Thursday, August 25, 2011


We're leaving tomorrow for another "dramatic" weekend.  This time our traveling companions are George Mueller and Lottie Moon.  For those new to us I must explain.  Virginia and I have, since 1996, been involved in a personal ministry called, "LIVING PORTRAITS".  We portray different historical personalities in a variety of venues, every place from public schools, to community events, to church and Baptist convention events.  Our repetoire includes George and Martha Washington, Mark and Olivia Twain, as well as, a group of missionaries and Christian leaders from the past, and have even put together special character presentations on request.  William Carey, Luther Rice, Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, Fanny Crosby, John Newton, Horatio Spafford and George Mueller are our most frequently used. 

Lottie Moon was one of the first single missionaries appointed by our denomination to the country of China - 1873 to 1912.
She gave her life to that work until she became very ill from malnutrition (sharing her food with her Chinese friends) and started home, only to die aboard ship in Japan.  A Christmas time offering for world-wide missions was given her name and so remains today.  Virginia portrays this lady very effectively to promote those offerings and the missionary spirit that is needed in every Christian's life.  We love traveling with "Lottie".

George Mueller is our other "traveler".  George was a Prussian who, after his conversion, moved to England to ultimately follow a call to begin the first Christian orphanage in that country which was experiencing many deaths from plagues, with resulting orphans with no care.  He began the first home in 1835 and was still involved in it when he died in 1898.  His claim to fame came because of his intense passion for prayer and his unswerving faith in God to provide for his needs and those of the children in his care.  His challenge was to pray based on the mind and will of God.  Studying and meditating upon God's will, maintaining an upright heart and conscience, not shrinking from that which tried his faith, and letting God be the redeemer were his well-used tools to discover God's mind.  Yes, George is also a good traveling companion!  As I step into his character, it is always my prayer that such character will stay with me when I remove the costume and return to my own century.

Pray for us as we travel to spread faith, prayer and missions to others who need such a call.

Be encouraged, my friends, in your faith, in your prayers, as you, too, move into a spirit of missions!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


                                                    "The New Jerusalem" in Pastel Chalk

Preaching through Revelation has been a great challenge, especially with the descriptions that John uses in sharing his vision of those things which earthly language cannot hope to adequately portray.  When I reached Revelation 21's passage on the New Jerusalem coming down, I knew I'd met my challenge.  There is nothing quite like the Scriptures alone for doing it justice, so I opted to build a sermon around the reading of the Word, music related to the theme, and art in the form of pastel chalk on textured mat board.
I "painted" my interpretation of the descriptions while the Scriptures were being read by selected members, and as....

...coordinated congregational hymns and special music were presented.  In this way, the whole congregation was a part of the experience.

For music, the songs "The Holy City" - "Heaven Came Down" - "When We All Get to Heaven" - "Heavenly Sunlight" and "Jerusalem" were used to highlight the service. 

It was my first attempt at a chalk drawing before a group in a confined time, but I found that the drawing I opted to use fit the normal time I usually plan for my sermon on Sunday mornings.  The response of the congregation?  Well, my planned-for experience was not disappointing - their comments indicated that the different approach and visualizing the Scriptures was a refreshing change of pace.

As I told the congregation in my introduction to the service, there was no way to fully describe the New Jerusalem on the small sheet, so I selected just a portion of the corner of the "city" wall.  Imagine trying to paint the whole of John's description on one canvas!  Revelation 21 describes this magnificient city of the redeemed of all the ages as being 1500 miles long, 1500 miles wide and 1500 miles high.  (To get an idea of the size, imagine a city that stretches from Arizona eastward to almost the Alantic coast, and from the Canadian border to almost the southern tip of Texas!)  And it's walls w 240 feet high, with 12 gates, 3 on a side, will each be attended by an angel.  Now that's a city to look forward to!

One commentator's evaluation indicated that given the projection of the numbers of believers from all ages who will reside there, each might have the equivalent of 75 acres, "cubed", as their "room" in the forevers of eternity.  Jesus did say that in His Father's house are many mansions or rooms and that He was going to prepare them for His disciples. (John 14:2) 

In the words of the songwriter of "Jerusalem":

"Jerusalem, I want to walk your streets that are golden
And I want to run where the angels have trod
Jerusalem, I want to rest on the banks of your river
In that city, city of God!"

