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A Stroll At Leisure With God

Compassion for the People

Yesterday, Marilyn and I started making plans for my mom’s funeral. Don’t worry. She actually seems to be doing well. Marilyn says that she is rather slumped over these days, but as far as pain is concerned, she is faring pretty well.

No, there is no physical reason on her part that we did this. It was just the concern that we wanted to be prepared when she passes away—whenever that may be. And we are in no hurry for this to occur.

I have learned in my ministry as pastor that there are a lot of things to deal with as far as funerals are concerned and when people are grieving, it is a bad time to try to handle everything. So, please continue to pray just as you have been doing for her and for us. None of this is easy, as you all know.

On to the passage for today … In Matthew 15, the Bible records Jesus’ second feeding miracle. This time there are 4,000 people. Notice the preface to this miracle: “And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, ‘I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way’” (Matthew 15:32 NASB).

Jesus was motivated to feed the crowd because he genuinely cared for the people and for their safety. They had been with Jesus and the disciples for three days without eating, and Jesus had compassion on them. He did not want them to faint along the road.

Jesus cares for us on very practical levels. Again, instead of griping about stuff (I’m very good at this), I am continuing to learn to thank Him, even and especially for the little things. I’m glad that Jesus provides food for us. I’m thankful for a roof over my head and walls around me. I’m grateful for clothes and warmth. Many in our society today do not have any of these things.

I could go on and on, but Jesus cares about this “stuff” as well.

Thank You, Jesus, for continuing to take care of my mom and us. Help us as we make preparations to get all these details done so that we can continue to focus on her. Thank You for the help you provide Mother every day. Thank You for Your compassion. Amen.


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Gentile Dogs

We received a very encouraging email from a couple of my mom’s friends who visited with her at the nursing home yesterday. They said that she was doing well, and they had a great conversation with her. We were so glad to hear this. We are deeply thankful for their visit and for the email.

One thing that I forgot to mention the other day when I was talking about Earl. Marilyn did not see Mother lead him to faith in Jesus. Some of the other nurses saw it and told Marilyn. This is even more encouraging. Maybe the Lord can use what happened in their lives. Thanks be to the Lord!

On to the passage of scripture for today and the story of the Gentile woman who came to ask Jesus to hear her demon-possessed daughter. At first, Jesus rebuffed her, claiming that He was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

“But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’ And He answered and said, ‘It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.’ But she said, ‘Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed at once” (Matthew 15:25-28 NASB).

The woman persisted, calling herself a “dog,” recognizing the rightful mission of Jesus. But I think it was her continual pleas that won the day. She continued to cry out to Jesus, and finally He answered her prayer.

I don’t think it was hesitancy on His part. I believe He was testing her and her faith. Finally, he healed her daughter.

This is a marvelous testimony of the grace and mercy of God. Jesus continues to teach us to ask and keep on asking. I think we are prone to give up way too soon.

Lord, thank You for Jane and Valerie and their visit to my mom. Thank You for answered prayer concerning her. Thank You that she is not in a lot of pain. Thank You for all the answered prayer in our lives and the faithful folk who keep persisting. We are so grateful. Amen
.

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Not What Comes In, But What Goes Out

After visiting my mom yesterday, Marilyn was discouraged. My mom seems to be doing well at certain times, but more times, she appears to be declining. We feel that she is getting good care. But, overall, she just isn’t doing that well. Thank you all for your sustained prayers for her and for us.

I love the fact that Jesus intentionally operated “outside the box” of the traditions of the Jews. And of course, they attacked Him and the disciples on it. But Jesus continued to call the people back to obedience to the Word of God, not the traditions of men.

For example, they criticized Jesus and the disciples for not washing their hands before they ate. Jesus cited an instance of hypocrisy on their part, quoted from Isaiah, and then made this statement:

“After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, ‘Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man’” (Matthew 15:10-11 NASB).

Jesus comes back over and over to the issue of the heart. He is concerned about our relationship to Him above and beyond everything else.

As I think about our situation, I’m finding that is continues to be easy to get discouraged and to be bitter. It is almost unbearable to see or hear that my mom is suffering. We know that the Lord has a plan and purpose in all of this. We just don’t know what it is. But instead of griping, Marilyn and I have to encourage one another to continue to thank God and focus on all the good that He is and that He provides.

My mom is still getting good care, as I said, and she doesn’t seem to be in excruciating pain any longer. This is just the beginning of all that the Lord continues to do. We want this to “come out” instead of the other.

Lord, these are hard days but thank You for continuing to care for us and for my mom. Continue to take care of her in the nursing home. We pray that she would not have to suffer long. Keep our hearts in line with You so that what comes out of us honors You. Thanks again for everyone who is praying. Amen.
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Earl Was Saved and Then Died

I just heard an incredible story about my mom from Marilyn yesterday. There was a guy in my mom’s area of the nursing home. His name was Earl. The story is that my mom led him to Jesus! She talked with him the other day and they prayed together. Then, a couple of days after this, Earl died. We trust he is now in his eternal home with Jesus! Praise God!

Marilyn and I are so thankful to hear this story. It means that whatever has happened to my mom, her essential character has not changed. She is still struggling, however. Her back hurts her and she wants to come home with Marilyn and me. We keep telling her she will be going home soon—not to worry.

This morning, I continue with another awesome story that occurred on a stormy lake 2000 years ago. Yesterday, we looked at the passage that indicated that Peter walked on the water! He did it for a while, at least.

“But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind stopped” (Matthew 14:30-32 NASB).

Peter began to look around and got scared, so he cried out to Jesus. Of course, the Savior was right there and pulled him out of the raging waters. He rebuked Peter for doubting. And I think Peter doubted two things. First, his fear caused him to sink. He placed his faith in Jesus at first but then took his eyes off the Lord. Second, I think he may have even doubted that Jesus could rescue him, but the Son of God came through on both counts.

Here is an interesting fact: when they both got back into the boat, the wind died down—the test was over.

I want to stay on top of the water as long as this test will last. Just like my mom, Marilyn and I want to pass the test without doubting, all the way to end of this trial the Lord has us in.

