Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Beware of the Leaven. . .

Mark 8:15
And he charged them, saying,
Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,
and of the leaven of Herod.

In a team meeting at work this morning, it powerfully struck me the responsibility I carry as a leader. The realization came to me that to be an effective leader, I must both understand, and utilize the power of position. For a leader especially attitudes are contagious. . . in battle a lowly foot soldier can be overcome by fear and panic with little ill effect, but if the same feeling of terror visibly overtakes a general or a captain, all other things being equal the battle may well be lost solely for this reason. Negative attitudes can move like a disease from the leader to the entire team, like a disease passing from one to another, infecting each with a sickness of the spirit. . . Bitterness. . .cynicism. . .skepticism. . .resentment. . . unforgiveness. . .greed. . .blame laying. . . anger. . . fear. . .panic. . . depression. . .despair can easily flow downhill from the leader to the team . .

But it is surely not only negative attitudes which may be passed from leader to team. It is with certainty, that positive attitudes may also be transmitted. Cooperation, helpfulness, generosity, understanding. . . forgiveness can also pervade an organization by the atmosphere created by leadership.

Continuing to ponder upon this, this morning, there are parallels here I think. The Biblical description of our role as Christians, is that we are to be first and foremost followers of Christ. . . but in turn we are each, to also be leaders. . . teachers. . . witnesses. . . sources of light in the darkness. . . bubbling springs of refreshing, life giving water to others, and as such we have great responsibilities. People cannot see Jesus, but they can see us, and therefore our behavior. . . our attitudes then as “Christ-ians” is taken as reflective and representative of Christ.

It’s not fair. . . we don’t in any way ask for or deserve that comparison, but that is the reality of people’s perceptions. I don’t proclaim Christ as my Savior for my perfection, but for my imperfections. . .not for my power, but for my weakness. . . If there is hope in Christ. . . If there is power in living for God, then to be a witness for Him, I must demonstrate that hope and power. . . .If ours is a God of love and forgiveness, then I must be a strong and bright reflection of that same love and forgiveness. . .

I love you my God. . .
Thank you my Lord. . .

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Independence Day. . .

John 8:31-36
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; (32) And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (33) They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? (34) Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. (35) And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. (36) If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Interesting passage here. Jesus speaking to “those Jews which believed on Him”. I thought it interesting to lay out the statements as follows:

If ye continue in my word => then are ye my disciples indeed
If ye continue in my word => ye shall know the truth
If ye continue in my word => the truth shall make you free

Whosoever committeth sin => is the servant of sin
Whosoever committeth sin => the servant abideth not in the house forever

If the Son therefore shall make you free => ye shall be free indeed.

Coming up upon Independence day here in the United States, which is our celebration of our Declaration of Independence from the tyranny of the King of England on July 4th, 1776.

My mind is thinking of freedom, and what does that mean? Last night in the jail, I followed the trustee kitchen workers, in their red jump suits, back to the wards as they returned from working in the kitchen. The jail I work in is a long building, over 1000 feet from one end of the building to the other. There is a long hall which runs from the maximum security area in the north east, to the general population pods in the south west.

Aerial view of the Elkhart County Jail complex

The kitchen is located past the midpoint of the building, toward the maximum security end, so the trustees had a straight line walk of close to 750 feet from their place of daily work, back to where they slept. In your mind's eye you may have a vision of a person in prison confined behind thick iron bars to a 10’x10’ cell, but the reality of our jail, and larger state, and federal institutions is different. Most long term prisons have areas where the inmates can go outside and see the sky on a regular basis, but at that it is doubtful that many would think of themselves as free.

For two years I worked in a hospice. The residents there, while not confined by iron bars, were by their dire health condition limited to a small room beautiful though it was, more befitting the size of a Hollywood movie prison cell, than an actual prison inmate, but those in the hospice bed would be considered free in contrast to the jail inmates restricted freedom.

So what is freedom? Few prison inmates would trade the judicial freedom of the hospice resident for the concrete walls, and barbed wire that they reside behind. If restrictions placed upon your movement is the definition of freedom, then who is free? Can I soar like a bird, or explore the ocean’s depths like a fish? Am I not restricted by political reality, and financial insufficiency, and lack of vacation days from traveling wheresoever I might desire?

Then might I too be considered in a prison of limited movement? But then why, even within my limitations, do I feel free. . . totally free?

Sixteen years ago, before coming to Christ, I was in bondage to sin. Addictions ruled my actions, and had me living behind bars as every bit as strong and confining as the iron bars and razor wire of a maximum security prison. I was judicially free, but nevertheless a prisoner to sin.

