruising above and below the bandage. People asked if he was okay and he told the story.
Saturday morning, he decided to clean his gutters and got his ladder and went up to work. In just a little while he fell
off the ladder! It was about a 10-foot fall.
Of course, Sister Lister came out after hearing him fall and helped him to his chair and brought him a cup of coffee (cures all?). After he rested for a bit he told his wife that he felt a “little stiff” so they got the chain saw, got in the
pickup truck and cut, loaded, unloaded and stacked a cord of wood! Now that’s a man and a half!
Let’s look at our verses for today,
And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he up, and looked, and said,
There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.
And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea,
like a man's hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down that the
rain stop thee not.
And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind,
and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.
And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before
Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
I Kings 18:43-46
Elijah was not a young man, nor was he physically remarkable, yet he outran the king’s chariot! God granted him a strength beyond normal human bounds! He didn’t run with the chariot – he outran the chariot to the city of Jezreel – at least 17 miles! And some historians think it may have been closer to 30!
That is what happens when we are in the strength of the Lord! His strength, not mine!
“TEENAGE BOYS, ARM WRESTLING AND OL’ MS. LITTLEMAN...... July 21, 2020
And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died:
his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.
Dinner on the grounds at Empire Christian Fellowship! Dinner on the grounds is how they say “pot luck” in Loo-zee-ana and churches would put on feasts! Rice, green bean casserole, redeye gravy, boiled shrimp, crawfish, redfish, duck, fried chicken, you name it! And that wasn’t counting the deserts!
Homemade ice cream, blackberry pie, blackberry dumplings, pecan pie, cake, and brownies. Man, what meals those folks would make!
After everyone had eaten and now were at the “nibblin’” part of fellowship, the young boys, teenagers, were at a table arm wrestling one another. One young lad, about 16, was besting everyone, then Ms. Littleman (she was in her late 60’s early 70’s) sat down.
“Oh, Ms. Littleman, I don’t want to hurt you.” He said.
She just put her arm on the table and motioned for him to clasp hands with her. He gave kind of a sigh and grabbed
her hand. Another boy said “Go!” and “Wham!” The back of the 16-year-old’s hand hit the table! Ms. Littleman had
“I wasn’t ready!!!”
She said, “Let’s go again son.”
And again “Wham!” the boy’s hand hit the table with Ms. Littleman’s pushing it down. Now the other youngsters wanted to try “Ol’ Ms. Littleman” and one after the other they fell. She beat every boy there and many of them several times.
The young boy, who had been the champion, sat off to the side and just watched with amazement as his peers could not even get a draw. Brother Otto, one of the deacons, slid up beside him and told him about Ms. Littleman.
She had worked in an oyster warehouse for over 40 years, shucking oysters. Day in, day out, hundreds of time each day, she would stick her knife between the closed shells of an oyster and using wrist power (just like you would use in arm wrestling) she would open them and get to the oyster inside.
Day in, day out, for 40+ years. And the truth is, Brother Otto told the young man, there weren’t many, if any, men in
the church who would challenge her!
And here in our verse we have a MAN! Moses spent 40 years as an Egyptian government official, 40 years herding sheep (talk about downsizing!) and then 40 years leading the Children of Israel (kind of like herding sheep), 120 years!
And the Word declares that his strength was not diminished! He was as strong at 120 as he was at 20!
Not many of us can say that we are as strong or healthy as we were when we were young – especially me!
His eyesight, at 120 years old, was just as good as it ever was! My own eyesight went from bad to worse as I got older and then a new problem came into view (sorry about the pun!) – I needed reading glasses! Not Moses! God preserved His body and he was as good as he ever had been!
Next week, Part II!
“TRYING TO BALANCE MY SCALES”....... July 14, 2020
Let me be weighed in an even balance that God may know mine integrity.
Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.
Our attempts to satisfy God. Works, right? I can remember, pre-salvation, standing on the Flightline,
guarding nuclear loaded aircraft and their refueling aircraft, weighing my “good” deeds vs. my “bad” ones and
hoping I had enough “good” to outweigh the “bad”!
“Well, God, I went to Chapel Sunday and sang in the choir! But yesterday,
I got drunk. Is going to Chapel good enough to outweigh my drinking?”
I still see and know many Christians (or Christian-like organizations) who try to do enough “good” to counterbalance the “bad” thinking that God holds a set of scales measuring the two. Regardless of intent,
it is still trying to “earn” favor/love from God – which is impossible!
The Old Testament verses show us that indeed, before the Resurrection, God had “spiritual” scales as it were.
But now? “There is therefore now no condemnation . . .” Romans 8:1
God the Father no longer weighs our deeds or misdeeds against each other! Jesus, through the sacrifice of
His blood and His resurrection to life everlasting, has tipped the scales in our favor!
We don’t do good deeds to be saved, we do good deeds because we
ARE saved! Stop trying (if you are) to impress God – it doesn’t work!
“GOD ALWAYS HAS A CLEAR CONNECTION”... July 7, 2020
For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers:
I Peter 3:12
The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.
Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. Micah 7:7
Military Affiliate Radio System or simply MARS. Now that I’ve said that mouthful, what does it mean? Well, when I was stationed in Thailand, you went to the MARS station on base, gave them the phone number you wanted dialed, the radio operator would try and find someone in the US who would place
your call (collect!).
Sometimes calls went through quickly, sometimes it took hours. And being half the world away, you needed to be mindful of the time difference! For example, if I was calling home at 430 a.m. Sunday in Thailand, it would be 430 p.m. in Rhode Island (where my family lived) Saturday!
So, I would get up early in the morning to put my name on the list and wait. There were times when MARS could not find anyone to patch a call through so you would go back to your hooch disappointed. There were times when you did get a connection and your conversation would sound like the Rebel fighters attacking the Death Star while going through the shield.
But how exciting it was to hear your name called and told what booth to go to! There was a moment of instruction, “when you are done with your sentence, say ‘over’, so the operator in the states knows to shift the key to your people.”
I would go in, pick up the receiver and say, “Hi! It’s Mario, over.” Then there would be a “click” sound. Mama or Daddy would reply usually with “How are you doing over there, over?” “Click” The conversation would be switching back and forth and I would talk excitedly especially as my day of departure was getting close (someone who was a “one-digit-midget” had less than 10 days left in country).
Then came the day my youngest brother, Jonathan, got on the phone (he was 9 at the time). Daddy gave him careful instructions on the word, “over” and Jonathan said, “Over what?” “Click” back to me.
“Jonathan, don’t say that word until you’re done talking. Over” “Click” back to Finn (family nickname).
“Over what?!?!?” “Click”
“Don’t say that word until you end your sentence! Over” “Click” (by now I’m sure the operator was getting carpal tunnel from switching back and forth).
“Okay, I won’t say ‘over’ . . .” “Click”
After a minute Daddy took over the conversation.
My good friend and Brother, Bobby Dawson, and I did a little funny about talking to God. I sat down in a chair on the platform and started, “Dear Lord . . .”
(Bobby off stage and hidden from view, interrupted with a nasally voice) “Number please.”
“I was just wanting to talk with God . . .” I said.
“May I ask who’s calling?” Bobby the Operator asked.
“Uh, it’s Mario and I’m just trying to pray to the Lord.”
“Please hold while I see if He’s available.”
Say what?!?!?!? See if He is available to talk with me?? Of course, when he started it, the congregation was laughing but as the conversation went on, they began to get serious as we all thought about talking with God.
There is no specific time to talk with the Lord – as the song says:
“He is always there hearing every prayer, faithful and true.
Walking by our side, in His love we hide all the day through.
When you get discouraged just remember what to do,
Reach out to Jesus, He's reaching out to you.”
(by Ralph Carmichael © 1968)
God hears the prayers of the Saved! He hears them! There is no secretary telling you to stand by. The line is always clear! There’s no time difference – He hears our prayers immediately!
We don’t have to say “over” and wait for the “click” before He speaks! The Holy Spirit doesn’t interrupt us and ask, “Who’s calling?” God, the Father knows us!
Now I’m going to dip into my Loo-zee-ana days –
Jesus on the Main Line, tell Him what you want!
Jesus on the Main Line, tell Him what you want!
Jesus on the Main Line, tell Him what you want!
Jesus on the Main Line now!
Why don’t you, call Him up, call Him up, tell Him what you want!
Why don’t you, call Him up, call Him up, tell Him what you want!
Why don’t you, call Him up, call Him up, tell Him what you want!
Jesus on the Main Line now!
Go ahead, call Him up right now!
“ALUMINUM FOIL, 56 PONTAC, AND RUSTY CHROME”.... June 30, 2020
“and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” I John 1:7c
“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ,
(by grace ye are saved;)” Ephesians 2:5
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:
it is thegift of God:” Ephesians 2:8
It was a beautiful Saturday in Southern California, the sun was shining, birds singing and where are Julian and Mario? Playing catch! No. Dancing in the sprinkler as it watered the yard!
So, where were we? Sitting on the driveway with handfuls of aluminum foil as we vainly tried to scrape away the rust on the rear chrome bumper of our two-tone black and white 1956 Pontiac. (Julian also remembers us having to paint rocks?!?!?)
Mama had heard somewhere, those long-ago days before Google, the Net, Twitter . . . whatever, that you could use the foil to get rid of the rust on chrome. Believe it or not, I checked and you can! But whoever told Mama that, forgot to tell her that you had to use salt water with it (who knew?).
Anyway, there we were, my brother and I, furiously scraping the foil on the rust with Mama coming out occasionally checking our work. It was hot, the rust was not coming off, and my hands were starting to look like claws.
