The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Category: The Man (page 2 of 3)

Why Irma, God?

I find myself asking, “Why, God?”, a lot these days.  Today it’s, “Why Irma, God?”  It should barrel into South Florida as a Category 5 or 4.  It will hit the Tampa Bay area late Saturday night into Sunday morning as maybe a Category 3 or 2 storm.

It’s by far the worst we’ve seen since moving here in 1989.  Since we lose power sometimes when it rains, the only question is how long it will be out.  Flooding isn’t a worry, but trees downed by storm winds are.  Our house and pool cage could take direct hits.  Then there’s all the beautiful vegetation Lois has planted and painstakingly nurtured.  She put her heart into it.  Not a life-loss, still a significant loss and a potentially huge mess to clean up.

It doesn’t help that I’m captive to a wheelchair.  My condition makes me virtually useless, and I hate it.  I guess it’s the old “man as protector” thing.

So, “Why Irma, God?”

To cite Paul, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains . . . “ (Romans 8:22).  But the day is coming when “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).  Paul implies that creation itself is impacted by our sin against our Creator.  And, though one day it will be set free, now it’s “groaning in labor pains.”  I take Irma, and Harvey before her, to be some of those “labor pains.”

Scenes of Harvey’s devastation evoked my empathy.  Warnings of Irma’s potential devastation evokes my fear.  It’s fear of the unknown.  I don’t know what to expect.  Don’t know the damage-extent.  Don’t know how long our power will be off and, how long we’ll be drinking warm water and eating out of cans and sweating without A/C.

Compared to flooded homes in Texas, it seems minor—but not insignificant.  Somehow making those comparisons never makes me feel better.

So, God’s children in Christ suffer creation’s labor pains like everybody else.  Irma isn’t jogging around Christians.  Our long-range hope is the day when “creation itself will be set free . . . and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”  But what’s our short-range hope?

Initially, before the Florida-track was inevitable, I asked the Lord to blow Irma out to sea.  Now I pray for “protection”.  That means no trees driven down onto our house or pool screen.  Minimal damage to our yard.  Limited time without power.  Safety for all our family and friends.

It suddenly occurs to me I should be praying for faith to trust the Lord.  For grace to act lovingly toward Lois in my stress.  For grace to accept my wheelchair without getting angry at God.  For grace to be an encouragement—and, yes, even a source of strength—to Lois.  (I’m not implying she’s cringing in a corner!)  For grace to look at the trees surrounding our house and trust that the Lord’s power to hold them up is greater than Irma’s to fell them.

Irma is a reminder that life in this fallen world can be, not only hard, but dangerous.  Labor pains are intense (right, moms?).  But mothers forget the pains at the joy of holding their little one.  So Irma will leave (the sooner the better), and we’ll thank God for his care.

Irma is a reminder, too, of how dependent we are on our Father.  Our sense of daily security is illusory.  In the end our houses, our jobs, our money, our physical strength—none of it makes us secure.  Only our Father.  So, when Irma barrels in, we’re (as always) in his hands.

And his Son’s hands are nail-scarred to make us forever (and even threatened by Irma’s winds) his.  That’s what I’m counting on.

The Nail




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Did Jesus “Come”?

By last evening, the weakness/numbness/ache (I don’t know how to describe it) had crept from my feet into my upper body and into my head.  I felt consumed by it, shriveling up.  I was suddenly afraid of what lay ahead.

This head-numbness has come before.  It’s made writing my blog impossible, because it saps my mental energy and leaves me in a strange “fog”.  But last evening was the worst.

I was alone in the house, because Lois had taken Scooby-Girl, our dog, for a needed walk.  I decided to lay down in bed, hoping that might alleviate my symptoms.

I prayed my feeble prayer  (“feeble” because it’s more desperation than faith):  “Jesus, take pity on me.  Have compassion on me and heal me.  Reverse the progress of this illness and restore what it’s taken.”  I placed first one hand, then the other, over my eyes and forehead, repeating my prayer and waiting in silence, in darkness.

Suddenly, it  felt as if Jesus was there.  It wasn’t a physical feeling—a spiritual sense, I’d call it. I saw nothing.  I had no vision of him.  But I imagined (though, I think, not intentionally) Jesus coming to me, telling me it was okay, that he was healing me.  Then, peace quieted me.

