Thursday, November 20, 2014

Quit Procrastinating - Sit in the Chair

The following is a good reminder from Edie Melson about the need to stop procrastinating and - just do it! . . .

I love writing. And I love talking about writing.

Sitting around with other writers, discussing all things literary is one of my favorite things. It’s one of the reasons I love attending writing conferences. But there are people we know who like talking about writing so much that’s all they do. They join writers groups, critique groups, even take classes.

The one thing they don’t do is write.

Read the entire Quit Procrastinating Article here.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

How Much Do We Pray?

How much do you pray?

I urge at least thirty minutes a day in your quiet time - including Bible reading and prayer.  For the person in full-time Christian ministry, I suggest a minimum of an hour a day (two is better), and this should be for private devotions and quiet time without using any of this time for sermon preparation.  Martin Luther spent two hours a day in prayer.  John Wesley spent two hours a day in prayer.  According to a recent poll taken on both sides of the Atlantic, the average church leader (pastor, priest, evangelist, teacher) today spends four minutes a day in prayer.  And you wonder why the church is powerless?  Where are the Luthers today?  Where are the Wesleys? . . .  There will be no praying in heaven.  I would lovingly plead with you: spend much time in prayer now.  Get to know God and His ways by spending time with Him.

- R. T. Kendall

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thanksgiving - The Forgotten Holiday

Candy Arrington shares some great ideas for how to remember the Thanksgiving holiday during the month of November . . .

"Sandwiched somewhere between Halloween and Christmas is a Thursday holiday that is slowly becoming more miniscule in the minds of millions of Americans Thanksgiving. If you search hard, you might find one small section of Thanksgiving cards, autumn decorations, and a turkey platter amid the aisles and miles of Halloween costumes, Christmas decorations, and toys.

For some, Thanksgiving is a day to get a list together prior to a day of marathon Christmas shopping. Somehow our perception of Thanksgiving Day has gone askew. We've forgotten the reason for celebration that first Thanksgiving. Gratitude for survival!

Historically we think of Thanksgiving as a time of feasting for the Pilgrims and Indians. In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims had been in America less than a year. During those months, over half their original population died from disease or starvation. The Pilgrims hosted the first feast not to try out their latest recipes, but to celebrate life with their Indian friends and give thanks to God for His provision in difficult circumstances."

Read the entire article by Candy Arrington here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Challenge to Pray for America

I am setting this post to run at the top of the blog through most of November.

"Troublesome times are here, filling men's hearts with fear, freedoms we all hold dear, now is at stake."  So go the words of the old gospel song "Jesus is Coming Soon."

Recent days in the grand old U. S. of A. have brought fear to our hearts. 

Islamic Extremists

The threat of militant Islamic fundamentalists in the ISIS regime should trouble us.  They are a people who want to annihilate other peoples and cultures.  The city of London is on the alert as they believe members of ISIS are planted there to do harm.  The FBI has warned that policemen and family members of our country's military could be possible targets to ISIS assassinations. 

President Obama made it clear in his speech about his ISIS "strategy" that this is not about Islam and that no religion wants to kill people.  When people make such statements, they are either speaking out of ignorance or out of another agenda.  And I doubt the President is ignorant of such matters.  Even David Letterman recognized that the strategy was one of kicking the ball down the field to the next Chief. 

Yes, there are many good Muslims who would never murder another person.  However, radical Islamic fundamentalists are driven to murder others in the name of their Islamic religion.  In case you don't know or haven't been around since September 11, 2001, the concept of jihad is a religious war.  If they die while killing the "infidels," then they believe their god takes them straight to heaven. 

Todd Starnes wrote recently, "Last night on 60 Minutes President Obama reminded the nation that we are not at war with the Islamic State.  Not that it matters all that much – because they are at war with us."   That is simply a fact.

