It’s not all that complicated!

A few years ago when Marsha and I were in Peru speaking at a house church, a man announced he was ready to take the step of faith and become a Christian. (His wife had recently made that same choice.) So, I had him turn in his Bible to Romans 10:9, where it says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” I asked him, “Do you believe Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead?” His response was affirmative. I asked him, “Are you ready to make Jesus Christ your Lord (Greek: kurios lit. “master”)? When he said yes, I prayed with him and he asked Jesus to become his boss. His countenance changed; he looked at me incredulously, and asked, “Is that all there is to it?” “That’s right!” I replied.

It’s not following a set of rules. It’s a relationship with Jesus Christ, made possible by an invitation extended to us by God’s grace. It’s just not all that complicated!

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Bad Times Don’t Last!

Over 30 years ago Marsha and I were struggling financially, and saw no light at the end of the tunnel. We were having a “discussion“ (if you had been listening you might’ve called it an “argument”, but we were just being “emphatic “ :-), when Marsha asked “emphatically” “What are we going to do about it?“ I replied equally “emphatically”, “ I don’t know what we’re going to do about it!”

Looking down at the table beside me, I saw these words in the Phillips translation I have been reading: “Present distress is temporary and negligible.” Reading the words that follow, “In my opinion, whatever we may have to go through now is next to nothing compared to the magnificent future God has planned for us.” (Romans 8:18). Those words gave us hope.

At times, we need to reminded, again, that “present distress is temporary and negligible,” and thank God for the magnificent future that lies ahead.

Years later, I am reading through the Phillips translation of the New Testament again. It brings back memories of how God has been with us through bad times, and promises better times in the future. And, if today’s times are good, think how much better they will be!

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Grace!

My goal normally is to read five chapters in the Bible per day, knowing that I can read the entire Bible in one year. But lately, I have been camping out in the Book of Romans. Rather than focusing on reading five chapters, I find myself contemplating and medicating a chapter, or maybe even a few verses. The more I dig into the word, especially Romans, the more I realize the good news is the grace news. It’s not “hyper grace “, where we have a license to do whatever we want because it’s all “covered by grace”. It is, rather that the realization of grace – the love that God has for us extended through his grace and mercy – that enables me to live for him rather than myself. Grace is most often defined as “unmerited favor “but it is also “divine enablement“. In walking in both his unmerited favor and his divine enablement, I want to live a life pleasing to Jesus out of gratitude rather than fear or obligation.

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It’s True, Cover to Cover!

I had a liberal theological background and, therefore, believed much of the book of Genesis was a “true myth”— fables intending to teach us truth, but the stories themselves never happened. There really wasn’t an Adam or an Eve. They were characters created by an ancient civilization to try to explain a creation they didn’t understand. There was no “Jonah and the whale”….You get the picture by now. But on August 28, 1980, I declared my faith in Jesus Christ, declaring it was all true. If it said the creation was a 7-day event, it was a 7-day event. Adam and Eve existed. There really was a Jonah, and he was swallowed by “a big fish”. I concluded the Bible is true from cover to cover and if the cover says “Holy Bible” the cover is true.

So, if the Bible says “…there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12b), and Jesus said, “No man comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6), those words must also be true.

The great truth is this: Jesus Christ died for my sins, and was resurrected three days later! Because I have bought into this truth, I have so many rewards, the greatest which I’m forgiven, my name is in the book, and I’m spending eternity in heaven. I’m saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

To know more about what this means, check out Wednesday night’s message given at Word of Life Bentonville at http://Gbpfm.sermon.net/main/main/21409770.

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A Leap of Faith

After twelve years full time at Arkansas Security, I have stepped down from my management position, going part time. I’m still available to help you analyze your security, fire, CCTV and access control needs, so please contact me if I may be of service in those areas. In the meantime, my focus is serving the Benton County Sheriff’s Office 1/2 time as Chief Chaplain, working toward full time when funds are available. My salaried position and operating expenses at BCSO are funded solely by Northwest Arkansas Chaplain Ministries, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. Initially Part of my responsibilities in includes fundraising for the ministry.

Here’s what you can do to help:

1. Pray for our chaplains, jail ministers and the people they serve at the Benton County Sheriff’s Office

2. Consider serving as a jail minister at the Benton County Jail.

3. Like and follow us on Facebook at NWAChaplains.

4. Sign up for our newsletter.

5. Help us find opportunities to share—in churches, civic clubs, wherever we might find an audience to listen to what God is doing at the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.