Lord, only You know if someone is genuinely saved, but we pray for Earl. We trust that he was and is now with you. Thank You for helping my mom to share with him. Thank You for this trial You have us in. Help us all to keep our eyes riveted on the Wave Walker, Jesus. Amen.
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Peter Walked on the Water!

Yesterday, I was glad to be able to spend some time with my mom. Emily, the nurse, wheeled her into the waiting room at the front of the facility. She was hunched over in her chair, but she looked as if she was doing okay. She is still discouraged and wants to leave the resting home. She keeps forgetting what happened to her and why she is is there in the first place.

This may sound bad. I certainly don’t mean it to be so, but sometimes, Marilyn and I confer and agree that memory loss isn’t always that bad. Maybe it is good that she doesn’t remember what happened to her and where she is. Sometimes, I think it makes it easier on her. No one would choose it, for sure. I don’t know …

I love this story in Matthew. It is one thing for Jesus to walk on the water. That is miraculous enough in and of itself. It is quite another thing for Peter to do it. “Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus” (Matthew 14:28-29 NASB).

When Peter saw Jesus, he wanted to do the same thing: walk on water. So, Jesus invited him out of the boat and Peter actually did it! He walked on the water toward Jesus.

Sometimes, I think we gloss over this part of the story. Peter actually did it! He reasoned that if Jesus could do it, so could he. And he did. I just can’t get over this.

As Christians, we need the same reasoning. Since we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us, He enables us to do things heretofore impossible. On our own, we can’t do it, but Jesus can through us, if we will step out and let Him. With a focus on Him, we can do anything Jesus can do in us. Praise God!

As I sat there with my mom, all I wanted to do was cry. It is so hard to see her suffer, but I realized that my tears would not help her or me, so Jesus helped me NOT to cry. He did it through me.

Lord, I thank You for the miracle life of Jesus that is in us and we are in You. Thanks for taking care of my mom. She is in Your very good hands. Thanks for helping Marilyn and me through this hard time. Thanks AGAIN for all the prayers for us. I love our prayer warriors and wouldn’t make it without them. Amen.

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It is I

Yesterday, neither Marilyn nor I got to see my mom—just too much going on. But this morning, I am going to go see her and I am glad to be able to do so.

We both regret those days we can’t go because we realize that someday, she won’t be there. But we are glad that she is getting better care. Maybe I will get a chance to meet one or more of the hospice team when I go today.

I love this story in Matthew. It is such an encouragement for these long days that Marilyn and I are going through. Here is another little bit of it: “When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid’” (Matthew 14:26-27 NASB).

These are experienced fishermen we are talking about. They are afraid first of all about this storm that has come up. Experience has told them that they are in danger.

But then, they see this figure approaching them on the sea—actually walking on the water. They cried out. They were even more afraid, until Jesus said, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Jesus reminded them that it was not a ghost but it was he. Thus, there is no need to be afraid.

Wherever Jesus is, and now post-resurrection, He is everywhere, we don’t need to be afraid EVER. He is there with us.

This is such a great reminder for us. In one sense, we are living in fear that we are going to get a phone call telling us that mother isn’t doing well. I think about this often during the day. I think about the dread I will feel when we get it.

But this is Satan. First, my mom is in great hands right now. Second, we can’t possibly be with her every second of the day. Third, we don’t ever need to be afraid because Jesus is there, ALWAYS.

Lord, thank You, that no matter what the storm, You can walk on it and through it. We take courage today in light of Your identity as Lord of the wind and the waves. Thank You for this reminder today. Amen.

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Reports from Yesterday

Marilyn met with the Hospice Team yesterday. There are three folks on it: a social worker, a “spiritual” advisor, and a nurse. She was impressed with this team. She thinks the nurse will see my mom every day. We are glad about this.

Marilyn said that the purpose of the Hospice Team was to care for my mom, of course, but also they said they wanted to care for us. We are so thankful for this and need it greatly as all of this continues to dawn on us.

*Nancy, the head of the dementia area where my mom lives, offered a huge encouragement to Marilyn who told me. One of the facets of the work of the team is to identify the role each resident has. Nancy said that Mother was “the greeter and the spiritual leader” of the floor. As people share their problems, Mother regularly prays with folks and tries to encourage them. WOW! We did not know this, but this IS her character.

Anyway, that meeting turned out well. I had a good appointment at the clinic. They said that I am doing well. They gave me some more medications for the symptoms I continue to experience. I believe they will help me feel even better. I am looking forward to that.

All in all, it was a good day. Thanks so much for your prayers for us. Again, we are so grateful and we need you all to continue. We can’t stop thinking about mom. It is very sad in one way, but we pray that she doesn’t have to suffer.

The passage of scripture I read this morning is very encouraging. It is a familiar story about Jesus. “But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea” (Matthew 14:24-25 NASB).

Jesus had just fed the five thousand with the five loaves of bread and two fish. He sent the disciples on ahead in a boat before he sent the crowds away. After that, Jesus spent some time on the mountain alone with God before He walked on the water to the disciples. It was in the middle of the night, if my memory serves about “the fourth watch.”

What impresses me this morning is that Jesus is not limited, by time or space. He does what He wants when He wants. In our minds, the timing of all of this is bad. It is the middle of the night and how is Jesus going to get to that boat? No problem for Him. He will just walk on the water! Again, nothing limits our Savior.

Jesus, I thank You that Your timing is perfect and Your power is great. You actually walked on the water! Thank You for yesterday. Thank You for the Hospice Team. Please continue to take care of my mom. We love her so much—the greeter and spiritual leader. Thanks again for all the prayers for us. We love our prayer warriors so much. Amen.
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Five Loaves, Two Fish

I love this story, but I will get to it in a moment.

Yesterday, my sister saw my mom. She said that mother seemed to be a little more hunched over in her wheelchair. My mom was discouraged also. I can’t imagine. She has always been such an active person, and now to have to deal with this … Thanks to all of you for your continued and sustained prayers for her.