After a recent beheading in Oklahoma, Starnes of FOX News wrote, "In recent days it’s become clear that radical jihadists live in these United States. . . .  The authorities are calling what happened in Moore, Oklahoma a case of workplace violence.  Workplace violence, indeed. Just like the Fort Hood massacre.  The Obama Administration can call it whatever they want — but I’m afraid we’re about to see a lot more of it."

The ISIS threat could potentially have disastrous results.

Now Ebola is front and center in the news.  Again, here is a problem with catastrophic potential.

How should a godly person respond?  What does a man or woman who fears the Lord and trusts Him do in such times?  How should I, an ordinary husband and father, react to threats such as ISIS and Ebola?

A Person Like You or Me

A man named Elijah, one who feared the Lord, lived in troublesome times.  He had no confidence in the political leaders of his nation, a godless couple named Ahab and Jezebel.  The king and queen led the nation into all sorts of idolatry, eventually persecuting and killing many of the prophets of the one true God.  That God, Jehovah, spoke to this man Elijah, a Tishbite.

God told Elijah that as punishment for the sins of the nation, He was sending a drought.  It would not rain until God allowed it.  Elijah announced this punishment to king Ahab.  Then, God hid his prophet for three and a half years (1 Kings 17) during the drought.  Killing Elijah would not have stopped the drought, but godless people sometimes like to attack God's messengers.  (Houston, you can demand pastors to turn in their sermons, but you can't change their God nor what He has said, nor their constitutional rights.)

After three and a half years, the Lord and Elijah had a huge confrontation with the priests of Baal, priests under the domination of Queen Jezebel.  God showed up in a big way, confirming that he is God and Baal is false.

Then, God revealed to Elijah that it was about to rain.  Before rain came, Elijah began interceding - praying to God to send the rain.  Some people remark that the position he took in 1 Kings 18:42 was one of a Jewish woman in labor.  Elijah knew God was going to send rain, but the prophet assumed the position of a praying intercessor.  He became an agent through which God could birth a miracle and bring rain.

After seven times of prayer, Elijah's servant saw a small raincloud coming.  Soon, heavy rain poured.

Years later, the apostle James comments on this account: The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit (James 5:16-18).

James reminds us of a few potent truths . . .

1.  Elijah's prayer life included the potential to stop rain and produce rain for 3 1/2 years as he partnered with God.

2.  Elijah was a man just like us - not any more or less.

3.  The prayers today of godly people full of faith, the Holy Spirit, and the fear of the Lord can accomplish much.

Wow.  The prayers of one man affected the course of the entire nation.

Again and again in Scripture, God worked through the prayers of one man or woman to bring real change.

Might God use the prayers of one righteous person today to affect the course of our nation?  Might God use the prayers of one family, church, or small group to alter our future?

Fasting and Prayer

In years past, some Presidents and political leaders understood that we are truly one nation under God.  During times of deep national crisis, leaders called our nation to a day or season of fasting and prayer.  They understood that some problems faced by the country were too grand for human ingenuity to solve.  They needed God.  They needed His help.

John Adams, second President of the United States, understood this truth.  When faced with the threat of a national crisis from a foreign power, he called for a day of fasting and prayer for May 9, 1798 . . .

As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and blessing of Almighty God; and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety, without which social happiness cannot exist . . . .

See a long list here of days of fasting and prayer issued by our government leaders in times past.  You can also read the proclamations at the same site.

According to the Bible, when peoples and countries face deep crises, they should fast and pray.  They should turn aside from what they normally do, stop eating for a designated time, and cry out to God.  Fasting is one spiritual discipline through which we humble ourselves before Him and ask for His help.

Personally, I have little confidence in our current government leaders in the White House to handle our problems efficiently.  However, the Bible says that God hears the remnant.  He hears the few that still fear, love, and serve Him.  God promised Abraham that if He found ten righteous people in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, he would spare them from judgment.  Why?  Because God hears His remnant.  He acts on behalf of His remnant. 

The prayers of one man brought the rain after three and a half years of drought.  And he was a man just like you and me.

