Thursday, April 30, 2015

The tears are still flowing

I trust you read yesterday;s post.  If not, take a couple of minutes to read my explanation of my feeling as I watch another of the streets of our great nation being torn asunder.  And now, my feelings about tomorrow's carnage.

I first sensed the feelings erupt while I was living in the Los Angeles area and had friends and business associates, either living nearby, or having businesses in the "watts" area when those riots took place. The first picture I saw of the carnage happened to include a building, a store front in particular, where I had worked with friends to get established a few years earlier.  Our concept was to take in used clothing for re-sale and offer it to nearby neighbors.  I did some door-to-door soliciting before we were open and in doing so, became friends with a number of the folks living in the area. And when they came to the store to look around, I offered them real discounts as sort of a "primer" to increase our sales.  It worked.

Next door was a Chinese restaurant and that became my lunch place where my "friends" knew me as soon as I walked through the front door and always had a "new"" dish for me to taste.  Four months in the area and I thought I had discovered a new, home away from home.  And now, my "home" was in ashes.  Why?  I had no idea, but I was about to learn, the folks in that area had grown tired of the police harassment, merely because of the color of their skin.

How could I know?  I had friends on the police force, good friends with one man on the State police who had previously served that area as a city policeman.  I talked with him and learned, the claims were typically found to be half truths.  Half of the arrests were for legitimate causes and the rest, questionable.  A car would be stopped for a minor infraction and then, the race "issue" helped to escalate the incident.

Years would pass by until I was asked to join in with a church group, interested in prison ministry, and we visited a State prison nearby and then, a few local jails.  Our primary interest involved Bible lessons, but as I noticed the disinterest, especially among the younger inmates, I started to question those I could and was immediately reminded of the stories I had hear in "my" old neighborhood.  I did some research and discovered, there were real issues involved and my attempts to locate people who might be interested in a legitimate analysis of the situation were typically ignored,  I learned that - for the most part, my church friends had little or no interest and even the Bishop of the denomination to which I belonged offered no encouragement.  I moved on with my life.

Then, there was the death of a young black man living near to community where I had once lived, shot by a white man who was carrying a gun, issued by his employer whose responsibility it was to protect the apartment area where the shooting occurred.  You probably read of the trial that ensued and the jury that found the shooter to be "not guilty" of the crime for which he had been charged.  My thoughts immediately went back to the impressions of my neighbor friends living in the Watts area.

And then there was Ferguson, MO, another incident of police killing a man in New York City, and now, Baltimore, MD, a city I had visited often when assigned to the USAF Armament Command when their headquarters were located in Baltimore.   What a great place to live, I used to think as I traveled about in the city and its surrounding.  One of my friends from that era lived close to the area where the current crisis is still being examined.

If our history continues in its long established path, nothing will come of this event, the young man whose funeral was held yesterday will soon be forgotten by our media and the perceived injustice will be buried deep into the psyche of the areas's current residents.  Sociologists will hurry to get their analyses of the problems into print  and what ought to be apparent to all of us, will soon be lost to the vast majority of our citizens.  There will be more deaths, more analyses and as usual, more brooms to sweep the real problems that will continue to exist into the waste cans.

Today, Hillary Clinton spoke of her concerns and her established GOP opponents hurried to inform their potential  electorate of the more accurate assessment of the situation.

So, here comes my handkerchief again.  My only solace will be the tears that I sense from on high.

It is my country that will eventually be destroyed if we continue to ignore the opportunities we have to heal the troublesome problem that we ought to be concerned with; the inherent rights of all of those our forefathers referred to as - "We, the people..."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

I want to cry - seriously!

It is true.  If it would help, I would not be writing, I would be on my face, crying out to God, asking the God who is the center of my life,  Why, God!  Why, I plead with you?  Why are we so blind, so many of us, caught up in our religious rituals while the heart beat of our nation is broken by what is happening, every day on the streets of our great nation?  Maybe that is what is wrong, we believe we are a great nation.  Maybe we have forgotten, the costs that were incurred in bringing us to where we are, today.  Maybe, maybe, maybe, but who knows?  We tend to shrug our shoulders and move on. Or so I "see" what seems to be happening - every other day, on our streets, and feel, helpless.

It started years ago, for me.  I was that unwanted kid - or, so I tended to believe.  My father was gone, the times were bad, so I was sent to live with my grandparents.  On a farm, where the facts of the "Great Depression" were only happening so very far away.  My mother, now a widow, was doing what she could, working as a secretary in Detroit, visiting every so often.  I wanted her to be closer, the other guys, my friends, all had mothers, I only had my grandmother and never really realized how blessed I was.  But there were those occasional visits in Detroit to visit with my Mother, and, where I would eventually learn of the "black creep", the fact that black people were buying up homes in what had been, traditionally "white" neighborhoods.  It angered my mother and I would learn that she knew how to use the "n" word, that I did not understand, then!  I went back to the farm and thought I would forget it.

A few years later however and I was in the Air Force and was now a Sergeant and was responsible for the personnel actions and activities on our base.  My Colonel called me into his office where I would learn that we would soon have seven black NCO's stationed on our base and that I would be responsible to their integration into our previously, all white ranks.  I was to befriend them and let them know, I needed to be informed of any "problems" that might arise from their assignments. When they joined our NCO club, we became more than fellow airmen, we became friends.  Three of them and I became so close, I would eventually attend their funerals.  We had talked of the problems that others had with integration, but these men were very much aware of their responsibilities and there was never any problems on our base while we were there, together.

I would even learn of their feelings when they were referred to as that "n" word and laughed together at the futility of those who tended to use them.

Then, came Georgia.  After seven years in the USAF, I decided to attend college and my mother was instrumental with my being enrolled at Georgia Tech.  What a change!  I had not completed high school but had a GED diploma and found myself in competition for grades with some of the brightest HS graduates I would ever meet,  Later on, I transferred to what is now known as Georgia State University.  It was there that I came into contact with young blacks attempting to register for their education and had to be present as they were rejected.  All of a sudden, I came face-to-face with the fact that blacks and the State of Georgia had differing opinions as to what the term equality meant. And when the Brown v. Board of Education decision was announced, the attitudes of my "white" friends suddenly changed.  It became "us" versus "them".  When the large downtown church I was attending refused to admit a group of blacks who merely wanted to attend a Sunday morning service, I knew I had to take sides.  There was no way I could agree with the prevailing thought of so many of my friends, so I became openly sympathetic with the plight of our black fellow citizens.  I wanted to leave and stand by my "brothers" and "sisters" who were marching across the South to protest the laws that made them, in fact, second class citizens, but my wife at the time was opposed and I accepted her plea that our marriage was even more important.  It wasn't, but that is another story.