After about 15 minutes, I decided I had to act on what I believed just happened.  So I got up.  No numbness in my head; it felt fine.  It remained so for the rest of the evening and again this morning.

What should I make of this?

Did Jesus really “come” and heal my head?  That has been the worst part of my illness, because I’m not able to seriously read or creatively write when the numbness “hits”.  Did the Lord reverse the progress of this illness, at least in my head?  Is this the start of a total reversal?  Or was Jesus’ “coming” just my imagination, and I felt better because I had laid down?  My head is okay yet this morning, but often the numbness doesn’t reach it until later in the day.

One thing I know (like the healed blind man in John 9).  Before I laid down and prayed, my head was consumed by my illness.  And I was afraid.  When I got up, my head was fine and fear was gone.

Maybe Jesus healed my head just for last evening, because the condition was so bad.  If so, I’m thankful for that respite.  Of course,  I hope and pray for more: that Jesus might have started a reversal he’ll continue.  Maybe it will be total (wouldn’t that be amazing!), maybe partial.  Though I want all, I’ll take whatever healing he gives.

But suppose Jesus’ “coming” last evening was my imagination?  Suppose my head numbness returns?  Will I be disappointed, discouraged?  I’d like to say I’d be thankful for one better evening; but I won’t.  No way I wouldn’t be disappointed and discouraged.

But, for now, I’m going to keep hoping and keep praying.

P.S.  I hesitated writing this until I knew more.  But I figured if Jesus healed my head only for last night, he should receive glory for it.  And if it all was just my imagination, well, I’m willing to be called crazy for believing Jesus still does that sort of thing.


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The Hurt and the Healer

Can you bear reading about me again?  I write about me because writing helps crystallize my thinking about what I’m suffering.  So it’s for me.  I do it, too, because I pray it encourages you in your painful place, whether now or some tomorrow.  So it’s for you.

For months I’ve struggled drawing near to God.  Not that I’ve disbelieved; I just kind of kept my distance.  Like a master-hurt puppy who shies away.  After all, God is sovereign.  So he sent or at least allowed this primary lateral sclerosis.  Shying-away may be sin, or at least foolishness.  But, that’s how I felt.

I’ve asked, “Why this, Lord?”  Of course, he answered long before I asked . . .   So I would learn better to rely, not on myself, but on him who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9).  So I could comfort others with the comfort I receive (2 Corinthians 1:8).  So I would grow in endurance and character and hope in God (Romans 5:3-5).  So I might know Christ in the fellowship of suffering (Philippians 3:10).

I didn’t like his answers.  I wanted (and still want) healing.  I want to walk.  I want all my broken parts to work right.  And I pray that way.  My brother-in-law, through his weekly phone calls (and at many other times), prays that way for me.  (Excuse him.  He’s a Pentecostal and believes God still heals.  So do I.)

I know what I’m asking.  PLS has no cure; it just progressively worsens.  But nothing is impossible with God, right (Luke 1:37)?  So in my shy-puppy position, I’ve prayed.  And I’ve stubbornly thought, “If this is supposed to teach me better reliance on the Lord, if it’s aimed at improving my endurance and character and hope, if this is geared at drawing me into closer fellowship with Christ, it ain’t working.  (Well, so far as I can tell.)

Recently, through my study of John Piper’s A Peculiar Glory (which I’m summarizing on my blog posts),  I’ve been reminded of what I’ve believed for a lifetime–the Scriptures are the very words of God.  They’re truth.  Reality.  The only sure objective ground on which I stand.  Everything that doesn’t measure up to them totters and falls.  So lately I’ve grasped Reality more tightly again.

And I’ve started again to encounter the Healer.  With open arms.  With a welcoming heart.  I’m learning to accept that, until he heals me (in the land of the living or in the resurrection), this is his chosen path for me.  (Though not my choice.)  With my mind I’m standing on his word.  With my heart I’m hungry for his presence.

I’m not saying (to follow the shy-puppy theme) I’m racing excitedly for the door when I hear Jesus come home.  But I am kinda nudging at his hand.

Shocking that a pastor for 44 years has such struggles?  Well, I’ve learned (as I’ve written before) there’s a Grand-Canyon-wide difference between trusting God when one is young and healthy and busy in significant ministry and trusting him when one is old and weak and largely “on the shelf”.  How easily (and naively) I preached from Philippians 3:8-11 . . .

