Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas...Where Shepherds and Wisemen meet.

I enjoy Christmas. The older I get the more I enjoy watching others, especially the youngsters, enjoy it. For me, Christmas pleasure comes from being with my family and friends. Oh, and...I really love to eat the sweets too! Togetherness is the essence of Christmas.

The story of Christmas, it occurred to me, has much to do with bringing people together. No where is that more evident than the two groups who attended the nativity...wisemen and shepherds. Just their differences of culture could have been a major distraction. Think of it!

Historians say the wisemen traveled as much as two years to find the babe. They were obviously studied men. They knew the signs in the heavens...astronomers we call them today. Wisemen were called such because they were indeed wise. Without a doubt they knew the prophecies of the Old Bible. Dare I say any who will become a student of the Word can be classified as wise.
These were also men of means. It must have taken much money and provision to sustain them on their journey. Their gifts bore witness to their financial standing. To have gold, frankensince and myrr for gifts is more impressive than a tennis bracelet and a rolex watch!

Juxtaposed against the contrast of wealth is the humble shepherd. Shepherds were outdoorsmen, men who drifted from pasture to pasture, slept in tents and cooked over a campfire. Their skin was weathered, their whiskers were no doubt long and wooly. They smelled of smoke and had rough hands and breath. Their call to find baby Jesus was an instantaneous thing, much different than the pre-arranged trip of wisemen.

This brings me to a couple of points for your consideration. It doesn't matter how you get to Christ, just so you get there. Some have come from afar. They heard the Word, felt the pull, studied, took time, planned, calculated and finally arrived. Others had a sudden flash from the heavens and suddenly they were on their planning, no nothing except desire to find the King.

Once these two sharply different cast of characters made it to Bethlehem and to the manger out behind the Inn with a "No Vacancy" sign, there was something else important. Both groups refused to be distracted by the differences of those who knelt beside them. Let me ask you a question here. Wouldn't it be great if we could get our churches to do the same? I mean, once your church becomes known by a particular classification, you suddenly eliminate others from your midst. If you are an 'uppity' church, the country folk will likely look elsewhere for worship. Or, if you are the 'Cowboy Church' the business men in your area will not have the truck and boots to fit your mold. It is my belief that the church should be the one place where business man and cowboy, high society and poor, beautiful and not so beautiful, wise and unwise, cultured and uncultured can assemble together and kneel for worship. This can be done if our focus is on the babe in the manger and not on those who may dress differently than we do.

That is what Christmas is all about! Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hunting...More Than Shooting Animals

As a young boy I developed a love for hunting. My childhood friend and I were stalking birds with BB Guns when we were but 8 years old. Into my teen years I looked for opportunities to hunt. Often I found myself riding in vehicles full of grown men who were willing to take me, either because they recognized my love of the sport, or because I simply drove them crazy wanting to go along. Either way, I savored the moments then as I do now.

I think that is one of the best parts of hunting. The memories remain long after the shots are fired and the warm camp fires die away. Hunting entails so much more than the taking of game. While this is the ultimate goal, the other parts are equally gratifying. As the spouse of any hunter can tell you, hunting requires a lot of equipment. The various seasons and their accompanying opportunities means the avid hunter must be outfitted with gun, bow, muzzle-loader,, and whatever else they sell. Clothing, binocs, camping gear, etc are the tools that go along with the menagerie of hunting.

When I look at the trophies on my wall, I recall the way the hunt went and how the shots were made. More than that I remember the times spent eating camp food, which incidentally is the best, and the times laughing and even weeping as hearts are shared. Im must tell you that my trophies are not trophies when compared with many of the true "Boone and Crockett" type trophies that exist. Nonetheless, they are trophies to me.

Recently I went back to the Hill Country of Texas with a new friend God blessed me with. His name is Shawn, a pastor from Oklahoma. We had such a great time! We met other pastors and hunted with them, then spent the evening hours around the fire, talking, 'preaching', and singing along with a flat-top guitar played by Joel Hemphill. It was a memorable time to say the least. It was great to be hunting again after taking a couple of years away. It is so inspiring to watch the sun rise and set from a deer blind. This is an experience all people should know at least once in their lives. It is amazing to watch the world awaken, the birds begin to sing and search for their 'breakfast', and to watch the most graceful animal on the planet, the whitetail deer, move like a shadow among the brush. God speaks clearly at daybreak.

Our hunt concluded with both my friend and I taking a buck and a doe apiece. Neither bucks were 'wall-hangers', mine especially had serious ground shrinkage. But, we had a great time, I have a new lifelong friend, and I also have a cupboard full of excellent deer jerky. I was blessed to also take a nice, young hog on the trip. It will spend some time on the grill!

I thank God for the opportunity to enjoy the wild once again with my hunting friends. Memories were made that will be with me the rest of my life. That is really what hunting is all about. Good luck, Happy Hunting, and God bless.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Tight-line of Grace

I've never walked on a tight rope, but I have marveled at the pictures and images of those who have. There are several things I know about it, although I have never done it. A person has to have much fortitude to get up there and walk on such minimal footing. The next thing is there has to be a huge degree of balance for a person to make it across a tightrope. Finally, the rope has to be held taught between two fixed positions that will not give when pulled upon. These points of tension allow the walker to have a better chance at a successful trek.

You know many of the doctrines of the Bible are the same. Folks get off balance and have little or no footing when they attach themselves to one polarized position. There is no place where this is more pronounced and obvious than when it comes to the area of grace.

On one hand, the church has to hold a firm line against sin. This means when we deal with sin we do so in love, but with the firmest resolve possible. We handle sin like a physician handles a systemic infection in a body. Or, as a demolition expert handles 100 pounds of dynamite. Sin is the culprit which will keep men from eternal life with God. Sin is the great divide, separating man from his Creator. The church must speak against sin...calling it by name. We need ministers with conviction who lovingly steer their congregations away from the wolves.

On the other hand, balance of grace and mercy is needed...yea necessary if we are to be effective. This sin issue, if you have forgotten, affects everyone. "If anyone says they haven't sinned, the truth is not in them." We have all sinned. Therefore, the first person you will need to deal with is the one you see in the mirror each day. Be sure you stop the sin without killing the person. This is that all too oft overlooked balance.

Notice in Ephesians 4. Paul instructs the hearer to be humble and gentle, longsuffering, forbearing one another, etc. (v.2) Then he spends a good deal of time not mincing words about those who walk in unrighteousness, lasciviousness, and immoral behavior. The line is pulled tight! In v.25-30 he says, in essence, whatever you are doing in sin...stop doing it! But before the chapter has ended he reverts back to reminding the reader of mercy and forgiveness. (v.32)

I have found that 'religious' folks have a real appetite for the "preaching against" stuff. "Hold the line" I have heard them say. Well, unless you have some mercy to hold the line on the other end, you have no clue about walking the line. The Tightline of Grace requires a pull from each side.

All that to say, we never endorse sin! But when a sinner turns for home, we immediately embrace them, love them and nurse them back to health. It is not Gods will to shoot wounded Christians. Galatians 6:1 must ring in our hearts.

I hope you are equipped to walk the line. You will need strong positions on either side and a good deal of balance. I wish you well.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Update on Vestal Estes (Part 8)

Today is November 11th, 2008. So much has happened since we entered the hospital with dad on September 30th that it is hard to grasp the monumental trip we have made. We have watched dad go from death's door to being on track to make a very good recovery.

One week ago today I brought dad home from Oklahoma City. He had spent 36 days in the hospital, which seems like an eternity. I want to mention the hospital staff who cared for dad. From the custodian to the surgeon, and from the dining room cooks to the physical therapists...everyone was just great. It seemed that they all took a liking to dad as he would be kind to them and cut up with them, even though he was in much pain.

Being at home has been good medicine for dad. He has enjoyed the familiar surroundings and the environment where his friends can come see him. A couple of nights ago, dad slept in his own bed for the first time in more than five months. He has been in such terrible pain (prior to the surgery). Although dad still is on a lot of pain meds, we see him getting stronger. He is now able to get up by himself and walks short distances with a walker.

You should see dad when he stands up! He is now taller than I am once again! He looks so good! I didn't know if I'd ever see him standing that straight again. The doctor tells us it will take a full year for him to recover. We are on our way and we are more than willing to work with him for that year until he is back to health. He has much life to enjoy. God has heard our prayer, and by His grace we will watch dad make a full recovery.

Thanks to all of you who have called, prayed and cared for us during this time. You will never know how much it has helped us. Feel free to give dad a call some time. He would enjoy a short visit from his friends. (479-524-4265)

May God bless you,


Thursday, October 16, 2008

dad's Progress (Part 7)

Hope you are not weary with the 'update' blogs. It is an effective way to communicate dad's status to many who are inquiring. Thank you so much for praying for dad. God has been so good to us by providing this ongoing miracle.

