Category Archives: Understanding Our Times

Articles that lend insight or understanding to our times, the day in which we live, usually in comparison to the Biblical or historical perspective, which will aid one in knowing how to live and act wisely in our day. “Like the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times and what Israel should do.” I Chron 12:32

Therefore Immanuel

Christmas Morning Sunrise

Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son and she will call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

This verse hit me with unusual force this morning. The beautiful prose strikes one softly, but also hard and true. After one considers its beauty and message for just a few seconds — and its peace with its mystery — the question arises…

What’s the there for?

I’ve studied Isaiah the past two years, so I know. King Ahaz of Judah is being threatened and terrorized by threats of conquest by two dark kingdoms working together to war against him and remove him from office.

The LORD sends His prophet, Isaiah, with a message to the king and the people whose “hearts shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.” The LORD’s message is, “The enemy’s plan will not stand nor shall it come to pass.”

He also adds, “If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.”

“Ask a sign for yourself. Make it hard,” says the LORD to the king.

“I will not ask, nor test the LORD,” says the king back to the Lord’s prophet.

It sounds pious and wise, but it’s full of disobedience, disbelief, and really “testing” the LORD, Who instructed him to ask for a sign.

The prophet responds with, “Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will birth a son — Immanuel.”

~~~

Don’t doubt it! Believe that the LORD Himself will rise up against your enemies, and you will be spared. You will stand.

There is a coming sign recorded in the ancient texts around 700 B.C.. There was a son born to a virgin around 2-3 B.C., and we now recon time by His appearing and work.

He lives… with us … within us.

Immanuel

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Isaiah 6 sets the stage for all believers — seeing the LORD, high and lifted up.

Maybe in a year or years when a godly king is gone, the government is in turmoil, and you’re learning not to trust in man, or even yourself anymore.
But “God in us — God with us — Immanuel.”

“The holy seed is in it’s stump, “says the LORD to His prophet at the end of Isaiah 6.

Isaiah 6 sets the stage.
Isaiah 7 gives the promise of help, deliverance, and power. Immanuel.
Isaiah 8 shows the outcome of the scenario.

We don’t have 2000 years of church history — but 50 years repeated 40 times. Not 4000 years of Jewish history — but 50 years repeated 80 times.

God’s judgment comes upon the culture swiftly — so much so it will catch them unaware and add to the terror and tenor of the recompense, which will appear merciless, but it was chosen by them. They forgot God to serve themselves and their idols, and thus fell into the traps and clutches of the enemy.

Yet to those of the house of faith He writes? (Isaiah 8:16)

“Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.”

And the disciples respond, “I will wait for the LORD Who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; I will even look eagerly for Him.”

“Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, Who dwells on Mount Zion.”

“Immanuel” appearing first in Isaiah 7:14 and three times in Scriptures is a beautiful Name, a beautiful thought, and a beautiful reality. “God, the Mighty One, is with us.”

Merry Christmas!

“Immanuel” Article by Jeff Benner

Immanuel” Article by Paul Summer

Immanuel” Article by Jack Zavada

A Final Hallelujah

Of course this isn’t to be my final Hallelujah, as far as I know; but my final thoughts after a week of reflection, study, and mediation on the poem and melody of Leonard Cohen entitled simply and profoundly, Hallelujah.

Of note to me, the song is going round and round in my head in this Christmas season 2019. I’m not sure why? But it gives me joy, peace, pause, and wonder.

I’ll share with you the best article I’ve found about the song, a 2015 Newsweek article by Zach Schonfeld. It’s insightful though written primarily about the song’s musical attributes and its popularity, from a secular point of view.

Schonfeld notes, “The album on which it appeared, the murky, mid-career Various Positions, had been rejected wholesale by Columbia Records in the U.S., and when it finally was released, “the song was still generally ignored,” as Alan Light notes in his 2012 book The Holy or The Broken.

