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Category Archives: Discouragement

The Empire ‘Always’ Strikes Back!

One of the largest grossing films of all time, now surpassing the $538 million dollar mark! The story, the second in the Star Wars Trilogy, set 3 years after Star Wars pits again the villainous Galactic Empire leader, Darth Vader against young Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance. The film was the largest grossing film of 1980 and has since continued to rake in the millions and is now regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. When the movie came out it moved the bar up considerably where special effects were concerned. George Lucas became a household name and the ‘Trilogy’ established itself in American culture forever.

There is a mystical power known as “the Force”. It’s described as, “an energy field created by all living things that bind the galaxy together”. (sound familiar??!) Those whom “the Force is strong with” have quick reflexes; through training and meditation, they are able to perform supernatural feats. The Force is displayed by two opposing entities who are at violent conflict with one another. The Jedi, the ‘good guys’, who act on the light side of the Force, and the Sith, Vader’s evil empire, who use the dark side through fear, intimidation, and aggression.

It’s an epic story on the eternal battle between good and evil both here on the Earth and in the celestial realm. As a believer, it’s a battle that you’ve been swept into whether you like it or not. Just the movie’s title, The Empire Strikes Back, has a somewhat sobering and prophetic ring to it. It’s a great analogy of the spiritual warfare we face as believers and kingdom citizens. The spiritual comparisons in this movie are many. Darth Vader is a fair comparison to Satan although even at his very worst is no match for our adversary, the devil. At the end of the first movie, Skywalker and his rag-tag bunch of warriors win a hard fought battle against the forces of darkness. But there’s enough of the remnant of the Evil Empire left to start the slow process of building back, and ultimately assembling a formidable and potentially vicious deadly troop focused on the attack and destruction of the Jedi’s.

So yeah, just like in the movie the Empire always strikes back! You might as well get ready for it. They know your weakness. They know just how to attack. They’re determined to destroy you. But, take courage! You’re well equipped for this epic battle. It’s one you’re going to win! So, suit up!! Take up your lightsaber! You know, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God! Put on your helmet of salvation, and take up that shield of faith with which you can quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one!

This battle is a BIG one!

Good luck, …..and may the Force be with you!

 

 

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The Mountains are Talkin’!

….and you’ve heard them too, whether you realize it or not! And, there’s a great possibility that you’ve been listening way too much at what they’re saying! I bet you’re wondering just what I’m talking about. Well, Jesus knew we’d be facing mountains in the natural course of our life so He addressed it up front for us. “Whosoever shall say to the mountain, be removed and cast into the sea, and doesn’t doubt in his heart that those things he says, he shall have whatsoever he shall say.” 

Now, realistically I can’t imagine why I’d ever want to move an actual mountain from one place to another. As far as I’m concerned they’re all exactly where they’re supposed to be. On second thought I wouldn’t mind having a couple of small ones out here in Western Oklahoma just to look at now and then, …..but it is what it is. One would then have to surmise that maybe Jesus wasn’t talking about a literal mountain at all but about the problems, obstacles and potential dangers we all face in life.

I’d be surprised if anyone reading this little piece didn’t have at least some obstacle facing them right now. It just seems to work out that way. Mountains talk a lot! And when you have one, the mountain will be in your face talkin’ smack from the time you wake up ’til you go to sleep at night. ……sometimes even in your sleep! “You ain’t gonna make it!”. “You’ve got cancer!”. “He doesn’t love you anymore!”. “Your friends are talking about you!”. “You’re a failure!”. “You don’t do enough good stuff for the Lord to love you!”. And, the list goes on and on. Mountains are relentless! They don’t let up! The more you listen, the more they talk!

I know you learned when you were a little kid to not ‘talk back’. Talkin’ back would get you in big trouble in those days. That was good advice then. But now, well now things have changed. You gotta start talkin’ back! I’ve found that the most effective way to talk back to mountains is to find me some scriptural promise that directly affects the lies the mountain is saying to me. Every time that mountain tells me I ain’t gonna make it, ……I’ll declare the Word of the Lord out loud to my mountain. You can bet your boots I’m gonna talk back! And, I’m gonna do it like I mean it even if it feels like I’m spittin’ in the wind.

That’s exactly what Jesus did when He was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Those three times he appealed to logic in trying to deceive Jesus, each time Jesus answered with, “It is written…”. Worked then for Him, ……..and it’ll work now for you if you’ll just do it!

The payoff, …..you’ll find that your level of faith rises every time you declare the Word to your mountain. Your mountain will begin to diminish in size. It’s all about perspective. Your faith is being tested and your faith will grow as a result.

So, yeah the mountains are talking. Question is, “What are you saying to your mountain!?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Everybody Needs a “Hi-Pockets” Duncan in Their Life

I bet you never even heard of him! Well, that name meant nothing to me either until a few months ago. *(Thanks to my good friend, Charles Lynn who sent me an autographed copy of Terry Jennings [Waylon’s son!], and who I recently became friends with) brand new book, Waylon, Tales of My Outlaw Dad) Hi-Pockets was a Lubbock, Texas disc jockey in the ’50s who was instrumental in giving a young Lubbock performer, Charles Hardin Holly, better known as ‘Buddy’, his first real opportunity. In those days there was lots of talent around Lubbock but Buddy Holly was special.

