Saturday, August 18, 2018

38 Years Ago- A Gift and Glorious Road

[11] And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son
[12] Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life
[13] I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.  (1 John 5:11–13)
Do you remember having your eyes opened to the gospel- the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ?
My parents were good to get me in church a lot growing up. Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Bible sword drills all began the process.
I remember, Jack Rutledge, father of Alabama QB Jeff, putting his arm around me and quietly asking me to give my heart to Jesus. I tensed up and was unwilling… little did I know that those faithful seeds were going to root in time…. ( I was excited to tell him years later of my conversion).
My first ‘experience’ with God was at the age of 8 when I was baptized at Ruhama Baptist Church in Birmingham. It was during a revival and I felt like I was ‘supposed’ to go down the aisle. I remember a Pastor meeting with my mother and me. During this meeting, he showed me a Good News Bible and pointed to a picture of a shepherd and sheep. I just shook my head “yes”. I really did not know what I was doing.. no understanding at all!
The baptismal ceremony was performed in freezing cold water because the water heater was broken. It took my breath away as I went under. In later years I laughed that this was a little humor from the Lord about my “cold” baptism.
I tried to be a good boy for about 2 weeks but eventually regressed to being the same ole me.
All of these were important experiences with God… but it wasn’t the ‘eye opening’ experience that precedes conversion. I do, however, vividly remember that initial time of understanding….
It was in 8th grade, I remember a Sunday School teacher explaining the gospel in a way that I actually understood it. My sin was real and Jesus’ sacrifice made complete sense in bridging the separation I had with God.
Even though the good news had been presented maybe hundreds of times before that.. I did not understand.. it did not ‘click’. But that day.. it made so much sense..I was in sin… Jesus was the substitute for sin… but it created a PROBLEM!
I vividly remember thinking I’ve already been baptized, so I can’t tell anyone that I’m not a real Christian And I lived in conflict off and on for a long time. I knew I wasn’t living for God and I believed that I was going to hell. It disturbed me whenever I thought about it.
I was playing a video game in the mall and a little girl came up with a gospel tract. I treated her very rudely, but inside I still felt condemned.
Another time a girl I knew well told me that I couldn’t be a Christian because of my behavior. I told her that I had been baptized. She said that baptized or not, I lived like I was going to hell. Deep in my heart, I knew she was right.
Getting to high school actually provided escape from these thoughts and found that I was hardening to the idea that I was not a believer. Sports were a great diversion and offered some reward as an idol. I received recognition and relationships and I experienced a lot of success.
Spring of 1980
My realization about eternity abruptly came back up in the summer before my junior year. An acquaintance of mine was tragically killed while robbing a convenience store. He was with a group who was doing it just for the thrill. I was heartbroken and our school was in despair!
I remember receiving this news from my mom as I was coming home from Sunday School. I don’t know why I went to church that day and remember nothing from the visit.
All of the students were grief stricken and I was confronted once again with the idea of death.
We had a student gathering at a home and I was very impressed by the message. It was my first experience with Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. A minister, Tom Caradine, gave a clear gospel presentation along with Biblical answers for grief and loss. I was stirred immensely.
After the meeting, a college student who had been an athletic role model for me, Benny Parks, found me and shared a gospel tract with me. The tract had a drawing of two lives (see below) and I knew that my life was not being directed by Christ.
self directedThe above image was me… and I wasn’t happy with my life at al!

Christ Directed
This is what I desired… and it led me to a desire to get it right with God!

I went home and re-read the tract and knew it was time to make a choice. I got on my knees and prayed that God would forgive me and take me back. At the time, I thought I was re-dedicating my life to Christ. I now know from thinking through Scripture that this was my actual conversion.
Right after that prayer, I got up and went to smoke or fireworks. But when I woke up the next morning..I remembered and I knew something was different.
Some immediate changes took place. I told my mom and a few friends that I had re-dedicated my life with Christ. This was a big step for me. I also began to read the Bible with great interest. I read the whole New Testament in about 2 days and the words seemed to burn in my soul. I have not had that sensation since, but it was a really cool moment.
I had a friend of mine make a poster for me to put in my football locker. I wanted coaches and teammates to know that I had made a change.
I also had a real sensation of peace with God. My anxiety about eternal destruction was completely gone. I have had this peace for so long now, that I have almost forgotten what the stress of condemnation was like.
 Looking back in the light of Scripture like Romans and others, I now see that prayer night of my Junior year as being my conversion. And though there were times I did not live like a believer after that, I know that that was the moment of repentance and faith. And I now have been with Jesus for over 38 years! I have failed Him many times since then.....He has never failed me!
My prayer is that right now... anyone reading this will think back and consider your journey and whether you believe you have the Son or not....
He is only a prayer away... a simple request.... Lord, I don't want to be in control, I want to humble myself, admit my sin, and ask that You forgive me and help me.... 
And then walk in faith and peace... as you read His word and grow.... you will never regret it!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Spiritual Light and Darkness

