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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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March Madness

I love college basketball! In fact, college sports are a lot more fun for me to watch than the pros. It’s about the only sport that I don’t really care who’s playing, I can get into the game. I think it’s the fact that there’s not six points difference in a team that doesn’t make the NCAA tournament and the one that wins it all. I love to watch the coaches as much as I like watching the players. Great sport, great watching!

Here’s a little analogy you probably haven’t thought of. The Sunday church service is much like the timeout in basketball. In most games both teams usually uses all their timeouts. The timeouts are critical and are used very strategically in every close game. I’d say the same about the Sunday church service. There are no points scored during the timeout….but what’s done there is always critical to the overall outcome of the game. If you think about it, it’s much the same with the church service. And, while many would argue that the Sunday service is the ‘big show’, wise people realize that the real game is outside the walls of the church.

I’m watching Roy Williams, the great North Carolina coach, during the timeout of tonight’s NCAA National Championship. He’s very animated, he’s passionate about getting his point across, he’s ‘coaching’ his boys about what they should do, and how they should do it, when the whistle starts the game again. He’s making sure everyone knows their job, knows their place. Mark Few, Gonzaga’s phenomenal coach, is doing the same. It’s coaching intensity at it’s very best. Nothing like it in any other sport, in my opinion. You’ll notice that they use every single second of every single timeout. It’s what the Bible calls “redeeming the time”.

The Sunday service should be just like that. It should be, above everything, very strategic. In my case I want to do the best job I can do to tell my ‘players’ what I’m hearing from the Lord. I don’t want to just throw a ‘sermon’ out there….I want it to be strategic and relevant for what my ‘players’ are facing in the game (real life!).

And, lastly…..the timeout gives the players a chance to get their breath, rest a little and get everything back into proper perspective. No games are won or lost during the timeout….but what’s done there directly affects the outcome of the game! 

There’s a lot at stake when we get back in the real world on Monday! We should be strategic when we gather up on Sunday!

**Gotta quit for now…it’s halftime and I’m doing research!!

 

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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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Amazing Grace, How Sweet the ‘Feel’

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” One of my very favorite songs, no question about it. Here’s a little history on the song. It was published in 1779 (How’d you like to have the royalties on that one?!) by English poet turned clergyman John Newton. Newton, it turns out, was a very interesting character. He wrote the song from his own personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction. He was heavily involved in the Atlantic slave trade when in 1748 a violent storm battered his vessel off the coast of Ireland. So violently, in fact, that in fear he cried out to God for mercy. That was a turning point in young Newton’s life and he soon ended seafaring altogether to pursue Christian theology. *(Must’ve been a heckuva storm!)

“Amazing Grace” was written to illustrate a sermon on New Year’s Day in 1773. It’s unknown if it was accompanied by music but most historians agree that it was probably just chanted in unison by those in the congregation that day. The song was officially published in 1779 and soon disappeared into relative obscurity in England. It became popular in the early 19th century in America. With the message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God, “Amazing Grace” is now one of the most recognizable songs in the English speaking world. It’s definitely a song of “good news”! 

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…..”  There’s a lot of talk about grace these days. As good as the sound of it might be, grace is best understood just by the sheer experience of it.  God has made sure that we’re never out of grace’s reach. And that wherever we are,….and whatever the need might be,…His grace is ever sufficient for the task! It’s never just barely enough, either; there’s always a generous abundance of grace!

In keeping with the original tradition let’s resolve, on this New Year’s Day, to make 2017 a year of immeasurable grace. Let’s commit to give it to others to the degree that we’ve received it from the Father. That’ll make for an incredible year! I guess God’s amazing grace has a wonderful sound…..but it can’t compare to how sweet His grace ‘feels’!

It only seems fitting, at least to me, to post one of my all-time favorite artists, who incidentally just graduated to heaven a few short weeks ago, singing one of my all-time favorite songs! Click here to watch Leon Russell sing Amazing Grace! Just an ‘ol Oklahoma kid with a ‘gift’ he gave to the world!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

You might enjoy this one, too:

Definitely Our Most Memorable New Year’s Day!

