Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Thorns

I didn’t write this … nor do I know who did, but I think it an absolutely fascinating look at thankfulness. Read and be challenged … then pass it on.



Sandra felt as low as the heels of her Birkenstocks when she pulled open the florist shop door, against a November gust of wind.

Her life had been as sweet as a spring breeze and then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a "minor" automobile accident stole her joy. This was Thanksgiving week and the time she should have delivered their infant son. She grieved over their loss. Troubles had multiplied. Her husband's company "threatened" to transfer his job to a new location. Her sister had called to say that she could not come for her long awaited holiday visit. THEN! Sandra's friend suggested that Sandra's grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer.

"She has no idea what I'm feeling," thought Sandra with a shudder.

"Thanksgiving? Thankful for what?" she wondered. "For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life, but took her child's?"

"Good afternoon, can I help you?" Sandra was startled by the approach of the shop clerk.

"I....I need an arrangement," stammered Sandra.

"For Thanksgiving? Do you want the beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the 'Thanksgiving Special'? I'm convinced that flowers tell stories," she continued. "Are you looking for something that conveys 'gratitude' this Thanksgiving?"

"Not exactly!" Sandra blurted out. "In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong."

Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the clerk said, "I have the perfect arrangement for you."

Then the bell on the door rang, and the clerk greeted the new customer, "Hi, Barbara...let me get your order."

She excused herself and walked back to a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and what appeared to be long-stemmed thorny roses. Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped: there were no flowers.

"Do you want these in a box?" asked the clerk.

Sandra watched for the customer's response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers?

She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed.

"Yes, please," Barbara replied with an appreciative smile. "You'd think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn't be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again." She said, as she gently tapped her chest.

Sandra stammered, "Ahh, that lady just left with, uh....she left with no flowers!"

"That's right, said the clerk. "I cut off the flowers. That's the 'Special'. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet."

"Oh, come on! You can't tell me someone is willing to pay for that!" exclaimed Sandra.

"Barbara came into the shop three years ago, feeling much as you do, today," explained the clerk. "She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had just lost her father to cancer; the family business was failing; her son had gotten into drugs; and she was facing major surgery."

"That same year I had lost my husband," continued the clerk. "For the first time in my life, I had to spend the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too much debt to allow any travel."

"So what did you do?" asked Sandra.

"I learned to be thankful for thorns," answered the clerk quietly. "I've always thanked God for the good things in my life and I NEVER questioned Him why those GOOD things happened to me, but when the bad stuff hit, I cried out, "WHY? WHY Me?!" It took time for me to learn that the dark times are important to our faith! I have always enjoyed the 'flowers' of my life but it took the thorns to show me the beauty of God's comfort! You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we're afflicted and from His consolation we learn to comfort others."

Sandra sucked in her breath, as she thought about the thought that her friend had tried to tell her. "I guess the truth is, I don't want comfort. I've lost a baby and I'm angry with God."

Just then someone else walked in the shop. "Hey, Phil!" the clerk greeted the balding, rotund man. "My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving arrangement...twelve thorny, long-stemmed stems!" laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.

"Those are for your wife?" asked Sandra incredulously.

"Do you mind telling me why she wants a bouquet that looks like that?"

"No...I'm glad you asked," Phil replied. "Four years ago, my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord's grace and guidance, we trudged through problem after problem. The Lord rescued our marriage. Jenny, here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she had learned from "thorny" times. That was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific "problem" and give thanks for what that problem taught us.

As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, "I highly recommend the Special!"

"I don't know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life." Sandra said to the clerk. "It's all too...fresh."

"Well," the clerk replied carefully, "my experience has shown me that the thorns make the roses more precious.

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We treasure God's providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don't resent the thorns."

Tears rolled down Sandra's cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on her resentment.

"I'll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please," she managed to choke out.

"I hoped you would," said the clerk gently. "I'll have them ready in a minute."

"Thank you. What do I owe you?"

"Nothing. Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year's arrangement is always on me." The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. "I'll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first."

It read:

My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant."

Praise Him for the roses, thank Him for the thorns.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Chick-Fil-A’s Stand for Biblical Marriage values

cfa-head4I don’t normally post other author’s views here but this one is so well written and stated that I had to.

And, by the way, we DO support Chick-Fil-A’s stance on Biblical marriage values. This DOES NOT mean that we hate homosexuals … in fact, we love them … and those who live in a homosexual lifestyle and who know us will attest to that fact. It is also NOT to be perceived as a condemnation toward anyone; it is simply a support for Biblical marriage values.

We also are thankful for the privilege of living in the USA and having the right to SPEAK forth our convictions and those that we understand to be Biblical convictions.