Consider this.  This world with the calamities of nature's rebellion against the curse brought by man's sin gives many little hope of life without fear. Couple this with the outright damage man brings to man and the earth through his continued rebellion against the God Who gave him life and a pristine world to dominate (not destroy), and life becomes for many an impossible task.  It is in this, however, that God's Word gives us a hope that can conquer every fear and be a source to overcome every task.  Can we not take joy each day in the coming new creation God has promised to those who would trust Him and accept His grace-filled gift of eternity in His New Jerusalem?

It is my prayer that you will.  Be encouraged, my friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ!  I'll see you here, there, or in the air on the way!  Praise the Lord Who promises!

Monday, May 2, 2011


Ever since I was a youngster on the farm, and perhaps before, I can recall one pasttime that I truly enjoyed.  It was drawing or painting things from my imagination or from what I saw around me in nature.  As I grew older, this delight never left.  I took painting in college and almost completed an Art Minor.  Since then, I have tried to continue this passion, though for long periods of time I was so wrapped up in other tasks in my calling as minister and missionary, I've hardly done a brushstroke at all.  With retirement, though tasks seem still a'plenty, last year I began picking up a brush and trying my somewhat older hand at putting color and shapes on canvas once again.  My results, though perhaps not on a measure with many who've plied the trade for years, have given me a new sense of satisfaction in being able to create and in so doing, portray what our Creator and Master Artist has so beautifully painted in the world around us.  I humbly put before you three pieces that I've put in a local Art show for the month of May.  I trust they will be a blessing and share a message of encouragement with you.
                                                         BEEING YOUR BEST SELF
The title of this piece is somewhat obvious.  I posted the photo I took of this a few posts back, and then decided to paint it.  It's an Israeli Bee on a flower I saw while in Ceasarea, Israel a year ago.  It spoke to me about the importance of BEING rather than DOING as representative of who I am and should be each day.  The basics of who I am should not be governed by what I do as much as who "I Be" if you will pardon my grammar.  What I do should be a reflection of who I am and not the other way around.  Consider, if for some reason I cannot continue "doing" certain things for whatever reason, will I cease to be?  Not logical.  In the light of this, I have determined to BE what God has purposed for me to BE.  The BEE of the painting is BEING itself, as it has been purposed by God.  What it does comes from what and who it is, doing it with the very best of its ability.  That's what I want to BEE, as well.

The next canvas was painted from a photo I took in our backyard during one of our heavy snows a couple of years ago, minus the "eight-pointer" I added for effect.  I call it:
                                                              "THE SENTINEL"
As I considered the large knarled tree that stands so resolute amid its smaller fellows on the slope behind our house, I noted first that it certainly older than all others around.  Secondly, its limbs and branches had evidence of withstanding the violence of many winds, at times breaking and losing a little of itself each time, however, still standing strong.  As the snow fell and I was compelled to reach for my camera, I saw yet another scene come into play.  It was as though the whiteness of heaven was given to it like a king's robe and crown.  It's steadfastness of patient watchfulness had won for it that which would grace its massive and sometimes broken form.  I added the "buck" with its antlers as an added symbol of the tree-like SENTINEL character of the tree.  My own life has been planted in the soil that God has prepared for my task, too, for you see I am called to be a watchman, a sentinel to warn of the dangers which may be near.  I am called to be patient, and regardless of my increasing age and lessening "limberness of limb", I am to be a steadfast and faithful SENTINEL of Jesus Christ, my Lord.  I am told that one day that as a faithful servant, I too, will be given a white robe and crown!

The last painting I show you comes from a passage of scripture I have long remembered from a sermon I heard an evangelist preach many years ago.  I call this painting:
                                          "CONTENDING WITH JORDAN'S HORSES"
The passage of Scripture is Jeremiah 12:5, "If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?"  I have found a rich resource in studying horses over the last few months and have painted two other pieces featuring them.  There is something very majestic in what God has designed in these animals.  I recall an illustration that uses the horse to describe the essence of submitted will.  A horse that is tamed still has every bit of its power intact, however, it has chosen to yield to the master who holds the reins.  Now the passage here reveals horses that are still yet untamed and therefore fully in charge of their power, which with a herd, is sizable indeed.  Jeremiah's question rings out to those who are growing weary already in life's race, and as yet have only faced the challenge of other runners.  I confess that I feel that way often myself, however, the race is not yet completed.  And considering the last phrases of the passage, in comparison to what may lie beyond my sight, my life has been in relative peaceful conditions.  Now the serious question is ask!  When the race is levered up to the speed and power of horses, or when the waters of strife rise higher, how will I cope? With Paul I must confess, "I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and 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)

Be encouraged, my brothers and sisters! We can run the race! And I have read the back of the Book and we WIN!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Living Lord's Supper

A 2011 Portrayal of "The Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci

For the fifth time, three times in Bangkok and twice here in my church, we have coordinated the dramatic presentation of "The Last Supper" as painted by Leonardo da Vinci.  Last evening's event was held in the midst of a stormy Ozark night.  Despite the weather, one hundred persons attended, and all expressed how much the experience helped them to catch a vision of what happened almost 2000 years ago, as our Lord entered His last few hours prior to His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.  Indeed, the drama portrayed is in reality a drama in which we still participate today.

