Sunday, September 12, 2021

Finally a book form of God Applause is available 

with more than 150 pages for just $12.95.

God Applause

True Stories Of His Wonders 

 

God Applause: True Stories Of His Wonders 

Sold by and Shipped by Amazon

$12.95

https://www.amazon.com/God-Applause-True-Stories-Wonders/dp/B087L6RQGW

 

After my Father tried killing me on my 13th birthday I found a Heavenly Father to whom I have given my whole life to serve. Now as I look back more than 60 years have passed. Many of those years I ministered and counseled trying to heal hurting hearts and mending broken dreams. I’ve lost track of the numbers who responded but know it was in the thousands. A few years ago, my health degenerated to the point I could not continue. I found myself housebound without a way to continue my former work for my Lord. I prayed that the Lord would direct my path to find some new way to still share His gracious love, forgiveness and grace. Nothing happened. I continued praying because His eternal word says, “Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” (Is 40:31, NASB) 

I continued praying for His direction. Please Father help me find a way to still share You with others. More time elapsed. Until – He laid an answer in my soul. Why don’t you do what I told Israel to do? Presto! Then a story I had often read penetrated my dull gray matter. Build a monument. A stone monument. “And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So, these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (Joshua 4:5-7, NIV) 

So, just as the Israelites were told to build a stone monument for future generations, I felt called to do likewise but in a much smaller scale. The Lord spoke to my heart saying, “You’ve seen Me work wondrous miracles for hundreds of people over 60 years. Build a storybook monument. Give Me the credit so that future generations can see what you saw and experienced.” So that is why I’ve written this book.

I felt unworthy to call my work a stone monument. So, I refer to each story as a tiny piece of stone ~ a Pebble. As I began writing these true stories of God’s wondrousness I happened upon Psalms 105: “Go ahead and give God thanks for all the glorious things he has done! Go ahead and worship him! Tell everyone about his wonders! Let’s sing his praises! Sing, and put all of his miracles to music!” (Psalms 105:1-2, TPT) 

Never do I recall reading a book of true stories about God that included songs of praise. But the Holy Spirit led me onward. This gave me an exciting challenge. I spent hours praying over my stories and seeking a song of praise to complement the message each “Pebble” conveyed. As you read these stories please also click on the link to the praise song. Each song has been selected to fit like a glove the message of the story. The mini concert will cement the story to your soul. A third portion of writing this monument of praise pebbles was to use images and or videos to embed the story more deeply. So what you are opening now is a Book full of true stories, with praise songs and occasional pictures all of which are designed to honor our Faithful Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Truly this is a God Applause book. 

Blessings 

Larry Ade Smith 

Feb. 20, 2020

Note: This book is the paperback edition so you'll need to copy the song link to your computer and feast on the individual songs. 

 



 

 


 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Most Terrifying Fall Ever

Most Terrifying Fall Ever  

     Acrophobia: The fear of heights ~ ~ ranks in the top five most serious fears of mankind. This fear permeates many scary nightmares, transportation methods, and unsettling activities. The Boeing 737 MAX recently was grounded nearly worldwide because of terrifying crashes seemingly caused by design flaws. Even reading about the deadly-nose-dive crashes terrifies most people, let alone seeing video recreations of it.

     Some roads climb very steep hills or treacherously narrow mountain passes.  Gondolas often ascend eerily almost into the clouds causing heart-pounding nerves.  Oregon has a Dead Man’s Curve, on Highway 6 near milepost 29, as do many other states.  Oregon has recently blasted through the stone providing a safe passage that dodges the treacherous pass. 



     More than 60 million people have visited Seattle’s 605 foot tall Space Needle since it was built in 1962.  Yet a great number of fearful visitors refuse to ride the glass-fronted elevators to the top.

     Interviewing a pilot I was surprised to learn he also had acrophobia.  “How can that be?”

     “I know that I’m in control and I won’t let anything go wrong,” he said.  It was hard to fathom just how that could be.


     Since we’re focusing on horrendously scary falls let’s consider the greatest fall in the past and the worst fall ever that is just ahead.  The Bible both introduces the one who fell and warns us about the worst fall ~ ~ just ahead ~ ~ that awaits Satan and his wicked companions.  The Lord Jesus Christ affirmed this, “And He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning,”(Luke 10:18, NASB)
 

 
 

     The Bible has many dual prophecies.  In regards to the most diabolical, evil, mighty previous archangel … Satan… the Holy Spirit inspired many Bible writers to write prophecy after prophecy in such a way that each prophecy had a fulfillment shortly after it was penned.  But to forewarn us, the Lord’s people, about how horridly, terrifyingly powerful this monster soul killer is the inspired writers’ second fulfillment is clearly the Devil.