The Holy or the Broken? That’s an insightful title for a book about the song. It’s also telling that the album on which it first appeared was entitled “Various Positions” isn’t it? Since he’s Jewish, to begin with, and the song, albeit quite short, addresses simply and profoundly the issues of God, the Bible, human sexuality, the philosophy of life and one’s earth journey, admissions of struggle and failures, and yet seems to somehow point to God as the answer from start to finish. Purposely it would seem, and honestly, in a mysterious and understated way. And people definitely have “various positions” on these issues— he did apparently.

Light would go on to say, “John Cale and Jeff Buckley, then dozens and hundreds of others lifted the song out of obscurity” but it is “something more mysterious that cemented its status as a modern standard, appearing on American Idol and in synagogue services in equal measure. It has become ubiquitous. Tallying versions by Cohen and plenty of others, Light estimates “Hallelujah” has been listened to hundreds of millions of times on YouTube alone.

The Newsweek article goes on to list “60 notable recordings of it that are readily available online and ranking them from worst to best.” 🙂 Feel free. For our purposes here I’m going to list and link my two favorites at the bottom, then one in Cohen’s own voice, as well as the lyrics he settled on and a few quotes that reflect on the man.

Etymology of Hallelujah

It doesn’t seem right to leave the song without a good look at the meaning of its famous title and course. It’s a Hebrew word lifted directly from that ancient language and dropped into English, simply transliterated as “praise the LORD.”

Wikipedia adds, “In the Hebrew Bible hallelujah is actually a two-word phrase, not one word. The first part, hallelu, is the second-person imperative masculine plural form of the Hebrew verb hillel. However, “hallelujah” means more than simply “praise Jah” or “praise Yah”, as the word hallel in Hebrew means a joyous praise in song, to boast in God.

In Psalm 148:1 the Hebrew says “הללו יה halelu yah”. It then says “halelu eth-YHWH” as if using “yah” and “YHWH” interchangeably. The word “Yah” appears by itself as a divine name in poetry about 49 times in the Hebrew Bible (including halelu yah), such as in Psalm 68:4–5 “who rides upon the skies by his name Yah” and Exodus 15:2 “Yah is my strength and song”. It also often appears at the end of Israelite theophoric names such as Isaiah “yeshayah(u), Yahweh is salvation” and Jeremiah “yirmeyah(u), Yahweh is exalted”. The word hallelujah occurring in the Psalms is therefore a request for a congregation to join in praise toward God. It can be translated as “Praise Yah” or “Praise Jah, you people”.

With Cohen’s Hebrew roots and his love for poetry, there can be no doubt the word was well understood and meaningfully used with sincere intentionality. When it’s sung and heard, it seems all creation and the Creator pause with a heart smile to take note. The best is yet to be.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6)

Hallelujah הללויה

Hallelujah – Pentatonix
Regina Spektor
Leonard Cohen
Hallelujah Lyrics

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”

Leonard Cohen

“Hallelujah” Summary

Oddly, the summary I’m going to share is from the notes I wrote in one sitting after reading the lyrics before beginning all the meditation.

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen is:
A hauntingly beautiful melody
Introducing
A true confession.
A humble confession.
To all mankind
From a fellow, broken pilgrim
About a hidden God.

Whose love is an
Open Secret.

Too holy and too precious to
Be passed flippantly around.
But for the hungry, humble heart
There to be found.

All of this
Given by the God of Grace
To His broken vessel.

It’s the only kind He has.
…But he who falls on this Rock
Will be broken. (Matt 21:44)

Cohen seemed to struggle by himself…
To know the Maker, Creator,
Sustainer of All.

All the verses from Cohen’s
Cutting room floor (80 or more)
Would bear this out.

A struggle largely unfulfilled
But grasped at
To find the One Who
Put eternity in our hearts.

Love is not a victory march,
Rather it’s hard fought.

Perhaps a priest at the end?
A Cohen at last?

Like Sampson fulfilling the purposes
Of God for his life,
After a mighty struggle marked with
Many failings.

His song leaves us to decide if it is a
Holy or Broken Hallelujah?
