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

One (Persecuted) Church

At our home group last Wednesday we paused our study of Hebrews at the end of chapter 11 to look at the persecuted church in our times. I invite you to do the same with me below. We began our discussion with the following little T/F self evaluation and reflection quiz.


  1. I know very little about the persecuted church in the world.   T   F
  2. I have prayed for a persecuted church or Christian personally.   T   F
  3. I can name 3 countries where Christians are persecuted.   T   F
  4. I send money to an organization who helps the persecuted.   T   F
  5. I know what the Bible tells me to do about the persecuted.   T   F
  6. I know what God would have me do for the persecuted.   T   F
  7. I am doing something to help the persecuted church.   T   F
  8. I know a story about a persecuted Christian that moves me.   T   F
  9. I don’t believe the persecuted church is relevant to my life.   T   F
  10. I would like to know more, and what I should be doing.   T   F
  11. I have at least one friend who talks about the persecuted.   T   F
  12. I have heard some teaching in church about the persecuted.   T   F
  13. I can name 2 organizations that help persecuted Christians.   T   F
  14. I want to know what I can do to help persecuted Christians.   T   F

 [WATCH THE FILM, A CRY FROM IRAN]

Personal Notes to jot down from the film after or as we watch:

(What stands out to you personally, or touches your heart?)
(What did you see that you had no idea about?)
(What did you feel, and what would you do if you and your family lived there?)

[Charles Simpson shared with me by email on February 29th, what he would want to get across to the church in our day about our persecuted brothers and sisters around the globe. Please consider his words with me.]

“Heb 13:3 tells us how to regard those who are prisoners for the gospel. In addition, one of Jesus’ ministries and means of judging our works was our involvement with those in prison ( I think that He was referring specifically to those unjustly persecuted.) Injustice is a cause that is on God’s heart.

What I want to highlight is our identification with our persecuted brothers and sisters. There is only One church. If one suffers we all do.

Persecuted Christians should awaken us all to the battle between good and evil and to our role in standing together. When we make the issues known it pleases God and rebukes the enemy!”

Links and Resources:

“Had the book of Hebrews been written in our time, he (Haik) would have been mentioned there.” Robbie Zacharias

A Cry From Iran Trailer
A Cry from Iran Website
Open Doors USA
Open Doors International
The Voice of the Martyrs 
The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken
The Insanity of Obedience by Nik Ripken
The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun
A Story from Libya

You can search the web for other ways to help, and ask the Spirit to direct you to your place on the wall in support of other believers worldwide, many who are persecuted for their faith in Christ.

“Considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:26)

“And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it.” (Matthew 11:12)

“Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.” (Hebrews 13:3)

Can You Take It With You?

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Kevin with some special youth

People are important to God as demonstrated by The Cross. And people that come to know Christ are immortal. With regard to what we  obtain in life, it’s been said, “You can’t take it with you.”  While that’s true of things, you can take with you those you bring to Christ, and the acts of service and kindness to His sons and daughters,  who also have eternal life.

IMG_5153Last year on this same XMA-led trip to Honduras, after prison ministry during the day we were taken to a Celebrate Recovery meeting that night in an Olanchito church. Unexpectedly at the end of the meeting I looked across the room at a beautiful, teenage girl and the Lord almost instantly gave me a word for her!?  I approached the group leader and asked if I might speak the word to the girl and pray for her. She nodded and summoned our group’s  interrupter who was standing nearby. The three of them listened and the word went like this, “You’re a beautiful girl, with good character, and a big, deep heart. But there is a deep sadness in you that is destructive to your future. The Lord wants to heal you and take that sadness away, perhaps little by little, and He wants to be your Father.” Then I prayed a blessing on her and that the Lord would bring His words and purposes to pass for her life. She stood, hugged me, then stood back with big crocodile tears running down her face, and looked deep in my eyes and I into hers for several seconds. Then we smiled at each other and nodded understandingly, turned and left the building. I felt our hearts were joined forever over that moment and that word. Yet I didn’t know if we would meet again on this side of eternity?

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Our Mission Home in the Mountains of Honduras

A couple days later I met her older brother, a keyboard player and worship leader, who told me their father had been murdered a few years earlier, and that his sister was going through a very tough time. He implored me to pray for his sister, which I agreed to do. Being very touched with their close sibling relationship and their plight, I prayed for them both over the next year. Among other things, I prayed God would bring a good stepdad to care for them.

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Roadside Orange Stand

I didn’t know for sure if I would go again to Honduras this year until the last moment, but felt a strong leading to go and committed just days before the trip began. When leaving the house I saw an unused iPod and iPhone on my desk and felt the Spirit said to take them to the kids as a gift, the phone for the girl and iPod for her brother. If indeed I should even see them again I thought to myself? I’ve been on ten or more short term mission trips and things like this aren’t usually done and are discouraged for obvious reasons. I’ve never done it before. But I didn’t want to reason away what I was pretty sure I’d heard, and determined to follow the Spirit’s leading if He unfolded the circumstances.

