Dear Harper…The BIG 5!

Dear Harper,

Here we are again! You are having ANOTHER birthday. I’ll tell you this…the older you get the faster birthdays seem to appear. But today (9/6) is your fifth birthday. It hardly seems possible that 5 years ago we were waiting for your arrival. From the minute I saw you, I Ioved you. You immediately became #myfavoriteredhead!

We have had some fun times this past year. You love to spend the night with Nanna and Poppo, BUT you also don’t want to stay too long because you love to be at home with your family. When your daddy was about your age, he always wanted all the family to be at our home when it got dark. You are like your daddy in that way.

Nanna has been teaching you to sew and you are doing such a great job. You like to do crafts with Nanna too. She LOVES that. You and Ellie are going to be her crafting buddies. So far, you have made a pillow and blanket for your baby dolls and a small purse.

You enjoy going to the aquarium in Gatlingburg and we took you to Santa Land this summer with Hudson, Ellie and Benny. That was a lot of fun for all of us. My daddy (Popple) took me to Santa Land 50 years ago. I took your daddy when he was a kid and now I’ve taken you. Nanna and I look forward to our adventures with you and you always bring such joy to us.

Turning 5 is a BIG DEAL and you have been looking forward to it for most of this past year. We had a big party yesterday (9/5) with your family and friends to celebrate. We had princess cake and a princess castle bounce house. It was a fun day and you were so happy to turn 5!

Let me tell you something about 5. Five is a very important number in the Bible. The number 5 symbolizes God’s grace and goodness toward us. Five, multiplied by itself is 25 which is “grace upon grace” (John 1:16). The Ten Commandments contains two sets of 5 commandments. The first five commandments teach us about our relationship with God. The second five teach us about our relationship with others.

In the Old Testament, there are 5 primary types offerings God commanded Israel to bring to Him. The Book of Psalms is divided into 5 major sections. There are 5 books of God’s Law and the 4 Gospels plus the book of Acts is called the “New Testament Pentateuch.” Pentateuch means 5. Those 5 books teach us about all the things that Jesus did and how He wants us to live.

So turning 5 really is a special thing. When I think about you, I see the grace of God in your personality. You love everybody and you are extremely caring about people. Recently, there was a little girl in your preschool who was upset because she missed her mommy. She was crying and having a really bad day. You went over to her, put your arm around her and consoled her and told her everything would be ok. She calmed down and you played with her until she started to feel better. You demonstrated the grace of God to that little girl.

I’ve seen you do that to all of us. You seem to always think of others before yourself. That is a characteristic of God’s grace toward us. God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die on the cross so that we could have a relationship with Him. God shows us His grace every single day. My prayer for you is that you continue to grow in His grace and that you continue to show that grace to all the people you meet.

I think year 5 is going to be a big year for you. I can’t wait to see all the ways God will help you grow. You are growing physically — it’s hard to call you #LittleBit now because you are getting bigger and bigger. But you will always be Poppo’s Little Bit. No matter what you do or where you go, Poppo and Nanna will always love you. You can always count on us to be there to love and support you — even when I don’t agree with the choices you might make.

God’s grace reminds me that God can’t not love me. That’s not good grammar, but it is really good theology! It reminds me that God’s love for me is not based on my performance. It is based on His character. That’s the kind of love I want to have for you, Hudson, Ellie and Benny. No matter what…Poppo will always love you.

Enjoy your day and let’s enjoy year number 5!

Love,

Poppo

Dear PunkinDoodle: Can we make time slow down?

Dear PunkinDoodle,

Today (August 21) is your 4th birthday. Can we make time slow down a little PLEASE? I know you think time moves pretty slowly, but I can assure you that for me…it is flying by at supersonic speed. Every time I look at you, I see you momma and remember her growing up way too fast also.

This has been a fun year for us. From spending Christmas 2020 at my house and it snowing on Christmas Eve to our family beach trip in May and then a visit to Santa Land in the summer, we have had some great adventures and Nanna and I cherish every minute we get to spend with you, your brother and cousins. Throughout this year, I’ve continued to watch your personality begin to shine brighter and brighter. I chose three little pictures of you just to remind me how much fun you are. There is never a time when we talk that I don’t have a good belly laugh because of you.