There is no way I can ever accept the belief that one race is superior to another.  I guess I learned that in Japan where I was stationed for four years and learned - from those who were there in uniform defending their country earlier, revealing the real differences between the Chinese, the Koreans and the Japanese.  It had nothing to do with their nationalities, it had everything to do with the lessons they had learned from their parents and in most cases, their ancestry.  Most of whom had the same problem that we - as Americans, have and that is, the world is changing and in our case, the concept of democracy is the basis of our rule of law.  Our Constitution starts with these words, "We, the people..." and our laws are meant to reflect that concept.

As a matter of fact, if you actually study the concepts found in the Bible and consider those who waged war against others, down through the ages, you will discover that race has always been a part of the divisions between tribes and nations.  That the Bible does not "take sides" on such issues and that ought to teach us that God wants us to resolve those issues on our own.  The verse that teaches that "we are are to love one another as we are loved by God" (John 13:34) ought to end any thought of discrimination between the races and any others.

I am not through with this issue.  I still have tears in my eyes and an ache in my heart.  It is that time in our history when we either stand up for what is right - now, or we threaten the lives of those who will be coming along after us.

Monday, April 27, 2015

8 Reasons Why Christians are Leaving Denominational Churches

I received an e-mail from Charisma News, headlining the article mentioned in the heading.  It was offered by Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay Resources, headquartered in nearby Nashville, TN.  I know about them as I used to work for the Nashville Rescue Mission that was nearby.  I discovered he has a blog and I registered to receive future references to this ministry.

In the meantime, I will list the reasons he has offered and add my own thoughts on the matter.

1.  Denominational churches have a negative reputation.  Some respondents - referring to the Twitter poll they initiated, used the phrase "negative brand" to communicate this reason.

I laughed!  Imagine for a moment, the people who stay tuned in to Twitter polls.  I hear a lot about them. You can hardly escape mentions of them if you ever watch the national news broadcasts. Typically, the host will make a claim and immediately, his/her assistants places a question on Twitter and they will receive - often, thousands of almost immediate responses.

I have belonged to very large denominational churches in various cities I have lived in over the years and I can almost imagine the Wesley brothers begging God for an opportunity to return to earth to revive their brand of Christianity - Methodism.  Yes, I know of areas in the church I might want to change, but it has survived for years as a tradition for thousands upon thousands of the families who call the Methodist church, their home away from home.

2.  Denominations are known more for what they are against than what they are for.

I hear this claim, loud and clear as I live in what some refer to as the "buckle on the Bible Belt' and we have several versions of the same denomination that is prominent in the displays if you will visit a LifeWay book store.  I moved to this area some twenty years ago and was stunned to hear so many claims that if one is not "saved" they are destined for Hell.  I understand that interpretation, but it was not what Jesus taught - primarily, when He walked among us.  I don't blame people for leaving such churches as they only virtue they truly have to offer is more of the same, week in and week out.

3.  There is too much infighting and politics in denominations.

Excuse me, but have those pollsters ever visited the non-denominational churches? There is a sickness throughout almost all of our churches that want the rest of us to believe that their political choices go to their State capitols or Washington as Godly interpreters of the legislation they promote, almost daily. I recall the early efforts of politicians to involve churches in their campaigns to get elected and one time in particular, a prominent politico addressed our congregation while armed guards stood in the wings, as if to quell a riot if one broke out.

4.  The denominational churches are too, liberal.  

Excuse me, again, but it is the advocates of Conservative politics who - by and large, who control the religious vote.  Proof of my point will be discovered if a person would count the huge numbers of liberal organization that have sprung up in recent years, realizing that churches have cornered the conservative vote coming from their members.

5.  There is a general waning of institutional loyalty in institutions such as denominations.

See the answer for point, number 4

6.  Denominations have inefficient systems and organizations.  They are too bureaucratic.

Should anyone be surprised?  Consider the government entities that are everywhere, in out cities and towns, our schools, our police and fire departments, even our sporting enterprises.  Bureaucracy is the name of the game and fortunately, the reason that here are not even more people on the public dole.

7.  There are no perceived benefits in belonging to denominations.

That sounds like a typical Twitter question.  The Bible teaches that the family is the God ordained answer to life as it was designed to be.  It is where we were meant to learn how to love one another and if it were not for organized religion, our crime rates would rise beyond our control.  That there are churches, denominational or not, ought to be a matter of respect to say the least.

8.  Denominations are not good stewards of their financial resources.

And now we are asked to believe that the average person, even those who attend church regularly, are conscious of what their church, any church, does with its finances - is ridiculous. There ought to be a few who could respond accurately, but very few.

It seems to me - as a lay person, such queries are worse than just a waste of time.  The word abomination comes to mind.

If we are to fault the church, any church, or any church system, then it should have nothing to do with the popularity of some churches, compared to the others, but the fact that the average lay person knows very little about loving others, caring for others, doing all that our Heavenly Father has called on each of us, to do, as a gateway to the eternity He has prepared for us.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

One day at a time, dear Lord

We used to sing that song in some of the churches I have attended over the years, but it has been a long, long time since I have heard it.  Then today, I started hearing it again - in my mind.

I hope you have had that experience.  I was reading the material to be used in our class in the sanctuary tomorrow morning and it came to mind.  Preparing for some material to be passed along to the Elders, we had earlier came up with four statements we would use to describe our activities.  And it seemed to the others, they were sufficient.  However, I heard a different voice.  I have been around a long time and it seems to me, we often hear others talk about what needs to be done, but does it get done?  I am not a scorekeeper, but this I do know.  Whenever I receive a request to act, it gains more emphasis to me if it is accompanied by appropriate scripture.

So, thinking about what we were about to present - those four statements, I wondered if they might be more effectively received if they were accompanied by the appropriate scripture verses.  I had no idea of the verses to be used, so I asked for assistance from on high.  I must say I was amazed as no sooner had I typed the first verse than the others came to me as if - from on high.

Well, come to think of it, last night as I was offering up my prayers, I recall asking for His assistance.

"You have not, because you ask not," I have heard it said that the Bible teaches that, but I just looked and I could find any such reference.  Nevertheless, I believe it is true.

I recall those early days in church when I would overhear such talk, but then whenever I had a problem I would stop to pray and I would ask for His help.  It probably helped - on occasion, but as the years moved on, I gave up asking.  I never seemed to receive enough answers, probably.  I really cannot remember when.

Then, came that day when I was serious about needing God's assistance and asked Him what that word - repent, meant and He responded by reminding me of all the reasons I had to repent.  What a glorious day that was.  Nineteen days from today, I will be celebrating my fortieth "new birth" day.

That was the day I stopped praying to get out of trouble, or for assistance, or any of the routine things in life that happen merely because we are alive and often, unable to care for ourselves.

Today, and for the past 14,600 previous days, my prayers are primarily, to thank Him for my life and for the others who have made my day all that I have experienced.  Prior to that glorious day, I was always wondering why others did not hold the same high regard for me as I had for my own self. Today, it is not because of what I do, but what He has done, through me.

I now have so many friends, I am embarrassed to realize I don't know all of their names.  I know I ought to make a record of them when I meet them.  But this I do - faithfully, I ask our Father to bless them for having blessed me.