Like these disciples who sat with Him and heard His strong and strange words, we, too, recognize that His life purpose goes beyond just having life in this world filled with good times.  His was a objective motivated by love for man and the Father's will for man's redemption.  It was toward this end that His focus was concentrated.  Because of this, our acknowledgement of His Sonship, death, burial and resurrection, and our repentance and faith in Him enables that objective to be realized in us.

It is my prayer that this Easter's celebration of His resurrection will draw many into the life-drama that He lived, bringing about His life in many.  Be encouraged, fellow believers, He Who was raised and ascended into Heaven, will truly come in like manner as He left.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Friday, April 1, 2011


Ah, APRIL FOOLS' DAY! A day where lies and liars abound, where would-be "court jesters" let their proverbial "hair" down! A day of practical jokes and pranks that, hopefully, will be forgotten and forgiven when the 2nd of April makes its appearance! 
                                                           In our front yard, no foolin'!

A few weeks ago, three of our grandsons were spending a week with us, a time we truly enjoy.  These boys know that their grand "POOHPA" is prone to practical jokes, April 1st or no! I decided that since the boys would not be with us on this special day for such, I would do an advance.   Knowing their inbred proclivity to all things "deer hunting" and such, and because our yard is a favorite hangout for creatures of this nature, I went into the den, their hangout, which overlooks the backyard, and exclaimed excitedly, "boys, there's an 8-point buck behind the house!" 

The scramble was on as they ran to the windows.  "Where?" they exclaimed in unison. 

"April Fool!" I cried. 

"It's not even April!" they responded. 

I told them, "I'm saving up for when you won't be here!"

What is the old adage? "Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me."  Well, I decided to push the envelope, thinking surely they would not take the bait.  I waited a while, then went back and repeated the same excited information. "Boys, there's an 8-point buck in the backyard!" I expected a typical reaction of disbelief - "Oh, Poohpa!"  But I didn't expect the repeat scramble to the windows again!

"Where?"  they repeated.

You see, I didn't do the "hunter's math" that says, "keep your eyes open and don't miss a shot!"

I just hope I haven't ruined my future prospects of getting them to believe me the next time I spot something that's really there! That's the chance one takes when you don't play by APRIL FOOLS' RULES.  I think there's another old tale of the boy who cried "wolf!" once too often! Enough said?

Now, I've said all of this to get to my point, so here it is, and it's not an April Fool's joke.

Most folks try their best not to appear FOOLISH, me included.  We try to wear what will not make us the subject of ridicule.  Our communications are so guarded that we won't be caught saying something that will be dismissed as ignorant, uninformed, or worse, crude and rude.  We behave in a way that will not draw attention to our imperfections.  We are careful to only go where our presence will not be held in question by those seeking to cast a shadow of doubt upon our character.  We abide by the law so that our lives won't gather the reputation of being without conscience. To this litany of lifestyle detours of safety, we could add multiple others, all whose purpose is to protect our lives.

The WE and ME FOLKS I refer to? Obviously not the whole population at large! APRIL FOOLS' DAY notwithstanding, a large part of citizenry would like to believe that they are pursuing a lifestyle that is perceived as worthy of respect.  Commendable and a worthy goal!  I would that more would find this path the best to trod upon.  For one very good reason, it would provide a grand example for the new generation that follows, to follow!

There is a problem, however, that lies within everyone, good folks, good ole' boys, as well as, those not so good! It is the problem of sin, and a heart that is not so good, as the prophet Jeremiah points out in 17:9: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"  We'd like to believe that we know our own heart, but I suspect we even fool ourselves at this point.  In fact, I'm sure we do, or we would not believe ourselves to be so "holier" than the other person most of the time.  No, there is One Who truly knows our heart, and He is the same one Who can fix it! No fooling!