Technology is not always a good thing, but I can tell you this…I LOVE FACETIME! It enables Nanna and me to see you as your grow and to celebrate achievements with you that we might not otherwise get to do. Every time we talk, you either make funny faces at me (see picture above) or you have a joke to tell me. Your favorite joke so far has been…”Poppo, knock-knock.” “Who’s there?” “Interrupting cow. (giggle)” “Interrupting c…” “MOOOOOOO!!!!!!” (Hysterical laughter) “Get it, Poppo? Isn’t that funny?” And guess what? It is just as funny the 500th time as it was the very first time because of how funny YOU think it is.

Another favorite thing you like to do is read to me. You often call and read me a princess story but your favorite thing to do is read from the Bible to me. You don’t quite know the words just yet — BUT you know the message of the Bible. Every time you read from the Bible, you quickly get to the part where “Jesus died on the cross and rose again the third day.” And that’s the very best part! I’m so glad you enjoy reading the Bible and telling Bible stories. The Bible tells us parents and grandparents that if we will raise up our children in the ways of God that you won’t wander away from it as you grow older. I know that doesn’t always happen, but I sure do believe that when parents do that, there is a much higher likelihood that their children will follow Jesus later in life. I pray that you ALWAYS love the Bible and Jesus. I have spent almost 40 years now trying to teach people to love God and His Word.

As usual, there are some not so good things happening in the world around us as we celebrate your birthday. There are many people around the world today who are going to die for no other reason than they love and serve Jesus. Those people are true heroes to me. They are willing to give their lives because they love Jesus so much. I pray that you and I never have to do that — but I pray that if we do, we will stand as strong and tall as those around the world who are doing that now.

As I think about you and your cousin Harper, I’m thankful that you girls are growing up in America. I realize that we are not perfect, but I still believe this is the greatest country in the world and living here gives you the best chance to grow up to be WHATEVER you want to be. In many places around the world, girls and women are abused and treated badly simply because they are women. They can’t go to school and they are not allowed to choose the profession they would like. That makes me very sad.

You started pre-school this past week. Along with other little boys and girls, you are going to learn about all kinds of things that you could do in this world. Maybe you will be a doctor or a scientist. Maybe God will call you to be a missionary to a far-away place. Maybe you will be a wife and mommy and take care of your family. Whatever you choose to do, I pray that you will follow God’s leadership and that you will not allow others to try and keep you from your dreams. Always know that Poppo and Nanna as well as your mom and dad are ALWAYS in your corner cheering you on to become whatever God calls you to be.

I look forward to this year as I watch you grow and mature. I know God has great things in store for you and I know you are going to rise to the challenge. Whatever happens in this world there are two things you can ALWAYS be sure of. First…GOD LOVES YOU — He always has and He always will. He loves you more than anybody here could ever love you. Run to Him with everything — He will never leave you. Second…POPPO loves you. I started loving you before you ever even knew who I was. From the minute your momma told me she was going to have a baby, I fell head-over-heels in love with you (and with your brother and cousins too). That’s what a Poppo does. There is NOTHING you could ever do to make me not love you. I won’t always agree with everything you do…but I will ALWAYS be in your corner cheering you on and loving you with all my heart.

Happy birthday PunkinDoodle! I hope year 4 is as special as the others have been. I can’t wait to see what adventures we can get into this year.

Love,

Poppo

Outflowing Steams

I pulled out an old book from my shelf recently and began reading. The book is called “Secret Power” by D.L. Moody. The book was published in 1881. I collect old books (really I collect ANY books) but this one has always been a prized position. It is a first edition and is in relatively good shape for being over 100 years old. As I was reading today, I found a rather lengthy passage that is too long for a Facebook post, so I decided to share it here. Read it carefully and perhaps several times. It spoke to my heart as I pray it will to yours.

“I would like to see some one just full of living water; so full that they couldn’t contain it; that they would have to go out and publish the Gospel of the grace of God. When a man gets so full that he can’t hold any more, then he is just ready for God’s service.