Luke 11:33-36
“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”
Sometimes when we are reading the gospels, we assume that the same wording in a different gospel is the same occasion and application. It was so interesting to see that in this instance – the bad eye was used in the context of Jesus being accused by the Scribes and Pharisees and then warning the Scribes and Pharisees… quite different from the context of this similar teaching in Matthew 6 (The Sermon on the Mount) in the context of possessions, treasure, and worry.
 Here is this ‘same language’ found in Matthew:
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23 ESV)
 I do believe it is plausible that Jesus often repeated thematic elements… repetition is good.. and the disciples heard many of the teachings of Jesus over and over.
 LIGHT– is one of those things that cry out to the existence and glory of God. If you look at the Genesis creation account- LIGHT was created by God and it dispelled the darkness. Light and Day were created BEFORE the Sun and Moon (that was Day 4!).
 If you did not have the Bible- LIGHT would still be enough to cause the human mind to contemplate a Creator. Why?
 Well, it is so unique… it has been discovered that light is a particle AND light is a ray. Einstein sums up this interesting scientific observation of light being particle and ray at the same time:
“It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do”
 Also- when  Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards- were outlining their case for Intelligent Design, they were suddenly grasped by a reality that seemed to ‘reveal’ more evidence than just the ‘fine tuning of the universe’ properties that seemed to suggest prior intelligence in the formation of our planet and the environment most favorable to life. Not only were the basic laws understandable.. they were discoverable.. and not only that, we live at a particular platform where these things are OBSERVABLE!
 In their mind, the fact that light was available and we had an atmosphere to SEE beyond our planet was too ‘coincidental’ to not be ‘suspicious’. The slot machine of the lottery wheel seemed to be rigged….
I have been following with some interest reports that began in 2014 that some light is actually missing...(July 12, 2014- 80% of the light in space is missing The theologian in me ( and I am no scientist… and amateur theologian at best) immediately knows where that light is… the soon to be visible grandeur of God’s Son.
So back to the passage…..
 I have always been intrigued by the way Jesus says, Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.
and again in Matthew:  If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
I don’t know about you.. but having DARK LIGHT in me sounds serious and heavy!
As great as light is in the physical world… the dynamic of spiritual light and darkness is even more so!
 The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD,
searching all his innermost parts. (Proverbs 20:27 ESV)
The NLT says it like this:
The LORD’s searchlight penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive-
The fundamental difference in the Christian worldview and predominate spirit of this age is in determining man as evil or good. The world says, “Man is good, but he sometimes does bad things.” This view believes man’s intentions and motives are for universal good. If educated and free, man will choose to help others and end evil.
BUT…the Scripture says,  “Man is evil”. Born into a depraved condition. Whose motives are greedy and malicious. When he does good, it is usually tainted. He speaks lies and defends immorality. Good only exists because of the common grace of God.
This is the paradoxical dichotomy of man. He builds hospitals. He sells illegal drugs. He gives to the poor. He brutalizes children. He gives to charity. He robs from the poor. What explains this? ‘Man is good and does bad things’? or ‘Man is evil and is good only by God’s common grace’?
The Bible’s answer is most likely correct. It fits the either/or reality in a more correct way. Modern man rejects original sin and blows it off as myth. I accept it because it defines me according to the reality of my nature.
 Without God, how low would I go? I tremble at the thought.
When the searchlight of God hits my motives, I stand before the world guilty and condemned. Who is my advocate? Who can cleanse me? Who can forgive? “Therefore now, there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)” I don’t have to cover up my sin problem, I give it to my Savior.
 Job 24:13,15,17 (NIV) “There are those who rebel against the light, who do not know its ways or stay in its paths… The eye of the adulterer watches for dusk; he thinks, ‘No eye will see me,’ and he keeps his face concealed… For all of them, deep darkness is their morning; they make friends with the terrors of darkness.”
 Isa 29:15-16 (NIV) Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?” You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!… Can the pot say of the potter, “He knows nothing?”
 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
(Psalm 139:11-12 ESV)
 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
(John 3:19-21 ESV)
 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
(Colossians 1:13-14 ESV)
 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
(2 Corinthians 4:5-7 ESV)
 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
(Romans 13:11-14 ESV)
 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
(Revelation 21:22-27 ESV)
 SO HOW ABOUT IT…do you want the dark light or the light of salvation?
 Physical light has a speed.. the speed of light is:
299 792 458 miles per second!
The Speed of Spiritual light is FASTER… it responds to the cry of the sinner to the Savior….
 Thank-you Lord for the searchlight- but mostly, thank you for the lighthouse of the world.
Please allow Your light to cast out the darkness and may it shine from me to a dark world hiding in shadows of shame and sin.

