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“Lord Willing”

Beginning in 1974, I preached for the Cedar Grove congregation just outside of Rogersville, Alabama, on Snake Road.  I have some absolutely wonderful memories attached to the people that made up that church, and those memories have made indelible marks on my life.  Often, I hear preachers talk about the way that churches have treated them, and I guess that I have really been blessed.  99.9% of the time, churches treated me far better than I ever deserved, and the Cedar Grove church was one of those churches!

For the 3 1/2 years that I preached for that church, I was a single man living in the church parsonage.  I was 23 years old when they hired me, and I still had a lot of growing up to do (maybe some day I will be grown up).  They tolerated my stupidity, mistakes, and the incompetence that I demonstrated on more than one occasion.  I was blessed that they had a lot of patience with a young preacher, that at times did not know which way was up.  There have been many occasions that I wished I had done a better job for them, had been a better minister, and done more good in the community. There are probably still times, when if there is a group of them sitting around discussing “old times”; my name might come up — and the discussion might begin with “can you believe that he …”

It has been 40 years since I left Cedar Grove, and, sadly, I have not been back over a half-a-dozen times (the last time this past March).  It is amazing to me, the reception that I get every time.  When I walk through the doors, I can feel the love from those that are still there.  At the Harding Bible Lectureships, that I attended about 2 weeks ago, I ran into one of the elders, Randy Baker.  He made the comment, that he was going to talk to the other elder, Richard McLemore, and try to arrange to have me speak at one of their annual homecomings.  I hope that we can work that out, because on the list of blessings that my God has given to me, the people of that church are way up on that list.

I would like to list the names of the people that touched my life, but I would forget someone — and that would just not be right.  But this morning, as I was reading in James 4, I was reminded of that church, and one Christian sister in particular.  Listen, to what James has to say:

Come now you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.”  You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be!  For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.

Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  (James 4:13-15, HCSB)

I don’t ever remember having a conversation with Marie Romine, that if a discussion came up about some future event, or if she was going to do something — that she did not add the words to the discussion “Lord willing.”  As I remember it, it did not come across as just a habit; but as recognition that the Lord was in charge, and that we were totally dependent on Him.

There was a whole generation of children that grew up in that congregation, that were in Ms. Marie’s Sunday morning Bible class.  I’m sure that many of them could share memories of what they learned, and what they remember, from that Bible class.  She was just one of those ladies that you don’t forget easily.  I remember what a good cook that she was, because she had sympathy for the single preacher; and quite often fed me the Sunday meal.  I also remember that she had the best “sweet tea” that I ever tasted, my mouth still waters as I think about it.

But this morning, I can see and hear her saying “Lord willing.”  The lesson that she taught me, by saying that as often as she did, made the words of James jump off the page at me.  Lord, help me to remember that You are the creator of the universe, and it is all in Your hands; and that I am totally dependent on You.  Thank you, Lord, for placing Marie Romine in my life; that would demonstrate to me the importance of doing that.  Peace.

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“David and his Prayers”

Many of you, that are reading this devotional this morning, have sat in my Bible classes.  If so, you probably have heard me say as we looked at a letter written by the apostle Paul — I sure would like to have seen his prayer list.  It seems as if in every letter Paul lists a number of people that he is praying for, and the things that he asks for that particular church.  Studying the prayers of Paul, and the lists of people that he is praying for, is a fascinating study.

One of the most enlightening aspects of reading the Psalms, is to be able to read the prayers of the people, particularly David.  The whole spectrum of human emotion can be found in the prayers of David — praising an awesome God, pleading for direction in his life, lamenting his present condition, anger at the enemies trying to kill him, impatience with God for leaving him in the situation, asking for forgiveness for his stupid mistakes, expressing confidence in God to get him through the difficulties he faces, and everything else in between.  Eugene Petersen once said, Everything that a person can possibly feel, experience, and say is brought into expression before God in the Psalms.  Amen?

David was not perfect, but he was “seeking” the heart of God for his life.  His journey in trying to get there, getting there, and staying there; serve as a powerful learning experience for Me.

This morning’s reading, Psalm 25 jumped off the page at me.  The whole chapter appears to be a prayer from David, as he seeks direction and assistance from the Father.