David knew Him and wrote this Psalm of desire to have his own heart fixed: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24)

So friends, when this day of light-hearted trickery has drawn its last breath, and the new day of heart pursuits faces the new dawn, take the Psalmist's lead and have He Whose heart never tricks nor fools, but guides you into all of His truth which will set you free, free indeed! (John 8:32; 36; 14:16-17)

Be encouraged!

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Friday and Saturday our town had a business expo that drew hundreds of interested of people to its lineup of local businesses, many of which gave away prizes and food, in addition to their own particular spiel about their service or products.  Grand prizes were to be given to those who returned on Saturday for the drawing.  Having invested some time to visit the booths on Friday, we decided to go all the way and be there for Saturday's finale.  When we showed up we weren't surprised at the numbers who returned.  There was a general air of expectancy, coupled with a good time connecting with friends also in attendance.  When we arrived, we immediately encountered another fellow pastor and his wife and proceeded to just "hang out" and enjoy the crowd and each other.  As the time for the drawing came near, we moved to a central location in front of the announcer who was at a mike on the balcony above the room.  The press of the crowd left little walking room so we stood together, looking up to the action taking place above us.  Following some preliminary announcements and gifts thrown out for people below to catch, they were ready to begin drawing the names.  Before the first name was drawn and read, the announcer called out my wife's name and told her to go to a nearby booth where her name had been drawn for a prize.  Surprised, she obeyed while we waited for her to return, which she did in moments, bearing her new blue digital camera.
Only moments earlier, as we spoke to our friends, they had mentioned the pastor's wife had won three prizes from individual booths the day before, and the pastor laughingly commented that they'd returned so she could be drawn for the new set of tires he wanted.  Needless to say, when my wife's name was called, it renewed the amusement over the wives being the "lucky" ones.  Within moments the announcer had the first name for a major prize.  Imagine our added surprise when an elderly lady standing next to me raised her hand to claim it! This added to our amusement as we waited for the next name to be called.  This time we were shocked to hear my pastor friend's name called, though not for the tires he wanted.  The winner's circle around us was widening! Finally, the name for the tires was drawn.  You'll not believe it! Another man standing within six foot of us raised his hand in response! Out of five names drawn, three were within touching distance! Truly mind blogging, er, bogging!
We laughed all the way home about the shock on our pastor's face! It was truly a photo moment, but the wife's new camera battery was not yet charged!

As I reflected on the day's amusing turn of events, I was struck by the spiritual applications.  As God's children, indeed we are in THE WINNER'S CIRCLE!  The Scriptures tell us that our names have been written down in the Lamb's Book of Life, if we have, by faith had our sin's forgiven, and have invited Jesus Christ into our heart and life.  In effect, we've "signed-up" for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  And it is no "luck" of the draw when we "look-up" to hear our name called to come away with Him to claim the prize.

As we stood there in the crowd, two called pastors and their wives, so close to the hundreds that surrounded us, I was further struck by the "calling" of God that puts us "in touch" with a world who need to know the Lord as we do.  As physically we stood, almost touching the other winners of grand prizes, our spiritual "winner's circle" of "gospel touching" influence came into clear perspective for me.  All too often we do not realize the impact for the gospel that we may have upon the crowds where we walk and live each day.  We truly have a "winner's circle" of influence to enlarge with every day's encounters.  And oh, the blessed joy that results will cause all of the world's passing prizes to pale in comparison.  Now that will be a true "photo moment" to capture! Just be sure that your spiritual batteries are fully charged!

Note this passage about the High Calling of God:  "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:12-14

Be encouraged toward such a prize, my friends!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I read a friend’s facebook comment today. It stirred within me a latent thought, bringing me face to face with the very real struggle that daily wages its war in my goings and doings, and even my thinkings!
The sign says WET PAINT!
Why don’t I believe, and think I must TOUCH?
The fire is HOT! I’m told it will HURT!
Why must I reach for the PAIN in SUCH?
The place is too high, keep off of that LEDGE!
Why then must I test, to peer down from the EDGE?
The street’s not safe to walk in the NIGHT!
Why then do I think I can go without LIGHT?

Every day, in every way
I seem to push, and fail to stay
Where I am told I’ll be okay.

I’m told I must diet, my life to EXTEND.
Why then do I eat so, and my body OFFEND?
The doctor says walk, to care for my HEALTH.
Why then do I sit, with health on the SHELF?
I’m told that some movies I shouldn’t OBSERVE.
Why then do I watch, throwing my mind a CURVE?
And when I’m commanded to read my BIBLE and PRAY,
Why then do I put these in last place TODAY?