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ– the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

“I want to know Christ . . . and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.”  My sufferings are world’s apart from his.  Yet in mine, I’ve been at times a spiritual wimp.  So much more maturing needed!

But, as I wrote above, I’m a puppy nudging at his hand.  A skeptic might argue, “If you believe the Lord sent or allowed your suffering, you’re an idiot for cozying up to him for comfort!  Typical Christian craziness.”

No, my skeptic friend.  God means it for good.  I admit I can’t see the good.  And I know it sounds foolish. He can see better than I can!  Besides,  to whom else can I go?  Curse God and die means only death (the eternal kind).  No!  The day will come (call me crazy) when this suffering will seem “light and momentary”–because I’ll be dancing (something I never could do!)

So while I pray and wait for healing, I’m learning to be happy with the Healer . . .


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I Need You, Lord

So I’m sitting in my wheelchair talking to my air conditioning guy.  Well, he’s more than an A/C guy.  He’s a friend and my brother in Christ.  Anyway, he’s telling me about his two-year affliction.  He never felt closer to the Lord.  All he could do was read God’s Word.

So I’m feeling convicted.  By my A/C guy!  He didn’t know it, and I didn’t admit it.  But he was the Lord’s preacher for me.

See, it was another day I wasn’t feeling well, not feeling God close but wondering where God was.  So I got convicted.

Earlier that day I had read a few chapters in Job.  One “comforter”—Eliphaz—pointed his indictment at Job:  “Because he has stretched out his hand against God and defies the Almighty, running stubbornly against him . . . “ (Job 15:25,26a).  Suddenly, I felt the indictment and wondered, “Am I being stubborn against the Almighty God?”

What I mean is, I want to walk.  I hate this Primary Lateral Sclerosis.  I’m done with this wheelchair.  I’m weary of remembering all the things I can’t do any more.  I want to walk along the ocean with my beautiful wife.  Play baseball with my grandson.  Feed the horse in our pasture.  Paint the bathroom (really).  I loathe being so dependent on Lois.

Two weeks ago, my brother-in-law (with whom I speak weekly by phone) asked me if he should pray differently for me. Forever daily, and every week with me on the phone, he’s prayed for my healing and was ready to keep on.  But should he pray differently?   I asked him to continue.  I hardly had the faith to pray for healing; I needed him to do it for me.  He promised he would.

But now I wonder if I’m just being stubborn.  Should I (and he) pray for grace, for Christ’s power to rest on me, so that in my weakness I can be strong (2 Corinthians 12:9,10)?  Is that what God wants?  Not to reveal his power to heal of my weakness, but to reveal his power to be strong in weakness?  I don’t know.  Or am I just being stubborn?

Here’s what I know for certain.  It’s what this song says.  I need you, Lord!  I need him to raise me above my feelings of loss that rule my mind.  I need him to heal me.  Not even the impossible is impossible for him, right?  But, if he chooses not to heal me, I need him to rest in Christ’s power on me in weakness.  Not mostly so I can feel better.  But mostly so Christ can be seen in me, for his sake.

I’m confused.  But I know this . . .

I need you, Lord.  And I suspect others do too,  So:  we need you, Lord . . .


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Free Will or Predestined?

You have to listen to this.  I did, and I recommend it.  It’s not how-many-angels-on-a-pinhead theology.  It’s personal.  It impacts our lives.  It helps ground us in God’s love in Christ.  And it leaves us rejoicing. 

It did me.


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Though You Slay Me

So I was feeling pretty discouraged today.  I know.  How can that be when I’m for the second time reading through Tim Keller’s book, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, and getting great grace from the Lord through it.

And, not only that, I’m blogging an overview of it.  So I’m forced to think deeply about the book’s message.  And, not only that, I’m often writing my response, which means I’m personalizing the message.

Recently, one of my daughters said, “Dad always was a half-glass-empty kind of person.”  Ouch!  And true.  Many years ago I took a personality test that confirmed it.  Besides, like Paul I sometimes feel like the chief of sinners whose sin-nature easily gains the upper hand.  (I’m earnestly hoping you’re saying, “I relate.  I, too, often fall under the dominion of discouragement.”  I hope you’re saying it because I don’t want to feel like some kind of freak.