In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.  (Psalm 25:1-2, NIV)

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  (Psalm 25:4-5, NIV)
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.  Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.  Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.  (Psalm 25:16-18, NIV)
Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.  May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you.  (Psalm 25:20-21, NIV)
Peace.
(This was first posted on Facebook, May 30, 2016.  It has been revised and adapted for use as one of our “Psalms on Saturday.”  It is my prayer that it will be a blessing to you.  Bill)

“Friday Reflections — 10-13-17”

Football season is almost half over, and sadly; I am very apathetic about the rest of the college football season.  When it comes to Arkansas Razorback football, I am the ultimate “homer” — I begin every season believing that we are going to shock the world and be good, and, maybe, really good.  Sadly, we have lost our last 5 games against Power 5 conference schools; and when your next two games are Alabama and Auburn, it does not appear that a victory is going to come too quickly.  It may be that there are a lot of people like me, that have expectations that are too high.  When your expectations are high, and they are not met — there are several reactions that can happen.  I like our coach, Bret Bielema, and I believe that he cares about the players, the program, and the school.  The athletes that he recruits go to class, make their grades, and we don’t get up in the mornings and wonder which one of the players will be on the Washington County Jail Detainee site.  But, as I told some friends in Texas a couple of weeks, he has got to start winning — because that is all that some people care about.

I’m afraid that the game at South Carolina may have sealed his fate.  The internet message fan boards are screaming that he be fired, not that anyone really listens to them.  But, it is obvious that they are not the only ones that feel that way.  Sadly, it has taken a really ugly turn, as people ridicule almost every aspect of his life.  I’m really torn in this situation.  I want my team to win, but every time that I read someone resorting to those tactics it angers me.  If you want to change coaches, that’s fine; but people don’t have to act like they do in expressing those opinions.  I wish that people in all walks of life could treat one another with respect, but it seems as if that is too much to ask.

On the other hand, the local high school team is undefeated, and ranked #5 in the state.  Tonight, they play the #1 team in the state; and the winner of that game will, probably, win the conference.  So there is that to be excited about.

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Sunday afternoon, I went to Luginbuel’s funeral home, and attended the visitation for Lynn Patrick.   Lynn’s wife, Tabatha, and I worked together at Arkansas Insulation for almost 6 years.  For the last two years, Lynn has fought valiantly against brain cancer, until his body could not fight any longer.  Tabatha, Junior, and Avery will be in my prayers for the days that stretch in front of them.  I hate cancer.  I hate what it does to the people that we love.  I hate what it does to families.  I pray that some how, some way, a cure for this monster could be found.  Look at the people around you, those that you love, and be sure to tell them how much you love them and appreciate them.  Life is so fleeting, and we don’t know what will happen tomorrow.

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Monday morning, I had to go to the dentist and get my teeth cleaned.  I walked out with the knowledge that I was going to have to have a root canal.  Now, I have never had one of those; but the very name, “root canal”, does not sound like something that will be very enjoyable.  Our God has created us with a wonderful body, and it is amazing how this body can take care of itself.  We just need to learn to do our part in the care of that body.  BUT, when we don’t, or something else happens, we ought to be very thankful for doctors and nurses that help care for the body.

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It has been a very difficult week for the Prairie Grove church of Christ.  Three of our ladies have had medical procedures:  Sylvia Bentley, Alice Musteen, and Jenaldi Bond.    Linda Coffey, another lady at church, had an aunt that also a medical procedure in Missouri.  Our prayers are with them in their recovery.  I’m sure that there are others that I have forgotten, but there just seem to be times when we are overwhelmed with all that is going on.

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For the best couple of weeks, I have been deeply involved in a study of James 1, for a writing project that I have been asked to do.  As I look back over this post today, I realize just how meaningful the words of James are to our lives.  Read carefully what he has to say in the first few verses:

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete lacking nothing.

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith without doubting.  For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.  (James 1:2-8, HCSB)

A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.  For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone.  But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires.  Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown it gives birth to death.  (James 1:12-15, HCSB)

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Weight, March 15, 2017 — 324 pounds

Weight, October 13, 2017 — 230 pounds

 

“The Inward Struggle”

Have you ever heard of “the battle of the bulge”?  No, not the battle during World War II, but the continual struggle that many have fought on a daily basis, and still continually fight.  Of course, I am talking about a struggle with weight.  I am veteran of many conflicts, and have lost more than I have won; and I still struggle with the desire to eat things that I shouldn’t.  Those of you that have never engaged in this conflict, be very thankful!

