No Choice But to Choose

 Recent brief video posted on Youth Social Media.  Worth a look!




Brief Videos: "STANding Strong" Spiritual Boosters

Click on link HERE to view short video inspirational nuggets!




"From the Uttermost"

Jesus commanded to take the gospel to the uttermost.  We continue the effort in the other direction!

Solid Foundation

How do you keep your head when everybody else is losing theirs?  Excellent question.  Sooner or later, life presents a crisis bigger than you, and me.  Then what?   How do you cope?

Said scenario is being played out before our very eyes, as I compose this article.  Our world is on full-alert, and some in full panic, over the spread of Coronavirus.  —Been to Costco lately?

This is not the first crisis in history: it won’t be the last.  (Spoiler alert: Christians already know how the world ends.)

When, not if, you face a genuine emergency, calamity, or plain old bully, you have three options.  
  1. Defiance:  best captured from the contemporary novel, Circus of the Damned, by Laurell Hamilton, “I don’t have a master.  I’m not sure I have an equal.”  It begs the question: Self-assurance grounded in what exactly?…
  2. Dalliance: whistling past the graveyard.  Summed in the popular philosophy, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”  Granted, said phrase is found in the Bible, but hardly as an endorsement for a guiding rule of life.  In fact, quite the opposite.
  3. Deference: Trust in a source other than yourself.  Such may be…
    1. Government:  Let’s hope they know what they’re doing.  Can't balance a budget.  Medicare is a mess.  Honolulu rail boondoggle.
    2. Society: Just go with popular opinion.  I’m not so sure I want to surrender my survival to the herd instinct.  
    3. God: “I distinguish the end from the beginning” (Is 46:10).  “The mountains may be removed, and the hills quake: I will not remove my devotion from you” (Is 54:10).  “We have this hope as an anchor of the soul” (He 6:19).  
I must be honest: said hope requires faith.  Faith in One bigger, better, and beyond me.  I will testify: it works for me!  …You got a better alternative?

(Look closely at photo)

Full Redemptive Potential

“Achieving my full redemptive potential”.  That sweet soundbite is truly, worthy Christian pursuit.  

I recently heard a well-known local pastor expressing said sentiment.  As I listened further, he applied the principle as stating a sizable target number of persons he wanted to reach for Jesus Christ.  Noble.  Indeed, the Bible does count numbers when it comes to evangelism.  

However, upon further reflection, it seems wise to think a bit below the surface and ponder ultimate and eternal significance.  Our contemporary world, with its fascination toward glitz and glitter, size and sizzle, would have us believe that spiritual vitality is measured primarily through outer markers.  Pastors often converse asking, “How big is your church?”  Fair question.  Perhaps a more significant inquiry would be, “How deep is your church?”

Back to the original intriguing comment, “My full redemptive potential”.  I feel more comfortable qualifying that rather than quantifying it.  I submit to you that we realize our full potential of redemption in Christ when you and I embody three prime attributes: Holiness, Christ-likeness, and Faithfulness.  All three of those character traits are repeatedly promoted in Scripture for believers.  (See the Epistles, where quality of walk with God is primary concern.  Given far more mention than Church growth.)  Jesus commanded us to “Make Disciples” not make babies.  The reason is that mature believers then become effective reproducers of more believers!

Don’t get nervous.  I am not downplaying the need for evangelism.  I’m an evangelist!  What I am suggesting is that when we grow in our walk with the Lord and live a life transformed by grace, then we have an indelible and expanding influence for Christ! 

Indeed, let us watch, pray, and work to realize our full redemptive potential in Christ.  Hear Paul in Colossians 1:10,
          "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: 
     bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God"

One Man's Story

Between classes at an historic Theological College amidst swaying  palms in the South Pacific, a distinct student approached.  He volunteered that he had never attended school, but as a child on the remote atoll of Penrhyn, known indigenously as Tongareva, his family required he serve daily as a pearl diver in the surrounding sea.  Only when later in church as a thirty year old residing in New Zealand, did he learn to read.   Particularly the Bible.

I listened politely and intently.  We talked eye to eye, and as he progressed, heart to heart.  He continued in candor.  In the city, life spun out of control.  He stood atop Mangere Bridge in South Auckland, preparing to plunge to his death.  He would end it all.  Abruptly, he stopped, saying he heard a voice telling him not to do it.  “I have plans for you.”