Here’s how bad I am:  just about every day I allow thoughts of what I can’t do anymore due to my disability.  Today for instance, lurking there in my subconscious playing over and over was the thought (complete with subconscious image) that I’ll never even walk again.  Do you know how many things you can’t do because you can’t walk?  I could easily list a dozen; but that would only deepen my discouragement.

So  a cloud hangs over me.  It’s so dark my wife, Lois, asked why I was mad at her.

Then I found an email from my daughter–an email with a song her husband and she had found and thought of me.  (My two daughters do that all the time–hear a Youtube song and email it to me, hoping the Lord will use it to bear me up.)

Invariably when I listen, tears stream down my face, because the song, given in love by my daughters, becomes a gift of God’s grace to me.  The song below is one of those.

First, it convicted me.  I know its message.  So I should have filled my mind with it.  Instead, I let Satan control my subconscious.  But, then, I let the song speak to me.  My discouragement lifted.  The cloud drifted away.  God’s gift of grace filled me again.

Maybe the song will do the same for you.  Or, maybe it will ready you for the next time the dark discouragement cloud drifts near.  Listen to God’s grace . . .

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Dear Subscribers

P.AllanI began blogging back in March 2014.  Driven to retirement after 44 years of pastoring by primary lateral sclerosis, my mind longed to continue in ministry while my body fought against it.  I dreamed of writing a book, but that intimidated me.  A blog seemed the best bet.

So, after praying for guidance, I began.  “If nobody reads it,” I reasoned, “at least I’ll be somewhat creatively capturing my thoughts in printed form.”  Soon, however, I realized, “If nobody reads what I write, what’s the point?”

I devised a plan:  I would subscribe members of the church I formerly pastored.  Surely they would be okay with that.  And, if not, they could easily unsubscribe.  (Yes, that’s the sneaky way some of you ended up receiving my blog. )

For a month or more, daily visitors languished in the single digits.  Well, at least a few were reading.  So I plugged along, enjoying the study and the writing, and praying readership would grow.  I didn’t aim for a “mega-blog.”  That was (is) way beyond me.  But I really did want to speak God’s Word into the lives of as many people as possible.  In short, I hoped to continue my preaching ministry through a writing ministry.

My motivation wasn’t entirely selfless.  As an “older-old” (now 72) and mostly shut-in,  I very much needed a continuing sense of significance.  Not ego.  A sense that my life still counted for the sake of the Gospel.  I wasn’t ready to curl up on the couch with potato chips watching TV through glazed-over eyes.  I wanted to serve, to contribute.

I always pastored small churches over 44 years.  The first (in Atco, N.J.) had been without a pastor for nine months when I arrived.  A handful of older people hanging on, but when Lois and I left three years later, the church had grown to 40-50 people, a sizeable young people’s group among them.

We left because I had been asked to plant a church in northern New Jersey.  We named it The Living Church, and it was the most “alive” church I’d ever known.  From zero, we grew to about 120 at its peak after nearly 17 years of ministry.  Not a magazine-feature number, but a broad age-range and multi-ethnic members made it a most exciting community of believers.

Next we spent 24 years in Florida.  What began as a dying church of older folks (Port Richey Community Church) became a church of all ages, though small—as many as about 90 people at one time, but mostly around 50-60.  We sold an old building and built new (something I said I never would do!) and SonRise Community Church (our new name) grew into a Christ-centered family with exciting prospects for the future.

But my illness left me behind.  As I said, I longed to continue in significant ministry.  But would it be significant?

Well, as of today, has 651 subscribers!  According to my statistics, people are reading from about 2/3 of the United States and more than 20 countries around the world.  (Obviously these are English-speaking readers, because the best I could do even in high school Spanish was a “D”!)  Far more people are reading my words about God’s word (his word is what’s important) than ever heard me preach over 44 years combined!

I’m not telling you this to boast.  Like the apostle Paul, my only boast is in the Lord.  This is his doing.  The glory, the praise, the applause all goes to him.

I am so grateful to still be able to serve.  I praise him that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).  My body may be “wasting away”, but God hasn’t taken back his gracious gifts!