I have an appointment at the clinic this morning—just a routine check-up. I have some side effects that I want to talk with them about, but as a general rule, I seem to be doing a little better. Marilyn and I have started walking twice a day. This seems to help my legs feel a little less painful. But thanks for praying for this as well.

Back to the story of the feeding of the five thousand in Matthew. I think the disciples were worn out with the huge crowd that had gathered around Jesus. When Jesus mentioned food, they replied, “Send them into town where they can buy their own food.”

Jesus replied, “You feed them.” Huh?

“They said to Him, ‘We have here only five loaves and two fish.’ And He said, ‘Bring them here to Me.’ Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children” (Matthew 14:17-21 NASB).

In the hand of Jesus, those five loaves of bread and two small fish multiplied into more than enough food for more than five thousand people. They picked up twelve full baskets of left-overs for Jesus and the disciples to enjoy on the road.

In the hands of the disciples, there was not enough food for one family, but when they handed the food to Jesus, it made all the difference in the world.

Isn’t it sad what blessings we miss when we take things in our own hands instead of giving them to Jesus? That is where we are with these health issues we are facing. We can either get in despair over my mom’s situation or put it in the hands of Jesus. When I get discouraged that I never seem to feel a lot better, I have to give it over to Him. Let Jesus take the little and make it a lot. He is an expert at this.

Lord, thank You for the continual challenge to turn things over to You. Help us all to do this. “Little becomes much when you put it in the hands of the Lord.” Amen.
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He Felt Compassion

When Jesus heard about the death of John the Baptist, the Bible says that He withdrew, but the crowds found Him. “When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14 NASB).

Jesus was never too tired or busy or preoccupied to minister to folks. For this huge crowd, even though Jesus needed some time for himself, He cared for them and healed their sick. This is a wonderful insight into the heart of God.

Yesterday evening, our hearts stopped as we got a call from the nursing home. It was the Nicole, the head of the area where my mom is. Her first words were, “Everything is okay. I just called to tell you that your mom is doing great.” What a relief! My mom seems to keep plugging along. She has some bad days, of course, but it appears that for right now, she is having her share of good days.

Again, we attribute this to the faithful prayers of God’s people—you. Thanks again for consistently praying for us. And thinking of us.

Last night, as Marilyn and I were returning home from a walk, we saw one of our neighbors mowing his yards. Andrew and his family have recently moved into the neighborhood. I say recently but it has been several months now. They are a wonderful family, very friendly. Whenever he sees me, he asks how I am doing. I can tell they are concerned for me, and I really appreciate this.

Anyway, we had planned to go over to their house for a memorial day get together with some of the other neighbors, but I couldn’t go because of a headache. This was right before they found out I had a brain tumor and I had to have surgery.

Andrew said, “Since we missed you guys last May, we want to have you over for dinner some time.” This was a very nice invitation. We will take them up on it. I’m going to check with the doctor when I see him tomorrow. I still have issues I have told all of you about in this blog.

But anyway, I tell this story because it is an example of compassion. We are the object of it. The Lord still has ministry opportunities for Marilyn and me. That is three invitations. When I feel up to it, we are going to take these folks up on their gracious invites. The Lord is still compassionate indeed.

Lord, I thank You for the encouraging word on mother yesterday. Thank You for having compassion on Marilyn and me with these gracious invitations to go into homes for a meal and to share the love of Christ with Flor, Gannett, and now our neighbors. We are so thankful. You are a compassionate and gracious God. Amen.
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John's Head on a Platter

Marilyn visited with my mom yesterday. She was very discouraged. Plus, I think her back bothers her. Please continue to pray for her. It is so hard to see her so down, but it is understandable given her situation. We both feel for her greatly.

Matthew 14 begins with a rather ominous story about Herod and John. When John preached to Herod about his unlawful relationship, Herod threw him in prison and held him there until something happened. The daughter of Herodias performed a dance that pleased him. As a result, Herod promised her anything she wanted.

Prompted by her mother, the girl asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod was grieved because he curried favor with the crowds who believed that John was a prophet.
“Although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison” (Matthew
14:9-10 NASB).

What a terrible end for the prophet who was the forerunner for the Messiah—Herod cut off his head! All of us have read that, and if we are not careful, that statement can become old hat. God gave John the courage to preach the truth to this wicked king, and he lost his life because of it.

I wonder if I would let God give me the same level of courage if I were in the same boat. Right now, we are dealing with illness and sickness and the challenges of aging. I’m not minimizing any of that. It is very hard.

But John, by an act of the will to trust God, willingly put himself in a situation where he became the first martyr for Jesus. It breaks my heart to read this about him, but he willingly chose this because of the truth he preached.

Lord, these are hard days for us. We need your grace and strength. Thank you again for the prayers of your people. I know we are not alone in hard things. Through the ages, many of Your people who gone through tough times. Many who read this blog right now are. I lift them up to You as they are praying for us. Amen.
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They Took Offense at Him

I got to see my mom yesterday. One of the young nurses, Emily, brought her out to the front of the facility in a wheelchair. As she came out, I noticed that she looked better than I thought she would. She was bent over, more than usual, but she had a smile on her face. As much as I tried to make the conversation about her, she still wanted to know how I was doing.

I did get a couple of questions in: “How are you feeling Mother after your fall?”

“Oh, John,” she replied, “I have been falling down a lot ever since I was a kid.” She waved her hand, brushing the latest incident off.

“Are you in pain?” I asked.

“My back bothers me a little but overall I am doing good.”

It was so great to hear these things. I left encouraged even though I know she still has a lot to deal with, but at least hospice is giving her more care. Marilyn and I are both glad about that.

Thank you all again for your prayers for her and for us. This continues to be a very difficult thing to go through, as you can imagine.

Now, for the passage for today—the last couple of verses of this monumental chapter in Matthew: “And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.’ And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matthew
13:57-58 NASB).

Jesus came to his hometown of Nazareth as the Messiah, but many of the folks there refused to believe in Him. Thus, Jesus did not do many miracles there. The verses above tell why: “they took offense at Him” and they did not believe. Simple. Yet very tragic.