Being freed, and delivered from my addictions was but the first step of my emancipation, but there is yet another level to this deliverance:

Philippians 4:11-13
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. (12) I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (13) I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

I have received letters from inmates I have ministered to in the county jail, who now reside in state institutions. Some of whom, will in all probability leave the state prison only by way of a coffin. Their letters are letters of joy, and victory, and healing, and spiritual power and faith. To the carnal mind, this is foolishness. How can someone imprisoned for the rest of their earthly life, have such an attitude?

It is not possible you focus upon what you lack. . . but if your focus is on what you lack, then your attitude will never be positive, for there is never an end to lack. . . but if your newly found focus is upon what you have gained in Christ. . . absolute love. . . validation. . . joy. . . fulfillment. . . eternal companionship and rest. .

Philippians 1:21
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

1 Timothy 6:6
But godliness with contentment is great gain.

We were created to have a close relationship to God. When, because of our sin we were cast out from the Garden of Eden, and daily communion with God, we were left with a hole within us. We have tried to fill that hole with lust, with money, with drugs, with possessions, and all fall short of giving that which we seek. The only thing which offers us complete contentment and peace is an intimate relationship with God, and once we have that the world is powerless to defeat us. We are then become invincible.

Romans 8:35-39
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (36) As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. (37) Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (38) For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, (39) Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am free. . .small words. . .but ones with eternal significance. . .

I love you my God. . .
I thank you my Lord. . .

By your imprisonment and death. . . I AM FREE!!!!!


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Why do we need God?

Specifically why do we need an alive, independently authoritative God who never changes:

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Because left to my own devices, I will always be able to construct a logic. . . find a viewpoint that justifies my actions, shines the best possible light upon my decisions, and ends up in my own mind allowing me to do whatever it is that I want.

Hitler killed millions. . .
Stalin killed further millions. . .
Mao. . . again 10’s of millions. . .
In our nation, we have murdered 10 of millions of babies. . .
In my own life. . . lying, stealing, cheating, drunkenness. . . hatefulness . . . 

I was in my own eyes a good person. . .In my blindness. . . in my ignorance. . .I was somehow justified in everything I did.  In each case, there was. . . there is logic, and rationalization that somehow these killings. . . and sinful behavior were/are logical and acceptable.

This is why we need an unchangeable rock upon which to build. Contrary to what the world will try to tell you, there is absolute right, and there is absolute wrong. There is good, and there is evil. There is a yardstick against which to measure and guide our behavior, the Word of God.

Has the Word of God been used to justify all manner of evil doings. Yes. It surely has. Even on its own pages, satan twisted God’s words several times. . . beginning on the opening pages of Genesis, and continuing on at the very beginning of Jesus ministry in the New Testament, one of satan’s favorite tools, is to twist the Word of God in order to attempt the confusion and corruption of man.

Does that in any way make the Bible less true, or valuable as the foundation upon which to build our lives? No, but it does strongly illustrate why it is vitally necessary to have a solid knowledge of all of Scripture, and not to merely have a superficial knowledge.

A hammer is a wonderful tool. All carpentry. . . the building of homes, and schools, and hospitals. . .much of our way of life depends upon the lowly hammer, and yet a hammer can quite easily be used for great evil. A hammer can and surely has been used many times to kill. Which should that be the focus, when looking upon a hammer? The evil that it has been used for, or the great good that has been accomplished with it?

It is the same with the Bible. It is a powerful tool, and with it both great evil, and great good can be accomplished. The tool is not to blame for the uses to which it is put. . . Do not decry the Bible due to its misuse. . .

I need God in my life. I must have Him. I must have the Word of God as a guide, and instruction for my life.

I love you my God. . .
I thank you for Your Word. . .


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Perfect Mirror

A Perfect Mirror. . .

I remember my Grandpa Brown, my Mother’s Dad,. . . the only Grandpa I ever knew, as being one who loved gadgets and the latest technology. Younger people today may laugh at the thought of a techno-geek grandpa in the 1960’s, but that’s what he was.

I still remember the time he came to visit us, excited to show us his new reel to reel tape recorder, and the wonder of hearing your my voice for the first time still stays with me. Another time he showed up at our house with, a cutting edge for the day, Polaroid camera, and it was interesting but not quite as magical to see a picture within a minute or two, for I had already seen myself in a mirror. But that scene from long ago, brings to my mind what magic a mirror would be to someone who had never seen themselves before. The shock I think would be immense, to see yourself for the first time. . .

There are always parallels between the physical and the spiritual. As one living their life without a physical mirror. . . being disconcerted at seeing themselves for the first time. How would they even recognize themselves at first sight, and so it is with many today who live their lives with no spiritual mirror.

Without a physical mirror to view yourself, it is surely so easy to forget about or be ignorant of warts, or moles, or scars hidden by their very closeness to you. . . too close to see without a mirror. . . the same with spiritual flaws.