I spent part of this day reviewing some articles I had received in recent days on my computer and most of them were written to blame others for the situations we find ourselves, in our nation and throughout the world.  It troubles me that there are so many such people getting themselves involved with worldly  matters - over which they have absolutely no control, whereas - if we would only stop to look around, there are so many people who are troubled by the same concerns and are now, fearful of the days ahead.  Worse, they believe there is nothing they can do to resolve the problems.

The truth is, there is an answer.  The scriptures teach, "If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and prey and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and will heal their land."  (II Corinthians 7:14)

The Bible was not written to carry to and from the church and be placed where others might see it when they happen to visit our homes; it is our refuge on those days when circumstances threaten us. 

It was prepared, hundreds of years ago, so that God's people, that is, you and I, could examine its contents and set our sights on the future, based on the lessons we have learned by studying it,

If you have overlooked its possibilities I will pray now, that you will start this very hour.

Oh yes, if you need counsel, you can always call me at (931) 528-7238

Friday, April 24, 2015

Praying for Franklin Graham

I had stopped praying for Franklin Graham, months ago, as I was tired of not hearing answers to my prayers.  I love his father and many of the wonderful services that are rendered, worldwide, with the Graham "label" attached.  They surely are doing God's work at this time.

However, I first noticed Franklin's deviation of the Lord's command that "we love one another" when I read of his verbal assaults on Muslims without a mention that there are MILLIONS of Muslims worldwide who go about their daily lives, praying to their Allah, while serving their friends and neighbors with acts of genuine kindness and support to the needy among them.

Apparently, he is not aware that the last script to be written concerning the future of mankind has not been written.  We have yet to learn of the eventual end to this planet where we have been privileged to live out our individual lives.   As with his words, he tempts the peace loving Muslims throughout the world to believe there are millions of Christians who agree with Franklin and actually share his sentiments.

Those are my personal thoughts.  Now listen to another brother who seems to feel as I do, that we need to be paying for Franklin Graham.  (

Well now, I must apologize as when I read the article I saw many comments about the problems that are created when Christians do not act as though they are actually, Christians, and now discover the article if filled to overflowing with personal comments from his readers (I assume) and see nothing to indicate he is opposed to Graham's actual complaints.

Which of course, ought to raise another real problem.  Far too many of us - like the caveat I have just offered, read the headlines and believe what they want to believe.

But it does create another problem.  Why are we - Christians, so pone to comment on the lives of others without offering a testimony as to what prayer has meant in our own lives?

I used to be active in politics, but I no longer listen to the political talk going around about the race for the Presidency in 2016.  There are far too many REAL problems happening of the streets of the cities where we live out our daily ;lives that need our immediate attention.  The greatest problem is that we elected people to office to help alleviate those problems and we discover, they are more interested in the activities of their political affiliations.  I don't know for certain, but I am of the opinion that the phrase "We, the people..." in our Constitution has lost its meaning to most of us.

That really doesn't trouble me, however, as there is a much more important question in my mind, as a Christian; why are we seeming to ignore the scriptures in favor of whining about the anti-religious attitudes of others?  My friend, Tom Krattenmaker reminded his USA Today readers of the "coming out" celebration of the Openly Secular folks and it won't be long until others will be championing this new cause.  Whatever happened to the folks who used to flood the stadiums in cities wherever, whenever, Franklin Graham's father, Billy, stepped into the pulpit?

At my age, now reaching up into the late 80's, I know for a fact the Bible has not changed.  It has stood the test of time as some suggest.  It took but one line, in one verse - Matthew 4:17, to change me from a church attender to a firm believer in the work accomplished by our Savior when He walked among us.   Repent!   And I did and it wasn't long until I realized that, indeed, my soul was being cleansed and now, almost 40 years later, I rejoice in the changes that have become a part of my daily life.  I have no enemies, I see no enemies.  My view of this world is that we have much to accomplish and falling behind, as we listen to the nay sayers and that is not my idea of the Great Commission.

And I have changed my view of Franklin Graham.  He can rant and rave against the Muslims if he so chooses and in doing so, lead many of his brothers and sisters in Christ, astray, but I will pray that he begins to realize that the impact of the Graham name will be fading into obscurity and that the mantle he has inherited will soon begin to see the corrosion that follows when we fail to realize our one and only true calling is to love others as we have been loved

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How about - a change of pace

I really do not know why, but I seemed to be intrigued by an email I received earlier today from another blogger known only to me as - The Dude.  At least the heading on his blog reads, The Dude Abides  Other than the fact he appears to be an excellent writer, I know little about him.

Today, he was intrigued by the Fox channel's ongoing saga of "The Americans" and in particular, an essay by Cathleen Falsani who I believe, manages the column, Religious Dispatches.  Excuse me, much of what I see appearing on my computer is confusing to me, mainly because I do not take the time it would take for me to carefully examine all that appears - to me, daily.

But when I realize I am reading intelligent material, I take the time to consider it.

The Dude teased me with the opinions of Falsani in those days when Ronald Reagan was our President and engaging the "evil empire" - the Russians, concerning which of our two great powers was, in fact, the most important.  She relates to that period as it was also the era where she was beginning to exercise is newly discovered, faith in God.  I had to read all of what she has to say.

Before I continue, however, I want my readers to know that I was never impressed with Reagan as our esteemed leader.  I liked the guy as I met him once after taking him to task for an article he prompted in the Los Angeles Times.  I was in the employment business in those days and discovered the article in which, then Governor Reagan belittled the public by questioning why there were so many people out of work and so many job openings in the Times edition he was reading.  Well, that was rather naive as I knew and most of the knowledgable people in our business knew, ads are often run just to give the employer some cheap advertising concerningtheir business activities.  I complained to a friend in Reagan's cabinet, he relayed my thoughts to the Governor and as a result I was invited to Sacramento to discuss my complaint.  He accepted my opinion and later invited me to lunch.  He was a nice man but in my opinion, he often talked about subjects he knew little or nothing about.

So it is that I choke when I hear him being lauded - for example, by talking at the Premier of Russia challenging him to "tear down that wall", knowing full well - or should have known, the economy of Russia was in really sad shape and that was where they concentrated their much greater interests.

And yes, I know, he was not the only politician we have created who loved to shout slogans, while realizing they would only be heard by their followers.  Such is the state of politics in these days.

Now, I will get to what I learned about in Falsini's report on the Fox program, The Americans.  I have to admit, I am still clueless about the by-line for the season finale - "Teach Your Parents Well".

She relates well to the life of the daughter of the main characters by referring to her own life as a pre-teen.  The parents are, apparently, Russian spies living in our country and doing whatever mischief their leaders in the Kremlin would have them for them to do.  The daughter is at the time, intrigued by religion and has her heart set on baptism in her church.  The parents apparently have been encouraged to have the daughter get involved in their activities - so we have gist of what is typical of good drama.  Will they or won't they?  Will she or won't she?  Who knows?  Stay tuned but right know, the network needs to earn their advertising dollars, while we go to the kitchen and fix a snack out of the products being advertised.  So it is, that I am quickly bored with most TV.  I much prefer to watch sports because I can mute the advertising pitches without worrying whether I might miss part of the action.