Every day, indeed, in every way
I seem to go, and do, and think, and fail to stay
Where, indeed, I know I’ll be OKAY!
~jb, 3-10-2011

I could go on, and perhaps you can add to the list of goings and doings and thinkings that take you astray from the path that is right. To quote my friend, we have a renegade heart! But we are not alone, for it is a condition that affects all in some way or other.

But, we’re in good company, so to speak! The Apostle Paul had his own list and summed it up in his writing to the Roman Christians. In what sounds on the surface like “double-talk”, Paul records his own struggles when He writes about the law and its revealing of the “sin which doth so easily beset us”. (Heb. 12:1) Romans 7:7-25 is his recounting of the Christian’s struggle with it.

His wrestling with our common malady is filled with the paradoxes of “woulds”, “shoulds” and their antitheses. Note these excerpts:

“For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” (vs. 15)

“For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (vs. 19)

Sound familiar? Well, read on - the frustrated plea from his self-inflicted misery. “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (vs. 24)

Paul knew very well the human condition, which was and is under the law of sin. He also knew that the law of God was given, not to be as much a standard of behavior, though it is that, but as the revealer of sin that is in our nature and practice. As he says in verse 7, “…I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”

Paul also knew very well the account of the wilderness temptations of Jesus, and how the Devil had put the Lord to the test. In His forty days of fasting, He was tempted to use His power to change stones into bread to feed His hunger, to perform a miracle in leaping down from the top of the temple without hurt, and to bow to Satan to gain worldly rule. (Matthew 4:1-11) All of this Jesus did without sin, to become the perfect sacrifice for our sin plagued nature, that in spite of our bent to sin, and its sometimes victory in our lives, we might have the promised law of God inwardly that assures us of final victory.

So, how do I proceed in this quandary of struggle? First, I realize and admit the true nature of sin in me and the reality of God’s law in my mind, the inward man. The struggle is inevitable, however, the more often I acknowledge the greater victory over sinful thoughts and actions by the Indwelling Presence of God’s Spirit, the less frequently will Satan take the upper hand in the conflict. I will never, in this earthly life, be completely free of his attacks nor yieldedness in thought and action to his temptations, but the greater my time immersed in the word and walk of the Lord, the more completely will the Lord’s shield repel the tempting arrows of the enemy. As Paul says, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God” even though “with the flesh the law of sin.” (verse 25)

Be encouraged in Him, my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I have two friends, Matt and Sarah, I call them. Having done a lot of traveling in my missionary work in the last few years, I met Matt on the internet. He was my early guide to discovering how to get to particular places I’d never been before, even gave me the miles and travel time to get there. I called him MATT QUEST. Get it! Anyway he was always up-to-date on the best way to get where I was going. He was connected!

My second friend was Sarah. I met her first at Walmart, in the electronics department. Actually, I never met her, just heard her voice. She also had connections, but once we “met” she operated solo based on her education to that point, and was exclusively my personal guide. I continued to seek counsel from Matt in my pre-journey planning, but enjoyed the connection with Sarah during the journey. Frankly, at times her voice kept my “road-hypnosis” at bay, thus keeping me alert.

One of the things I discovered after some time was the fact that Matt and Sarah sometimes did not agree. Having printed out a copy of Matt’s directions, then comparing them with the moment-by-moment vocals from Sarah, major discrepancies occurred. These times were signaled by a crisp and very deliberate tone from Sarah:


This would be accompanied by a visual map on Sarah’s visually projected screen which I had attached to the center of my windshield for easy viewing. She would display an arrow indicating I had missed a turn and must turn-around at the first opportunity. The longer I delayed in doing so, the more she would repeat the command, until at last she would relent and formulate a new route to my intended destination. I confess that sometimes I purposely would ignore her instructions out of my own desire to continue on the road we were using, either because I had some prior knowledge of what I wanted to do or was following Matt’s provided hard copy.

Having seen the maps Sarah would display, I noted that at times when a very new road had been opened since our guide/driver relationship began, she would have my vehicle imaged out in the middle of a field. I quickly realized that I needed to provide for her some updated training on current conditions. This, in fact, continues to bring Matt and Sarah back into close alignment as they guide me into the unfamiliar.

