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Category Archives: Bible Belt

Let’s Start an “I Love You” Culture!

I grew up in a household where the “I love you’s” were very common. I didn’t realize how important that was until I was all grown up. As a matter of fact, I don’t guess I really came to the stark realization of just how important that was until I began to encounter person after person who didn’t have the same luxury as me. It has been a bit of an eye-opener of how many people my age never heard their dad say, “I love you.”. From experience, I’d say that moms are traditionally a lot better to say it than dads. But, saying it is important……and more important than you might imagine.

In my part of the world, I’ve been in the Texas Panhandle or Western Oklahoma all my life, it seems to have been part of the culture. Not sure if the same would go for other parts of the USA or the rest of the world for that matter but it wouldn’t surprise me. Fact is there are myriads of people out there who didn’t hear “I love you” in their home, from their parents or their people and as a result, they don’t say it either. It makes an incredible difference to hear it. I can’t number the times I’ve sat in my office with people of all ages with one after the other recanting their heartbreak over wondering if they were loved at all. Of course, in most if not nearly all cases they were loved, ……just not told.

I’m free with the term and I’ve found out that if you tell other people you love ’em in a little bit they’ll return the favor. For many who are not free with it, it may feel very awkward and unnatural at first but as time goes by it’ll start to feel like second-nature. My best example is one of my close friends; he grew up in one of those homes where he was loved but it wasn’t said. He caught the significance of what I’m talking about and started the process with his grown sons. It caught on! Now I’ll walk through our offices and hear him on the phone with one of his boys and they’ll finish the call with, “Love Ya”. It blesses me to hear that! It’s doable and you can do it too!

Now, here’s something serious to think about. If we didn’t hear it from our parents and if we believe we weren’t loved, when we start to connect with God, who is a Father, it’s extremely hard for us to believe that He can love us either. It profoundly affects the most important relationship you’ll ever have! The more you trust the Father, …..the more fulfilling your life will be! ………we need to fix this!

Tell me about your own experience. Is it easy for you or not? What difference have you seen with your people upon being told, “I love you”? Let me hear your stories.

So, here’s my proposition. I’m startin’ an “I love you” culture! It might even turn into a revolution. Wouldn’t that be something?!

Who’s with me?

 

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Will the Randall Terry’s of America Please Stand Up!

*I wrote this blog several years ago but never posted it. With the current state of our nation and the controversy raging over abortion I thought it would be timely to post now. – AT

There are only a few people around today who would even remember Randall Terry. And those who know him and have kept up with him would probably shrug their shoulders in disgust at the mention of his name. Terry would undoubtedly be accurately labeled as a ‘right-wing activist’ especially by the liberal media in America. They hated him then and it’d be worse now! In fact, I remember a lot worse things said about him some thirty years or so ago; extremist, is another word used to describe Terry, and again it’s probably pretty accurate. But there are more than several thousand young men and women out there in America somewhere who owe their very existence to Randall Terry.

In the nineties, Randall Terry’s organization, Operation Rescue, was involved in bringing much-needed attention to abortion doctors and clinics around the United States who engaged in, among other things, third trimester and partial birth abortions. Operation Rescue and Terry, personally, were involved in almost every kind of lawful activity in their effort to stop young girls from having abortions. He was arrested and jailed too many times to count for picketing abortion clinics, but he did more than anyone in that era (maybe ever) to put a stop to the indiscriminate killing of unborn babies. He was a continual thorn in the side of Planned Parenthood and organizations like it.

Terry’s story doesn’t have a happy ending, at least up to this point. Since the nineties he was accused of adultery, ended up with another woman, made a string of bad business decisions, said a lot of dumb stuff to the media and gave up the reins to Operation Rescue which, it seems (since I don’t hear much about it today) is not making much of an impact against the killing of the unborn. To me, he is a hero fallen from grace; we should pray for him. I wonder who will take up the cause?

And for the thousands of thirty-somethings who are now alive, only, because of his efforts, I can’t help but wonder…..How will they vote in 2020?

 

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A Lifetime of Faithfulness

I bumped into a Friend in the post office last week. He’s a retired pastor in his late 80’s.  He just sold his home and he and his wife are entering an assisted living facility in a neighboring town. He retired from the ministry a short time ago. Spent his whole life ministering in a small country church. A whole lifetime of faithfulness. I have a lot of respect for guys like that.