Just when it looked as if there wasn’t going to be a chance to meet these siblings the Lord brought the opportunity in an instant during lunch at the pastor’s conference. Before going to lunch, I noticed the items in my suitcase and counseled with a brother on our team who had been to Honduras many times and had a good report with these teens, about the appropriateness of these gifts. His counsel was, if the Lord told you to do it, do it. Just give them in as much privacy as possible and perhaps ask that they not make it widely known. It was counsel that seemed right to me. At lunch, I sat at another table with some leaders and new friends, but toward the end of mealtime noticed that Tim was sitting with the siblings directly behind me. I recognized this as the Lord’s timing, excused myself from my table, and joined them for a very precious and mostly private time of sharing about their lives. With the older brother translating for me and also joining in the conversation, I learned that their mom had remarried a dentist. I asked if he was a good dad to them, and both said yes, with them adding, “He’s very honoring of our mom, and he takes good care of us.” I inwardly paused and silently gave much glory and heart felt thanks to God. 🙂 For answered prayer, for His care for the fatherless, and for His faithfulness to his word. There was talk about a boyfriend, some joking but serious counsel about going slowly in relationships, as I supported her brother’s counsel to her, and added that she was most beautiful and loved. I reminded her that this year I still see a little sadness in those beautiful eyes, but only a fraction of what I saw last year. And I reminded her that the Lord was in the process of taking it all away. She smiled with her big, silent smile that could light up a room, and certainly lights up my heart.

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Kerlin, Dwayne & Alexa

Only God can give a person the opportunity to have a meaningful relationship with teens from another culture and country in two chance meetings during two chance years.! To love and encourage a kingdom son and daughter like that is a privilege and to be invited into their lives is priceless. They are the future of the kingdom of God in Honduras, and the future of Honduras.

Oh yes, the gifts? After our thirty-minute, precious conversation and sharing our lives, and the goodness and faithfulness of God, I told the brother, “I have a couple small gifts for you and your sister. God likes to give good gifts to His children. I felt like He prompted me to bring these to you and your sister. Can you follow me over to the mission house? I’d like to give them to you in private so it doesn’t cause any problems with others.” He smiled in agreement understandingly. I told him as I handed them to him in a clear ziplock bag, that I had in mind for his sister to get the phone and he the iPod, but I knew they were close and could share or do as they wished. It was like he didn’t even hear what I said as his eyes got big and he exclaimed, “My sister has been praying for an iPhone for six months! She will be sooo happy!” “And I and my friends on the worship team can use the iPod to learn songs and help with worship!” “Do you want to give it to her?!” he said excitedly. “Well,” I replied, “I think I’ll just let you give it to her to avoid any attention.” He nodded, but I could tell he didn’t like my idea too much and wanted me to give it to her. So I said, “OK, let’s go. I’ll give it to her.” He motioned her over some distance from the others, and I gave it to her. I don’t even remember what I said, but I was trying to be discreet and quick. She saw it and let out a little scream in excitement, then bounded to me and hugged my neck tight. Suddenly, nothing else mattered. God, you are good. And you love to give good gifts to your children. Sometimes I forget.

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Our Team & Friends – Farewell Meal

This was just one of many, many meaningful and touching moments during our week in Honduras, but one that was deeply meaningful and personal for me. God reminded me of the importance of “living loved.” Sometimes we can feel how much He loves others when we cannot feel how much He loves us. That kind of love is stilling and reorienting. That’s seeing His big heart for people, for all people, again. It’s reconnecting with your creator, and your Heavenly Father. 🙂

Special Moments Honduras 2016

IMG_5175January 5-13 I went along with five friends on a spiritual adventure to Olanchito, Honduras. It was my third mission trip to Honduras in the past two years, and the second with XMA (Extreme Missionary Adventures), a para-church ministry facilitating and leading small groups on short term mission trips to countries around the globe.

IMG_5109But the story I witnessed started many years before.

Once upon a time there was a little boy growing up in and around Olanchito, Honduras. His dad was a gifted cattle man and business man who rose to oversee a huge ranch and cattle operation in the area. The boy would in time come to oversee security at the American Embassy in Honduras, a very responsible, respectable, and good paying job.

IMG_5073In time he would come to know Jesus as Christ and King. Later he would feel the desire and call to leave that job and make Christ known to the people in the mountains around his boyhood home of Olanchito. His beautiful and charming wife said, “Why don’t you do that without me.” 🙂 But soon she joined him. For twenty years he labored to that end and prayed for the Lord to send help. Then, sixteen years ago, through chance meetings, relationships and friendships; mission teams from The States started going several times each year, mostly led by XMA, to work with Pastor Dario, and his vision is in full swing with no signs of abating.