About the relationships I’ve described there are two things that continue to amaze me. Matt’s ability is becoming much more understandable with the computer age and its ability to chart and produce the stats that it does, so my amazement here has settled somewhat. Now Sarah’s has a degree of complexity that still is mind boggling. While driving, she knows exactly where I am at any one point, regardless of the presence of a road or not. I’m told that she is CONNECTED with a mechanical entity above called a satellite, and that this orbiting device and its “partners in space” send continuous signals to Sarah and her many “partners on earth” to keep each of their “charges” instantly aware of their placement and surroundings. That totally causes my head to swim.

MY CONCLUSIONS: First, Matt’s value is in the pre-planning and determining the where and when of my journey. For this I need to make focused and deliberate decisions. Everything from fuel to arrival requirements is involved, in addition to any stops or purposes along the way. Having made all of these decisions, I take Matt’s map in hand and begin.

Secondly, as I begin the journey, I give Sarah information regarding my destination and any of the stops along the way. I then give her the “GO” to connect with her sky partner. Of course, prior to the journey, I give her lead to update her knowledge of the current lay of the land. I then trust my guides to keep me on track.

Now, recently, I’ve been seeing some advertisements that, gratefully, don’t apply to my ability to trust Sarah or Matt. Have you seen the one an insurance company uses to describe one man’s “Sarah” named “Mayhem”? Unlike Sarah’s unswerving attention to correct instructions, this one takes delight in giving wrong directions and putting “his” charge in jeopardy. His RE-CALCULATING is totally a LEFT TURN!


FIRST, you and I are engaged every day in a journey called life. This trip both requires movement toward a definite destination, as well as, moment by moment stops and routing to get us there. Decisions are needed that must be based upon TRUE information from a GUIDE that is completely trustworthy and will help us plan toward the goal, and do so with proper personal health to meet the requirements of the destination. HEAVEN and relationship with GOD is the goal, and life’s journey is to prepare and make the trip, using the RIGHT directions to keep us fit for the destination. Our “MATT” for our journey is GOD THROUGH HIS HOLY WORD, THE BIBLE! There is nothing more updated on all the routes and dangers that lie ahead, along with the resources needed to cope with the twists and turns we will encounter. We must TRUST it completely, however. Picking and choosing only those easier WORD directions, and going-off on our own whims and ignorance will only confuse our route and lead us to dead-ends and life “time” wasted side roads that will only weary and frustrate our journey.

SECONDLY, our journey’s moment-by-moment progress has not only the foundational map but a completely present “SARAH” to give us the necessary turns to keep us on track. This Sarah is GOD THROUGH HIS HOLY SPIRIT. This GUIDE, too, is CONNECTED to that which is ABOVE, higher and more perfect than even the best of satellite computers. By this connection, GOD, Who is constantly in touch with us and everything that is before us, is ever with us, giving instruction and directions. And never fear that GOD will use tactics of deceit like “MAYHEM” (i.e., the Devil), who is a constant threat to try to lead one’s journey into danger, and this is the reason one must keep to the leading voice of the HOLY SPIRIT Guide. Trust this HOLY GUIDE, for He will lead you into all truth. John 16:13f records Jesus’ words about the Holy Spirit, “…when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”

One final thought. There are times when we do and will fail to follow our “SARAH’s” counsel, and even “MATT’s”, as well. When we do, and we are on a path that was not their counsel but our own decision to depart, we will not hear an audible “RE-CALCULATING! TURN AROUND!” For on the road of life there is no retracing or redoing a journey past. No turning back the hands of the clock. That path is now not open to us! Our need is to recognize we have sinned, have departed from the way that is true, and confess it to our GUIDE, Who in turn conveys it to Our Lord Jesus Who stands to intercede with GOD, THE FATHER in Heaven. Instantly, a “RE_CALCULATION” will have already been made, giving us the best new way available in our life journey. And note this, it will ALWAYS BE A RIGHT TURN!

Be encouraged, fellow travelers on THE WAY!

Sunday, February 6, 2011


This photo I took while on my trip to Israel last March.  I was visiting the site of old Caesarea on the Mediterranean coastline.  Amid the ancient structures of this city where Paul the Apostle was a prisoner, judged and then sent to Rome, I found several flower gardens.  There I found what I was later informed was a Bergeranthus scapiger, one of the many kinds of stalkless mesembryanthemums, succulent flowering plants that do well in that climate. (I did think it interesting that my last name appeared in the middle of the latter term.) As I walked this particular bloom caught my eye, and I had a opportunity to capture this Israeli BEE at his appointed task.

Now, Shakespeare’s Hamlet soliloquy did not have the insect in mind when he penned those famous words “To be or not to be”, but perhaps the BE he referred to can be seen in the very existence of the tiny BEE itself.  I confess that the picture I have used was taken, not to illustrate my thoughts in this blog per say, however, it serves to launch them, nevertheless.