In the mid-1980’s, when Malia and I were living in Winters, Texas, there was a period of time when I lost a lot of weight.  Doug Taylor and I (and later Donald McMillon) went to a weight-loss physician in Lubbock, and I was successful in his program — for a while.  I took the medication he said to take, ate the foods that he said to eat, and exercised.  Lanny Bahlman and I would meet three mornings a week (at 5 in the morning), and go play racquetball.  Many afternoons, Jerry Hood and I would go walk at the high school track.  But another child came along (in both the Bahlman and Hooten homes), and the early morning racquetball was out of the question.  The cold of winter set in, and the late afternoon walks were not very comfortable, and I soon abandoned them.  Food still looked and tasted good, and over a period of a couple of years (and a move back to Arkansas), I gained all the weight back — and then some!  Most everyone that struggles with a weight problem can identify, at one point or another in their life, with that story.  Sadly, it is all too familiar.

The radical decision that I made this year, to have gastric bypass surgery, was not made on the basis of losing weight.  It was made with the desire to be healthy, and to live longer.  A lifetime of eating anything I wanted, as much of it as I wanted, and as fast as I could; leaves me with cravings that still have an impact on me.  Even now after the surgery, after losing 90+ pounds, and no longer having Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc; I still find myself wanting foods that I know that I should not eat.  The threat of another failure is real.  We all have seen people that have had the surgery, and then gain the weight back — and I don’t want to do that!

You see, food offers what tastes good at the moment, at the expense of what is good for me and my health.  The danger that I face is that I will begin to indulge in those foods (and amounts) that I shouldn’t, and nothing bad will happen.  Blood sugar won’t spike, blood pressure will stay the same, and the weight won’t change — so you begin to think that you can do that more often.  Then you will have those days, when you cheat on your food once; and think I have already blown it today, I might as well do it again (and I will do better tomorrow).  Before you know it, you have not only lost the battle — but are losing the war.  The only way to win, is to resist the urge and the temptation on a daily basis — no, on an hourly basis.  You have to be determined to be victorious over your desires, and win this battle, and every one that comes your way.  I’m not foolish enough to believe that I will, having already lost a couple, but I am determined to get back on the program (and that I have done) and not be caught in the same situation again!  With the encouragement of family and friends, I KNOW that I will lose this last 15-18 to make my goal weight, and I WILL keep it off!

Over the years I have recognized that my struggle to control my weight, is very similar to my struggle to live for Jesus.  Obviously, the big difference is that my victory in living for Jesus is not just dependent on me, and my strength, to resist the seduction of Satan and sin.  But Scripture still says for us to …lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us.  (Hebrews 12:1, HCSB).  The terminology is quite appropriate don’t you think?

This morning in my devotional reading, James says some things that made me think of all this.  Think about these two readings:

…Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.  (James 4:4, HCSB)

Therefore, submit to God.  But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!  Be miserable and mourn and weep.  Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.  (Jame 4:7-10, HCSB)

I see within those words, the same struggle with sin that I have always had with my weight.  They are both very seductive, both can offer immediate gratification and pleasure, and both can be destructive.  For years, I have been using this definition of sin, doing what I want, instead of what God wants.   There is a reason that one of the most powerful statements that Jesus ever made was (and is) …If anyone wants to be My follower, HE MUST DENY HIMSELF, take up his cross, and follow Me.  (Mark 8:34, HCSB).

Obviously, I am not putting a struggle with weight on the same level as a struggle with sin.  BUT, there are similarities with the struggles.  Let’s recognize the danger, and be victorious in our struggle with sin.  Peace.


“The Description of a MAN”

If I were to ask you to offer the description of what a “real” man is like, what would you say?  Have our definitions of a what a man is like, been shaped by the famous?  the educated?  the powerful?  the athletic?  the self-made?  the rich?  Who would be your example of the prototype of what a man ought to be like?  I suppose there would be as many different answers to these questions, as there are people that read them.