It made me think; I doubt he ever made much more money than to barely get by. Not rare to have to find some kind of supplemental income. Probably never got asked to speak at a big conference anywhere. Never gonna have his picture or an article in Charisma magazine. Not even gonna name a street after him in his little town. He’s not one to complain about that kinda stuff. It obviously wasn’t what was important to him. But, he kept on being faithful anyhow.

I bet he knew three or four generations of people there where he ministered all those years. Went through all the ups and downs with ’em. Everything from burying their grandpa to seeing a new baby boy welcomed into the world and entire families devastated by some of the tragedies life brings. Held their hands when they didn’t have any hope for what they were facing. Always clinging to, and pointing them to God. And, in a little church like that in a tiny community, the Pastor has to do everything. Preach every Sunday for decade upon decade. Marry ’em, bury ’em, and everything in between. All the while getting the usual criticism that goes along with the job. Think about how much wisdom he gained in a generation or more. Think about how much he would have to offer…….anyone.

In my conversation with my Friend, he lost his train of thought a time or two and apologized for it. He even said, “Well, that’s the problem I have now.”. I ‘felt’ his pain at that very moment and it grieved me. Even makes me tear up while I’m writing.

It’s been a whole lifetime of faithfulness, to the Lord and to the people He entrusted him with. It makes me wonder if anyone really noticed; if anyone did much more than say, “Thank ‘ya”. But, I have an opinion about men like my Friend. You don’t have to agree with me but I bet ‘ya when we get up ‘there’, you know, in Heaven that guys like my Friend are gonna be getting some heavy duty hardware when they start passin’ out the rewards. I think we might be surprised at how honored ‘then’ they might be as compared to those who won world acclaim here on earth. We should honor them now, ….but we probably won’t….

Some people just don’t appreciate a lifetime of faithfulness like that.

But I do!

….and I think the Father does too!

Well done!

 

 

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A Working Knowledge of the Bible

*(An excerpt from my new book, “Reading Your Bible For All It’s Worth”If you’re still trying to decide on whether or not to get a few copies of the book, maybe this chapter will get your attention. Anyone who knows me or has read some of the broad range of things I’ve written over the last few years knows that the content is ultra-easy to understand and equally as easy to apply to your own life. Everything I write has either an overt, or covert message that ultimately leads the readers into the possibility of a genuine, life-changing encounter with the Father. It’s Always done with absolutely no coercion, manipulation or pressure. *You know, just like Jesus did it! You won’t find a more comprehensive or practical book anywhere that will help you learn to read, understand and more importantly, enjoy your Bible. Give me a little feedback. Let me know if you like it. Blessings!  AT

A Working Knowledge of the Bible

“You gotta get in the Word, til the Word gets in you”  AT

When my life made a dramatic turn in 1984, my wife, Julie had just recently bought a New King James Version Bible. I basically took the Bible from her! I’m not sure she even gave me permission to take it but I guess she thought that maybe I’d actually read it, and that would be a good thing! And, read it I did! When I got into that NKJV Bible I couldn’t quit. It was easier to understand than the King James Version for me. And, as I found out later, it remains very close to the KJV without the cumbersome language of the 1600’s. At any rate, it was the version of the Bible I first became acquainted with and I’ve stuck with it for 35 years now.

I was raised on an extremely remote ranch in the Texas Panhandle. We were 35 miles from a town of any size. (Canadian, Texas, Pop. 3000). And, as the old adage goes, “where we lived wasn’t on the way to anywhere!” But after I began my walk with the Lord a strange phenomenon began to take place. Many of my friends from my ‘old life’, beer drinkers, partiers, etc. started showing up at my house, out there in the middle of nowhere. It was really amazing how often it happened. These guys were opening up about their lives and their problems asking me what they should do. Even though I had been immersed in the Bible I had hardly any answers for them. I just knew that if God could fix my life, …..He could surely fix theirs! Their extremely diverse, and broad range of problems and questions caused me to dig in the Word for answers. I’d go home at night and dig, and dig, and dig to find the answers. And, now after 35 years, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the same question twice. I can see clearly now that it was the Lord’s way of helping me find my way around the Word.

I had to put that old Bible aside for a new one several years back. Its pages are worn and torn. They’re marked with half a dozen different colors of pens, pencils, and highlighters, The cover is faded and coming apart. Mark 1 & 2 are completely missing. Cole, my third son, at about age 2 had ripped them out, wadded them up in a little ball and was about to put them into his mouth when I discovered them. 