The next day, his sister felt compelled to personally visit from Sydney, Australia.  She shared that the previous morning at church, during prayer, she had a vision of her brother atop the bridge.  She recounted his clothing at that moment;  accurate to the color.  

Fast forward.  This man standing before me, now about forty years of age, is actively preparing for ministry.   He intends to spend his remaining days sharing the life-giving message of Jesus Christ and His redeeming love.

I hugged him man-style, and thanked him for sharing his story with me.  You can decide if you believe what he said.  The option is likewise available to you, for you to trust what Jesus states in His Word, “Come unto me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

SE Asia 2019

In Action in Asia

Everyone Believes in Something

Which requires more?  To have faith in God or faith in yourself?

Skeptics, cynics, and unbelievers are everywhere: I know some and love others.  The explanation for their rejection of a Supreme Being seems to fall into one of three categories: Rational, Emotional, or Spiritual.
  1. Rational:  Some particular intellectual objection has convinced the denier of the unlikely possibility that God exists.  (Notice my words “unlikely possibility”.  It is impossible to know conclusively that no eternal being exists.  For that would require you to be omniscient {all knowing} and infinite {eternal}.  In essence: to be…God!)  The most common and understandable hurdle to belief is the existence of evil and suffering (not withstanding that much has been wrought by renowned atheists namely Lenin, Stalin, & Mao).  Pain bothers me, too.  The Bible does offer an answer that is sufficient, though, not satisfactory.  
  1. Emotional:  I have conversed with doubters for whom some past negative encounter, even injustice has soured them toward faith.  On occasion, said misdeed may have been at the hands of so-called people of faith.  If a professing Christian has acted in a manner genuinely inconsistent with tenants of the Christian faith; shame on them!  Repentance is in order.  However, when a cynic paints with a broad brush, it sometimes shrouds truth.
  1. Spiritual:  Some reject God simply because they prefer the alternative!  The Bible unapologetically calls that sin.  I heard a scratchy recording of an old preacher from nearly a century ago.  In the vernacular of the day, he repeated the coarse phrase, “They love their sin.”  Terse but true.  Often, objection is merely a smoke-screen for  obstinance.  If so; shame on you!
While I do not concur with the scoffer, I do admire the courage of a dissenter to candidly confess the basis for their non-belief.  Of course so doing can be a precarious endeavor; as it may be a first ascent toward assent!

Now, back to our original thinker: which requires more?  To have faith in God or faith in yourself?

So, Is that 'Yoked' or 'Yolked'?

We’re family; let’s talk.  As family of God, it’s given that we love one another, accept, and edify each other.  Therefore, it’s time to speak openly about something often swept under the rug: unequally yoked relationships.   

Typically, Bible believers, of which I am one, glibly quote II Corinthians 6:14, “do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers”, then go merrily on our way.  Unfair!  People deserve better.  So, give me a little time, and I’ll help us think this through.  

Any Scripture verse is to be considered in its context.  Otherwise, distortion for convenience or bias abounds.  Paul is writing Corinthian Christians who lived in the midst of a documented perverse society.  The church in Corinth struggled to obtain and maintain moral purity.  Compromise was rampant, within the body.  He implored them, they were to be distinct.  Much more I could and should say; but you’re beginning to drift.

Now, I turn practical.  I have suffered beside many a Christian believer in spiritually mingled relationships.  Typically, one values spiritual things; their partner is oblivious, even obnoxious.  Jabs and jibes abound.  It is not peripheral differences like Republican and Democrat.  Or, Purdue married to …(cough, cough)…IU.

Mixed marriages are like wheels trying to operate on different axles.  They do not share the same hub.  For a committed Christian, by definition and confession, Jesus Christ is the most important reality in their lives.  For their partner; He is not.  What brings meaning, joy, and peace to one; means little or nothing to the other.  Uh oh.