Today dad was moved from the 'step-down' unit to the rehab section of Mercy Hospital in OKC. He was not able to be moved to Northwest Arkansas yet due to a blood clot in his leg. They want to treat the clot medicinally before trying to transport dad. I was really hoping to get him back to Arkansas tomorrow but I trust the doctor's decisions.

Dad is really weak. They say it will take 3-5 days of therapy for every day dad was in the bed. Well, that means he is in for a rather lengthy rehabilitation. We cannot complain however as we recall how that dad wasn't supposed to be here. It is a blessing just to hear his voice on the telephone, and to sense that he is getting better mentally and emotionally by the day. I know God hasn't brought him this far to let him down.

As Doctor Nasr put it, "We are looking at a year down the road." If we could see that far in faith, I believe we would see dad walking, standing tall and enjoying life without the pain that he has been under for so many years. Truly dad has suffered more intense agony than any person I have ever known. I might add he has done so without complaint. He is a champion in every sense of the word.

I realize more everyday what a 'tree of righteousness' he is to so many people. His circle of influence is not diminished with age. He is an important role model and giant of the faith to many people, including yours truly.

May God bless you and yours. Please remember to call dad's name in prayer as he attempts to move muscles that have mostly lain still for a couple of weeks. Thanks again and God bless you.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Dad's Progress (Part 6)

The Lord continues to provide the healing dad needs. For each and everyday we see improvement, we are thankful.

Dad was moved yesterday from the Intensive Care Unit to a 'step-down' unit. The nurses helped him sit in a chair for the first time. He requires much assistance as he is extremely weak from being in the bed for 9 days. The rehab specialists say it usually takes 3-5 days of rehab for every 1 day a person is in the bed. So, dad has a lengthy recovery ahead, but he can do it with the help of the Lord.

The creatinine levels in dad's blood are getting better each day, a sign that his kidneys are healing. We believe his mental confusion will improve as this blood level improves. They have given dad 4 units of blood in the last few days, but the doctors don't seem alarmed by it since dad went through such a lengthy operation.

Thank you all for praying for dad. He continues to need your prayer support as he heals.

God bless you our friends,


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dad's Progress (Part 5)

Dear Friends,

At 8:05 am today dad was removed from the ventilator!!! We are so grateful to the Lord for His grace for every situation of life.

Dad's liver enzymes are normal once again, from 2700 when he was dying, to 59 this morning!! Dr. Kerns, the cardiologist, once again confirmed this was a miracle that only God could have done.

Keep praying for dad's kidneys. They remain at a very low function and will take some time to heal. As long as dad's heart and blood pressure continue on a normal pace, the kidneys have opportunity to heal. Join me in focusing prayer for this. Thanks so much!

It was great to hear dad talk to me for the first time, although his voice was weak and raspy. We often take a lot of little things for granted. Look today for something to praise God for that we too often overlook.

Be blessed!


Monday, October 6, 2008

Dad's Progress (Part 4)

Thanks to all who are checking on dad daily via the blog.

Today was another long day. We kinda get fogged in here and the time becomes meaningless while we listen to the constant noise of a hospital. Dad remains in critical care and still has the vent at this writing. The reason is because his heart has acted up again today and is in constant atrial fibrilation, a fancy couple of words for 'it won't beat right.' The electronic firing of the heart gets scrambled and the distinct 'thump, thump' of the heart is not heard. As long as we are in this phase we cannot take the ventilator out.

Dad is pretty heavily medicated, insomuch that he probably won't remember much, if any, of what he has been through this week. That is good in the long run as he has been through so much, yet has come so far. Let me give you some good news of the day.

Dad's kidney functions seem to be slightly better! His pain has been manageable with no extraordinary pain meds for this type surgery. Dr. Nasr, the surgeon, told us again today that this surgery is perhaps more traumatic to the body than a liver or lung transplant because it taxes every system to the limit. Wow!

All the numbers are moving in the right direction with regard to lab results, kidney and liver function. Even his stomach revved up today! (No more details there!) Now we just need the heart to pick up and run like a sewing machine. Dad is breathing on his own although the ventilator remains connected. His blood-gases indicate good exchanges in the lungs. So, we are set for him to get off the vent.

Let me mention mom, the unsung hero of all this. She is a little champion and stands by dad like she has done for years. A sweeter, kinder, more serving soul you will never find. We keep insisting that she go rest a little because this is going to be a process of recovery in which she will be a major player.

Once dad gets off the vent, they will move him out of critical care and he will have at least another week getting his feet under him...literally. We end this rainy day in OKC, Oklahoma thankful to have dad with us and still believing for better days ahead. We had prayer for dad several times today as different ones visited the room. I would now ask you to join in agreement with us for God to fix his heart rhythm. God can!!

May the Lord bless you and your family this evening. Thanks again for reading.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Dad's Progress (Part 3)

Today is Sunday, Oct 5, 2008. I just switched on the TV in dad's room here in ICU. The channel was on rodeo, something dad and I enjoy watching. Although dad is not alert enough to watch, I can't help thinking how this 'cowboy' is riding one of the roughest 'draws' of his life. Once dad told me, "(you go for it) and I will stand with you 'til the hide slips." This is cow-hand terminology for 'hang in there'. (Can't you just hear dad saying that?) Well now I get to be beside him and the only hide slipping is the enemies attempt to take his life. Ride 'em cowboy!!

I am still amazed at the wonderful progress God is giving to dad. Dad, isn't too perky and isn't aware of his progress as much as we, who are watching from this side of the bed.

They started dialysis on dad yesterday and it went well for a while. Then, after a few hours, it became necessary to call the doctor for further instruction. I was afraid they would move the port, which would mean another small surgery in the neck or forearm. Instead, the doc said to stop dialysis and they would evaluate this morning. This morning they came in and totally removed the port b/c his blood levels were good enough to end the dialysis. The credit belongs to God!

Just a few minutes ago the doctor said it was time for the surgical drain tubes to come out of dad's back. This spells improvement! They are also weaning dad further from the ventilator. We hope this comes out tomorrow. Dad has a little congestion in the lungs but the docs do not seem overly concerned. There is no temp and the other vitals remain normal.

Your love and prayer for our family has undoubtedly been the key to the successful progress. Please keep it up. It works!

I trust your Sunday worship was meaningful to all believers who read this blog. Isn't it great to know that the God of the universe is concerned about our smallest needs. Have a blessed day...and no slipping hides!


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dad's Progress (Part 2)

Hospitals are amazing places. In each room and waiting room are communities of people who represent a support group for individuals struggling to overcome injury, illness and/or serious disease. It is not uncommon to see tears, especially in an ICU waiting area. Tears represent the love in one's heart for another during crisis times.

We have shed our tears too while going through a pretty grueling five days of 'rooting' for dad to recovery from a long surgery on his back. As you know we really thought dad may have been living his last day on this earth. The doctors confirmed that. But, due to an army of prayer warriors things have changed for the better.

A nurse yesterday told me, "Long recoveries like this are sometimes two steps forward and one step back." Today feels like one of those days a little backward. Dad is now hooked up to dialysis to filter his blood and serve as an artificial kidney for a while. This will hopefully help his damaged kidneys to heal and recover from the damage they suffered due to dad's heart attack. Dad is still on the ventilator and we are hopeful that he will be off of it in a day, or at the most two days. Although dad is alert at times, enough to wink and squeeze and point at letters on a makeshift alphabet tablet we made for communication, he still drifts into deep, medicine induced sleeps. This rest is important for his healing and to help pass the time when there are more hoses, needles, monitors, pumps and whatever else they hook to a human body, working to help dad back to health.

In the big picture, we are moving in the right direction. Dad still has had little to no attention toward the healing of his back other than changing the bandages (which are clear and show no sign of infection). They have to give full attention to dealing with the more important issues of bringing health to his organs first. It seems dad's pain level is very manageable, something we were told early on that would be impossible. Thank God for that. You can see in dad's eyes that he is really tired...tired of the instruments...tired of the bed...tired of all the rigors of poking, prodding, rolling, etc. We just pray and continue to encourage him that all this is getting better and in a day or so we will be back to two steps forward.

Our family deeply appreciates all your prayers in dad's and our behalf. They are working. We ask you to continue to pray for him as we fully expect this nightmare to end up a glorious praise to the Lord. God does all things well and we are believing for total healing of dad.

May God bless you our friends and those who are reading this blog out of concern for dad and our family. Know that we love you and pray God's best for you and yours.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Dad's Progress (Part 1)

Today is a day of celebration. We see more improvement. It is hard to believe how ill dad was less than 48 hours ago. Today he is gaining ground. The doctor who gave me the bad news yesterday said today, "This just goes to show what prayer can do." Dad is starting to come around and be more alert. He asked me where he is today. I tried to briefly describe the gravity of all he has been through and you could tell he was amazed and had no idea. Not being able to speak he lifted one hand in thanksgiving while tears filled his eyes. God has been so good to us.