I don’t remember how many days we did this or how many hours we spent trying to shine
up the chrome. What I do remember is that when Daddy came home (from Vietnam) we all
packed in the car (which was interesting because by this time, the ignition didn’t work and you
had to get out, lift the hood, and use a screwdriver to start it!) went to a car dealer who “gave” Daddy $50 for the car.
All that time and all that work and the only reason he got fifty dollars was because the car was running when it was brought in – not because two boys had sweat equity in the chrome!
Now to the verses. It doesn’t matter how often you go to church (trying to scrub the sin
stains off – see? Look at me God! I’m here!”), how much you give (has this gotten any of my
sins eradicated Lord?), or what you do for God (well, I’m a Sunday School teacher, and I
minister to the sick, and I’m signed up for Vacation Bible School, surely some of my sins must
have been purged by now).
It is by God’s unmerited favor – can’t earn it! that we are saved! And the stain of sin on our souls is ONLY washed away by the Blood of Jesus as John says.
The writer of Hebrews tells us:
“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.”
There is no sacrifice other than the Blood of Jesus that can (as John the Apostle quoting John the Baptist) “take away the sins of the world”. As the writer of Hebrews goes on in
chapter 10, he says,
“But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;” verse 12.
My friend, if you have not trusted Jesus as your Savior, I encourage you to stop
trying to save yourself! You cannot do it! Listen to what Paul said about works in Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:
it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Not works! That means giving, attending, teaching, caring, doing – will not save you!
Only by confessing that Jesus is Lord and believing that God raised Him from the dead will
you be saved! Just do it! Stop struggling to make God happy!
Brother/Sister, if you are running in circles trying to please God by giving, attending, teaching, caring, doing – it doesn’t! We don’t do those things to prove we are saved;
we are saved so we do those things! Stop thinking that you have to do things to prove
anything to God or hope that He will love you more.
The Father cannot love you more than He already does! His love is not dependent on
you taking aluminum foil to your soul and trying to scrape your sin away! He already did!
Let me try again. HE ALREADY CLEANED YOU OF YOUR SIN! It’s a done deal!
So, go out and show people God loves them so much, He already took care of their sin. Not some, not most, but all! They don’t have to do anything except believe and confess! Now, go and show them!
Mario's Corner will be on a break this week. See you soon!....... June 22, 2020
“COWS, HORSES, AND A FOUR-WHEELER”..... June 16, 2020
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
My friend Gordon bought a half dozen yearling calves and had them in his fenced in front pasture. One day he decided to move them to another pasture, so he saddled his horse, opened the gate and went in to the cows.
Chaos! Tails went up, all of the yearlings were snorting and toss their heads and then they were gone! Gordon said they broke through the fence and began running away from him. He gave chase on horseback, but every time he got close to them, they would bolt away in a different direction.
After the cows went through a couple more fences (and neighbor's property), Gordon gave up and went home. Afterwards he figured they ran through a half dozen properties before they stopped.
He called the man who had sold him the animals and asked him is the cows were crazy or what. The previous owner asked him what happened and Gordon explained. The man started laughing, which Gordon did not find funny, until the man told him that he had always herded his cattle using a four-wheeler!
Cows are easily startled by new things and a man on horseback was a new thing! It took Gordon and the other man a couple hours to first, find the yearlings, then get them back to Gordon’s pasture (after fixing the fence!). After that, Gordon used the four-wheeler when moving the cattle.
Today it can be hard to hear the Shepherd’s voice. Cell phones, tablets, TV, Facebook all are demanding our time. From the “ping” on the cell indicating you have a new text, to the TV telling us how bad things are getting everywhere, to Facebook posts challenging us to “share if you love Jesus” type memes.
Where is the Master’s voice in all this hubbub? I remember the hymn, “There is a Place of Quiet Rest”
There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God.
A place where sin cannot molest, near to the heart of God
O Jesus, blest Redeemer, sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee, near to the heart of God
Where is the heart of God? It is found in Jesus! Where is Jesus? He dwells within us! Take some time away from the rapid place as the Heritage Singers once sang.
There is a quiet place, far from the rapid pace
Where God can soothe my troubled mind
Sheltered by tree and flower
There in my quiet hour with Him
My cares are left behind.
Find your quiet hour. Spend time just thinking on Him. Let Jesus soothe your “troubled mind”.
His sheep, we Christians, know His voice. Listen for it.
“MY FATHER’S NAME”....... June 9, 2020
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him;
I Corinthians 8:6a
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the
Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
II Corinthians 1:2-3
October 1969 I was home on leave fresh out of Basic Training. Our family was living in Navy housing, an area called Melville. A young lady from church had invited my brother and me to a party at her house just off base by the main gate for Newport Naval Base, Gate 4.
After the party, we called Daddy to come pick us up at the shuttle bus stop inside the base by the gate. He said he’d be there in about ½ an hour. So, Julian and I walked over and sat down in the bus shelter.
Now, this was October in Rhode Island and while there wasn’t snow on the ground it was pretty chilly. I was in civvies but I was wearing my “foul weather” jacket that, by Air Force policy, I was allowed to wear with my civilian clothes.
While we were standing in the bus shelter, the Marine gate guard called us over to his shack and asked for our ID’s. Julian showed him his “dependent” ID card and I showed him my Air Force card.
“You ain’t a Squid?” (very impolite term for someone in the Navy)
“No, I’m not a Squid!”
“Well, you can’t wear that jacket with civvies.” He stated.
“According to Air Force policy I can.”
He then called his supervisor, a sergeant, and then he handed me the phone.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Hilry M. Smith, Airman, USAF.”
“Didn’t your father like you?” (not really a nice thing to ask!)
“I am named after my father who is Senior Chief Hilry H. Smith
and Chief Master at Arms (kind of the head of the police on a ship) of the Grand Canyon (She was a one of the repair ships for the Atlantic Fleet).” There was a huge pause from the sergeant. My father’s name and position carried a lot of weight.
USS Grand Canyon
About that time, Daddy pulled up and said, “C’mon boys!” and I started to tell Daddy I was talking to the sergeant and he said, “Get in the car.” I just handed the phone back to the Marine gate guard (we could still hear the sergeant yelling!) and got in the car. Just then the Shore Patrol (Navy military police) pulled up with half a dozen sailors with “SP” armbands, helmets and night sticks, looking for a couple of drunk Airmen.
Daddy thought it was very funny!
When I told the sergeant who my father was, it changed things. The gate guard looked at my brother and me with a little bit of respect and when Daddy drove up, the Marine straightened up (he didn’t salute, but he knew my father had quite a bit of authority) almost, but not quite at attention.
When Jesus came to this earth, things changed in the relationship between God and man. The religious folk were furious that Jesus referred to God as His “Father”. What audacity! How could this common man call Almighty God His Father?
Because He was! “This is My beloved Son . . .” Look at how many times in John 5:17-23 Jesus refers to God as His Father:
“But Jesus answered them, My Fatherworketh hitherto, and I work.
Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Fatherdo: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
For the Fatherloveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.
For as the Fatherraiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Fatherjudgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Fatherwhich hath sent him.”
Seven times just in these verses Jesus calls God His Father! And Jesus gives the Christian the privilege of calling God their Father! Not every human can claim that!
God is the Father and Christians are His children! What a relationship we have with the Creator of All Things! As a Christian, you have the privilege of calling on the Father – do so!
One of my professors, who taught “Worship Colloquium” (boy try saying that a couple times real fast!) told us we should Pray to the Father, in the Nameof Jesus the Son, in the Powerof the Holy Spirit.
“PLANTING, WATERING, GOD GET THE INCREASE”.... June 2, 2020
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
I Corinthians 3:6
Bonny and I were in a store looking to make a purchase. The salesman had come over and we were talking different options. Bonny looked at him and asked him if he was a blood washed, baptized believer.
The look on the man’s face was one of amazement! I didn’t know if he was confused about what she was asking him so I said, “Are you saved?”
He didn’t look confused but still appeared to be unsure of what to say or how to answer. Then he told us that, no, he was not a believer in Jesus (he didn’t say he did not believe in God).
Later, as we were heading home in our car, Bonny asked me what I thought about the situation. I told her that she might have been the 2nd or 3rd person to have talked with him and it may give him pause for thought.
When we talk with people about Jesus, we do not know if we are the first to tell them the Gospel story, or if we are the 2nd, 3rd, or 50th! And do not be surprised when there is fruit!
We plant, we water, we dig around to aerate the soil (remembering the parable of the sower!) but God (haven’t I mentioned those two words together before? I’m sure I have and they are great words!) But God gets the increase!
We can take no credit other than to say we participated in God’s will – not that we were a leading force, or “If not for me . . .”
Now hear me, I thank God for the people who prayed for me pre-salvation, the Cisco’s, George Bacon, Junior Browning, Kim, Debbie and others and who prayed through with me! But they did not go around bragging, “I saved Mario!”
Keep your ears and eyes open for any and every opportunity! Be a blessing!
“THE PRIVILAGE OF GOING TO CHURCH”....... May 26, 2020
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is;
but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:25
This is not aimed at people who are ill! If you are sick – stay home! If you have to work Sundays, that is just how things work in today’s society. With that being said . . .
Yesterday, May 24, 2020, was the first time I have been back at church in months.
As a matter of fact, I could not remember the last time I was in church. It wasn’t because of
wanting to, many, if not all the time, it was because of either my illness (NOT COVID!!!!)
or my wife’s (NOT COVID!!!!) and because Bonny has been diagnosed with auto-immune
illnesses, it was for her protection.
If you know me at all, you would know how much I miss the fellowship of the Saints!
I missed singing with the congregation! I missed the laughter and comradery of the worship team!
The excitement of meeting new families that have started coming since my absence.