This morning as I was reading in James, this passage made me stop and think about the qualities that a man ought to have.  Observe carefully what James has to say:

Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t brag and deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness  is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.  (James 3:13-18, HCSB)

That is not necessarily the definition, or the qualities, that the world would look for in a real man.

wise

good conduct

gentle

pure

peace-loving

compliant

merciful

Do those attributes and qualities change any of the answers that you gave; to what makes a real man, or who is the prototype of a real man?  You see, in my opinion, a real man is one that believes in, and has submitted to, the God of the heavens; by having a relationship with Jesus the Christ; and allows the Spirit of God to bear fruit in his life.  That fruit is:

But the fruit of the Spirit  is love, joy,  peace, patience,  kindness,  goodness, faith,  gentleness,  self-control. … (Galatians 5:22-23, HCSB)

You see, the definition a real man (or woman) is not determined by what you look like, how much money and possessions you have, what kind of position you have, or how much power and authority.  A real man is one that has turned over control of his life, and emotions, to God — and manifested these attributes in all phases of his life.

Wouldn’t the world be a wonderful place, if the people in authority had these kind of attributes.  Peace.

“Seeking after God”

Reader’s Digest used to have a treasury of short stories about people in every issue, especially those people that make a serious impact on the lives of others.  Over the years there have been a lot of those “special” people in my life, more lives than I could ever list or name.  Two of my favorite people are Mahlon Graham and Harold Wilbanks.  They both attended the Cedar Grove church in Rogersville, AL, when I preached there.  Harold passed away a few years ago, and Mahlon still lives in that community.

The people that make up that church all deserve extra stars in their crown — for putting up with all the nonsense, mistakes, problems, and dumb actions of a young (single) preacher, that still had some growing up to do.  Probably as much as anybody else, Harold and Mahlon liked me; and understood some of the conflict that was going on in my life.  They would listen to me, encourage me, and chastise me when I needed it.

Mahlon had a service station on Highway 72, east of town, down by the river, down by the river.  Sometimes the three of us would be there, and almost without exception, the conversation would turn to football.  Harold was an Alabama fan, Mahlon is an Auburn fan — and they were both serious about their team.  On top of that, they were both loud; and could get louder if they thought the situation deserved it.  Sometimes, I am sure that you could hear these “discussions” a mile away.  In those discussions I generally favored Auburn, but being an Arkansas, I really didn’t care much for either team.  So, I delighted in getting the arguments started, and providing a spark to keep them going.

Mahlon and Harold both encouraged me in my preaching, and there were times that I really needed it.  It was strange to me, that both of these men liked what they called my “hard” sermons.  You may recall those kinds of sermons from the past, when the preacher romps, stomps, and yells about “sin”.  Most of the time it seemed as if the intent of the sermon was to get the people to feel as if they were not good enough, or doing enough, to say they were saved.  Mahlon told me once, that he figured if he could “hunker” down and take a sermon like that, he was probably going to be alright.

Well, maybe I have learned a little, and grown a lot since then — but my approach to challenging sin is a little different 40 years later.  I have come to the conclusion, that sin is a “heart” problem, and not an action problem.  The bad actions are the result of what is going on in the heart.

Listen to what the psalmist has to say:

In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.  (Psalm 10:4, NIV)

That verse, as well as any, my definition of sin:  Sin is doing what I want, instead of what God wants.  In one of the most wicked periods in the history of the Israelite people, one of the thoughts that is constantly repeated is:

After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. …  (Judges 2:10-12, NIV)

The Israelites were sinners because they had a heart problem, that manifested itself as actions in their lives.

The actions of people are bad, because our actions are a manifestation of what is in our heart.  In one of his first recorded sermons, the apostle Paul made this statement about the Israelite King, David:  After removing Saul, he made David their king, God testified concerning Him: “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do”.  (Acts 13:22, NIV).  David made some terrible mistakes, but he always stayed “after” the heart of God, and God loved that attribute in him.  When we keep “seeking” God, even if we make mistakes along the way; God, in His “steadfast love”, forgives us and stays out in front of us.  We have to continually search out heart, and see if we are “seeking” Him, or seeking after our own wants and pleasures. Those that are “seeking” have room in their heart for God.

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.  (Psalm 9:10, NIV)

Peace.

(This was first posted on Facebook on May 27, 2016.  It has been revised and edited for use as one of our “Psalms for Saturday”.  It is my prayer that it will be a blessing for you today.  Bill)

 

“Friday Reflections — 10-6-17”

This past Sunday I began a series of lessons on Nehemiah, with the emphasis of taking the lessons we learn from him as he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem; and applying them to revitalizing and renewing the Prairie Grove church.  I have preached on Nehemiah in the past, but never with this kind of emphasis.  It has a lot of excellent preaching points on leadership and building a church, but this church, at this time, needs a different emphasis.  Now, the church may need a different emphasis because the preacher needs a different emphasis.  That is true, many times — we, preachers, preach what we need.