We still need your prayers. Dad has some damage to his kidneys which they believe will repair itself. Also, they are delaying doing the dialysis, thinking things may correct themselves with regard to toxins in the blood. Now we have to get dad's back healed up. This will be a process, but we expect it to be helped with favor from God.

Thanks to all who have called and cared. You are special to dad, to us and to God.

Have a great day.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

When all You can do is say Thank You

Today, October 3, 2008 is a day I will never forget! It is the day that, by all rights, my father should have died. But...thank God he didn't. I am writing this from the Intensive Care Unit of Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Here in room 14, dad's outstanding nurse, Dana, continues to fulfill the needful duties of giving the kind of care that goes beyond the paycheck and originates in the heart. I must say the entire staff has given us excellent service and care.

Two days ago my dad had a 13 hour spinal, corrective surgery. This was the 8th spinal surgery he has had, truly enough surgery to kill most men 30 years his junior. Dad is 72 and is a real hero to me. He is a great father...not a perfect one...a great one! The difference between being a perfect one and a great one is two things. First, telling the truth. If you tell the truth, there is no such thing as a perfect earthly father. The only perfect Father is in heaven. Secondly, perfection is actually based on forgiveness. When mistakes are made, it is forgiveness that creates perfection, just like we receive when our heavenly Father forgives us our trespasses and sees us as being perfect through Jesus' blood. All that to say, I have a perfect father.

Dad worked hard, being bi-vocational, to support our family when I was a lad. He has always been conscientious and giving toward others. A gentleman by choice, but a man that could square up to you and cover his own tracks if need be. He was a farmer and cowboy in the beginning. He grew up in a farming family with roots that find themselves in the boots of hard-working men. Dad is of the same mold.

There just isn't anything he couldn't do. Need an engine overhauled? Need to repair something? Want to build a house or barn? Working with wood, metal, fiberglass, whatever? Dad could do it. He pulled me up in my first deer stand at a very young age. He took me on my first airplane ride...he was the pilot. He taught me to admit go forward in the face of stand for what you believe. Dad is still extremely teachable, a rare quality among 72 year olds. He continues to be a student of the Bible...of people. He is a prolific reader and well versed in almost any subject. He calculated fire-direction in the army for towed howitzers long before they used computers to do the calculating. He did it with a pencil and tablet.

Dad's life today is fulfilled in being at the church he loves with the people he loves. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grandkids. I enjoy being with dad on Sunday evenings after the work is all done to watch a little football while eating MiMi's homemade goodies.

All of that nearly ended today. I held dad's hand and draped myself over him as the doctors feverishly tried to get his heart to function correctly. It was desperate times! He had suffered a post-operative heart attack and the domino effect had shut his kidneys down to 10% function. He was becoming toxic. His blood pressure was falling. His heart was racing and it was a night that crept by minute by excruciating minute. Early in the morning the cardiologist, Dr. Kerns, called me out into the hallway. I was not prepared for the news he gave me. "Your dad is in a dangerous state. His heart and kidneys have taken a backseat to his liver. His liver is now failing. One test should be at level one and your dad's is at level three. His enzymes should be at 60 and they are at 2700." "I want to be honest with you," he said as I braced myself. "People who have both kidney and liver failure have about a 90% mortality rate." I stared the man in the face and knew the odds of dad surviving the day was slim.

When I told our family the news we were all devastated. Devastation gathered us around dad's bed and turned into a prayer vigil. Calls and emails were sent out to summons fervent prayer. Prayer is that all important ingredient of the Christian walk that becomes the seedbed of great things. There were many tears in the room this morning. Could we be praying our final prayers with the man who has prayed so many for us?

Everyone left the room for a break except my wife, Tricia. She remained in the room with dad and continued praying. In boldness of spirit she felt to speak against the 'spirit of death' while proclaiming life. She sang to dad of healing. Then she placed a phone call wherein the party did not answer but his ring tone was the song, "How Great is Our God." When Tricia turned around, dad's eyes were opened and he was reaching up with hands that had not moved in two days. Tricia called an intercessor in our church, New Life, and told her a miracle was happening, to which Brenda answered excitedly, "I know because God gave me a word for you. Psalm 118:17, "I shall not die but live and declare the works of the Lord" Trish quickly called me on the cell and I ran through the ICU expecting the worst.

Instead, God had turned the situation from devastation to the beginnings of an amazing miracle. Dad looked straight at me through swollen eyes. When I took his hands, he could squeeze mine and nod in answer to 'yes and no' questions. I wept openly with sincere gratitude to God. I thought my dad and I may have had our final moments together, but God had other plans. Our family joined us in the room with shouts and tears of celebration and thanksgiving to God.

Throughout the day dad has progressively lived in a miracle. His kidneys started working. His blood pressure leveled off and they had to reduce the medication. His heart began to work well, that the cardiologist called up to the nurses station to say, "Tell the family the tests show Vestal's heart is functioning perfectly!" Dad is much more alert and appears to be in minimal pain although his back has been fused from the tailbone to the T-4 vertebra between the shoulder blades. Amazing! At this writing I have not heard any reports on the liver enzymes. Given the change in everything else, I expect there to be positive changes here too! One of the team doctors dropped in on dad an hour ago and said, "I have looked at the charts and what you say is true. This is a miracle."

I am aware that we have a ways to go. Dad is still on a ventilator; he has been fitted with a dialysis port for temporary dialysis in order to cleanse his blood further. There could be more 'what if's'. However, I choose to cling to the good and use them as faith-builders for the next obstacle. God is performing a miracle right before our very eyes!

When I think about the day we walk down the hall with dad and his 'new' back; when I think about a summer fishing trip where I get to watch him catch an Arkansas sandbass; when I get to look forward to watching dad and his brother play another game of dominoes; or watch dad worship again in church; or consider rooting the Dallas Cowboys through to another victory whilst eating a pan of brownies....all I can say to the heavens is "Thank You!"

Keep dad in your prayers for a full and complete recovery.

Thank you God for letting us witness this day of miracles I will never forget.

PS. While I was writing this blog, I saw men from a funeral home go down the hall to pick up someone who deceased today. Thank God they passed by our room.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Financial Chaos in America

It is likely that more attention has been paid to the delicate balance of America's financial stability in the last 48 hours than at any other time since the Great Depression. Considering the trillions (with a T) of dollars that has been lost due to the collapse of financiers and the record fall of the stock markets, it is no wonder folks are shaken. This unrest is felt throughout our society.

A few thoughts come to my mind. The first thing is...I don't have lots of money, so the upside of that is you can't lose 'lots' of money. Those who have lived the life of luxury in Manhattan-style living are suddenly coming face to face with the realities the common man faces weekly, like living paycheck to paycheck, assuming you are fortunate enough to have a paycheck. Windfall profits and overnight successes are a thing of the past. Our nation is facing less available money, more indebtedness and fewer jobs to answer the needs of this crisis. This thing has the feel of an ominous depression.

This morning, as I watched the President give a briefing on the failure of Congress to pass a 'bailout' bill, I couldn't help but notice how President Bush seemed truly worried. He warned Americans of the downward trend that will only escalate unless some sort of governmental bailout is passed. In truth, even if it passes, we wonder if it is enough to put us back on the road to progress. Or, do we know what progress is at all? I mean...we have become subservient to the lenders of the Far East like Japan and China. That which leads to economic destruction on a personal level will do the same on a national level. One simply cannot live indefinitely on deficit spending. The 'reckoning day' for America has come. So what does that mean?

I believe things will get gradually worse, even if the 'bailout' passes. There are bigger powers at work here. We are too far down the slippery slope of globalism to ever regain our independence and superiority we once held. We are at the mercy of some 'Saviour' to rescue the world...just like the rest of the world is! The days of perplexity mentioned by Christ are here. Men with bright minds are at a loss as to long term answers. The world is ready for the Anti-Christ to step to the forefront with all the answers in hand. When he arrives, the entire world will welcome him for the relief (although temporary) he will bring to all. A man with an answer to our money hurts will be embraced by the nations. We love our money more than we love our principles. We love our riches more than we love God. We love to have our comfort and security, albeit false security, more than we love righteousness. Time will prove these statements to be true. The Anti-Christ will secure power through the wallets of mankind. A number will be assigned...mandatory chipping will be enforced and we will all be happy ever after....almost!

Friend, the only real security is in Jesus Christ. The old hymn says, "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand!" I hope you and I are more concerned about our relationship with God than we are our bank statement. Invest in God, in the church, in eternal things. Stop worrying over things; things that will pass away and melt when the world is destroyed. The things of God will last forever without the threat of economic meltdown. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where rust and moth doth not corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal. Heaven's economy is eternally stable.

Have a wonderful day,

Pastor T

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Voting...The Christian Perspective

The right to vote is one of the great privileges of being an American.  We can choose our elected officials with our ballot.  Not only is this a 'right', it is also a tremendous responsibility.  The responsibility is even heavier as we see all that is at stake in the upcoming, Presidential election.