6. Consider supporting Northwest Arkansas Chaplain Ministries financially with monthly or one-time gifts.

Learn more, including how to sign up for the newsletter or support the chaplain ministry financially at nwachaplains.com,

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TIME TO LEAP

From today’s devo, “Pastor Rick: God has told you something that’s illogical and foolish. It makes no sense financially, relationally, or emotionally. Worse yet, you’re scared to death. But God says to do it anyway.”

I’m faced with such a situation, except for the “scared to death” part. I’m fully confident that what God has told me to do will succeed.

The sense of urgency to move forward began at the James River Church Stronger Men’s Conference, when Pastor Jeremy Foster from Hope City Church in Houston seemed to be saying over and over, “When are you going to do what God has called you to do?” I’m not going to make a major life decision on one conference speaker. But, since then it seems the same question keeps coming up over and over. I’ve discussed it with people I trust to tell me, not what I need to hear, but what they believe is best, and there’s been no negative response. And, importantly, my wife is beside this decision.

Today I’m meeting with my Board of Directors of the ministry today, to share with them I believe it’s time to take a leap of faith and launch full time, even though it seems “illogical and foolish…..”. (Read the entire Rick Warren devo at https://bit.ly/2WOEjIH).

I stand on God’s promises, ready to leap, confident of these scriptures:

“Commit your works to the LORD And your plans will be established.” PROVERBS 16:3 (NASB)

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” PHILIPPIANS 1:6 (NASB)

And I’m ready to leap.

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On Forgiveness

In Numbers 12, Miriam and Aaron’s opposition to Moses’ leadership began with their criticism of Moses’ marriage to a Cushite (Ethiopian) woman. (Cushites were black-skinned people in Southern Egypt.) Criticism then escalated to his leadership, at which point God turned Miriam’s skin white with leprosy. (God has a sense of irony.) When Moses pleaded with God to heal her, God compared her criticism to spitting in her father’s face, a serious insult which required seven days of isolation. The primary offense–interracial marriage–led to a secondary offense, Moses’ leadership.

Primary offenses often lead to secondary offenses, and many times, it snowballs from there. That’s why “Forgive us our debts as we forgive…”is a daily prayer/decision we must make. If there’s no primary offense, there can be no secondary offense, then.

Being offended–or not being offended–is a choice. I choose to not be offended.

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Lesson Learned: Spend More Time Hanging Out With God

Often God uses my own experiences to teach me valuable lessons. That happened today.

My older son is going to be in town tomorrow. So I called and suggested that he come this evening and we could cook a steak add hang out and watch a guy movie. Hey said that instead, he would just wait and come tomorrow. That way he could sleep in his own bed tonight.

Though he had a valid reason, I admit I was disappointed. I used to have so much time with my sons, and now, with both of them moved away, I have so little time.

It struck me that that’s how my heavenly Father feels. He wants me to spend time with Him, and I find some “valid reason” to do something else. I believe that sometimes what He really wants is our company…He just wants us to hang out with Him. And the feeling I experience this morning when my son opted not to come this evening Is in a very small way how God must feel When we don’t take our opportunity to just hang out with Him.

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Taking back what was His

In Luke 4:5-7, “And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” (‭ESV). That authority had been given to ‬‬Adam, but he surrendered it to Satan and the fall. Though it was delivered to him, it didn’t belong to him. It belonged to the One to whom he offered it. Jesus came to take it back and to give it back, which He fulfilled in His death, burial and resurrection.

After Peter affirmed that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Jesus said it was on that rock of revelation that He would build His church and “the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (Matthew‬ ‭16:18-19‬ ‭NASB‬‬).

This promise was fulfilled in Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age'”.

Satan couldn’t give Jesus what was already His, and Satan can’t take back from us what Jesus has given us. So stand firm in your faith, knowing Jesus’ victory means your victory!

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Giving It Up to Follow Jesus

Adapted from today’s devo: Not doing wrong does not give you right standing with God. Right standing, or “righteousness” comes from your personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If not doing wrong was enough the rich young ruler would not have walked away sad. (Luke 18: 18-23)

Selling everything he had and giving it away to follow Jesus had nothing to do with what he had, but everything to do with what had him. Sometimes in following Jesus He will ask us to give up something. But it’s not what we give up, but what we gain in the process. In my case, when Jesus asks me to give something up it’s usually because what I’m hanging on to is harmful, or hindering my spiritual growth. He asked me to give up being a worship leader, but what I gained in return was far greater than what I lost.

My identity was in my role, not in who I was in Him. And, today I am fulfilling my true calling as a pastor, something that might not have happened had I not been willing to give up leading worship. Being a pastor does not identify me. Now my identity is not in what I do, (though I probably still struggle some with it). My identity is in Him, as I seek to become more like Him every day. And, if He asks me to give up something in the process, I want to do so to fulfill the call He has on my life. I want nothing to stand between me and my Jesus.

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