IMG_4870On a long 4-wheel drive truck ride to a remote mountain village, I had the joy of sitting in the front seat with Dario and hearing some of his story as I queried him. Our ride was going to take us 3 hours, farther and higher into the mountains than I’d ever been. The village chief (also now the pastor) and his wife sat in the back seat, while others we would drop along the way filled the back of the pickup. They had traveled to the pastor’s conference by foot, and we were taking some of them home, as well as checking on the ministry and church in the village of La Bassa. They conversed with Dario in Spanish about their lives and ministry, punctuated with laughter and smiles. I enjoyed it even though I understood very little. It was a happy and peaceful time.

IMG_4880When there was a period of quiet and looking at the beauty of the steep mountains amid carving rivers, I took the opportunity to ask some counsel from Dario for some friends in my city who are considering starting an orphanage in Honduras. After hearing his sage and heart-felt counsel, I asked him about his personal and ministry journey. With a heart of peace, joy, and gratitude he told me he oversees twenty-seven pastors and churches now in the mountains around Olanchito, in addition to pastoring his own congregation in Olanchito, a city of about 80,000 inhabitants.

IMG_4891I was about to see one of those remote villages myself. We turned off the main road, stopped to lock the hubs and put our two 4×4 pickups, still packed with people, in four-wheel-drive low-range, for the forty-five minute steep, winding plunge into the valley floor where the village lay. I grew up in the highest parts of the Ozark Mountains, driving jeeps and 4×4 pickups as a boy and young man. This was a joyful and peaceful experience for me, albeit impressive! The rest of our six-man team was from flat Louisiana and some told me later they weren’t experiencing the same emotions on our descent. 🙂

About ten minutes from the village, with its thatched and tin roofs in sight from time to time, our lead truck came to a stop. The doors opened, and I was about to have one of the most surprising and meaningful moments of my trip.

IMG_4900During the week, sitting around the dinner table of the mission house we had heard bits and pieces of a story about a man named Larry on a short term mission trip years earlier, hiking six hours into a village for ministry who had experienced a sudden, fatal heart attack. Our second truck pulled in behind us and stopped. I looked at Dario momentarily and he softly said, “We always stop here.” I then noticed off the road up the hill a metal cross with flowers inside a little fenced and well-cared-for plot of ground. It hit me all of a sudden, this is the village and this was the spot where Larry entered eternity. The village chief opened the wire-gap gate and stood back looking at the cross. All was peaceful and quiet in the trucks and with our team who had gotten out by now to see what was going on. After a time, I asked Kevin “Do you want to go up there with me and pray?” He nodded and the two of us stepped through the wire gate up to the cross, knelt on the freshly cut grass and prayed that the Lord would honor Larry’s sacrifice and care for his widow, children, and their descendants forever. We prayed the kingdom work in this village he cared for would flourish as well. It was a somber, sacred moment for us all as we pondered sacrifice and eternity in our own ways.

After hearing earlier that someone had died on one of these short term mission trips and getting over the initial shock of it, a thought occurred to me that I shared  with the others as they nodded their agreement. “What a way to go! Serving the Lord one second — seeing Him face to face the next!”

As it turned out Larry had been to this village twice and developed a friendship bond with the chief. Until the time of Larry’s home going, the chief had a still in the area and sold alcohol to the villagers. Being touched by Larry’s sacrifice and death, the chief was moved to destroy his still and change his ways, eventually becoming a Christian and the pastor of the village church.

Pastor Dario had also told me on the steep descent into the deep valley that when he first came to the villages here he found seventeen people living in a one room hut with a dirt floor. Each burrowed out his or her sleeping place in the soil. Pastors, wives and missionaries also educated village households to stop spitting on their dirt floors, as it transmitted sickness, and other hygiene education. Some villagers he told me were still squatting in place for meals and using unwashed hands to eat food from their bowls instead of utensils. He smiled pleased at the quality of life and health changes he’d seen in the villages as well as moral and social changes due to the gospel.

IMG_4917None of us knew what was in store for us that day, but after a little milling around and looking at the village surrounded by smiling children with eager eyes, we were invited to the newest and most beautiful building in the village. It was a concrete block and metal roofed church completed two years ago by volunteer groups from The States and the villagers. A gentle wind blew simple scarlet and gold curtains filing the open air windows as children lined the stage and began to sing worship songs to Jesus accompanied by a man with a guitar and at the direction of the village chief playing a well-worn accordion. What an incredible, beautiful site!IMG_4943

 

Our team was introduced one by one to the applause of the villagers. Then one of our number, Tim, gave a short testimony and message from the Bible with Pastor Dario translating. An invitation was given and the team prayed for the sick and those coming with spiritual needs. The peaceful and joyful service completed, we were invited to the chief’s home for a dinner of rice, beans, and chicken  prepared and served by his wife and daughter. Following the meal we enjoyed a hot cup of home grown and roasted coffee before heading outside to goodbye hugs, waves, and our trucks.