     Examples of two lengthy prophecies that are clearly dual are Isaiah 14:8-19 and Ezekiel 28:1-19. In these two dual prophecies a great deal is learned about Satan. Metaphorically these picture Satan’s creation, purpose, appearance and fall from heaven.  These passages describe why Satan fell, but they do not specifically say when he fell.

     Job reveals that all the angels were created before the earth was (Job 38:4-7, NIV).  “Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm.  He said: “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?  Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.  “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Tell me, if you understand.  Who marked off its dimensions?  Surely you know!  Who stretched a measuring line across it?  On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone — while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”

     Since Genesis identifies the Tempter of Eve as Satan it is clear that the Devil’s fall from Heaven must have occurred after he was created but before the creation of Adam and Eve.

     Revelation the 12th chapter depicts warfare in Heaven between the great dragon and his wicked angels versus God’s archangel and other angels who fought to protect God’s children on the Earth. In describing the Dragon it is obvious that it is the Devil.

     These Old and New Testament verses, as well as others, provide significant clues as to why the Devil was cast out of Heaven:

     1)   Satan was perfectly beautiful from his creation with an appearance as dazzling as many jewels and  he started out as sinless. - - (Ezekiel 28:13-14, NASB)

     2)   Satan was an archangel responsible for being on God’s Holy Mountain - - (Ezekiel 28:14, NASB)

     3)   Satan was anointed by God to be a “Covering Cherub over the Mercy Seat".

     4)   But  then he sinned and ruined God’s plan for him - - (Ezekiel 28:14, NASB)

     5)   Satan tried to usurp God’s sovereign position - -  (Isaiah 14:14, NASB)

     6)   Satan was prideful and detested God’s decisions  - -  (1 Timothy 3:6, NASB)

     7)   Satan was incredibly intelligent and schemed against God - - (Ezekiel 28:3-5, NASB), Isaiah 14:13-14, NASB)

     8)   Satan is so powerful that even the Lord’s Archangels resist fighting him single-handedly. Instead they said, “The Lord rebuke you.” (Jude 9, NASB)

     Hades (Sheol) is eagerly awaiting Satan and mocking his fall. His bed is of maggots crawling with worms - -  (Isaiah 14:11-14, NASB)

     Satan and his followers have a date with eternal destiny:  “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels”  (Matthew 25:41, NASB)

     The Book of Revelation leaves nothing to the imagination about the Devil’s future.  He will be permanently cast into the Lake of fire and brimstone

     WHY HAVE I SPENT THIS STORY TALKING ALL ABOUT SATAN, WHO IS ALSO CALLED THE DEVIL AND THE DRAGON IN SCRIPTURE?   What’s the answer?  Why have you been asked to read all this about Satan?

     As tearfully and sadly as I’ve done this it’s because many doubt his existence.  They joke, “Oh sure you’re one of those old fashioned Hellfire and Brimstone believers aren’t you?  And the sneers, mockery and ridicule cascade off all the walls.

     Dear Reader ~ ~ I beg you ~ ~ ~ take the time to ask yourself some questions.  What if this story is right?  What if there is a Satan?  What if he is trying to grab as many souls as he can?  What if he is going to lead them with him into a lake that burns with fire and brimstone... where there will be darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth?  Ponder the fact that Jesus uses the exact Greek words for eternity for each Heaven and Hell.  Each is as long as the other.  “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46, NASB) So - if you believe in a Heaven...Hell is real also.

     There is another terrible fall that I hope you never experience. Once you’ve become a Christian and were refreshed by the awesome grace of God some foolishly walk away as if they’re spitting in their Savior’s face.

     It scares the tar out of me. King David after having taken Uriah’s wife and impregnating her had to have him murdered trying to hide her pregnancy. Then the Lord sent a prophet who pointed his bony finger in David’s face and accused him of the whole messy ungodly acts.  David wept and said, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” (Ps. 51:11, NIV)

     King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14) and Samson (Judges 16:20) had serious matters where losing the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s presence in their lives became reality.

     Ephesians 4:30 warns us not to “grieve the Holy Spirit.”  And 1 Thessalonians 5:19 says that we can “quench the Spirit.”  PLEASE THINK SERIOUSLY ABOUT YOUR SOUL.

     If it is an addiction that has you snagged, get some help.  Addiction is giving up everything for ~one ~ thing.

     Recovery is giving up one thing for everything.