Friday, July 13, 2018

"First and Last": What Could This Mean?

Though many laughed at Ricky Bobby's Nascar themed mentality... even Ricky Bobby's dad had doubts about the truth of the now famous quip.
There are two occasions where Jesus is quoted as saying "many who are first will be last, and the last first". And applications of what is meant by that thought provoking statement  are interesting to investigate.
Matthew 19:25-30/ Mark 10:28-31/Matthew 20:15,16
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
(Matthew 19:25-30 ESV)
 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”
(Matthew 20:15-16 ESV)
 Jesus appropriates this statement (last first/first last) as a summation to two situations and though the quote is the same, the truth is the same- the application of the truth is different.
 Some Bible commentators mention that this statement may have been an often used cultural aphorism- a witty and pithy truth that we might find in our culture as a descendant from something like “Poor Richard’s Almanac”… like ‘a stitch in time saves nine” or ‘early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise”.
The basic truth of both situations is that: God judges and rewards according to God’s standards which are in line with the truth AND also in line with His preference AND also in line with His promise AND also in line with His will.
This is a Bible answer that we do not like…. Paul gives it in Romans 9. And whether we like it or not.. it is true.
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.  (Romans 9:14-16 ESV)
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— (Romans 9:19-23 ESV)
 And, if I have even a little sense, I can hear you saying “How does this have ANYTHING to do with  ‘last first and first last’?
 In a country where our birth was born out of a ‘rugged individualism’ we don’t understand the sovereign rights and power of a King. This statement, ‘last first and first last’ is a final declaration by the King with two applications.
Jesus uses this statement in context with the Peter’s exclamatory reaction  to Jesus’s conversation with the “Rich Young Ruler’. Remember that one? ( He asked what must be done to obtain eternal life. They talk about the commandments. The man claims to have done those. Jesus then asks him to sell his possessions and give them to the poor. The man goes away sad.  Jesus comments, It is easier for camel to go through eye of the needle than rich man to enter heaven. Disciples are exasperated… who can be saved? Jesus says “All things possible with God”.. Peter.. we have left everything and followed you.. Ruler… Jesus.. reward is coming )
 In this case, the truth is still there. It is God who will judge and only in God is salvation possible. God will reward.. but here is where 'first and last 'is a little different.
 What God sees and rewards is COUNTER to what the world sees and rewards…..
 Remember how God chose David?
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV)
 But it is even more than this- the difference in what God sees and values is often diametrically opposed to what the world sees and values.
 Remember the unnamed heroes in the Biblical Hall of Fame?
Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.(Hebrews 11:35-38 ESV)
 or even how God commands us to live in the light of His mercies in Christ?
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  (Romans 12:2 ESV)
 I saw a sign one time that summed this up: “What is right is often not what is popular and what is popular is often not what is right.”
 So God’s people live counter to the world’s system.. and because of that, they are often evaluated as ‘last’… but in God’s eyes.. they are ‘first’.
 This application of this truth is shown when Jesus admonishes the Pharisees in Luke 16:
The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
(Luke 16:13-15 ESV) (that last line will preach...the so called 'celebrities' of society)
 Now pay close attention to the CHALLENGE IN APPLICATION 1 because there will be a challenge in APPLICATION 2.
 now let’s look at a second time Jesus uses this statement….
Jesus uses this same statement at the end of His parable we call ‘Laborers in the Vineyard’. This story is about a master who pays the same price for laborers even though they did not work the same number of hours.  Even though there is a complaint, the master is not guilty of wrongdoing because he did as he wished and he did as he promised.
 This is the same truth…. God judges and rewards according to God’s standards which are in line with the truth AND also in line with His preference AND also in line with His promise  AND also in line with His will.
 The difference here is that ‘the last first and first last’ is a so-called ‘dead-heat’. There is no difference in first and last because the reward in heaven is the same.
 Do I have you confused yet?
 God’s evaluation in judging the world’s system completely flips the sorting mechanism!… completely switches the price tags!.. and there is a wide distance between first and last in terms of God’s evaluation and perception and man’s evaluation and perception.
 In heaven though, there is no separation in the first and last because all finish the same.
This doesn’t mean there won’t be a so-called judgement of work and rewards for the ones who are in heaven.. but we will all be there for ONE reason… the grace of God.
 There is a hint of this in the story of the so-called ‘Prodigal Son’ and the attitude of the ‘elder brother’.
 Christian… you will be in heaven by God’s choice and by God’s grace.. the same as everyone else who is there. There is no room to regard status… we are all the same.. beggars at the foot of the cross.
 While we are in the world, we can persevere if we are not ‘treated fair’ in the system run by fortune, fame, power, pleasure. We are actually blessed to walk in a small way that Jesus did in a big way.
 We are humbled and encouraged by the message of grace. The gift of God which is offered to all.
 I have no problem praying for mercy on all because I have received all of mercy.
 I may be last… but in God’s eyes.. I will be first.. and in heaven it won’t matter because we are all loved and blessed by our King.
 And I want every person reading this to be there with me… but you cannot get there by any other way … God’s grace or in any other name… The Lord Jesus Christ.
Cry out to Him today………
 Final Note: There is actually a third way to dissect this interesting aphorism.
Way 1: First and last are different standards- God and the World. The values are opposite and what man thinks is first is last.
Way 2: A Dead Heat- we all finish ‘even’- last first and first last
Way 3: Similar to way 1, but it is a call to humility- you put yourself last and God exalts to first.
We see this idea in Mark 9:33-35
And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-35 ESV)
The Word of Christ is so interesting and always leaves us pondering and prayerful!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Notes and Quotes in My Bible (since 2006)

