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Category Archives: Consequences

The Parable of Sonny Corleone

You remember Sonny Corleone, right? He was the oldest son of don Vito Corleone in Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel and it’s 1972 film adaptation, The Godfather. Sonny, played by popular actor of the day, James Caan, was determined to be involved in the illicit ‘business’ that his notorious father was in even though the elder Corleone didn’t much want it to be. (back in my rodeo days it was a regular occurrence to see James Caan at the California rodeos competing in the team roping).

Sonny was a hothead, passionate about nearly everything in life but given to extreme outbursts of anger and fits of violence (totally unlike his father or his younger, quieter brother Michael, (Al Pacino) who eventually became Boss of Bosses in the New York City underworld). It was nothing for Sonny to beat another person senseless and he didn’t mind killin’ if the need arose,…..as it often did. It was that very demeanor and behavior that would eventually lead to his own premature, and brutal demise.

Here’s how it went down. Sonny’s sister, Connie, was married to a chronic abuser. On more than a few occasions he had beaten her and Sonny finally got a belly full. Rival Mafia families, knowing Sonny’s combustable tendencies, staged a situation for Connie’s husband to, again, beat her. Sonny, as was his norm, flew off the handle, jumped in his car, without his bodyguards, and headed out to give his brother in law what he justly deserved. But the stage was set against him; when he got to the toll booth on the Long Beach Causeway a dozen gunmen were waiting. His car was blocked, he couldn’t escape and you can guess the rest of the story! It was ugly. You can see it here if you want.

There’s a spiritual lesson to be learned here. It’s a trap that I could’ve fallen for many times, myself. In my younger days I had quite a temper. It’ll still show up every now and then and it ain’t pretty! The incidents have gotten a lot fewer and farther between, praise the Lord. It would be a testimony killer for me at this stage of the game, no doubt. But, just like the rival crime families knew Sonny’s weakness and tendencies….your enemy, the devil does likewise. And he knows exactly when….and how to attack. So, heads up! Your weakness might not be your temper like mine and Sonny’s. It could be something altogether different. But make no mistake, without being aware of your weakness and neglecting to lean on the Lord in those areas…..you’re at risk.

James (in the Bible) said it like this: “Be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath.”

That’s good advice for guys like me and Sonny!

It’s taken awhile….but I’m gradually learnin’ to do it!

 

You like parables?? Check these out:

The Parable of Pedro Flores

The Parable of Pedro Flores Part 2

 

 

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Resilience……It’s a Thing!

Resilience:the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness; the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
It’s a ‘thing’ alright! You don’t find it everywhere today in this world of entitlement and political correctness. But it’s there. It’s a part of our nature….or should I say it’s a part of the nature of what the left and right coasters, and liberals, call us ‘deplorables’. You know, us rednecks, us backward rural Americans, Christians and who those self-proclaimed, more educated and refined, folks look down on. We have resilience; we have it in abundance….and I hate it for those that don’t have it and don’t know the first thing about it.
I spent the day with a few dozen others walking the Western Oklahoma pastures trying to recover anything of value for a family that lost everything in a direct-hit tornado that took their home, their business and everything that was dear to them. The devastation was as bad as anything I’ve ever seen. I can’t even, with all my imagination, muster up what it must feel like to have a home, a business and all my belongings one minute….and then in a matter of minutes see them scattered for miles over the countryside.
But, you know what….? Not one single time did I hear this family say, “Why me?”; not once did I hear them whine about not even having a bed to lay down in tonight; not once did I hear them complain and gripe about what the government was going to do for them. Not once! What I did hear was, “We’ll be OK”;“I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’ll be OK”! ….and they will!
Less than a mile away a hundred other families, some I know…some I don’t, lost their homes too…..and while I had little contact with most of them I can tell you now that they’re gonna be OK too. Why?……because they’re resilient, that’s why! It’s part of our makeup out here in rural America.
We help one another out here. It’s just what we do. Literally hundreds of friends and neighbors, and I’m guessing quite a few strangers that had no ties whatsoever, bailed in and went to work today in our area……just to help out their fellow man. Nobody’s looking for attention; nobody cares if they get noticed or not. Nobody cares who gets the credit. They’re just lending their precious time, effort, resources and genuine concern and care to help someone in dire need.
It looks really, really good!
I think the Father likes it!
We’re rich in resilience out here!
So, yeah,……..resilience is a thing!
 