I missed my Pastor – who would call and check on us – but seeing him face to face is what I missed. I missed my Brothers and Sisters in the flesh! Facebook is okay, but it cannot replace actually seeing each other. Consider these words from the grand hymn, “Blest be the Tie that Binds”
“Blessed be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like that to that above.”
(written by John Fawcett in 1782 – “In 1772, he was invited to London to succeed J. Gill as pastor of the Carter’s Lane Baptist Church. On the day of his departure, he had preached his farewell sermon, the wagons were loaded, and he was ready to go. But he was so overcome by the thought of leaving the congregation he had come to love, that he canceled his plans and stayed in Wainsgate. In 1793, Fawcett was invited to become president of the Baptist Academy in Bristol, but he similarly
declined.” http://hymnbook.igracemusic.com/people/john-fawcett He was overcome by the thought of leaving the congregation!)
Matthew Henry wrote this concerning this verse and why we, as Christians, should meet:
“To exhort one another, to exhort ourselves and each other, to warn ourselves and one another of the sin and danger of backsliding, to put ourselves and our fellow-christians in mind of our duty, of our failures and corruptions, to watch over one another,
and be jealous of ourselves and one another with a godly jealousy. This, managed with a true gospel spirit, would be the best
and most cordial friendship.”
There is real purpose to the Christian family meeting together! It is not a social club, although there are social aspects to it. It is not a place to show off our newest car/truck/van (trust me, when the family of God sees you pull up in a new rig, you won’t have to announce it – they will know and ask!).
This place is where we come to lay aside our cares of the world and share what God is doing in our lives! Who have we shared the Gospel with? Who has come to us with a need in their spirit and sought us out?
We come to join one another and lift our voices in song to the Lord! We read and hear His Word! We have COMMUNION – fellowship with each other and God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit!
Again, we can Facebook, Tweet, text, whatever, but it cannot and does not replace Brother and Sister contact!
So, if you can, if you are able, come to church!
“I DIDN’T RECOGNIZE YOU WITH CLOTHES ON”... May 19, 2020
Now before you panic and think that I’m really in left field read the story!
I worked for Idaho adult corrections for over 5 years and wore the department dark blue uniform.
(credit my nephew Mike Rutherford)
At the time there were over 100 corrections officers working at the prison and we had a very high turnover rate
(about 10 people per month). Consequently, I worked with several hundred C.O.’s all of us in our L.A.P.D. Blues.
One day Bonny and I were shopping in town (Lewiston, ID) and I heard, “Smitty!” I looked around and didn’t
see anyone I knew and started to move on.
“SMITTY!!!!” This time it was a bit louder but I still didn’t recognize anyone. Finally, this lady stood
right in front of me and said, “Mario!”
It was Alice and her husband, Al, both officers that I worked with four or 5 days a week at the prison.
Now being Mario, sometimes I say things and they just come out weird.
“Hey Alice! I didn’t recognize you with clothes on!”
What I meant was that I wasn’t used to seeing her or Al in civilian clothes! Both Al and Alice and then
Bonny began laughing at me. Such is life with Mario (as many can attest).
Okay, Mario, how are you going to bring this around to the Word?
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of
the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the
whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
Now think about this, are we ever told to set aside the amor? Does Paul ever advocate for the Christian to take off his
helmet of Salvation, put down the shield of Faith, or remove the Sword of the Spirit?
My Brothers and Sisters, once you put on the armor of God never take off even one piece! Why?
“that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” He does not take a break! He never rests!
He and his minions are constantly battling us! They are looking for any chink in our armor – all the time!
So now the funny story of Mario comes into light – do you dare take off any part of your armor?
Does the world recognize you as a Christian? For my 18th birthday my parents bought me a brand new KJV Bible.
When I went to Thailand, it was packed at the top of my duffle bag and when I got to my room and met my roommate,
he saw the Bible and said, “So you’re a Christian?”
Unsaved Mario said, “Yes, but I’m not a fanatic about it!” Wow! But that was before I accepted Christ!
I was “naked” because I had no armor! I had not been washed in His blood! Now not only do I have armor,
I have weapons! Why? “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers,
against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Yes, my friends, we are in a battle against the forces of evil! But understand this:
“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy
the works of the devil.”
I John 3:8b
“And having spoiled principalities and powers, he (Jesus)made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” Colossians 2:15
Jesus our Savior has won! The enemy is defeated but doesn’t want to admit it. So, keep your armor on and
your Sword (the Word) near!
“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth
before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”
“DON’T COUNT YOUR LOSSES!”.................... May 12, 2020
“but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind,
and reaching forth unto those things which are before,”
As a young Christian I loved giving my testimony, but I fell into the trap that many have done. I spent more time talking about the terrible things I had done than about God’s saving grace!
I couldn’t wait to tell folks what a horrible person I was. What I had done, when I did it, how many it affected and sometimes when there were others sharing their (same kind of) testimony it became a one-upmanship contest! It was like a group of surgery survivors comparing their scars.
When I began working in the prison, I would get upset at myself when an inmate “got one over on Mr. Smith.” I would do a cell search and find all kinds of contraband and place the things outside the cell (usually tobacco products and needs like papers and matches) for me to grab when the search was over.
All the time I would spend in a man’s cell (with him standing outside the door) finding tobacco, matches, papers, extra sugar (which they would hoard until they had enough to make “squawky” – prison alcohol) and fruit and when I would turn around it would all be gone!
The inmate would kick it over to someone else’s cell and I would be left empty handed. That would just get me down until one of the other officers would tell me, “Don’t count your losses because that will bum you out. Only count your wins!”
It took a little while to learn that lesson and the lesson was this, it is mostly a game. Sometimes I won (found the contraband!) but most of the time, the inmates won. The inmates have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to think of new hiding places, new ways to get around the rules, new ways to get contraband. I usually worked 40 hours a week.
If I spent my time and energy wondering about what could have been, it would have been a very negative experience!
Think about this, in California, law enforcement arrests vehicle fleeing suspects 68% of the time
That means almost 1/3 of them are not caught!
What is more important, know that you caught 2/3 of the suspects or that you lost 1/3? It is important to know and realize that the police were able to catch most of them! Focus on the positive and not the negative! Focus on the what is, not the could/should have been!
So, our testimony should be where we are now, by the grace of God, not how great a slime pit He pulled us out of! What am I doing now, rather than how bad I was then!
Paul was looking forward, not backward! He wasn’t living in the past, he was setting his sights on what God was leading him to for today, tomorrow, and into the Kingdom!
Now, that is a positive!
“THOU SHALL NOT....." May 5, 2019
In the early 2000’s Bonny and I would rent a motel room in Idaho Falls, Idaho, close to the river for the 4th of July.
They had one of the best fireworks display we’d ever seen and one of the local radio stations played a music program that
was set in time to the fireworks.
It was a great time. We were within walking distance from the park area by the river (the streets around it were blocked off)
and around 9:u30 in the evening we would grab our chairs and head down for the show at 10.
There were also signs all along the edge of the property stating there was to be no picnicking on the grounds, lawns chairs,
gatherings of folks, etc.
The first year the green lawns were packed with adults, children running around playing, chairs, tables, coolers, dogs,
and many blankets put down to sit on. People just ignored the signs and at the end of the night, after the show, the place
looked like a mess with trash everywhere, sod torn up, even dirty diapers. It was disgusting.
The next year Bonny and I got to our customary spot and were sitting in our chairs for around 20 till ten. Again, there were hundreds of people moving past the signs, ignoring them. There was laughing and excitement as people were getting ready for the fireworks display. Many had been there many hours, reserving their piece of the ground. They would have best view of the show!
At a quarter to 10 there came a “whoosh” kind of sound and for about 30 seconds the people were looking around trying
to figure out what the sound was and where it was coming from.
Suddenly all of the water sprinklers shot up from their holes in the ground under people, chairs, pushing up blankets
and watering the entire grounds!
Dogs barking, people yelling and cursing, kids screaming and running in circles, folks trying to grab things and run
for the dry sidewalk and street before their radios, pillows, phones, children’s toys got soaked!
It was chaos! But for the people who obeyed the signs it was a great source of entertainment!
Pointing, laughing and yelling at the people who thought they didn’t have to follow the rules. The next year no one sat on
the Temple grounds and anyone who tried to was warned off by those who had been there the year before.
“Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth,
and give them warning from me.”
“So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the
word at my mouth, and warn them from me.”
“Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess
before the angels of God:”
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that
asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”
I Peter 3:15
“Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”
"Our obligation is to demonstrate Jesus to the World. It is their obligation to accept or ignore Him."
"RUN TO THE BATTLE!”............. April 28, 2020
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called,
and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
I Timothy 6:12
Blessed be the Lord my strength which teacheth my hands to war,
and my fingers to fight:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal,
but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
I Corinthians 10:4
Pease AFB, N.H. 1972. We were a SAC base – Strategic Air Command and we had F-111’s with nuclear armament in the alert area ready to take off at a moment’s notice along with KC-135’s – refuelers. In the late morning hours several aircraft landed and down the stairs came dozens of officers and ranking enlisted men. Vehicles came from the motor pool to take them to various areas on the Flightline.
Operational Readiness Inspection – ORI for short. They came without notice and their job was to test our base’s readiness for deployment, security, and squadron preparedness. Wing Commanders had been relieved of duties for a failing grade. Security Police Chiefs had been relieved and lost stripes because of bad reviews.
As a Security Policeman in the Alert Area, a Top 3 sergeant (E-7, 8, or 9) would approach your post and your first job was to identify the person and then inspect their Line Badge to ensure they were allowed in that area.