I challenge you, fellow Christians, to begin fasting and praying for America.  Begin setting aside some meals and spending that time in God's presence, praying to Him, on your knees, with an open Bible, pouring your heart out to God.

These battles cannot be fought with politics, military, or medical doctors alone.  We need God's help. We need God's help again.

Because, as the second President of the United States understood, "the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and blessing of Almighty God."

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Trust God and Do the Next Thing

Years ago I learned the maxim from Elisabeth Elliot's broadcasts and writings that Christians need to learn to "trust God and do the next thing." 

Many times in  life when we don't know what to do, are overcome with fear or anxiety, or seem overwhelmed with life's demands, we can find security in God by trusting Him immediately and then doing the very next thing at hand.

The following poem, author unknown, conveys the essence of that message . . .

From an old English parsonage, down by the sea There came in the twilight a message to me; Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven, Hath, as it seems to me, teaching from Heaven. And on through the hours the quiet words ring Like a low inspiration--"DO THE NEXT THING."
Many a question, many of fear, Many a doubt, hath its quieting here. Moment by moment, let down from Heaven, Time, opportunity, guidance, are given. Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King, Trust them with Jesus, "DO THE NEXT THING."
Do it immediately; do it with prayer; Do it reliantly, casting all care; Do it with reverence, tracing His Hand Who placed it before thee with earnest command. Stayed on Omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing, Leave all resultings, "DO THE NEXT THING."
Looking to Jesus, ever serener, (Working or suffering) be thy demeanor, In His dear presence, the rest of His calm, The light of His countenance be thy psalm, Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing, Then, as He beckons thee, "DO THE NEXT THING."
-author unknown

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fantastic Family Friday: The Bear Necessities

Sometimes God's provisions are just enough.

Three weeks ago, our family decided to venture onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.  A beautiful October Saturday, we looked forward to exploring sights in the mountains.  Leisurely driving and stopping along the Parkway, we enjoyed the breathtaking views.

We parked at mile marker 417 and hiked into the woods until we came to Skinny Dip Falls.  Before it became known publicly, SDF would have been an excellent place for skinny-dipping.  Nestled deep into the woods, the spot is one of the most gorgeous and picturesque swimming holes I have ever experienced.  It looks like something straight out of Fantasy Island.

Returning to our van, we continued our journey of gorgeous mountain sights.  The best views of the day came as the sun set over the mountains.  We and a lot of other motorists stopped to take pictures of the sun setting over the peaks.

Stopping at the Pisgah Inn, we checked out the bookstore filled with mountain-culture paraphernalia.  Other travelers packed the place, waiting for the two-hour wait at the restaurant.  Knowing that church duties would come on Sunday morning, my wife and I told each other that we needed to hit the road and get home.  

Leaving the Inn about 7:30, we headed down the dark road towards the Asheville exit.  At night the Blue Ridge Parkway is very dark - very dark.  For most of the ride, you only have your vehicle's headlights as any source of light.

About ten miles south of the Pisgah Inn, I suddenly noticed a young black bear to the left of the minivan.  The bear was quickly trying to cross the road directly in front of us.  It was one of those moments when your mind processes things very quickly.  I slammed on brakes, and I think all five of us in the car saw what was about to happen and screamed simultaneously.

My wife and I have sensed described the animal as somewhere between a bear cub and an adult bear.  It was as long as the front of our van.  Maybe it was a teenage bear!  

Within one second of our spotting him, he and the van collided.  We heard and felt the impact.  SMACK!  The bear slid across the pavement for at least 10 yards.  Then, immediately he jumped up and hurried into the woods out of our view.

Accelorating, I put as much distance between us and the scene of the accident as possible.  I did not want to meet mama or papa bear.  Seriously.  We drove several miles until we came to an overview.  Stopping to survey the damage, we discovered much damage to the vehicle's front.  But thankfully it kept running. 