     "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,  keep yourselves in the love of God, looking forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” (Jude 20-21, NASB)


Lauren Daigel
You Say



Lauren Daigle - You Say - 49th Annual GMA Dove Awards


Please write and ask for spiritual or emotional support
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Sunday, June 13, 2021

It'll Feel Like A 2nd New Birth

 It'll Feel Like a 2nd New Birth


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Monday, May 17, 2021

Unsightly Toenails and Elegant Feet

Unsightly Toenails and Elegant Feet

     Mrs. Imelda Marcos, was the 1st Lady of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986 during which time she allegedly acquired more than 1,250 pairs of shoes according to authorities.  Another source claims it was more like 3,000.  Either figure reveals a person whose extravagant needs were not only unreasonable but also excessively expensive to the extreme.


     The Guinness Book of Records credits a man as owning the greatest number of Sneakers.  However he has been outdone by the three Peters sisters, whose father left them 5,000 pairs of the most expensive Sneakers, which he had collected since the early 1980s.  “This inheritance includes thousands of Nike Air Force 1s, Air Jordans and several rare prototypes of sneakers designed for elite athletes and A-list celebrities.”

     Since taking over the collection, the three women have continued to buy and collect even more sneakers and they now estimate the stash is worth more than $2 million.  Recent tabulations put the count at just over 7,000 pairs of Sneakers.


     A television program disclosed that the Peters’ Sisters recently displayed only a portion of the gigantic assortment on a life-size basketball court.  The remainder are hidden from the public in a secret, high-security storage unit.

     In March 2021 the 3 Chics (as they call themselves) began to sell off different assortments making over 1,600% from the purchase price.

     Some years ago my wife and I attended a Young Married’s Church Party.  The game planner said the next game is for the men to go into a side room which had a curtain covering the doorway.  The curtain hung to about12” above the floor.  The men were told we had to take off our socks and shoes and one-by-one come up to the curtain exposing our feet. 
 


    

Our wives were challenged to select their husband by just seeing their feet.  I don’t know about you but it was totally embarrassing for me that my wife won 1st Prize because of how bad my thick and curled- up toenails looked. 

 

    She looked so modest and wholesome. She was the perfect selection for the Praise Team. Her voice was just the right fit for the group. My wife and I knew her Mother and she was so pleased and proud of her daughter. We began to anticipate seeing her as she worshiped the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Then I noticed it. Her feet. Had I really noticed bare feet? Were her feet really without shoes? I asked my wife, after church, had I seen right? Was she indeed shoe less? 


Peggy said, “Yes!” I asked if she knew why. Peggy asked her Mom, “Why does your daughter sing without shoes?” I’ll never forget the answer.


“Because, just like Moses, she was in the presence of the Lord standing on Holy Ground.”


Perhaps you’d differ somewhat on your theology but I’d never seen anyone singing to the Lord shoe less before and somehow it made the whole service more reverent. Sometimes services approach irreverent and the heart that spoke, “I’m not worthy to wear my shoes as I’m in the presence of the Sovereign of the Universe,” spoke to my heart. It was a parallel to kneeling-when-praying experience for me.



     Then I recalled a curious habit of my entire adult life.  I would purchase the lowest-priced-men’s dress shoes and wear them so long they would be scuffed, holes in the soles and heels worn out.  My wife and older kids would say, “Dad You really need some new shoes.”  Still I would go on, perhaps another year or more.  Then when just the right mood hit me I’d go pick out another pair.  But I always checked Goodwill’s used shoes first. But I wasn’t doing it for a noble or spiritual reason.  So I pondered, Does the Bible say anything about shoes?  Impressively designed shoes?  Expensive shoes?

     Then I realized the best advertisement for shoes on the whole planet and for thousands of years.  Over 600 years before the birth of Jesus Isaiah wrote:

“How beautiful on the mountains
     are the feet of those who bring good news,
  who proclaim peace,
     who bring good tidings,
  who proclaim salvation,
     who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
 
   (Is.52:7, NIV)

     And the Apostle Paul borrowed Isaiah’s thunder when he wrote: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?  As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15, NIV)

     This dynamically and convincingly assures all people that the most beautiful feet for all time, everywhere are those preaching the Good News of the Gospel.  So, in reflection, my old, dilapidated shoes were still on beautiful feet.  In spite of my yucky toenails!

     Lenny Smith wrote the song, “Our God Reigns” using wording and the meaning of Isaiah 52 in 1942.  It still thrills my heart to hear congregations sing it.  Here are Studio Musicians singing with the lyrics so you can follow along.

OUR GOD REIGNS
Studio Musicians



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Monday, April 26, 2021

Ed & Jesus Have Special Arrangements

 Ed & Jesus Have Special Arrangements

     In a far away land, long ago missionaries attempted to give new hope to the natives by teaching them how to drastically improve their health.  Calling the elders of the tribe to the mission clinic they showed them microscope slides revealing filthy infected bacteria were present in the town water supply.  Late that night the Clinic lab was broken into and the microscopes were destroyed.

