Category Archives: Bread And Spirit

“You Owe Me… Nothing”

The Western Wall . Jerusalem

And I owe you … Nothing (Except to love you.)! 🙂

With Easter still fresh on our minds, I want to challenge you, and myself, about forgiveness. About practicing “forgiveness” and “living forgiven.” I believe understanding these two concepts are curial to living a life of freedom and peace before God and with others.

I’m not claiming to be an expert in this matter or even say I’ve mastered “forgiveness” myself. But I do believe I’ve recently received a little revelation on the subject that’s profound, easy to ponder, and an “acid test” of sorts to determine if you are living “forgiven and forgiving” or not?

St. Scholastica . Fort Smith

It’s two simple questions you can ask yourself. I’ll tell you what they are, why they are important, and where I got them.

Questions one is, “Do I owe you anything?” That is, am I in debt to you in any way? If the answer is “yes,” then I must make every effort to settle my debt by payment or seek to have it forgiven.

Why is this important? Or a goal you should always be working toward, or trying to maintain? Because it’s the clear teaching of Scripture, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other.” (Romans 13:8a) Debts owed usually affect relationships negatively, and rob the involved parties of real peace and freedom.

Sea of Galilee . Israel

Question two is, “Do you owe me anything?” That is are you in debt to me in anyway? If the answer is “yes,” then I must make every effort to collect the debt or forgive it? So that your balance sheet is clean and does not affect your relationship with me or with others.

This is the clear teaching of Jesus about His Father, and His kingdom in the area of “debt and forgiveness.” Look at Matthew 18:21-35, which is perhaps the clearest and most telling truth on “forgiveness” in the Bible.

The Jordan River . Israel

This is where Jesus ties forgiveness to debts. Especially in the areas of large debts of personal injury that are hard to place a price upon or repay. We see that is the context of the parable because of the way it starts with Peter’s question to Jesus, “How often should I forgive my brother who sins against me?”

Sometimes the debt is so large, forgiveness is the only alternative to settle the affair, if the debtor is to have any chance at a fresh start, dignity, hope, and a life worth living. Still, this forgiveness is not required by justice or by law. It’s a grace or mercy extended by a loving heart out of concern for the well being of the debtor and his family.

Fort Smith . Arkansas

Indeed forgiveness is best extended and understood by these statements. “I forgive you. You owe me nothing.”

“Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation, restitution, or approval of sin. Forgiving, according to Jesus in his parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35), involves a singular decision of the will by which you consider another person no longer indebted to you.”
(from The Red Feather by Tom Elliff)

Amen אמן

In light of the huge and impossible-to-repay debt that God has forgiven us by the sacrifice of His Son, and at His Son’s request, we must forgive others their much smaller debts. Do you agree? Then go and do likewise. Godspeed.

Jerusalem

And may it be, or I should rather say, it will be, healing for your soul. And the souls of those about you. God’s peace.

 

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:1)

Other Quotes on Forgiveness:

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. ~Mahatma Gandhi

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. ~Lewis B. Smedes, “Forgiveness – The Power to Change the Past,” Christianity Today, 7 January 1983

Forgiveness is a funny thing. It warms the heart and cools the sting. ~William Arthur Ward

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. ~Paul Boese

A Festive Prophet

SONY DSCSince my book and kingdom passion is about men, men’s ministry, and kingdom living; I’m constantly on the look out for things God might be doing among men in churches, cultures, para church ministries, etc.

Introducing “Fight Club!” Some friends of mine attend Grace Community Church in our city. It’s an active church with an active men’s group. One of their number invited me to be a part of this semester’s version of Fight Club. I would describe is as men challenging themselves and each other to live vibrant life in Christ. Most of it is done alone, but some of it in community by social media, along with  three meetings over a ten week period. I’m finding it challenging, helpful, and rewarding. That’s all I’ll say. We’re supposed to do it, and not talk about it.

SONY DSCI would say I’m doing it because I was invited, and then felt led to accept the invitation. Also because I’m curious and always on the look for fresh ideas the Spirit might be using to empower and ignite men to relationship and action. But mostly I’d say I’m doing it because, like their pastor Jeff said at a kickoff campfire, “I need the discipline, accountability, camaraderie, and other men in my life” to spur me on in the journey. I also love their core verse of Scripture:

When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses.”” (Nehemiah 4:14)

SONY DSCIntroducing Haggai

This weeks spiritual assignment was to read a minor prophet’s book (or lesser prophets, as they are sometimes called, simply due to the shorter length of their writings), and discuss it with a friend. That has proved to be a delightful adventure as I have rediscovered these prophet’s lives and times, which are much like our own, as well as some of the important prophecies or insights they gave us by the Spirit of God about their times and times to come. Also insights about the heart and person of God, which they commonly describe as the LORD of heaven’s armies.

