Painted Deck – Wordless Wednesday

After last winter’s ice storm that left three inch thick ice on it, a small deck I built for some friends several years ago needed some work.  I had stained the deck, but they had someone paint it before last winter, so now it always has to be painted.

So I got out my scrapers and brushes and fixed ‘er up nicely.  The room to which it is attached was a laundry room addition that was most of the original project.

Guest Blog by Tony Evans – “Can’t Buy Me Love”

Dr. Tony Evans is the pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas.  He also is the founder of The Urban Alternative.  Dr. Evans holds the honor of writing and publishing the first full-Bible commentary and study Bible by an African American.  His radio broadcast, The Alternative, can be heard on over 1,400 radio outlets daily and in more than 130 countries.  His sermons are Biblically sound and he “walks the walk,” not just talks the talk.  Here is a man of God worth noting for how Father has used him to teach thousands of believers how to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.  This is a sharing of a recent email he sent to his contacts, which is adapted from one of his more than 100 books.

2021-06-19 Dr. Tony Evans

Dear Friends,

Most people think money is the secret to satisfaction.  They think that happiness equates to how much money you’ve got at your disposal.  But happiness has nothing to do with money.  Money isn’t about to solve your problems.  In fact, sometimes our problems escalate as our money increases — not the other way around.

That’s why Paul wrote, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10).

There are so many things money can’t buy.  Money can’t buy health.  It can’t buy relational harmony.  It can’t buy respect, honor, character or esteem.  When things go south in any of those areas, if money is all you’ve got working for you, you’ll discover the actual value of money.  You’ll learn that money isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  There’s so much that matters more than how much money you have in your wallet or your bank account.  But it’s very easy to forget that.

As a result, people frequently spend their energy praying for stuff when God wants to give them more than stuff.  He wants to give significance, strength, stability and identity.  All the stuff in the world doesn’t amount to much if you are so broken, empty or alone that you cannot enjoy it, and you don’t have anyone with whom to share it.  Stuff never made anyone smile the way that satisfaction, purpose and even service can.  Our world focuses on stuff, while Jesus reminds us what matters most.

For His kingdom,
2021-06-19 Tony Evans Signature
This content has been adapted from Tony Evans, Kingdom Men Rising, Bethany House Publishers, 2021.
See also the DVD, Kingdom Men Rising.  Good stuff!
If you are visiting here before June 19 is over, check out the free No More Excuses teleconference at https://www.ocbfchurch.org/ministries/mens-fellowship/mens-conference/.

An Open Letter To A Friend

2021-06-12 Religions of the World“Religious beliefs are very controversial and there are tons of religious groups. The more I care about is to live peacefully and consciously. The truth can be found within your heart and your divine formless aspects…”

Dear Friend,

I, too, hope you have a peaceful life.  As I noted in reply to your blog, 2+2=4 but the one who answers 5 is closer to the truth than the one who answers 37.  There is much that is true in the sayings of Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Aristotle, Plato and other philosophers.  There is much one can learn by reading the four Vedas of Hinduism, the Gathas of Zoroaster, the Agam literature of Jainism and the Muslim’s Quran.  Even the Book of Mormon and the Satanic Bible have rules, many of which can help someone live a good life (though I do not recommend any of these until one has a clearer understanding of the Bible).

Buddha and the other philosophers never claimed to be religious.  They simply described how to improve one’s life by various means of self-discipline and learning.  The religious literature all show ways that one can reach Nirvana, mystical absorption into the Infinite or find acceptance by God.  The answers to 2+2 vary in accuracy from 5 or 6, or in the case of Mormonism 37, and in the Satanic Bible 5,489! 😨

The apostle Paul said to “test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  So there is nothing wrong with reading or studying teachings of philosophy and religion, but there is much “testing” that needs to be done when one reads these texts.  They are not all good and at best will only give one a better life here and now, if that is all for which one is looking.

However, I genuinely fear for people looking for answers in religion.  They will find at the end of this life that they have been deceived.  The Bible has very little to say about religion (check an online resource for how rarely it is mentioned), and Jesus had his biggest problems with the religious leaders of his day.  In fact, it was the chief priest and the religious legislative body, the Sanhedrin, that first condemned Jesus to death before handing Him over to the Romans.  The Romans did not allow the Jews to commit capital punishment (though this was disobeyed at times with stoning [see Acts 7]).  Unless it interfered with Roman governance, they tended to disregard anything the Sanhedrin or the Jewish leaders did.

Recognize first what constitutes “religion.”  In dictionary.com’s definition, the operative phrase is that it “usually involves devotional and ritual observances, and often contains a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”  Thus religion is basically the human attempt to do what is right, and the popular view, even among many “Christians” is that this is what will make one okay in God’s eyes.  To summarize, religions are human attempts to please God.

Being a Christ-follower does not mean I am not religious, but it means that religion is a very minor part of life.  The central issue of following Jesus is to know Him as one knows a friend or brother.  This can be difficult to get our heads around, because we cannot see Jesus in His flesh as we would our local friends or relatives.  But that is where becoming “born again” comes in.  Jesus told a good Pharisee that in order to enter the Kingdom of God he had to be born again

The old man had some difficulty getting his head around this concept as well.  It is not just taking on a different point of view or disciplining oneself to behave differently.  That would be religion, and Nicodemus knew all about religion.  It was that on which he had based his life!