I think the motivation for this series of sermons is a new blog that I am reading faithfully, that has become one of my very favorites.  Karl Vaters has a blog called Pivot, that focuses on how to be a successful, small church.  In the present culture, a small church is most of the time considered to be a failure, if not sinful.  That kind of mindset affects the morale of a church, and the faith of individual members.  Vaters is trying to offer, what I believe to be, a Biblical alternative to that kind of thinking.  His last entry closed with these words:  If I am faithful, God may sometimes bring numbers, but he will always bring health.  I’m learning to be okay with that.  Because healthy matters more than big.  (Amen?)

For the last 3 weeks, I have been challenging the members to get involved with this idea:  As part of the sermon series on “Nehemiah“, I would like for you to think about, and write down, what your dream for this church is.  What your vision for this church looks like!  There is only one stipulation, you can’t use numbers!  I’m not looking for someone to say 125 in Bible classes and 150 in the assembly, or anything else along those lines.  I want you to think deeper than that.  How do you view the purpose of this church, and, in your opinion, what is the best way to implement that purpose into reality.  This will not be something that I think you can sit down and scratch out in 5 minutes.  It’ll be something that takes some time and thought,

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As I age, more and more of my friends are struggling with health problems.  That is the natural order of things I suppose, but that does not make it any easier.  We have several in the church at Prairie Grove that are struggling with health problems, disease, and aging.  This week I have had 3 friends that are struggling with serious health problems.

Tabatha Patrick, who I worked with at Arkansas Insulation for a number of years, has had to put her husband, Lynn, in hospice care at the Willard Walker Hospice Center.  Lynn, has fought valiantly against brain cancer for the last two years, but his body is finally giving out.

Dan Holland, was a very important friend to me when I was the preacher at the Cedar Grove church in Rogersville, Alabama; and, he is having some very serious heart problems.  They tried to place a stent, but it did not work — so the options are surgery or medication.  Neither one of those are ideal, but surgery seems to be the best.  He will meet with the surgeon early next week, to make the necessary plans.

Kim James, the wife of Larry James, has a history with brain aneurysms (as does her family), and they have found two more, recently.  She will be going to Little Rock to meet with the specialists next week.

I would ask that all of you that are reading this, please join with me in praying for these special people.

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Shopping for clothes can be FRUSTRATING!  Since March, not only have I lost 90 pounds — but I have lost 12″ in the waist, and dropped 4 shirt sizes.  Well, I could not afford to buy a new wardrobe every time the sizes that fit, changed.  I have become a regular customer at places like Goodwill, Life Ministries, and other second hand shops.  It is amazing, but I have bought new clothes (that still had the tags) at these places, for prices that are ridiculously low.

Now, I have never been one to try on clothes at the store (and my wife has fussed at me about that for years), but I have learned that you can never trust what the tag says.  This past week, I went to Goodwill and bought 4 long-sleeve shirts — all of them were tagged by the manufacturer as the same size.  2 of them fit perfectly, 1 was a little snug, and the fourth one lacked 2″-3″ even being able to be buttoned.  I’m sure that there is a spiritual application that I could make with that, but I don’t know what it is right at the moment!

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Regarding the continuing journey of my weight loss, I have had very few, if any, times when I have not had positive reports on how it is going.  Well, in the last two weeks, it has not been so good.  I expanded the things that I was eating a little too much, and have had to cut back.  But, because of travel, rain, meetings, football games, etc. — I have only been able to walk 4 times in the last 14 days.  So, I have gained 3 pounds.  It is time to reverse that direction — cut back on starchy foods, exercise on a more regular basis, and get the final 20 pounds off to reach my goal weight.

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Weight — March 15, 2017 — 324 pounds

Weight — October 6, 2017 — 234 pounds

“Look for the Helpers”

Recently, I read the words of Fred (Mr.) Rogers when he explained how he would comfort children watching disasters unfold on television.

His answer, “Look for the helpers.” (Ed Stetzer “Remember Teachings of Mr. Rogers and the Good Samaritan in Harvey Relief Efforts” USA Today, August 31, 2017).

It seems as if whenever a disaster strikes, faith-based groups (churches) get there before government aid, and are there after the government assistance has left.  That is not intended as a slam against government assistance, but churches have their roots in the communities, and with the people.  It is their neighbors, friends, and loved ones that are suffering; and they are personally involved in what is going on in their communities.