Anyway, here is the link to the post:

Monday, July 02, 2012

Bumps in the Night

06092012 beginning
Well, it finally happened: I was out exercising my new found lifestyle and hobby, running. It was a hot day so I waited until night-time to begin my run … after 11 PM to be semi-exact. Now mind you, running on the sidewalk is tough, especially for someone who, in his 53 years of life, has NEVER run a complete mile until now. And this part of the sidewalk is dark. There are street lights but they are shielded by the overgrowth of trees.
So you stay alert … because it’s dark, and because it’s late, and because … well, it’s just a smart practice.
I have a long row of tall, evergreen hedges to my left and Willow Avenue to my right … and I’m running … well, sort of …it’s still plodding along at this point, but I am making forward progression in a slow, 235 lbs., almost-54-year-old male sort of way.
And I hear sounds rustling in the hedges. They’re right beside me, and behind me, and in front of me. I am about to get attacked by an angst-filled mob of teens … or a pack of vicious dogs or coyotes … or maybe even something worse.
My ears perk up. My eyes are searching. My body goes into high alert as the blood pressure rises and the breath rate increases. Even the fine hairs on my legs, arms, and back are standing at attention.
Then suddenly …wham … I am hit from the left side … again and again and again. It starts about knee level but the sensations quickly arise to my thighs, my hips, and my mid-section. I am startled and frightened, but I am alive … for the moment.
Then it hits me … all of this commotion is simply the water sprinkler system coming on. The sounds are initially air flowing through the pipes and then … water: cold, wet water.
Did I mention wet?
Did I mention cold?
Then realization of the hilarity of all of this strikes me. This is the kind of scene that my three grown children would hold over my head for many years to come if they found out … and thank God, no one saw it or was around to take pictures … or even worse, to videotape this whole episode and post it on YouTube and FaceBook.
I felt foolishness, relief, and humor all at the same time.
I was safe. I was delivered. I was free.
And as I later surveyed the situation, I realized that a spiritual parallel had just been reenacted in my life. In fact, all of this reminds me of a reality that is presented in the Scriptures.
Isaiah 14:16-19 (HCSB)
16 Those who see you will stare at you; they will look closely at you: “Is this the man who caused the earth to tremble, who shook the kingdoms,
17 who turned the world into a wilderness, who destroyed its cities and would not release the prisoners to return home?”
18 All the kings of the nations lie in splendor, each in his own tomb.
19 But you are thrown out without a grave, like a worthless branch, covered by those slain with the sword and dumped into a rocky pit like a trampled corpse.
These verses immediately follow the famous passage that describes the scenario when Lucifer was cast out of the heavenlies, so this, too, is in reference to Lucifer, the fallen one, the enemy, the deceiver, satan, the devil.
Today, many have cowered in fear because of the accusations and attacks of the enemy. And many others have dreamed up in their minds a concept that he is capable of and responsible for so many things that he, in fact, is not. Isaiah is reminding us that we will look upon him, and sneeringly say, “Is this the man who caused the earth to tremble, who shook the kingdoms, who turned the world into a wilderness, who destroyed its cities and would not release the prisoners to return home?” (Note the tone of sarcasm in Isaiah’s statement.)
Isn’t it amazing how much fear we waste on those things that are unknown … and how much stress is wasted on those things that we hear, those people that we suspect, and those events that we wrongly anticipate?
Just as I “survived” the attack of the murderous water sprinkler system, so too we will overcome our seemingly deepest situations, if only we will keep our focus on Him and allow Him to bring us through these situations. And if we can keep these things in mind, He can even cause us to overcome our fears and our anxieties.
Think about it … and get up and run through your situations and fears.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

He STILL Does Miracles So Great


06 08 2012

Today is the day that we honor and thank God for His miracles.

It is the first birthday of our “miracle-baby,” Aaron Joseph Bunts.

In celebration of his miraculous birth and his marvelous first birthday, I encourage you to read this post by my wife, Cheri.


Pastor Jim

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Happy Anniversary Baby … Got You on My Mind

While the lyrics from the song by Little River Band tell a story of separation and pain, I say them to my wife of 35 years today with joy and awe.

Happy Anniversary Baby … Got You on My Mind.

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It has been a good, growing journey that we have travelled from SC, to FL, to SC, to FL, to MI, to OH, to IL … and we’ve done it together … and in many situations, with three great kids in tow.

We’ve lived in cities like Simpsonville, Lakeland, Pensacola, Baker, Crestview, Pontiac, Toledo, Ashland,Mokena., and others

We’ve served churches in places like Greenville, Possum Kingdom, Shady Grove, Cantonment,Sylvania, Napoleon, and others

We’ve travelled to places like St. Thomas, St. John, Tortola, Antigua, Haiti, San Juan, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Cartagena, Bogota, Medellin, San Fernando, Tobago, the Keys, Breckinridge, San Antonio, Toronto, and many other places.

And through it all, I have seen our love for one another grow in strength and maturity.

I have also seen God’s grace toward us extended in mercy, provision, and instruction.