The decision all of us face is just the same. I can either continue to believe in Him or not. As I see my mom in her current state, it is more difficult to believe that the Lord is taking care of her. Indeed, He still is. Nothing has changed with the Lord. It is just my perception that has changed. Help my unbelief, Lord.

Lord, thank You for letting me see my mom yesterday. Thank You that she is not as bad and as in pain as the other day. Thank You for another opportunity to trust You. I choose to do just that today. And, again, thank You for everyone who is praying. Amen.
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Treasure and a Pearl

Update on my mom: yesterday, Marilyn met with hospice. They brought my mom a new bed, although Marilyn said she didn’t think it was as good as her previous bed with the mattress top on it. My mom seems be relatively pain free. They are giving her a pretty strong pain killer, but we are glad she is not in excruciating pain any longer. Thanks for praying.

As I continue to read in Matthew 13, I came across these two short parables: "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew
13:44-46 NASB).

The treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of costly value—both are valuable enough to sell everything to procure. What a comment about the kingdom of God.

People value so many things. On occasion, Marilyn and I take a walk in a very wealthy neighborhood not far from our home. There are some big houses in this area—I mean BIG. They must be millions of dollars apiece. Who knows?

There is nothing wrong with owning a big house, except for the fact that when the people who live in these mansions die, they won’t be able to take their houses along—too big for the casket—ha! But seriously, everything we value on this planet ends up being worthless when it comes to life and death and eternity.

But the kingdom of God is the most valuable thing there is. It guarantees true life in the here and now as well as life forever with the Lord in our eternal home where Jesus has built real mansions for us to live in forever.

Lord, thank You that my mom seems to be plugging along relatively pain-free. Thank You for helping her and for the prayers of Your dear people for her. Thank You for the eternal value of the kingdom and for the fact that we get to share in it and with You forever. Help us value what is truly valuable. Amen.
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Mustard Seed

Update on my mom: I’ve decided to include a little (or big) update on my mom each day since all of you are so faithful to keep praying for her. Yesterday, my mom met with a hospice nurse (maybe a more accurate term is palliative care nurse). It went well. She gets a brand new bed today, and her care increases dramatically. We are thankful for this. We will let you know how it goes.

Today’s verses deal with another one of the parables in Matthew 13. This one is shorter than the previous two. It is the parable of the mustard seed.

“He presented another parable to them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES’” (Matthew
13:31-32 NASB).

Size doesn’t matter with the Lord. He can take the smallest thing and turn it into the largest tree there is. I’m so grateful for this. While I am looking for the Lord in the large stuff of life, I miss him in the small.

Marilyn is great at this. Yesterday, I was complaining again about my health and how slow it is improving. I think worry and grief over my mom contributes to this. But Marilyn began to point out all the small ways I am improving. Her gentle rebuke (I needed a baseball bat in the head) once again reminded me of everything the Lord has done, a lot of it “mustard seed” type stuff. Small but still significant and important.

I’m grateful to the Lord for her in many ways, but the Lord really used her yesterday.

Lord, I am thankful for Marilyn. I’m grateful that my mom got accepted into palliative care. I’m thankful that I can walk better, see better, and feel a little better. This is just the beginning of the small things (really they are large) that You are doing in my life. Thank You, Lord. Amen.
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Wheat and the Tares

First, before I get into the text for today, I want to give a brief update on my mom. She is doing about the same. She seems to be doing okay with the pain, but Marilyn is still worried about her. She just doesn’t look good. Thanks for your sustained prayers for her and for us.

Yesterday, Pastor Dan told me that First Southern is fasting and praying for us today! What a valuable gift! We are so grateful and need your prayers greatly. Thanks again.

Well, the two verses I am going to cite for today come at the end of the second major parable in Matthew 13—the parable of the wheat and the tares (or weeds).

Just a little background: someone sowed a lot of weed seeds in a farmer’s garden so that the two plants grew up together. It was a mess. One of the farm hands asked the owner if they should uproot the weeds. Here was his answer: “But he said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn"'"” (Matthew
13:29-30 NASB).

Above all else, protect the wheat, says the farmer.

This is a very tragic story in one sense. Many people in churches today just figure they are wheat. They attended. They sit there. They participate in meetings and go to Sunday School, but it turns out they are lost. Sometimes, it is difficult to tell the difference HERE and NOW.

But someday, we will be able to tell the difference when the weeds end up being burned in the fire while the wheat goes to the farmer’s barn.

Lifestyle ultimately makes the difference, not where I attend on Sundays. I’m not saying that church attendance is not important, but what makes the difference is the heart above all else, not where I sit once a week. I stood in my garage the other day, but I am not a car, nor will I ever be! Ha!

Lord, thank You for the prayers and now the fasting/prayers of your dear people. We desperately need them and the prayers. Thank You for the wheat. Keep them safe all the way to the end. Help the weeds to get genuinely saved. Amen.
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Further News on My Mom

Turns out, my mom is NOT doing well, AT ALL.

When Marilyn went to see her yesterday morning, she was still in bed, and except for getting up to use the bathroom, stayed there for most of the day.

Later in the afternoon, Marilyn went back. My mom was sitting on a little couch outside her room with no shoes and socks on!?!? Marilyn stayed with her a while. She walks crooked and bent over now. She still doesn’t feel well.

One of the things we are really grateful to the Lord for is that my mom doesn’t seem to be in such excruciating pain as she was the other day. We think they are giving her pain medication, but we know the Lord is answering all of your prayers for her.

This is so hard for both of us. Over the past year plus, we have tried to prepare ourselves for this moment but obviously we are NOT prepared. I don’t think you can prepare yourself for this until it actually happens. I don’t know …

This morning, I derived a lot of encouragement from this final verse of explanation in the parable of the soils. “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” (Matthew 13:23 NASB).

All I can think of right now is to stay in the Word, to stay in prayer, and to keep allowing Him to bear the fruit of Christ’s character through us. This is obviously the last thing I feel like doing, but we are continuing to trust Him to help us, as we have all along.

Our goal is abundant harvest for the glory of God.