You know the tragic story of Buddy Holly but you might not know that his young friend and bass player from nearby Littlefield, Texas gave his seat up to another performer on that ill-fated plane destined for Fargo, ND. Yep, Waylon Jennings, himself, should’ve been on that plane. The regular tour bus froze up and Buddy decided to charter a plane for himself and his band. The others would use a school bus for the long, cold drive to Fargo.

Waylon and Buddy were tight friends and before Buddy departed on that fateful night they jokingly exchanged barbs with one another. Since Waylon was going to have to ride a bus to the destination, Buddy jokingly said, “I hope the bus breaks down.” to which Waylon replied, “I hope your ‘ol plane crashes.”That would be a statement that would haunt Waylon for decades. In fact, it almost ruined him, and understandably so. It crippled him so emotionally that he basically quit the music business altogether.

It was months later and Waylon had no intentions of re-engaging in the music business at any level when Hi-Pockets cornered him that afternoon. I guess you could say he, more or less, gave him a good chewing out; you know, one of them old fashioned talkin’ to’s! He told him he had absolutely no business feeling guilty about his friend’s terrible twist of fate; and that what he should do is get out of the ditch he was in, quit moping around, get back up….and get going again. It took a few days for that advice to kick in, ……but it did! And the rest, as they say, is history.

There’s probably not a single one of us who’ve not had our dreams snuffed out. For some it’s been terminal; for others maybe just a delay in where their life was to go. But at any rate getting back up after a derailment is exactly what needs to happen. Someone said, “To be successful in life all you have to do is get back up one more time than you get knocked down”. Sounds easy,…..the actual ‘doing of it’ is much harder. But, undeniably, it IS the thing to do.

And, sometimes, it takes a Hi-Pockets Duncan type to get you up and going again. Better yet, …..maybe sometime you’ll have the chance to be that person of encouragement for someone else. Sometimes a good ‘talkin’-to’ is just the thing to get the ball rolling again!

 

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Don’t Bring Me Down

The Electric Light OrchestraELOis an English rock band formed in 1970 by songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jeff Lynne. Their music was characterized by the use of instruments not commonly associated with rock music such as violins, cellos, oboes, clarinets, French horns and bassoons. Thus the ‘orchestra’ designation in their name. With the use of those instruments, you can accurately surmise that they had a very unique, but appealing sound. The band had a number of very popular songs. Interestingly enough, my favorite ELO song, “Don’t Bring Me Down”, (click on link for video) recorded in 1979 was their very first song not to include a string section. It was ELO’s highest charting song in the US, peaking at #3.

As an avid music lover, I’ve found that just about every song has a title, line, phrase or sometimes even just one word that, with a little imagination, can reveal some content that makes for some good spiritual conversation. This song is such a one. “Don’t Bring Me Down”. We have incredible potential with our attitudes and words spoken to those around us to do one of two things….lift them up, or…..bring them down. Looking back over my life I remember those who had a kind, encouraging, uplifting word for me. Those kinds of folks will do more for ya than you can imagine. Encouraging words lift us to another place. They help us believe in ourselves. I mean, if someone else believes in me then I must be OK, right?! Uplifting words have a healing effect on the human psyche. You’ll find yourself gravitating to those who have a kind word for you. And, it’s exactly the opposite for that other bunch that doesn’t have any good thing to say about anyone. Chances are that person was surrounded by parents, friends or peers who couldn’t say anything positive to them. And, it has become the norm; it’s contagious. I read recently that it takes 40 positive, affirming words to counter just one negative, condemning or cruel critical comment toward someone.

I may miss the mark. I may not always say the right thing. I may not handle every single situation perfectly. I might even do something that is just plain dumb. But, say something that lifts me up. Give me some encouragement! Speak life into me! Tell me something that’ll help me.

But, ……don’t bring me down!

Try these:

“Critics, There’s One on Every Corner”

“Sticks and Stones”

 

 

 

 

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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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The Lessons I Learned from Jeff

The last year we lived on the ranch in the Texas Panhandle I had the responsibility of taking care of 2500 head of cattle. About 1800 of those were close to 40 miles away north of Canadian, Texas on the expansive Urschel Ranch. I’d go up about three times a week and spend the day horseback checking the cattle; getting a decent count on them, making sure they had water, making sure none of them were out of the pastures they were supposed to be in. It’d make for a long day but it was enjoyable to me.

I was about three years into my walk with the Lord. Didn’t know much but I was learning a lot. I had given my testimony a couple of times and was already feeling the call for ministry…even though I had no idea what all that might mean. A friend and I had a cowboy church service (years before anyone ever heard that term!) at the Hemphill County Expo Center in Canadian and I preached the message. That was a first! I have no idea what I preached about but I do remember that one of my friends since childhood (a few years older than me) got saved that day. Let’s just call him, Jeff.

