Wednesday, March 25, 2009



As you may remember, as we planned our retirement from my position in Kentucky last fall, we initiated the listing to sell of our "OLD KENTUCKY HOME" there in November. Then because our credit was in good stead, we were allowed in December to purchase our "NEW TO US ARKANSAS HOME". ERGO, two payments, two sets of utility bills. Yes, yes, I know the economy was in a spiral, but having begun my retirement, I had counted on this for a time and so far, so good! I retired Dec. 31st and we made our move back home. Actually, we made the move in three separate trips. Two 26 footers and a 17 footer, plus a stuffed car each time and we were piled in!


Well, we had several lookers, even from the hour the realtor drove down his sign in the front yard. Some maybes, some said they'd check, you know the lines. Well, one individual early on said he liked it and would let us know. Well, we weren't holding our breath, but he did come through and amazingly said he'd take it at our listed price, which we believe we'd priced fairly - IN TODAY'S ECONOMY -Praise the Lord! - (And wondered where the buyer'd been lately!)

Anyway, bottom line - next Tuesday is closing on the house. We'll go on Monday, spend the night and meet for the necessities on Tuesday morning and return that day to ARKANSAS! SO THIS BLOG IS A CALL FOR PRAYER SUPPORT THAT ALL WILL GO AS PLANNED! WE FEEL WE'VE COVERED THE BASES, AND ARE READY TO RUN HOME! THEN RUN HOME!
Well, we anticipate one more move, unless our LAND-'LORD' SAYS HE'S GOT A SWEET DEAL FOR US! Of course, I don't have a picture of the house yet, but it's said "It's a beaut!" Best of all, it's paid for, the streets are in EXCELLENT shape, the neigborhood without peer anywhere, and that's the "gospel" truth! Why, the social functions alone make the whole deal a STEAL! Talk about your GATED community! The gate itself is PEARL WHITE! They say there's total security and no one gets in unless he's got a personal pass AND KNOWS the LANDLORD! And that's not all that comes with the deal. They've a plan for the residents where the groceries are free and close at hand in the park! Did I mention that they've a river that runs through that has the purest water you ever did see, or drink. That's right. No more buying that bottled stuff they say is pure. This stuff IS TO DIE FOR! TASTY, I MEAN! And I'm told you don't have to worry about your diets there - the food that's available is good to eat, and it even has medicinal quality, why, they said to even HEAL A NATION. Now, that's a claim to get in on! Now, I know you're saying that it sounds too good to be true, but if it is, you want in on the deal. Well, I'll tell you, I know for a fact that there are plenty of places left. They sound kinda like condos but, I know they are really uptown - why they call them mansions! Well, if you are really interested in exploring getting in on the "ground floor" of this deal, I can give you a heads-up on where to find the REAL ESTATE listing. It's a special brochure that the LANDLORD himself had written and printed up. You can pick one up most anywhere. The problem has been that people have not realized the deal that it contains. Now, let me just cite some of the sections and pages in it that you can look up. It has the LANDLORD's contact information in it, as well, and he's got a fantastic system for answering calls. It's not one of those automated voices either. I don't know how he does it, but he's the one on the line when you ring him up. And by the way, he won't renig on a sale, or repossess the place - well, the only payment's already made, so there is no reason to do it. And you won't have to wait long for the sale to be registered. He takes care of all of that at the time of your request to own what he's offering. Well, I'll sign off for now. Happy Home Hunting, my Friend. P.S.: those pages numbers - There's John 3:16 and Revelation 21 and 22. You see, John was one of the LANDLORD's staff when the book was written, and he wrote down the descriptions in these two sections, as well as, numerous others. Oh, the name of the LANDLORD's brochure is THE BIBLE. Like I say, you can get a copy most anywhere.
Be encouraged in your search and "purchase" of a place. Maybe yours will be close to mine and we'll get together in the park for a meal!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


In the claiming of the land of Canaan, Caleb had promised his daughter Achsah as wife to the one who conquered Kirjathsepher. His nephew Othniel accomplished this task, and in the sealing of this bond, Achsah encouraged him to ask her father for a piece of ground. When he did, she came to her father, who then asked, “What wouldest thou?” She replied, “Give me a blessing; for thou hast given me a southland; give me also springs of water. And he gave her the upper springs, and the nether springs.” (Joshua 15:19)

Mrs. Charles Cowman, in her devotional book, "Streams in the Desert", speaks of the nether springs as those that flow from the depths of sorrow, in the hard places, in the desert places, in the lone places, in the common places which seem farthest from all that is sacred and Divine.

