Tag: hope

Rick Stratton – Alive Forever!

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I’ve been thinking about something lately; well, for the last couple of days. A friend of ours, a preacher named Rick Stratton, went to Heaven when his body just wouldn’t function any longer.

Rick is quite a guy. We met him when he was a traveling evangelist. He was preaching for a pastor friend of mine so I went to hear Rick preach. Powerful word, good singing; and I think he blew all the finish off that horn of his. Our friendship began that evening and has lasted for over 25 years!

I don’t remember how many times Rick preached for me, but I know it was a lot. And there’d be times when he was just passing through that he’d stop in and visit a few hours. Always a delight to have around.

He loves music, and I can still hear him singing that old Rusty Goodman song, “Who am I?” I imagine he’s doing a lot of singing now; that great, booming voice of his can probably be heard clear across Heaven! He’s crossed the chilly Jordan, and is camping in Canaan’s happy land!

I know something about Rick that many preachers don’t, or are too embarrassed to mention.

Handling Disappointment

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Just in case you don’t know me, here’s a little fact you ought to be made aware of. I love the game of football. Big boy football; the NFL. And, I am a HUGE Chicago Bears fan. Now you know.

Please don’t judge me too harshly.

I share that little bit of personal information because it will help you understand where I’m coming from. You see, in this post I’m going to write about disappointment.

Bears’ fans understand disappointment. They may not handle it very well, but they understand it.

I understand disappointment.

Memories and Berdine’s

Front 1Memories and Berdines

Remember when you were a kid? Remember how simple things were? And how about the old “Dime Stores”?

When I was young there was a store called “Places”, and it was only three blocks from where I lived. I could’ve hung out there all day if my folks would’ve allowed it. Such a cool place where a kid could find just about anything they could imagine. Model cars, squirt guns, cap guns, balsa wood gliders, army men, marbles, games, dolls; and the list could go on and on. I loved it!

Every year my wife and I travel to West Virginia to visit her family. About 20 miles from her Mom’s house is a town called Harrisville, the County Seat of Ritchie County. Within the town is Berdine’s, America’s oldest five and dime store. It has been around since 1908.

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We love to visit the store each time we’re in the area. So much stuff, so many memories. There’s no hurry as we casually meander through the narrow aisles, handling items that trigger memories of a time when life was fun and care free. A time when the burdens of our life were basically non-existent. A period when we felt secure and cared for, and were free to use our imagination.

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Memories, good memories, are important to hold onto. They can help us stay calm even during troubling situations.

In Joshua, chapter 4, the Lord instructed Joshua to have 12 men build a Memorial using 12 stones from the Jordan River.

“Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; and Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, “that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ “Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:4-7 NKJV)

The memorial was a place where people could remember the time they felt secure and cared for by God. As they looked upon the memorial stones, the victories of yesteryear would be replayed in their mind and heart. The joy and faith that had sustained them before would rise up in them, reminding each one, “Our God is for us! He has brought us here, and He will bring us through. He will finish what He started! He cares for us.”

Just a little reminder is all we need at times. A little Bible verse, someone’s picture, a bag of marbles, or maybe a little Gumby doll, could be enough to help us not give in or give up.

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Here’s an idea that just may help you. Know where your good memories are kept! Store them in a place where you have easy and quick access. A journal, a photograph, a book, whatever you have as a memorial of God’s love and care; keep them handy.

And, whether you need to buy anything, or not, it’s always enjoyable spending a leisurely afternoon reliving the memories of “the good ol’ days”, when you knew Someone cared for you…

…and He still does!

For those interested in reading more about Berdine’s:

Berdine’s
America’s Oldest Five and Dime Store
Harrisville, West Virginia
Since 1908

http://www.berdinesdimestore.com/

Hope you enjoy the pictures!

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Four Anchors

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Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors sensed that they were drawing near some land. And they took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and when they had gone a little farther, they took soundings again and found it to be fifteen fathoms. Then, fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come.
Acts 27:27-29 NKJV

Paul’s journey to Rome, with its storms, treachery, shipwreck, and rescue, would make a great movie! But just in case that doesn’t happen for a while, there is something in this story I must tell you about.

The ship and all 276 people aboard had just endured almost 2 weeks of stormy weather. It had been so bad, many had feared for their life. Now things were going fairly smooth, other than they had no idea where they were.The sailors were extremely cautious at this point. Traveling at night, they relied largely on their experience and gut feeling to alert them of possible danger. About midnight, the crew sensed they were drawing close to land. To know for sure, they took soundings (using a line with a lead weight on the end, they measured the depth of the water) a couple of times. They discovered land was fast approaching and the ship was in danger of colliding with the shore. So, to avoid the collision and disaster, they lowered four anchors and waited for the sun to come up.