I can remember so vividly, what a good person I thought myself to be. . . yeah I lied. . .I stole. . .I was often drunk. . .and on and on. . . but still in my view the good things I did, completely outweighed the bad. I had never seen myself in a spiritual mirror. I had no clue as to my appearance in the spiritual. It is so easy for me to rationalize, and to justify my spiritual ugliness without a spiritual mirror.

I really did think myself spiritually beautiful, not realizing that I had a crooked nose, and warts, and infected seeping pus filled spiritual sores that I was totally unaware of. . . until. . . until. . .until. . . I met Jesus, and by His light and absolute righteousness, He became a perfect spiritual mirror for me. Without judgement, or condemnation from Him. . . my imperfection reflected in His image and contrasted in His perfectness. . .it was by His flawlessness, and yet complete love for me, that my eyes were opened. I thought myself so wise, but I was such a fool. . .

I was with a friend recently, the very image of my past self. . . who stole something. I didn’t make any mention of it, but when our eyes met, and he saw that I had noticed, he justified himself by telling me that many others he knew did the same thing. . .

Jesus speaking:

Matthew 7:21-23
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (22) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Many will say to me in that day. . .
Many will say to me in that day. . .
Many will say to me in that day. . .

Will it make you feel more comfortable to march over a cliff to your destruction surrounded by many? There is no protection in what many say, and in what many do. . .

Again Jesus:

Matthew 7:14
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way,
which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

In your life, are you traveling on a busy path? Are you in the midst of a crowd? Are there many taking the same road as you? The presence of many others around you, should not be a comfort, but a warning. . .The path of righteousness is not crowded. . .few there be that find it. . .

I was so sure I was beautiful. With no mirror, it was so easy to explain away, and ignore my ugliness. . .

I once was blind, but now I see. . .
I thank you Jesus for opening my eyes, and loving me when I was so unlovable. . .


Thursday, February 18, 2016

1 Peter 3:7
Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge,
giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel,
and as being heirs together of the grace of life;
that your prayers be not hindered.

Experiencing vicariously the trials of mothers. . . knowing the heart of my wife, and how she lives and dies with the ups and downs of the lives of her daughters. . . reading the recent heart rending accounts on Facebook of mothers who are my friends and acquaintances. Sarah. . . Erin. . . Liz. . . my daughters . . . reading and knowing a little of their struggles, and sorrows. . . burdens, even with the best, and most compassionate and well intentioned of husbands, the weight of motherhood still carried largely alone. . .

Extrapolated into surely, the same unspoken, unknown tears and trials of my own mother. . . long passed away, beyond my reach to give her a fervent hug and thank you for her lonely task long decades ago. . .

The weaker vessel. . . as a designer, the most stressful applications are never given to the highest strength steel. When the pressure is high, and the function is critical, I must specify for the steel to be double tempered. . . put into the oven twice, to draw back the strength, and make certain that there are no hard spots left within it. . . .The weaker vessel will bend, and take a deep dent, and still function, before it ever cracks and fails. Steel of high hardness, cannot withstand the high stress and strain of alternating loads. . . the weaker vessel, must be of great purity, containing no voids or inclusions of foreign matter. . . always of smoothly rounded edges. . . distributing the stress over as great a surface area as possible. . . greatly able to bend without breaking. . .

I give a deeply emotional salute to every mother in my life. . . You are wondrously made. . .I stand in awe of you. . . I weep. . .no shame. . .no lack implied. . . of necessity the ‘weaker vessel’. . . This softness of temper, is absolutely necessary, and the very definition for the combination of both toughness and strength, the inherent properties required to be a Mother. . .

God I pray. . . please give these Mother's a hug. . . hear their cries. Give them a blessing, that can only come from you. . .

I thank you for my Mother. . . give her a hug for me God. . .


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Mr. Tweedy and the hand of God. . .

The intertwined interworkings of life. . . The tapestry of life’s events that God has woven, completely beyond random happenstance that convinced me. . . from a hard core evangelical atheist for the first 45 years of my life, into now believing in God so fervently and so completely that today I am an Apostolic Pentecostal minister. . . . Don’t try to tell me it is coincidence that would stretch belief far more than believing in God. . . .

I began working at Speedgrip Chuck, Inc. in 1979. I was 25 years old, and I had only a few months before, been discharged from my 3 year tour in the U.S. Army. I began working as a machinist. I worked on the night shift, attending college, on the G.I. Bill during the day for about 3 years. My major was computer technology. . . computer programming.

I enjoyed working in the factory. I have fond memories of my time as a machinist, but I desired more. I spoke with the shop management, and I told them that while I liked working at Speedgrip very much, that I desired to put my college training to use. Within a few months I was given an entry level position in the engineering department.

There had been a recent change in the department, and as the former chief engineer departed, Jim Tweedy, one of the designers was promoted to head of the engineering department. Jim was a wonderful mentor. He was truly a father figure to me. A kindly pipe smoking, man. . always with a twinkle in his eye, and a smile on his lips.