And I have seen you grow. No longer are you the same little, shy girl I married on June 2, 1977. Oh, you still have some shy moments but you are increasingly walking in your giftings and callings, speaking to crowds of hundreds, and yet, still taking the time for the one or two … to pour into their lives, to wipe away a tear, or to speak encouragement and hope.

And I have watched you raise our children … and they have profited well from your loving instruction. You’re a great mom.


I see you loving our nine grandchildren, how they love and adore you … and I am learning from you in that arena as well. You’re an awesome Mimi.

And you have drawn things out of me that I never realized were there. You have given me the strength to keep on going, the wisdom to know when to stop, and the love to ease my chaotic, moody soul. You are in incredible mate.

You believe in me. …and I can soar with that thought.

I believe in you, my little butterfly, my mariposa. and I thrive on seeing you soar as well.

You complete me … I often get the accolades, and I know that God is my source … but you are my backbone.

I make a pretty good presenter … but you are my organizers … and I see you stepping into your own as a presenter more and more as each day goes by.

I know this is a chaotic tribute to you … but each word is real, is pregnant, is layered, and is textured. There is a lot more behind this than just words on a page (or screen); there is a love, an emotion, a feeling, a commitment, and yes, a covenant that I reaffirm with you.

I simply want to take this time and space to thank you, my wife of 35 years for sharing with me all your love, your hope, your dreams, and your desires. I look forward to growing together even more in the next 35.

I love you.

Happy Anniversary Baby … Got You on My Mind!!!

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Hem of His Garment


This is a rather lengthy blog, but I think the information contained in here is vital for most Christians in this 21st century. I am going to focus on a practical application of the power that raised Jesus from the dead: His ability to raise us from our infirmities and difficulties. And the way I want to do that is through a story found in Mark 5.

Mk 5:25-34- “A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse — after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she thought, "If I just touch His garments, I will get well." Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, "Who touched My garments?" And His disciples said to Him, "You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, 'Who touched Me?'" And He looked around to see the woman who had done this. But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction." (NASU)

In this passage, we find a description of a woman with an issue of blood. Grammatically, this story is what is called an inclusio. It actually invades and sits in the middle of another story: the story of the daughter of Jairus.

In Jairus’ story, Jairus was an official of the Temple in Jerusalem. And he had a daughter who was 12 years old. (All of this important because there is an issue that is being made … as we will see later.) As Jesus was going to the home of Jairus, He is confronted by large crowd of people. The Bible describes this crowd as “pressing in” on Him. And there, in the midst of the crowd, was this woman with an issue of blood. By Jewish law, this woman should not have been there because she was “unclean.”

Leviticus 15:25-26- “Now if a woman has a discharge of her blood many days, not at the period of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond that period, all the days of her impure discharge she shall continue as though in her menstrual impurity; she is unclean.” (NASU)

She was possibly around 24 years of age because she had dealt with this issue of blood for about 12 years. Implications are that this “issue of blood” was some part of a normal menstrual cycle, though her illness was certainly not NORMAL. Also, notice an interesting concept arising if you accept her age as being 24. For sure, her story fits in the middle of a story of a 12-year-old girl. 12 years of age was the normal age for a young lady to begin her cycle of womanhood. In fact, the differentiation between children and adults in the Bible was recognized between the ages of 12 and 13. Even today, Jews celebrate the Bar/Bat Mitzvah when children cross that bridge between childhood and adulthood. They become, literally, sons/daughters of the covenant.

But, back to our story, this woman came with a distinct purpose of touching Jesus in order to be healed. She knew she was unclean: she had had the issue of blood for 12 years and had spent all that she had (to fix it) and was not helped at all. She also knew she was not supposed to be there in the midst of that crowd: she was unclean.

In other words, this was a woman who knew the Law of the Lord. Some have suggested that this woman was a Gentile, but evidence speaks clearly (in my mind) for the case of her being an understanding, believing, practicing, law-abiding … but desperate … Jew.

Again, it my belief that this is further magnified by the fact that this story occurs in the midst of a story about Jesus going to the home of a man who was an official of the temple in Jerusalem. That, and there is the allusion to the number 12, which IS used as a Biblical connotation to the people of God (the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 Disciples, the 12 gates in the book of Revelation, etc.)

So here is my theory, not only did this woman know what she was doing, but she also knew what she was going to do in order to procure her healing.


So, let’s look carefully at the Biblical description of the mode of her healing:

Mark 5:43-48- “And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind Him and touched the fringe (tou kraspedou) of His cloak (tou himatiou), and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. And Jesus said, “Who is the one who touched Me?” And while they were all denying it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing in on You.” But Jesus said, “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.” When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

The Messianic Renewed Covenant (Bible) says, “Luke 8:44- “She came up behind him, and touched the tzit-tzit of His garment; and immediately her flow of blood stood.”