When preaching in Chicago, Dr. Gibson remarked in the inquiry meeting, ‘Now, how can we find out who is thirsty?’ Said he, ‘ I was just thinking how we could find out. If a boy should come down the aisle, bringing a good pail full of clear water, and a dipper, we would soon find out who was thirsty; we would see thirsty men and women reach out for water; but if you should walk down the aisle with an empty bucket, you wouldn’t find out. People would look in and see that there was no water, and say nothing.’ So said he, ‘I think that is the reason we are not more blessed in our ministry; we are carrying around empty buckets, and the people see that we have not anything in them, and they don’t come forward.’

I think there is a good deal of truth in that. People see that we are carrying around empty buckets, and they will not come to us until they are filled. They see we haven’t any more than they have. We must have the Spirit of God resting upon us, and then we will have something that gives the victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil; something that gives the victory over our tempers, over our conceits, and over every other evil, and when we can trample these sins under our feet, then people will come to us and say, ‘How did you get it? I need this power; you have something that I haven’t got; I want it.’ O may God show us this truth. Have we been toiling all night? Let us throw the net on the right side; let us ask God to forgive our sins, and anoint us with power from on high. But remember, He is not going to give this power to an impatient man; He is not going to give it to a selfish man; He will never give it to an ambitious man whose aim is selfish, till first emptied of self; emptied of pride and of all worldly thoughts. Let it be God’s glory and not our own that we seek, and when we get to that point, how speedily the Lord will bless us for good. Then will the measure of our blessing be full. Do you know what heaven’s measure is? Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. If we get our heart filled with the Word of God, how is Satan going to get in? How is the world going to get in, for heaven’s measure is good measure, full measure, running over. Have you this fullness? If you have not, then seek it; say by the grace of God you will have, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us these things. He wants us to shine down in this world; He wants to lift us up for His work; He wants us to have the power to testify for His Son. He has left us in this world to testify for Him. What did He leave us for? Not buy and sell and to get gain, but to glorify Christ. How are you going to do it without the Spirit? That is the question. How are you to do it without the power of God?”

Moody rocked two continents with his preaching and the power of the Holy Spirit. I pray for men and women who, like Moody, would seek the power of God so that we can share it with a world that desperately needs it. Again, the book is called “Secret Power” by D.L. Moody. Let’s covenant to pray for a powerful move of God in our lives, our churches and in our nation.

Happy Birthday Scooter — Lucky Number 7!

Dear Scooter,

HAPPY 7th BIRTHDAY! I’m not sure how we got here so quickly. I was looking through pictures recently and found some of the day you were born. The WHOLE family spent the night at the hospital waiting for your arrival. We were convinced that you were the prettiest baby ever born. You don’t like to be called “pretty” now — that’s for girls. Boys are handsome — and you certainly are that.

The last year has brought about some firsts for you. You lost your first tooth (and several more since then). You played baseball (a future Yankee star I’m sure). And you completed the first grade. And my how you have grown!

You still love dinosaurs, video games on the iPad and spending the night at Poppo and Nanna’s and playing cards. You also LOVE to try and “prank me” whenever you can. You have become quite the miniature golfer as well. We’ve added Pokemon to our list of things we are learning about and you are always ready to explain all these things to me. You enjoy sharing your knowledge of ALL THINGS with anybody who will listen.

Over the last year, I’ve also noticed that your concern for others continues to grow. That’s a good thing. You notice when people are treated unfairly (that doesn’t include the times when we treat you unfairly by making you take an occasional nap), and your kind heart is always showing concern and care for others. We recently took a family trip to the beach for a few days and I was so happy to see how you took care of your sister and your cousins. You are growing up into a fine young man. Always look for ways you can help others. That is a wonderful character trait.

As you enter second grade later this fall, I wanted to share something with you that I think will be important. You are doing GREAT in your school work. Your reading is improving and you LOVE math. As you continue in your education, those things will be very important. But there is another thing I want to share with you. You are going to begin now to hear some things and encounter some things that may be different than what you have heard or seen before and different from what you hear Poppo (and the rest of our family) talk about.