He was truly a good man. . . a teacher. . . a role model. . . a friend. . . . a man, dare I say it, I loved greatly. He was never reluctant to share his knowledge of work holding. . . patient, never demeaning. . . a little joke. . . a kind word, even when correcting you, he was good and kind. I cannot ever remember seeing Jim angry, or hear him utter a cross word.

I clearly remember being bent over my drawing board one afternoon, maybe three or four years after I had come into the department. I was seated directly opposite him. My drafting board faced his in the corner of the engineering room. . . I remember a realization broke upon me, like a great wave, and I quite loudly exclaimed. . .”JIM TWEEDY!!!” filling the room with my voice. It wasn’t any current conversation or anything that I can place my finger upon which triggered this thought, but I was suddenly aware, that Jim Tweedy was the father of a girl that I had been head over heels in love with in late jr. high school, and maybe the first year of high school.

Becky Tweedy and I had lots of late night phone calls, and exchange of letters. She was already in love with another fellow, whom she later married. Hers was a long distance love, as he lived a couple of states away, and she seldom saw him. I had high hopes, which never came to any fruition, but we talked and talked in particular at least one whole summer. . . it might have been between my 9th and 10th grades, but in any respect this same Jim Tweedy was Becky’s father. I had been to his house, never meeting him that I recall, but I had been to his house on several occasions.
Jim retired in 1988, and passed away Wednesday evening March 19, 2003.

Link to Jim Tweedy’s obituary:


Thursday morning, I learned of Jim’s death. That morning my sister Sue, had asked me to give her a ride somewhere. . . if I remember correctly, I think it was to a defensive driving class that she had to take for a ticket that she had received, but I cannot remember for certain.

On the way to taking her to her class, I stopped at the Goodwill store on Jackson Street here in Elkhart. For some who may be unfamiliar, Goodwill stores specialize in selling second hand goods, from household items, to clothing, tools, furniture, and books. For quite a number of years I would frequent nearly every Goodwill store that I passed, looking for books.

On this morning. . . the morning of learning of Mr. Tweedy’s death, I notice the spine of a book, “MR. TWEEDY” by Anne Marie Schilling, and attached to this post was the cover of the book.
Seeing this cover picture for the first time, very much intrigued me. . . A hugely integral part of God opening my eyes, and dispelling my unbelief involved a robin. . . actually a pair of baby robins which I rescued and placed in my black tennis shoes to keep them warm, as I and a friend returned them to their nest. These shoes were very very similar to the ones I wore as a child, with the exception that due to my bad feet, my tennies were always high tops. . . black high top Red Ball Jets. I still remember the jingle. . .run faster. . . jump higher. . . Red Ball Jets. . .Some 50+ years later, my eyes tear up recalling the event that spring morning in 1965 or so which looked so so much like this book cover illustration.

You can read the full account of my testimony here:

When I got home that night, I began reading the book with fascination. The book, a true story was written about Mrs. Schilling’s son, Dave. . . who rescued a robin, and that event changed Dave’s life. On Saturday morning before my Mr. Tweedy’s funeral, I read the closing scene of the book. . . as Mr. Tweedy flew off, in all likelihood never to be seen again. . .and the final words, “With Dave and Mr. Tweedy, anything is possible. . .”  I wept and wept reading that passage. . . as I prepared to go to My Mr. Tweedy's funeral. . .

The book was published in 1970. I have tried to locate Mrs. Schilling or a relative to find out more about the writing of the book. Published in 1970. . . obviously written some years before that, it is not beyond possibility, that the Dave in the book rescued his baby robin, even the same spring that I rescued mine.

In the book after an amazing time, Dave gives Mr. Tweedy his freedom. In my life, the little robins I rescued, were instrumental in my finding my freedom.

Coincidences. . . too many to number. The book. . . the day of Mr. Tweedy’s death, my going to Goodwill that particular morning. . . I went there probably 3 days a week or more, and seeing that particular book. . . The book written about Dave and a robin, it could as easily have been written about a girl named Sally, and a sparrow, or a boy named John, and a blue bird. . . and on and on and on. I just read the first lines of Jim Tweedy's obituary:

James I. Tweedy, 78, of 60220 Robin Hood Lane, died in his home at 4:25 p.m. Wednesday (March 19, 2003). Mr. Tweedy was born in Wabash on Feb. 7, 1925, to Lawrence and Minnie (Bilbee) Tweedy,

My word. . . He lived on Robin Hood Lane. . .I never noticed that before.

Looking back my life is an intertwined fabric of people, and events. . . all leading me to God. . . .
I love you my God. . .
I have so much to thank You for. . .
Many many people were used to bring me to you. . .
and incredibly. . . a pair of shivering baby robins
. . .thrown from their nest by a spring thunderstorm storm when I was a boy. . .