The latest Bible I read I received in Dec. of 2006. I wanted to record some of the wisdom written in the margins


I enjoyed reading through these! Hope you do too!

God works like yeast.. we want Him to work like dynamite

All idolatry begins with unworthy thoughts of God

If  your heart does not leap at God’s grace then you need more of God’s grace

There are 6 words that describe the Christian journey…
“Not knowing where” (Heb 11:8)
“I know Whom” (2 Tim. 1:12

The soil of unbelief is a relentless commitment to self-exaltation

Don’t dig up in doubt what you plant in faith

Satan has a three fold strategy: he wants you to believe that God is not good, is not secure, and is not trustworthy

My Favorite PROVERBS

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to do so

The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry

Whoever walks in integrity, walk securely

Love discipline: don’t be lazy- you will gain knowledge

There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end is the way of death

Righteousness exalts a nation

A soft answer turns away wrath

Ponder your ways, your life, and your words

Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established

Every decision is from the Lord



Why is the gospel so powerless today?
Here is the message in most American churches:
“A god without wrath
brought men without sin
into a world without judgment
through the work of a Christ without a cross”  Richard Niebur


“God limits our knowledge:
First that we should be kept humble and
Also that we should continue to have dealings with our fellows”
John Calvin

William Tyndale: “The gospel makes a man glad, to sing, to dance”

5 Resolutions:
I will give God all glory in any success
I will confess my sins specifically
I will not slander others
I own nothing- it is all God’s
I will seek to live with enthusiasm and joy
“My heart I give to God” John Calvin’s Crest


“I am happy to announce that we have made no new discoveries in Divine revelation”

If truth does not promote godliness… is it truth?

I have never been able to believe in a little hell, little heaven, or a little savior, or a little sin, or a little god… prayer grows a theology that is drawn according to an eternal scale

Spurgeon on prayer… I bow my knee… and I am in the shekinah glory of God, which shines upon the mercy seat of heaven… a mercy seat red with such blood as was never split but once!...and the Eternal Spirit has lead me to such a place… HOW CAN I GO THERE AND ASK FOR A MERE TRIFLE!

God is never the chaplain of the status quo

A man does not have to die to go to hell

Luther: Prayer is the sweat of the soul

Spurgeon: The study of God’s Word for the purpose of discovering God’s will is the greatest discipline of a man’s life.

The mountain of praise helps us in the valley of despair

Harry Reeder “If any man lives long enough, though he ran like a gazelle or jumped like a lion, he won’t be able to put a spoon in a cup of coffee.”

If there is not within us that which is above us then we will yield to what is around us and finally fall to what is beneath us

People misunderstand Christianity when they see it more about social reform than personal redemption. Christians lose perspective when the see it solely as personal salvation and not a worldwide church community

If you won’t fight for it… you don’t really love it

We need to check our standing with God now… no one likes a pop quiz

A man will not last very long as a disciple of Christ if he thinks it is sitting on a beach chair and soaking in the good life. The beach we are on is Normandy on D-day… and our calling is to take up arms and fight indwelling sin and the dominion of darkness. At the same time, we are allowed retreats and leaves… but we should take those as the commander orders them.

The gospel ran headlong into 4 prevailing worldviews in the 1st century: Romans who loved the civil law, Hebrews who loved the moral law,  Greeks who sought wisdom, and pagans who sought pleasure…. and the power of the gospel message changed the world.

Joy is always hitched up firmly to all the promises of God

Every christian has two indelible and visible birthmarks… worship and witness

Love is mysterious in that deeper intimacy grows inside shared suffering

I have 2 terrible parts of my evil nature- The Animal Self and the Diabolical Self
BUT I AM SAVED BY GRACE- I am justified, adopted, and redeemed by Jesus

Please share some of yours!