After you verified who they were and that they had the correct permission to be there, they would hand you a 3X5 index card with a “problem” for you to address. Something like, “an Airman with the wrong picture in his Line Badge has approached you to enter the alert area. What do you do?”
Then they would grade you on the correctness of your response and the response of the Area Supervisor and Security Patrol assigned to the area.
The team usually spent 3 to five days at the base assessing preparedness and, if deployed, the accuracy of the air crews hitting their targets. At some point during the inspection there was a planned “Red Flag” which meant manning every post, increased patrols, and pilots and crews of Alert Area went to their aircraft, powered up and readied to deploy.
Usually the Security Police Squadron was confined to the base and knowing approximately when the exercise would be called, we waited. Because of the ORI, we manned posts that weren’t usually used. Extra troops between the taxiway and the runways, more security around the perimeter of the alert area and the perimeter of the base beyond the runways.
One inspection team came to a young airman just beyond the runway and started questioning him. At some point, one of them asked him to deploy his pen flare (the launcher is pictured at the beginning of this). That meant, “I have a security problem!” and the Security Alert Team was supposed to respond.
In the base Control Tower, there was a new troop also being questioned by members of the ORI team, including several ranking officers. When he saw the pen flare, he hit the “ALERT” button. Out of reflex, one of the officer’s started his stopwatch.
Klaxons going off! Pilots and crews running to their aircraft, ignoring the motor vehicles there for the specific purpose of taking them. Security Policemen running to the armory to receive weapons and then rushing to man posts throughout the Flightline.
Of course, you’re thinking, they would all run to their position. But you see, when people are told when to expect the alert, there is not the same urgency! Yes, people still moved along, but pilots and crews would load up into the vehicles and wait for the assigned driver to arrive.
Security Policemen would mingle around the armory and clearing barrels to check their weapons – but there was no sense of urgency!
Yet this time, unannounced, unplanned, during the height of the Cold War with the USSR, no one gave the ORI teams a second glance. One of the other officers in the tower as the lead investigator if they should shut down the alert and the lead said, “No! This is the best response time we’ve ever seen for the base! Let it play out!”
And so, it did. Our preparedness so impressed the ORI team that they gave us a passing score, recalled their personnel, loaded up their aircraft and left – several days before the usual time.
What has that got to do with the verses at the beginning of this? When there is a spiritual battle taking place in church – the altar call! Run to the battle! Pray for pastor as he makes the call for repentance. Pray for the Holy Spirit to woo the sinner to forgiveness! Pray for the counselors as they minister to the ones coming forward!
This means being in prayer long before the call is issued! Let your prayers be confident! Pray that there will be lost souls that have been led to the church. Pray that the word from the pastor will penetrate beyond natural hearing and into the people’s hearts.
Run to the battle!
"UNCERTAINTY"........................ April 21, 2020
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
I Peter 5:6-7
In his Easter message to Desert Hills, Pastor Scott spoke of how many are saying these are “uncertain times” for the church and Christians especially in view of the pandemic virus. Pastor pointed out that we, Christians, have always lived in uncertain times.
“What will happen next?” is a question many have asked – even from the earliest moments of Christianity.
In the early 90’s, while visiting with my friend George Bacon and his family, told us how people would ask him, “How much worse can it get?”
Edgar Whisenant predicted in his book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988 that the rapture
of the Christian Church would occur between September 11 and 13, 1988. After his September predictions failed
to come true, Whisenant revised his prediction date to October 3. And after that didn’t happen, he revised the
date, again, to September 30,1988!
In 1991 Louis Farrakhan predicted that because of the Gulf War there would be the war of Armageddon – the last war.
Rollen Stewart declared the rapture would occur September 28, 1992.
David Berg predicted that the Tribulation would start in 1989 and that the Rapture would take place in 1993.
There are so many, many more predictions of the Rapture, the Tribulation,
the End of the World in almost every century. Many have been deceived because they did not know the Word!
It created/caused uncertainty!
Uncertainty. The Sabbath. The High Holy Day for the Jews. And where were the disciples? Hiding, living
in fear of their lives. Not even being allowed to go to the Temple because they would be arrested, imprisoned
and most like executed.
What were they supposed to do? The Man they had followed for 3 years was taken from them, scoured, beaten, and crucified. They had witnessed Him perform miracles; blind saw, lame walked, dumb spake and the possessed set free. They scattered like a covey of quail.
“Then came the morning Night turned into day!
The stone was rolled away Hope rose with the dawn!
Then came the morning!
Shadows vanished before the sun! Death had lost and life had won!
For morning had come!” (Bill Gaither 1982)
Hope! No more uncertainty! The everlasting morning has dawned!
“REDEEMING THE TIME”........ April 14, 2020
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
We had a set of revivals at Zaragoza and the speaker asked the church how many were saved directly because of the pastor. A few hands went up. Then he asked how many were saved because someone else in the congregation witnessed to them. The vast majority raised their hands at this.
Granted, the Pastor is the one who is seen mainly, but it is the people within the church inviting others even perhaps leading them to the Lord before they come to a church service!
I remember attending a concert of Keith Green and hearing him addressing this issue. What he said, in essence, is why wait until a special speaker comes, or a concert, or a “scheduled” revival (“oh yes, we schedule our revival so that this is the only time in the whole year that God can move!” not spoken - but understood) to bring someone to hear the Word? If you are waiting to bring someone to God (through the Pastor) – what are you waiting for?
Yes, we are to redeem the time and the days! Taking back that which has been stolen by the enemy – but make sure you are prayed up! Have a plan! Don’t walk into the enemy’s territory blind! And be prepared to give account of yourself when someone asks why in spite of troublesome times, you have joy.
Working the back gate at the base in Spain I would sing (surprise!) the scripture songs and hymns. One day one of the Spanish gate guards said (in Spanish) “You are always singing!”
I told him, “Yo tengo Jesus Christo en mi corazon!” – I have Jesus Christ in my heart! That is why I will sing at any moment in time. That is why Pastor Scott calls me Musical Montage Mario – there is always a song for the moment!
Moment by moment I’m kept in His love!
Moment by moment I’ve life from above!
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, Oh Lord I am thine!
(Written by D. W. Whittle in the 1800’s)
Studying the Prayer of Jabez we see that this righteous man asked God to “enlarge” the borders of his tent. In other words, he wanted to impact his area by making his tent (influence) larger.
"A REVISIT ABOUT CONFIDENCE"....... April 7, 2020
It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes. Psalm 118:8-9
For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.
Proverbs 3:26 (caught in a trap)
I underwent 40 hours of training before working solo with the youth at the Department of Juvenile Corrections. The training covered a variety of topics associated with Positive Peer Pressure (written by Harry Vorrath and Larry Bendtro); group dynamics,
the 9 problems (authority, anger, stealing, lying, etc.) and staff roles.
One day in class, Steve, our instructor, said to me, “You come on the unit and there are several of the kids out of their rooms
and one of them threatens you with a chair! What are you going to do?”
I said, “I will tell everyone to go to their rooms and I will take the chair away from the kid and send him to his room.”
Steve looked at me and asked, “Wouldn’t that intimidate you just a little?”
I told him, “I worked the Rec Yard at the prison. At any given time, there would be up to 100 male inmates with access to horseshoes (metal, not plastic!), free weights and baseball bats. One kid with a chair does not intimidate me.”
Steve just shrugged his shoulders and moved on with the class.
I had a similar experience working in juvenile detention. We had a small enclosed rec space with a basketball hoop.
When I first started, I was to “shadow” staff until I learned how things were.
He and I were in the rec area with about a dozen teenage boys and he got called away. A short time later the supervisor
walked by and looked through the window and saw me, by myself, with all of these young boys.
He came in and still watching the boys play basketball he asked me if I was okay? I told him the same thing I had told Steve
I was not intimidated!
Why? Because I had confidence in my skills primarily as a communicator! I had been trained how to talk with people
and calm situations down. I was also confident in my ability, should things go south, to take care of myself (self-defense training).
It wasn’t arrogance! It was confidence in my abilities! Now let’s look at confidence from the Spiritual side of things.
At this moment in time (the Coronavirus issue) many, many people the world over are scared! “Where will my next check
come from? How can I provide for my family when I have no work? What are we going to do?”
People are trusting the government to take care of them. There is an expectation by many that government can take care of
all their needs, whatever they may be.
We have seen, here in the USA, empty store shelves. No eggs today, maybe tomorrow. People fighting over the last case of bottled water. Yelling at cashiers, pushing, shoving, AFRAID.
This whole world situation we are facing is not a surprise to God!
We (Christians) must have confidence in God! As Andrae Crouch wrote:
When trouble is in my way I can't tell my night from day
That I'm tossed from side to side Like a ship out on a ragin' tide
I don't worry, I don't fret My God has never failed me yet
Troubles come from time to time But that's alright I'm not the worryin' kind
Because, I've got confidence God is gonna see me through
No matter what the case may be I know He's gonna fix it for me
I've got confidence God is gonna see me through
No matter what the case may be I know He's gonna fix it for me
Job was sick so long Till the flesh fell from his bones
His wife, cattle and children Everything he had was gone
But Job with his despair He knew that God still cared
Sleepless days and sleepless nights But Job said that's alright
Because, I've got confidence God is gonna see me through
No matter what the case may be I know He's gonna fix it for me
I've got confidence God is gonna see me through
No matter what the case may be I know He's gonna fix it for me
(“I’ve Got Confidence” by Andrae Crouch1968)
Be smart, but have confidence in God!
"WHAT DID YOU THINK I WAS TALKING ABOUT"?............. March 31, 2020
I used to work for a pusher for over a year. His name was Ray and he was a hard task master. Others in our crew was Frenchy (he was from Canada), Peewee, and me, Big’un (my nickname). Thiswas even after I was saved! And our big boss was Travis and all he was interested in was the numbers.