Everyone has gone through, is going through, or WILL go through, storms. Each person runs the risk of becoming shipwrecked, or even worse, destroyed, as a result. But as the story illustrates, God shows us a safe way to travel, to keep from destroying ourselves and others, even through the toughest times. And though a lot of storms are not our fault, just knowing where to place the blame doesn’t help the situation.

Have you ever been overtaken by a storm? No warning, not a clue anything was brewing. It happens all the time. It was happening on Paul’s ship. The soldiers weren’t aware of danger, the prisoners (outside of Paul) didn’t really care – they were probably as good as dead, anyway. But someone on Paul’s ship with life experience recognized the possibility of impending danger; and the experience became the wisdom necessary to avoid certain disaster. Even in the dark, where it was impossible to see, the experienced ones knew what to do until they could see the issue for what it was. And in each of our lives there’s someone with the experience and wisdom to help us know how close danger is and what to do until revelation comes.

The sailors (experience and wisdom) said, “Drop four anchors and we’ll wait for the sunlight.” Light, daylight, sunshine, all speak of revelation knowledge. God, opening the eyes of their understanding, allowing them to see things from His perspective and with His wisdom.

“Drop four anchors…” Four anchors to hold them in place, to keep them from drifting, from wandering; giving them stability until the next step for action could be discerned.

In our life’s journey, these four anchors are extremely important. They help us stay in place and not drift when we can’t see what’s around us. Something that gives us stability and helps keep us from drifting. These four anchors are:

1) Hear the truth – “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.” Hebrews 2:1 NLT

Don’t trade the weighty anchor of truth for something that is only fluff. The anchor of truth can smash our foot if we drop it there, but it will also keep us from being blown about by every wind of doctrine.

2) Hope – “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…” Hebrews 6:19 NKJV

The hope of God’s promises is an anchor for our soul – our mind, our will, and our emotions. As our soul is anchored, we have greater confidence to go boldly to the Throne of Grace. Encouragement.

3) Helpful Friends –” Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. ” “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.” Proverbs 27:6,17; Ecclesiastes 4:9,10 NKJV

Friends – people who love us enough to tell us the truth AND walk with us during dark moments. People who will help us with our resolve and be there through the restoration process.

4) Holy Spirit – “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” John 16:7-15 NKJV

The Holy Spirit KNOWS what’s going on and WHY it’s happening. He will guide us INTO ALL TRUTH. He will guide us OUT OF ERROR. This anchor will keep us from turning around.

Life’s a crazy, dangerous journey at times. We all need people speaking into our lives who have the experience, wisdom, and love to help alert us to possible danger. We must listen to them, and not push them aside when we don’t like what they say.

If you’ve been running through life without these four anchors, I encourage you to stop now and secure the anchors you’ll need. Because you WILL need them.
Keep the anchors within reach, for when the slightest “drift” is detected, it’s time to act.

A Dumpy Hotel Room

Dumpy HotelDumpyI found myself in a dumpy hotel room, somewhere close to the Mexican border. How I got there, I didn’t know. Was I in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico? California? I just didn’t know. I only remember feeling like my world was enveloped in some kind of fog.

No memory, no money; only confusion. If I could have thought more clearly, I might have had enough sense to be afraid.

I was sitting on the side of my bed, match in one hand, joint in the other. I hadn’t smoked dope for a long time, but there I was, holding a joint the size of a small cigar, long and lean. How or why I had it I had no recollection. I only knew I was in a battle.

Two voices inside my head were struggling for my attention and allegiance. One voice was demanding attention, while another voice calmly promised assistance if I’d only strike the match and smoke the weed.

In all my life, I couldn’t remember such a battle. Never before had I wanted so badly to get up and run from a temptation. Yet…

Hours must have passed as I sat on the bed, staring at the doobie in my hand. Finally, I set it down, deciding to give it to a policeman who was walking just outside the hotel.

As I left my room, the calm voice which was so soothing, so assuring just a few hours earlier, began screaming so loud within my mind I was certain the other tenants could hear. The promises of assistance, of God’s help, were now screams of threats, of curses, and accompanied with a feeling of pending doom.

However, the voice that earlier was demanding my attention became the one that began to calm me, giving me a peace within.

Stepping outside, I located the policeman, and walking up to him, explained my situation. I then handed him the joint.

He asked me some routine questions, but with no memory, all I could do was look at him and shrug my shoulders. It’s not like I was trying to hide something. I just didn’t know anything.

He finally asked me the name of the person who gave me the dope. It was one of the few things I did remember. And, since I was trying to be rid of the whole ordeal, I told him.

For some odd reason, the cop insisted I accompany him to the place where I was given the dope. And stranger still, when a moment earlier I had no memory, now I could remember the address of the place and the name of the dealer.