And also to ponder the difference .

With a victorious note at the end
He acknowledges the futility of
Being one’s own king.

The many heartbreaks, disillusions,
And disappointments of a life
Without faith.

Yet one senses at the end
A possible “Return of the Prodigal” (Luke 15:11)
Or at least an acknowledgment
Of a glimmer of faith
In the Father, the Name, the beautiful Light —

The Lord of Song

Hallelujah

The Star of Bethlehem by Rick Larson
Cloverton’s Christmas Hallelujah
Hallelujah – Pentatonix

Hallelujah Christmas

Part One of Two

The Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah” has really captured me for some reason in this Christmas season 2019. I’ve read about it and listened to several versions, my current favorite by Pentatonix, but including the Christmas version by Cloverton. I’ve printed the lyrics, meditated on them, and journaled about what I’ve seen for several days.

It seems it may be related to the verse we used on our Christmas cards this year, Isaiah 9:2. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”

Seems like I’ve been led to focus more on the broken hallelujah, and a house swept clean? How did we get where we are? Do we stay here? Or journey on in His love, power, presence, and grace? Celebrating Christ and Christmas? Immanuel? God with us?

On the same day I journaled those thoughts, December 10, I also journaled this quote from Bob Goff from his devotional calendar.

“Following Jesus is about having your paradigms shift as you navigate a wide range of emotions while living the big life Jesus invites us into.”

These thoughts seem like a fitting prelude or introduction to:

Hallelujah

(Song & Lyrics by Leonard Cohen 1934-2016)

I really see this song as a modern day parable or poem set to hauntingly-beautiful music that affects the human spirit immediately and demands attention — then politely gives the hearer the opportunity to hear no more if they wish. “But you don’t really care for music do you?”

Still it invites and draws the hearer immediately onward into a room of questions about life’s meaning with its successes and failures. Also the activity of the Holy with the continuing questions that arise from all of this.

Then follows the beautiful, one-word course so prevalent in King David’s collections of songs, “Hallelujah.”

The story gets stronger in the second verse as Cohen struggles with faith and reason— the supernatural meets the natural — the material meets the Eternal.

Immediately follows sexual temptation and seduction; the giving away of one ’s strength, destiny, and calling for one of this worlds’s greatest natural pleasures — but not according to God’s plan or ways. And the admission of this failure.

Here, one surely sees this is personal. This is autobiographical. This is too close, too intimate, too heartfelt not to be. We all feel it. We all know it. We all have experienced it in some shape form or fashion, with the sense of failure it brings. The sense of loss. The sense of shame.

What else touches us so deeply and personally in our earth journey as our sexuality? Common and mysterious as it is.

Then comes and follows immediately the hauntingly beautiful refrain; the one word course in Hebrew…”Hallelujah… Hallelujah”… Soft… Sweet… Soothing… Truthful… Honest… Real.

A word lifted unchanged from the ancient Hebrew language and placed into almost every language of the world; unaltered. A word not threatening, not objectionable, but soothing, peaceful, true. It seems easy on the lips, the ears, the heart — something our spirits find whole, good, true — even transcendent, and readily acceptable.

The third verse takes us back to life on earth. There comes more accusations from the enemy of our souls and those he influences and controls. And the human need we feel to defend ourselves, if we’re living in our own strength and not trusting God for our defense, our deliverance, our salvation.

But didn’t Cohen capture how we feel? And in so few words? If we’re honest and vulnerable about it. Like he is.

“You say I took the name in vain, I don’t even know the name, but if I did, well, really—what’s it to you?”

In this humble, honest confession we can all empathize. We don’t really know Him like we’d like to. And can He be known really? It’s personal—very personal. So “what’s it to you?”

Yet one senses Cohen has known the Name in some measure, and that has affected him deeply. His brilliant, deep-cutting insights into David and Sampson betray that fact, as does his next words in verse three.

“There is a blaze of light in and every word, it doesn’t matter what you’ve heard, the holy or the broken hallelujah.”