Actually the BEE itself reminds me of the Bee Movie that I watched a while back.  Let me give you a brief synopsis of the storyline.  Barry, a young bee of the in-hive working class, having graduated from college, now considers his options.  Against his traditional parents, his dream is bigger than even his physical attributes would allow, and he sets out to discover where he belongs and where he can make a difference.  In short, he leaves the hive, encounters the taboo world of interacting with people, and discovers that humans have been stealing bee honey for ages without any payment considerations. Drawing upon his education, he sues humanity for damages and wins for the bees a monopoly on their product.  The results: the stock of honey grows to the point that the bees retire.  This creates a world that speedily loses its agricultural reproductive cycle and comes to the edge of ruin.  Barry, who’s earlier victory for the bees precipitated the collapse, now turns his attention to reclaiming what he has learned is the truth about how the world must operate and his BEE-part within it.  Together, a cooperative of human and bee “being” is re-established and the world is saved.  Finally, Barry discovers his new role of being a part of the army of necture gatherers.

Now, the application from this “B-movie” and my “B-photo”: Shakespeare’s quote almost fits the typical teenage mindset today. 

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them…”

Like Barry the Bee, the matter of BEEING or BEING to not only the young but young at heart is a question that is troubling.  Strong emotions push beyond patient waiting to consider one’s true identity and place of worth upon this complex factory called Earth.  Considering why we were made falls in sad second place to the more exciting draw of myriads of DOING choices, and the even more tempting HAVING ever more of the tangible stuff that causes the eyes to sparkle with want.

Unsatisfied with BEING A BEE, Barry wanted the experiences of spreading his wings before he even realized why he had them.  His journey led him to things he found pleasurable and through these he came to some wrong conclusions about what his life was all about.  True enough, he thought there was injustice regarding the ownership of the honey and tried to brave the system to correct it, but in so doing almost destroyed the very thing that gave his fellow bees their purpose for BEING and ultimately, their DOING, as well.

In your hast to push the experience and possession envelope a little farther, have you sometimes failed to weigh the primary matter of who you are and how that impacts your world for good or bad?  I call that “getting the cart before the horse”, to coin an oft’ quoted phrase.  Take Barry, for instance.  He is a BEE who’s BEING is BEEING.  He is part of a cycle of life that produces honey in such abundance that it is more than the bees themselves could ever use.  It becomes the delightful sweet of life – even a healthy one at that – that feeds man and beasts like the relatives of Yogi Bear.  And in the process of performing that sacrificial act of service, the pollination of the world’s vegetation keeps the whole system in order.  That’s BEING to be proud of with DOING that grows out of it, not the other way around.

Another thought surfaced for me from the “Bee Movie” before I sum up and close this blog.  Barry’s search in the movie writer’s mind seems to have begun with a dream to do something different.  Nothing wrong with dreaming.  For many it is the impetus for pursuing excellence.  Let me borrow another phrase from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, just a few lines down from the quote’s beginning.

“To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life…”

In Barry’s mind he saw an unfulfilled dream wasted on an “eight-to-five” factory job that he was “promised” that he would have for the rest of his life.  That flies in the face of everyman’s dream.  Stuck without a way to grow does not appeal to anyone I’ve met.  I empathize with Barry, however, the difference in his dream’s perception is not understanding that even an “eight-to-five” BEE can find fulfillment DOING what his BEING says is right and makes a difference in the world.

On the matter of BEING, consider Shakespeare’s lines which refer to death as an end to the heartaches of searching for purposeful life.  He refers to death as sleep, and in that sleep, “perchance to dream”, and dreams, the state of BEING in the afterlife.  Indeed, it should make us “pause”.  Truly for the Christian life is to BE first a matter of BEING, with DOING as a very real overflow of who we have discovered ourselves to BE.  In this way, our future life with the One Who Created us in His image will reflect more of Who He IS than what we have DONE to make ourselves worthy. 

Paul gives us a further word of BEING challenge in Philippians 2:5 when he wrote “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”  Oh, how much better our lives would be DOING if our minds would BE so indwelt!

