The Edge of Good

“Breathes there a man with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said, ‘This is my own, my native land.'” I don’t know if you have to be as old as I am to remember this poetic beginning. At my age I find myself having trouble remembering  things, but this first liner I have never forgotten. In this age of confusion, contradiction and division it is something that everyone should cling to. It should be the foundation of how we feel about America. In spite of the endless trouble it is still our own, our native land. The meaning of the sentence is vital. Are we so dead that we have given up the positive possibilities? We may feel like we are standing on the edge of a rocky cliff, but is it more difficult to believe that we are on the edge of many good things that are happening everywhere? If you can’t think of anything else, pay attention to the generosity of the people who live in Magic Valley and in the rest of the State of Idaho too. Food by the tons are donated for families that are in dire need. Many organizations collect presents for children who otherwise might receive even one gift. The numbers are many. Give thanks, not just on the yearly holiday, but for the gifts we all receive in one way or another. The Bible says to give thanks in all circumstances. Some might wonder how that is to be accepted, but there is a God who cares about every human being on this planet and gave the greatest gift of all to any one who will accept it. Gifts aren’t worked for, and this one is far beyond any labor that could be added. Thank you.

Think before assuming something that’s not true

Today my son and I delivered a piece of furniture that my wife and I had sold. The address of the buyer was four miles south and 3.23 miles east of a town that is 30 miles from where we live. We left assuming that my son’s GPS would tell us how to get there. It failed for some reason and we had to follow the road signs. We got there OK. It reminded me of something that I have been involved in for a few weeks. My pastor asked me to fill in for him by doing two sermons on the Wednesday night service. The first was based on the word, “assume” and several similar words that mean about the same. Notice that I said that we “assumed” that the GPS would get us where we wanted to go. It didn’t. The assumption failed. The second sermon was based on ” living by faith” and how God works in those who have faith in Him. The two kind of fit together.  We trusted the GPS by a presupposition of faith in a technical device that didn’t work. As it turned out we could depend on an old, non-technical method of finding our way. Trusting God is like watching the signs. It’s simple, but trustworthy. He demonstrates that we need not trust in something that may not work, but that we can always depend on Him. He taught me that when I was writing the book Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith. I found that I couldn’t rely on myself. When I put things in His hands, He filled the empty spots.

The Forever Book

Although my book, Transformation, is not a best seller (I wish), it has done in part what I intended and hoped for. One reader called me and wanted to talk about the content of the book and ended up accepting Christ as his Savior. We have become good friends as brothers in Christ. Another friend, who is serving a life sentence for murder, called the book a “Forever Book” because the content is such that it will never lose its value in the life of a believer. This man has been a Christian for 20 years in 28 years of imprisonment and uses Transformation as a study for other inmates. I am grateful for both of these men. The book has been used in two Bible studies and I’ve been asked to create a study guide for other groups that might want to do the same thing. There are other stories I could tell, but these are the best. My prison friend recently was transferred to another prison because of problems where he was. His new abode is not where he wanted to be and he was discouraged when he found he had to transfer. However, he is ecstatic because he has an opportunity to share the gospel with countless men who need to hear it desperately. I think of Paul, whose ministry was multiplied in prison, even to “Caesar’s household.” I refer to the book as “our book” because without the help of the Lord and several friends it wouldn’t exist. Also, those who have benefited from it are also a part of it.

Ever since I wrote Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith I have noticed that pastors, evangelists and theologians are preaching as if they had just finished my book and were using what I wrote about as the basis for their messages. I know that’s not true, but I am encouraged that the same subjects seem important to them as well as me. It is about relationships and no one can get away from that. I guess its kind of like buying a different car. You buy and drive a VW Bug and suddenly their are bugs all over the street. When you write about some particular subject you suddenly realize that other people are thinking about the same thing. I’m no theologian, but those issues, anxiety, hypocrisy and pride affect everyone who claims Christ. We all need to deal with them in our own lives. Transformation is written for believers who honestly try to live with best relationship they can with Christ, but one reader, a non believer, put his belief in Jesus, repented and was baptized. I couldn’t ask for more, but I am, hoping that many more will start appearing, just like the VW Bug.

The Narrow Way

This morning I was reading Proverbs 15 as the scripture for my daily devotional time. There couldn’t have been a more appropriate choice. Obviously I didn’t make the choice. I just followed the directions of the devotional book that I use. In the past few days I have found myself in a difficult financial position. There are many reasons for this, most of them my fault, but I found myself worrying about what I can do about it and found no good answer. According to my book, Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith, anxiety is a sin, a destroyer of a good relationship with the Lord. Then why am I worrying? The solution, as stated in Philippians 4:6, 7 is to turn to Him in prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving. It works. I can trust Him for the solutions I need. In reading the Proverbs 15 I was reminded that I am guilty of hypocrisy because of my tendency to criticize others when I don’t agree with them or like their attitude. That too is an issue in my book. I need to love everyone sincerely. God is the judge and the one who disciplines those He loves, not me. I want to take  His discipline seriously and repent and have the mind jof Christ, the third subject in my book. Trust, love and humility; all of this is why I hope many will buy, read and study what Transformation talks about. I’m not alone in my troubles. In addition to these primary things, good sales of my book would solve my financial problem. Praise the Lord. He is so good.