I was reading a little about each one, trying to pick one. Then I remembered that an old  friend living in Houston and visiting last weekend discussed Zechariah with me. And this morning a gentleman from my Tuesday morning men’s group insisted I read Haggai chapter 2 while we were together. Turns out Haggai and Zechariah were contemporaries, and along with Malachi were the only three prophets to the Jews following their return from seventy years of Babylonian captivity. I picked Haggai.

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I’m feeling led to do something I wouldn’t normally do, that is type for you the introduction to The Book of Haggai from my Thomas Nelson, NASB, Open Study Bible. I think you will see in it a lot of interesting conditions that speak to your life today. And it may stir you to read the two short chapters of Haggai, giving the Spirit space and time to speak to you personally, which is a quality of the Bible in general and prophetic Scriptures in particular. Here goes…

Date and Authorship. The author is the only person in the Old Testament named Haggai which means “festive” or “festal.” He is one of the prophets whose personal life is unknown. He is mentioned by Ezra (Ezra 5:1; 6:14). He is the first post exilic prophet who ministered to the remnant that had returned from Babylonian captivity. His prophecy is clearly to be dated 520 B.C., the second year of Darius the king. Haggai was probably born in exile in the early part of the sixth century. His contemporary in the prophetic office was Zechariah (cf. Hag. 1:1 with Zech. 1:1; see also Ezra 5:1; 6:14).

Historical Background. The prophets before the Exile (586 B.C.) foretold the fall of the Judean kingdom to the the new Babylonian empire. It was also revealed that after seventy years the LORD would restore His people to their homeland (Jer. 25:11; Dan. 9:2). When Cyrus the Persian destroyed the Babylonian power, he favored the Jews’ return to the Land of Promise to rebuild the sanctuary in Jerusalem. The foundation of the new temple was laid and the work was begun. Soon hostile neighbors employed their devices to stop the work. The work was halted, but outward opposition was only part of the problem. Indifference seized the fifty thousand exiles who had returned with resolve to build the House of God. When Darius Hystaspis came to the Persian throne, the Temple had been untouched for sixteen years. Haggai (and later Zachariah) was sent by God to awaken the people and stir them from their lethargy to undertake the restoration. It is unfair to Haggai to consider that his messages are solely concerned with matters of building. He begins from that vantage point, but goes on to the glory of the presence of the LORD Jesus Christ, the future establishment of God’s earthly kingdom, the Judgment of God on ungodly world powers, and the blessing awaiting the nations that will return to God.

SONY DSCThere you have it! A beautiful history of the LORD working among the nations of antiquity and especially, intimately, with His covenant people, Israel. He still does this. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hostile neighbors (or spirits), indifference, lethargy, inattention to God’s Temple or House? Restoration? Sound familiar? Sound like the reason for Fight Club? And for staying close to God, His Word, and the community of believers today?

As you read the two short chapters of Haggai with this background, I pray the Lord give you revelation and personal insight, and “festive” encouragement for a course change or help in living a life “well lived”, a “festal” life. Amen.

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…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5)

The Book of Haggai

“Honor All People”

Fred J. Bell Aug 19, 1924- July 23, 2016

Fred J. Bell                 Aug 19, 1924- July 23, 2016

It’s been almost two weeks since July 23rd, the day my father, Fredrick Jefferson Bell, or Fred J. Bell as he was know most of his life, went to  his eternal reward.

His going was very peaceful with two of his children, their spouses, and some friends chatting and laughing in his room as he lay resting,  mostly sleeping, in no pain, nor taking any pain medication, when he took two deep breaths, the second being his last. His passing wasn’t expected, nor was it totally unexpected. He was weeks short of ninety-two years old. 🙂

Honor Says It All

Honor Says It All

He had lived a lot of life! His was too large a life and legacy to describe meaningfully in a service or speech. 🙂 But I wanted to try to say something honoring at his home going service, if the Lord would help me and give me strength? At the same time I was completely at peace, knowing I didn’t need to say anything. Dad’s life had already said what needed to be said. Those present at the funeral knew it too, and were glad just to meet, honor his life and memory, and worship the King, Who guarded and guided Dad seemingly his whole life long.

If you would like, you can read the eulogy I read in tribute to Dad here.