BE encouraged, my friends.  TO BE IS THE ANSWER!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


"Out with the old, in with the new!"
We've done it so often, it's just something you do.
So each year we begin with a firm resolution,
With hope it will bring us some new restitution,
Some way to redeem what the old year has lost
Some way to find joy without a great cost.  jb

43 years ago, 2001: A Space Odyssey showed us what happens when a computor, HAL by name, malfunctions and takes over a space exploration mission, resulting in the loss of life among the spaceship's crew.  On a sequel 26 years ago, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, another expedition is launched to discover what had happened on the first one.  HAL is reactivated, this time resulting again in loss of life, but with a revelation of great significance and HAL sacrificing itself for human life.  It is a classic theme for the SciFi buff, the machine taking over and making man either slave or eliminated altogether.  This time the writer's pen brings about man's redemption in the storyline.

Now, what about "2011: An Odyssey in the Remaking", you may ask.  First, because I am a SciFi buff myself, I am constantly intrigued by the creative minds that put together such plots and storylines.  Secondly, because I am a preacher in constant search for just the right illustration to use in portraying biblical truth to a modern world, I look for the meanings in what man tries to conjure, thereby finding evidence of his need for that beyond his conjuring abilities.  Thirdly, because I am a man with a desire to find a measure of meaning and hope in the fast-leaking span of life I'm allowed, I reach with renewed hope with the coming of each new year's promise.

Case in point is the projected storylines of the two movies, one projecting 2001 as a reasonable time when man's capability would reach those depths of space and technology, and 2010 as the final coming of age and understanding, i.e., contact beyond.  As I sit here on the beginning edge of 2011, a new year's position, my mind begins to search for evidence that such has even elevated man's mind to capture what the movie's writer attempted to say.  The paradox of the two movies for me is that both "have now passed their projected years of prophetic scifi fruition without scifi becoming reality, though some might disagree."  Sadly perhaps, you, my reader would agree that though technology certainly has gone far, man's real encounter with the truth beyond has taken more of a retreat than an advance, and "2010: The Year We Make Contact" has had no such contact in most of the minds which evaluate our age of supposed enlightenment.  Rather than reaching to touch and contact He Who is beyond all, we've advanced but become slaves and possessed by what we've achieved.

Most recently the pictures of Christmas come to mind more clearly.  One scene in particular comes to mind, and no, I did not take a photo, though I wish I had.  While our family of 11 sat casually around the living room visiting and watching something on TV, 5 of the group, the grands, were clumped in the floor, all concentrating, but not on the television or the conversations surrounding them.  Clutched in their hands, with coordinated rapid-moving fingers and coordinated head-bobs, were their ipods.  Oblivious to everything around them, even the TV, it was as though they were "possessed" by the grip of some unknown puppet master.  Calling to the youngest of them by name, I received no response.  Three times and still no break in concentration.  Possessed, indeed!

I was about to comment on the situation when a flashback of my early teen years came home to roost in my memory.  In a day of no ipods, TV, or any such tech advance, I was so immersed in a Hardy Boy mystery book that I could not hear my mother's call to do my chores.  I was not possessed by any modern day specter, but no less a possession that seemed bent on changing my perception of priorities at the moment.

As I dwelt on this revelation and its example from my past and my grands' present, I was reminded about the Lord's words recorded by Luke in chapter 12, verse 34, "...where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."  This was spoken in the context of explanation regarding the parable He had just spoken about the rich fool who had so much he felt he needed a bigger barn in which to hoard his abundant crops.  Indeed, rather than possessing "the things he owned", the things possessed him.  The rich young ruler of Luke 18:18f, though realizing where his heart ought to be, was possessed by his wealth, as well.

Now perhaps you see why I used the two movies to introduce my own "odyssey".  No, I'm not down on ipods or new advances that naturally come with the advancing eras anymore than I am down on Hardy Boy mysteries of my own youth.  Given the speed of change today, tomorrow will bring even more things we will desire to possess.  The question we must wrestle with today is, "would we be willing to put all of these in the right perspective and priorities in our heart, or continue to join the world in the clamour of possessing and being possessed?"

My "2011: An Odyssey in the Remaking" is for me a new commitment, not resolution, to follow the Lord's call to the rich young ruler to sell all and follow Him Who is to be the priority of heart, mind, soul, and strength.  Contrary to the writers' idea that the HALs or ipods or possessions of any sort will bring us into contact with God, it is our will and choice to keep these in proper subjection, and our focus of attention upon the Lord which will make us truly rich where it counts for the long term - eternally.

My prayer is that you, my friends, might not be so possessed, but rather encouraged as you seek to follow the invitation of Christ to put Him first in your heart, mind, soul and strength.  May such an odyssey be yours in the remaking during 2011!