To cope; the following generally occurs.  Either the secular person embraces the faith and becomes a prayin’, repentin’, maybe shoutin’ Christian; or, the spiritual one cools in their commitment.  The latter ensues far more.  The believer slips in church attendance to keep peace.  Can’t  tithe, so just slide a buck in the plate now and then.  At home, it becomes unpleasant, even tense to share meaningful spiritual insight, blessing, or experience. The other, doesn’t want to hear it.   As time passes, the believer essentially is reduced to becoming a “Closet Christian”.  It’s lonely in the dark.

I am able to write this having walked with many through this valley.  Oh, I know; you may be a believer and convinced that you love this person and …will be able to help them to see the light.  I hope you’re right.  Experience and statistics do not trend in your favor.  Still, in the end, it is your choice.  Then, you’ll pray and ask me to pray.  Just know, God is hard pressed answering prayers that go against His clearly stated Word. 

Just a bit of Japan

Video glimpse of recent ministry in Japan.




Take Me to Your Leader

“Take me to your leader.”  Classic line.  Actually, the  inner cry of the human heart.  Everyone wants and needs to know who is in charge.  Otherwise: chaos.  
Perhaps you recall when President Reagan was shot in 1981.  In the immediate aftermath a hastily arranged news conference ensued.  Vice President Bush was on a plane over Texas with insecure communication.  Hence, former Army General, Secretary of State Alexander Hague made the infamous statement, “As of now, I am in control, here in the White House.”  Comforting and confusing at the same time.

Speaking of being in charge, my beloved wife… mentioned an article she read about dogs.  She shared that the Pack of dogs, must have an Alpha Dog.  Otherwise, it becomes disconcerting and stressful for canines to be unclear as to authority, leadership, and security.  In our home, our two weenie dogs clearly knows who’s in charge.  For you cat owners: this does not apply.  They already think they’re in charge.

It’s time to get to the point.  Reading Psalm 21 in private devotion, I was struck by David’s remark in verse 1, “O Lord, in Your strength the king will be glad.  And in Your salvation how greatly he will rejoice!”  Think of that: the King, sovereign and autocratic, is glad to know there is somebody above him!  Every one of us, no matter who we are or how big we are, need to seek, submit, and surrender to one who is bigger, better, and beyond us.  When that is established, everything and everyone can function in their assigned role.  

You and I, as children of God, have the privilege of being fully aware that the universe does not revolve around us.  We don’t have to have all the answers or carry all the responsibility.  We are fully aware and personally connected to the Supreme and Sovereign over all time and space.  “Him who was, and is, and is to come, the the Lord God Almighty.”  (Rev 1:8)

“Take me to your leader.”  Gladly.

Life Learning

Nature vs. nurture: the age old debate rages.  Be it musical talent, criminal activity, or sexual orientation; that timeless equation comes into play.  Consider “Learned behavior”, a phrase referenced in the science of Psychology, and observed in the laboratory of life.  At the risk of stealing  my own thunder, it is likewise a concept occasionally spoken in my sermons over the years.  Read on, and see what you think.  And, don’t worry, I’m not going to get on any soapbox or take a controversial political stand.  That, I save for another time.

Four Learned Behaviors in the arena of character, come to mind:
  1. Patience.  Nobody has to teach you to be impatient.  It comes naturally.  From infancy we want what we want, and we want it now!  Think about this.  The only way to learn patience is…..wait for it…. to wait!  Scripture references are too numerous to cite.  The best I can offer is that patience is listed as one of the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.  If you are a regenerate believer, the indwelling Holy Spirit is producing patience, and  as you cooperate, you are learning it.
  2. Obedience.  Ever notice, you don’t have to tell a child to disobey.  They’ll do it on their own.  And, if left unchecked, they will repeat and up the ante.  One way emerges to embrace obedience: learn it.  I stopped counting Bible verses addressing obedience when I hit 100.  Apparently, it’s a big deal as far as God is concerned.  It certainly was for Jesus.  Consider this instructive glimpse into His life from Hebrews 5:8, “…although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.”  In our Christian walk, God loves us enough to teach us to obey.
  3. Compassion.  When you see homeless, or a despondent person holding a cardboard sign at a stoplight, what is your first reaction?  Is it disdain, skepticism, guilt, or compassion?  Each may be grounded in fact and experience.  The latter is founded by our higher nature.  In Scripture, Jesus was often, “moved with compassion”.  Are you?
  4. Prejudice.  This one stings a bit.  Watch kids.  When they are playing with others of a different race and culture, they either don’t notice, or don’t care.  Innocence prevails until some “enlightened” adult comes along and forcefully informs them that they are not to treat “those people” with dignity and respect.  Hatred is generally an acquired trait.  Capacity to love is innate.  (A vestige from the Imago Dei.)  Ponder this instructive and inclusive morsel from the Word, “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; but all are one in Christ Jesus.”  In that verse, you have just read the secret to deflate hate.
We are all learners on this journey of life.  Jesus said, “take my yoke upon you and learn from me”.  I know of no better teacher.