What intrigues me is that there are a couple of paragraphs in Falsini's article that carry ver batim, parts of Reagan's old speeches.  Well, why not?  This is a Fox network outlet.

AND, there are references to religion.  OK, I understand the fact in the story about the daughter wanting to be baptized and is being encouraged by her Pastor.  But that is common place religion.  I understand the importance of baptism, but you are not going to discuss baptism in the context of a TV drama and come close to the real reasons for baptism in the church - in my opinion.

Which brings me to my real interest in mentioning the program on my blog and it  is because I see, and far too often, today, experience the same failures I saw in the churches I attended in my youth and up to almost my 45th birthday.  They make conversion into a ritual and Jesus made it personal. Who are we to follow, His example or the theology of the church we attend?  And then what happens when we change churches.  This is the 21st century.  There are many reasons why we change churches, but why don't we have the same rituals from one church to the next.

Shortly after I discovered the reality of God, His Son Jesus, our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, away from a church environment, by the way, I was led - I truly believe, to the passage in Acts 1:8 that reads..."And you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be My witnesses..."  Who was He talking to?  You?  Others?  I know it was me because I took it seriously and from that day forward, I have walked in that power.  Yes, Jesus still loves me, but now, He was about to demonstrate His power in my life.

What is that power you ask?  Well, to me, it is the power that has my life under a microscope and when I sin, as I still do, occasionally, I am quickly reminded and am quick to repent. and when I do not - as it has happened, I understand what the Bible means when it talks about chastisement.

I say all of this - and you can believe, there is much more to say, but I have to ask a question of all who have taken the time to read this far.  Why do want to watch programs as politically motivated as most of the programs I have heard of on Fox and elsewhere?  We have libraries filled to overflowing with great literature, most of which is inspiring and - informative, and a help for all of us who struggle with the new technologies that are overwhelming most of us.  And of course, the Bible.

I get the impression, we are missing out on the best parts of the Bible we seem to revere.

And of course, you have an opinion.... well, I am also listening.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Moving on....

It's tomorrow, today, that is.  Yesterday was an eye opener.  Not really, a heart opener!

I forwarded yesterday's blog to the one daughter who - occasionally, corresponds, hoping she will forward it to the others, wherever they might be.  Seems strange to me, but I am the one who bears the responsibility.  I know they hurt.  I used to hurt, but my father was dead and gone without my ever knowing anything about him.  That hurt for years, many years.  And then I matured.

I am really not an advocate for responsibility.  Given a choice, I would revert to my childhood and start over, but we never have that opportunity.  All we need to do is, start where we are.

My REAL birth date is May 13, 1975.  That was the day I climbed up out of the "woe is me" life style and took on life as it was meant to be, today!  What a difference.

The problem - throughout our nation, today is the fact that most of us are afraid to change.  We look at what "has been" and are afraid that if we dare to change, it will only get worse.  Well, that depends. All you really need is a friend who has been there, done that, and the sun begins to shine.  Oh yes, there will be rainy days and occasional storms, but what is can be is so much better than what was.  I used to believe that came about by changing one's mind, but No, more often, it requires a heart operation - AND, a friend

I have friends in abundance as I learned long ago, to Let Go and Let God.  But it wasn't until I put that into practice that the clouds in my life began to disappear.  As I look out of my window while writing, there is the sun shining ever so brightly in the East.  Soon it will reach the peak of its daily arc and begin to "set'.  Then comes the great reward, the sunsets of life.

Finishing what has been started also brings great rewards - in sunsets we observe, gorgeous colors, brilliance beyond our ability to describe and we rejoice.  But so it is when we bring to a close, the struggle we all experience when we allow our attitudes to overcome our common sense. "Yes", this is the preacher speaking, but then life to which I still aspire, may be made up of more good days and bad days, but I know the author of those days.

Of course, I am taking of the faith that has brought peace to my life, but it was not to be, an easy task. I had to bear the burden of my often, stupid mistakes.  What is refreshing is when you have a friend who is there to remind you, ..."we can make it, we will make it."

Living the lonely life ignores the possibility of living a truly prosperous life.  I used to think that amassing a fortune, even a small fortune, was sufficient, but again, I was wrong.  I was relying on dollars to make a difference until I met a true and intensely loyal, friend.

He was and remains, the catalyst that keeps my "pot a-boiling", who prompts me to believe another hour in bed does not begin to equal to an hour at work on efforts to makes the life of others, a little more interesting, a bit more profitable.

I spoke to my church friends on Sunday, encouraging them to take advantage of the resources we share to brighten the lives of people we have yet to meet.  I was not sure if my thoughts would even be heard, much less heeded, but then they came, first one and then another, and another, each complimenting me until I had to admit, I was even amazed - and, embarrassed.  But then I realized, I am more than just one, I am a part of a force for good.  What more could I ask!

I spent far too many years living on what others have called, "Someday Isle".  I is a pronoun, let it be one.  It is not me, nor is it you.  Today is the day that brings the rewards that many have spent years in search of and it is within our grasp.

Come now, let us walk together....

Monday, April 20, 2015

April 20 - a sad day, a very sad day

Little did I understand what was in store when I awoke this morning. It was early, too early for breakfast so - as usual, I turned on my computer and heard from my daughter. After considering her message for a moment, I knew I had to say something, so I chose to place the following thoughts on FaceBook

"Just received a very brief message from my youngest daughter, "Mother passed away in San Diego 

hospital."   Sad.  Last time I had ever heard of her was that she was in prison, again. Tragic tale. How I 

loved her in the beginning.  Perhaps I should have guessed, but I was in love and she was pregnant. 

We tried to stay together, but there were so many problems. If I had known then what I know now, I am  

sure that we could have made it, together, if only, we worked together to meet our challenges in life

Some will say, ..."such is life"... but I don't believe that.  I should have been more responsible - as well, in

those  days.  As it happened, I lost the lives of  (my relations with) my precious children.  Eventually, 

however, I came to my senses, but it was too late. I pray now that somehow, our relations might 

be restored.  I know I am not the man now that I was then.

I have learned that every day is important, every hour in fact is important and I pass these thoughts

along so that others might know how much I have learned to regret the errors of my past. Today is the 

most important day in our lives to do what is right to do. My prayer for all who will read this - do what is 

important to do, today.  Tomorrow, it may be impossible."

My best friends have responded as I should have known; they posted their thoughts and prayers for all 

of us.  It helps, it really does.  It took me years to understand, a good friend is all that one needs to get 

through life.  I have so many, I am often overwhelmed by the thought.  But the only reason is because

40 years ago, I learned that I was on the wrong path through life.  We were never meant to be "loners" - 

we were meant to live as part of a family; the family of God.