Our nation faces uncertain days ahead.  The threat of global terrorism looms large as Iran accumulates nuclear capability.  Eroding morality floods the television audiences.  Violence, abortion, homosexuality and evil abounds.  It is the day spoken in the Word of God when 'Gross darkness covers the people."

As a Christian we are called to be leaders, influencers, in our communities.  We are the salt and light Jesus mentioned in His teaching.  Voting is one of the easiest and most powerful means of influence.  To 'not' vote is the same as placing a vote for evil.  To cast your ballot in favor of principles embraced by the Word of God is a righteous action.

I ask you to prayerfully think about the millions of babies being murdered in the womb and vote accordingly.  I ask you to think and pray about which leader distinctly declares his faith in God...the God we know as Jehovah and Jesus, and vote accordingly.  Please consider which leader would prayerfully support the nation of Israel without hesitation.  Consider which candidate will stand up, nose to nose, with evil terrorists.  When you go to the polls in November, do so as an advocate for righteousness.

Thank you Lord for allowing us to live in this great nation.  May we humbly seek your favor now and always.   Let me know what you think.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Biker's and Religious Bologna

Welcome to the 100k plus bikers coming into Northwest Arkansas for "Bikes, Blues and BBQ."  There is a constant rumble in front of my home as these two-wheeled machines and their riders congregate for some fun.

Last year I got a motorcycle.  My dear brother Aaron Mahan gave it to me.  (Thank you Aaron)It is a 600 Honda Shadow and it is a honey!  I love to ride that baby and so does Trish.  I am one cool cat when I am cruising down the interstate.  (Ha!  Forty-two and cool?  Hardly!)  Perhaps a tatoo would help!  (Oh please...I'm not getting a tat...relax!!)

I was thinking about how my feelings toward bikers used to be.  Somehow I had chosen to believe...or been taught to think that whiskers, and the funky clothing added up to something close to the devil.  Isn't it amazing how we sterotype people in a spiritual sense?  I think that is called 'judging'.  Anyway, through time I have learned these people are just ordinary people like you and me, only they are wearing their cultural costume of choice...just like a cowboy wears a hat and boots, runners wear nike gear, or a religious sect wears neckties on men and long dresses on women.  

However, the condition of the soul is not determined by the outward appearance.  I know some rough looking bikers who love God with amazing intensity.  Growing churches often have 'Biker Ministries' in their repertoire of ministry.

Don't let the looks fool you.  That is purely religious bologna!  God looks on the heart.  Who knows, one day there may be a Bikes, Blues and BBQ in heaven...only there will be no reason to sing the blues.  One thing for sure, bologna is really good on a BBQ pit!

Think on it!


Monday, September 22, 2008

How to Get Big Muscles in Thirty Days

I remember reading an advertisement touting the title of this blog, when I was but a lad.  At the time the big muscles sounded quite appealing, especially in such a short time.  Every boy that read that could envision himself laden with perky pecks, triumphant triceps, and bountiful biceps.  The problem is you can't get least not the kind shown in the thirty days.  Before you sport big muscles you must first have a dedication to discipline yourself beneath the weights.  Months of proper diet, rest, and exercise...I mean the kind where you drip sweat and turn red in the face, is required.

When folks discuss their desire to rise above sin, to become an effective witness, to renew torn relationships, I am reminded of the dedication needed to build muscle.  Similar dedication is needed for spiritual progress.  There is no secret to it.  Just as in muscles, more people wear their spiritual flab rather than big biceps simply because the work, the pain, the pride swallowing is just too much for them.  It hurts to make progress!  It is hard to make amends!   There is no magic formula or a once read book that will usher one into the halls of spiritual success.  

Friend, your success is found in getting up day after day and pursuing your prize until you are weary to the core and then finding the strength to do it all again the next day.  You either want it badly enough to work in a determined manner...or you don't.  It is that simple.

In a radio address on May 15, 1982, President Ronald Reagan said, "In James Michener's book, The Bridges a Toko-Ri, he writes of an officer waiting through the night for the return of planes to a carrier as dawn is coming on.  And he asks, "Where do we find such men?" Well, we find them where we've always found them.  They are the product of the freest society man has ever known.  They make a commitment to the military - make it freely, because the birthright we share as Americans is worth defending."

Those who rise above and do the extra-ordinary are they who know the extra-ordinary cost that will be involved and are willing to pay it.  I challenge you to rethink your future.  Set some high goals and decide if you have what it takes to get your 'muscles'.  They may not show up today, but with time and persistence...they will show up.  Remember I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  He strengthens me to push the bar upward one more time!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Sword of the Lord

I am remembering an Old Testament story of Gideon and how he fought against all odds with only 300 men of valor.  When they intruded into the enemy camp they broke their pitchers and proclaimed, "The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon."(Judges 7:18)  Throughout the Bible one can trace the Sword of the Lord and its tremendous significance.

For a short Bible study, lets fix our spiritual gaze upon Matthew 10:34.  These letters in red say, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth:  I came not to send peace, but a sword.  For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.  And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."

At first glance one would seem to feel there is some contradiction.  After all, isn't the Prince of Peace coming to bring peace?  What's this sword thing all about?  As you read a couple more verses into the text you find the over-riding meaning, which is to follow Christ...even if it means being at odds with family and friends.  It is the 'First' commandment in stark language.  "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength."  

So why the Sword?  The sword separates good from evil; righteousness from unrighteous; the holy from the profane.  Notice Hebrews 4:12, "For the word (sword) of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

The Sword of the Lord divides in many area' are a few for your consideration:

1.  It separates righteous family members from those who are bent on partying, thievery, and other sins.
2.  It separates men from jobs that are less than upright.  I recall a man who refused to work at a store that sold alcoholic beverages.
3.  It divides relationships that are unwholesome in God's sight.
4.  It cuts into your thoughts that may deviate from the righteous pathway.
5.  It separates men from organizations and destinations that do not align with the Kingdom of God.
6.  It quickly acknowledges the wheat (the positive and good) in our lives, disclosing also the chaff (undesirable, fleshly).
7.  It knows our motives, or intentions and can separate them from our actions.
8.  It separates young people from the yoke of peer pressure.
9.  It cuts preachers loose from tradition and cookie-cutter religion to follow God's heart.
10.  It cuts the tight-wad away from his selfishness to a position of giving freely to the Kingdom work.

Indeed, Jesus has come to bring a sword.  When it cuts I hope to be on the side of righteousness.  One day the dividing line will be abundantly clear as Christ separates the 'sheep' from the 'goats'.  Let the sword work for you today.

Be blessed,

Pastor Tim

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Jesus' Two Most Frequently Used Words

Before you read further down to the answer, think about some of the most frequent sayings of Christ.  He spoke much about the resurrection; of hell; of heaven; of the treatment of our fellowman; of forgiveness; of love; of sacrifice; of compassion.  Yet, none of these take the primary seat as being the most frequently used phrase. give up?  It is time for the answer.  Jesus said, "Fear Not" more than any other phrase in your Bible.  The frequency of usage leads us to know the importance of words.  Christ intends for those who follow Him never to become enslaved to fear.  

Fear is that crippling, uncertain feeling about our health, finances, our future etc.  Fear reproduces quickly in our minds and in the minds of those with whom we associate.  Fear is first cousin to unbelief.  God hates unbelief...thus, He must also hate fear.  Perfect love cast out all fear.  I love that verse.  I can mentally see fear getting the 'boot' from the Master.  "Out of the heart and home of my child!"

Fear and worry have no place in our lives.  I recently heard John Hagee in Tulsa, Oklahoma as he eloquently spoke about worry.  He said, "Worry is practical atheism."  A child of God, a believer, does not have to worry.  I encourage you to hear the voice of the Father calling out to you and to your situation...."Fear Not."


Pastor Tim

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

An Arkansas Hurricane

Today is September 3, 2008 and Arkansas is directly under the remains of Hurricane Gustov.  Gustov made landfall in Louisiana yesterday morning.  I have been tracking it on the news as it skirted Cuba several days ago and then intensified as it gulped the warm Gulf waters.  Now inland, the hurricane has been diminished from destructive winds to merely a couple of days of serious rain for us.  In a week, folks will be playing  golf on a sunny day,  scarcely remembering if it was Gusto?, or Gussie?, or Gustov?...and talking about how badly we need rain.

I want to focus on the factors which defuse such a storm from a category 3 or 5, down to a thundershower.  This does not happen all at once, but as the hurricane travels over the terrain, three things occur.  One, it encounters mountain ranges, trees, forests, and cities, all of which subdue the forces of the wind over time.  Second, the storm is perpetually dropping rain and losing energy as it does so.  I am no weatherman, but even I know a cloud can't rain forever. Somewhere down the line it runs out of juice!  Finally, after moving aloft, the storm is destined to run into an opposing weather pattern.  In this case, a cold front moving down from the North is triggering the release of water, as well as taking more energy from the weather system.