Jeff was a cowboy and had been in some of the very worst combat fights in Vietnam. In three different battles there were over a hundred US troops under fire….and all three times less than fifteen came out alive. Jeff was one of the ones each time. But, it had left an indelible mark on him. He struggled with deep depression, was separated from his wife, had trouble sleeping and agonized over the things he was ordered to do in Vietnam. Jeff was a scary looking guy, well actually if you weren’t friends with him….he just didn’t look scary….he really was scary. He’d done plenty of crazy things and the locals weren’t sure what he might do next! He hair was cut short on the top but long in the back…..way down past his collar. He had about 6 top front teeth totally gone! He wore denim shirts with the sleeves cut out of them and he had lots of tattoos; something not that common in those days. He spent a lot of his spare time at the gym pumping iron and was quite a specimen of a man.

Part of my regular routine the times when I’d go up to check cattle was to make it back to the Dairy Queen on my way home and catch Jeff after he got off work. I made it a point. I was doing my best to encourage him and give him good, sound advice. I’d pray with him every time before I headed home. One particular time we were in the DQ when a Greyhound bus made its stop there. The place was completely full of people. Jeff got there before I did and saved me a spot. His intimidating look had the attention of just about every person in there. Bear in mind that when he talked, Jeff talked really really loud; maybe louder than anyone you’ve ever known! I asked him that day, as I always did, “Jeff, how are you doing?” He replied in his loud voice, “Andy, I’m doing really good!”. I knew that I needed to press in a little more. “But, Jeff, …..how are you really doing?” And in a voice a lot louder than you need to be talking in Dairy Queen he said, “Yep, Andy, …….I’m doing so good I got rid of all my plastic explosives yesterday!!” You could’ve heard a pin drop! Every eye in the house was on us! It was funny, ….in a crazy kind of way; all those people started gathering up their food without saying a word and getting out the door as fast, but as inconspicuous as they could. It was like they didn’t totally believe him. I bet some of them are still telling that story today!

I learned a lot in my experiences with Jeff. I made it a mission of mine to help him. I wanted him to be OK; I wanted him to be well. Julie and I had planned a little vacation and were planning on being gone for about a week. I got real worried that if I wasn’t there to check on Jeff that he wouldn’t be alright. I even told Julie as much. I was actually afraid to go on vacation fearing he would implode. But, the Lord spoke clearly to my spirit at that point and said, “It’s Ok, Andy, …..you’re not the one that’s taking care of him anyway.” That put it in perspective for me. God always knows the right thing to say, and always at just the right time.

I wish this story had a happy ending….but it doesn’t. Several years later Jeff was living downstate in Texas and took his own life. I can’t help but believe that the Lord has lots and lots of grace for people like Jeff. 

I’ll never forget the things I learned…and I look forward to seeing him in Heaven.

Try these:

“It’s Not Your Job to Fix Them!”

Identity Theft

The Thing About Unconditional Love

Double Check Your “Invitation List”!!

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Weapons of Mass Distraction

WMD’s, weapons of mass destruction; that’s a fairly new term we’ve started hearing over the past fifteen years or so. WMD’s are defined as: a nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological or other weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans or cause great damage to human-made structures (e.g. buildings), natural structures (e.g. mountains), or the biosphere. There are those out there so devious as to devise these ways to wreak havoc on the masses. It’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around anyone wanting to do that kind of harm to humanity….but it exists. And the potential for the use of WMD’s is probably growing rather than diminishing. Pretty scary to say the least!

You know, the Bible says that we have an adversary, the devil, who loves to kill, steal and destroy. he (caps left off on purpose!) doesn’t have a lot of tricks….but he’s very good at the ones he does have. he’ll do anything he can to keep us from coming to the Lord to begin with. It seems that there’s always someone in front of us that is over-religious and arrogant about it to boot. Those folks can come across in ways that make some people think we’re all like that. I know a couple of these people and it bothers me that in their perceived zeal for the Lord that they actually repel people from coming to the Father. Tragic, but it happens.

But, even after we’re born gain there are plenty of distractions thrown our way to keep us from the best that the Lord has for us….and to cause us to possibly miss our destiny. Many of these distractions are not the work of the ‘enemy’ (but plenty are!) at all but just the details of life, ….which we all agree, can be very distracting.

So, “what”, you might ask is such a big deal about distractions? Distractions have a profound way to keep us from our real purpose in life. God has a plan, an intricate one, for our entire existence on the planet. Our lives will never take on the value God has placed on them until we’re moving in unison with His Spirit. And, if we lose sight of that because of our distractions we end up questioning, or doubting, even our importance to the Father.

If we’re going to fulfill the plan of God for our lives it just makes sense to start now to learn some inventive ways to deal with distractions. If not you could be dealing with these little things from now on. It’s important to note that these things fight directly against your faith. That’s a pretty important thing to remember!

It might take a little work to identify what your distractions are and how you’re going to deal with them, but you can do it! …..

…..And you’ll have to if you’re going to keep these Weapons of Mass Distraction from stealing from your destiny!

What are your distractions??

Try these, too:

Weapons of Mass Construction

“You Are Here”

It’s Either a Blessing or a Curse!

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