     What would Heaven’s report be about how God’s eternal microscope...the Bible is treated?  Not in a far away land. Not long ago.  But here.  Today.   Why do I ask?  When my Cardiologist did an angiogram and said, “Larry, I’m referring you to a special heart-valve clinic or you’ll be gone in less than six months,” he was serious.  Deadly serious.

     In the weeks full of tests, consultations, considerations, and weakening health I became more occupied with eternity.  Bible passages discussing Heaven … and Hell.  Living a good life and a bad, faith heroes and backsliders became my focus.  Some days my nerves seemed to shake at weird times.  I listened to Gospel music and felt invigorated.  Then I’d tear up at the tiniest little development.

     I’d notice on social media the passing of former friends always reading their “graduation” congratulations acclaimed  by well-meaning friends.  Then it hit me.  Who am I to conjecture anyone’s eternal destiny?  Who is anybody to do so?  Don’t take these wonderings wrongly.  The Scriptures clearly teach the Sovereign of the Universe and time and all Eternity doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell.  However He has established a Judgement bar and a plan of salvation.  Yes, He is the Graduator.  I am not. 

     As my hour glass relinquished sand drops I sensed the doctor was exactly correct about my morbidity.  I began to thank him for his words.  They were a warning.  Just as Jesus’ brother had written: “And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year.  We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.”  You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow.  You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing.  Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.” (James 4:13-15, MSG)  This passage nudges me to always end all “tomorrow plans” with two words: Lord Willing.

     Having a common name like “Jones” must cause some difficulties at times, especially when you also have a popular first name.  In one street there were two Jones families where the husband was named “Bill.”  The Minister Bill Jones had just passed away.  The businessman Bill Jones, however, went on a business trip to India.  His plane was diverted to a different airport.  He sent a telegram to his wife, but the mail person delivered it to the wrong Mrs. Jones.  It read: “Arrived safely, but not where I thought I was going.  Terribly hot here."
 
     Sometimes a joke about Hell strikes a funny bone or two, but Hell as described by Jesus is the worst of anything imaginable.  Jesus doesn’t only reference hell, he describes it in great detail.  He says it is a place of eternal torment (Luke 16:23), of unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43), where the worm does not die (Mark 9:48), where people will gnash their teeth in anguish and regret (Matt. 13:42), and from which there is no return, even to warn loved ones (Luke 16:19–31).  He calls hell a place of “outer darkness” (Matt. 25:30), comparing it to “Gehenna” (Matt. 10:28), which was a trash dump outside the walls of Jerusalem where rubbish was burned and maggots abounded.  Jesus talks about hell more than he talks about heaven, and describes it more vividly.  There’s no denying that Jesus knew, believed, and warned about the absolute reality of hell.” (L.Schmucker)

     The Apostle Paul, who probably was the best example ever of making a flip flop of his whole belief system, gave a powerful homiletic dictum to a young preacher.

     “I can’t impress this on you too strongly.  God is looking over your shoulder.  Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead.  He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch.  Challenge, warn, and urge your people.  Don’t ever quit.  Just keep it simple."

     You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy.  They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages.  But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5, MSG)


     God’s Holy Spirit Inspired Bible declares:

     “Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:14-15, NIV)

The Lord’s Special Plan For Just Ed

     Ed was superb with people.  Caring.  Sensitive.  Honest.  He also had a severe lung disease which caused frequent breaks gasping for air.  I grew to admire him for how long he’d tough it out before each “catch my breath moment.”

     The more I knew him, the more I loved him.  My soul ached to present the Lord to him.  But he kept turning down offers to share a meal during which the Gospel would be the dessert.  But then it happened.  Ed had a severe attack and was hospitalized.  He was told he could not work anymore and that he’d be smart to move to a dry climate...for the little bit of time he had left.

     Arizona?  No, Ed, please tell me you’re not moving to Arizona.  But he already had made the arrangements and had paid for his apartment a year in advance.  So when I told my wife I wanted us to make a trip to Arizona it took a little explaining.

     A few months later vacation arrived and we drove to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon and meet with Ed.  The trip was just over 1,200 miles one way.  Ed met us at the restaurant and looked better than before.  He said the climate really had made a difference.  The meal was scrumptious.  Then they served dessert.  I prayed for wisdom and, looking Ed right in the eyes, began sharing the Lord Jesus Christ with him.  He gasped for a fresh lung refill and half raised one hand and said, “No need to go there.  He and I have a special arrangement.”