I point this out to tell you that at some point in your life you will be in another kind of hurricane...usually an emotional one.  Life's storms are precipitated by heartaches and breaks, disappointments, tragedy, loss, bankruptcy, illness, divorce, etc.  For some, they would likely label these storms a 'Category 10'.  The tears fall like rain while fear thunders in the soul.  Trouble becomes your constant companion.  'Friends' abandon you, evacuating to safer shores and wanting no part of  what is now 'your' storm.  Batton down the hatches baby it's gonna get rough!  The winds blow, the beach erodes, structures and paradigms get blown to kingdom come!  That's the bad part.  But, let me give you some good news.

A hurricane doesn't last forever.  In a few days the sun comes back out.  The hurricane runs into a few barriers of people who say..."Hey I have had worse things than that happen to me and I am still alive!"  Ferocious winds find themselves facing fearless fronts when people say, "Listen, a little love and forgiveness can take care of this."  Not only that, but in time the intensity naturally goes away.  You can't live in a state of utter venom all the least you won't live very long in that state.  Somewhere along the way there must come a bit of acceptance, of release, and hopefully some understanding.  When you understand that everything you hear may not be true and every assumption you make is likely not correct, it tends to take some water out of the clouds.  Lastly, the opponents in your life have a life, or have to get a life, of their own.  Other 'weather patterns' come, either from the North or the South, bringing a chill or a thaw to affect people's angst.  In time, they have to pay attention to their own problems and situations.  Their own kids get sick, their bank account runs dry, they screw up and have their own enemies, etc.  At the end of the day you have to sleep between your own pathetic elbows.  These new front bring changes in attitudes.  When you need forgiveness it is amazing how you suddenly can find it within you to extend the same. 

Let me tell you something.  Life is way too short to live in a hurricane.  I'd much rather encounter an 'Arkansas' Hurricane than a Louisiana or Texas Hurricane.  A  coastal hurricane will rip your roof off.  An Arkansas Hurricane has had some time....some buffers....causing it to lessen in intensity.  The lessening is a lesson we all need to learn.



Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Answer to the Critic

Everyone has had to endure criticism in their lives at one point or another.  It is simply a fact of life.  Even if you could do everything perfectly, there would be someone to disagree with your 'motise operandi'.  Obviously nobody is perfect so the opportunity for criticism goes up drastically.  I want to encourage leaders to move forward despite the critics call.

When you are a leader, you can expect there are those who will not like your position, your policy, your flair, your....something.  But leaders know this going in.  You have to be tough; to be mentally prepared for the opposition to shoot at you with their twist on your words, their sideline assumptions of your actions.  Still, the leader presses on  with all that he is called and led to do with his life.  

A leader should also know that if the criticism is warranted, he or she should take heed, amend their ways and move ahead.  But criticism meant sole for the purpose of destruction and not for positive advancement, is not worth your time of day.

Jesus was criticized to the maximum.  The leader of all leaders....Lord of all Lords...was openly rebuked, chastized, and ultimately rejected of men.  Some of His own men tried to sway His opinion.  Yet, Christ set His face like a flint for the purpose of fulfilling the mission of His Father.  The redemption of sinful mankind was in the balance.  Being fixed on His goal, He could cry, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do!"  

Mob mentality prevents critical thinking!  Couple that with a heavy dose of Jewish tradition, in Jesus' case, and religious tradition in our modern world, and you can certainly understand the blindness which shrouded the view of those who drove the nails into the innocent flesh of Jesus.  

When a leader makes a mistake, this crowd has all the more reason to dig their claws in.  The pulsation of venom through their veins is intoxicating, causing the crowd to begin to chant...crucify!  Jesus was the only leader who never made a mistake and yet, they still killed Him.  It is during the times of mistakes that a leader must keep his balance, remember who called him, close his ears to the masses and listen only for the voice of the Master.  

Christ is in the business of restoring, lifting and renewing His calling in the lives of men and women who are admittedly less than perfect.  In my opinion, the only ones who are beyond the help of God are those who see themselves as being perfect enough to criticize others.  Let me tell you something.  All you have to do is look in the closet of every human being who is an ancestor of sinful Adam.  Flowing in their veins, in your veins and in mine is the ability...yea even the positive probability of failure.  Just dig into your own closet with just a hint of honesty and you will find some skeleton hidden there!  You should perhaps read that last line again.   We are all sinners!  Chief among them is the critic who sits in the seat of anonymity, hiding behind some screen name, or hidden deeply, safely within the layers of the rumor-mill lobbing their verbal daggers onto the field where men are giving their hearts in a worthy cause!

Dear leader, let me urge you to continue on in your calling.  Muster all within you that is righteous and holy and empowered by a Divine call.  Use your abilities to the maximum.  Reach for the lost!  Stand for what is right, even if it flies in the face of the masses of religious biggots who prefer the erroneous ease of tradition over the real relationship of truth.  Hold your ground against the Pharisees who love the seat of judgment daring to play judge, jury and executioner.  As you stand, God will give you the grace to be all you were called to be.  And while you are in the heat of the fray, He will mold you into His image more and more.

For every leader, there are at least a hundred folks who will tell you how ineffective, how unworthy, how uncaring, how this or how that you are.  I have heard criticism of churches until I am sick of it.  I have heard them criticize the pastor, the music, the youth pastor, the nursery worker, the bus driver, etc.  Most of the time the folks doing the 'yacking' are not the ones paying the bills, driving the bus, praying daily for the church.  It is always the side-liners, the disenfranchised, the disgruntled and disjointed.  The only voice that matters is the voice of God speaking to your spirit day by day.  Listen closely, follow hard and be all you can be.  Embrace those who embrace the commission of Jesus Christ; who build the Kingdom; who have been restored and therefore know the vast and redeeming value of lifting the fallen.  Do not waste one day worrying or regretting or fretting.  Don't answer their email, their phone call, their rumors etc. with your words.  Only answer them with your life, your love, your prayer, your stand.  If forgiveness is real...if God has called you...if you know that you know...then expect the miraculous!  It will happen.

I conclude with these fantastic remarks by Saul Bellow.  "Here we write well when we expose the frauds and hypocrites.  We are great at counting warts and blemishes and weighing feet of clay.  In expressing love, we belong among the undeveloped countries."

Be blessed,

Pastor Tim 

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Meditation...a Spiritual discipline

Christians are afraid of the word.  It smacks of something that weird people do...or a practice promoted by pagan religions.  What are we afraid of?  Meditation!

It is my feeling we cover our lack of discipline with many excuses, the above mentioned being some of them.  While I admit that opening ones mind to just any old thing would be like leaving the back door open at your open.  Soon a cat or a raccoon or a skunk will find its way into an apparent welcoming situation.  Satan too looks for opportunity to invade our minds.  

With that said I should warn the reader against hypnosis and yoga type meditations.  Even some martial arts experts need meditation to allow the 'energy' to come up through their body and give them hyper strength.  Be warned about freely granting such opportunity to evil.  It will take advantage.

By the same token good and wholesome meditation is important and vital, especially when we are talking about meditation on uplifting and educational reading material or the Word of God.  Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher said, "He is not the best student who reads the most books, but who meditates upon them."  Truly we find rest for our souls when we stop to just rest and think quietly about the scripture.  

David of old said, "As for me, I will meditate upon thy statutes."  How long has it been since you let the pendulum of your soul swing to a complete stop while you took in the deepest meaning of a single passage of scripture?  If its been a while, then slow down...and listen to your heart...listen to God.  Most of the time God whispers.  If that is true then you will have to be still to hear.  Try meditating in God's Word for ten minutes everyday.

Be blessed, 

Pastor T

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pressing On

If you have ever rode a roller-coaster you can probably recall that wicked clatter as the machine slowly climbs a very steep hill...clank, clank, clank.  I think the reasoning, besides the physics involved, is to let you see just how high you are getting before the exhilaration of the descent.  It is the thrill of the sudden drop that everyone stands in line for an hour or more for.  And thrilling it is indeed!  The older I get, the more those drops are mere endurance rather than enjoyment.

You know in life we like the downhill times too.  Times when things are good, free-flowing, enjoyment is at a high etc.  It has been my experience that those times come in cycles.  Usually after a long period of 'clanking' your way through some of the not so pleasant times.  Let me encourage you the ride is going to be worth the 'clank'.  

God has promised to be with us and go with us in the exciting times and through the times where we seem to be climbing...s..l..o..w..l..y.  While you are climbing be sure to take a look over the edge if you dare, and just watch the progress.  Progress will take you to where you want to go.  This applies if you are talking about your relationship with God, finding your place in the church, improving your marriage, or becoming a better individual.  Keep climbing.

When you break over the top and the exciting downhill times arrive, I hope to be there to hear you shouting with glee.

Have a wonderful day in Jesus.