Allow me to take a moment to give a description of the covering Jesus wore. Certainly, He wore some type of garment. This garment probably had fringes and tassels attached to the bottom perimeter … but we’ll get to that shortly. Contrary to pictures that we often see, it is my belief that Jesus’ garment did not include the prayer shawl (tallit) as we know it. The modern prayer

shawl is worn in the synagogue and in the home by Jewish males (and some females) as a covering. To Christians today, it is a reminder of the clothing Jesus wore.

In fact, the Bible does not command wearing of the tallit. Instead, it simply takes the garments that people already were wearing to cover themselves and instructs them to add fringes (tzit-tzit) to the four corners of these. There are some Jews today who wear an undergarment that openly shows these four tassels. This garment is called a tallit katan.

tallit katan        Neatzit

Today, because Jewish people wear Western clothes instead of Eastern clothes, they keep this Biblical law by wearing a four-cornered garment as an undershirt. The little tassels are coming out of the four corners about the beltline, hanging down in front of and beside them. This fulfilled/fulfills the command regarding the tzit-tzit.

Numbers15:37-41- “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel: Throughout the generations to come you must make tassels for the hems of your clothing and attach them with a blue cord. When you see the tassels, you will remember and obey all the commands of the Lord instead of following your own desires and defiling yourselves, as you are prone to do. The tassels will help you remember that you must obey all my commands and be holy to your God. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt that I might be your God. I am the Lord your God!”[1]

See also Deuteronomy 22:12.

It is my summary that the tallit, the prayer shawl, then, serves not only as a fulfillment of the Torah, but also serves as a living reminder of God Himself.


So I want to give you a few details concerning the tallit; hopefully that will explain my summary … and hopefully, it will bring a renewed sense of healing, deliverance, and hope to you.

There are 613 tassels on every prayer shawl. By the way, do you know how many laws the Rabbis tell us there are in the Bible? 613. These tassels are, in fact, reminders of the 613 laws of God. In other words, when the people of Israel see these, they are reminded of their responsibility to obey the Law, and of their calling to be a holy people unto the Lord.

Additionally, there are also four tzit-tzits (large tassels) on the tallit: one on each corner. These represent the four-letter name of God, יְהוָ֥ה (usually understood as Yahweh.) This is often called the tetragrammaton, a word of Greek derivative meaning “word with four letters.” Also, the Hebrew word for “name” is “shem”. It literally means, “name, reputation, reknown.” In other words, one’s name also declared his/her reputation. To speak one’s name was to state one’s reputation. So, to see a visible statement (such as the tzit-tzit) was to be reminded of the name … and therefore, the reputation of the Lord.

Again, besides reminding the wearer of the name of God, the tzit-tzit, too, are fulfillments of the law of the Lord. The Torah commands us to wear tzit-tzit (fringes) at the corners of our garments. “You shall make for yourselves twisted threads on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself.” Deuteronomy 22:12

karaite_tzitizt_small yhst-37939424361191_2045_47827217 messianic-seal-with-tallit-stripes-170x300

Some ancient Jewish traditions hold that the threads of the tassels were white to symbolize righteousness … but there was also a conspicuous blue thread among the tassels to symbolize the heavenly origin of the commandments. And Jews would wrap these tzit-tzit around their fingers to remind them of the power of God. (This is probably where we get the idea of tying a string around our finger as a reminder … so as not to forget things.) In addition, in some Jewish traditions, there are 39 windings in each of the tzit-tzit. This equals the numerical value of the Hebrew words "the Lord is One."

Now, let me bring the story to full-circle: When the woman with the issue of blood touched the fringes of Jesus’ garment, the tzit-tzit, she touched His personal outward, physical symbol and reminder of God’s righteousness and power. Because she believed this manifestation on her part of touching the tassel on the hem of His garment would heal her, it did. This was an outward act of an inner faith.

So, let this serve as a reminder to you today: The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, the same power that healed the woman with the issue of blood, the same power that we are reminded of in the tallit (prayer shawl) is available to you and me today. The power was not and is not in the cloth fringe; it was in the “being reminded of” that the woman with the issue of blood was healed. It is in this same sense of “being reminded of” that we are healed and that we are made overcomers today.

Be reminded … Be an Overcomer … in HIM.

[1]Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible : New Living Translation., "Text Edition"--Spine., 2nd ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004), Nu 15:37-41.

Monday, May 21, 2012

When You Don't Know What To Do


An amazing story is given to us in 2 Chronicles 20:1-25. Although I have only listed a small portion here, I suggest you read the entire passage:

Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD before the new court, and he said, “O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You. “Did You not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? “They have lived in it, and have built You a sanctuary there for Your name, saying, ‘Should evil come upon us, the sword, or judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You (for Your name is in this house) and cry to You in our distress, and You will hear and deliver us. “Now behold, the sons of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom You did not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt (they turned aside from them and did not destroy them), see how they are rewarding us by coming to drive us out from Your possession which You have given us as an inheritance. “O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”

As we have read this, I want to ask you three simple questions today:

  • Have you ever felt like you had your back against the wall?
  • Have you ever felt as if you were in a position and you didn’t know what to do?
  • Have you ever felt like “why even bother? I can’t get out of this miss anyway; I might as well go ahead and quit trying!”