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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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Sharpen Your Saw!

Have you heard the story about the two guys who were pitted against one another in a wood cutting contest? They both were given brand new chain saws, all the fuel they needed and the rules were that they would cut firewood for eight hours and the one that had cut the most wood would receive a cool million dollars. That’d be enough to motivate just about anybody.

There was a twenty foot curtain between the two woodcutters and enough downed trees to keep them busy for a long, long time. The starter fired his gun and the cuttin’ commenced! They were going at it with everything they had. One of them never let up. The only time he stopped his saw was to refuel. But there were plenty of times that he noticed that the other guy’s saw wasn’t running at all. That just made him that much more determined to cut more wood. After a few hours he was getting weary but he still kept cutting, determined to win that million dollar prize. He could hear the other guy’s saw part of the time but part of the time it was silent….so he knew he must be a long ways ahead of him with his growing pile of firewood.

The contest went on for, seemed like forever. It finally came down to just a few minutes left before the end of the eight hours. The one woodcutter was utterly exhausted but was confident that he was way out in the lead. He never stopped cutting all day; only stopped three or four times to get a drink but immediately went back to work. He was feeling pretty good despite being completely worn out. He knew there was no possible way the other guy had cut as much wood as he did. Too much time with the saw not running. He was already thinking about what he’d do with that million dollars!

The official signaled the end of the contest. It was now time to drop the curtain and see who the winner was. When the curtain dropped the determined, exhausted…but confident woodcutter was totally dumbfounded! He couldn’t believe his eyes! The other guy had cut nearly three times the amount of firewood as he had. How in the world could that happen!?

He had to ask, “How could you have possibly cut that much more firewood than me?” “I never let up; I never took a break; I just barely stopped long enough to get a drink of water”. And, all day long I noticed quite often that your saw wasn’t running.” “What were you doing all that time that your saw was silent?”

The other woodcutter calmly replied, “I was sharpenin’ my saw!”

About everyone I know is doing all they can to keep up in life. For most there’s no lack of effort and hard work. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if we’re winning or not. But it makes sense in this day and time to learn how to work smarter, not harder. You should ask the Lord what that means for you. The details will be different for each of us but there’s no doubt about it……….we all need to sharpen our saw!

Here’s the audio version:

 

 

 

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Running On Empty

As songwriters go, I’d consider Jackson Browne one of the best. In fact, way back in the 70’s, Glenn Frey and Don Henley (the Eagles) moved in above Jackson in a $60 a month apartment in L.A. They admitted that they learned, and perfected their craft of writing songs by listening to some  of those ‘mind boggling melodies’, as Rolling Stone magazine described Jackson Browne’s songs. They agreed that he was just a notch above anyone else who was writing in those days….and there were a bunch of ’em. One of those songs, “Running on Empty”, was the title track of his ‘Live’ album in 1977 and is, to this day, the most played of all his songs on Classic Rock stations. On an interesting note the song was written while Browne was struggling to make it and, in his own words, “I was always driving around with no gas in the car”.

I just returned to the office after five weeks off. Haven’t done anything like that in the 28 years since we started Trinity Fellowship. I didn’t take the time off to fast and pray. That would definitely be time well spent but I took the time off to just get away from it all. No studying, no preaching or teaching, no late night emergency phone calls, no funerals……no nothing! Pretty much everybody’s job has its own level of stress. Ministry’s no different; people ain’t lined up to tell you good news! It took at least a week to get out from under the load of ministry that I’ve been used to. And, maybe another week to get in full, no stress mode. But, with the support I have from the people around me (they’re the best in the business!) I finally started to actually relax. I think I was like a lot of folks who are out there today, running on empty……and maybe not even knowing it! It’s easy to get in crisis mode and if you’re not careful…..never get out. It’s unhealthy!

The Father, Himself, rested on the seventh day…and He designated and set aside a day for us to rest, too. Most of us don’t do it; don’t know how, never tried it. We’re too busy doing all the things we know we should be doing. But, the Sabbath was made for man! We should learn how to do it! When we’re running on empty we won’t even come close to doing our best work.