Sunday, July 6, 2008


Today I spoke on the subject of Grace at NLT.  Very often this topic needs be rehearsed in all our minds.  The reason?  We all sin!  Scripture says so.  We should not placate ourselves with such knowledge, for grace is not a license to sin.  Rather, it is our salvation from it and the ability to rise above it.

We find in Ephesians chapter two an entire study on Grace.  Grace causes us to be all we can be.  In fact, if Grace was removed from the equation of our lives we may be surprised at how low we can stoop.  Except for the grace of God....there I alcoholic, a drug addict, a thief, a low-life bum.  

Let me tell you something else the lack of Grace produces.  Unforgiveness.  Although the scripture says it is more blessed to give than to receive, I have found it is a lot easier to receive Grace than to bestow it.  I have known people who were all too ready to hand out judgment and require humility in others, but when it came to their own mistakes, their own lies, their own problematic area's, they weren't quite as ready to require the same of themselves.

I pray that the Christian community will return to pouring out grace, forgiveness and help to those in need, and those who fall short of God's glory.  Remember, we all need it!  It is Grace, the unmerited favor of God, that will save us in the end.  It will not be by works.  Our best works is like filthy rags before God.  He is unimpressed with works that attempt to garner ones salvation.  On the other hand, God loves it when we do things for Him 'because' of what He has done in our lives.  Don't get the cart before the horse...or the works before Grace.

Think about Grace this week.  Dispense it with the same vigor with which you are more than happy to enjoy it.  


Pastor Tim

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Remembering Aiden Wilbanks

Those of you who attend New Life know about a great, little guy who became part of our church family several months ago.  His name is Aiden Wilbanks.  Aiden came to church in the arms of his brave parents, Mike and Misty.  

Aiden was physically challenged with various ailments.  He required constant attending to his medical needs.  I was so impressed with the level of care his parents gave him.  They took Aiden everywhere they went.  In three years Aiden experienced things that many kids his age don't get to experience.  

Through his difficulties, Aiden was able to express his love and feelings through his special looks and sounds.  He was a fine looking young boy, with eyelashes that most women only dream of!  His blue eyes would sparkle when you would speak to him or rub his head.

Aiden knew what it was to suffer.  I do not understand this about God.  Why does he allow innocent children to suffer?  I suppose that question can only be answered in eternity.  Through the suffering, God was able to reach the hearts of many people.  

A few days ago, the Lord chose to end the suffering and take Aiden home to be with Him.  Although we are saddened at our loss, we are celebrating the end of earthly pain.  I was honored to speak at the service for Aiden.  The church was full of people including many tough police officers who had tears rolling down their faces.  That is the kind of impact Aiden had.  The funeral procession was something to see.  Ten police cars from various agencies led the way with lights flashing.  It was an appropriate send off for such a great young man.

I have a feeling our send off here on earth was nothing compared to the royal welcome he received in heaven!  The next time we see Aiden he will be well, healed, whole and strong.  I told Mike that when he gets to heaven Aiden will embrace him with big, strong arms.  

Keep Mike and Misty in your prayers.  Losing a child is one of the most traumatic things a human being can endure.  It requires friends and prayers.  May God bless the Wilbanks family.  Thank you Lord, for blessing our lives with Aiden...even if the time was too short for our liking.  We trust your ways.

Pastor Tim

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Eternal Vigilance and the Presidential Election

It has been said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.  Vigilance means to be watchful or protective against danger.  Our nation has been nurtured and sustained due to the sacrifices of great men and women who have kept watch over our nation from the predators that would love to consume our wealth and ultimately the American soul, especially from without.  

Of late I have realized our greatest enemy is perhaps not those on the outside of our borders.  While there are plenty of them out there, our chief nemesis could be the threats arising from within.  We face the potential of bringing to the forefront a leader, who secretly or otherwise, does not hold to the fundamental loyalties that has made this country great.  Do not be deceived by suave, charismatic personalities who promise the moon.  Wolves do their greatest damage while looking like a sheep!

Whomever you cast your vote so with prayerful consideration, asking yourself if they are genuine patriots of the fundamental beliefs that made our great nation blessed of God.  Check out their personal history, their writings, their associates, the causes they have historically supported.  Remember, we stand today upon the principles of the Bible and belief in Jehovah God, Jesus Christ.  The further we become removed from those principles, the further removed we are from One who bestows all blessing.  Further, while we permit Americans to have freedom of religion, we should not be forced to tolerate those whose religious beliefs threaten the existence of our American soul, in which is a basic loyalty to the Holy Bible.  Americans are swiftly becoming prisoners of our own civil rights.  

For me, a person does not have the right to desecrate the flag, beliefs, convictions and treasury of the nation that give you the right to be its citizen.  Rights only go so far.  Rights were never intended to silence the roots of our origin, nor to impoverish the wealth of our nation with freebee's to all who whine about the mistreatment of former generations.  If you want to return to the discussion of former generations...we, those of us who would die for this land, also deserve the right to return to the firm convictions of our ancestry.  We have a right to end the rights, especially when your rights become threatening to our established way of life and worship.  The American rights are established to give us a chance a life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Happiness is not guaranteed.  The pursuit of it is...and that only if accomplished within the boundaries of righteousness and fear of Almighty God. 

Also, consider that we are electing the President of the United States, the leader of the free world and perhaps the most powerful man on the planet.  The blessing of that office, as well as that of our country is dependent upon the perpetuation of righteousness.  For us to elect someone to the highest office in our land who supports a religion which considers Christian believers as 'infidels' is nothing short of absurd.  We will be allowing the proverbial fox to guard the henhouse.  While I cannot endorse a candidate, I can and must tell you as a Christian to be prayerfully guarded about the person for whom you vote.  I can quote Proverbs 14:34 which states, "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people."  

There are lots of problems in America.  It is easy to be distracted and focus on the issues which directly affect our checking accounts...our taxes...our favorite institutions all the while missing the most important, fundamental issues.  'Distraction Voting', voting focused on a minor issues whilst overlooking a potentially major one, is a threat to us all.  

I pray our voting will be with the Word of God in view.  Take a look at the major moral issues such as gay rights, abortion, and most of all the needful support of Israel.  Discover where the candidates stand.  See if they are willingly vague on these issues.  

As Christians we are stewards of our land and our government.  We must get to the polls and vote.  However, prior to the vote we must get to our knees and plead for God to guard our land. Eternal vigilance remains the price of freedom...even if that vigilance is to watch for dangers approaching the highest office in our land.  Our next President should be one that who would give their lives to save our freedoms...not one who, by his or her very existence and history, would threaten them.  Our President should be a person who is unashamed to get on their knees and call out to the God of heaven and earth...the Lord, Jesus Christ.  May it be so.

At a recent Memorial Day service in our city, I watched and listened to the voices of that quickly shrinking group of hero's who fought in WWII.  With shaky hands and silver hair, I know their minds hold all too vivid pictures of brothers who poured out their blood to keep us free.  I noted one man, a tail-gunner in a fighter plane, who was shot down and taken as a POW.  I also watched men and women who served in the other wars.  Each of them still with a sense of pride and a tear of love for our nation.  Friends, we better not lose that.  Leadership, in patriotism, as well as all other areas, begins at the top.  Vote accordingly!

Let me hear your thoughts and thanks for your time.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Seventh Day...Every Day.

There are those whose religious worship, not only includes, but emphasizes Sabbath-keeping as being vital to one's salvation.  I want to begin by honoring the disciplines of these people who keep this law with the utmost of integrity and good intention.   Further, I understand them because I too used to be bound by legalism, only in a different form.  Where mine was based on restrictions of dress, jewelry, sports, television etc, theirs is based on the Sabbath rest.

One cannot deny a large body of evidence concerning the Sabbath found in the Old Testament.  Not only is there a number of references, but they are strict directives from God to absolutely remember and keep the Sabbath Day holy.  One of the Ten Commandments is to keep the Sabbath holy by not doing any work.  (Ex 20:8-11)  Without an understanding of Grace and Jesus Christ's granting us release from the law, one would automatically be inclined to feel constrained to keep the Sabbath.  This is where many get off track.  

We have to remember the Sabbath law is different from the others because it was not duplicated in the New Testament.  There are many civil, judicial, and levitical laws that are not intended to be transfered to the New Covenant.  The laws intended for us today, including all moral laws, are mentioned 'again' in the New Testament.  For example, Jesus Himself re-affirms the moral laws with His own lips.  (See Matthew 19:18-19, etc.)  In no place in the New Testament are we commanded to keep the Sabbath.  This commandment Jesus willfully left out.  What is more, Jesus broke the Sabbath (John 5:9-16) healing and working on the Sabbath day.  He did so with intent - that we may know He is Lord of the Sabbath. (Mk 2:27-28) Jesus came to fulfill the law and not create more of them!  Man couldn't keep the ones he had at the time.  Get this...when you have Christ, you have fulfilled the obligations of the law.  When Jesus died, He in effect nailed the 'ordinances' - or the laws of man (non moral)- to His cross.   (Col 2:14)  Thank God we do not have to kill a lamb for a sacrifice, nor wash at a laver, nor keep the Sabbath, nor build railings on our roof, nor a thousand other laws.  I must mention that we are bound to keep the moral laws (no murder, adultry, idolatry, etc) which are mentioned again by Christ.