Then first of all, let me share with you that you are not alone in your feelings. Others have been there with you.

Second, let me tell you that you can make it through this place you’re in.

With those thoughts in mind, let’s look at life and at this passage. We certainly live in uncertain times; yet, we take pride in being problem solvers. In fact, most of us have been taught that you are to pull yourself up by our own bootstraps. But our problems surrounding us are increasing exponentially. We have faced severe winters, mild winters. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, companies failing, jobs being stopped, etc.

Consider for just a moment the changes that we have seen in the past century, especially transportation: from feet, to horse-drawn cart, to cars, to planes, and even more. Then look at the increase we have faced in knowledge in last decade. We are told by many leading scientists that there has been more new knowledge gained in the past century than in all time since creation. And further, there has been more new knowledge to arise in the past decade than in all of the 20th century. For instance, did you know that the life of an electronic keyboard musical instrument is currently only about six months? After that period, the keyboard is considered obsolete. And depending upon whom you read, the lifetime of a computer is 12 months or 18 months. After that period, it, too, is considered obsolete. That is how fast our technology is changing.

And change is not just global, but it is personal. While corporations are downsizing, jobs are being cut back to keep up with the economy. We are trying to raise kids to avoid temptations and failure. Terrorism has captured our world (not just the one overseas.)

It IS true, Jesus remains the same … but nothing else does (Hebrews 13:8).

The bottom line is. Facing all of these difficulties, and we simply DO NOT KNOW what to do…

So … "What should you do when you don't know what to do."

A survey recently was given to Pastors across the land. It asked: “What do you feel most Christians need to hear in this day and time?” The overwhelming response was “How do/can you trust Christ when life gets confusing?” To that question, we need to understand that Jesus gives us a firm foundation.

2 Chronicles lets us know that times like these are nothing new. You see, Judah’s King Jehoshaphat was in a position where he could not protect his nation from foreign invasion. In the past, he had relied on political alliances. But God, through the prophets, had rebuked him for that very thing (2 Chronicles 19:2).

So this time, instead, Jehoshaphat turned to the Lord.

Today, we, too face similar problems and choices.

And we are basically left with five primary responses to these problems and choices:

1) We can ignore the problem. We can say, "When I wake up this will all be gone." But in truth, we know this only postpones and escalates the coming crisis. Neglect is a strategy of self-preservation, but it bears fruit in self-destruction.

2) We can minimize the problem. We can say, "It can't be all that bad." Saying such as this gives clear indication that we may have missed the signs of a real crisis. In other words, thinking a problem to be small doesn't make it so, and in fact, we actually end up making ourselves more vulnerable when we minimize the threat or exaggerate our resources. Instead, a realistic appraisal is essential to a successful outcome.

3) We can do again what we always do. We can turn to our traditional, habitual, normal ways of solving problems. We can use strategies such as hard work, common sense, expert advice, people of influence, or money. And we can double the number of hours we work, the number of dollars we spend, and the number of books we read. But somehow, things don't change, and they may even get worse. Leadership guru, John Maxwell once said, "The classic definition of insanity is continuing to do the same things, hoping for different results. That will make you crazy."

So, when we come to the end of our rope, it's time to take God's hand … not go searching for more rope. Failure to recognize this can and at some point, will lead to catastrophe. Consider the fate of the Pony Express. It was one of the most successful, creative communication links to connect the East and West Coasts of the the 1800s. Riding night and day, riders could carry information from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, in just two weeks. It was an amazing accomplishment. But the pony express soon went out of business. What used to take two weeks by horse and rider could be done in an instant with electricity and wires. The old way was no longer useful. More and faster horses wouldn't help the pony express survive. They'd been overtaken by a new technology. And I have to ask the question, what is overtaking our “once-useful” way of accomplishing things?

4) Or we can panic, or give in to “the sky is falling!” syndrome. This is where the one who minimizes underestimates the danger and puts his or herself at risk, the overanxious person exaggerates the situation and loses all perspective. In the story of Chicken Little, the panic of Chicken Little infected all the other animals. "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" shouted Chicken Little. And all the listening audience became "sitting ducks" for Foxy Loxy, as Chicken Little led the panicked animals right to his den. Here is a great truth for us:

Fear and anxiety are often greater enemies than the real enemies we face.

5) Finally, we can admit that we DON’T KNOW what to do but we DO KNOW the One who does. In doing this, we make the choice to proceed by faith in Jesus Christ. Remember, faith is neither wishful thinking nor blind optimism; instead, faith is the exercise of hope rooted in our knowledge of God and our understanding of life in this fallen world. And even when we don't know what to do, we do know where to turn.

In and of itself, turning to the Lord has the immediate effect of calming the heart and putting things back into perspective.

So… when you don't know what to do, admit it!