Unfortunately, not all children have parents and grandparents who try and teach them the difference between right and wrong. Some people use words that we don’t use in our family and you are going to see and hear those things. What do you do? Well, I want you to always treat others with respect — regardless of how they talk or what they believe. I believe that every person has a right to their own beliefs. That doesn’t mean their beliefs are right…but we all have to develop our own set of rules and standards by which we live.

In the world today, a lot of people want us to believe that there is no absolute standard for judging what is right and wrong. You will probably hear someone say, “Just because that is right for you doesn’t mean it is right for me.” You will hear people talk about “tolerance.” Again, a person has a right to believe whatever they want to believe and they have a right to act however they want to act (within the boundaries of the law). But I want you to understand that God has established the ultimate rules and definitions of what is right and wrong. We call those “moral laws” and they are true for everyone everywhere.

For example, 2+2=4. No matter what you think or how you feel — 2+2=4 — always has, always will. It is an absolute. There are some other things that are absolutes as well. One is that the Bible is the Word of God and God is creator of everything. Since He created it — it belongs to Him and He gets to make the rules for people to go by. Those rules are given to us in His Word — the Bible. There are a lot of people who think that the Bible is outdated and doesn’t apply to them. That’s their right to believe that, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Bible is still God’s Word and God’s standard for living.

The main truth that I want you to hold on to is this — God loves everyone and He wants us to have a relationship with Him. Sin has broken that relationship. Sin is anything that we do or think or believe that is contrary to what God teaches in His Word. ALL of us are sinners and we are separated from our Creator by that sin. BUT God loved us so much that He sent His Son (Jesus) into this world to die for our sin. After Jesus died, He was buried and on the third day rose again. That action by God assured me that if I confess my sin and repent (say I’m sorry to God) and allow Jesus to live His life in and through me that I will have a restored relationship with God. I realize some of this is hard for you to understand right at this moment, but as you grow and as you listen to mom and dad and all your grandparents — we will do our best to help you understand it.

The Bible says that EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. I’ve spent the last 38 years of my life telling people about that wonderful news. On the day you were born, the very first thing I did when I held you (and I did it with your sister and your cousins) is I whispered in your ear — “God loves you and I love you.” From that day forward, I (along with your parents and other grandparents) have tried to teach you that way God would have you live.

So, as you continue to maneuver through life, I pray that you will listen to the still, small voice inside of you that calls you to live for Jesus. You will hear lots of other things from lots of other people, but I pray you will always trust the voice of God and the Word of God to lead you and guide you. Respect others, show them kindness and love and ALWAYS seek to live for Jesus. That is Poppo’s prayer for you today.

Happy birthday Scooter! I tell you this every year — because it is still true. I may not always approve of your choices in life, but there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that you can ever do that will cause me to stop loving you. I hope you have a great day and I can’t wait to see all the new adventures we will have this year.

Love,

Poppo

Happy 2nd Birthday BIZZY!

BIZZY at the beach with Nanna and Poppo 2021

Dear BIZZY,

First, I apologize for being late with your birthday letter. Your birthday was Saturday, May 29 and I forgot to take my computer to the beach with us. BUT…I’m glad I didn’t. We had so much fun playing and celebrating that I wouldn’t have had time to write it anyway. Your birthday is on the same day as Nanna and Poppo’s wedding anniversary (you were 2 and we have been married 38 years!) so we all spent a few days in North Carolina at Surf City. Having a few days away with all the family has provided me with some of what I want to talk to you about today.

I’ve known from the beginning that you were not going to be the “average” child. BIZZY is a perfect nickname for you because you never slow down. You are SO MUCH FUN! You loved the water, the sand, the park, the people…EVERYTHING! We all love watching you and playing with you. After you left to go home, Hudson came up to me and Nanna and said, “I miss Benny!” You are definitely the life of the party.