The Sabbath is about rest, of course.  But it is more about completion.  When God made the heavens and the earth in six days and then rested on the was not because God was tired and needed a break.  It was to signal that creation was complete!  The sabbath is only a type or shadow of things to come.  The anti-type or reality is Christ.  The ceremonial religious law were to lead us to Christ.  They were our school-master to take us by the hand and lead us to Christ.  We are not to worship the School master!  Paul wrote and said, "We are complete in Him...." (Col 2:10) We are not made complete through law-keeping.  All of that revealed how incomplete man was without Christ.  We fulfill the Sabbath when our lives are made whole or complete in Christ.

In Isaiah 28:11-12, we discover a prophecy of the Holy Spirit.  It was prophecied to be accompanied with stammering lips and another (unknown) tongues.  The fulfillment of this at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-) was and continues to be the fulfillment of this prophecy.  Notice what else it says about the Holy Spirit.  "This is the 'rest' wherewith you may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing:"  Wow!  Again we find the fulfillment of the Sabbath rest in Christ and experientially in the Holy Spirit.  Hebrews 4:3 states, "For we which have believed do enter into rest, as He said, 'As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world."  Verse 8 goes on to bring further light to the coming Holy Spirit.  The rest was ultimately fulfilled in the Holy Spirit.  At last, read the 9th and 10th verses.  We are to cease from works.  Sabbath keeping is a work.  It is something we do.  But when you enter into cease from works!  What a revelation!  

Finally, I want to bring Paul's instruction into view.  It does not matter as to which particular day one sets aside for worship.  (Romans 14:5)  Paul admits there are some folks who are bent on worshipping on a particular day.  It may be that he even included those Jews still bound to the O.T. law.  In either case Paul establishes that we shouldn't quarrel with them necessarily.  Leave them alone and let them worship in their own way.  "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."  Certainly Paul is saying, 'It is the worship that is important and not the day.'  God receives it if given on Monday or Friday.  

The problem with Seventh Day believers, like with other legalistic groups, is that they infer, if not outright declare, that you are 'not' saved if you do not adhere to Sabbath worship.  Many Seventh Day Adventist's follow the writings of Ms. White with more tenacity than the words and life of Christ.  This is the rub.  If one wants to exercise certain disciplines of their own accord and as part of their worship, they should have that right.  If some want to refrain from wearing jewelry, watching TV, eating pork pizza, wearing red ties....more power to them!  But just don't attempt to use the Bible and declare that all pizza lovers are going to hell!  Those who worship on Sunday are not violating the Bible.  Born again believers who have Christ are keeping the Sabbath, the rest, each and everyday in their hearts.  It feels so good to be free!!!

PS.   There is a growing number of people leaving Adventism and other legalistic groups.  Let's pray for them as doing so requires much fortitude.  Let me hear your comments.


Pastor Tim

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tribute to Dottie Rambo

Saturday, May 17th, 2008 the memorial service was held in Nashville, Tennessee for one of gospel music's most prolific songwriters.  Her name...Dottie Rambo.  Dottie's earthly life ended when her tour bus was apparently forced off the road by high winds, near Mt. Vernon, Missouri.

I have long appreciated Dottie's music.  It is said that she wrote over 2500 songs.  Each one of her songs had a strong Biblical message, with a twist of country/down-home flavor.  She was mightily anointed and gifted.  Many of her songs are hymnal standards.  The powerful messages set to music, moved me to tears.

As a boy, I remember laying in front of an old, console stereo and listening to long-play albums of the Rambos.  Each song evoked strong feelings inside me.  Even to this day I am moved to hear her sing songs like, "I will glory in the cross", "He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs", "Tears will never stain the streets of that city", "Just build my mansion next door to Jesus" and countless other wonderful songs.

Having written her first song at age eight, Dottie's mother knew that there would be a price to pay for such a gift.  Dottie's life was filled with suffering, both physically and emotionally.  Yet, she persevered and the 'thorns' in her flesh gave birth to the aroma of many 'roses' of life.

I personally respect Dottie as a hero because she broke away from a legalistic denominational affiliation many years ago.  She and her family were virtually crucified for it.  The Rambo's became fodder for many sermon illustrations among the legalists.  Dottie sang about the gospel message and grace...she knew it, loved it and lived it.  In the book entitled, "The Legacy of Buck and Dottie Rambo" you can read where the former General Superintendent of the denominal group they left, called for Buck and Dottie to come to his bedside where he lay dying.  Upon their arrival the man asked the Rambos to forgive him for the way he and the denomination had treated them.  I honor them for staying the course and following their heart, as well as the Word of God.

As long as her songs are sung, Dottie Rambo will continue to influence the lives of people all around the world.  I just want to thank God for flavoring my life with the amazing sounds and sermons found in the songs of Dottie Rambo.  Rest in peace sister, sheltered safe within the arms of God!

Let me know if Dottie's songs influenced you.

Tim Estes

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Requests; Balancing the Big with the Little

Been watching the news lately?  It is like seeing a horror film with the earthquakes and cyclones in the orient, not to mention the tornadoes that have recently ripped through the Midwestern states of our beloved land.  Seeing clips of people trapped beneath rubble, and watching a death toll climb into the ten's of thousands is almost more than a body can stand.  

With all that going on I found myself, actually caught myself, asking God for rather trivial things.  Things like, "Lord help us have a good day today."  Or, "Lord, let us have good weather for my fishing trip."  There perhaps countless prayers such as these that we pray daily which are mostly about our own selfishness.  

This caused me to ponder..."Do I have the right to pray these things when there are so many greater needs in the world."  In other words, I feel some guilt for asking God to bless my corn patch when there are mother's going hungry and sleepless on the other side of the globe, worried sick about their children trapped beneath tons of masonry and steel.  My wants are so small compared to the big needs around the world.  

So, I looked into the Word for some help.  James 4:1-3 states, "What is causing the quarrels and fights among you?  Isn't it the whole army of evil desires at war within you?  You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it.  You are jealous for what others have, and you can't possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them.  And yet the reason you don't have what you want is that you don't ask God for it.  And even when you do ask, you don't get it because your whole motive is wrong - you want only what will give you pleasure." 

The whole idea of motive comes to mind here.  James is writing specifically about our selfish, greedy humanity which is the lust that corrupts all things and ultimately leads to war.  I have to constantly check myself, so that the focus of my prayer is not on my own selfishness.

Now for the balance.  As children of God we are to make our requests and petitions known.  God's Word said, in Psalm 37:4, "Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart's desires."  I think of other texts which invite us to "Ask and we shall receive...", or "If two of you shall shall have it."  etc.  Well, many consider this an open invite to start asking for a new BMW or a six-figure income, or a new this or that.  I have found when I do the first part of Psalm 37:4 (delight myself in the Lord), my selfish appetites disappear.  I believe our selfish prayers are mostly asked amiss.  (a KJV word)  

At the same time, we should never be afraid to make our most simple requests known to God.  He loves us and wants to bless our lives, even with the things we 'want' rather than 'needing'.  As for me, I am certain God knows my personal want list.  My best option is to pray God's prayer requests (Mt 9:38, John 17), and then at the appropriate time, God will bless me with the things I need as well as with the blessings that I am capable of handling.  Since God is the God of the whole world, (Did you know God is not Democrat or Republican, He is not Asian nor American...He is God) I personally think I should be praying for those suffering in China, than to be concerned with my fishing weather.  If I do my part for others, God always does His part for me.  

Whether or not we get the BMW is immaterial.  God has promised to provide all our needs, according to His riches.  I'm trying to balance the big with the little.  Hope this makes sense to ya. 

Food for thought!

Pastor T  

Monday, May 5, 2008

How Do You Know there is a God?

As a child grows and matures in his thinking, he one day reaches a moment of formulating the most important question he will ever examine within his being.  That question is the topic of this blog.  How do you know there is a God?  In some way the question itself is a proof.  For the created to wonder about its maker is, in a sense, proof of a maker.  Following are some ways to help us know.