Hardly anybody can get as much serious time off as I had, I understand that. But, we could learn to take a day a week to get out from under the load. Maybe we could learn to work ‘smarter’, not harder. It’ll take some time, no question.  But if we’ll make it a priority…..we won’t have to be running on empty!

Audio Version:

If you’re wanting a little more:

There’s Something To Be Said For Not Knowing Anything!

‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Click here to listen/watch my favorite Jackson Browne tune (you’ll like it!)

 

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The Way I See It, We’ve Got Two Choices

Life is full of tricks and turns. It’s universal in that we are all going to go through an entire array of experiences, both good and bad in the course of our life. Some of these experiences are expected while others seem to come out of nowhere…..and are totally unexpected. We might be on the mountain one day and way down in the valley the next. Those valley experiences can really take a toll on us if we don’t do something to offset the stress.

At this stage of my life I can’t imagine someone not turning to the Lord in the midst of their trials. But, just like anyone else…..before I knew better, I didn’t do it either. Now I do know better. I’ve learned through some very unpleasant seasons in life to lean on the Lord through those times. Once we start to trust the Lord with our life that scenario should become a no-brainer. As we mature we begin to understand that the hard times afford us with some profound growth opportunities.

But, what about the good times; the mountain top times when things are seemingly as good as they can get. I’m suggesting that we turn to the Lord during those times, as well. Most of us at one time or another have thought how dumb the Israelites were when they were being blessed by the Lord. It’s interesting, but during those good times they were prone to stray away from the Lord and His goodness. If we’re not careful we’ll make the same mistake, ourselves. We should resolve to be grateful, and turn to Him….even in the good times.

Many people have made their choice to try to make it through life without turning to the Lord. That’s tragic but I think it happens for a couple of obvious reasons. First, God has been mis-portrayed by many to be mean-spirited and judgmental. Second, He gets the blame for every negative and painful thing that happens by some people. But the truth of the matter is that He’s a Father…..and He’s good! Really good! You just have to taste and see for yourself!

There’s gonna be plenty of hard times….and hopefully plenty of good times in life. The way I see it we’ve got two choices; we can either run from the Lord or run to Him. I’ve never seen the former work, ……not one time. On the other hand, I’ve never seen the latter ‘not work’!

The choice is yours!

 

Check these out, too:

“If You Could See The Big Picture”

They Don’t Call it ‘Test’imony For Nothin’!

Perspective; It Makes All the Difference!

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Only the Lonely

Roy Orbison possessed one of the most distinctive singing voices that any of us have ever heard. Born in Vernon, Texas in 1936 he forever carved out his unique niche in both pop and country music. There’s not a single song of his that doesn’t captivate even the most finicky music critic. As I was listening on XM a short time ago he sang “Only the Lonely”. Anybody can sing any song….but nobody can sing that one like Roy, himself. Sometimes you can just listen to a song and enjoy it. But, this time when I heard it, …..it ‘moved’ me. It caused me to think of the times I’ve felt alone….and the many, many times I have talked to, and tried to help, others who were isolated in life for whatever reason. “Only the lonely know the way I feel tonight; only the lonely know this feeling ain’t right”.

Loneliness; being without company, cut off from others, a feeling of bleakness or desolation. Even the definition has a deep, dull impact! It’s clearly one of the most devastating of all human emotions. It can evoke the strongest feelings of rejection and discouragement or even worse. God even says Himself, “It is not good that man should be alone.” We’re created in such a way to have a dire need for companionship. I think it could even be construed that the Father, Himself, doesn’t want to be alone. Could that be one of the primary reasons that we were created in the first place?! I think maybe so.

The Father must’ve known that we’d all experience times of feeling all alone. He had some amazing foresight if you ask me. It must be why He thought it was so important to make sure that we never had to worry or wonder if He’d be there for us. When He said, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you”….He meant it!

I hope you never feel alone but if, or when, you do think about HIs promise. He’s there…..whether you can feel Him or not! Run to Him, call out to Him…….He’ll help!

*(This one’s for you Jack M!)

Don’t stop here….check these out, *and “Share” ’em, too:

“If You Could See The Big Picture”

You Matter! You Really Do!

I Don’t Know How He Does It!

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