     I knew Ed wasn’t a Christian as I’d heard him talking with other employees and customers back at the Shop.  I said, “Ed the Lord doesn’t grade on the curve nor does He make “special arrangements” with anyone.  Each and every person will find the Lord is fair and just to the inth degree.  There will not be any who sneak in, or squeak by.

     But Ed’s face pallor turned ashen and he said, “Larry, like I said He and I have special arrangements.”  Then he slid his chair back and courteously said, “Thanks so much for coming to see me.  I’m going to head back to the apartment now.  You and your wife enjoy your vacation now... and be safe.”

Isn’t this what King David imagined also?

     He could adulterate with Bathsheba and murder her husband and get away with it and remain judgemental of others.  After all "I’m the King and I can do whatever I want, take whatever delights my eyes and God will allow it.  No sweat.  After all, God had me anointed King.  Even more, God has often shown me He and I have a special relationship."  O’ foolish man, God was sending Samuel with a message.

     “But God was not at all pleased with what David had done, and sent Nathan to David.  Nathan said to him, “There were two men in the same city—one rich, the other poor.  The rich man had huge flocks of sheep, herds of cattle.  The poor man had nothing but one little female lamb, which he had bought and raised.  It grew up with him and his children as a member of the family.  It ate off his plate and drank from his cup and slept on his bed.  It was like a daughter to him.

     4 “One day a traveler dropped in on the rich man. He was too stingy to take an animal from his own herds or flocks to make a meal for his visitor, so he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared a meal to set before his guest.”

     5-6 David exploded in anger.  “As surely as God lives,” he said to Nathan, “the man who did this ought to be lynched!  He must repay for the lamb four times over for his crime and his stinginess!”

     7-12 “You’re the man!” said Nathan.  “And here’s what God, the God of Israel, has to say to you: I made you king over Israel.  I freed you from the fist of Saul.  I gave you your master’s daughter and other wives to have and to hold.  I gave you both Israel and Judah.  And if that hadn’t been enough, I’d have gladly thrown in much more.  So why have you treated the word of God with brazen contempt, doing this great evil?  You murdered Uriah the Hittite, then took his wife as your wife.  Worse, you killed him with an Ammonite sword!  And now, because you treated God with such contempt and took Uriah the Hittite’s wife as your wife, killing and murder will continually plague your family.  This is God speaking, remember!  I’ll make trouble for you out of your own family.  I’ll take your wives from right out in front of you.  I’ll give them to some neighbor, and he’ll go to bed with them openly.  You did your deed in secret; I’m doing mine with the whole country watching!”  (2 Samuel 12:1-12, MSG)


     Too many people fool-heartedly hazard like Ed and King David:  “See I told you so...I knew God wouldn’t consider my little sin a big deal.  After all, He and I have always had a special relationship.”  That’s a hazard indeed!

Jerry’s Encyclopedias

     When he was exposed for his immorality he kind of chuckled and said, “Nobody is perfect.  I don’t see who got hurt that badly.  No big deal.”

     I led him into my library and said, “Jerry...there are about 20 Encyclopedias on this shelf.  Go ahead and remove the bookend.  Now push against the first book.”

     “If I do that they’ll all fall down just like a row of dominoes.”

     “Go ahead let's see what happens.”

     He pushed and as it leaned the whole row tipped sideways and a couple books slipped off onto the floor.

     “Now stand that  “A” Encyclopedia up like it was.  He did.  “Now Jerry what have you accomplished?”

     “I’ve got the same book standing up.  So I don’t get what you’re trying to show me.”

     “Think a bit deeper and notice what has changed.  You’ve got one book back up but what about the other 19?  This is the desperately sad thing about sin.  The guilty one might repent and receive forgiveness but what about the others who fell because of your sinful behavior?  How do we get them back up?”


     I’m sorry to report that Jerry’s immorality flamed up again.  Then I observed in my Counseling practice a considerable number of Christians came to learn how to overcome addiction.  As my mind pondered helping them I further became aware that immorality was ubiquitous in America and throughout much of the world.

     Worse though was that the Sacred Scriptures put a resounding kibosh on addictive behavior.  Whether it’s gambling, drugs, alcohol, sexual sin, on and on.  Recently I heard the former Cochise County, Arizona Prosecutor plead for Addicts to come clean because: “Methamphetamine is everyone’s mistress but the Devil’s wife.”  Do we, as Christians, want to sell our soul to the Devil because we refuse to use the Holy Spirit’s awesome gift of Self Control?  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatian5:22, NASB) Consider some serious warnings from throughout the Bible.

     “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-30, NIV)  Jesus spoke this ominous message in the Sermon on the Mount.

     “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-22, NIV)

     “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” (Revelation 22:15, NIV) 
This is in the last chapter in the Bible.