I learned my way around the Bible by looking for answers for my friends. Through all that I developed, what I call, a ‘working knowledge’ of the Bible. I had no idea in those days that the Lord would use me in any ministry capacity at all. Never dreamed of it! But He knew! And, how He trained me in the Book has been invaluable to me in being a leader, counselor, and teacher of the Word.

You can do the same. Whenever your friends or family have a serious life event, grab your Bible and start looking. Keep looking until you find an answer or a verse that would encourage them. Just do that! Keep doing it and you’ll develop a working knowledge of the Bible, yourself!

 

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“Let’s Do Something Crazy”

I have some pretty incredible grandkids, nine of them as of now. (the number will be 10 in a few weeks!) They’re all amazingly unique in their own ways. I had no idea, going in, that being a grandparent would have so many blessings attached to it. It has been a source of great joy for Julie and me for, now going on 19 years. I was talking to a friend about how much we enjoyed grandparenting and he gave the usual reply, “Yeah, you can spoil your grandkids and send ’em home”. I said, “Not us; we spoil ’em and keep ’em there”! Pretty much sums it up. We’re extremely blessed in that of the 9 grandkids we have, all but one little girl (2 hrs away), lives within five miles of us!

Our newest grandchild is Timber. She’s something! She’s about to turn 3 and like all the rest she’s been an unbelievable blessing. Clay and Chelsea are great as first-time parents. A few days ago they were at our house and Timber was playing around and just doing her thing. She ran from the kitchen into the living room full of excitement and said to Clay, “Dad, let’s do something crazy!” Without hesitation, Clay jumped up, grabbed Timber and threw her into the air….her little head nearly touching the ceiling. She cackled and said, “Let’s do it again!” And they did; but, this time he threw her up and spun her around in a 360* and caught her again at the same time. “Do it again, Dad!” This time he grabbed her by her little legs, held her upside down and flipped her up in the air and, just like clockwork, caught her again. She was laughing almost uncontrollably throughout the whole process. I guess it would’ve gone on all evening if Dad hadn’t given out.

Little kids have an incredible level of trust in their parents. We love to stand them up on the table and then tell them to ‘jump’ to us. They’ll do it every time! Why? ……’cause they trust us. They know we’d never let them fall. Wouldn’t it be something if we had that level and depth of trust with our Father!? I think it’s something we should shoot for!

Can’t you imagine how excited God might be if you woke up tomorrow and said to Him, “Let’s do something crazy!!”

 

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“When Push Comes to Pull”

Yeah, I know, the little saying doesn’t go quite like that. It usually goes, “when push comes to shove” but in a world where, at times it feels like everyone’s pushing for something, or about something, it’s kinda nice to not get pushed. In fact it’s nice to not ever get pushed if you ask me.

Example; I don’t like it when car salesmen push. We were only a few hundred dollars apart on a used car deal some years back. We wanted them to install a DVD player and the salesman, who had been pushing on us for a couple of hours, finally pushed me as far as I was going! He really ticked me off. I went to the car and was ready to leave. When he saw that he was going to lose the sale he started back-peddling. I’d had enough and told him I was done! He kept on. He finally told me he’d install the DVD player for the money we’d offered him for the car. I said, “I don’t care if you put 5 DVD players in it, I ain’t buying it!” We left. He called me four or five times the next week but I didn’t budge. Why? ‘Cause I was tired of gettin’ pushed!

People, by nature don’t like to be pushed. I think the Lord made us that way. You see, He’s not a ‘pusher’. Some of His people are but that shouldn’t be a reflection on Him, but sadly it is. We didn’t go to church when I was a kid and I had a few ‘churchy’ friends who were always pushing on me. I didn’t like it then….and I like it less now. It doesn’t feel good. Pushing people toward God doesn’t work. But there are a bunch of believers out there who can’t seem to figure that out, as well-meaning as they might be.

The Book says, “No man comes to the Father except that the Father ‘draws’ him”. God doesn’t push; in fact it’s against His nature to do that. But He draws us, pulls us in, with His mercy, His grace…..and His love. It has an altogether different feel to it. It feels right, …..because it ‘is’ right! God’s people are often referred to as sheep in the Bible. I don’t know much about sheep but they tell me that you really can’t ‘drive’ sheep. They’re much easier ‘led’. If you think about it….we’re a lot like sheep in that respect; we respond much better when we’re led than we’re driven. 

Everything the Father does with us is pulling us toward Him. It’s not a harsh or invasive thing at all. It’s gentle, and easy on us……and easy to respond to.

So, maybe religion needs to stop and re-assess the methods, some of which obviously don’t work, ….and let push come to pull!