As I studied on this and the passage speaking of the taking of the land of promise, I began to realize how true it is that through all the days of our journey with its ups and downs, daily portions of experience that run the gamet of emotions that tug upon our lives, our parched and thirsty souls are quenched from such “nether” springs and we are revived and renewed, even in the most desolate of places and the driest of spaces. The truth is that our thirst is quenched in the heights of joy and days of plenty, but that quenching is taken for granted as that which is due us. We daily bathe in such gracious provision, often wasting more than we ever need for maintenance. It is only as we trek down into the valley paths that lead through dry places of life that we appreciate even the smallest drops of water to give our tongues relief. How sad it is that such is required to remind us of our daily blessings from the source of all “springs”, both in the heights and in the depths. Oh, soul, count it all joy and remember the Springmaker, our Lord, Who is the Source of all.

God created the resource before there was need,
And gives us direction for its use we must heed.

When daily we journey on life’s purposed track,
We’re given such resource of which there’s no lack.

We’re blessed by the springs that flow from the hills,
And from such abundance o’er our lives daily spills.

But travel is not always found on plateaus,
For often we find ourselves midst desert throes.

Here where the springs don’t flow so ready at hand,
Their provision’s from “nether”, down under the land.

How sad in our journey through abundance above,
We don’t praise the Lord for such provision of love.

It’s only when thirst is quenched from “nether” places,
That our voices seem loudest to give our Lord praises.

May we be reminded that each day’s provision,
Comes from the same Lord giving our path its mission.
-Jim Bryant, 1/1/07

In context with the nether springs, here's another promise of applied truth for those who dare to claim it. How sad that many do not cross from the wilderness to do so.
Scripture: Deut. 8:7-10 “For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil, and honey; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass. When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.”

Dear brothers and sisters who seek in the midst of the desert places of life, that to quench your thirst, be encouraged, for the Lord has also given you the nether springs.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Yesterday was one of those days when I “seesawed” between message preparation and periods of just plain inactivity to rest my eyes from the pc screen. I say “inactivity” but the mind did not stop. How to describe it? I suppose discomfort or weariness might come close. My retirement and return to a position as bivocational pastor, coupled with trying to work through the sale of our home in Kentucky and trying to adjust our living to different income begins to tax the mind’s resources. I feel at times like an old circus clown trying to learn a “new juggling routine”! The thing is, nothing I’m doing is a new experience, I’m just doing it with a set of older equipment. I do know HOW to handle the tools. That hasn’t changed. My desire and vision is still keen.

I suppose it is like the way I felt in high school when I ran the mile in track and field events. Each time I began to run I had to find the right pace to be able to round that track four times, and on the fourth still have some reserve to increase for the final push to the tape. As I reflect on those races, I don’t know what was in the minds of the other runners, but I was running to beat my own best time. Now I ask myself, “what lap are you on?” Some might say the last, but if that is true and I have not found my pace, does that mean I’m destined to struggle to the end? I think not! I’d like to think that my life is both one race and multiple ones at the same time.

For instance, when I consider the whole of my life as one race, I have run with a pace to measure out my steps in the path that God has led through my almost 67 years, 45 of them on the ministry track. Looking back, there have been times I stumbled and broke stride, but focusing on the Lord, my Pacemaker, has always brought me back in step and provided the refreshing to keep pace with the challenges. Now this last lap, as I have increased awareness of the heavenly goal, the stretched ribbon that borders that final lunge through the Gate of Victory, I am faced with the challenge of a “change of pace” to close the gap well.

It is here, on reflection, that I see the multiples in play. There have been as many races in my past as there have been the variety of ministries and tasks related to them. Each one has had its own pace and push to finish well the race before me. Each has its own regret and reward for the way it was run. Now, in what might be the final race, and this my Heavenly Coach only knows, I again strive for the pace to “run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) And I look with increased challenge as he continued, “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” (verse 3)
I just had to re-read that last passage. The Pacemaker has struck again! May I never forget that all the races have been run, all the victories have already been won. The prize is not a worldly corruptible crown, but an incorruptible one. So I will strive through a controlled walk. (I Corinthians 9:25) The track is warm from use, the day stretches out before me! I will not look back, but “…reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

My body is tired, my legs numbed in their piston-like push,
But on I plunge toward the goal set forth ahead.
The press close on my heels goads me ever forward,
Striving as one possessed, to claim the sought-for prize.