Lord, this is one of the most difficult things Marilyn and I have ever gone through. I lift up my mom today. Continue to give her days without pain as she struggles with this injury. Thanks again for everyone who is praying. We wouldn’t make it without You and them. Bear fruit through us today. Amen.
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Update on My Mom

Yesterday morning, Marilyn went over to Sunrise at Orchard to see her. She was sitting with other residents at a table in the main area and even dropping off to sleep a bit! Go figure!

She seems to be doing better when she sits down. Her back doesn’t hurt as much. We are concerned how she will move around and sleep at night.

Speaking of which, Marilyn discovered that Mother’s old plastic mattress has tears in it with foam rubber jutting up through the tears. We were horrified at this discovery so we went out and bought her a new mattress cover and some other items that hopefully will make her bed more comfortable. We wanted to replace the mattress but the nursing home bed needs a very flexible mattress so this is what the head of Mother’s unit advised. We will see how she does.

Anyway, we were so glad to see that she seemed better. We attribute this to answered prayer—all of you lifting Mother and Marilyn and me up to the Lord.

I know that all of you will relate to this, but it is easier to be in pain yourself than to see someone you love suffering. I had one of the most difficult days of my life thinking about her. I couldn’t go see her because I am still not allowed to go into the nursing home because of my immune limitations, so I felt very helpless, except to join all of you in prayer—a big deal. But it didn’t feel that way for me since I couldn’t see her.

Please keep praying for her. I know she has a long haul ahead of her and that every movement will be painful.

I want to quote a verse from the parable of the soils: “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22 NASB).

One of the biggest challenges Satan brings to humans is distractions. For some, “the worry of the world and deceitfulness of wealth” keep them from the kingdom of God altogether. By the way, by biblical standards, all of us are wealthy.

In addition, even though I don’t think Jesus is talking about believers in the verse above, I believe distractions are a challenge for believers as well. This is one of the reasons why He allows crises in our lives to focus us on Him. That certainly happened with me yesterday.

Lord, thank You for helping my mom to be a little better yesterday. Thank You for all the faithful prayers of Your people. We value the prayers and them greatly. Keep us focused on total dependence on You. Amen.
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My Mom Had a Fall

We got a call last night from the nursing home. They said that my mom had fallen and hit her head.

Marilyn raced over there. My mom had a big knot on her head and was in excruciating pain. They had to call an ambulance to take her to Swedish hospital.

At the hospital, they discovered that she has a compression fracture in a bone in her back, but they released her. Marilyn had to take her back to the nursing home where she continued to be in a lot of pain. Marilyn stayed with her longer and came home late.

As you can imagine, this is a hard pill to swallow. My mom seemed to be doing better over the past few weeks. She seems more alert, not as emotional, and a lot abler to carry on conversation. It has been awesome.

And now this …

I’m not sure what is going to happen from here on out. I just can’t take it thinking of her in all that pain.

Please continue to pray for her and for wisdom at this point. We deeply appreciate all of you.

Lord, I lift up my mom to You. Please give her rest and relief from this awful pain she is experiencing. Strengthen Marilyn after a very long night. We trust You for help, Dr. Jesus. Amen.
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Temporary

In chapter 13, the Gospel of Matthew makes a transition. It moves to detail Jesus’ parable ministry. And the first one is what I prefer to call the parable of the soils.

Jesus describes the various types of soils and draws an analogy to the various responses of the human heart to the Word of God. All of them, except the last one, delineate what happens in the lives of lost people.

Here is one of the explanations that caught my eye this morning: “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matthew 13:20-21 NASB).

How tragic is this? This reminds me of a young couple that came to First Southern years ago. They responded to the gospel with enthusiasm. I started going to their home to help them with their initial growth as new believers. At first, things went well, but as time went on, the started canceling our appointments and eventually stopped coming to church at all. It wasn’t long before they dropped away.

I bet every pastor has a similar story. One would have to conclude that this couple and people like them were never saved in the first place because they were, as Jesus called them, “temporary.” When trouble or persecution came up BECAUSE OF THE WORD, they immediately fell away.

This is a challenge to us all. The Bible teaches that conversion is a one-time event. We are saved at a certain point in time. Jesus calls it being born again.

But salvation is also a process. When we are saved, we demonstrate by the kind of like we live in the long haul. It is both/and. If there is no pilgrimage to match the profession of faith, one would have to question the salvation experience.

The Christian life is hard. I was telling Marilyn yesterday that these past couple of months since the brain surgery have been the hardest yet, with a lot of questions and attacks from the enemy. This is the pilgrimage part of the Christian life.

Lord, thank You for saving us and carrying us on the long and hard road of trouble and persecution because of the Word. May our lives demonstrate that we are not temporary. May we live out our genuine salvation in a faithful walk with You. Amen.
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The Family of God

This morning, I came across these verses in Matthew: “And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:49-50 NASB).

Someone in the crowd had pointed out that Jesus’ family was outside and wanted to see Him, and this was Jesus’ response. At first glance, this statement seems a little harsh. But as I reflect on it, I’m so thankful that a nobody like me can be included in God’s family.

“I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God …” I love that song. It comes to mind this morning.

No matter where I go, if I meet a believer, we are family! I really felt that way on the trip to India a few years ago. I’m still in contact with the missionaries I met there, but also, some of the dear Christian people. I’m so honored to be in contact with them. They are family and they have been praying for me all these years since the trip. How humbling! I love them dearly.

This is one of the main reasons why I think it is important for everyone to have a church family. When crisis emerges, all of us need family, not just the flesh and blood type, but the Jesus and His blood type. It is just such a support and encouragement knowing that you have an army of people praying. And, it is wonderful to be a part of that army yourself.

The other day, I saw Holly, our neighbor, as she was in her front yard. She and her family are great neighbors. I said, “If gives me so much relief and encouragement knowing you guys are there. I miss you when you are out of town.”

I certainly don’t begrudge any trip they take. I’m glad they can go. No, I just miss them being there as a solid rock family, and we are family!