Ah ha! There it is. Did you catch it? “The holy or the broken hallelujah.”

There may be two kinds of hallelujah? But I think really only one, as far as humans are concerned. The broken variety. Or, if you can see it, by his power and demonstrated goodwill in sending Jesus and the Holy Spirit, a broken hallelujah restored, and set apart, which is the meaning of “holy.”.

But, “it doesn’t matter which you’ve heard” “the holy or the broken hallelujah,” “there’s a blaze of light in every word.” (John 1)

I want to pause here a moment to consider the broken. Because CR (Celebrate Recovery) comes to mind as the clearest picture of this “broken hallelujah” in my realm today, and thus far in my human journey, and I believe in the community of faith called the church.

A broken vessel is required really to let the light in; and then once it’s held within to let the blaze of light out. To be seen by others, beckoning them to come to the Light and experience the Light for themselves.

So we’re challenged to recall our knowledge of the Holy or our ignorance of the Same, and give credence to the Light we’ve seen in creation, the Word, or others around us. However it has been observed, “it doesn’t matter which you heard. The holy or the broken hallelujah.”

That soothing, that real, that transcendent hallelujah comes softly in the refrain. “Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.”

… To Be Continued…

The Star of Bethlehem by Rick Larson
Cloverton’s Christmas Hallelujah
Hallelujah – Pentatonix

Book Club 2020

Along with four good men and good friends, we’re starting a book club for the new year. Its main purpose is to meet initially twice a month and share lives while encouraging each other in our own spiritual lives to seek the Lord.

The name 2020 is two fold in its meaning. Of course it’s the Year of Our Lord 2020 A.D. And it’s about vision, 20/20, seeing things clearly, from God’s perspective, as He shares with us, in and about our day and times.

We’ve begun our introductory meetings and an introductory book this month to get established. And I’ll include an ever-expanding list of books that have come to our attention as possible good reads below.

While good books will serve as a catalyst for discussion and vision, the main purpose of our group is friendship, listening, speaking and praying into one another’s lives. May I humbly suggest you find a few friends, and do something similar this year, and soon.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Pursuit of God

Beautiful Outlaw

The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming

Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness

Holy Sexuality and the Gospel

Waking the Dead

Fearless

Out of a Far Country

The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings

Scattered Servants: Unleashing the Church

Hell: A Final Word

Grace Works

In the media arena let me also list a few videos or movies we might consider watching together soon.

The Star of Bethlehem

Hell And Mr. Fudge

Patterns of Evidence: Exodus


Finishing Strong…Like a Child

Finishing Strong!

As I’ve entered the so-called retirement years, this phrase has come to me several times, and at times has become my mantra for trying to plan or order my life, especially spiritually, which is to me the most important, meaningful, and rewarding field of endeavor. “Finishing well” is another phrase  I’ve heard kicked around by my peers trying to express the same goal or thought. 

Canoeing the Buffalo River with Friends Spring 2019

In one sense it sounds right. And I’m sure there is some merit to it, in the sense of focus. One must stay focused on the most important target if he or she is to have any chance of hitting it.

But even the phrases “finishing strong” or “finishing well” seem for me today in some early morning moments of clarity to bely pride in me. Like I can do something significant for the Lord, or that He needs me.

Let’s be clear, and honest. He doesn’t.

Now He may want something from us, or enjoy it when we are walking in truth and healthy relationships. We’ll perhaps get to that later or another time. But He doesn’t need us. He tells us many times in Scripture He’s quite Self sufficient, Other from His creation and created beings, Whole and happy and content within Himself.

Several verses of Scripture and thoughts flood my mind to support those thoughts. But at the top of the list is Isaiah 66:1-2. 

Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:1–2, NKJV)

These are among the last words recorded of Isaiah, perhaps the greatest Hebrew prophet, certainly the greatest writing prophet. From the last chapter of his amazing book and life in a rather dark time for Israel and Judah, 700 years before Christ and the New Testament. It was a time of idolatry, spiritual blindness and apostasy in God’s people. It was a time marked by unhealthy relationships with their God and with each other. Sound familiar or pertinent?