You might like these too:

Are You “Right” With God?

I’ve Never ‘Led’ Anyone to the Lord……and I Ain’t Planning on Doing it Anytime Soon!

 

 

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The Bible Belt – “The Land of Never Enough”

After 30 years or so in the ministry there are things you start to notice, things that stand out. There are patterns of thought and behavior that seem to be deeply woven into the fabric of Bible Belt mentality. One such pattern that runs very deep among born again believers is that one can never do enough to get,….or stay, in good standing with God. If you wonder why I say that, here’s why; I hear it all the time; “I don’t go to church enough”, “I don’t pray enough”, “I don’t read the Bible enough”, “I don’t have enough faith”, “I’m not a very good Christian”, I hope I”m going to heaven”. I just heard this from a man yesterday, “I think God has given up on me”. I refuted that lie as quick as I could!

It’s a prevalent attitude with many people always thinking they can never do enough, or be good enough to satisfy the Lord. It gives the feeling they’re trying to serve a God that’s unreasonably demanding and impossible to please. It’s like being on a treadmill of performance in an effort to earn their righteousness; A state, in fact, that many never seem to arrive at. This is a problem of the highest order, in my opinion, because it gives an incorrect image of ‘Who’ God actually is. It’s one of the greatest misportrayals the world has ever seen. There are many out there who’ll live their entire lives believing they were never quite acceptable or good enough to please God. And, what’s worse is that it leads one to believe that the Father’s love based entirely on our behavior.

Sad,…. Sad,…. Sad!

The danger of ‘never enough’ exists anytime a mixture of law and grace are preached. And, sadly enough…..that’s what happens most of the time in the Bible Belt. Paul spent the last half of his life contrasting law and grace. He knew them both well….in fact better than anyone on the planet in his generation. He was a staunch defender of grace even after it caused him to be beaten more than once and left for dead. It was controversial then….it’s controversial now…..but only to those who believe their behavior is what makes them righteous.

So, tell me, what’s on your list of things to do that make you righteous? And, while you’re at it explain to me where the line is of, enough….or not enough. Truth is, if you never read your Bible, if you never went to church your righteousness isn’t diminished one bit. I’m not advocating that….just pointing it out! You’re not righteous because of what you do…..you’re righteous because of what He did! The Father doesn’t love you because you’re good…..He loves you because He’s good!

THAT, in itself, makes me want to do good!

Good fathers would never keep their children in limbo over such important things! So, pack your bags, enjoy your relationship with the Father….. and get out of the land of never enough!

Check out the Audio Version:

 

 

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Sacrifice Cats? Why, Yes…..Yes We Do!

When we started Trinity Fellowship back in 1989 there were less than ten of us. We didn’t know much but we were sure we’d heard the Lord. Those early years were extremely challenging (as have been the rest of ’em! lol), but really rewarding too. Looking back, those were some great years. The little group of people we started with were growing in the Lord….and we were growing in how to lead them. We were literally in the ‘school of the Spirit’! Being the only non-denominational church in town we had to grow through what I call, “the snake handlers syndrome”. Because you’re different there’s a lot of talk….and much of it was negative talk. They don’t know what you’re doing….but because it’s different it has to be wrong. We were looked down on by the other leaders and churches in town and often ignored, made fun of and treated with disrespect. That all served to make us that much more determined to hear the Lord and be obedient to what we believed He was saying to us.

One particular case in point was when one of the ladies in our group came to me somewhat distressed. She said that another person asked her at the beauty shop if it was true that we sacrificed cats, …….if you can believe that! I asked the lady from our group what she told them, to which she replied, “I told her….NO! ….absolutely not!!” I said, “Well, you go right back down there and tell ‘em that we do sacrifice cats!” She had a surprised and puzzled look on her face. I said, “But be sure and tell ‘em there’s nothing religious about it……we just don’t like cats!” I don’t think she told ‘em!! LOL, I do think we had quite a few visitors who came just out of curiosity!

But, seriously, there’s not one thing that cleanses a feller’s soul quite like a good ‘ol cat sacrificin’!

*(Easy cat lovers….I’m just kidding!)

More humor:

“It’ll Ride”

Them Swallows Can’t Return to Capistrano Soon Enough For Me!

Just Some Friendly Advice: Always Approach a Possum With Extreme Caution!!

 

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Theorists and Practitioners

Theorist: Someone who considers given facts and comes up with a possible explanation is called a theorist.                                                                                                                            Practitioner: A practitioner is someone who is actively involved in real life situations, and qualified to practice a particular occupation, profession, or religion.