Lord, I thank You for family—my mom and sister—plus my Christian family—all my dear mothers and sisters and brothers who are reading this blog and care about us and are praying. What a huge blessing! Thank You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—the “family” of the Trinity. Amen.
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This Evil Generation

Thanks for your continued and sustained prayers. I really appreciate them. I seemed to feel even better yesterday, and a day like that gives me great hope that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel. And it isn’t a train! Ha.

The weather turned around nicely. Almost all the snow was gone. This helped as well, although I wish my overall attitude was not so dependent on the weather. What I like, though, about a nice day is the fact that I can sit on our back porch for extended periods of time. Hopefully that can occur today.

Anyway, I am continuing to read Matthew 12, an intriguing chapter in the Word. Here are the verses the Lord brought to my attention today: "Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came'; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation” (Matthew 12:43-45 NASB)

To be honest, I am not sure I understand what Jesus is saying here, but as I read it this morning, it seems to be saying that it is not enough just to be demon-free. I can see all those religious folk patting themselves on the back that they are not demon possessed—that Jesus’ comments about the demonic don’t apply to them.

But that is not enough. Jesus came in the person of the Holy Spirit to fill believers—to make the human the body a habitation for the Spirit of God. Emptiness is simply an invitation for Satan to send more demons to inhabit that person. This is scary stuff, but someone who doesn’t believe in “anything” (or so they claim) is vulnerable to the Satan, very much so.

Lord, thank You today for the fact that I seem to be doing a little better. I give You the glory and the credit for this. Thank You for the filling of the Holy Spirit. Let Him take over our lives today. “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” Amen.
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Good Fruit, Bad Fruit

We had a very good visit at the clinic yesterday. We met with Dr. Ali. He seemed very upbeat and positive. He said I was doing very well.

We talked with him about the pain in my legs and some other symptoms I have been having. He made some recommendations like taking less medicine. The last appointment I had, they got on me for not taking ENOUGH pain medication. Go figure! I guess the lesson is to make adjustments and learn to shift gears if I need to. I will continue to work on this.

I didn’t have a particularly good day yesterday, but the encouragement helped. I just have to keep working.

Continuing on in Matthew 12, today, I came to these verses: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew
12:33-34 NASB).

This is very simple and straightforward stuff. Trees are only one of two kinds: good fruit and bad fruit. No in-between. No compromise. Easy to tell the difference. For us as humans, the way we can tell is what comes out of our mouths. Good words reveal a heart that is right with God. Of course, bad words show the opposite.

I believe that the bad words that Jesus is talking about here go beyond profanity and cussing (of course, those are inappropriate for believers as well). I feel they also encompass any kind of talk but “spiritual” talk. When I say “spiritual” talk, I don’t mean high and might religious talk all the time. I’m referring to spiritual conversation and talk about the Lord. You would never know some people are Christians because they never talk about the Lord or His Word. THIS is what I am referring to.

There is a balance in this, obviously, but I think it is as clear as the distinction between good and bad fruit.

Lord, I pray that my life may be characterized by good fruit. I confess the sin of complaining and never giving You the glory when I have the chance. I thank You for the good report yesterday. Thank You for taking care of us the way You do. You do get the glory for that and for so much more. Amen.
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By the Spirit of God

Today, we have a visit scheduled at the clinic. It has been nice not to have to go for two weeks. They have spread out my appointments to every other week.

However, it will be good to go in order to update them on how I have been feeling—not particularly good. I hope they have something I can take to feel better. We will see.

Last night, Marilyn said that she did not feel particularly well. Please pray that she is not getting sick again.

Anyway, on to the passage in Matthew 12 where Jesus deals with the accusation that the only way He can cast out demons is that He is the head demon—Beelzebub. Jesus replies that Satan’s kingdom would be divided and therefore it would fail if it were divided. There is no way that Satan would cast out Satan.

Then, He went on to add these comments: “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man's house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house” (Matthew
12:28-29 NASB).

I want to start with verse 29. Jesus was/is able to cast out demons because He has bound the Strong Man. I get a little nervous when I hear someone praying that Satan be bound. He already is! In Jesus’ coming, Satan was bound and limited, and He is to this day! We don’t need to ask Him to do this.

Now, back to verse 28—the fact that Jesus cast out demons is a definite indication to us all that the kingdom of God has arrived. Jesus casts out demons because His kingdom is much stronger than that of the demonic and He does it by the Spirit of God. This is a clear indication of His authority and of the fact that He is Lord.

Of course, most of the Jews missed it. I hope we don’t.

Lord, help us not to act as if we are on the losing side. Jesus came. His kingdom defeated the demonic. He IS the Strong Man. We are grateful for His victory today and we tend to live it out on another day. I give You this appointment today, Lord. Amen.
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Conspiring to Destroy Him

It is snowing right now … I wish I liked it.

Anyway.

It is interesting to see what makes religious people angry. The truth is that the worst wars in the history of the world have been religious wars.

Here is the verse that stood out to me this morning: “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him” (Matthew
12:14 NASB).

The 12
th chapter of Matthew chronicles many of Jesus’ teachings and actions on the Sabbath. This is what made the Pharisees mad enough to want to kill Him. In other words, they wanted to kill Him, not for bad actions like murder, but for good actions like healing.

This twisted view continued on through the crucifixion, if you remember.

But it is just strange that a dispute over the Sabbath led to Jesus’ death on the cross. Weird stuff, but the Pharisees didn’t want Jesus operating “outside the box.” There are certain times to do miracles; and there are times when it is just not allowed.

Jesus doesn’t mess with boxes. He is God. He can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants. This is the bottom line problem with the Pharisees. They just didn’t believe that He was God.

I say that I do, but do I really?

Yesterday was a long, hard day. I just didn’t feel well for most of the day. I don’t really know why, but this period of time with this recovery and all these symptoms has been one of the most trying times to go through since I contracted cancer.

It seems that Jesus is in the box of not acting right now. I say, “It seems.” I know He is not, but I continue to cry out to Him to help me get through and out of these side effects. So far, it hasn’t happened. I know this isn’t a box Jesus is in; it is just His timing and His will. For right now, this is His plan. He will answer and act when He is good and ready.