In fact, the first step of faith is recognizing you don't know what to do! Jehoshaphat, the great king of Judah, did not hide his concern, confusion, and fear (2 Chronicles 20:5); He openly admitted, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you" (2 Chronicles 20:12).

If Jehoshaphat had hidden his confusion, he would have put his people in great danger.

I understand it's not easy to admit we need help’ however, pride can keep us silent when we are barely hanging on. And the need to appear self-sufficient blinds us to our need, and blocks us from tapping into that power outside ourselves. But honesty, on the other hand, opens the way to success.

What was it that gave Jehoshaphat the courage to be so vulnerable? Perhaps he recalled the rebuke and promise that had been given to his father, Asa. King Asa had also been chastised for seeking help from others rather than from God. His foolish reliance on human resources diverted him from the vast and eternal might of God. As the prophet spoke against Asa, he reminded him of God's eagerness to come to his people's aid (2 Chronicles 16:9). For those who believe in God and His promises, this promise is custom-fit for victory in any crisis!

Then Jehoshaphat shoed us the second step of his faith (and success): Prayer! And Jehoshaphat invited the people to join him in prayer and fasting. Incredible power arises from people coming together before the Lord. Even if the situation doesn't immediately change, genuine prayer changes us. It changes our perspective, reminding us of the most important things in life. It awakens faith, hope, and courage in our hearts.

And spiritual support is important. We as the people of God must pray for each other. We are not in this alone, but together (2 Chronicles 20:4).

And then we receive God's direction for our particular situation. After praying, Jehoshaphat and this people received God's Word for the situation from the prophet Jahaziel. He assured them that God had heard their prayer and would fight on their behalf (2 Chronicles 20:14).

We also find our hearts strengthened by reading God's Word. We may not have a particular prophet, but we have God's promises. Ara Parseghian, former Notre Dame football coach, faced a battle in which even all his expertise and prestige weren’t enough to help him. Three of his four grandchildren were diagnosed with the fatal Niemann-Pick Type C disease. It strikes children between ages 5 and 10, preventing them from properly metabolizing cholesterol. The substance accumulates within the cells of the liver, spleen, and brain, damaging the nervous system. The body deteriorates, and the child dies 5 to 10 years after developing the disease. Science does not have a cure.

What do you do? That is the question Parseghian was faced with. The family fought back by recruiting scientists to search for a cure, but a hopeful prognosis is never certain.

"Maybe this is supposed to be," Parseghian said.

"The Lord looks down and says, 'Maybe you can't cure every disease, but I can lead you in a direction to cure this one'"

What a witness to the encouragement of God's Word from a family facing a life and death situation. (Jim Massie, The Miamian: Spring, 1995)

So where does this leave all of us?

1) We should learn how to receive strength and direction by embracing the great promises of God's Word. When Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah took God at His Word, God took on their enemies. In one of the most fascinating battles in history, Judah's enemies destroyed themselves while Judah's choirs sang and the people watched! What a joy it is to watch the Lord do battle!

2) We should learn how to respond as Jehoshaphat did. We can choose to believe Christ will make a way for us through the maze. So embrace the great promises of God's Word. Pursue support relationships with other believers. Look for the joys that refresh your spirit. Remove unnecessary confusion from your life. Accept the Lord's grace and forgiveness. Discover how Jesus identifies with your struggles. And place your hope in the God of surprising outcomes.

And finally, perhaps one, some, or all of these five actions steps will help:

A) Fill your days with "I believe" statements.

B) Face confusion with confidence from God's Word.

C) Unleash the power of prayer partners.

D) Energize your faith by tracking daily joys.

E). Find at least three ways to unclutter your life.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Congratulations to 4 Kalahari Day-Passes Winner

Congratulations go out to the winner of our Kalahari Day-Passes winner, Carmen Tibbs, of the Chicago-land area.

And “Thank you” to Kalahari Resorts of Wisconsin Dells for helping to make this happen.


Watch out for our next contest – soon-to-come

Monday, May 07, 2012

And here we have it!!!

For the first time ever, a give-away from Pastor Jim’s Blog, brought to you in sponsorship from Kalahari Resorts- Wisconsin Dells, WI.

On Friday, May 18, 2012, I will enter all eligible names in my “hat” and draw one lucky prize winner who will receive four (4) All Day Complimentary Indoor Theme Park Admissions to Kalahari Indoor Theme Park in Wisconsin Dells, WI. These four passes are valid for one day only and for the Wisconsin Dells Kalahari only. They are valid until May 1, 2013.

Here’s how you can win … and unfortunately, there will be only one winner for these four passes: Send me an email to: In it, include your name, address, and phone number. You can send me an email once each day. Also, refer your friends to my blog ( they have a chance to win too.

I will announce the winner via my blog at noon on Friday, May 18 so all entries need to be received by that time.