IMG_4931The sunshine had disappeared with wind and clouds threatening imminent rain showers which could render our accent back up the mountains treacherous if not halted. So we quickly got underway and made the thirty minute plus climb to the main road just as the showers began. Driving back to the mission compound, and then to church in the city that night, our hearts were full of joy and wonder at what God had done in that village with those people, allowing us to see it and be a small part of their community.

“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)

“And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;” (Revelation 14:6)

 “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9)

 

Honduras 2016

IMG_5105During mid-January I went with a six-man team from Louisiana on a short-term mission trip to the mountains around Olanchito, Honduras. Some on our team have a long-term relationship with a local pastor there, as does our mission-facilitating organization XMA (Extreme Missionary Adventures).

IMG_4530Let me stop and give a shout out to XMA for their service and value to the Kingdom of God, especially the world of short-term missions! In their short history they have developed relationships with indigenous church leaders, pastors, and missionaries around the globe. I’ve seen this wonderful association myself and benefited from it twice now. They serve church groups and individuals like you and me by organizing and leading us on spiritual adventures to serve proven people they know. You can and should read about their organization and opportunities to help you or your group go on an adventure! One of their mottos is “Adventure with a Purpose!” They perform a wonderful service and do a wonderful job! Give them a look!

IMG_2631Honduras is in Central America about a three hour flight from Houston or Miami. It’ s the second largest country in CA, beautiful, mostly mountainous, with both an Caribbean and Pacific coast line. According to Operation World, considered by many the authority  on world missions, 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 sow into and help children in Honduras.

IMG_4645What you may not know (I didn’t!)  is 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.” These statistics and what I’ve seen on three trips to Honduras in the last fourteen months make me believe God’s heart and ear is turned to the people there.

IMG_4629 IMG_4792What did we do there? Two of our number had prepared for and subsequently taught a pastors conference. About 20-30 pastors and some of their family members walked as many as twelve hours through the mountains to the mission compound and camped in the crude dorms. They attended the teaching sessions about six hours each day for three days, in addition to worship and prayer times. During this time the rest of us did construction work, putting a metal roof on a partially completed church building in a nearby village about five miles upstream of the mission complex in the mountains.

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We also ministered one afternoon in the Olanchito state prison, sharing the gospel and our testimonies. There we saw five men come to faith in Christ for the first time. Others came forward so we moved among the prisoners, laying our hands on them, praying for them and their families as the Spirit gave us impressions. We didn’t have translators, nor were they needed. It was a special time.

One of our team had shared with the group at devotional time the day before, “Last year this time I was in prison myself, and I haven’t been a Christian very long. This is my first mission trip and I don’t know the Scriptures like the rest of you guys so I’m a little nervous.” We said in response, “Are you kidding? You are the sharpest tool in the Lord’s pouch! His saving grace is very fresh to you, and they will be able to relate to you fully.” He did a great job sharing his testimony, with the prisoners hanging on his every word! 🙂 All the while the Spirit bore witness to his words. 🙂

IMG_3301 IMG_4400To keep it brief I’ll stop for now and write again about a couple more special Honduran experiences in separate blogs. In summary, pray for Honduras! And consider going! The people and country will be blessed eternally, and you more so!

Photos 🙂

Light in Darkness

IMG_3650“When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his son, made of woman” Galatians 4:4

Globally we live in dark times unless our media is deceived and is deceiving us?? Apparently it’s not either/or but both/and in this case. 🙂 But thanks be to God, we can live in His light and joy in the midst of darkness. Why? How? Trust in God, and His Son Jesus Christ.

It’s been a peaceful and joyful time in my heart as I’ve pondered the advent story each day in December. I pray that it has been so for you as well. I’ll share with you by note and hyperlink some of the things that have come my way in the last few days that remind me of the power and beauty of this magnificent season. They speak to events hatched in the mind and heart of the Trinity eons past, entering time in the fullness of time, as foretold by prophets and witnessed by the stars. I pray Jesus’ story of passion and pathos warms your heart and spirit during this Christmas season as it has mine and all the people who have come to trust him throughout the ages.IMG_3653

The Star of Bethlehem. Since I discovered it a few years ago, I’ve watched this DVD in awe and worship ten or more times with friends and alone. It’s masterfully done and fills my heart and mind continually with wonder and joy.

Tidings of discomfort and joy,” was the title of a Christmas sermon I heard last week from a young man visiting from east Asia. He reminded me and the western church that there is nothing normal or comfortable about a baby in a feed trough. He went on to point out how dark the times were for God’s people the Jews at Jesus’ birth, and that Jesus’ life wasn’t one of comfort. We his followers should reexamine that as we look at our culture, our lives, and the days ahead.