Jesus said that he did not need to go back into his mother’s womb and be reborn, but rather to be reborn of the Spirit of God, like a wind over which we have no control.  It is a yielding of ourselves to the divine in a way that we do not fully grasp just as an infant does not understand what is happening to him when he is being born.

You say “the truth can be found within your heart and your divine formless aspects.”  But Jesus’ claim is that we cannot find truth on our own because we have been deceived from our natural birth.  We are condemned even before we start searching!  Just as the arithmetic illustration shows, if one starts with wrong premises, one reaches wrong conclusions.  If you understand 2 is simply one plus one, you can begin to add correctly.  But if one does not understand the basic of what 2 IS, wrong conclusions are certain to follow.

The whole of the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us, because He is SOOO different from us that we cannot grasp who or what He is apart from Him telling us.  Like a parent cuddling his baby saying, “Hush, little one, I know what you need,” He will guide us to understand, if we begin with what He tells us about Himself.  And you will not find that in religious literature, nor in yourself, because religion is simply our attempts to find God or to please Him, and we are insufficient to grasp who God is because we are NOT divine.  Just as the babe does not understand who his daddy is, he must grow into that understanding by living with him.

The only place you will find peace that lasts is in knowing The God Who Is.  The only place you will find The God Who Is will be in the Bible.  The only way to get to know Him is through prayer.  And I genuinely wish peace for you and for your beautful country.  God knows you have had such strife, it is difficult to imagine it getting any worse.  The peace you seek can only come with the changes in human hearts that occur when people are “born again.”

your friend, always,
c.a.

The Tuul River in January 2021

Tuul River on a Morning in January

Memories of Mongolia; a friend’s picture of the Tuul River outside Ulaanbataar on a January morning. Yes, it is solid enough to walk across.  Of course, even in summer, much of the river is only a meter (3 feet) or less deep in many places, three meters (9 feet) at its deepest.  Here is about one-half meter (1.5 feet) deep.

The Answer Man? – Not Me!

2021-06-12 Struck Down But Not Destroyed
Rick Warren once said, “When someone thinks he knows all the answers, one has to wonder if he knows all the questions.”

When one goes on a date, he or she showers, puts on nice clothes, preens in front of a mirror for a while, checks to make sure teeth don’t have spinach between them, and preps their brightest smiles and best chuckles.  The same goes for blogging.  When we get on our computers, we take time to evaluate our words; we check for grammatical errors, examine links and think seriously about the topic: i.e., we put our best foot forward in both cases (at least most of us do!😏).

We tend to be experts when we get online, because no one can see all the background work we do to make a nice blog.  We check our resources and polish the blog and show off how smart, informed, and perceptive we are.  Most of us try to avoid harsh words or crass language (at least the blogs I follow; too much cursing or four-letter words and I will not follow).

Well, I am not that smart or “together” all the time.  I sincerely try to be nice in my comments or just don’t comment (my mother’s words are still there in my head, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”)

But sometimes I do not “have it all together.”  Depression sometimes surprises me with lonesomeness that makes me feel even the sun is dark, as if I am under a rock wi2021-06-12 Pinnedth no light.  I make solitary time either after my bride leaves our bed, or in places where I can get away from everyone, and I cry. . . And I cry. . . And I cry some more.  So many folks in my family are wonderful and I know that I am loved, but loneliness still stands over me like an angry wrestler ready to push me down and hold me to the mat even after I say, “I give up.”  He won’t let me up anyway.

I am not suicidal (See  ).  As my brother is fond of saying, “That ship has sailed.”  But many times I feel like the days are just passing me by, and I am just waiting either for Jesus to return or for Father to call me Home from this world.  Depression makes you question whether anything you do matters; whether your life matters.

But the bottom line is it is not about me . . . or you.  Life is about Him!

Like the man in John 9 born blind, just as we are all born spiritually blind, “Once I was blind but now I see.”  As C.S.Lewis put it, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  The world, the universe, the animals, the oceans, the mountains, the people; it all makes sense when I begin with the Cross of Jesus and the Bible.  Rick Warren put it this way: “You were made by God and for God and until you understand that, life will never make sense.”

In no other system, no other world leader, no other religious figure claimed to BE GOD.  And if Jesus is not God, then nothing makes sense in the world, the universe or people.  But sinse He IS God, it all does make sense.  I was born spiritually blind and sinful.  Jesus came to bear the penalty for my sin.  He lived a sinless life and died an ignominious death on a mechanism for capital criminals at the hands of the Gentiles and Jews.  But He rose from the dead after three days and three nights in the tomb.  And now He lives to make intercession for any who will put their faith in Him.  It’s ALL about Him!

I do not intend this blog to be a ‘downer,’ but just to encourage you if you are feeling low, if you feel pressed into the ground by a boulder, or if you fight with the angry wrestler who tries to push you down; perhaps you wonder about your value, your worth, whether your life matters.  It DOES!  You matter so much to God that He sent Jesus to the Cross!  And I know that my Redeemer lives, and THAT is all that really matters.

“I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last He will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold Him, and not another’s.”
  Job 19:25-27

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in YHWH.
  Habakkuk 3:17