     It is apparent that the Holy Judge on the Great Judgement Day will not accept feeble excuses, lying denials or blaming others.  It is and will be serious business.

     Perhaps you’d respond as one adulterer did, “Oh that’s just your old fashioned opinion.”

     Trying to warn each and everyone is a Bible teacher’s requirement to faithfully discharge his duty to the Lord.  So let’s note an example of how serious this sexual sin behavior is to the Sovereign Lord who created us.

     A minister in the Pacific Northwest preached against marital immorality.  A couple came forward in repentance.  He was startled to see two others come to confess adultery.  But wait.  There were more.  The Praise leader tearfully admitted he was fighting addiction to pornography.

     The leadership held a special meeting midweek because of how many lives had been impacted on Sunday.  An Elder said, “I can’t believe it.  Who would have imagined such a thing in our church?”  The Minister left the meeting feeling really down.  Had he not been preaching faithfully enough?  Then the Holy Spirit spoke to his soul.

     Next Sunday he told his congregation, “The Lord has laid a heavy matter in my heart this week.  He wants me to preach against immorality again today as there are more of you who need to repent of addictive behavior.  And he gave me the text.

     “Flee sexual immorality. Every other sin that a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought for a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20, NASB)

     The Holy Spirit’s heavy message to the Minister was correct.  Three people confessed they were part of a wife swapping coterie and pledged they’d repent and never participate again.

     The Minister went home and wept ~ ~ so hard ~ ~ he nearly passed out.

Susan Branch writes,

     “Her little girl was late arriving home from school so the Mother began to scold her, but stopped and asked, “Why are you so late?”

     “I had to help another girl. She was in trouble,” replied the daughter.

     “What did you do to help her?”

     “Oh, I sat down and helped her cry.”
 
     The late Jessie Dixon, having read Paul’s dictum, sang a song that came from the Apostle Paul’s 180 degree turn around, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ  and be found in him.”  (Philippians 3:7-10, NIV)

     If each of us could make this song our Christian mantra the world would be enriched.  Then warning them about Hell could save many, many tears.  

“I Lost It All To Find Everything” 
 
 
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Sunday, February 21, 2021

Has the Lord Stooped for You?

Has the Lord Stooped for You?

     Every person has a story and each story has a different theme.  Mine became indelible on my 13th birthday when my drunken father tried to cut my head off saying, “I’m going to kill Larry because he’s going to turn out like me.”  He tried but was arrested first.

     Inwardly the lyrics to my tune were, I’d have to prove I’m good and not evil like my Dad said I’d be.  Absolutely prove it!  This led to a lifetime of tackling projects with a gusto of effort convinced that no matter what the obstacle I could, no strike could ~ that I would succeed.  I had to succeed.  But that gusto was external while much of the internal was hollow. After all the real me was guarding against revealing any flaws, errors or sins.

     In some ways everyone is kind of like this, but early trauma can steer some people into inwardly believing they never are good enough.  Not good enough to be genuinely liked, loved, needed, forgiven, saved or such like.  This inner compunction forces exerting maximum effort to finally achieve victory.

     I’ll spare you from a biography of my life.  But I’m thankful to share that I have 4 adult children and 2 adult step children.  Plus all the grandchildren and even a couple of greats that any parent would brag about.  My youngest son lives nearby but all the others are hundreds of miles away.

     So let’s flip the calendar pages and stop at 77.  That’s me today.  I’ve spent most of my life living as described above with one caveat: sheltered in the arms of my Lord and Savior Jesus.  He’s used me to minister and counsel hurting hearts, abused children, broken homes and wounded souls.

     Now I am facing a trial when unexpectedly my doctor said that I am in the last 3 months of life unless the heart procedure Tuesday is a success.  Complicating it he said I need two procedures and he always did them together, but my heart function is so weak he can only do one this time.  He hopes to do the other at a later time.  Watching his eyes and parsing his comments my wife and I could sense he was uncertain about the outcome and whether he really thought he should try.

     Of course, as a child of God, I’ve sang and preached about heaven.  But what if the procedure failed?  Was I ready to go...now?  Yes, I’m a believer in Heaven...absolutely.  But I’ve found myself so lonely, discouraged and adrift during this pandemic time that creeping doubts of being found unworthy have surfaced.  One thing seems to lessen the doubts.  I’ve always been a lover of Christian music and have found myself playing a certain genre right now.  Songs about dying and going to Heaven.  I still sense the hollowness I’ve felt along life’s way but to a reduced extent.