IMG_3656Advent readings and books. Daniel Partner & Walter Wangerin Jr. in their unrelated, and much inspired advent reflections have ushered me into the dark, simple, trusting world of Zacharias, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus as they lived and touched lives as normal mortals while great and evil forces and governments churned around them — God working out His own plan in their “quietness and trust” during dark times.IMG_3667

Lastly, a book has come into my life by Wayne Jacobsen that I’m reading for the second time, slowly and devotionally, mediating on short chapter after short chapter. The Lord is speaking to me out of it about “living loved.” It’s Christianity 101 but it’s also Christianity 707 for those of us who have walked some years with Jesus. Within it’s pages are beautiful insights about the prodigal son, which the author points out is really the story of God our Father, the rich young ruler, the human Jesus, and some insights into the mystery of the cross and the Trinity. The quote below I borrow from the beginning of Chapter 16….

IMG_3625“You will trust God only as much as you love him. And you will love him not because you have studied him; you will love him because you have touched him — in response to his touch…. Only if you love will you make that final leap into darkness.”Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Brennan Manning, Lion and Lamb

the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”” (Matthew 4:16)

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.” (Isaiah 9:6)

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!

[If you’re still hungry for more Christmas spiritual food, check out this pastoral letter from my most formational mentor, and this month’s blog from one of my best friends. Joy to you, and to the world! The Lord has come! :)]

Eternity? Heaven? Hell?

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, ….” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

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Sunrise this morning walking with my wife, my best friend

This week I was in a men’s meeting at our church with a young mathematician and math teacher. We were sharing from our journals and he shared he felt the Lord had been saying to him, “eternity, eternity, eternity.” He’s in good company. The apostle Paul encouraged us to think like that. You can read what he said in a recent post to my book’s website.

 

Indeed, the Creator has put a sense of eternity in our hearts. Sunrise and sunset speak of it, as do the heaven’s starlight. These are internal and external witnesses to something we all too often ignore — eternity.

The life group that meets in our home started to focus on one aspect of eternity last Wednesday night by watching the film, “Hell and Mr. Fudge.” It’s sparked some lively discussion about eternity — what we believe and what we can know from the Bible on the subject. And how this knowledge affects the way we live our daily lives, if we hold it to be true.

A young agnostic friend of mine, Michael,  recently started to spend time with me discussing God and eternity saying, “I don’t believe in God anymore, or that He’s relevant, but I don’t want to discuss it with any of my believing college friends because I wouldn’t want to hurt their faith. I don’t believe I can hurt yours, so will you talk with me about the issues? I want to discuss it  because if I’m wrong, the ramifications are significant!” I appreciated his honesty and realized with him the gravity of his statement.

The Movie and Related Books

The Movie and Related Books

Let’s not ignore these things because we’re distracted or for any other reason, but honor the “eternity He has set in our heart” with searching, faith, and reason.

I encourage you to avail yourself of these resources and consider these things with me in this season of our lives. It may prove life saving, and life giving, for yourself and others around you. 🙂

Traditionalism vs Conditionalism — Who Knew?

Amy, a bright young woman in our life group asked, “Is this about Rob Bell and other’s contention that there is no hell?” No, at least not directly. Nor is it about “universalism,” “portraying all humanity as saved in the end, Jesus tells of a final separation between the righteous and the wicked, the sheep and the goats.” “…evangelicals agree that hell is the most terrible fate that can befall a human being. But today … theologians debate the nature of hell. Does it consist of of conscious punishment that lasts forever, or does it have an end? The first view is called traditionalism and the second conditionalism or annihilationism.”*

Either way, it’s obvious that hell can and should be avoided. Eternal life is available for the asking by means of the cross of  Jesus Christ the Son of God. So is this small (??) distinction about one aspect of hell important for us to consider? I would say it would be to those on the “wide road that leads to destruction” for sure! And maybe to us all, because it speaks about the very nature and character of God. And it’s certainly good to spend some time dwelling on the eternity He has set in our hearts.

So let’s be like the wise Bereans in Paul’s day, who searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul was telling them was true.

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Downtown Houston Home of Edward Fudge

In the end, it’s not important to me what you decide. After all, some heavy hitting theologians, who are very bright, love the Word, and love the Truth have lined up on each side of this debate. It’s a debate that has gone on throughout church history I’ve discovered, but has come to considerable light and focus in recent years among today’s theologians, and will soon make it’s way down to the church in general. Indeed I suppose in some circles, it already has. It’s come to me and my friends in this season.

It’s not by coincidence that our life group is also studying The Book of Hebrews this fall. It’s all about the preeminence of Christ. So we’ll be looking very closely again and anew at Jesus in every respect. For now I suppose, we’ll see what He had to say about hell and about eternity. Since He knows, and He addressed the woman at the well and the pharisee alike with the whole truth out of love and concern for them, I’m sure we will, like them, gain new insight into truth and living.

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Time & Eternity? Time or Eternity?