Looking back, I now can see the power of fear and confusion. Fear keeps your mind in a muddled state. You fear what you don’t know or can’t see. When you begin to see a way out, fear comes with just enough truth of your situation to emphasize and amplify any possible problems.

When we arrived at the house, there were 3 Hispanic men on the porch of the house, each carrying a gun. I didn’t see the dealer. There were others there as well; children, running in and out of the house.

The cop called for backup, and when another couple of policemen arrived, the first cop pulled out a loudspeaker and told the 3 men to give themselves up, the place was surrounded. He proceeded to broadcast I was the one who turned them in, even giving them my name!

With that announcement, the men went inside and started firing at the police. The police returned fire, and 2 children were shot, dying instantly. I didn’t see who actually shot the kids, but I immediately left my position beside the car, retreating to a tree across the street from the house.

After a short barrage of gunfire, the men were captured. As they were being handcuffed, one of them yelled to me that I was as good as dead. I’d pay for the death of the children.

My whole world began to turn upside down. I had worked for the post office, but the police decided I needed to have my name changed, get a new, fabricated background, move to another part of the country, and start all over.

So, I went into hiding. I was told to contact no one, not even my wife.

Once again, the hideous voice of fear began to scream inside my head. Confusion, darkness, and fear accompanied the demonic voices.

About 30 days in hiding, all of a sudden a revelation hit me that changed my world!
I was running for no reason! The thoughts and reasonings in my mind were unfounded!

My ordeal and loss of memory, the joint, the cops, the shootings, and the threats were all part of a dream.

The things never happened!

I was free to live my life without fear of someone gunning me down. Without the guilt of being responsible for the death of some children. I was free! No more confusion or intimidation.

I called my wife, friends, coworkers, anyone I was even remotely acquainted with.

And then…

I awoke a second time.

Fear is a device of the devil. When the spirit of fear is present, the strength to do the right thing, the compassion to help others, and the ability to make good decisions are all greatly hampered.

Fear causes you to live in a fog, a dream, a place where reality is unknown, and the unknown becomes reality. It speaks “prophetically” to its adherents, and is worshipped and obeyed as truth.

But the Word of God says, “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” 2 Tim. 1:7

There are a lot of things in our world that can cause us to fear – if we allow them. Allowing suggestions of fear to gain our attention, our focus, opens a door to the spirit of fear.

But just as there are plenty of things causing fear, those same things are opportunities to believe God! Fear will paralyze, but faith will liberate. Fear relies on half-truths, dark rooms, uncertain diagnostics. Faith relies on one thing – God.

You may be wishing someone would come along and wake you from your dream, from your unknown world. Be assured, God has an answer for everything you are going through. His Word will eliminate your fears! He will turn your confusion into soundness of mind.

Everyone faces an unknown world, a dreamworld, at times. But no one has to face it alone! “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.“

So we may boldly say:
“The LORD is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me.”
(Hebrews 13:5-6 NKJV)

“Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
(Isaiah 41:10 NKJV)

“Drop Kick Me Jesus…”

“Drop kick me Jesus…” A cute little song by Bobby Bare.

God NEVER intended for His people to barely make it through this life and into the next, without a testimony of His power and victory evident in their life. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”(Romans 8:29-30 NKJV)

The word “predestined” can toss you around if you’re not careful. It does not mean God has already decided who will and who won’t be saved. God’s not willing any perish or go to an eternal hell. Rather He IS willing, and made it possible, for ALL men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. So ANYONE and EVERYONE can become a new creation in Christ and spend now and forever abiding in His Presence.

“…He also predestined…” in the above passage could be paraphrased in this manner: “God knows who will come to Him through His Son, Jesus. And all who come to Him are destined to be changed into His likeness, His image. It’s an established plan. God won’t settle for any less.”

God desired to have a family, created in His image, after His likeness. Adam started out well, but ended falling way short. But Jesus, the Second Adam, brought mankind back to the place where fellowship with God is possible. Possible, through faith in Jesus. And our “destiny”, in Jesus, is to be changed into His exact likeness, His image; acting like Him in all ways, thought, word, and deed. As the Son is, so shall we be (see John 17 and Hebrews 1:1-3). “Pre” means “before” so think of it this way: God planned our destiny in Jesus before it was possible. He “prepaid” for our eternal hope and future.

I believe it’s time for us to see ourselves the way God sees us in Christ. Time for us to understand “this life” on earth is only separated from our “next life” by our earthly body. What God has, or hasn’t, accomplished in us while on earth will continue. “He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it.” 

So, enjoy the cute song. Especially if you like country music. But look into God’s Word and discover what He has already accomplished for you in Christ. And don’t be satisfied with barely making it through life. 