Right now you love TRUCKS — any kind of truck but especially dump trucks and bulldozers and stuff like that. Your favorite presents for your birthday were the big TONKA trucks that we gave you. You love to watch people who are working on trucks. A few days before our little getaway, you were outside at your house. There were some men next door putting a new roof on your neighbor’s house. You were fascinated by the ladders and the workers. All of a sudden, the garbage truck came down the street. When you saw it, your day was MADE! Roofers on one side, and garbage trucks and the workers on the other side. You were so excited.

You are too young to understand it now, but your love for these kinds of things got me to thinking. You love the trucks and the “excitement” but people who do that kind of work are HARD WORKERS! They work from sunup to sundown, many times 7 days a week in order to provide for their families. We should always take a few minutes and just say “THANK YOU” to the people who work so hard to provide the services we often take for granted.

The Bible says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23). That’s the verse I think about when I see people working so hard at their jobs. As you grow up, I pray that whatever God calls you to do, that you will do it for the Lord. Whether you are a doctor or lawyer, a roofer or a garbage truck driver — do it for the Lord. Work hard, help people and love God. That is my prayer not only for you, but for all my grandchildren. God equips us with many talents and abilities and He wants us to use them to help others and to bring glory to Him.

Martin Luther said, “He who waits until circumstances completely favor his undertaking, will never accomplish anything.” I’m sure you will learn much from your parents (they do a great job with you and your sister), from your grandparents and others in your life. We will do our best to help you discover your gifts and abilities and we will always try and point you to Jesus. But as you grow, take time to learn from those men and women who do the hard jobs. They are important and we should value them. My guess is you will probably outgrow your obsession with all these big trucks and things, but I hope you never lose sight of the fact that life will be more fulfilling if you work hard and serve others.

Now on to year 3! I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for you. I pray that you will keep that laugh and that you will continue to just enjoy life. You sure make life fun for me. I see something special in your eyes and I know God has something great in store for you. I look forward to seeing what it is.

Remember…Nanna and I love you UNCONDITIONALLY! We may not always like the choices you make, but we will never stop loving YOU. Follow God and listen to your parents and you will do well in life.

I love you Benny!

Love,

Poppo

A Single Vision

Helen Keller said, “Worse than being blind would be, to be able to see, but not have vision.”

I believe that the United States of America, our culture and the church in general in America are all in a crisis. Furthermore, I believe that this crisis will not be solve or resolved by the government or by legislation. I believe that the only way we will impact the world is for the people of God to experience a great movement of the Holy Spirit of God. We must spiritually awaken to God’s vision for the world or we will suffer the final judgment of God.

There is nothing in the Scripture that teaches us that we are to rest on our past success. There is nothing in the Scripture that says we should sit back with our feet up and watch while others impact the world for Christ.

Have you taken an honest look at our country lately? It seems as though trouble is winning out. I realize that’s not a very spiritual thing to say because as a Christian I know that ultimately God wins. While that is certainly true for eternity, today Satan is having a heyday. This nation is committing moral suicide. Actually, we are experiencing what the Bible describes as the law of sowing and reaping. The escalation of moral problems abounds — pornography, adultery, divorce, abortion, alcoholism and homosexuality are all accepted parts of our local culture.

And what about church problems? The average church today has had more fights and splits than a boxer. We blame it on COVID — but in actuality, COVID only accelerated what was already happening. There is a total lack of commitment to God, His Word, and His church in our world today. 20-25% of those who “regularly” attended church pre-COVID will not return.

Jesus told us that the world is supposed to know us by our love and unity — and to mention these things today brings a snicker from most congregations. There are people who claim Christ as their Savior who won’t speak to other Christians or if they do — it is very cold and uncaring.

I’ll tell you why it seems that evil is winning out in the world. It is because it is winning out in the local church. The church as become too much like the world. We have cast aside and are continuing to cast aside any semblance of God in our public lives. We somehow believe that what we do in our private lives has nothing to do with our “church” life. We think we can go to church on Sunday and then go out Monday through Saturday and live like the devil.