In summary, focus on eternity and focus on Christ. Don’t let your culture and times cause you to neglect so great a salvation! Heaven is for real. Hell is for real. Eternity is for real, be in that number! Don’t neglect Jesus Christ. Don’t be distracted. Don’t become unfaithful or fall away. Remember our High Priest, the Lamb of God, Who paid for the sins of the whole world.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)

  • These quotes taken from the introduction of “Two Views of Hell,” Edward William Fudge & Robert A. Peterson available here. I recently finished reading this book and hope to write a review in the near future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foster Care Summer Camp 2015

SONY DSCFriday morning at 6:00 a.m. I had the pleasure of attending the 44th annual Fort Smith Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast downtown. The event is hosted by the CBMC (Christian Business Men’s Committee) and was very inspirational. Some inspired prayers where offered up to the Lord by area pastors, and among the honored guests was Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchison, who briefly addressed the crowd before the main speaker, NFL running back William Green, took the podium.

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SONY DSCT. Ray Grandstaff, Arkansas Director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, introduced Mr. Green saying that he had arrived in our area a couple days early and addressed several area high school football team members resulting in 59 young men professing faith in Jesus Christ. He was an outstanding man, an excellent speaker, with a great story. (When his talk becomes available digitally, I’ll include a link here!)

SONY DSCGov. Hutchison was brief with his remarks praising the committee for their efforts in hosting this event and underscoring the value and need for prayer in the political and government arenas. He went on to passionately promote two initiatives asking faith based groups to come along side the State of Arkansas in service and leadership with their help and support. He  framed the need and opportunity by asking churches and faith-based groups to help in giving some Arkansans a much needed 1st chance in life, and by giving others a much needed 2nd chance in life.

DSCN1672The two groups of Arkansans, he went on to say are (1) prisoners being reintroduced into society after they’ve served their time. And (2) foster homes for kids. He said that there were presently 500 foster children in Sebastian County who were in need of a place to stay with only 125 homes currently serving. Please pray about these situations and act as the Spirit leads you. Foster children need a 1st chance in life, while released prisoners need a 2nd chance.

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SONY DSCOn Father’s Day this year, a local faith-based organization hosted their 11th annual summer camp for foster kids  with volunteers from four area churches and  their children. The organization, Matthew Eighteen, is organized and lead by a local couple who have served foster kids in their homes for several years, and adopted foster children.

SONY DSCThis 2015 Matthew 18 camp saw 25 volunteers serving 23 children. And according to Curtis, the director, there were eight baptisms at camp’s end. He said, “This year’s camp was characterized by healing. The camp’s theme was, ‘You are more.'” For a photo album of this year’s camp, click here. For a short story of this year’s camp by video, click here.

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If you’re interested in Governor Asa Hutchinson’s call for faith based help, attend and talk up the Restore Hope Summit explained below.

“This morning, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced a call to action for faith-based leaders to discuss solutions to two seemingly disparate issues facing the state: the shortage of foster homes for children in Department of Human Services custody, and the lack of services for former prison inmates reentering society. The “Restore Hope Summit” will be held on August 25 and 26 at the Marriott Hotel in Little Rock. Those interested in attending can register online here.” Arkansas Times

Another Camp Hope Video

Video “A Day at Camp Hope”

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8–9)

 

 

Eternal Focus

Focus – Eternity

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18, NIV)

Pause to enjoy your life... and think.

Pause to enjoy your life… and think about it?

There is lots being thought and said about the recent supreme court ruling, and I’m tempted to share my thoughts on it too because of it’s importance to our families and futures, and what it portends for the future of the United States of America? See! I sat down to write a blog article on “focus” and I’m already distracted!

Focus! Focus! Focus! On eternity! And that will help us all with spiritual enemy #1 in our day, “distraction.” Focus on Eternity is a good antidote to the life robbing disease of distraction. Twenty centuries ago, Paul tells the believers in the young church at Corinth, a leading-edge Roman cosmopolitan church in a day like our day, and believers of all times to focus on eternity and eternal things. Indeed to “fix our eyes” on things eternal. I think you can see the value in it? If you pause? But how do you do it?

DSCN1621How can you focus on eternity? Good question. And one far too involved for a short blog article. I’m just suggesting you do it! Just do it! Listen and look for references to eternity  in verbal media and print. Meditate on it when it crosses your mind. There is a beautifully haunting phrase written by Solomon and recorded in Ecclesiastes (3:11) that says, “… He has set eternity in the human heart ….”

Eternity

Eternity

So it’s in us. Eternity! A feeling that what we see isn’t all there is. We have a desire to continue on, like our unseen Creator. Just look and listen for eternity and mediate on it when it comes your way. I heard a completely new thought on eternity just the other day. It came from a mentor of mine who said, “Eternity isn’t a long, long, long time as generally thought. It’s no time, at all.” You might want to ponder that for a bit?

Fearfully and wonderfully made... :)

Fearfully and wonderfully made… 🙂

I’ll end, pun intended, by mentioning two other resources connected to this topic that have caught my imagination in the recent past. First and most recently is a movie, “Hell and Mr. Fudge.” Secondly is a book, “Heaven is for Real.” (Skip that movie, it’s disappointingly different from the book and the true story.) Believe me, both will get you thinking and perhaps in a proper and enlightened way about eternity.