I moved up in the gang and now I reported directly to Travis and he expected more from me. It was always about the numbers.
He would spend hours on the phone talking with someone in New York City about how things were going. Sometimes it was a good talk, sometimes it wasn’t and when it wasn’t, we caught a lot of flak for not moving enough product.
We moved many, many joints in our little gang. We would meet every morning and talk about how we were going to move our product. Where we were going, how many joints to bring with us, and how fast we could get it done.
Dope? It was everywhere and it was used liberally. I even used some. And sometimes we would chase a pig! For hours,
all over our area. We usually caught up to it too.
Are you surprised? Some may even understand what I am talking about, but I would imagine many are thinking I was a drug dealer.
Here’s the truth. I was an oilfield hand. The boss of our crew was the “pusher”, new lengths of 2½” diameter pipe was called “joints”. The numbers Travis wanted was the oil and natural gas production from the platforms. Our particular platform averaged
10,000 barrels (42 gallons per barrel) daily with about 2 million cubic feet of natural gas also.
But, Mario, what about the “dope”? Pipe dope was a thick grey product we would spread, liberally, on the inside of the joint threads as we screwed them together. It was a sealer.
The “pig”? That was a bullet shaped brush that we would send through the main pipe from our facility to the production unit
It would spin its wire brushes and clean out the paraffin from the pipe and clean it so the oil would flow better.
Look at what Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. He spoke plainly to them so they would understand everything he said.
There was no “code” or “hidden” words. He didn’t use ten-dollar words. He spoke to them on their level.
Then he tells them the only thing he wanted to know from them was that they believed in Jesus Christ and Him crucified
(because the rumors were circulating that Jesus didn’t die!). Why? Why did he only want to know of Jesus among them?
“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Their faith (as well as ours!) was to be
in the power of God!
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony
of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with
enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the
wisdom of men, but in the power of God. I Corinthians 2:1-5
Your faith comes from and is in the power of God! Power? What kind of power? The Greek word used here
“dynamis” – dynamite! TNT! The explosive power of God! So, let this be your testimony today!
“KIDS, STORIES, AND GRANDMAS”............. March 24, 2020
A family in our church in Idaho had a 4-year-old daughter who loved being a cowgirl. She knew how to saddle and ride
her horse and enjoyed helping her parents around the home and ranch.
One day a man stopped by and made an offer on the child’s horse. When the youngster began to protest, the man said,
“That’s too much horse for you!”
The four-year-old put her hands on her hips, took a half step towards the prospective buyer and said,
“I’m too much cowgirl for you!”
Yup, the whole church laughed.
Before the days of “cut and paste” (thank you Word!), I would type my verses into my sermon notes. I was teaching a
series on the various offices in the church and their responsibilities.
I was reading I Timothy 3:8, “Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine,
not greedy of filthy lucre;” Unfortunately when I typed “wine” I hit the “d” instead of the “e” and following my own notes I said,
“not give to much wind,”
Before I could correct myself, my elder deacon (nicknamed “Swede” because he was), in a stage whisper
(which means everyone could hear him) said, “Ya, chure, the deacon shouldn’t be too windy!”
Yup, the whole church laughed and Mario had a very red face.
When my sister’s husband passed away, I called to giver her our condolences. Sis was a talker and after about 45 minutes
I finally got off the phone with her. I was relating about my brother-in-law’s passing at church and said, “I talked with my sister for
45 minutes and she never took a breath and talked a hundred miles an hour!”
Once again, my deacon “Swede” came to my rescue and whispered (out loud!) to his wife, “Ya, chure, sounds like it runs
in the family!”
Yup, the whole church laughed.
When I worked for Shell Oil, we got paid every other Friday and Bonny and I would make a list and then on Saturday we
would head to the “West Bank” (New Orleans area) to shop because it was usually cheaper to buy up there than at the local stores
Grandma Canton mentioned one time she would like to go up with us and shop. Not a problem! We loaded up in the car
and headed “up the road” to Schwegmann’s (big grocery store!) which was adjoined by a breezeway to a Walmart.
Bonny and I were going up and down the aisles with Grandma in tow. As we were looking around, I noticed Grandma was nowhere to be seen! “Bonny, have you seen Grandma?”
“I thought she was with you!” she said.
Great, I’ve lost my Grandma! Frantically I began racing from one aisle to the next looking for her and Bonny was going the
other way checking other aisles.
“Maybe she went to the Walmart?” I said to Bonny. “I’ll go check; you keep going around the aisles here.”
So, across the breezeway I went and up and down every aisle looking for my 82-year-old, white-haired grandmother.
Back to the Schwegmann’s I went, found Bonny. No Grandma.
On a whim I thought maybe she went back out to the car so I went outside to check. And there was a small bank of payphones (who remembers those days?!?!) and there she was, talking with her best friend from New Orleans asking her to come pick her up because, “My grandson and his wife left me here at Schwegmann’s”!
Funny now. Not funny then. Also, never took Grandma to New Orleans again.
I was busy mowing Grandma’s lawn one Saturday and Bonny was inside visiting with her. One of Grandma’s friends
called and as they were chatting, Grandma said, “I’ll just have to get some strangers to be my pallbearers because my grandchildren don’t know me anymore.”
Bonny said, “Grandma!!!!” and Grandma just looked at her.
“WELCOME HOME!”............. March 17, 2020
“His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over
a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
My mother and I had a tumultuous relationship partly because of my own hardheadedness and partly because of hers. We argued about a great many things; from sports to politics to how the military should be run. Yet I knew that she did love me.
In October 1971, I came home from Thailand and finally landed at the airport in Providence, R.I. I took the bus home (Portsmouth, R.I.) and got off at the Texaco station on the corner of Melville Navy Housing. I asked Henry (the owner of the station after greeting him) if I could use his phone to let Mama know I was there.
I called the house and before I could finish saying, “Mama, I’m up at Henry’s . . .” she had hung up. As I looked down the road, I could see our car just about flying as it headed towards me.
Mama got out, still in her housecoat (no pics available, but older folks know what I’m talking about!), curlers in her hair, no makeup, grabbed and hugged me and thanked God for bringing her boy home from the war!
She was crying, Henry was crying and my own eyes were leaking just a little. She kept hugging me and kissing me on the cheeks, and smiling.
Now imagine, Christian Brother and Sister, that first instant you arrive in Heaven. (There are many beautiful pics of this but because of copy write laws, I can’t put it in) It is not St. Peter who welcomes you into your heavenly reward. There are no gates to pass through (the ones in Revelation refer only to the New Jerusalem), no one taking roll.
Just you and Jesus as He hugs you.
“GOD IS NOT MAD AT YOU!”.................. March 10, 2020
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world;
but that the world through him might be saved.”
There was a couple in a church we attended (a very legalistic church) and living between the Mississippi River and the Bayous we had levees to keep the water out. These parents would tell their children,
“We have told you not to go across the levee into the river. If you do and drown you will go to hell
because you disobeyed us!”
Imagine telling that to 5, 6, or seven-year-olds! In essence what they were telling their children is
in spite of preaching and teaching the love of Christ, if they were disobedient and they died, then God
would be angry with them!
Yet many people, Christians included, think that God is or will be angry with them for something
they either did or didn’t do. Is Jesus condemning? Is God some white-bearded person sitting on a throne
just waiting to squash us like bugs?
NO! And a thousand times NO!!!!
When I worked with juveniles, one of the things that would happen when they broke the rules they would say to staff,
when confronted, “You’re mad at me!” or “You’re angry with me!”
Staff were not mad or angry. Disappointed? Perhaps. But not mad or angry! And we would explain to the youth that we weren’t. Maybe they did not understand the consequences of the actions. Maybe they were just seeking attention, but we weren’t mad!
It is the same with God! Now, some will point to the Old Testament verse that says, “God reserveth His wrath for His enemies.” Nahum 1:2b Old Testament. Old covenant. Things changed when Jesus told Nicodemus the very reason He was sent by God was
to save the world – not condemn it.
God is not mad at you! Whether you are a believer or not – God is so not mad at you that He sent Jesus! Jesus is love personified!
And if Jesus is love, so is God the Father!
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9
How could a God be angry with the very person that He is willing to save? He cannot be! God is not mad at you!
“A STOLEN GLOVE AND TAPE PLAYER”
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly.
1964, Walter T. Helms Jr. High, San Pablo, CA. Grandma Canton (Daddy’s Mama) sent us boys a little monetary gift. I got $5! Want to know how much that was? In ’64 the average price of a gallon of gas was .30 – thirty cents!
A first-class stamp was .05 – I could have bought 100! Today the price of one stamp is .55, so if I bought 100 of them, I would have to spend $55! (Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this!)
In the letter from Grandma, she told me to buy myself a new baseball glove. I knew, from ads in the paper, that our local store was selling gloves for just a little over four dollars. And one day the folks took us to the store and I bought my new glove. Today I can get a comparable one around $30-50 depending on the quality or name brand.
I took it to school because we played softball during PE and I was proud of my glove. I usually kept it in my book locker at school but being lazy I had my lock shifted to where it was on the last number before opening. And one day – you guessed it; my glove was gone!
Someone had opened my locker (probably had watched me and saw how easy it was to get in) and took my glove. I was devastated, depressed and scared. Scared because now I had to go home and tell my folks. They were not happy with me. I had made it too easy for the person to steal it.
September/October 1975. I was a Staff Sergeant (E-5) assigned to the 44th Missile Site Security Squadron at Ellsworth Air Base, S.D. Missile site security personnel worked a 3 and 3 shift, 3 days at the Launch Control Facilities, 3 days off.