Here’s hoping you win!!!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Pentecost Lost by Patricia Holland- A Review

It is not often I have the opportunity to review a book by a friend and a mentor. Yet such is the case with Pentecost Lost by Pat (Patricia) Holland. Pat and her husband, Wayne, were (are) mentors to my wife and me when we first began our involvement in Children’s Ministry.

One of the things I most appreciated about Pat was her ability to communicate the Gospel in her own special way. She, in particular, is such an engaging story-teller that, not only are children’s interests piqued, but so are the interests of all who surround her as she faithfully and empathetically conveys the message.

Such, too, is the case with Pentecost Lost where she literally tells the story of Holy Spirit, intentionally leaving “the” off His title so as to better convey His personality (as opposed to being inanimate.) In other words, one is continually reminded that Holy Spirit is not simply some inanimate object or thing; instead, He is a living Creature Who is God Himself.

Pat tells that she wrote this book from the standpoint of one who desires to faithfully communicate the truth, the power, and the emphasis of Holy Spirit and to communicate as one who has a passion to minister to children and their parents. In fact, she states that Pentecost Lost is “written to pastors or leaders that need a little extra help making the topic of receiving the Holy Spirit easy to understand.” She further reminds us that Pentecost Lost is “not a theological exegesis but is a journey through Scripture to help the reader fall in love” with the Holy Spirit.

The content of the book is basically seven illustrations (thus denoting each chapter title) of the Holy Spirit: 1) Pentecost/Calendar 2) Presence/Water, 3) Promised Gift, 4) Partner/Wind, 5) Passion/Fire, 6) Purpose/Oil, and 7) Power/Electricity. These groupings give Pat the platform to use her simple but profound illustrations in her very own story-telling mode to communicate different aspects of the Holy Spirit. This method is both engaging and informative. In fact, for me (who has been away from Pat’s influence for several years now), it was refreshing to again participate in her style.

I strongly recommend Pentecost Lost by Patricia Holland. I would recommend it especially for pastors, parents, children’s leaders, anyone else who desires to communicate the truth of the Holy Spirit. I have read and enjoyed it. I have also been reminded of His magnitude and His simplicity.  I have also been equipped with more ammunition to use to communicate Holy Spirit and His truth.

Holland, Pat & Wayne. Pentecost Lost- Don't Believe It! Jacksonville, FL: Patricia Holland 2011. ISBN: 97801057817-066-4

The Necessity of an Enemy by Ron Carpenter Jr.- A Review

I am an avid reader. In fact, I am, at all times, reading at least 3 books at the same time. Some consider this a flaw, but I consider it a gift.

I just finished reading The Necessity of an Enemy by Pastor Ron Carpenter Jr. of Greenville, SC. I fell in love with the book within one of its opening chapters where Carpenter tells his audience that he is from Possum Kingdom, SC. I know this area because it is my home too. Having grown up in Pelzer and Williamston, SC, and having gone to church in Possum Kingdom, I was immediately attracted to the “down home” or “back home” feel of the book.

Ron Carpenter Jr. and his wife, Hope, are the pastors of Greenville, SC’s only mega-church, Redemption World Outreach Center. They founded that church in 1991 with three members and determined to fight racism, rigid cultural lines, and poverty mentalities. They (being Davids) had a Goliath on their hands.

The gist of this book is that Carpenter uses an episode from his life to illustrate that God is at work in your life no matter what you are going through or what you are feeling at any given time. And he does this in a manner that is extremely transparent … even to the point of baring his and his family’s lives in ways that some might consider embarrassing. (Quite frankly, I found it honest and appealing … especially in the realization that NONE of us have it “all together.”)

One of the qualities of this book is found in its many, brief chapters. All chapters are around two to three pages and I consider it perfect for a bathroom read. (Figure that one out for yourself.) In the midst of his narrative, he also offers short, pithy statements in bold print that seed bold thoughts inside the reader. One such statement is “Everyday on earth you are actually becoming what you already are” (p. 41).Another is “To God, your life is a finished picture, beautifully painted on a canvas, and He is watching parts of it unfold every day” (p. 30). My copy of this book has many dog-eared pages where I continually returned to remind myself of the process God was taking me through.

I think one of the reasons I loved this book so well is that it came at a time in my life when I was in need and feeling deflated, betrayed, and pooped upon. Similar illustrations were clearly noted in Carpenter’s work where he experienced betrayal through the hands of someone whom he thought was trying to help him but who was actually “fleecing the flock.” And it all took place in a process where Carpenter and his church were attempting to bring ministry to needy people, including single moms, in the process of owning their own homes. Also in the process, Carpenter’s family name was smeared, many friends turned their backs on him, several in his church defected, and he and his family were tremendously wounded.

I was encouraged by the narrative and the report of how God brought the Carpenter family and Redemption World Outreach Center of Greenville, SC through this process. I was encouraged by the nuggets of wisdom distributed throughout the book. And further, I was encouraged by the change that I saw happening in my own life by allowing this story to be applied in my time of need.