 

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I Plant a Little, I Water a little…..

I was having a conversation with a pastor friend a day or two ago. We were having a good laugh about a few of those times when we were preaching or teaching and it just wasn’t happening, ….if you know what I mean. It’s funny now, but at the time…not funny at all. One of those times for me was about 15 years ago. We were still in the old building and doing two services. It was the first service and there were 50+ people there. It was one of those mornings that nothing was working. I had notes and was doing my best to teach from them but it was just flat. To be honest I wasn’t making any valid points. What I was trying to teach wasn’t making any sense….even to me! I’m tellin’ ‘ya, ……..it just wasn’t happening! In fact I went in the sound room after the service was over and said to the guys, “If anybody. Got anything. …out of that……it had to be the Lord!” I was certain that nobody DID get anything out of it! I was relieved when the service was over so we could all be out of our misery! I  would’ve like to have just gone home…..but I had another service to do….and that’d be awkward! lol

A person came to the sound room and I could tell he wanted to talk to me. I ignored him as long as I possibly could. I totally expected him to say, “WTH was that??!!” But he didn’t. On the contrary he said, “Man, that was really, really good!” I had two thoughts rolling around in my mind; one….he’s gotta be joking; two, if he’s really serious (which I couldn’t imagine!)...I’m thinkin’, “Was I there?!”

This isn’t the only time this has happened down through the years. I wish it was. But those times it did happen there were the same results nearly every time. Those times when I felt like I did my very worst would inevitably be the times that I would have the most people comment on how good the teaching was. I think the Lord likes it when that happens. What I’ve learned from those times is that it’s just a little reminder from the Lord that everything doesn’t necessarily depend on how ‘good’ a job we did teaching. Don’t get me wrong….I want to continue to get better at teaching the Word. But in the final analysis it’s the anointing (supernatural blessing) of the Lord that’s the deciding factor of whether it’s actually good or not. He definitely doesn’t want us to get prideful about how good we think our teaching is.

We can plant; we can water….but if anything significant is going to happen….it’ll have to be the Lord that gives the increase!

Here’s a couple for ‘ya:

10 Tips That’ll Help You Become a “Learner”

Relational Equity

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“Good Will Toward Men”

The heavenly angel, on a mission from the most High God, appeared with the heavenly host (multitudes of other angels) to announce to the world that a Savior had been born. Oddly enough this angelic sighting didn’t take place before a crowd of people….but to the shepherds who were watching over their flocks by night.  *(read “Good Tidings of Great Joy”) The angel didn’t say much….but what he did say was ultra important!

But, just what does the angel mean when he says,“Good will toward men”? I’ve been thinking about it all week. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk about that part. After pondering it for awhile…here’s where I landed. It’s an extremely important part of what the angel had to say. I’d even call it a great revelation. A Savior is born! And He came to the earth to “do us good”! It’s as clear a picture of Who God is that you’ll probably ever see. It reveals His heart toward all mankind. I don’t think it takes some kind of sophisticated commentary to figure this one out; it’s pretty simple. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believed in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

That phrase, “good will toward men”, reveals God’s absolute determination to be good to, and bless, all mankind…and in an almost unbelievable way! In ‘it’ He would do the only thing possible to redeem every single person that would ever live. He’s that good!

All other religions focus on how a person can get to God….but Christianity is vastly different. Yep, Christianity is about our God ‘coming to us’! He loved us so much that He came in the likeness of man, laid down His own life to, once and for all, forgive us of our sins! And the icing on the cake would be that, now,…..plain old people like you and I can have a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe! I I don’t know if you’ve figured that out by now but …that’s one heck of a deal!

“Good will toward men”……..

It’s God……willing (wanting, desperately desiring)…..to do you good!

More “good news”:

Maybe He Saved More Than Your Life!

If God Has Your Heart, He Can Get Your Feet Where They Belong!

What If It’s Not to ‘Break’ You,….but to ‘Make’ You?

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