I had bought a brand-new radio/dual cassette player (what’s a cassette Brother Mario?) and took it into the field with me.
I was the Flight Chief (Yes! They trusted me with 5 LCF’s, security over 50 ICBM’s and supervision of 25-30 Security Policemen! In 3 days, I could put well over 300 miles driving to check each LCF, Security personnel and run problems to determine response times by the patrols.) so my music went with me.
Upon returning to the main base, everyone would go down to the Armory and check in their weapons and ammunition. I went down the stairs and at the landing between flight of stairs, I set my bag down with my radio. I checked in my M-16 and .38 with ammo, turned around and – you guessed it, my radio was gone. Stolen. I had left it on the landing and I was around a corner and couldn’t see it. Again, I was devastated, depressed, and ticked off!
How could a brother officer take my stuff?!?!? Better yet, why did I leave it where someone could just snatch it and leave?
Now, I’ve talked before about the verse above and what the enemy does to the Christian – he steals, kills, and destroys. He wants to steal our joy – and he will, if we put ourselves in a position where he can!
Do you leave your joy unguarded? Do you leave the combination to your joy one good yank away from having it taken? This is where Paul gives us the way to keep our joy – using the Armor of God from Ephesians 6!
Put on your helmet of Salvation to protect your mind and to let the enemy know you are a Child of God – your identity!
Study the Word so that when the whispers come you can state what the Word says! Let the power of the Word protect you!
You are the righteousness of God IN Christ! That is your breastplate protecting your heart (which you have given to Him), your lungs (Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord! Psalm 150:6), your very being!
And truth surrounding your midsection! The truth of the Savior! The truth
Prepare yourself to share the Gospel! It is what you put on your feet – meaning wherever you go – Gossip the Gospel! (Didn’t I mention that before? Yup!)
Now grab your weapons! The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word! The Shield of Faith – believe in the Lord who saved you, keeps you and is preparing a place for you – BELIEVE and the enemy will not steal from you!
"GOSSIP THE GOSPEL"..... February 26, 2020
And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. Exodus 4:10
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I,
Here am I; send me. Isaiah 6:8
Would you believe I did stand up comedy? There was only 10-15 people in the seats and I gave them the best stuff I could memorize from Reader’s Digest. Okay, it was 1965, summer school and a speech class.
The only joke I remember is, “my dad has a runabout car. It runs about 5 minutes and quits.” I know, I got the same reaction from the class and the teacher, but I did give it my best shot!
Think about this:
“The fear of public speaking is the most common phobia ahead of death, spiders, or heights. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, affects about 73% of the population.”
PUBLIC SPEAKING ANXIETY | National Social Anxiety Center
The fear of public speaking is the most common phobia ahead of death, spiders, or heights. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, affects about 73% of the population.
Public speaking raises people’s anxiety more than death! More than (full body shiver) spiders! It is classified as a
phobia – people are afraid to speak in public.
Do you have that issue? When it comes time to witness or perhaps Pastor has called on you to pray, or maybe the Sunday School Superintendent has asked you to sub in an adult class?
Don’t feel bad! Even Moses, one of the most revered people in the Bible, had an issue with speaking in public. In the verse from Exodus he more or less tells God (as if anyone has to tell God something!), “hey Man! Not me! Obviously, You don’t know me very well or You wouldn’t have asked me to go talk to people!”
So, what did God do? The Word tells us that God showed Moses his brother-in-law Aaron and the Lord told Moses, “you tell Aaron what you want to say and he will say it.”
Moses had squirmed, hemmed and hawed, trying to get out of talking with people but God kept knocking down each and every excuse Moses had. And in the end, he did become the leader of the Children of Israel and guided them to the promised land (although he was not permitted to enter it – and that’s a whole ‘nuther story!)
In our second verse we see God calling to Isaiah, a man who admitted to having “unclean lips”. But after hearing that his sin and iniquity were removed from him, when the call went out, he answered “Here am I, send me!”
Is God calling you? If He has called you to speak, then the burden is on Him to help you in spite of your infirmities, shortcomings, or your iniquities – those thoughts that trouble you!
Speak, in the name of Jesus! Pray, in the name of Jesus! Teach, witness, Gossip the Gospel in the name of Jesus!
One last story for this. In 1984 Bonny, Wes Stults and I were going to a movie theater. As we were outside trying to decide, a young man came up to us and in a sever stuttering voice he began to share the Gospel with us.
Here was a man who had such an impediment to speaking it was hard not to help him finish his sentences. But he did not let his impediment stand in the way of sharing the Gospel with people.
Is there anything holding you back?
“STOMP”............................ February 18, 2020
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7
In the late summer of 1970, at the ripe old age of 18, I went through AZR school (heavy weapons) at Camp Bullis, TX,
(an Army post outside of San Antonio) before leaving for Thailand. Believe it or not, especially for those of you who know me, they let me fire an M-60 machine gun, throw a live hand grenade, shoot a L.A.W. (Light Antitank Weapon), a 90mm Recoilless Rifle (better known as a bazooka!). a 40mm grenade launcher, a mortar and 50 rounds through a 12 ga. Shotgun (yup, had bruises for a while on my shoulder!).
Plus, we went to the range and fired our M-16’s at man-shaped targets at long range; 200, 250, 300 and 500 yards.
I could hit the pop-up target at 200, 250, and 300 yards before they fell, but when it came to the 500-yard target?
Not so much. My first round went just over the head and the second was just a couple feet in front. Down went the target.
It popped up again and I had the same result, one behind, one in front. The instructor tapped me on the head and said,
“Well Son, ya sure scared him!”
Very cool stuff! Toward the end of our stay at Camp Bullis, we had “War Games”. They would load us up on Deuce-and-a-half’s and somewhere in the middle of the ride we would get “ambushed” so we would have to jump out and adopt covering positions.
After the instructors determined we had done a good enough job, we would tramp through the brush to the general meeting area to discuss the night’s activities. We were told to walk through the brush in a line about 2-3 feet apart and watch for rattlesnakes.
As I was walking, I kept stomping my feet every so often and one of the men with me asked what was I doing? I told him that by stomping I was creating a vibration and the snakes feeling the vibration would know something large (no laughing!!!) was coming that wasn’t food and they would leave.
He asked where did I get such a stupid idea and I told him it was from a book by one of the last big game hunters, The Black Panther of Sivanipalli by Kenneth Anderson (especially noted as a hunter who tracked down and killed man-eating tigers and leopards).
In his book, Mr. Anderson told of how foot travelers in India carried walking sticks with brass rings on the ends that would “ring” when they tapped the trail with them to warn snakes someone was approaching. An article from January 2019 reported that there were over 50,000 deaths from snakebites alone!
Did it work? All I know is that I didn’t see any rattlesnakes although some of the other men did.
So, the point of this? Look at what James said to do. What is the first thing? Submit to God. Put anything and everything into His hands. That is called faith and trust.
Then! Then you can (have the ability!) resist the enemy and he will flee! So, when you are faced with a temptation or you know that the enemy and his minions are trying to separate you from God, submit to God! And then you can resist all the wiles of the enemy and emerge victorious!
As a popular shoe company says, “Just do it!”
“POWER”......... February 11, 2020
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.
When I worked as a Corporal at the St. Anthony Work Camp, a minimum custody facility, we had two inmates that decided
to “walk away”. It was February and we had plenty of snow on the ground and it was cold as well.
As we were minimum custody, the inmates were free to walk around the grounds, but not leave! So, these two took off
and went downtown (St. Anthony population was around 3,500 so downtown was a single street with only one stop lightand it was the only stop light in the county at that time!) and saw one of the other corporal’s pickup truck at a car dealership.
“I can hotwire this truck!” said the smart one. “And you can push it to jump start it!” (I know, I know, these two were not the brightest and best)
They got one of the doors open and the first one went underneath the dash and began splicing the wires while the other
one went to the back and got ready to push.
“Okay! Start pushing!” said the first inmate. The second one began pushing with all of his might and got the truck rolling.
Every now and then the driver would pop the clutch but it never caught.
“Go faster!” he yelled and the other inmate was giving it his all. Push, pop the clutch, nothing. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Eventually they gave up and decided to cross Henry’s Fork River that ran through the middle of the town.
Remember it’s February, it’s cold, and there’s snow on the ground and thin ice on the river.
They were only dressed in prison dungarees, prison thin shirts, and a thin prison jacket. Half way across the river
(it was shallow enough they could walk most of the way across) it got too cold and they were soaked to they came
back to the same side of the river they got in at.
And were promptly apprehended by the local police department.
When tales and details of their exploits were made known, the corporal whose vehicle they tried to steal, just laughed and laughed and laughed. To the point where he was tearing up and having trouble breathing. Of course, as we watched him laughing,
and not knowing why, we began to laugh as well.
Then, when he caught his breath, he told us why he was laughing. He was buying a new car from the dealership and
brought in his truck as a trade-in. The first thing the dealership did was remove the engine!
That’s right folks, here were these two young men, so smart that they could just “walk away” from the Work Camp and
thought all they had to do was connect wires and jump start the truck.
But there was no power! No motor! Nothing under the hood! And what is worse is they never thought to check!
Now, let’s look at the Word. When we become saved, we receive “power” – those are Jesus’ words not the disciples,
not the other believers, “power”! Power to do what?
Warm a pew every Sunday? Nope.
Read what Jesus said, “and ye shall be witnesses unto me . . .
“Not could be, should be, might be, “shall be”. To get a sense of this phrase here is more from the Word using it.
“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36
Would you take “shall be” in these two verses to mean, “could be”, or “might be”? No, these are statements of faith from
our Lord Himself! So, now, think about Acts 1:8. The Holy Spirit has given each one of us who claim the name of
Jesus the POWER to be His witnesses.