Churches have caught a lot of flak for some of the things that they have said and done, and some of it has been deserved (in my opinion).  But, no one objects to churches and religion, when they are doing what they are supposed to do!

I was reminded of that this morning, in my reading of James 1:

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.  (James 1:27, NASB-U)

It is my opinion, that James is not limiting the assistance of God’s people to orphans and widows.  But, they were among the most helpless in the culture of his day, and those that could be in distress the quickest.  It is my conviction, that God’s people are never more Christlike than when they are helping someone else.  This verse, and countless others, throughout Scripture admonish us to be among the “helpers”. 

You know, if we would spend our time being “helpers”, doing Kingdom work; and less time worrying about politics, issues, and other things of the world — God’s people might have a better reputation.  Peace.

“It’s Not My Fault”

Flip Wilson was a very popular comedian, and was one of the very first African-American entertainer to host his own weekly variety TV show.  Not only was he an outstanding stand-up comedian, but he also was very successful portraying comedic characters in his show.  Two of the most popular characters were Reverend Leroy (pastor of “The Church of What’s Happening Now”) and Geraldine Jones (his most popular character).  Geraldine was now for referring to her boyfriend, Killer, and two very popular sayings:  “What you see is what you get,” and “The Devil made me do it.”  They were so wildly popular, that they were adopted by many and became catch-phrases for many in the nation.

It has always been interesting to me, as to why certain things, particularly catch-phrases, become popular.  I can remember repeating the two Geraldine phrases, and think that I understand the most popular of the two — The Devil Made Me Do It. When we do something wrong, we would really like to have someone to blame it on, and the devil is a likely subject.  That is really nothing new, as it has been common since the days of Adam and Eve.  You remember, Adam blamed Eve (the woman that God gave him); and, Eve placed the responsibility on the serpent.  Admitting responsibility for the things that we do that are wrong, is very difficult for most people.  We are still blaming others, even God, for the things we do that are wrong.  In James 1, James talks about the “sin process”, and where sin comes from.  Read carefully what he says:

No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.
(James 1:13-15, HCSB)

Most of us, when we just give that a cursory reading, know that what it says is right.  We are tempted when we are enticed (seduced) by our own evil desires.  When we see something, and we don’t see it as the good thing that God has given us; but as an “object” that we can use to satisfy our own evil thoughts, wants, and desires.  We may even know that it is wrong, but are so consumed by what we want — that we don’t care.

When we give in to the own seductive power of our wants and desires, we sin!  I really like the way the HCSB read here — … it gives birth to sin, …  That may be one of the most appropriate descriptions of sin that I have ever read.  Sin is conceived and nurtured in our mind, and then delivered into the world by our own selfish desire.  The end result is death.  That death may be a reference to spiritual death, a separation from the love, grace, and presence of God; or it may be talking about physical death, as a result, or a consequence, of what we have done.

When we learn to think of sin in that way, what Jesus says in Matthew 16:24 becomes crystal clear.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. (Matthew 16:24, HCSB)

To be victorious in the struggle with sin, I have to learn to say NO to what I want.  I really believe that is the hardest thing that we will ever do.  But it is what we have to do!  Peace.

“New Direction”

This is October 1, 2017, and beginning today there will be some changes in the direction of Hoot’s Musings.”  I will still be maintaining this blog, but there will be some change in the emphasis, and the articles that appear.  I have taken on some additional responsibilities in reading, teaching, and writing; and time is becoming more and more of a factor.  Some more information about these new responsibilities will be shared in the future.

Here is what I had to say last Friday (9-22-17) — I will be implementing some changes with this blog beginning the first week of October. It is my intention to cut back from posting 6 days a week to 4 days. My thought is to have posts on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. It is my plan to continue the “Friday Reflections,” and the “Psalms for Saturday;” and then on Tuesday and Wednesday have my regular ‘musings” from my devotional reading, sprinkled in with some teaching entries, and a book review once a month or so. I think that this will allow me to improve the “quality” of the work, and remove some of the stress of having to do something every day, and feeling guilty if I don’t. Pray that this effort will be successful, please.

There has already been a change in that — I will be posting on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.  So look for posts in Hoot’s Musings on these days, and know that I appreciate everyone that takes the time for a busy day to look at what I have to say.  Peace.