     Before the pandemic my oldest daughter, who lives 400 miles away, had made a number of trips to visit me over the last several years.  And my oldest son made two trips.  I really miss those visits and loving embraces with them.  My youngest daughter kept close by phone and email.  I was able to be with my youngest son and his family who lived nearby.  Each of the kids have asked to make one more trip.  But with my diseased lungs and failing heart it was just too risky to have them or anyone come to our apartment for fear of being infected with the virus causing a postponement of the heart surgery.  Covid-19 stopped all such visits.

     So a couple of night’s ago my oldest son said, “Dad, are you afraid?”  I was mute.  I couldn’t answer.  I’d start and stop.  On and on I struggled to reply.  Then tears leaked down my cheeks.  Finally he and I worked part way through it.  I realized I missed being with all my kids.  My sweet wife has survived my struggles these past few years in her gracious ways, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to sit and visit with my kids and their families.  We don’t play chess anymore or go out to eat or drive to the beach.

     I asked the Lord to help lift my sadness and loneliness and encourage me about the outcome of my surgery.  I begged Him to boost my trust in spending eternity in heaven.  After a few times of praying I was reading in my Bible and found this:

“I am passionately in love with God because he listens to me.
He hears my prayers and answers them.
 As long as I live I’ll keep praying to him,
for he stoops down to listen to my heart’s cry.
Death once stared me in the face,
and I was close to slipping into its dark shadows.
I was terrified and overcome with sorrow.
I cried out to the Lord, “God, come and save me!”
He was so kind, so gracious to me.
Because of his passion toward me,
He made everything right and he restored me.
So I’ve learned from my experience
that God protects the childlike and humble ones.
For I was broken and brought low,
but he answered me and came to my rescue!
Now I can say to myself and to all,
“Relax and rest, be confident and serene,
for the Lord rewards fully those who simply trust in him.”
God has rescued my soul from death’s fear
and dried my eyes of many tears. (Psalms 116:1-8, TPT)

     Then it happened.  God provided far beyond even my greatest hope.

     Around 1:30 this afternoon my wife said, “Honey...your daughter is at the door.”  I smiled and thought she must be teasing.  I said, “Well have her come back here to my office.”  Peggy said, “She won’t come in ~ ~ because of Covid.  She just wants her Dad’s hug.”

     My oldest daughter had shown up at my door ~ ~  unannounced ~ ~ a total surprise ~ ~ clothed from head to toe in masks and gowns and told Peggy, “I just want to hug my Dad.”  

     I stepped through the door and said, “I hope you didn’t come all this distance just to see this old goat.”

     She said, “I did.”  Then she offered to put a giant plastic wrap on in addition to her full-body protective outfit ~ ~ if I’d just hug her.  Nothing mattered anymore.  I wasn’t about making decisions now.  I just needed to be in her arms.  We crumpled into the best hug I’ve ever had.  I could feel her weeping and when she left I came back here and sat at my desk and began to sob deeper than I ever had.  Though Peggy came in and pulled me to her tightly it was more than a half an hour before my eyes dried enough to try to type.

     Now I can face the heart procedure.  After all, I just experienced one of the most special love gifts of all my 77 years.  She flew 800 miles round trip in half a day just to hug her Dad.

     The story is told that Roy Acuff, legendary star of country music, asked his friends to take him back to the old Ryman Auditorium one last time before he died.  He was old and very nearly blind.  He had performed to sellout crowds in the facility and just wanted to step out on that stage ~ ~ one final time.  Outside a stage door artists and singers who had been invited to sing would hang out until their turn came to perform.

     And so it was that some of Roy Acuff’s friends granted his last request and drove him to the stage door.  They helped the old gentleman out and led him up the two or three steps and through the stage door to the ramp to the stage.  As soon as Mr. Acuff got his hand on the worn railing he turned to his friends and said, “I’m all right now; I know where I am.”  Then he straightened, squared his shoulders, and walked onto the stage before the empty auditorium… alone.

     Funny ~ ~ but with a lump choking my throat I kind of relate to Roy.

     Gloria Gaither, moved by God, felt this as a metaphor of an aged Gospel singer making such a final visit and then going to a higher eternal auditorium.  She wrote a heart-throbbing song for Jake Hess who sang it for the final years of his life.  Weep and smile as you see Jake perform his final song:

I Know Where I Am Now


     Gloria Gaither concludes her metaphor:  “How well we sing our song here, how clearly we tune in to the eternal music of the Spirit, will determine how at peace we will be with the song of heaven.  While we are here, if we move to the rhythm and the tempo, learn the words and the music, show up for every chance to share the song no matter how small the audience, we will and that our performance there will be natural and beautiful.”

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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Grief Crosses That Never Heal

Grief Crosses That Never Heal

     Do you ever wonder why certain verses are in the Bible?