"CALL UNTO ME, AND I WILL ANSWER THEE”........... February 1, 2020
There was a bank robbery in American Falls, Idaho when we pastored there, and a mother and daughter (who attended the church) were there when it happened. Two men rushed in with guns in their hands and one of the men fired a round into the floor as they demanded cash from the teller.
Of course, our friends were very frightened and didn’t know what would happen next.
The men got their money and left. As they were leaving, one of the tellers pushed the emergency button and almost immediately the alarm company called. This is kind of how the conversation went:
Alarm Company, “Are you being robbed?”
Alarm Company, “Call 911!”
Wait, wut? That was it? Think about it. Here is a bank that pays, who knows how much, per month/year for an alarm service and when an event occurs, a robbery, their “help” is “call 911.”
Now, I realize that part of the job the alarm company is paid to do is to alert the police (and more than likely they would call the bank president first) when the bank is closed and someone tries to break in, however, when an alarm comes in from a bank that is a customer,
in the middle of the day, shouldn’t they notify the police first and thencall the bank?
Imagine the look on the teller’s face when they were told, “call 911”! “What are we paying you for? If all you’re going to do is tell me to call 911, I would have done that before calling you!”
But! But! What does God say? “Call unto me!” I love the hymn, “Just a little talk with Jesus” because that is what we’re supposed to do. Having a bad day? Call on God! Having a good day? Call on God! Your kids are driving you to distraction? Call on God! Your spouse is getting on your last nerve? By now you know what to do!
Call on God!
“BURY THE OLD MAN?”........................ January 28, 2020
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
Let me tell you a story Bonny told me from a ladies meeting she attended. The speaker was talking about the Old Man being buried and how sometimes we act like we used to.
The speaker talked about having a favorite pet dog that she loved. One day her pet died and she had to bury it.
Then she told the group to imagine maybe days or weeks later going out into the back yard to the grave of that dog, digging it up,
giving it a bath, combing/brushing its hair and bringing it back in the house and putting it on display!
It would stink! And it would be very nasty looking no matter how much soap you used and regardless of how much air freshener you sprayed it would look dead and smell dead.
Why would we do that? Well, don’t some Christians do that with their old man? “Now Lord, You know how bad he is treating me! Can’t I just resurrect my Old Man for a few minutes? I promise I’ll be right back!”
The Word states that we are to put on the mind of Christ and how do we do that? That comes from washing your mind with the Word. Washing gives the sense of flooding – you need to flood your mind with the Word!
“That he (Jesus) might sanctify and cleanse it (the church – from the previous verse) with the washing of water by the word,” Ephesians 5:26
Are you a part of the church? I’m not talking membership! I mean, are you saved? Have you accepted the gift of salvation?
If so, then this verse means YOU!
No pun intended – it’s time we (yup! Putting myself in there!) clean up our act! Thoughts become action! How do you control
your thoughts? Wash your mind with the Word!
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” Philippians 2:1-5
The Mind of Christ.
Learn to be the servant of all
Paul wrote to the Philippians, “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:”
An evangelist shared the story of speaking at a large church in Texas and that night following the first service,
the pastor, an older Brother, took him home and upstairs to his room.
The pastor told the other man to leave his shoes in the hall and the evangelist supposed that the pastor didn’t want
the shoes to dirty the run and floor in the bedroom, so he complied.
Early the next morning he heard a noise outside his bedroom door and quietly opening the door he saw something that
moved him. The older gentleman, the pastor of this big church, was sitting on a little stool polishing the evangelist’s shoes!
Now that is being a servant!
“POTENTIAL”.......... January 21, 2020
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil,
to give you an expected end. Jeremiah 29:11
I was a very poor student in school. I failed the 7th Grade and only passed because I took summer school. Part of it was my own unwillingness to do the work in class or the assigned homework. Some of it was due to a physical issue, being so nearsighted that the Navy doctor who gave me an eye test told my father, “Chief, you son is blind!”
Remember in school when the teacher would say, “Now, if you can’t see the board, move to the front of the class.” Right! Like I’m going to embarrass myself like that! And with a last name of “Smith”, invariably I sat in the back of the class.
My grades were very poor, unless it was something that I really wanted to study, and even the promise of financial reward (my brother and I were told we would get .50 for every B and $1 for every A on our report cards. In the total of 12 years of school I got .50 total) I just didn’t care.
My teachers and my parents would all tell me that I had such great “potential”. I could be or do anything I wanted – except for music (parents) because that will never do me any good (in spite of the fact that both of my folks were musicians). You know what? I knew that. I knew I had potential, but only to do what I wanted.
When I began working adjudicated juveniles in the corrections system, I tried avoiding using the word potential as I knew almost everyone of the young people, I worked with, had heard that word describing them – over and over and over, ad infinitum.
I am thankful and grateful that my Father, God the Almighty does not remind me of my potential! “Well, Mario, I had great things in store for you, but you didn’t live up to your potential.”
Instead, God and Jesus our Savior, constantly tell us in the Word what their potential is that is available to us!
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings
in heavenly places in Christ:” Ephesians 1:3
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and
revelation in the knowledge of him:” Ephesians 1:17
“For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;” Ephesians 2:18-19
This is a few of the verses from the first two chapters of Ephesians that Paul wrote to that church and they are just as valid today as they were the day they were penned! These promises are based on His potential – not ours! And His rewards are great! What or who can compare with them?
In God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit there is awesome potential!
“INTEGRITY”.............. January 14, 2020
The integrity of the upright shall guide them: Proverbs 11:3
I worked as a Drug and Alcohol Facilitator for a county in SE Idaho. I taught educational classes while men were in the county jail for D&A offenses. Occasionally I also taught the woman’s course when my supervisor was busy elsewhere.
After they completed the classes in the jail and were released, the people in our program were also required to attend at least 12 Aftercare sessions at the probation office.
One of the things my supervisor and I committed to was that we would not release any information about a client to their probation officer, law enforcement, or the courts. We were allowed to say whether or not the client attended the courses and if they were doing okay – nothing more than that.
It was something that we impressed on the members of our groups, our notes and anything said to us was under privilege and it was our integrity that was on the line. If we talked with their p.o. about them how could they trust us?
Frequently someone in the program would come to us and tell us that they had a problem and had used. Our advice was always, always, tell your p.o.! Don’t let it be a surprise. Don’t let them find out about you Monday morning when they opened the paper and saw your face or name on the front page.
My supervisor was called to court numerous times to testify about our clients. As long as it was general knowledge questions, she would answer. However, if the judge or the prosecutor’s office began to ask questions that delved into privilege, she would not answer except to say it was covered under privilege.
That garnered us respect both with our clients and with law enforcement/courts. We kept our word. This opened the pathway for the people undergoing treatment to come to us and talk about things in their personal life that they might have not discussed had we broken that trust.
Now, in Luke 19 we have the story of Zacchaeus, the wee little man (as we sang about in Sunday School so many years ago!), who had a meeting with Jesus that changed his life! So you’re probably wondering about how integrity comes into play in this story from the Word.
Consider this verse: “And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.”
“So what, Mario?” One huge word in this verse and it is only two letters, IF!!! “. . . if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation . . .”
We know that publicans were among the most hated people in Jewish society at this time, perhaps as much as Samaritans were. It was common knowledge that the people were cheated by many of the publicans – and Jesus even had one of them in His inner circle! Matthew! He even identified himself as a tax collector in his Gospel!
In this meeting between Jesus and Zacchaeus, the tax collector almost shouts to the crowd, “If any man believes that I have cheated him, lied to him or about him, then I will repay 4 times what he believes I took from him!”
In essence this hated man proclaims his innocence and his integrity! “I took no more than what was required!”
Jesus was God in the flesh and being God He knew all things. Everything! Jesus would know, even before he said it, whether or not Zacchaeus was lying! Yet there is nothing in the Word to indicate that Jesus contradicted or accused him.
Based on the Word, I can only say that Zacchaeus had integrity! And no one in that crowd challenged him! On top of that Jesus tells him in verse 9:
“And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.”
Wow! Zacchaeus was accepted by the Lord and Jesus makes a statement to the crowd – “He is also a son of Abraham”! Zacchaeus was just as much a Jew as any in that town! He was a member of the family!
How stunned the people must have been! This was a man everyone knew because he was a tax collector and how they hated him for that and now this man, Jesus, who had healed people in this town, was telling them that Zacchaeus was numbered among the Children of Israel!
Do you see what your integrity can bring to you? What does the Word say?
“Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.”
II Corinthians 8:21
“Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” I Peter 3:16
“Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” Titus 2:8
"HE WHO BRAGS THE MOST USUALLY DOES THE LEAST"........ January 7, 2020
“Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Let another man praise thee,
and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.”
Most of us are familiar with the phrase; “been there, done that, bought the t-shirt”. Yet there are some people for whom that is their life statement, except they did it better, faster, with less help. It’s like the old joke of a Texan visiting his cousin in New York City.
The NYC cousin showed the Texan the Empire State Building, telling him how tall it was, how long it took to build it and how much it cost. The Texan replied,
“Why we’ve got something in Houston that is taller, took less time to construct it at half the cost!”
They toured a bit further and again the city cousin showed the Texan the mansions of the wealthy describing how many square feet each one was, how rich the people who owned them were, and how long it took to build them.
“Shoot,” the country cousin said, “In Dallas we’ve got rows of homes built by oil barons that have more square footage, took a lot less time to build them, and them barons got way more money than these folks!”
Place after place they went and no matter what the NYC cousin showed the country cousin, in Texas they did it better, faster and cheaper. Finally exasperated, the city cousin took his country cousin to the harbor where the Texan seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time exclaimed, “What is that?!?!?”