And so - much too late, I want to pay tribute to that lady who loved me as well and together we brought 

four beautiful children into this world.  Some might say, we were "too much" in love to think about 

obligations, we did what we wanted to do and set the course for not just our lives, we jeopardized the 

lives of those beautiful children.  Had we thought for even a moment, we might have realized how 

important it was to take a closer look into the future.  Her mother was not married to her father.  My 

mother was married to my father, but early on, they turned over my care to my grandparents, never 

realizing that in doing so, I was being deprived of a father.  Oh, I had a wonderful grandfather - I should 

have given more consideration to that fact, but it took me many years to come to that realization.  So, 

we could have taken those facts into consideration?  We simply did not, we were simply in love.

And I made the matter worse, by not considering my future.  I was far too unsure of myself, my own

weaknesses as well.  I had been married before and I blew that one, big time.  No need to fault others, I 

accepted the blame.  But as I told my mother of my intentions to get married, I was startled by her 

response, "Sherwood, we have never had a divorce in our family."   Why would she say that?  It only 

drove she and I further apart and it did not help me when I began to consider the mistakes I would 

eventually make.

So, I had a pattern set that it took me years to comprehend.  It was not my fault, it was their fault.

Little did I realize that our actions create circumstances and if we are not aware of that, our actions can

also create havoc in the future.  What I did not seem to realize at the time, I had been getting along in

life by merely placing the blame for my actions at the feet of others.  Wrong!   Of course, I was wrong,

but I was also too proud of my other accomplishments to realize - when it was really accept

one's responsibilities.. .   I tried to overcome these facts, by working harder and the harder I worked, the

deeper i fell into the pit of neglect.

If she were here with me today - where she should have been, it would be better, but only because I

have learned the truth about life.  It is not who we are, but "whose" we are that really matters.  It has

been nearly forty years since I accepted that fact.  It is not religion that saves us, it is a belief that

there really is a cause for our lives, but we need One who leads us.  I have found that One.

We all have to make that decision, based on our own evaluation of the life that we lead.  We cannot

assign that responsibility to others.  There will be a Judgment Day and it is not necessarily tomorrow.

Today, is the day to make your decision.  For me, it was May 12, 1975.  I had my life to date laid out for

me to examine and it was not a pretty picture.  I was ashamed of myself and I learned how not to place

the blame on others.  What a relief.

I am not here to preach.  I am here to accept the blame - all of it, for Janice's life.  That she suffered

brings tears to my eyes as I type.  I could have done better and the facts are, I did not.  I have said that

she.was to blame and I was wrong.  I hate the fact that she may have passed into the next life with any

thought that she might have done better.  The truth is, she believed in me and I failed her.

Nor am I here to ease the pain that I have caused for each of our children.  I cannot.  But I do know this,

the faith that I have teaches that we can forgive and that clears the way for better future opportunities

to make the most of our tomorrows better than the yesterdays.

And that remains as my most fervent prayer for all of us.t

Friday, April 17, 2015

Grace is Not Supreme

Thanks to the good folks at Christianity Today, I was privileged to read your article, That Grace is not Supreme.  Very interesting.

To qualify my thoughts to follow, I am 85 years of age - and "movin' on", a Christian for many years, but more importantly, introduced to Grace as a topic several years ago. Up until then, I thought of it only as another of the often used terms we hear from our pulpits and seldom seen on the streets where I live.

Then, I met - as I like to say, God, heart to heart, mano mano, man to man., some forty years ago, but until then, most of our "conversations" had o do with His answering my petitions for help..

Then, I was introduced to Grace, answering my most urgent question, "So, I have been "saved" - now what?  Sin had still preoccupied my thought processes and even though, I tried to focus on living up to "Christian" standards, I knew I was failing, daily.

Maybe it was because, there were few gifts I received as a child.  I either promptly ignored them, but I held onto a few for many years.

So, I wondered about this Grace, this gift from God and I wondered if it could help me with the sessions of doubt and yes fear, I had often experienced.

I decided to put it to use.  Rather than another "fall from Grace" I decided to use it as the power by which I could eradicate my tendency to sin.  It seemed to work.  In fact, the more I used it, the more I felt confident that I no longer needed the temptations that had led me to sin.  And over the years since applying my theory, the happier I am with whose I am, and occasions for temptation are few and far apart.

Alas, I have often shared these thoughts with Pastors, learned practitioners of the faith and the best response I have ever received was an occasional, "Bless you, my friend."

When asked if such thoughts are "scriptural" I quickly point to the verse I heard from on high, shortly after my conversion, Acts 1:8 "And you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be My witnesses - wherever, whenever, you move about."  The later is my interpretation of the places mentioned in the text.

It answers the ancient question, Saved yes, but saved for what?"

Sadly, in and around Cookeville, TN, where I live, it is typically answered, "..saved from Hell" but since I never read where Jesus put it that way, I am content to use my version - "saved for good works," in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Would love to hear your response - even by phone, 931-528-7238.

Oh yes, you will find this on my blog -

Sherwood MacRae

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

More Grace - a proper perspective

I was about ready to share more thoughts from R. C. Sproul as offered in his book, Grace Unknown, when the following arrived on my computer and I thought it was worth sharing it with you.

That Grace Isn’t Supreme

Marguerite Shuster
Presumably all evangelicals who know what the e word means affirm that we are saved by grace alone. Ask them, “Friend, are you saved?” and they know that a “yes” depends on trusting in something irreplaceable Jesus did for them at the Cross, not on their being nice. In this basic sense, evangelicals are not confused about the fundamental tenets of their faith.
The problem is behavioral denial. If the ancient formula lex orandi, lex credendi (“the law of praying is the law of believing”) can teach us anything, it is that how we behave, how we worship, and what we do eventually will be reflected in what we teach.
Consider our worship services. The preaching in many evangelical churches frequently majors in heart-rending stories in service of motivational speeches, pop psychology, and “helpful hints for happier homes”—or at best a series of “biblical principles” to apply to live better lives. What we can and should do almost wholly displaces what God has done on our behalf. A call to worship from the transcendent God is often supplanted by a cheery, entirely secular “Good morning,” repeated until the requisite response volume is achieved.
A student told me of a service at a megachurch where there were no prayers at all. Those designing the service determined that there was no time for them. No time for speaking to God in worship? And when a charge (instruction as to what we should do) displaces a benediction (blessing from God to go forth empowered to live lives worthy of our calling), we truly are shut up to our own strength.
With respect to salvation, the problem is at least as severe as our neglect of Paul’s words in Romans 6:1, urgently warning us not to suppose we may sin so that grace may abound. Salvation does not entail entire sanctification in this life. But surely it entails a reorienting of our hearts’ desires, so that we are at least grieved by our besetting sins. How is it that seminarians can vigorously defend profanity, obscenity, and vulgarity as proper evangelistic tools, as I have heard them do? How can “holiness” have become a term evoking scorn, derision, avoidance, except by confusing it with obnoxious, sticky, pretentious piety? Do we actually even want to be saved, in the sense of being freed from the dominion of sin?
Or is it that we have forgotten, or do not wish to believe, that we are the sorts of people who actually need to be saved? And who can by no means save ourselves, but are wholly dependent upon grace?
Marguerite Shuster is Ockenga Professor Emerita of preaching and theology, and senior professor at Fuller Seminary.