Matters of Opinion Matter

The God who gives us a mind to ponder His existence, also furnishes intellect to deny His being.

The same God who gives us breath to praise Him, also provides breath to curse His name.

The same God who gives us capability to love Him, likewise bestows freedom to hate Him.

The same God who commands us to obey Him, as well, permits us to flaunt rebellion.

The same God who gives us life for His glory, in similar fashion, accords us to die pursuing our own.

Truth is more than a matter of personal preference. 

God, by definition, is beyond space, time, and category.  Hence, to relate, special provision and revelation are necessary.  Such is called ‘Faith’. 

Faith is impossible to prove or disprove.  You either embrace it or you don’t.  That choice is based upon evidence, experience, or bias.  

Remember: your opinion of the truth, determines the truth of your opinion.


Holy Land

Video highlights of recent visit and service where it all began.  Faith grounded in History!

Filled Full or Fulfilled?

Knowledge is information.  Wisdom is knowing how to use it.  Perhaps you have heard the best selling title, All I Really Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten.  I listened to a podcast while walking purposefully to shed pounds acquired during recent assignment in Texas (blame Chicken Fried Steak, BBQ, Tacos and Sweet Tea). Chris Stirewalt works in the high-powered venues of New York and Washington.  He was however,  reared in rural West Virginia.  He thus brings fresh insight to the political and social realm, flavored with a healthy dose of down-home mountain seasoning.  Sort of like bacon fat.  Hence, when he quoted his grandma’s sage advice, I took note.  So, should you.

Everyone needs 3 things; 
  • Someone to Love
  • Something to Do
  • Something to Anticipate

Premise of this article:  All three are met consequentially in Jesus Christ.

  1. Ponder those devoid of one, two, or all three:
    • Some to Love
      • Those with no one to love, or anyone who loves them.  Lonely.
    • Something to Do
      • Those who feel of no use.  Empty.
    • Something to Anticipate
      • Those with nothing for which to look forward.  Hopeless.

  1. Addressed in Jesus Christ:
    • Someone to Love
      • “As the Father has love Me, I have loved you.  Abide in my love.”  (Jn 15:9)
    • Something to Do
      • “Therefore my brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.”  (I Cor 14:58)
    • Something to Anticipate
      • “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, you may be also.”  (Jn 14:3)

  1. Personal Application:
    • Someone to Love
      • I love the Lord, and know He loves me.  Do you?
    • Something to Do
      • I’m enthusiastically serving the Lord.  Are you?
    • Something to Anticipate
      • I indeed shall live eternally in heaven.  Will you?

  1. Enduring Realities: Fulfillment found in Christ:
    • Someone to Love
      • Satisfaction attained.
    • Something to Do
      • Significance obtained.
    • Something to Anticipate
      • Security sustained.

“He is before all things, and in HIm all things hold together.”  (Col 1:17)

Return to Vulcán de Fuego

Compelling video of return visit to a place where I have ministered.

All Dogs Go to Heaven

“All dogs go to heaven.”  Who says?  

Popular opinion.  The 1989 Motion Picture by that heartwarming title grossed $27.1 million at the box office.   I really want my legendary Bassett Hound Gifford Earl there when I arrive.  

Let’s be completely honest.  The majority of folks believe in Heaven….simply because they say so.  They want it to be the case.  Ever been to a funeral where non-religious folk speak repeatedly and assuredly about “Uncle Joe up there…having a good time”?  Where do they get their confidence? 

However, sentiment and salvation are not synonymous.  The Bible (from whence we derive our notion of heaven) indeed freely offers eternal life to “whosoever will”.  It does not however, promise false hope to “whosoever won’t”. 