We started out tolerating sinful behavior in the church and then we legitimized it and now we are legalizing it nationally! Our sin today is literally flaunted in the face of our Holy God. Quite frankly, I believe that we are coming to a place in the American church where, if we refuse to call sin what it is and accept it for what the Bible says it is — there will be significant consequences to pay. Personally, I think we have forgotten that God’s clock is ticking and we are getting dangerously close to MIDNIGHT. My friends, just as sure as a time bomb has a timer which, when it reaches 0 detonates — so this world has a timer that is counting down.

I’ve stopped looking for the SIGNS of Christ’s coming and I’m listening for the SOUND of the trumpet of God!

“Pastor…have you given up hope? Don’t you have a word of good news for us?”

I absolutely do! The question is are you going to listen to it? The cure to the problems I have described above is found only in repentance of sin and returning to our first love. If we are truly going to impact the world for Christ, we must develop a vision that sees things differently than they are. We must see things the way God intends for them to be.

I have come to the realization that I am in the 4th Quarter of my ministry and there is one thing I desire to see in the remaining years of life and ministry.

I want to see a vision of Jesus

There is NOTHING that we do that is more important than introducing men and women, boys and girls to Jesus Christ. I’m done arguing about secondary theological issues. I’m done choosing up sides in this fight. There are over 7 billion people in this world and most of them have never heard the God. There are many people who don’t have one single verse of the Bible translated into their language. I believe we need to get a vision of Jesus Christ and then share that vision with our community, our state, our nation and the world.

I am praying that God will use me in the remaining years of my ministry to mentor young men and women who are going to eventually be missionaries in the darkest areas of our world. I’m not going to be the overseer of a nursing home or a funeral home! I’m going to put my effort into the lives of boys and girls, men and women who are truly on fire for God and who want to make a difference in their world. I refuse to allow God to write ICHABOD over my life and ministry!

Leonard Sweet, the E. Stanley Jones Professor Emeritus at Drew Theological School has said, “The church is like a vehicle careening down the road at break-neck speed. It really is somewhat of a danger to people. Everybody in this vehicle — called the church — is absolutely fixated on dome light issues: fighting for who sits where, who gets the pillow, who gets a window seat, who gets to drive, who sits in the front seat. They have forgotten that the purpose of that care is to go down the highway. We are so fixated on dome lights that we have forgotten to turn the headlights on”

Not only have many of us forgotten our purpose for existence — I’m afraid that most people in the church today have never learned what that purpose is to begin with. I keep hearing people say, “When are we going back to normal?” I hope we NEVER go back to normal! Normal wasn’t working. Normal was nothing more than people interested in their own comfort and traditions. I want something SUPERNATURAL. I want to see the Spirit of God move within the people of God in a way that glorifies Jesus and causes the world to say, “Those folks have been with Jesus!”

I WANT A VISION OF JESUS! I pray God will help me to do what I can for as long as I can so that I may help people catch this vision of Jesus and for the plight of lost people.

How Desperate Does It Have to Get?

“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17)

There has always been some skepticism about the Book of Jonah. Many have tried to say that it is a fictional story that teaches a lesson by using allegory. One of the main reasons for liberal skepticism comes from the verse above (Jonah 1:17) which says that Jonah was “in the belly of the fish.”

Let me say up front — I believe that the story of Jonah is REAL. WHY you may ask. Because Jesus believed it. In Matthew 12:38-41, the Bible says, “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and threes nights in the heart of the earth.” Quite clearly Jesus accepted the story of Jonah as an accurate description of an historical event — so if Jesus believed it — I believe it too.

Now back to the story. The key to understanding this event is to see what happened as a result of Jonah being in the belly of the fish. HE REPENTED to God and by doing so he gives us an example of what happens when we repent of our sin.

First…when we repent, we realize just how desperate our condition really is. Maybe Jonah had thought that by telling God NO — God would just leave him alone and find someone else to go to Nineveh. But when he went overboard and was swallowed by the fish…I think Jonah’s perspective changed. He realized God was serious. God had arranged for Jonah to do some long, hard, serious undisturbed thinking. And sometime during that three-day journey inside the fish, Jonah came to the realization that his relationship with God was really out of whack!