I had a conversation 10 years ago with a few close friends. I don’t actually remember the exact details of the entire conversation but I definitely remember the conclusion I came to soon after it was over. I was with four other ministry people, all of which had quite a few years experience. A couple of these guys are great communicators, orators, Bible teachers. But they weren’t actively involved in the day to day dealing with people and their problems. It’s not that they couldn’t do it; they have. It’s just that they weren’t heavily involved at that time. I’ll call them the ‘theorists’. They’re important people!

It was a really good, brisk discussion on how things ought to work in the church from a, strictly, Biblical standpoint. Of those things there wasn’t much disagreement, whatsoever. But the ‘rub’ came when we began talking about how it really is in the ‘trenches’. You know, out there where the rubber hits the road….in real life; Where you get knocked down, get your nose bloodied, betrayed, lied to, tripped up and derailed. That all can happen (and really a lot more!) in the process of ‘practicing’ the theory.

I am deeply involved in the day to day challenge of dealing with people…and their issues. Been doing it for nearly 30 years. It’s what I do. I’m far from perfect at it….but I have learned a few things. For that reason I’d say I’m more a ‘practitioner’ than a theorist. When you add, what I’d call the ‘human factor’, to any theory, even a Biblical one, it complicates that theory to a large degree. Doesn’t mean the theory is wrong or even faulty, for that matter. But it’s different when it’s being lived out in real life. It’s never quite as neat; in fact it’s usually pretty messy; it’s never as cut and dried as we’d like for it to be. When you add people to the equation it gets a lot more difficult. It’s nearly always worth it….but difficult, nonetheless.

It led me to this conclusion; There needs to be a ‘coming together’ of the ‘theorists’ and the ‘practitioners’. They need to sit down at the table and talk, discuss, compare, hash it out, even argue a little if it’s friendly and helpful. It’s vital, I think. And, if it’s done in a productive manner….everyone leaves the table wiser and better equipped…..and both have a much better understanding.

In all truth, and I think this is how the Lord designed it for obvious reasons, …..unless the theory is tested in the laboratory of life….all you have is a theory. But when the theory is a Biblical one, and the parties involved will lean toward the Lord, it usually works out……..a whole lot more often than not!

The theorists and the practitioners need to get together!

Readin’ a book about learning how to fly an airplane is fine…..but when you’re taxiing down the runway……things get REAL!

Check these out:

I Plant a Little, I Water a little…..

A Long Ways From the Lord

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Yoke Up!

The old timers will all tell you that one of the sure-fire ways to train up a young draft horse to pull a wagon, a coach or a plow is to hitch him up to an older, seasoned horse. The young horse will fight the harness, buck, pitch and kick for all he’s worth but it doesn’t take long until he gives it all up. Yep, the old plow horse doesn’t let any of it bother him. He’ll just plod along doing his job until the young horse decides to cooperate.

Seems like a pretty fair analogy to describe our walk with the Lord. In fact, Jesus used that exact same analogy in one of the classic statements He made in His earthly life, “Take My yoke upon you”. For the most part His message up to that point had been directed to the Jewish nation and people. And this statement, while we can easily apply it to our own life, was directed to those who were ‘yoked’ up in the Law of Moses. Jesus’ message of grace flew square in the face of the over-religious, self-righteous, doctrinal police and they hated Him for it.

This message of grace and love was ultimately why they so often sought to kill Him. I find it extremely peculiar that as good as Jesus was they sought to vilify Him because He wouldn’t submit to their lifeless religion. And that’s exactly what legalistic religion is…lifeless. No man has ever been made righteous by the Law, and no man will ever be! The Law, as Paul says, served as a schoolmaster until Christ came, and after that there is no need for the Law. It’s a polarizing subject even today. In fact, it’s the issue at stake in the whole Body of Christ, this argument over law and grace. There are those who are being vilified in the same manner as Jesus was and the bottom line is that the legalists don’t believe that God is as good as we’re saying He is! So, Jesus’ statement was designed to take the heavy weight of trying to keep the Law off those who were burdened down under it and get them to ‘yoke up’ with Him.

Hitch up with Jesus!

His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Maybe we oughta quit our buckin’ and pitchin’ and try it!

Life is hard; It’s harder if ‘ya ain’t yoked up!

Here’s a couple you should take a look at:

I Don’t Know How He Does It!

He Won’t ‘Put More On Ya’ Than You Can Stand

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