Sure it does! If you have any spiritual sight or senses left. If you compare the mores of our culture to those that please the Creator from His Word and those of the USA today. It’s cause for alarm, and perhaps panic, if you have any sense from human history of what follows when this situation exists in a nation or among nations.

The American way, the humanistic way, is to start trying to fix it! Let’s analyze how we got here, or maybe just analyze the problems and tackle them until we fix them. It sounds so right, and it’s who we are and what we do, isn’t it?

But this trait can also show us who we’ve become. Man trying to be like God, or believing he is like God? This is a simple definition of secular humanism, perhaps the oldest religion, originating in the garden. 

“… in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”” (Genesis 3:5, NKJV)

Humanism is subtle and it is a part of who we are from creation. God’s people are to be humans but not secular humanist, saying “We have no need of Him,” or like a two year old, “I can do it by myself!” These are lies; substantiated in the Bible and in human history. We do need Him. It was and is always a part of His plan for us. To come to some maturity, yes, but to always need Him, trust Him, and be in relationship with Him.

We are created in His image, but we are not like Him. He is totally Other. He’s the God of all He created and we are not.

One of my favorite and most important spiritual mentors, Charles Simpson, recently said,  “They tell us now there are about one hundred billion galaxies, containing about one hundred billion stars each. I don’t know who counted them? And isn’t it like human beings, we discover something, and we act like we made it. “ Telling isn’t it?

I also had the privilege and honor of visiting with Charles for a couple days recently with three other brothers, for friendship, fellowship, and spiritual counsel. In a private time with him, I mentioned this thought of “finishing strong.” He quickly said something like, “I’ve never preached a sermon on it or thought much about it.” That’s telling. About me.

And it brings me back to how I should be living, and my focus, in this chapter and maybe all chapters of my life? Not like I have to fix big cultural or church problems, or do something significant for God?

Compare the lie giving birth to secular humanism in the garden to what David said in the Psalms. 

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me.” (Psalm 131:1–2, NASB95)

This was “a man after God’s own heart” who “accomplished God’s purposes in his generation.” He was also Israel’s greatest king, save One.

And that King, would say that becoming like a little child would be very important. Little children are very trusting, and learning, and humble, and know they have needs. They also know the relationship with the people who gave them life and care for them is precious and most important.  So then, the way up appears down. Perhaps living life and seeing life from the height of a bended knee? Or like a little child?

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1–4, NASB95)

To be continued…

I think I’ll go outside and play!


Honduras 2019

I just returned from a week long trip to Honduras, Jan 16-23, with friends from Louisiana, Colorado, and California. There were eleven of us, 7 men and 4 women. The bulk of the team and it’s leadership was from the West Monroe, Louisiana, area. Our intentions were to teach a group of 20-30 village pastors from the surrounding mountains from the Bible and a book, “The School of Obedience,” by Andrew Murray, as requested by their pastor and leader, Dairo Deluca, in a two day conference at a remote mission house in the mountains. We also came to preach the gospel, pray for the sick, visit a prison to share the Gospel and distribute some needed supplies, then visit two villages with preaching, teaching, prayer, music, large boxes of food for families, and toys for the children.

It was a very enjoyable, successful, rewarding trip on many fronts. Unexpectedly in degree, because I’ve been to Honduras seven times now in the past five years, and five times with this team. I can’t really put my finger on the reason, but these trips seem to get more and more special and intriguing.

I continue to be amazed and impressed with what God is doing in this country and with these people. The people impress me too, with their humility, hospitality, transparency, and simple joy in living.

Honduras is in Central America about a three hour flight south from Houston. It’ s the second largest country in CA, slightly larger than Tennessee, beautiful, mostly mountainous, with both a Caribbean and Pacific coast. According to Operation World, Honduras is “one of the Western hemisphere’s poorest countries,” with “widespread unemployment, low wages, and long lasting devastation from  Hurricane Mitch (1998)”… making it a country of great need.“ Thirty-seven percent of the population is under fifteen years old.” So there are lots of needs and opportunities to serve children in Honduras.