My eyes are tempted to turn and see behind,
But my mind reminds me to turn aside is to veer off course,
And thus lose ground to that,
Often unknown competitor whose breath I can almost feel,
Whose labored gasps I hear as he seeks to claim my focus.

When I feel as though I can endure no more,
And my strength draining the last dregs of energy from my cup,
Another Presence pulls beside, and then a little ahead,
Where He paces effortlessly,

A rhymn that flows unbroken, within my sight.
My mind and body respond with a new resolve,
Discovering His pace,
Allowed to rest my spirit in strong embrace.

Slowly at first, I grasp the meaning of this "race Master's" run.
It is not for His victory but mine, for His is already won.
My lungs about to burst with the depth of exhalation,
I am suddenly filled with the delight of His heart,
And running with renewed "joy of the journey"
I throw back my head, stretch forward my chest,
And utter the divine laughter of one who has seen God run!
(A poem I wrote and posted on a related blog from Sept. 20, 2008)

Praise the Lord! Oh, my dear brothers and others, be encouraged, for your ministry is not in vain in the Lord!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


In the early 80s my family and I found ourselves in the middle of an Asian culture half way around the world from the hills of Arkansas and the country-rich language in which we were raised. As missionaries living in another country, learning the language and customs of people far removed from our own, we often encountered situations where the gap between cultures was very distinct. For instance…

…there was the time that we had a visiting pastor from, I believe, Mississippi, also rich in souuutherrrnn culture (no slam, you-all). Anyway, he was asked to preach in a large church, and was given a translator to convey his message to the congregation. The pastor’s message, delivered well with examples to carry the meaning, had one particular story that he told in great detail. The translator, obviously hearing the story, but at the same time knowing that its translation would not be understood for its use of southern idioms, in his moments of translation communicated with the people this way: “Now, our guest is telling you a very funny story to illustrate his message, but I will not translate it, for you will not understand the story because it speaks of things that you would have to live in his country to understand. Be polite and listen, and I will tell you when he is finished and you can laugh. Then we will continue with the message.” The guest preacher was never told of the kind deception.

Of course it happened more than once, and not only to guests, but in the midst of trying to communicate and learn the language, to missionaries, too...

…I remember hearing about a sermon that one missionary preached soon after finishing language school. He was speaking of Jesus as the light of the world but in the language the word for light is alo and the word for potato is alu. Throughout the message he referred to Jesus as the “potato of the world”. Of course, the people understood his mistake, but were amused at his struggle, thus it was one he’d remember for a long time. (Actually, the potato being a main staple food in many places, the idea of Jesus being a main spiritual diet, like say, bread, would not be far wrong – and maybe in this case light bread. Didjagetit? Sorry, couldn’t help a slight pun myself.)

I’ll bring this idea home and take my own share of heat for such mistakes. My girls will remember this one from our time in Thailand...

…Virginia and I had finished a course in “survival Thai” – about three months, taken to be able to do basic things such as bargaining in the market, learning our numbers, etc., where to tell the “cabby” where to take us – like home! It was here in Bangkok that I was pastoring an English language church, and we lived in a house with a fence, which was across the parking lot from the church.

Now, I had long before promised the girls that if we ever lived where there was fence, we could get a dog. Guess what? They remembered my promise! One day, I loaded the family into our car, and having studied sufficiently the language to develop a conversation to help find our way uptown to a dog kennel we’d contacted, we set forth. If you’ve ever been in a place where shop after shop, constructed as open “garage like” stalls, lines the streets filled with foot and vehicle traffic, you might be close to imagining our plight. Not seeing what should have been easy to spot, I finally pulled the car over to the curb and parked. A policeman was nearby on foot, so I approached him with my “canned” Thai question, “Can you tell me where I can find a shop that sells small dogs?” And to give further explanation, I added, “That go Woof, Woof!” Not speaking English, the man looked strangely at me, stifled a laugh, and shook his head in a universal “No!” Not to be stymied from my quest, I went into a nearby department store and found a young lady clerk, who also spoke no English. As was frequently the case, a group of fellow clerks gathered as I attempted my second plea with similar results, amplified by half-a-dozen gigglers. With this I shook my head and left. Arriving at the car, I told the family we’d need to go back home and get our Thai janitor/bus driver Leang and retrace our trek.