Lord, I thank You for all these symptoms. I don’t understand why You don’t remove them, but You have a plan and a purpose and I trust You for both. You are Lord of the Sabbath and every other time and day. Amen.
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Compassion Not a Sacrifice

Over these past several months, I have learned a lot more about what this Old Testament phrase from Hosea 6:6.

In Matthew 12, Jesus and His disciples ate some grain from the fields on the Sabbath. Of course, they received criticism from the religious leaders. Jesus quoted some examples from the Old Testament to support His rebuttal of their comments. The section finished with these two verses: “But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,' you would not have condemned the innocent” (Matthew
12:6-7 NASB).

The response of the Pharisees indicated that they missed recognizing the Messiah altogether. But, in addition, they missed entirely the meaning of Hosea 6:6, and this was the reason they condemned Jesus and His disciples.

Throughout Jesus’ public ministry, He faced condemnation from the Jews about what He did or did not do on the Sabbath. It seems that Jesus went out of His way to “break” the rules the Jews had set up.

I don’t believe that is what Jesus was doing. Instead, I believe He was redefining Sabbath behavior to a Jewish culture that had set up 613 subdivisions and codes of behavior to the Law. It was ridiculous.

I think we need to be careful of the same thing. I’m not advocating breaking the Law of God by any means. But I am making a plea here against setting up a bunch of rules that we treat like the Law. Since I have been sick, for example, I have often missed my Quiet Time.

Now again, I am a strong advocate of meeting with God every day. This is very important. But there were some days that I just didn’t feel like it. Will I still go to heaven? Is God somehow mad at me? I offer a strong NO to those two questions.

God focuses on compassion not religious ritual. Somehow, all of this got lost with the Pharisees and scribes and Sadducees who got angry with Jesus.

We must make sure that our love and trust in the Lord does not get lost in shuffle with all the rules we set up.

Lord, I’m so thankful for Your compassion toward us, even when it comes to the sacrifices of the Old Testament. I pray that we would prioritize compassion toward You in all of our actions and habits. Thank You for the compassion You have shown me over these past months. Amen.

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Come to Me

This is one of those passages (and they are all good, of course!) that is worth committing to memory. The Lord’s timing in bringing me to this passage today could not be more accurate (surprise, surprise, huh?).

After all the contrasts in Matthew 11 between true and false disciples, the chapter ends on this note: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew
11:28-30 NASB).

Jesus invites all who are tired and burdened to come to Him and He will give them rest. Jesus’ comments about rest remind me of Hebrews 4 and the statements there about rest. There is a Sabbath rest for the people of God, a promised land where we can cease from our labors of trying to please God by doing things for Him. Instead, we can come to a place where we can rest on and in what He has done for us.

Even after everything the Lord has done for me, I still find it very easy to gripe and complain about what He hasn’t done. I still wrestle with all these symptoms I continue to deal with instead of pausing to thank Him for all He has done.

Resting and giving thanks go hand in hand, I am learning. As we stop trying to wiggle out of what we consider to be bad circumstances and instead thank Him and lean back in what He is doing, we find rest for our weary souls.

Why? Because the harness Jesus puts around our necks is easy and the load He gives us to carry is light. This is where I want to be as Marilyn and I start another weekend.

Lord, thank You for bringing us this far, to another weekend. I confess that it seems to be more and more easy for me to gripe. I confess that and turn to You today, Lord. I just want to pause this morning under Your light yoke and thank You for everything I can think of. Keep us coming back to rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks. Amen.
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Revelation

As I read these verses today, I am reminded of a famous passage a few chapters ahead in the Gospel of Matthew, “upon this rock, I will build my church.” This statement has been variously interpreted over the years. I won’t get into all of that in this forum, but the question is: what or who is the rock Jesus is talking about?

I believe the passage for today answers that question.

“At that time Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew
11:25-27 NASB).

There is a word that is repeated twice. It is “reveal.” No one gets into the family of God on his/her own innate intelligence. The only way is through revelation. God chooses to reveal Himself to some and not to others.

And so, I believe the rock that Jesus is speaking about is the revelation of Jesus Christ. He is the rock foundation of the church. It is not a person. It is not a movement. It is not an idea. It is the revelation of Jesus. Jesus is the rock. No one can take credit for the church. It is built on Jesus and on those to whom He chooses to reveal Himself.

I’m glad the church is not built on the pope or Peter or any other weak man. It simply would not stand.

Yesterday, I did not feel that great and it looks as if that is continuing today. Again, I don’t know what is going on. I hope that one of these days, I will start to feel consistently better. But I am glad that the church is not based on a weakling like me.

When I think I am going down for the count, I’m glad there is a foundation to hold me up and a strong person who is always there as a bedrock—Jesus!

Lord, thank You for choosing to reveal Yourself to me. Thank You that You are the rock foundation of the church. We can always count on You to be steady and consistent. Keep our faith in You strong today. Amen.
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Unrepentance

It seems to me that many people would demand some sort of proof for them to believe in Jesus. I don’t know what He has to do (after all, He came back from the dead). But nonetheless, they would still demand it.

Actually, during Jesus’ public ministry, He did perform miracles in cities, but there was no reaction: “Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes’” (Matthew
11:20-21 NASB).

Chorazin and Bethsaida were two examples. Jesus performed miracles in both towns, but even after seeing them, the people did not repent. They did not turn from their wicked ways and embrace the Lord in faith.

Jesus goes on to compare these towns to Tyre and Sidon. Had Jesus done the miracles there that He performed in Chorazin and Bethsaida, the people would have repented in genuine grief and contrition for their sins.

I wonder where the United States of America falls in that grid. Certainly, we can say that Jesus has performed His share of miracles in our midst. How have we responded as a nation? I will leave that answer up to you.

But let me take this question a little closer to home. Where would I fit in this grid? I wonder.

Yesterday, I found myself in a griping mood about the pain in my legs that has diminished a little but has still not gone away. I am better but still not where I want to be. It seems that my patience and my attitude of thanksgiving is wearing thin.

The question is: what does the Lord have to do for me to repent? He has already done tons of miracles in my life. I’m much better than I was even a few weeks ago. Have those miracles led me to repentance? Not so far. I’m still as “gripy” as ever.