Dads Hat and Accolades

Dads Hat and Accolades

When you’re almost ninety-two, most all your friends have preceded you in death, and funerals are fairly small affairs. There was a full house at Dad’s celebration as people came from far and wide. And a celebration it was; of a life well-lived, of friendship, of family, of belonging, of honor, of worship, of love.

I told some brothers at an early prayer and Bible study this morning, that I’ve been completely at peace, and completely happy during the whole time, very much sure that Dad is with Jesus, our Blessed Hope. Yet there is a hollow void of sorts that has me quietly looking and listening for revelation or anything the Spirit might show me? It’s a deeply reflective

Honor Guard at Dad's Viewing

Honor Guard at Dad’s Viewing

time when you’re grateful for any strength your father poured into you, yet your human side feels something is deeply altered to some degree you cannot comprehend, or even give much thought to… Thought and the mind cannot probe deeply enough into the mystery of life and who we are? But it’s felt, maybe for a season, maybe for a reason?  The Lord is near. In fact I told my spiritual brothers this morning a Scripture verse was ringing in my ears, “Love is as strong as death.” In fact, I feel love may be stronger than death, because I fear death not at all for myself or my family, or my believing friends. But I’m grateful for love and feel the love of my father extending  beyond death into eternity in ways I can sense but not begin to know. It makes me happy.  🙂

Honor Guard & Law Enforcement Escort

Honor Guard & Law Enforcement Escort

On behalf of the family, I want to thank everyone who came to honor Dad, and for every thought, card, and expression of love or sympathy. You have proved healing and beautifully honoring. On that note I want to thank the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission Honor Guard, for their travel, sacrifice, and the very touching way they honored and paid tribute to one of their own, Dad who honorably served the citizens of Arkansas as one of them for forty years.

There were also National Park Service Rangers and other law enforcement officers there to honor Dad and provided an impressive motorcade one hour north where he was laid to rest. About fifteen miles before the cemetery, very heavy rain storms blanketed the area all the way there making driving and seeing the car in front of you very difficult. Once at the cemetery for a few short minutes, the rains parted for about ten minutes, while there was a reading of Scripture, and one of the grandsons played “Amazing Grace” on the violin. Dad was then honored by a twenty-one gun salute, flag ceremony, and the honor guard bugler playing taps. It was deeply touching and silently moving beyond words… Very, very honoring. “All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.”The Rain Flags

 

Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17)

 For love is as strong as death,  “Many waters cannot quench love, Nor will rivers overflow it; ” (Song of Solomon 8:6–7)

(View the cemetery service by clicking here.)

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)

Happy Valentines Day

Bell1

A College Valentine

I know Valentine’s Day passed for 2016 last Sunday. But I wanted to share that I had a very enjoyable one, and I pray you did too.

Valentine's Celebration Days Past

Valentine’s Celebration Days Past

On Valentine’s eve eve, we got with a couple of friends who lived a stone’s throw from us on the farm, where we lived for seventeen years and largely raised our families. We had a nice dinner out, then went to their home for some fellowship and Rook playing. 🙂 Good times and good times remembered.

On Valentine’s eve, we dressed up a little and I took the wife to one of our favorite local Italian restaurants for a quiet evening together, just the two of us. Very nice.

On Valentine’s Day five couples of friends converged at our home for a special dinner surprise prepared by the girls for the guys. This was followed by lots of fun, fellowship, and sharing lives, along with a crazy game of “Telestrations.”

Valentine's Day 2016 with Friends

Valentine’s Day 2016 with Friends

Valentine’s Day seems perfect for pointing out the beauty of love and close relationships between couples and friends. On that note I want to end, and share a remarkable message on LOVE delivered on Valentine’s Day to a community of believers in Kansas City Missouri, by a beautiful young woman named Anna Stuckey Newby in her early thirties, married, and the mother of two small children. This young woman grew up in Fort Smith & Van Buren, where her family was our close friends and neighbors for several years. It was her first time to speak in front of her community, and what a blessed, insightful, inspiring presentation it was! I hope you can send it to your phone and listen. Or get somewhere quiet and let her insights and words soak in? Or take a drive and listen, as my wife and I did the following day. You’ll be blessed. You’ll be glad. You’ll feel like you’ve just come to know God a little bit better, or a whole lot better. Godspeed on your journey, and Happy Valentines Day!

Anna looks exactly like Mom a few years ago...

Anna looks exactly like Mom a few years ago…

 

Lilac-Breasted Roller

 

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…

SONY DSC

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!

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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