Operation World further reports that “Honduras has experienced five decades of evangelical growth. In 1960, evangelicals numbered 32,000 and were 1.7% of the population. They are now 1,750,000 and 23%, and growth shows little sign of stopping. Some polls show that up to 36% of the population identify with evangelical beliefs.” Local pastor Dario tells us more recent statistics show the number to be 45%. These statistics make me believe God’s heart and ear is turned to the people there, and the people are responding.

This infusion of truth from the Gospel and the resultant teaching of truth from the Bible, along with God’s love,  will transform this country, as it will any country and has historically, from the inside out.

The attractive lady sitting next to me on the airplane on the trip down was from Austin, TX, and had been to Honduras several times. She was traveling alone this time to spend two weeks at an orphanage where her purpose was to “refresh the workers, and love on the kids.” There were also several small groups on the plane wearing Christian t-shirts coming to serve. This has been the case every time I’ve come here. Maybe you’ve not heard about this on CNN. 🙂

Each year this group breaks up the long van ride back to the airport by stopping for rest and reflection for the night at the seaside city of Tela. Besides swimming, walking the beach, reading with the sounds of the surf, and enjoying some good food; the team meets and shares with each other their defining moment or moments of the trip. Let me end this post by sharing mine from my journal. Other reflections will follow in future blogs, I’m sure.

“The first thing that comes to mind is the twilight at Los Enquentros two nights ago. A sizable group of women walking down the road with heavy boxes of rice on their heads. I know that may sound strange for a defining moment but it just hit me: [1] The beauty of it [2] How other worldly it seemed and surreal [3] How happy they were with the gifts and to see their children happy and amused with toys [4] The joyful children [5] The curious attention they all paid to Mario while he preached his heart out minutes earlier [6] No idea what their thoughts were? [7] But we were in a village in the mountains of Honduras, preaching the gospel, praying for the sick, feeding the poor, loving on children and their parents [8] Are you kidding me? [9] Topped off by six boxes of rice being tossed back in Dario’s truck as we drove away with six grown women running like school girls, laughing and climbing in the back of the moving pickup with three men from the US — a truck that died on the bridge, then twice more in a short distance, before stopping to let them out as they unloaded the rice themselves before we could help — in front of their homes on the main gravel road, in the early evening darkness, right in front of two soldiers in starched fatigues with automatic rifles standing in the middle of the road. You can’t make this stuff up! The end.”

“The need, the joy, the love, the strangeness of the encounters, the leading and provision of the Lord. How the Spirit had us each doing our own thing but completely a team — comfortable and glad to serve and depend on each other. 🙂 How beautifully peaceful it all seemed. The end, again.”

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“How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They feast on the abundance of Your house; you give them drink from Your river of delights.” Psalms 36:7-8

Christmas 2018

Christmas is here! I have resisted the urge to blog or write about advent and simply read, meditate, and enjoy this season and its Reason the last month of 2018.

I wrote early this morning in front of our fire, with all our kids home in their beds, “Thank You Lord for this nice place to gather, and for Your indescribable Gift — becoming human, to dwell with us…

In accordance with the Word of the LORD given through the prophet Isaiah and other prophets:

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:5)

“For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you.” (Isaiah 60:2)

“… land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali …, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.” (Isaiah 9:1–2)

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6–7)

“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, ….” (Isaiah 11:1)

““Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

“… which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”(Matthew 1:23)

You can’t say it better or more succinctly than that! Scriptures about the Blessed One — given 2700 years ago and lived out 2000 years ago. God is a faithful King. Amen. אמן”

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Time to add a few photos of our new home, with a Christmas poem I was inspired to write a few Christmases ago, then join the family to enjoy this moment in a quiet and relational way, as it began on that humble day. Noel.