Just think about it. Seventy-two hours is a long time to think. Three days and nights is certainly long enough to get desperate. That is the point most of us must come to before we take action. But many people today have ignored their relationship with God for a LONG time! There are plenty of people who right now think — “I’m pretty good. Me and God, we’re all cool!”

So…the question I would ask is this. How desperate must you become before things get truly settled between you and God? That may be how desperate things will get. Be prepared.

When our lives become desperate enough that we finally recognize that God’s way is the best way — then we will truly repent. Inside the belly of the fish Jonah decided that God’s plan for him to go to Nineveh didn’t look so bad after all. In every church there are people who attend but who know they are out of step with God. Yet, they have made up their minds that they are not going to change. Mark it down. Let them get desperate enough and they may have to reconsider God’s way.

Maybe God has been convicting YOU of sin recently. May you are convicted that God wants you to be a more verbal witness. Maybe you are convicted that you should give more to the work of God. Maybe God wants you to surrender your life to be a missionary. Maybe there is some sin in your life you need to shed. The question is…are you convinced that God’s way is the best way? If you aren’t, then you are saying, “God…I’ve not become desperate. I’m not thoroughly convinced that Your way is best.”

In verse 9 of Jonah 2, Jonah finally repents and says, “But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” To truly repent, you must become desperate and you must realize that God’s plan is the best plan but then you must commit yourself to do what God has called you to do. Usually this is where our repentance is shortsighted. Real repentance has to include submitting your whole self to God and His plan — not just remorse for sin — not just saying “I will try and do better.” REAL repentance is when you finally say — “Lord, I fully commit myself to You. I will go where You say. I will do what You say. I’m not in charge any more — You are.”

I don’t how desperate you are right now to make things right with God, but I do know that God desperately wants every person to be in a right relationship with Him. How desperate does He want that? Enough that He sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross as our substitute.

How desperate does it have to get in your life for you to fully commit to God? Be careful…you may find yourself in the belly of a fish with nothing but time to consider your decision.

Would You Mind Rescuing Me?

The headline caught my attention right away. It said, “He Can ‘Marry’ People — If Not Distracted By a Mouse.” The article was about a scam operation that was exposed in Cleveland, Tennessee. The operation “ordains” ministers for $20 each. The president of the Huntsville, Alabama Better Business Bureau decided to check out the operation. She sent in an application and a check for her CAT! She answered questions truthfully and listed his birthday as a few months previous. Explaining his call to ministry she wrote, “To make people happy and not hunt birds.” She directed friends whom she wrote down as references to admit that the applicant was a cat if they were asked. Sure enough, her cat was officially “ordained” as a minister of the Gospel.

The church is constantly taking a beating because of operations just like this. There are always people who take advantage of people’s gullibility. Fortunately, most people are able to separate the misdeeds of the few from the true desires of the majority. Still, many of us have a feeling that the church of Jesus Christ is not all Christ has called us to be. That’s sad. The church is the most important institution in society. Even those outside the church have a desire for the church to be all she claims to be and all Christ called us to be.

There is a scene I remember from WINNIE THE POOH that goes like this:

POOH — “Did you fall into the river, Eeyore?”

EEYORE — “Silly of me, wasn’t it?”

POOH — “Is the river uncomfortable this morning?”

EEYORE — “Well, yes…the dampness you know.”

POOH — “You really ought to be more careful.”

EEYORE — “Thanks for the advice.”

POOH — “I think you are sinking.”

EEYORE — “Pooh, if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind rescuing me?”

If a society ever needed rescuing, ours most certainly does. How much longer can our communities and our nation be allowed to deteriorate? How long can society afford girls who are children themselves having babies with no father to help raise them? How can children have any chance at all where drugs are available almost on every street corner? How can we tolerate boys and girls going to school in fear? How long will we allow babies to be murdered in the womb where they should be safest? When is somebody going to do something to help those experiencing daily poverty of mind, body and soul?

Our nation has experienced a moral drift in the last few years that has produced a generation (maybe more) of selfish people. Because of our selfishness — we have neglected a vital ingredient of life and community — connectedness. The world is crying out to us as believers — “Hey friends, if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind rescuing me?”