And I thank him for you, dear reader.  That you make the time to read what I’ve written about our Lord.  That you allow the Holy Spirit to cause his word to come alive in your life.  That I have a small part in the person you are becoming for your greatest good and God’s greatest glory.  I don’t even know most of you.  But I so much appreciate you.  You don’t know how you’ve blessed me by subscribing and reading.  You are God’s gift to me at this time in my life.  Thank you.

I don’t want to make more of this than warranted.  I’m sure you have others who speak God’s word into your life to a greater extent than I.  I’m content to be supplemental.  To serve where the Lord has put me.

So I pray to be faithful.  I pray to be fruitful.  And I thank you for the blessed encouragement you are to me.  I pray you will receive the greater blessing.  So that through our “connection”, God may be most glorified, the name of Jesus exalted, and the Holy Spirit’s presence enjoyed and made visible in our lives as we follow our Lord together.

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The Holy Spirit and Me

O PreacherHaving clearly road-mapped my future blogging  ( , I’m abruptly turning down an unexpected side road . . .

Christian Titles.

I’ve never paid much mind to Christian titles, whether denominational (Baptist, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, etc.) or theological (Arminian, Reformed, amillennial, etc.)  They sometimes categorize unfairly.  Like: every Baptist is like every other Baptist and so on.)  As far as the theological groupings, (as I’ve said before), I think they all have to twist certain texts to fit their systems.  I suspect when we see Jesus we’ll all realize we were a little wrong.

For that reason, I’ve never been big on systematic theology.  In 44 years of preaching and teaching, I’ve primarily focused on the text at hand, trying to read it as much as possible as the original readers would have, and hopefully close to what the author intended.

My Story.

I was raised, and originally ordained, in an Assemblies of God church.  I have a Pentecostal heritage. (Note: I don’t hold to all the A/G tenets of faith.)   Neither time nor space allows me to fully define Pentecostalism nor relate its history.  (Google “Pentecostalism” and find plenty.)  To some, Pentecostal conjures up images of people falling on the floor or barking like dogs or prophesying the future.  While sadly those images are based on fact, that’s not the Pentecostalism I grew up in.  Yes, being baptized in the Spirit with “the initial physical evidence of speaking in other tongues” was emphasized, occasionally overly.  But, by and large, the manifestations of the Spirit’s gifts were kept within biblical bounds.  More than gifts, Pentecostalism meant, at least for me,  a rich presence of God the Holy Spirit, a personal experience with him that reached deeper inward than the mind alone.

In later years of pastoring, I was progressively drawn to Reformed theology (Calvinism).  It answered many questions, but gave rise to others.  Again, I won’t give details, except to say it remains a vital part of the theological foundation of my faith.  Now I find Charismatic (a so-called “second wave” Pentecostalism) Reformed folks, Sam Storms, for one  (  I’m not sure I fit comfortably in that camp either.  But I do know in my limited experience I have missed the sense of God’s empowering presence (to use Gordon Fee’s term) among the Reformed.  (As I’ve said, none of us has it all right!)

So now in my “retired” years, without letting go of the good Reformed theology provides, I find part of my heart returning to some of my Pentecostal heritage.   I have recently quoted Dr. Gordon Fee, an American-Canadian Christian theologian and an ordained minister of the Assemblies of God (USA). He currently serves as Professor Emeritus of New Testament Studies at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia.

God’s Empowering Presence.

I recently came across the following from Dr. Fee in his book, Listening to the Spirit in the Text ( include it here because I’ve written recently about God the Holy Spirit in Galatians.  Fee’s  words profoundly spoke to me.  To them, my heart said, “Amen!”

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” . . . I began to think of my own Pentecostal heritage (that is, Fee’s), and how we have depersonalized the Spirit–not in our theology itself, mind you, but in our ways of thinking and talking about the Spirit.  Our speech is what betrays us.  With us the Spirit is depersonalized into an empowering experience.  We are empowered by the experience, but not by the empowering presence of God himself.  And then I thought of my lifelong existence in evangelical circles–where the Spirit is kept safely in the creed and the liturgy.  He is personal, well enough.  We would be unorthodox to think otherwise.  But for many, he is anything but God’s empowering presence.  Our images are biblical, but they are also impersonal.  He is wind, fire, water–comes to us as an influence, or whatever.  But he is not the one in whom and by whom we are sharing in the very love and grace and life of God himself.  And I do not mean in some mystical way.  Our problem is that the language of Father and Son evokes personal images; but the Spirit evokes that which is intangible, not quite real, because incorporeal (immaterial, ethereal). Paul’s prayer on the other hand (“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”–2 Corinthians 13,14), is that they might know the grace of Christ, the visible historical expression of the love of God, because as people of the Spirit they live in constant, empowering fellowship with God himself.  This is how the loving God and gracious Lord Jesus Christ are now present with us” (p. 29).