Twice a King

In Bethlehem twenty centuries ago
A young boy was born and began to grow
He worked in Dad’s shop and built wooden things
He, nonetheless, was, the King of all Kings.

He now sits by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth
And remembers a time, when the Spirit of God
Was sent to give Him birth.

Into a life He hadn’t known
A life of joy and pain He was thrown
A life quite low, for a Being so high
Yet He bowed to His Father, and went without sigh.

He helped people daily
He healed many lives
By many men worshipped
By many despised
Now see what is written! What is said He did do!
Remember His living — He was king then too.

He’s coming again in unspeakable power
As a time is reckoned, we’re close to the hour
The whole earth will witness this most righteous King!
Rulers will bow, angels will sing
Tongue nor pen can describe what we’ll do
Now worship the Christ Child, He was King then too.

Within the vast expanse of space
Sits a resplendent, most beautiful place
Home of great beings, powerful and bright
Its Sovereign sits clothed with all glory and might.

He is creator; sustainer of all!
He’s worthy! He’s worthy! “
Around Him they call!
Angels and angels, their numbers a hoard
Fall before Him Who’s rightly adored.

Bethlehem Judea; a destiny for who?
Worship the Christ Child; He was King then too!

Dwayne Bell 2003
Based on Micah 5, Isaiah 6 & 9, Rev 5
[In a moment when a heart was warmed and spiritual eyes were open. Amen אמן ]

Awaken The Dawn

I was awakened before dawn this morning, to read, journal, listen, and meditate on what the Lord might be doing and saying, especially to me personally. There is a lot swirling around in our realm at the moment. 

We sold our home yesterday, so we’re homeless for the first time in many years. But we’re scheduled to close on a home in Northwest Arkansas later today. And we’re building a cabin at a different location. So life for us has gone in the last couple months from a great deal of peace to considerable chaos. Yet we’re feeling led to make all these changes, and experiencing considerable peace in the storm, praise be to God for His nearness and leading. 

But my reason for blogging early this morning is not about us. It’s about my friend Jeff, who has a lot going on in his realm this weekend too! He’s a good man and a good friend who’s helped me a number of times in natural matters and spiritual ones. I’ll share a couple things he shared with me recently that will give you an idea of where his heart and mind are. “The Bible tells us a couple of amazing things about faith: [1] It pleases God, and [2] It moves mountains.” He also said at breakfast recently, “Most of the problems in our country would be solved if Christians just read their Bibles every day.” All of this struck me as profound, and true.

I’m late to this fight, with all that’s going on around me, but I want to ask you to help this brother in two ways, right now. Pray for him and his wife in these two initiatives I’m about to share, both of which are going on this weekend. Then make these things known to your friends, and do anything you feel led to do.

Awaken the Dawn is a national movement of simultaneous worship and prayer for our nation in all fifty state capitols and many college campuses. Jeff and his wife are the Arkansas state coordinators. It’s happening in Little Rock and across the land even now. Please pray for their mission and purposes to be blessed by God, and pray to God for our nation.

Besides owning and operating a small business in NWA, Carter’s AV, and being involved in their church, missions, and other kingdom activities, Jeff and his wife are film makers! They have produced a documentary film about Dogpatch USA, the theme park located near Harrison and Jasper Arkansas that was in operation for several years and may have touched your lives if you’re in our five state region. It’s opening this weekend in theaters across the country. Click here if you’re interested in seeing where it’s showing, and please tell others. Thanks!

May God bless you Jeff, your family, your friends, and whatever you put your hand to do. Godspeed on your weekend, and your life’s journey.

Time & Tide

Twenty-four years ago yesterday Mom Hogue was claimed by her King and it seems like a fortnight ago… a vapor, a wisp of time. Yet the separation seems long? Odd — time is odd.

And time is moving on — steadily and swiftly. But it seems to do so only when you think about it.

“Time and tide wait for no man,” says the ancient proverb attributed to Chaucer, but known to predate the English language. The proverb seems to say, “Make your decision today; don’t delay.” Time nor tide waits for a man. Carpe Diem! Seize the day. “Time and tide…,” has been on my mind for a few days now.