On our return to the area, Leang asked me to tell him what I had said in Thai. When I told him, he began to laugh. You see, the word for dog in Thai has the same spelling as the word for horse – maa - the difference being in the tone its given. I had used the tone for horse. Imagine, a shop with a small horse that went “woof, woof!” Oh, yes, we got there with his help and made the girls happy with a golden-red cocker spaniel named Toby.

Well, I trust you’ve gotten a smile from these, but consider for a few more lines just how difficult it is to communicate in a world of such diverse cultures, not to speak of languages I’ve illustrated. Indeed, one of the major tasks that missionaries must undertake in ministering the gospel to the far-flung peoples of the world is language and culture. Sometimes the Christian missionary forgets that one does not have to become culturally familiar with our roots in whatever region in which we grew, to be able to understand and believe the gospel. Those of other lands do not have to “dress” and “drawl” like those, perhaps, of the southern U. S. (Again, no slam intended – I drawl, too, and pretty good sometimes.)

In the midst of all cultural differences, including language, I have indeed found a common denominator that helps when we need to communicate. Just use the plain language of the cross. Paul wrote in I Cor. 1:21-24 “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe…we preach Christ crucified…unto them which are called…the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” Then he wrote, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God, For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (I Cor. 2:1-2) Man may be different in many ways, but his spiritual needs are the same, and he responds to genuine respect for the place he calls home, its differences and the genuine love that he receives from those who care enough to learn his language, his culture and tell him about our Saviour in his mother tongue. John records: “Issor manuske eto bhalobhaslen je, tar ekmatro putroke tini dan korlen, jeno je keu shei putrer upore biswas kore shay binosto na hoy kintu anonto jibon pai.” (John 3:16 in bengali) When a person of those regions that speak it hears this, he is able to begin his own leap across the greatest barrier between this world and heaven, faith that makes brothers and sisters out of all races, languages and cultures.

Oh, my friends, be encouraged today as you seek to cross your barriers to God and a world of people He loves.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


How many serious teachers cringe at these words uttered in a classroom full of students who need to realize the necessity of learning for life. The answer to that question is a great big YES!

How sad that the level of intent on the part of many students is an isolated quiz on an assigned lesson given in one hour on one day for one grade, when a life of applied learning will face many tests. Standing on the other side of the proverbial “desk” as I have and do, I’ve seen my own change In attitudes since I voiced that same question a half century ago. What the years have taught me is that there are many who continue to anchor themselves in the notion that what is taught in the classroom is not really relevant to life beyond it. And it shows in their resistance to think more deeply than what is needed to get a paycheck at week’s end.

It is a growing conviction of mine that of all the places in the world where knowledge is so accessible and endless in its quality and quantity, that this country should be so filled with an apathy of pursuit of such. Having been in other parts of the world where the struggle to have the privilege of education is so competitive and distant from the masses, and where those who do gain a seat in a classroom make the best of it by striving for excellence, I am disturbed by the lack of such among many in our country’s halls of higher learning.

And the evidence of such is not confined just to the traditional classroom, but it has continued to spill over into the work force of the general populace of our country. When you hear such statements as, “Don’t bother me with the facts, I’ll just wing it!”, “I don’t worry about why, just how to get it over and done so I can have some fun!” or just wishing away the work week in a T G I F attitude!

Where today is the mind to learn in order to make a difference, to find new ways to lift society’s focus from a shallow existence spent bouncing from one day to the next with little more desire than satisfying base natured instincts? Where is the mind to find out what makes things “tick” rather than just possessing the “ticker”? Where is the drive to delve deeper instead of just skimming the surface to get from one moment’s diversion to another?

The bottom line is, knowledge obtained, not only in the structured classroom, but in the day to day of life, has more purpose than a series of questions answered to obtain a grade. It has the intent and great possibility of exploring, as yet, uncharted territories in a myriad of disciplines, all waiting to be conquered by the inquiring and depth-seeking mind.