This, whatever our theological stripe, I pray for us all.



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O Preacher“Get depressed?” my doctor’s assistant asked me last week.   “Sometimes,” I answered.  Were they afraid I’d commit suicide by chocolate-eating-orgy?  No, it was for the government or insurance or something.  But, yes, I do get depressed.  And sometimes the darkness just won’t lift.

I’m confessing this because I’d like you to know me better and to know why my blogging is sporadic.

I’ve had back troubles for about eight years (I’m 72).  I’ve had two open back surgeries, plus tons of tests and piles of pills.  Not long ago, doctors finally settled on a diagnosis:  primary lateral sclerosis.  It’s a chronic, incurable neurological disease that causes a slowly progressive weakness in voluntary muscle movement in the legs, arms and face. The speed and extent of the progression differs from person to person.  Along with the weakness in my legs and, to a lesser extent in my arms, is an ache in my legs, back and lately neck with changing intensity.  I need a walker to get around.  I planned to enter our county’s annual walker race recently, but it happened to fall on one of my weaker days.  Knowing I’d be lapped by a 91 year old grandmother, I stayed home.  (Just kidding.)

Almost two years ago, PLS compelled me to retire from pastoring.  I still loved what I was doing, but I was treading water (figuratively) and it wasn’t fair to the church to have 48% of a pastor.  (That percentage is quite accurate;  I did much research study.)   After 24 years at this church and 44 years in all, retirement brought a huge change-of-life for me.  I laugh, because one church member encouraged Lois (my wife) and me to take it easy and do some traveling.  The biggest trip I take these days, though, is down my driveway to the mailbox.  I haven’t been able to find a suitable postcard about it to send to my friends.

Blogging has become my means of ministry.  (I’m sure God invented the Internet for bigger reasons, but I’m thankful to be plugged in!)  However, my physical condition prevents me from writing more regularly.  I wish I could do one blog a day.  But there are times it takes me two or three days to write one. 

Depression hits when I let myself get under the weight of it all.  I lay in bed with my (mostly) sound mind thinking of all the things I can do and write.  Then I get up and my body becomes my enemy.  Of course I’ve prayed.  Many have prayed.  But God’s answer has been to give grace in my weakness instead of healing from it.  (My condition is far less harsh than Job’s, but there are days I think he and I could have gotten along quite well.  )

Of course the promise of eternal life in a new righteous creation gives me hope.  Problem is, I’m the kind of guy who prefers pictures before I go to a new place. Instead God has given only the  highly symbolic Book of Revelation word-picture.  I content myself with the new creation being “more than I can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20); however I’d still like to be in better shape in this old creation.  So I keep praying for healing, though, I have to admit, not with any great expectation.  (Please don’t tell anyone I said that.)

My wife and children and grandchildren have been great in their understanding and care.  Yet even that’s hard, since I’m used to being a doer, not a receiver.

Well, I don’t want to rain on your parade any more today.  Just wanted you to know me a bit better and to understand my blogging inconsistency.  I appreciate so much that you read what I write.  I sincerely pray daily that the Lord will use it in your life to cause you to know him better and love him more.

I appreciate your prayers for me.  And I will pray for you.  If you’d like me to pray about a specific need, just reply to a blog.  I won’t publish any prayer request you send; but I will pray.  That will be a much-appreciated expansion of my ministry at this time in my life.

Thank you for the privilege of ministering to you through my writing.  I thank God for the opportunity, and I thank him for you.  May his Word continue to teach us all, and reprove and correct us, and train us in right-living, so we may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16,17).

Grateful for His covenant love and infinite wisdom

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The (Little) Man Meets Jesus

O PreacherOne of the main section-titles of my blog post is “The Man”.  Not “man” as in macho; “man” as in ordinary.  From time to time I’ll write some of my story as an exhibit of God working in an ordinary life.