What is it with this quirky medium “time?” “Like sands through the hour glass; so are the days of our lives,” goes the soap opera jingle from days past. This seems truthful, but rings fatalistic as well? Contemplating time is like contemplating the meaning of life, and is intriguing, is it not?

Sand through an hour glass is a reasonably good analogy of time and our lives. You can’t stop them nor affect their speed.They flow constantly and at a predetermined speed until they are all fallen — their dance with physics and their race complete.

You can easily ignore this time passage, constant and rhythmic as it is, and constantly squander time. Or you can be aware of life’s brevity and end — and seize the day. Be more purposeful in how you spend your days and your life.

It seems the second option is more challenging and maybe more rewarding. To seize the day is to face the reality that life is short and death is certain. And to value the gift of life with it’s allotted duration and opportunities.

The Bible says more than a few insightful things about time and the gift of life — including the best way to steward it, view it, and approach it. It would behoove us all to search those things out.

My personal philosophy of time lately can be summed up in the short phrase, “Only two days are important; today and that day.” This seems especially clear  when you’re likely in the last three or four, five-year chapters of your life.

Twenty-four years ago yesterday in a special moment of time, it seemed the Lord gave me some clarity of vision and inspiration about the issues involved, and I wrote the following poem, while my wife’s mother entered the next dimension of time. I pray it’s insightful and enriching in some way for you.

August 31

August thirty-one, under a warm delta sun,
Small clouds moving with a gentle breeze,
That’s what my natural eye sees.

People in this small delta town are scurrying ‘round.
Some are fast… some are slow.
It seems so purposeless though.

Mom lies still in ICU while medical folk do all they can do.
She’s peaceful now, the end seems near.
She’s constantly attended by those she holds dear.

It’s a helpless feeling to the natural mind,
To see her breathing in labored strife;
To ponder the meaning of this earth life.

Scary, confusing, this can be,
The Preacher has called it “vanity”.
There’s a feeling too, I cannot chide,
It’s a deep, deep peace I feel inside.

Like Elisha’s servant, I gaze the skies,
This time I open my spiritual eyes.
I sense the King – His presence so near.
There is no panic, no pain, no fear.

She’s resting? Responding? Kind of asleep?
Things are subtly changing,
There’s an appointment to keep.
A big cloud appears – refreshing rain falls down.
It’s cooler, clearer now – pleasant all around.

Inside her room, on the second floor,
Things are changing – maybe more?
Feelings fragile, emotions strained,
This time’s a humbling and fearful thing.

But in these hours – peace has moved in.
There’s been humor, love, even some grins?

The King’s spirit of comfort invades all our parts.
Friends come and go, sharing love, heart to heart.

These events, while connected, are quite side by side,
The most significant thing –
The King comes for His bride!

If you do not know, His bride is the church.
Folks like us; He’s saved in a lurch.
Friends and believers, The King holds us quite dear,
Truth hard to believe, yet brings us much cheer.

Truth hard to swallow, it cuts like a knife.
He said it and proved it, as He laid down His life.

Back on the floor, distant thunder is heard.
Time seems to slow …
Has He uttered some word?

I sense His approach.
Is He distant or near?
Can’t really say?
But I know He is here.

Time moves quickly.
Time stands still.
Just what is happening?
No one can tell.

She calls to her daughters.
“Tell me you’re here.”
They do and she whispers,
“Home” in their ears.

She simply rests quietly,
As dusk turns to dark.
Outside the skies blaze,
As lightning does arc.
All o’r the horizon
With hardly a sound,
Lightning brightens heavens,
Never striking the ground.

Also no thunder?
What a power display!
Can’t help but think,
The King’s on His way.

It’s during this hour,
Our Momma has gone.
Embraced by her King,
Welcomed to His home.

With deep love, honor and respect for both Janie Hogue and Jesus “INRI”,              Dwayne Bell