I strongly recommend The Necessity of an Enemy by Ron Carpenter Jr. and I am already using it in my personal life as well in my teachings. I rate it 5 out of 5. I appreciate the brief chapters and I further appreciate his transparency. If this book does not connect with you now, go ahead and read it anyway; you WILL need to be reminded of its contents at some soon-coming time.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. It is an Advanced Reading Copy and. Therefore, may have different page numbers and content from the full retail edition.

Jr., Ron Carpenter. The Necessity of an Enemy: How the Battle You Face Is Your best Opportunity. Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press, 2012. ISBN: 030773028X

Monday, February 27, 2012

Political Correctness- Republican, Democrat, or Independent?


This is a difficult time of year (and will be for the next several months until the elections hit us in November.) The difficulties are found in the fact that we are compelled to vote NOT by the attributes of a given candidate but rather, by the Not-as-bad-as lack of attributes of a given candidate. In other words, we decide to elect based upon what amounts to “the lesser of two (or more) evils. and in order for a candidate to prove why we should vote for him (or her), they then parade all of the negativity of their opponents before our TV screens, radios, and all sorts of print media.

Yet the worst part of all of this political circus is found in this fact: we are led to believe that our vote for the particular candidate or party is what will truly make a difference in our country. It is time for us to realize the ridiculousness of this suggestion. (But before I say this, understand that I am NOT advocating against voting; instead we each NEED to posit our support for a particular candidate.) Our country, however, will not be changed because of a particular candidate for president or a majority of a particular party in congress, etc.; the USA will be changed only by the blessings, mercy, and grace of God.

In other words, it is important to know whom we are voting for, but it is far more important to know the Lord, the Creator of the Universe, and to intercede to Him for our country. His change in America can be brought about through a Democrat/Republican/Independent. His salvation of America can be wrought through President Obama or any other candidate. It is NOT the candidate nor the party-affiliation that will change our nation; it is God Himself.

Our issue as Christians is that we stay before Him for His mercy and that we refuse to get caught up in the political side-show that keeps us away from our primary task- prayer. Again, do not be confused; we need to know our choices and we need to vote accordingly, but we deeper need to know from whom comes our help: our help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. (Ps 121:1–2 NLT).

So, I challenge each of us to intercede for our nation and its leadership. I encourage to support our President and others in leadership (as is a God-given responsibility) and to quit whining about all their failures and hi-jinx. It is God that changes the nations, not the leaders. It is the people on their knees in prayer that influence a nation, not a political promise that “tickles the ears” of its intended audience. Politics and politicians WILL NOT change our world, only God can and will … if [His] people who are called by [His] name will humble themselves and pray and seek [His] face and turn from their wicked ways, [He] will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (2 Ch 7:14 NLT).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lectio Divina- A Spiritual Discipline

A while back, while working on my Doctoral project and dissertation, I developed a modified exercise of the Christian Spiritual Discipline known as Lectio Divina. I learned a lot of excellent things about this exercise and I adapted them for my project/dissertation. I also found that these adaptations were an excellent daily practice for life-change. Because my life-goal is to be a catalyst for life-change among believers, I present them to you. Here they are:

The six steps of the modified lectio divina are:

· Silencio– a brief time of quieting and centering oneself for the purpose set before him/her.

· Lectio– a guided devotional/spiritual reading for the day, usually using only 8 (or so) biblical verses or 1 or 2 paragraphs of a contemporary or classical Christian writing.

· Meditatio– Meditation/rumination on that which has been read.

· Oratio– A prayer of devotion and surrender.

· Contemplatio– Contemplation of what has been read and of what God has sparked within one’s heart, including what it means to the hearer, and what action/decision needs to be performed as a response to that reading.

          (repetition of steps 2,3, 4, and 5 as much as needed and/or desired)

·  Journaling– An opportunity to record and preserve those thoughts and responses in a tangible manner for the purpose of later self-evaluation and observation.

I do recommend that these readings be brief (such as 8 verses or 1/2 paragraphs) and that a set time be given (maybe 45 minutes or so.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Candidates for Office

We are now well into the election season and, once again, it seems that mud-slinging and one-upping one another are typical fare.

I guess I have a couple of questions for all of the candidates and voters:

1) Does one have to be a politician in order to be a candidate? It seems that all candidates are true politicians which, according to my personal definition, is congruous with phony and integrity-lacking. Once again, it seems that we are forced with voting for the one who is the lesser of the evils.

2) Is the mid-slinging really necessary? No longer are we to vote on someone because of their personal merits; instead we are to vote for the person with the least amount of dirt on his face and/or skeletons in his closet.

3) Some want us to take religion out of the voting process. I think this really interprets to mean that “one’s ‘religion-less’ religion is more important and more capable of producing a good candidate than is one’s Christianity.” It doesn’t work that way my friend. God MUST be at the center of our voting process.

and finally,

4) Can God really save this nation, either because of or instead of our particular government official? I believe He can.

2 Chronicles 7:14-15- “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. “