You are not a football. 

What Encourages YOU?

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I’m taking a survey. I’m wondering what things encourage you?

What lifts you when you’re down?

What gives you courage to face the unfaceable?

How do you find strength to do the impossible?

What gets you off the bench of self-pity and back into the game of life?

What is the adrenalin for your soul? A word spoken by a real friend, a helping hand when your two aren’t enough?

Do you prefer a note, letter, email, or phone call from a friend?

Does God ever encourage you? How?

When you’ve “drawn the blinds” to your world, put your phone on silent, and placed yourself on the island of Me-Only, what brings you back to the land called Life?

How do you tell the difference between pity and encouragement?

When you find yourself stumbling through the valley of the shadow of death, what gets you through?

We may think we’ve encouraged someone (we feel good), but may have totally missed the mark. So this question isn’t “how do you encourage others?”

No, the question is…

What encourages YOU?

Thanks for replying!

The Master Plan… my short story

Jan and Phyllis2It was a dark and dreary night, which seemed to last a lifetime.

In fact, it was lasting a lifetime. The first 20 years of my life.

Darkness and chaos describe my early years. Oh, sure, there were glimpses of light and order, hope and joy, now and then. But dreariness described my life as a whole.

Kind of like when “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. There wasn’t a sign in the heavens inviting change. No. Darkness, disorder, decadence, and dismay screamed constantly at Him and His plans, “We cannot, will not, be changed. We will forever remain like this!” That seemed to describe my life.

But, the entrance of His Word brought light; and the rest, they say, is history.

I had times, as a kid, really enjoyed my life and thought things were great. Like the times we’d have the neighborhood over and play ball in our backyard. Kids everywhere, running, laughing, without a care in the world. Or the time the ice cream truck would come down the street, beckoning us with its happy tune. All the neighborhood kids would stop what they were doing, run to find their parents, and literally beg them into buying a Buried Treasure, Drumstick, or some other sweet and cold treat. Ah, the good old days.

There were a few times of hope and joy as a teenager, but those years were primarily filled with strife and unrest. Not much hope for the future. No promise of life, that I could see anyway. Have you ever known someone who seemed to be okay and in great health, but was really losing a battle with cancer? That’s how my life was. Looked alright on the outside, but inside I was dying. If something happened I didn’t like, couldn’t control, or attacked my vulnerable heart, I would pack up and leave. I tried fighting back, but eventually concluded leaving was the best way to preserve what life I had.

A few people told me about this Man named Jesus. Fairytale stuff, as far as I was concerned. Besides, I didn’t need religion. Darkness and chaos were serving me just fine. It was something I was used to.

When I was 17, darkness seemed to ease up a bit. I met this girl who began to love me; darkness, chaos, hurt and all. I was so energized by her, hope for the future began to grow. Plans for a life together were forming. Buying an old “Bread Truck” decorated with colorful flowers, travelling the country, playing music, seeing the sights, living the dream, became known to us as “The Master Plan”.

We finally did get married and started living the Plan. No bread truck, just a cool 1964 Rambler Classic 770 named “Roger”. Life was but a dream, sh-boom, sh-boom.

Something happened during our second year of living our dream. I can’t really explain it. I only know we met this couple who had a “light” shining in their life. Love and life seemed to exude from them, attacking the darkness surrounding us; as though God was looking at our world, commanding His light to shine in our dark places.

Light be! Light was!

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of Life.”

That was close to forty years ago. Never did get a bread truck. We have done some traveling, played some music, lived a few dreams, had a few nightmares. But we discarded the Master Plan. Traded it in for something full of love, life and hope. A future and a hope! We call it “The Master’s Plan.”

And the rest is, as they say, His Story.

If darkness and chaos has filled your life, there is a God in Heaven Who knows how to change your world.

a simple reminder…

A New Day

We may struggle remembering things such as names, dates, assignments, and the like. But God has given everyone a way to NEVER FORGET the important things.

Just a simple reminder. As simple as the dawning of a new day.

Each time the sun rises in the east, signifying the beginning of a new day, let that ordinary event remind you of God’s extraordinary promises!

See the rising sun as a simple reminder of “NEW”:

Covenant – 2 Cor. 3:6
Creation – 2 Cor. 5:17
Freedom – 2 Cor. 3:17
Mind – Rom. 12:1,2
Provision – Matt. 6:11
Power – Acts 1:8
Things – Isa. 43:19
Comforter – John 14:26
Coming of the Lord – 2 Pet. 3:12
Heaven and Earth – Rev. 21

and also Lam. 3:22,23
Compassion
Hope
Mercy
Faithfulness
Living

Just God’s simple way of saying to us, “If I can make the sun rise each and every day, please know you can trust Me to help with the small things.”

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