Feeding the 5000

At the end of every quarter I receive information about how many of Transformation copies have been sold and the money is deposited in my account. The first notification was at the end of February. I was quite disappointed at the figures. I had hoped and prayed that enough books had been sold to eliminate the debt accumulated in publishing and marketing costs. So, I have waited for three months to see the next result. A new way of looking at the process came to mind. I began to think about Jesus and the feeding of the 5000. When the disciples told him to send the crowd away so they could find food, Jesus told them to give them something to eat. They told Him they only had a few loves of bread and some fish. Jesus took the loaves and fish, lifted them up and gave thanks. There was enough for all of the people to be filled, with an excess left over. I am like the disciples, but I want to  be like Jesus. I am going to give thanks to God and wait. He will provide. I can’t complain. After all, my hope is that if only one person is changed because of my book that is enough. More than one person has said that what I wrote has brought change in their lives. What the Lord wants to do beyond that is His business. That should be the focus for all of us.

The power of sin vs. the power of the Savior

When I was a small boy we lived on my grandfather’s farm in Southern Idaho. Dad farmed the forty acres, but Granddad had some cows and invented an electric fence to keep them where they belonged. The fence consisted of barbed wire powered by electrical current reduced in voltage by two incandescent light bulbs. One day I was playing in the pasture when, without thinking, I tried to crawl through the fence. The shock of the electricity charged through me and I was unable to let go of the wire. I remember yelling at the top of my lungs. Fortunately my Dad heard my screaming, ran and jerked me away from the fence and my hand from the wire. My hand was bleeding from the barbs, but I was safe. What if Dad hadn’t heard me? Sin is like the power of that fence. We can’t let go and the results can be fatal. One reader of my book, Transformation, complained that I described anxiety as sin. How can it be sin if it sneaks up on you? That isn’t the point. Sins of many kinds often sneak up on us. It’s what we do about it that counts. When I couldn’t let go of the fence I screamed for help. Dad literally saved my life. If we cry out to God He will jerk us from the grip of sin. There may be some damage, like the slashed palm of my hand, but it will heal. Remember who our Savior is and that He listens for our crying out to Him when we realize that we have gripped something that can be spiritually painful, even fatal, and can’t let go. He’s always there to help. Fortunately my granddad replaced his electric fence with one that was designed correctly.

The Forever Stamp

Anyone who has mailed a letter lately knows that USPS markets a stamp that retains its mailing value for as long as you have it, regardless of any cost increases on regular stamps. That is a convenience and money saver for anyone who invests in enough stamps to last a long time. The book Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith has a similar value, according to one reader. This particular reader of the book is a prisoner sentenced to life in a prison in the United States. More important than his life sentence is the fact that he has been a believer in Christ for more than ten of those years. He may be confined by prison walls but he is spiritually free in Christ. His sentence lasts until his life ends or by some miracle he is paroled, but his freedom in the Lord lasts forever. After reading Transformation, he used it as a guide for a Bible study he conducts in the prison. He made this statement. Transformation is a “forever’ book. What he meant by that is that the truths considered in the subjects of the book are of unending value to any Christian who sincerely desires to live a real relationship with God. Anxiety, hypocrisy and pride are things that will forever plague us, but the power of God’s Word is everlasting and Transformation is based on the truth of God’s Word.

Practice makes perfect

The title of this blog is true. Practicing enables anyone to do some something better. I had to take piano lessons when I was eight. They didn”t last long because I didn’t practice. However, many years later my lessons paid off. I knew something about music and it made my current interest in music much more easy and enjoyable. Although I’m getting along in years I am always learning to something new and different, and although I’m no expert I can do a lot of new things. On the flip side, however, it’s different. Jan and I moved to a different home recently. An important desire was for a shop because I have been learning to turn wood. Since our new home had no shop, we planned to build one. Since I was limited as to the cost the plan was small, but adequate. Thanks to God’s grace, the job is almost completed. Friends helped and a contractor worked with me. I have built things in the past, but I quickly discovered that the previous skills I had had faded away due to lack of practice. It was embarassing. While I was trying to think the next task out, someone else was already doing it. Finally I just relented to just doing what I was told. I think that the same thing often happens to us spiritually. We get so interested in something else, often worldly interests, that we lose sight of what we once knew of living a life for Christ. That’s when we should acknowledge that He is the qualified Master, the Director of the Way; we are His servants. The job gets done quicker and much better. You might check out my book, Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith. It’s purpose is to remind us of our relationship with God and help us practice a life of faith as His servant.

Squirrels vs. transformation

In our previous home we frequently heard a POP and the lights went out. It didn’t take long to discover the problelm. The electrical transformer that provided us with power was shorted out–dead. A squirrel, hopping along the power line and landing in the wrong place was the cause. Because we had a cell phone we could call Idaho Power and the problem was fixed in a short time. Sometimes our lives, as Christians, become short circuited, and instead of reflecting the light of Christ in a dark world we only add to the darkness. We can’t blame a squirrel, but we can take an inward look at ourselves and identify the problem. God is our source of power and if we are willing He will restore that light by transforming us by His Spirit. My book, Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith examines three issues that affect our relationship with the Lord. The first problem is that of worry and anxiety. Number two is hypocritical or insincere love and the last is pride. Each one can be defined as sin. A reader questioned how anxiety could be classified as sin because it sneaks into your life. That isn’t the problem. Many sins creep into our lives. The problem is: what do we do about it? John writes that if we confess our sin, God is faithful to cleanse us from it and forgive us. Paul gives an alternative: prayer which leads to peace. Trusting God in every circumstance is the solution. When the electrician answers the call, he reconnects us with the power source and the lights shine again. The same is true with God, our source of spiritual power. He always answers the call and is there to transform our minds and hearts. Our connection is restored.