I quietly prayed, "Lord, please get us off of this Parkway and into Asheville."  At that point, I did not care if we had to spend the night at a hotel.  I could call a deacon and say, "You are in charge of church tomorrow."  I just wanted us to be safe and away from any more wild animals.  Earlier that day I had thought, I sure would like to see a bear somewhere today.  But I was thinking more from a long distance.

Thankfully, we made it into Asheville in another 10-15 minutes.  I don't know that I have ever been that happy to see a Ryan's buffet restaurant in my entire life.  After a good supper, we prayed in the van and then drove almost two hours to our house.

Bear-hair stuck to van
Several days later, the insurance company told me the damage would cost $500 in a deductible.  For several days I thought, Oh, I don't want to have to pay $500.  That is a lot of money to put out for that.  I asked the Lord to provide for us and help me to cover the $500.

The next week I did something I have never done in 25+ years of driving.  I backed into a sitting vehicle as I left our carport.  My mind was on avoiding hitting my son, who was outside.  What I failed to notice was the other vehicle parked directly behind me.  Suddenly the minivan collided with the other.  I got out to survey the damage.  The back bumper of the minivan was a mess.  I had put a small dent into my other vehicle, an old one that has had many better years.

So now on the blue minivan I would be looking at not $500 but $1000 in deductibles in order to get the family van fixed.  After talking with the adjustor, I decided that I would not have the old vehicle fixed but would use that insurance money to help pay the deductibles for the other.

When I received the check to repair the old vehicle, I chuckled.  The insurance check was for $1004.90.  It was just enough to cover both of the deductibles on the family minivan.

Someone told me once that God allows happy accidents in our lives.  These are situations that look bad at first but later turn out for good.

Looking back over our incident on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I see reasons to rejoice.  We enjoyed a great day viewing the autumn colors.  We got to see a bear up close.  My family was protected from what could have been a very dangerous and precarious situation.  Our van was still able to operate after the accident.  We made it off of the Parkway, found supper, and made it safely home.  And through a "happy accident," the necessary funds came to cover the payment needed to repair the van.

God provides for the bear necessities.


Our Bat-Family

The Wilsons enjoyed dressing up like heroes and villains from the Batman legacy.  Months ago we agreed to try and theme together for the first time, and Batman was an easy pick.  We had fun turning some heads out on the town with our Bat-costumes.

The Villains

Out on the Town

The Joker, Bagirl, Catwoman, The Riddler, and Batman


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

When It Isn't Fun

Al Ganksy shares a great word about the need for discipline in any work, job, or vocation.  There are plenty of times when it simply isn't fun and we have to dig in our heels and work. . . .

No matter our occupations, there are days, weeks, even months when we don’t want to do the work. With a “regular job” we are motivated by the thought of suddenly being unemployed or by the fear of other people’s opinions. That’s the problem for most writers—especially those without a contract standing behind them cracking the whip—no one knows if we don’t show up at the keyboard, and let’s face it: writers are creative folk who can conjure up an excuse or rationalization without a second thought.

William Faulkner gets credit for saying, “I only write when inspiration strikes.
Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.” The Great Gatsby author has a point. There are many other similar quotes that drive home the idea that writers write even when they don’t want to.

Inertia is the problem. When we’re at rest we prefer to stay at rest. Hence the oft spoken line, “Honey, since you’re up, would you mind to bring me a soda?” An object at rest (in this case, the writer) changes its resting state when acted upon by an outside force. For working writers (meaning those who write to eat) income plays a key role. The fear of missing a deadline is highly motivational, but most writers I know still work from a desire to produce material to be read. This is true for journalists to the writers of epic fantasy.

Read the entire article, "When Writing Isn't Fun," here.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Saints Day

Today, November 1, is the church's traditional observance of All Saints Day.  Often lost in our evangelical community, this day has a rich heritage of remembering saints who have gone before us.

Charles Colson shared some great words about All Saints Day in his commentary Honoring the Witnesses.