     "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." (James 1:2-3, NIV)   

     Many converts to Christianity are unfamiliar with going through trials in their new walk with Jesus.  They were never taught this was the case.  In many denominations they’re told to just pray the sinner’s prayer and then they are saved and told, “Be sure to go to church Sunday.”

     To truly spread the Gospel we need to explain that God’s Plan of Salvation:  Expressing belief that Jesus is God’s Son, our Savior, Master and Lord needs to be followed by a mind changing choice to make a spiritual u-turn from following evil to following God and then being immersed is only the beginning of your new walk with Jesus.

     Scripture clearly shows after baptism new Christian's will likely end up in a desert suffering Satan's fiery darts as our Savior did. For example look at what the Apostle Paul said he had experienced as a Christian:

     “... I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.  Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent adrift at sea. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”  (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, NAS)

     In many parts of the world becoming a Christian often leads to significant suffering and in some more fearsome and brutal cultures even death. God’s Word says it has often been this way both before the birth of Jesus and after: 

     “There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.  Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword.  They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11:35-38, NIV)

Jesus’ Warning

     “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.   What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”  (Matthew 16:24-26, NIV)

     We may have to experience a horrid cross carrying like trial as millions have.  But the Lord promises our reward will be more than worth it...eternal life.

     Or we may bear a cross cut from other timber.  Mental illness, dementia, cancer, abandonment, isolation, untimely death of a child or other loved one, or one of an uncountable number of grief crosses that never heal.  But Jesus pleads with us that he'll help carry our cross. 

     “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV).

     Can you make it through your heavy trial?  Scripture is ubiquitous with promises like: “Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go;give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.” (Psalms 71:3, NIV)

Consider Liu ...

     Shikun was born in China and by age 3 was studying piano from a noted Russian instructor during the period when China and Russia were colleagues.  He started publicly performing by the age of five.  A short time later local teachers said he was progressing so quickly he needed to be trained in Institutes outside of China.

     In his teens this child prodigy competed in Budapest and won third place in a worldwide competition.  At age 18 he placed second to Van Cliburn in the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.  Liu chose to remain in Moscow and, with his voracious desire to be the supreme pianist in the World continued training under Russia’s best.  But horror was on the horizon.

     Liu was to be thrown in prison in 1967 in the Chinese Cultural Revolution.  He remained in prison until 1973.  During those years he did not touch a piano.  One of his close friends has said that the prison guards delighted in beating Mr. Liu on the arms and elbows.

     Just after his release in 1973 Mr. Shikun was challenged to perform before a noteworthy audience of admirers and would-be peers.  There was not a dry eye in the house when Liu completed playing the Liszt Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody for which he received several encores.

     Preposterous! Absurd. Impossible.  The audience sat stunned.  No human could go without touching black and white keyboards for seven years and then perform perfectly without one flaw.  How had Liu been able to do so.  The taciturn and non-jovial Mr. Shikun refused to explain.  It finally surfaced when an associate of Liu said, “He said he played the Rhapsody every day in prison...but not on a keyboard instead on an imaginary keyboard in his cell.”

An Outcast

     In high school I was working on a dairy farm living with a family of 4… until the farmer got a logging contract 85 miles away.  I was  now all alone to fend for myself.  I shoveled manure, fed and grazed the cows while an older hired hand did most of the milking but returned to his family after each milking.  All alone in the farm house I searched for meals.  Quickly I found only 2 things to eat: canned peaches and loaves of bread.  As a result I broke out in boils.  Pus- oozing, skin tightening, painful stretching resembling a mini volcano and on the back of my neck where I could sure feel them but could not see them to adequately bandage them.  When the boil was nearly bursting I'd go to Wheeler Clinic and get them lanced.

     I felt dirty and like an outcast.  Who would want to be around a teen with sick looking  sores.  I understood somewhat how Job must have felt.  Finally a classmate told his family about it and they offered me room and board and $50 a month to work on their farm.  It was a God thing.  Sometimes our pathway may be grossly infested but the Path Master will never forsake us.  His gracious mercy turned ominous storm clouds into brilliant rainbows.  I thank God for the experience.  It was a major trial from which He taught me how to appreciate even the common things in life.

     If you were to ask me to compile a laundry list of things I must have to get by today you might be surprised by my answer.  Though I never want to be imprisoned or isolated all alone I think I would survive OK.

     On the other hand at this time in my life I really do appreciate a few things.  Listening to gospel music, sharing God's goodness in these stories posted online, having awesome memories, living in a pleasant apartment, convenience of a smartphone and a loving wife, kids, grandchildren and friends.

     If, when my time comes, and my last breath has passed, I hope my legacy will be as Thomas Campbell wrote "To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die."

Must Jesus Bear The Cross Alone?



 
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