These verses are a call to repentance for me.

Lord, I thank You for all the miracles You have done in my life so far through the transplant and through the brain tumor. I thank You so much. I turn from my bad attitude and continue to place my trust in You and Your perfect timing. Help us not to waste miracles. Amen.
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Never Happy

My legs felt a little better yesterday. Thanks for praying. I hope the trend continues today.

Once again, I have had a relatively long delay on getting the latest prescription the doctor has ordered. What I realize is that, when this happens, it is an usually expensive med and the health insurance company is hesitant to pay out for it, but this time, they did pay. I am looking forward to picking it up today. Hopefully, this will help me legs even more.

I’m continuing today with Jesus’ discussion about John the Baptist: "But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon!' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds” (Matthew
11:16-19 NASB).

Jesus’ description of His generation doesn’t sound much different than that of ours. No matter what happens, people are not happy. John’s ministry was unique. So was that of Jesus, but people rejected both because they were looking at the superficial.

The final statement of the passage is intriguing to me: “Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” In other words, the superficial doesn’t matter. What matters is what both John and Jesus DID in their ministries. This is what proves things right. Nothing else.

John came to point the way to Jesus. Jesus came to save sinners. Both were “successful” in their God-given missions. This should be the focus.

Lord, I’m thankful for answered prayer on the part of the army of prayer and for the new drug finally coming in. Thank You for the ministries of John and Jesus. Thank You for the vindication of true wisdom. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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A Sheik in Silk Pajamas

Thank You for continuing to pray for me. Some days, my legs feel better; other days, like yesterday, they do not. I guess I am still involved in the ups and downs of the recovery process. I wish I could have more ups than downs! Ha.

I also complained a little too much about the hot weather this summer. Right now, here in Denver, it is 38 degrees. It wasn’t too long ago when the thermometer in the car read 98 degrees. I’d better be careful!

Today, I came across Jesus’ comments about John the Baptist in Matthew: “But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing (a sheik in silk pajamas, MSG)? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings' palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet” (Matthew
11:8-9 NASB).

I have to laugh at the Message Version translation of “a man dressed in soft clothing:” a sheik in silk pajamas. Ha. Great.

If I remember the initial description of him, isn’t it true that he wore camel’s hair and ate grasshoppers? Nothing “soft” about that lifestyle.

But in addition to “hard” clothes, his message of repentance was hard as well. Today, he would be called a “fire and brimstone” preacher and no one would go to his wilderness church.

Jesus, however, used this man to prepare the way for His messianic ministry. He wasn’t part of the preaching establishment. His sermons were not silk; they were camel’s hair. People got mad and argued with John. He called sin, sin, and it got him into trouble.

He ended up in jail and eventually got his head cut off—not a very pleasant end for him.

But he was not afraid to speak the truth. He just pointed the way to Jesus. His sermons were not self-help. They were pointed to Jesus, period. Jesus called him the greatest man that ever lived, but He went on to say that the least in the kingdom was as great as he was.

Lord, I thank You for this godly man who dared to preach the hard truth. Thank You for using him to prepare the way. Give us all the courage to speak the truth in love. Amen.

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Don't Take Offense at Jesus

Not too long ago, I heard a statement in a sermon that I have never forgotten. The preacher said, “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; not believing in God is the opposite of faith.” In this sermon, he went on to state that it is human to struggle with doubt. We all do it, but we must make sure that we take those struggles to the Lord. Good word.

Somehow, it really helps me to read these words at the beginning of Matthew 11. John the Baptist, who was in prison at the time, sent emissaries to Jesus to ask Him if He were the Messiah or “shall we look for someone else.” Here is Jesus’ response:

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me’” (Matthew
11:4-6 NASB).

Jesus did not rebuke John for his doubts. He just pointed him to His deeds and words. Finally, he goes on to warn John not to take offense at Him, not to stumble because of the way Jesus does things.

This is the temptation we all face when the Lord doesn’t work the way we think He ought to. Of course, have all of us learned that Jesus never fits in our molds? He is God and we aren’t!

Marilyn and I were talking about this yesterday. In a million years, we never would have guessed that my mom would end up in a nursing home (this is still very weird to us both) and I would have a transplant and a brain tumor all in the same period of time. What is the Lord up to? Of course, we have no idea, but we refuse to fall into unbelief when we think about all of this.

And now, all these aches and pains—same challenge—continue to trust Him.

Lord, I thank You that, like John the Baptist, You meet us and care for us in our humanness. Keep us on the straight and narrow of faith, especially if we doubt or don’t understand. We will keep on loving You. Amen.
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Rewards

In one of the sandwich shops we frequent, we met a young woman from Peru. Her name is Flor. She has not been in the States very long. She is still learning English but is doing a great job with the language. She is now going to school to brush up on the profession she held in Peru—accounting.

Anyway, as we were talking yesterday, she invited Marilyn and me over to her house for a genuine Peruvian meal sometime. This was a very thoughtful invitation. We are glad to accept it when I feel a little bit better. We will get to meet her husband and her cousin who have moved here as well.

In addition to that, one of the nurses at the nursing home—her name is Gannette—invited us to her home and to her church. Gannette is an outspoken believer. We appreciate her ministry to my mom so much. She reads the Word; she prays; and she sings hymns to my mom. It is outstanding. Please lift Gannette and her husband up to the Lord. They are trying to have a baby.

Since yesterday, I have been thinking about these two women and these two opportunities. We have been praying for a chance to minister and the Lord has given us these open doors. I pray that we can be faithful. Thank You, Jesus!

We don’t serve FOR rewards, but Jesus talks about them nonetheless. "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew
10:40-42 NASB)

We are not exactly sure what is in store for us with these two women and their families, but even if it is a cup of cold water, we are prepared to give it; we are prepared to share Jesus with Flor. We have already told her about our experiences with the Peruvian congregation who used to serve at First Southern.

Lord, thank You for these two opportunities with Flor and Gannette. Help us to be faithful in both. Help us to show the love of Jesus with these two families as they are both new residents of the United States. Amen.
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