First, we must come to an understanding of faith.  Faith is simply knowing and trusting without the tangible facts in hand.  Faith believes what is yet to be seen, but is still known in the spirit and heart of a man.  For instance, one may believe in the wind.  But have you seen the wind?  Nobody has seen the wind but we can see ample results of the wind.  A flag standing straight out on a flagpole is proof of the wind.  The roar in the treetops or the waves on the lake are reasoning for their being wind.  Yet, we can't actually see wind.  God is the same.  He is a spirit (Jn 4:24), and being thus, is not visible to the human eye.  Like the wind, we can see His influence and grand design and know.  (Heb 11:3)

1.  Take a look at the stars on a starry night.  They hang perfectly in place night after night.  Billions of galaxies are out in space and with in each galaxy there are literally billions of stars.  How did they all get there?  What holds them up?  Read: Hebrews 1:2-3  The arrangement of the planets is noteworthy.  If the earth were a bit closer to the sun we would burn up.  If we were a bit further away, we would freeze and life could not exist on this planet.  If you believe this all occurred by coincidence, you are using much more faith to believe there is no God than it takes to believe there is a God.  It is difficult to illustrate how impossible the 'big bang' theory is.  I mean it would be like taking all the components of your computer apart...all the wires, chips, and tiny pieces and then get up on the roof of a ten story building.  Toss all the individual parts at once into the air.  While they are floating (in slow motion) toward the sidewalk let me ask you a question.  What are the chances that those parts will land perfectly assembled as a working computer?  Get it?

2.  Consider the constant cycle of water that serves to provide life for every living thing.  This amazing system was put into place by God.  Water falls in the form of rain, filling the water table, watering the crops etc.  Then, it runs off into the creeks and streams...down to the rivers and finally back to the ocean where, by God's design there is salt (a cleansing agent to kill bacteria) contained in the water.  Next, the water mysteriously evaporates back to the clouds and it just so happens that the atmospheric flows bring it right back over the land and the process begins again.  Now you tell me is that just pure happenstance or is there a Creator, a God who put this all together?

3.  Within the human body are proofs too numerous to mention.  The nervous system recognizes a rock thrown at you and quickly sends a signal to your brain that trouble is coming.  The brain fires a signal back to the body causing the arms to go up, eyes to blink and the torso to duck down in an automatic mechanism of defense.  As your food processes through your intestines the liver washes the food with bile to break it down into a form that can be re-absorbed and used for energy and the remaking of cells.  The human eye is a machine man cannot reproduce.  We initially see upside down but the brain flips the image produced and brought to us by all the intricate parts of the eye.  We inhale air into our lungs.  The oxygen is taken into the blood stream and the carbon dioxide is exhaled as a toxin.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made....not evolved.  Speaking of evolution...if we evolved to this point, why did we stop evolving?  Why haven't we gone on to the next level?  Further, if we evolved where is all the scientific proof?  I mean we have complete skeletons of dinosaurs, but not a single proof of a part man - part amoeba.

4.  Scientific study has proven the Bible to be true.  Archeological digs have unearthed cities, relics, names, etc which have proved the biblical events.  There are over 400 prophecies from the Old Testament which have been proven to be fulfilled.

5.  Jesus is proof there is a God.  All the Old Testament prophets who wrote about Jesus did so thousands or hundreds of years before Christ's birth.  Most of the prophets did not know each other or live in the same time period.  Yet, Jesus fulfilled their prophecies in an exact fashion...including where He would be born, how He would die etc.  One man figured the odds of this happening by pure chance.  He stated, (paraphrased) "Suppose you filled the state of Texas 2 feet deep with silver coins.  (Texas is a big state)  Then you marked one of those coins with a marker.  Next you blind fold a man and ask him to walk anywhere he wants to in Texas covered 2 feet deep in coins, and ask him to pick up the marked coin.  The odds of a man picking up the right coin would be similar to the odds of Jesus randomly fulfilling all of prophecy."

6.  Among many other things, perhaps the greatest proof of God is personal experience.  When man follows the laws of the Bible, his life inherently tracks toward betterment; better life; better health; better rest; better family etc.  The opposite is true as well.  When a person rejects God and His Word, he usually winds his way downward in all areas of life.  To experience peace, love, forgiveness through the power of the Holy Spirit is something words cannot describe.  Through faith you can know!

Through time, study and experiences of life we all should come to acknowledge there is a God and the only way to get to Him is through Jesus Christ.  One day all men will acknowledge and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Hope this helps.

Have a good one...and wear a safety belt if you try the computer experiment!  ha.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Jesus is Still the Only Way

At the risk of sounding a bit 'preachy' on a blog, I want to go on record as saying, "Jesus is the only way for man's eternal salvation."  That seems so very simple and that is the 'is' simple and man has complicated it. In honesty, I get very upset at man-made religions...especially those who detract from Jesus' and His salvific sacrifice on the behalf of lost humanity.

No more profound words ever came from the lips of the Savior of the World than when He said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me."  It is my understanding that, contained in this solitary verse, is the plan of God for every man.  In order to get into relationship, both now and in eternity with God, one must come through Jesus.  So what does that mean?

In short, Jesus became the ultimate, permanent sacrifice for the sin of man.  Everything we could not do within ourselves, Jesus did for us.  He was perfect and therefore was accepted as the ultimate sacrifice for all time.  Jesus was tempted in every facet of life and yet He was sinless.  He is the only man ever to live who has had not sin!

God laid upon the man, Jesus, the punishment or wrath that sin demands.  The wages of sin is death.  Because Christ died He paid the debt.  Because He rose again, He became the first fruits of all who trust in Him, giving hope of life eternal for all mankind.  Without Him, all our good deeds would be fruitless.  We cannot do a solitary thing to merit salvation.  Our good works are fruits of salvation and not a requisite for it.

Jesus said, "I am the door to the sheepfold."  There is no other way to get in.  I believe that Christ, while in the grave, preached to spirits in the prison of death. (Eph 4:7-10, 1 Pet 3:19)  This was, in my judgement, the Old Testament saints who will be saved and ultimately cleansed through Jesus' blood.  Further, those who overcome in the Tribulation will do so by washing their robes white in the blood of the Lamb (Christ).  All men throughout time will have to enter through the life, death and burial of Jesus Christ.  Salvation is by faith.  It was for the thief on the cross, the Ethiopian Eunuch, the Philippian Jailor and all who come to God.  There is joy in heaven when a sinner repents!

For those who are lost in sin; for those who are twisted up in religions of various kinds;  for those bound by legalistic ideas;  for all men every where, let me remind you that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.  Instead of waiting to be forced to do that in eternity, why not bow today and confess Jesus as Lord of your life.  Ask Him to forgive you and He will...immediately.  Be baptized in His name 'because' He has forgiven you and receive the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide you.  

Men are seeking to find other ways to salvation.  Check out Oprah's message, denying that Jesus is the only way.  I wonder how many will be lost because of her?  Be careful not to buy into these evil seductions of the last days.

Keep Jesus as the focus of your life.  Follow Him...obey Him....imitate Him...and most of all give Him your life.  In the end that is all that really matters.

Be blessed on this beautiful day.

Pastor T  

PS.  Following are some great references for personal study.  John 3:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 4:12, Acts 5:29-32, Acts 8:37, Acts 10:43, Acts 13:38-39, 48, Acts 16:30-31, Rom 3:21-25, Rom 10:9-10, 1 John 4:15, 1 John 5:1


Friday, April 25, 2008

Christmas Lights in April

Just before Christmas this past year...and every year before that, we put our holiday lights up on the house, the yard and inside.  I remembered being so frustrated over the way those lights seem to love to tangle themselves up.  It took a long time to get them lined out this past Christmas, as I recall.

Why am I thinking of Christmas lights you might ask?  Because I just took the last of them down today.  That's right, the ones on the two evergreens by the garage.  When I took them down I bunched them up in a pile.  Looking at the pile, I could already see the tangle and already envision that same frustration that would occur next Christmas when I take them out and they have to be untangled.

This blog is about seeing more than the problem, anyone can do that.  This is about seeing the source of the problem.  It doesn't take rocket science for folks to quickly point out all that is wrong.  Seldom does anyone comment on that which goes right...that seems to be expected.  But when the sound squeaks, the air conditioner goofs, or the singer hits a sour one, everyone is quick to notice.  

Take it to the next level.  When someone makes a huge mistake (I have certainly made them) people tend to forget the 'leven-fifty other things that have been done correctly for numbers of years.  We human-beings are so prone to see the ugly.

Once we had an aerial photo of our home taken.  When we got the picture there was the house, the barn, the nice landscaping...and you want to know what someone noticed?  The first thing they said was look how uneven those lines are in the driveway.  Give me a break.

Let's talk about the source of the problem.  The source of my Christmas light tangle is the way I put them up in the spring or summer or...whenever I get good and around to it.  Your area of trouble likely has a source.  Most people in prison come from broken homes.  80% of men in prison had no relationship with their fathers.  Their crime is the trouble, the broken relationship the source.  Anger, fear, broken relationships, frustration, pain, and unforgiveness are often good places to look for the sources of trouble.  The trouble manifests itself in any number of ways...hostility, social drop-out, alcoholism, suicide, chronic depression, etc.

I think I shall either put my lights in the box in an orderly manner, or I shall prepare for frustration next winter about Christmas time.  Check your sources.

Pastor Tim