May the Holy Spirit of the living God give you insight and revelation as you ask Him, pondering your life and eternity. Amen.

Spin with Life... Also Stop and Ponder it's meaning and conclusion...

Spin with Life… Also Stop and Ponder it’s meaning and conclusion…

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Matthew 18 … Kid’s Camp 2015 … Eternal Rewards

Jesus, “the Lamb of God,” “the author and finisher of our faith,” said Himself that He “came to give us abundant life” here on the planet. But even more importantly, “…that all who believe in Him, would not perish, but have eternal life.”

Eternally yours, in Jesus,

Dwayne

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:16–17, NIV)

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV)

… I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, NASB95)

and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:11, NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV)

Play in Creation... it speaks to eternity and of the Creator

Play in Creation… it speaks to eternity and of the Creator

Don't let kids play with your camera! :)

Don’t let kids play with your camera! 🙂

Enjoy your journey... but make it count!

Enjoy your journey… but make it count!

D-Day 2015

Dad Hogue in the SE Arkansas Delta where he lived most of his life

Dad Hogue in the SE Arkansas Delta where he lived most of his life

Remembering my father-in-law, Russel Hogue, from a book written by his daughter, Elizabeth Hogue Bell, titled  “My Dad – No Ordinary Man” 2007.

I really had no idea of the extent of dad’s service in World War II. The hardship and the danger and the courage required as he served; he really never discussed. We just knew he served in World War II. It wasn’t until my husband, Dwayne, and brother, David, began traveling to his war reunions that we begin to learn about his 0630 Russel Hogue 80thexperiences. While traveling to one of those reunions dad was in the airport in Dallas and ran into one of our friends. The friend was introduced to dad and told where we were going. The friend asked dad what he did in the war? “I drove a 2 1/2 ton truck full of 5 gallon gas cans to refuel tanks most of the time,” was dad’s humble reply. The friend quickly remarked, ”There’s a country song out there called, “What were you thinking?” Dad’s quick comment was, “Yeah, I didn’t have many hitchhikers.” I think that was the first time we realized how dangerous his job was!  A stray bullet or tracer around, and kaboom!

We had never known or realized that history reveals dad’s unit, The Third Armored Division, did more to win the war in Europe for the allies than perhaps any other unit. They have records for many firsts among US forces, including the first across Hitler’s famous Siegfried line, and the first to capture a major German city, Cologne. They were in the Battle of the Bulge and in some of the fiercest fighting of the war after crossing into Europe at Normandy.

Dad served in the CCC in North Dakota two years preceding WW II

Dad served with the CCC in North Dakota two years preceding WW II

Dad never made a big deal out of carrying a Thompson sub machine gun and driving a truck full of gas and support of tanks for 18 months in one of the most dangerous times and places in history, to defend our country and freedom for the world. In mud, rain, snow, daylight, and dark he served, many nights sleeping under that same truck.

After attending a few reunions with Dad, and having the light of these truths slowly dawn on him, my husband once asked Dad, ”Why have you never told this to me or any of our family?” His humble reply was,”It’s something I never figured people were much interested in, and it’s something we’d just soon forget.” Yet when at these reunions, with men who had experienced the same things, they would talk, laugh, love, and remember the bond that extreme adversity, courage honorable conduct, and sacrifice mold. They seem to know the value of each person. They seemed to love good and hate evil, and see it a little clearer that people do today. They loved freedom and appreciated it more, having seen the cost. This in small part is the fabric of what is been called the ”Greatest Generation.” This was my dad’s generation, and in our eyes he was one of its most noble parts.

Dad Hogue as a young boy  with his father SE Arkansas

Dad Hogue as a young boy with his father SE Arkansas

It was so fitting that his funeral service was held on the anniversary of D-Day. Dad participated in the build up and crossed the Normandy beaches a few days following D-day to fight the rest of the war, freeing Europe and the world from tyranny.

Dad’s service began because he was drafted into the army on March 5, 1943. He could tell you quickly from memory that he was in the service for two years, nine months and twenty-seven days. He was, however, offered a deferral to stay out of the war due to his job making torpedo triggers. What a man! He could have taken an easy way out but no, to him it was an honor to fight for his country. Yes, my dad was a noble part of a great generation.

 

Dad with grandson, our son, Joshua

Dad with grandson, our son, Joshua

Dad with grand daughter, our daughter, Amanda

Dad with grand daughter, our daughter, Amanda

Dad's son David who played football at the University of Arkansas

Dad’s son David who played football at the University of Arkansas

Dad's Daughters Elizabeth & Susan

Dad’s Daughters Elizabeth & Susan

Dad raised a family of four, each of which have children

Dad raised a family of four, each of which have children

Dad's Love and Wife of 46 years, Janie Jo Whitaker Hogue

Dad’s Love and Wife of 46 years, Janie Jo Whitaker Hogue

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Dad, or Pappaw as he was called by his grandchildren, in his 83rd and last year, pictured with his daughter Elizabeth, my wife, and the author of this article.