The city cousin looked out and said, “Wow! That wasn’t there yesterday!!”
The phrase at the beginning of this story is one my father told me the night before I left for Basic Training and it has stuck with me for all these years – 50 years! While stationed in Spain, I was talking with a friend, Bill S. and he told me he had done one jump from an airplane on a static line (that’s where you hook your parachute in the line so that when you jumped the chute would automatically deploy).
Another friend (already known for tall tales) said not only did he have many “free fall jumps” (you pulled your own ripcord) but that he was a “Master Jumper”. Bill didn’t believe him and asked to see his qualification card.
This other man went through a show of emptying his clothes locker “looking” not only for his sky diver card, but also his certification card for a master diver (deep sea). Going through all of his things, while we stood at the door to his room, watching him mumble “I know I just saw it the other day . . .” was embarrassing
The problem was he was a likeable man! He had a good personality, told funny stories, but his one-upmanship to whatever you said made people ignore him and avoid him.
There are many verse in the Word where we are warned not to be boasters – except for boasting in the Lord and what He has done! There was even one-upmanship in the church at Corinth.
“For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” I Corinthians 3:4-6
It doesn’t matter “who” you follow because they are human, it should be “Who” you follow.
“My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.” Psalm 34:2
“I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.” Romans 15:17
“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Galatians 6:14a
"CONDEMMED"................. December 31, 2019
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh,
but after the Spirit. Romans 8:1
The hymn “I Stand Amazed” says it very well.
“I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned, unclean.”
In October 1969 I was assigned to Williams Air Base, AZ (known as “Little Willie to those stationed there). This is a picture of the Main Gate that I spent the majority of my duty as an Air Force Security Policeman in.
Williams was constructed at the beginning of WWII to train pilots for the war and continued to be a pilot training base for many years afterward.
The barracks I lived in at Willie (this pic is of a similar type of barracks at Lackland – Korean War era construction) were decades old and in serious need of repair.
It was a standing joke that every year Civil Engineering would come through and “condemn” our barracks stating it was unfit for human habitation. After the front office received the notification, everyone who was living in the barracks was given sandpaper, paint, and brushes.
We would go into our rooms, sandpaper rough spots and then paint the whole room; walls, ceiling, any pipes, and the window sashes. Then we moved on to the day room, latrine, cells, and front desk (the Security Police Desk was the first thing you saw when you entered the barracks. As the old saying went, “If it moves, salute it! If it don’t move, paint it!”
When everything had a fresh coat of paint, C.E. was called and they would come over, check the building and faster than you can say “re-certify” the facility was labeled as “occupiable”.
Now you and I both know that these barracks were not really in any shape to house folks. A coat of paint doesn’t fix wood rot. A fresh coat of wax and buffing doesn’t solve the squeaks in a floor (because the wood is rotting from underneath).
In the Old Testament when the sin offering was made for the nation, the blood of the bull or lamb only “covered” the previous year’s sin. It did not erase it. Like paint on a dilapidated barracks wall, it made the people acceptable in God’s eyes – for the moment.
But it had to be repeated the next year! Back to the Temple. Watch the High Priest enter into the Holy of Holies and come out with the blood that had been sprinkled on the altar and now on the people. Year, after year, after year . . .
Then along came Jesus and His blood took away my sin! His blood didn’t just cover it, oh no, my friend. The blood of Jesus Christ erased my sin and satisfied the Father! No more sacrifices! No more having to find a perfect lamb, without spot or blemish!
“By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:10
“What can wash away my sin? Nothing! Nothing! Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”
And now, because of Jesus, I am NOT condemned! I am not unclean! I am not guilty! Do I still sin? Yes! But the blood of Jesus cleanses me from “all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
Do you feel condemned? Then, know, right now, that is not of God! God has said in His Word, There is therefore now (when? Right now! Immediate! No need to wait for dialup!) no condemnation (how much? None, zero, zip, nada!).
As Jesus told the woman caught in adultery “I do not condemn you”. He does not condemn you! And, believer, He never will!
"I BRING MESSIAH"!.................................. December17, 2019
This story is in my first book, “There Are No Coincidences” and it bears repeating. This a wonderful season for us to share the Gospel. We invite the public to come see the Gift of Lights and the Christmas play the young people are doing this year.
Things can happen! Just as we witnessed 3 youth being baptized this last Sunday (December 15) and then the grandmother coming forward during invitation, our church is making an impact here! So with that, here is the story.
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 the secretary of the VP’s (his first name was Ted) 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, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
God rest you merry, Gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior
Was 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 folks 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!
December 10, 2019
“And be sure your sin will find you out.”
Are you slipping a bit Mario? Didn’t you already write about this? Well, yes used this verse a little while ago. But here is another “Mario” story that bears this out.
When I was stationed in Spain, most of our aircraft were F-4’s – one of my favorite jet fighter aircraft.
(By United States Air Force - United States Air Force, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3052469
These were the Air Force’s performance group “The Thunderbirds”)
I had always admired the aircraft and one night (graveyard shift) my partner and I (Flight line Security Police) went into one of the open hangers and there was an F-4 with its canopy open. My heart began to race and I said,
“Joe! Take my camera (super 8mm movie camera) and take my picture of me getting in and sitting in the pilot’s seat!!”
Joe tried to tell me it was a bad idea, but this was too good to pass up! So, I climbed up the scaffolding and just as I was swinging my leg over (and that was on film until) . . . in walked my Flight Chief “Sam”. I won’t repeat what he said, but let me say it was by far the best dressing down I ever received!
Suffice to say I was caught red-handed doing something I had no right to do and the rebuke I received was justified. Shamefaced, Joe and I got back into our truck and went back out to the flight line. While I wasn’t written up (and trust me, my Flight Chief could have written a scathing report and possibly an Article 15 (disciplinary report) on me.
There were repercussions. I had lost a lot of respect in Sam’s and Joe’s eyes because of one foolish action. I may have been given some garbage details (it’s been almost 50 years, so I don’t remember) and assignments that no one else wanted or desired.
So how do I relate that to the Word? In II Kings 5 we have the Captain of the Syrian King’s army, Naaman, who was a leper. He had heard about Elisha and that God was with him and Naaman desired to be healed of his leprosy. Elisha commanded him to wash seven times in the Jordan.
After some back and forth with his counselors, Naaman finally agrees and dips himself the required 7 times and WOW! After the 7thtime he came out of the water whole! But that’s not the end of the story!
Naaman and his whole entourage come to the home of Elisha and Naaman wants to (pardon the pun) shower him with gifts! He had come prepared to reward this man of God if indeed his leprosy was healed.
Elisha tells him this in verse 16 “But he said, As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused.”
So Naaman left (with one more try – please take these two beasts of burden and the scripture isn’t clear as to whether or not the prophet accepted them) to return home – a healed and whole man, to the glory of God!
Verse 20 starts with two words that totally erases the purpose of the prophet and God, “But Gehazi . . .”
You see Gehazi, the servant of Elisha ran after Naaman and lied. He tells this Captain of the Syrian host a tall tale about two sons of the prophets who need money and clothing.
Ready for this? Gehazi only asks for “one” talent of silver (somewhere between 75 and 110 pounds! That’s a lot of silver!) but Naaman so ready to repay the kindness shone to him gives him TWO talents! We’re talking 200 pounds! And he supplies men to help carry everything.
Gehazi can’t believe his good fortune! He goes home, hides everything and then goes about his business.
“Man, I scored big time! And nobody knows! Naaman doesn’t know I lied to him, Elisha doesn’t have a clue that I went to Naaman and I’ve got clothes andmoney!!”
Oh really? Let’s read.
Verse 26 “And he (the prophet) said unto him (Gehazi), Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?”
Uh oh. God revealed Gehazi’s actions to Elisha. Not only did Gehzai deceive and lie to Naaman, he lied to Elisha and tried to cover his sin away from God. A consequence is coming and it’s not a good one.
Verse 27 “The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.”
Gehazi could no longer be with the man of God because now, Gehazi, was unclean. Now what good would his money and his clothing do him? No good at all. (Although in chapter 8 he does appear before the king to help settle a matter.)
Choices and consequences.
"I SAID, “DON'T”"............................. December 3, 2019
As a family we moved to Brunswick, Maine, when Daddy was transferred to the Naval Air Station there in the fall of 1965. Our house was really nice! It had a huge cedar closet that always smelled wonderful, there were huge trees in the yard and my high school was about 100 yards away.
This house also had a wood burning fireplace! We had never had one before and it was something else. Cozy atmosphere around the crackling fire, the smell of pine burning, and the snapping of the embers and they sometimes popped out of the fireplace and onto the floor.
My youngest brother, Jonathan, was 3 maybe 4 years old when we moved there and the fire fascinated him as we had never really been around one. Many times, my folks would warn him when one of the embers popped out onto the floor – “No, no! Don't! Hot!” they would say.
Finally, one evening it happened. Finn (his nickname) had watched Daddy put logs into the fire or scoop a large ember into the metal dustpan to put back in the fire. An ember popped out and Jonathan reached over to it and picked it up!
Well it burned his fingers so he dropped it – into the palm of his hand! Now he was really in pain because even after he dropped the burning ember onto the floor, his fingers and hand still hurt from the burn.
Ever after that, whenever an ember shot out of the fireplace, he would step back, point at it and say, “Hot!!” and he meant it!
How many times were people in the Bible warned, “Don’t!” by God, yet they chose to ignore and try to circumvent the Lord? To me, one of the best/worst examples is Balaam.
Numbers 22:9-12 And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee? And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, hath sent unto me, saying, Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which covereth the face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them, and drive them out.