The discipline which not only impacts life spent in one’s few years, but more significantly its eternal destiny, is the spiritual pursuit of knowing God and His purposes. For the increasing major part of the population this pursuit seems almost non-existent in the rush to possess things whose lifespan of pleasure is brief at best. They have no time for the spiritual quest whose perceived result seems so far away as to have no immediate priority or gratification.

But even among those who confess their faith and give devotion to the quest for God and His will, there are many whose perception of this discipline is as an activity to be enjoyed rather than a deeper relationship to be learned. Here, too, are the comments heard that reveal a lack of depth desired. “Don’t bother us with doctrine, just preach the Bible!”, “We want worship services that just make us feel better!” or the attitude that says the sum total of my spiritual responsibility is to attend church on Sunday, give a little to help pay the preacher, read the Bible, pray at meals, be good to my family and refrain from kicking the dog.

While these latter sentiments may be physical activity with spiritually good motive, they do not fulfill the divine desire of God for a deepening intimacy with His crowning creation…man. The physical is to be a burning outgrowth of time spent deeper in the mind of God’s heart. It is the overflow of a spring of intimate knowing that gushes forth when one’s spiritual pickax pierces the deep, refreshing fountain of God’s love.

No wonder the Psalmist could write, “How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” (Psalms 36:7-9)

No wonder Paul could pen the words of his desire for more intimacy in his epistle of joy, Philippians, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” (Philippians 3:8-10) Paul goes further in verses 12 through 21, to challenge our pressing forward to claim the quest of this high calling of God, and I urge you to read and absorb its depths.

Will it be on the test? You bet it will. Everyday as you pursue God’s mind and heart. Be encouraged, friend, for it is a wonderful quest and the answers not hard to give if they are practically applied.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


If my mother were here she’d confess she did her best not to worry, especially about us kids. And I admit that perhaps for the most part her kind of worry about us was the kind that kept her motherly smothering active enough to raise us fairly well. And for that I am forever grateful. She’d also admit that there were times when she would “go overboard” and as we used to say, “worry herself sick” over things over which she had no control and the worry did her less than good.

Now haven’t we all been there? It became almost a joke between Mom and I, that when she’d begin worrying unduly about something, I’d say to her, “Mom, don’t worry! Now, you can be concerned!” It came to the point that when she began such in my presence, she’d catch my eye and quickly state, “I know, I know, don’t worry, just be concerned!” It did seem to break down the “worry wall” for a time, at least.

Today, with the pressure of our present economic crisis creating more tension, as people lose their jobs, homes, savings and investments, not to speak of the increasing violence at home and abroad, worry becomes harder to avoid and “just be concerned” seems too passive to be realistic in the minds of the masses. I must say that my advice regarding such was not intended as a passive “do nothing” response to any crisis upon which the mind landed. I do believe in being “pro-active” with a well-anchored trust in my God Who knows, cares, protects and directs my path through whatever “valley I must walk”. I find Him walking with me a very reassuring journey.
Matthew records some very important words of our Lord as He spoke to His disciples about the matter of worry. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

This passage addresses all of the basic needs of life, about which we often consume ourselves to the point that trusting the all-sufficient and loving God is given only left-over consideration. Thus the challenge to seek first His kingdom purpose and His righteousness is placed at the bottom of our life’s daily agenda, and if time allows, we’ll acknowledge it, then pick “our burdens back up again” and “worry-on down the road.”

Perhaps the problem is that “it is easier to say ‘don’t worry’ than to put it into practice. Or perhaps the real problem is that we do not know what it means “to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness”.

How shall I explain it? One Christian group says that man's chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The prophet Micah sums it up when he says, "And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8) And if we take the law given by God to His people of the Old Testament, and brought to New Testament fulfillment in the words of Jesus, we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and mind…and our neighbor as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-39)

But how do you do that? Begin to mentally acknowledge His presence with you moment by moment, not as an inactive “force” but a Person Who’s character and will you assimilate into your own thought and actions. Like a friend in whom you confide and from whom you take guidance, temper your actions with His counsel and credit Him with the blessings.

Truly love Him with all you are and seek to do what will only honor Him and be in accord with His standard of rightness. Loving your fellow man as yourself and more fits that godly character. Do this and though the storm may rage about you, inner peace will be yours because you have trusted yourself to Him Who is the Prince of Peace.

How then can I worry when He Who leads me is in control of everything else?

Ah, friends, be encouraged today in everything.