I believe that in order for us to be all Christ called us to be, we must recapture some of the elements that propelled the early church. They literally turned the world upside down because of the transformation that had occurred in their lives because of their connectedness to Jesus Christ.

We must recapture a sense of who we are. Listen…being BUSY in church is not the same thing as being GODLY. I know a lot of very busy churches and church members who are still ineffective in the work of the Kingdom. We were saved to be disciples of our Master, Jesus Christ. That means we are STUDENTS in Christ’s school.

As we remember that we are students — learners — followers of Jesus, the Master…we will also recapture a sense of what we are about. As Jesus walked the Road to Emmaus with the two disciples, He gave us our mission. In Luke 24:47, Jesus said, “and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

The essential mission of the church is witness to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is to call our communities and our nation to righteousness, and to proclaim the Good News that we are forgiven and made right with God by the cross of Calvary. Our chief task is evangelistic. Our task is not to make earth a better place to go to hell from. Our task is to make sure people know Christ in His fullness and that they are rescued by His shed blood so that they don’t go to hell!

“Would you mind rescuing me?” I have a feeling that this cry will increase in intensity in the days and weeks ahead. The question is…will we (believers) hear the call and come to the rescue?

Cordially Yours…

Mark 12:38-44 records the familiar story of the widow and her offering — known as the “widow’s mite.” As I have reflected on that story, I’m reminded that the Bible says that “the common people heard Him gladly” (Mark 12:37). Perhaps they knew instinctively that Jesus was one of them. Jesus was turned off by people who puffed themselves up, who were impressed by their own importance, who sought to do things in a grandiose way that they might win the praise of others. He despised hypocrites, people who paraded their piety, who spoke in stained glass tones, who prayed long prayers so that people might be impressed by their impassioned prose.

Jesus much preferred people like the poor widow who came to the Temple to give her gift to God. The rich people were making a big deal presenting their offerings. They wanted people to be aware of their charity. They used large coins so that when the pieces of money fell into the box an impressive clanging sound could be heard by everyone.

This poor widow, however, quietly placed in two tiny coins similar to the one pictured. This coin is known as “the widow’s mite” and is dated to the first century. I purchased it on one of my trips to Israel. This offering (both coins) had a value of less than a penny!

Probably no one else in the crowd noticed her offering. BUT Jesus did — and that’s a pretty impressive audience. He called together His disciples and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood” (Mark 12:43-44).

I believe God is always thrilled to see authentic faith, authentic devotion, and authentic love for God. Based on what she did, there was absolutely no doubt that this widow loved God.

I’m reminded of the story of the young soldier who was overseas. He was writing his girlfriend back home. He wanted to send here a telegram because he thought that would make more of an impression. So he gave the telegraph operator a message to send. The message was this: “I love you. I love you. I love you. John.”

The telegraph operator said, “Son, for the same mount of money you can send one more word.”

So he amended his message and it read like this: “I love you. I love you. I love you. Cordially, John.”

Many people today profess their love for God — “I love you, I love you, I love you,” but when push comes to shove, their devotion is more like “cordially” than it is love.” This widow put her money where her heart was. She gave all she had. And Jesus praised her.

By giving all she had, this widow was saying I TRUST GOD! You see there was no Social Security, no pension, no monthly check from the government she would be receiving now that her husband was gone. Widows were quite vulnerable. Unless her husband was a wealthy man or unless she had children to support her or perhaps other family m embers that would take her in, she was at the mercy of society. Jesus indicated her poverty, when He said that those two coins were all she had. By giving all she had, this woman did it trusting that God was going to provide her with her daily bread. That’s a tremendous amount of trust.

This poor woman had never read THE ART OF THE DEAL, but she must have trusted that there was more than enough in her Father’s storehouse and that He would provide for her. That kind of trust, that kind of confidence, that kind of hope pleases God. Those two little coins — worth less than a penny — were this woman’s way of saying — I KNOW GOD WILL PROVIDE!

There is a lesson here for you and me. Do you truly trust Jesus or are you in a “cordial” relationship with Him?