This is where the human heart comes into play.  If I have a loved one, a good person, moral, hard working, and all that; I cannot bear the thought of them standing accountable before a Holy God.  Hence, decades ago one guy said to me he wanted God to give in, throw His arm around his shoulder, and exclaim, “Awe shucks, come on in!”  We all wish it were so.  

Noble as that sounds, benevolent and benign, it runs counter to the notion of a Holy and just God.  If our emotional empathy reigns, then anything goes.  If “all dogs go to heaven” then do    “all hogs go to heaven”?

For a committed Christian, who has personally experienced the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ on the cross, this presents a vexing dilemma.  We are assured of eternal life; yet rightfully fear for loved ones.  Often, those dear are hesitant, even resistant to our faith, refusing to hear about spiritual things.   Any topic is fair game; except Jesus.  They are content to live (and die) in denial, …or wishful thinking.  

Hence, a true believer carries a pressing burden upon their heart.  To maintain cordial relations and not risk offense, we keep our peace and thus permit them to live without ultimate peace.

Jesus understands.  He “came unto His own, and His own received Him not”.  He sweat drops of blood for those who could care less.  He died at the hands of ones, whom He claimed, “Know not what they do”.  

Our personal vice tightens when we ponder sacred responsibility.  If you see a person drowning and stand on shore holding a life-preserver, would you not throw it in?  Would you not dive in?

Frankly, I cannot ease your angst.  I too, have loved ones separated from the Savior.  The best advice I have to offer is to urge a life of private intercession and public expression of Christ-like character.  You may not get a chance to openly share living hope.  If the door cracks (only by prayer) “be prepared to make a reasoned presentation for the hope that is within you…with gentleness and tact.”  (I Pe 3:18).

I am convinced all my former dogs, bassets and weenies, are in heaven.  The two here right now, I preach to them daily.  So far, at least they wag their tails.


Mayan Peoples Praise



Sights and sounds of outdoor festival in Central America.

Minds Matter

You have heard, “Mind over Matter’.  Meh; may or may not be true.  I do know Matters of the Mind Matter.  The science of Psychology, in which I majored in College, is devoted to study of thinking and behavior.  One influences the other.  Get this: in our nation, over a ten year period, the number of treated mental illness cases grew faster than the average number for all health treatments.  (Kaiser Family Foundation).  You could say, “We’re losing our minds.”

I best get back to the Bible.  In Philippians 1, Paul is writing from prison in Rome.  Upon subsequent incarceration in Rome, we know that Paul was ultimately executed.  In this passage he shows us how to keep our heads when we’re about to lose it (literally).  Pay attention: you’re gonna need this someday.  In verse 20 He exclaims dramatically, “whether by life or by death, Christ will be exalted in my body.”  He crescendos, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain!”

Dissect his discourse to find two firm pillars for sound thinking leading to solid living (and sanguine dying).  Christ was his Preoccupation and Christ was his Occupation.  First, consider Christ as his Preoccupation.  In the midst of clear and present peril, he has Jesus on the brain.  It consumes his thinking.  This is the same guy who wrote to Corinthians, “we take every thought captive for Christ”.  Christ had his attention and affection.  E. Stanley Jones (who also attended my University a century before me, and from whom I got inspiration to sign my signature as N. Stan Hankins…) quipped, “Whatever gets your attention; gets you.”  Jesus said, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”  Thus: where is your mind?  Gutter or God?  Stuff or Savior?  Trivial or eternal?  A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Secondly, notice Christ was his Occupation.  In verse 21 he employs categorical terms, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”  Bottom line: he is all about Jesus.  Once the Lord has gained his attention and affection, Christ got his action.  His every day all day agenda was Jesus.  He is determined to make each situation a platform to exert eternal influence by appropriately showing and sharing the Savior.  That friends, is priority, passion, and purpose.  Living for Christ offers the ultimate in significance.  How ‘bout you?  A life is an even more terrible thing to waste.

In the final analysis, God’s Word says much about minds.  In Christ, all of it affirmative.  I’m still dubious about Mind over Matter, but I am dead serious about ‘The Mind of the Master’ !