Your feedback will be appreciated - SM

More Grace - more David Jeremiah

My new wife had been raised as a Catholic and I was a dyed-in-the-wool Methodist.  We were still searching for a church when this woman - destined to become a life long friend, suddenly appeared in our little cottage, all agog about a seminar she had just attended in Dallas, TX, headed by a guy by the name of Bob George.  It was all about Grace, God's Grace, and we tried to listen attentively. What I remember most about that meeting was our guest's young daughter running in and out of our cottage and her Mother never paused in her excitement to tell about her experience.  At first, I was upset about the situation, but the more I watched that young girl, the more I knew we would become friends.

A month or so later, we were on a plane to Dallas and enjoying what we had been led to expect.  The whole purpose of the seminar was to introduce us to Grace, God's Grace - my emphasis.  Looking back, we both learned a lot about their subject, but little did we realize we were becoming friends with a guy who had accompanied us from Orlando, who would eventually marry the lady who had compelled us to listen to her.  We would become part of a new group, led by a Pastor who had never been to "our" seminar, but who insisted we needed to learn more about Grace.  It didn't work out, but the one experience I recall from the experience was the words that came out of the mouth of the youngster who we had met earlier.  I know I was getting tired of the sermons we were listening to, but then one morning, the Pastor asked us a question and the youngster answered and I thought I was hearing directly from God.  I can't remember the question, nor the answer, but I knew then as I know now, she had the greater "message" we were all supposed to hear.

It wasn't long before the new group broke up and we were back in church, a regular church, with an exciting young Pastor who was delivering some inspiring sermons.  And then he left.  Who knows why.  We moved to another church, a much larger church where it was easier to disappear and life moved on.  Unfortunately, our marriage was stuck somewhere between her past and my thoughts about the future.  We had lost our ability to communicate and - after trying to get her attention, I left. Not because I didn't love her, I still do even though she would pass away a few years later.

I found a new "home" in Tennessee where I was about to experience the greatest real life miracle I had ever even dared to imagine.  I had found a job as a night Supervisor at the area Rescue Mission. It came as an answer to prayer as I knew that I knew, I was destined to be involved.  One morning, my phone rang and to my great surprise, it was my Sister who I had not seen since leaving California. She was in Nashville and wanted to see me.  Of course!  She came to see me and we spent the day trying to fill in the gaps in the twenty-five years we had been apart.  Then, came the shock.  Six weeks after I had arrived in Nashville, only because I thought it would be a change, she and our Mother had moved here from California.  She had gone to school in nearby Baxter and after returning for a class reunion, she and Mother had decided to move here as well.

I hoped that would mean I would have a reunion with my Mother after being separated for so many years, but it was not to be.  The walls that had kept us apart for far too many years would not come down.  She passed away a few years later, even though we had talked one time on the telephone, but the die had been cast.  My prayers for a reconciliation were never answered.

I was being oriented in religion, according to the dictates of the leaders of Rescue Mission.  Oriented, but never convinced.  Grace was not only ignored, but it was kept from the ears of the men and women we were supposed to be serving in God's name.  Not that they did not do an adequate job by their feeding daily and providing beds at night.  They did that.  But they also required attendance at the evening "church" service where in spite of the fact that several local Pastors came to deliver a sermon, it was always - "Repent, otherwise you are destined for Hell".  I attended a few, but could not listen because they were missing - in my opinion, the true message of the gospel.

But that was also the case in the hundreds of sermons I had heard during my travels.  What was missing in those sermons was the understanding that when God accepts our pleas to be "saved" it was not to rescue us from Hell, but to empower us with the life that our Lord had demonstrated while He was walking the streets of ancient Israel.  He knew then and knows now, the problem is not just our various sins, it was the life we were wasting by not living as Jesus lived while He was among us. That is the reason He sent His Holy Spirit to indwell us, not to keep us from doing wrong, but to empower us for the task at hand, saving the lost and adding them to the ranks of the army of God.

From my experiences learned during the Korean War, I came to understand that it is not the isolated incidents of bravery recorded whenever there is combat, it is the lessons we learn as we work together to overcome the enemy.  I saw that in Korea.  It was not just the U.S. military that was at war with the North Koreans, but the combined strength of the United Nations forces enjoined in the battle.  Another lesson, unlearned because of man's natural inclination to believe that he does not need help to overcome the trials and tribulations of life in this world that is rapidly being integrated with beliefs that are designed to merely help us get by, day by day.  This is the era of the - quick fix.

God speaks to us in terms of eternity.  It is not just life here today, but we were destined to live on beyond the grave.  Today is our best opportunity we will ever have to take into account, this reality. Grace is the vehicle, God's choice, to help us overcome the fears of not knowing what lies beyond.

Somehow we miss that in our homilies, our religious lectures.  The pulpits were designed to challenge all those of us who are intent on following our Lord, hour by hour, day by day.  Yes, there are days when we do not feel up to the challenge, but then there is His Grace, His empowering force that lifts us up and sits our feet on solid ground.

The hymn writers of the day when life was not as complicated as we experience today, penned verses that inspire us to act.  Strange.  It is those songs that are still recalled in my mind as the organist strikes the first chord.   Sitting next to a youngster recently as we were joined in singing a particular hymn, she nudged me and exclaimed, "Wow, you didn't even need to look at the words."

This thought prompted me to visit the words of a hymn we used to sing, regularly.  I cannot recall the last time I heard it played in church,  "And when my task on earth is done, when by grace the victory's won, He leadeth me, O blessed thought...."

Here I am, 85 years of age, looking forward to the opportunities that will appear before me tomorrow and caring not who wins the 2016 election, nor whether the forces of ISIS and others akin to them will prevail in the Middle East, nor troubled by the wide array of physical infirmities I hear being discussed on my annual visit to my doctor's office, nor worried that I did not accumulate enough resources to last me to the end.  Instead, my eye is on the sparrow and I know He cares for me.

I try to remind folks, it is not the "new age" that concerns me.  It is the numbers of times that others have used the phrase to lure me away from the ages I have experienced and emerged, victorious, not by my wit and skills, but by the truly amazing grace that has ruled my days.

I am pleased to read and recommend occasionally, my brother Jeremiah's book but it reminds me of the literally hundreds of sermons I have heard that started nowhere and ended up somewhere else. All remind me of a class I attended years ago in a prominent church, teaching us how to prepare the proper sermon.  I was an eager participant and even wound up with an opportunity to "preach" at a country church in East Texas.  I left home with every intention to "tell it like I had been taught" only to discover a 3x5 card laying in the pulpit, which read, "Sir, we would see Jesus". My carefully crafted sermon vanished.  But I was there to acclaim the word of God and so, I opened my mouth and let the words go wherever God would have them go.  To my utter amazement, the old fellow in the first row of pews stopped me as we were leaving, "Son, I pray that you will be back with us as that was the best sermon I have heard in years,"

Like my grandfather taught me so many years ago, "God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform, He sets His feet upon the sands and rides upon the storm."