 

The Other Miracle at Cana

Nicaragua Day3 - 134Jesus Is On The Move [John 4:46-54]

Jesus is Going to Where the People Will Hear

He has just come back from Jerusalem where he did several miracles. Jesus settled into an area of northern Galilee. He did not return to Nazareth explaining that a prophet  is without honor in his own city and in his own family. In contrast, the people of Galilee warmly received him, having seen the miracles he did in Jerusalem and many believed he was the Messiah.

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Cana of Galilee is special to me. The wedding, the first miracle, the dialogue between Jesus and his mother, the display of God’s heart… to care about a young newlywed couple being embarrassed, to care about the affairs of our ordinary everyday lives, to care about family and community, to care about what’s on Mary’s heart and her prayer.  It also shows the generosity of the Almighty. These are a few things that touch my heart about Cana. John is the only gospel writer to record this miracle. He said it was Jesus’ first. As I think about it now, possibly what touches me so deeply is the revelation of the humanity of Jesus here. It demonstrates earthly families and our heavenly family in close conjunction. There are at least two people present who are very in tune with God. They are praying, listening, and feeling in their hearts what’s going on with their community, friends, and family.

Nicaragua Day3 - 001Nicaragua Day3 - 031Nicaragua Day2 - 229The author John Eldridge, in his book about the humanity of Jesus, Beautiful Outlaw, uses this miracle to demonstrate God’s generosity. I smile when I think about it. He goes so far as to compute how many bottles of wine Jesus produced for this celebration very late in the party, 908 if you take a large number, 757 if you take the smaller number. Then he ends with the humorous comment, “Don’t get mad at me! I didn’t do the miracle, I just did the math.”

Another Miracle in Cana

Today, in my New Testament reading and meditating about Jesus, I was struck with thoughts and insights about a second miracle that happened in Cana. Jesus had  just come through Samaria (Gasp!), dialoguing with the woman at the well then staying a few more days in her village introducing many of her friends to the kingdom of God. Standing now in Cana a few miles north, he had just made the comment about prophets not being received, then a ruler of the people, a man of some position and authority from Capernaum, who had traveled some miles to find Jesus stood in front of Him.  He was desperate and needy because his young child was sick and close to death. With  desperation and determination that perhaps only new parents know, he ended up in Jesus’s presence. “Please come heal my child because he’s close to death,” gushes out of him.

Nicaragua Day3 - 240For reasons we don’t understand because we weren’t there and because we’re not God, Jesus gave an unusual reply. It was something along the lines, “You people are always looking for a sign unless you see a sign you won’t believe.” He may have said it to teach the disciples something true about themselves and all the people in the area? He may have said it because he wanted to challenge the thinking and understanding of the people in the region who were hearing his words? It might be because the Holy Spirit knew it would be recorded, informing and instructing people there and for ages to come about the condition of people’s hearts and what it really takes to please God?

Nicaragua Day3 - 360For whatever reason he said it, it seems a little confrontational toward the ruler and father standing in front of him? But in humility and desperation, the man chose not to speak to Jesus’ comment nor question it. He just seems to say, “Please Sir, will you come and heal my son!?”

Then Jesus seeing the man’s humility, desperation, and love for his child; feeling compassion for him and seeing the faith demonstrated in his coming, simply said, “Go your way, your son is healed.” And so he was healed in the city a few miles away because a loving father exercised humility, action, and faith — a faith well placed in Jesus Christ the Son of God.

It Was A Turning Point

That was a turning point for this ruler, and for others. People would hear. The news of Jesus power to heal and do miracles would spread. Capernaum, whose Hebrew meaning is ”covering of mercy”, would become known as Jesus’ town, as it is to this day. He made it His headquarters for ministry during His three years in the Galilee.

Many Jews and Samaritans in the region would come to believe that he was the Christ the Son of the living God. Indeed, in the almost 2000 Easter seasons since, many millions of people have read this story, and and others like it recorded in the New Testament of the Holy Bible, the most published and best selling book of all times, coming to the same conclusion.

That conclusion seems to be reached by hearing or reading the Gospel story combined with some revelation from above bearing witness to its truth. Then those two events are mixed with the hearers own faith resulting in salvation and a relationship with the Most High through the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus Christ.

The angel Gabriel told a maiden named Mary from the village of Nazareth a few miles from Cana that she would bear a son to be named Jesus, which in Hebrew means “God saves”. And that Jesus would set on David’s throne, the ruler of a kingdom which would never be destroyed. It’s my prayer, that if you’re not part of this kingdom and the Family of God made possible by His sacrifice and resurrection, that this Easter season you too will become a part. May you know His salvation and peace now and forever. Amen.

Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives”; and he himself believed and his whole household.” (John 4:50–53)

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