Sounds pretentious, no?  God at work in ordinary me?  The Bible is full of such miracles.  Remember the little boy Samuel (1 Samuel)?  How about the disciples (the Gospels)?  God—the Holy One, the Creator and Sustainer of everything, the eternal Master of all—really does reveal himself to, in and through ordinary, common, everyday people.  Perhaps the most touching example is this . . .

Little Children and Jesus.

People were bringing little children to [Jesus], for him to touch them. The disciples scolded them,  but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.  In truth I tell you, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’  Then he embraced them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing (Mark 10:13-16, NJB).

When the opportunity arose, Jewish parents typically brought their children to a rabbi (teacher) for his blessing.  That seems to be the case here.  Jesus uses the occasion to teach the necessity of welcoming God’s kingdom like a little child.  My point is simpler:  Jesus welcomed little children.  He “embraced them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.”

When I think of this incident, I wonder what became of those little children?  We’re never told, of course.  Did this blessing merely make mothers feel happy and peaceful?  Or did it lead years later to these children believing the Gospel and becoming Jesus-followers themselves?  Were any of these children eventually instrumental in others giving their lives to Jesus?

“Little” Me and Jesus.

I received Jesus into my life when I was ten.  The year was 1953.  The place was “the 500 room” (that’s how many seats it had) in Bethany Church, Paterson, New Jersey.   All Sunday school classes were there to hear a visiting preacher.  At the end of his little sermon he said, “Now let’s have every head bowed and every eye closed.  If you want to ask Jesus into your heart, raise your hand.”  My parents had taken me to Sunday school and church from as early as I could remember.  But I had never made a public decision to follow Jesus.  After a minute, I tentatively raised my hand.

I should have known what was coming next.  “If you raised your hand, come down to the front and we’ll pray.”  My seat (center section, second or third row) seemed like center stage.  No escape.  I had to do it.  I got up from my chair and walked to the front of the platform with about 15 or 20 other kids.   The preacher prayed, then asked us to “repeat after me” some version of “the sinner’s prayer.”

When he sent us back to our seats, I was a bit dazed.  This public thing had driven shy me out of my comfort zone.  Or, was it something more?  Did I really meet Jesus?

I can’t remember now what the following days were like.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t become some sort of little saint.  Didn’t want the Bible more than dessert.  Didn’t count the days until next Sunday like I did for Christmas.  If I had to describe those days, I’d say “same as always.”  So maybe that episode was just socialization.  Or . . . had I really met Jesus?

Three years later I was baptized in water.  I suppose I did it because it was the next step.  This step was down into the water of the baptistery (we inelegantly called it the baptism tank).  I took my position next to our pastor and looked out at the Sunday evening crowd.  I gave my testimony (brief since I had no shady past to confess).  Promised I wanted to follow Jesus.  Was put under and raised.  I’d gone in dry, came out wet.  Did anything else happen?  Since ours was a Pentecostal church, if I had burst out in “other tongues”, the congregation would have erupted in praise.  But my tongue lay silent in my mouth.  Except for feeling wet and relieved, there was no change in me.  So maybe baptism was just a church “rite of passage.”  Or . . . had Jesus been there?

Looking back six decades later. I believe God was beginning to reveal Jesus to me and in me.  Those two events weren’t just socialization or rites of passage.  Jesus was there.  My experiences, though far less dramatic, were just as real as an alcoholic or a wife-abuser turning his life over to Jesus.

Small Beginnings.

Holy moments with Jesus often come in ordinary places.  And may even outwardly seem insignificant.  Take Sunday school, for example.  You know how it goes.  You’ve got a handful of youngsters who each drank a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew for breakfast.  They can’t sit still.  Can’t stop spouting off-the-subject stuff.  Can’t stop acting silly.  When the class ends, you fall into a chair and bemoan the wasted hour.  But it probably wasn’t wasted.  Sure, you didn’t plant your whole package of seeds, but a few fell threw that Mountain Dew.  And God the Holy Spirit will use them.

So when we think of our children, we’d be wise to remember God’s work in their lives often starts small, as it did in mine.  And we’d be especially wise to remember this prophetic admonition from a different situation but applicable to ours . . .

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin . . . ” (Zechariah 4:10a)





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