And He is constantly searching for the men and women and youngsters who will embrace His Grace as our guide through the days and weeks ahead.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

More Grace - old friend David Jeremiah

Of all the radio Pastors I have heard over the years, David has the best voice of all and it's hard to find fault with his theology, although I have met a few of his critics.  I recall buying his book, Captured by Grace, and it looks like I have never opened it.  I loved his sub-title, No One is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God.  Just that thought deserves a loud, Amen!

But, I was rather disappointed by its content.  I had to turn to his "Finale" to make certain he was talking about the same Grace, God's Grace, that I hold dear in my heart.  He makes four points to summarize the Bible's interpretation of Grace.  First, it must be acknowledged - Romans 3:10.   Next, it must be affirmed - Romans 5:8.  Third, you must ask for your salvation - Romans 10:9, and fourth, you must always serve Christ, as Lord and Master, every day - Romans 10:9.

Up until May 13, 1975, I had studied all of these verses, I thought I knew what it meant to be a Christian, but somehow I needed confirmation from a Pastor or some authority in the church.  I was not learning what I needed to be learning until that glorious night when I asked God what He meant by the word, repent.  I was in route to meet an acknowledged teacher on faith, hoping that he might make the right connections for me.  I would never have to follow through with that meeting I had hoped to keep.  God answered my question, by recalling to my mind, the attitudes I had carried for almost 45 years - every since I had felt abandoned by my natural parents.

I was born in 1929, the first child of a marriage where my father had longed to have a daughter.  I know that because of the conversations I overheard growing up.  Three years later, my sister came along and since I had the measles at that time, I was sent to live with my grandparents and spent my teen aged years with them, mainly because my father died along the way.  I had a good home, we went to church regularly, enough that when I left home to join the Air Force, I kept up the practice.  I never really knew what it was, not to be in church on Sundays and often, on Wednesday evenings as well.  I knew what it was, I thought, to be saved and went to the altar a number of times, only to leave the church, wondering what had happened.

Now, it was 1975 and my mind had gone back to those early years and I was being reminded of all of the reasons I had to repent.  With tears flowing from my eyes, I asked God to take over my life.  And something happened.  It was as though He actually answered my plea.

I believed He had and as the sun came up the next morning, I made a decision to follow Him, no matter where it might take me, no matter the circumstances in which I might find myself.  That was almost forty years ago.  I have never turned back.  And I began to learn of the truths to be found in the scriptures, especially the one I discovered in the book store at ORU, Oral Roberts University.  It was Acts 1:8 - ..,"and you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be My witness, wherever your feet might carry you."  It was as though, I was baptized by the Holy Spirit on that spot.

It was only a few days after I had made my commitment and I was eager to get to church, to tell others of my experience, but for some reason, I did not.  I had yet to discover what it really meant to have been touched by God and - by chance, I was asked to go to the bedside of a well known "person of faith" who would never get out of that bed.  I shared my experience with her and she reached out to take my hands and draw me to her side.  "You have been gifted, son.  You are right in not sharing it with strangers.  God will tell you where and when to divulge it."  And I left, confused.

What was confusing me was the fact that many talked about salvation and those who did seemed eager to talk about the "gifts" of the Holy Spirit, but none claimed to have experienced them.  I had found a new job, in fact, a few, in this city I knew so little about.  I began to have experiences that I had not anticipated and then there was a "call" to move on.  I moved to Dallas, TX, to work as a "servant" to a man I had come to know and nothing - as in not anything, happened.  We soon parted company.  With that, another man, working in the same building approached me and asked me to join one of his enterprises.  I would become a sort of religious "guru" to him and he would assign me to tasks I had no real idea about what I would be doing, until I was doing it.

The strange thing that was happening was that I could not share what I was doing with others and that set most of them against me.  I was used to having friends.  I was losing all that I had found.

Then, my "job" was over.  I had no idea as to what I should be doing, so I asked God in prayer, what was I supposed to do.  "Go, be with My people" was his specific answer and although I had questions, I assumed it meant to go with the people I had longed to know when I had managed "Labor Pools" years earlier.  I decided that was it and after giving my baggage away, a car, books, furniture, etc., I literally walked out of town, somehow believing He would be leading me.  And He did.

For the next two and a half years, He was my sole companion.  I would meet people I would have never met, I would be offered opportunities to support myself without ever asking for help, i would always find a place to sleep without searching for one.  It was like a fantasy world in a sense as there was no way I could explain it to others.  I suppose many looked on me as a vagrant, but it never occurred to me.  I was doing what I firmly believed I was called to do.  Until one day, I stopped in a city where there was an active "mission" and as I had done many times, I stopped to spend time with them.  In the course of events, I would meet a lady who shocked me by saying, "I want to marry you."  And we got married.

She was like many of the people I had met along the way, she had been abused by a husband she had been married to earlier and there were two sons, taken from her because their father had the power to almost destroy her life.  He almost did!  But God joined us together and although there were problems along the way, I loved her for the rest of her life.

I am going to pause now.  There is a reason I went off on a tangent, but I will return to Brother Jeremiah, tomorrow, probably.  What he was saying in most of his book is precisely what I am saying to you now.  The only difference is that he is David Jeremiah and I am Sherwood MacRae, two men who probably we never meet up with, this side of heaven, but our stories are much the same.

Until tomorrow....

More Grace - counsel from R. Kent Hughes

I had almost forgotten about this book.  Cannot remember when I purchased it, but since it was first published in 1993, it seems to me that I started reading it shortly after we had returned from a Seminar in Dallas, TX, led by Bob George and I was - at first, amazed at what Hughes was saying.  It seemed to run counter to what I had been taught and I had yet to realize, learning does not often come about after our first discovery of something new.

Grace, God's Grace, was something entirely new to me in those days and I was about to discover that I was not the only Christian with an interest in drawing closer to our Savior.  The problem, I was about to discover, was that God's Grace was not a familiar topic in most churches.  Now, I can say without a doubt in my mind, Grace is the most over looked doctrine in all of Christiandom.

But not to R. Kent Hughes when he penned this wonder filled book.  He takes an approach that I have not discovered elsewhere, and after considering his thoughts, I have to wonder why it is not.

He reasons; Law invites Grace.  "This may sound strange to some ears because salvation is by Grace alone, totally apart from the works of the Law.  The Apostle Paul is absolutely clear about this.  'And if by Grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, Grace would no longer be Grace.' (Romans 11:6)
No one has even come close to being saved by the works of the Law."  Solo gratia!

"Law and Grace are not antithetical or the least bit opposed.  In fact, the Law was founded on God's Grace."

And now, he reminds us of the Law, starting with the first great Commandment.  "You shall have no other Gods before me."  It is extremely gracious as it protects God's people from worshiping people and philosophies,"    For example, it forbids worshiping technology, appetites, sex, money and most important - in today's society, self.  Bottom line, it reminds us that God wants to have us and He wants us to have Him.  It reminds us, we all need to take an inventory of the 'little' other Gods in our lives.

The second Commandment; "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything."   The first Commandment forbids the existence of of other Gods; the second, "the making of other Gods." Hughes comments, The clearer our vision, the freer it is of idolatry, and the greater our love."

The third Commandment: "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord, our God."  "It bans irreverence, the use of "O God" or "Jesus" as an exclamation point or as a chic expression that apparently fears not even the divine.  This prohibition comes from the fact that the misuse of God's name and our growth in our love of God are mutually exclusive."

The fourth Commandment:  "Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it Holy".  Hughes offers this comment, "Wise Christians will incorporate the rest principle as best we can, as it is rooted in our cosmos, so that there is a genesis rhythm of life which, if observed, will benefit us  physically and spiritually."

The fifth Commandment:  "Honor your Mother and Father so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you."   This is the Commandment that kept me as a child and for too many following years, away from the teachings of the Church.  In my mind, it was OK for others but in my case, I thought my father and mother had abandoned me - sending me to spent the days of my youth on the farm with my grandparents, rather than "fathering" and "mothering" me.  Other kids had fathers and mothers; I had none, I thought  Stupid reasoning, of course, but my childish fears, once established, stuck and went deep into my psyche.  I was almost 45 years of age before I heard the Word of the Lord, clearly - "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" and as I considered that thought, the fears of my childhood returned and I began to realize how wrong I had been, not to realize how truly blessed I had been to be the subject of my grandparent's love and constant care for me.  It was, by reasoning only known by God, that I am now in my 85th year of life, healthy and eagerly awaiting for the next day and even, the next hour, to have demonstrated once again, the love our Father has showered upon me.

The sixth Commandment:  "You shall not murder."  Again, it took me years to understand this commandment as murdering others was in the deepest recesses of my mind.  I grew up in the war years, WWII and then, Korea.  Killing was killing, no matter the cause.  And then, a buddy of mine in the USAF, callously murdered another buddy.  He was sentenced to death and I wept uncontrollably at the thought, I had lost two friends.  But as my grandfather, used to teach, "God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform..."  He moved in my life to help the survivor move from a prison cell to a more productive life and it happened; His hand was there, all along the way.  Then, I was reminded to go back into prisons to share my faith and again, God moved and a young man, once sentenced to die, is now awaiting his release and return to life on this side of the walls.  And I still weep that in this nation, known among many as a Christian nation, we still do not seem to understand, that He loves the incarcerated as well as those who live righteous lives and regards freedom as a blessing to be shared by all of His creation.  We have much work to do in this area.

The seventh Commandment;  "You shall not commit adultery."   Hughes steps aside for a moment and offers the following counsel by a Sociologist, Morton Hunt.  "The disapproved model (polygamy) seems better suited to the emotional capacities and requirements for many people, particularly men; it offers renewal, excitement and continuance of expressions of personal rediscovery; it is an answer to the boredom of of lifelong monogamy.  We are by nature polygamous."  That was written in 1969.  Can you grasp all that is written and shouted from the roof tops of the thousands of media outlets in our nation today with regard to marital infidelity? Polygamy now appears to be the norm.  And we are given the task of raising our children in a pig pen, sexually speaking.  "Shall not..." is laughed at.  Yet, the word of God, throughout the Ten Commandments, are as applicable today as they were in the Garden.  But in our ignorance, we move on as if sexual immorality will somehow pass away.  The fact is that the debris left behind by this flaunting of the word of God staggers one's imagination.  The unwanted children. the costs of divorce - lawyers, investigators, court costs, etc., etc., the costs of abortions, the needs for psychiatric counselling, etc., etc.  An answer?  Not too complex.  Refer to the very first Commandment.

The eighth Commandment:  'You shall not steal."   "Well," my friend offered one day, "I do not steal so I don't even have to think about that."  "Yes, I know," was my response, "Except that a further examination of the scriptures will remind you that you are your brother's brother."  Stealing is easy, I learned from an early age.  It started with change from my grandfather's pocket; then comic books from the 5 and 10 cent stores and one day, I was caught.  In the meantime, however, I had shared my "sins" with other boys and eventually, we were all caught.  Some got whippings; I discovered that my grandfather had a side of him I had never seen.  I was about to learn more about righteous anger.  It was not about the change, nor the paper backs.  I had lost his respect - for the moment.  Then, came the more important discovery, he forgave me and the burden I had carried for days was suddenly lifted.   I never forgot that lesson and when I was personally violated by others - as happens, I began to use my grandfather's example.  Righteous anger has an effect, but not nearly the impact of sharing the power of forgiveness.  To make a person laugh is one quality, but it ranks far below the act of forgiving a person whose "sin" had become a burden.

The ninth Commandment:  "Thou shalt not give false testimony against your neighbor."  The question that plagues so many these days ought to be - "Is truth relevant?"   Or perhaps, "Who is my neighbor?"   For many of us, these are uneasy times.  The Congress of the United States having had to deal with President Obama for six years appear to be willing to be less than truthful in their criticisms of the President's policies that have included, of course, errors in judgement in some cases, But then, the record is quite clear, he dug our way out of one of the worst economic crises our nation has ever known.  Who knows the truth, the whole truth?  Nothing but the truth appears to have become passe in dealing with political matters.  But such attitudes are also rampant on our streets. The stories we hear about the "disgrace" of many of our politicians come and go without a murmur. Worse, we seem to be headed for an all out religious war between the Muslims on one hand and many American Christians.  We may need a new definition of exactly who is our "neighbor".

The tenth Commandment:  "Thou shall not covet."   My first car was one that I bought off of a car lot in Pensacola, FL.  If you have never bought a used car, you missed a terrific opportunity to learn about life.  To youngsters, as I was on that hot afternoon, you begin to think all of your best laid plans were about to evaporate and that salesman was as mean as a snake, but the truth is, he was merely making sure that you were the kind of person who would continue to make payments.  It is one of the thousands of reasons, God does not want us to "want" things that are beyond our capacity to pay for them. It is too bad that this Commandment was not fully understood in the days before our economy began to expand to include the possibility that even the "average" person could "afford" the best. One of the best measures of covetous in our nation today can be found in our Sunday newspapers. The merchants are eager to sell their wares and could care less that they are prompting others to covet and since we do not take this - and other commandments, seriously, our society often appears to be seriously flawed.

And worse, just because we now live is well defined neighborhoods in most of our major cities, we are no longer inclined to acknowledge those behind the ominous walls and - as a result, we don't even seem to want to accept them as our neighbors.

God's Grace defined by our response to the Ten Commandments provides for all of us who consider ourselves to be Christian, an opportunity to examine all that it means to be Christian.  Certainly, it is more than just a free ticket to avoid the horrors of Hell.

My thought is that we do well by living, Grace fully!