60!


Golf score? Nope.

Bowling score? A good possibility.

Age? Not quite yet.

I’ve lost 60 lbs. since I first started dieting in August of 2016. I weighed 265 lbs. when Heidi and I started a round of the HCG Protocol diet. During that first round, I lost 35 lbs., which was the most dramatic. It only stands to reason that the more you have to lose, the more you lose. The second and third rounds I didn’t have as much to lose. This last round, I only needed to lose about 10 lbs., but ended up losing about 18 lbs., leaving me at a stealthy 205 lbs.

The drawback to all this weight loss is the baggy clothes, which I really don’t mind, except the shirts I still have from my 265 days. I can use them as a spinnaker on a windy day.

Now, where is the leather hole puncher? I need to add a few more holes to my belts.

Dying to Dreams: Living For Christ


When Christ calls us to follow Him, He really does have us die to everything we hold dear, every expectation, every dream, every desire. He will not leave any room for our own idolatries, no matter how noble they seem to us.

It matters not what the dream or desire may be, even when those dreams or desires are within the scope of biblical Christianity. This is because we have a tendency to take even noble callings, noble desires, and noble responsibilities and turn them into idolatries.

The most obvious example is the single who desires to be married despite God’s slowness in fulfilling that desire. The single then exalts “being married” to an unhealthy level and comes to the conclusion that he/she cannot be complete in Christ without a spouse. It’s at that point that the single needs to die to the dream and desire, and trust in God’s providential hand with their singleness.

This is merely an example, but it plays itself out in our vocations, families, homes, and even the country in which we live. If we exalt anything over and against Christ, there will come a point in which He works in us to help us see our need to die to the idolatry. He will not share the throne of our heart with anything.

But given all that, many times He does bring us to the point of dying to those dreams, and then provides for us in way that does fulfill them. I believe He does this to remind us that He will not share the throne with any other entity, but also to show in the midst of this reality, He does care for us and loves us. So our dreams and desires are fulfilled. Yet in being fulfilled, we are reminded that He remains on the throne.

 

 

 

 

Photo of the Week: Renovation

While in Johnson City I saw this building that was being renovated. I thought it might make an interesting subject and ventured inside to capture the following pictures. You might think: “can you just walk in a building like that and take pictures?” After working in construction a number of years ago, I learned the trick to going into all kinds of buildings: look like you belong and have a purpose. So with camera in hand, I went inside and every time I lifted the camera to take a picture, the workmen inside scrambled to get out of the picture. I had to chuckle. None of them had the courage to ask me if I belonged there. All they knew was that they didn’t want their pictures taken.








 

Unbroken: Further Thoughts


The story of Louis Zamperini is that he was a man that would not be broken by his captors. In the movie, the climactic scene is when Louis is made to lift a large log over his head and hold it with the prospect that if he drops it, he will be beaten. Louis, in his grit and stubbornness, holds the log over his head for 37 minutes. It’s a remarkable feat of strength and determination.

This act shows Zamperini’s resolve in not being broken by his captors. The problem is that they did eventually break him, only he was no longer a POW when it finally happened. Zamperini was home in the states, married with children when he would finally came to the end of himself. But it was more than the captors that would break him, ultimately it was actually God who would break him.

This man who was exalted for his grit and determination would finally come to an end of himself and turn to Christ. This is exactly what happens to most people who come to Christ late in life: they have to come to the end of themselves. Zamperini was no different. Neither are we.

Photo of the Week: Tennessee Hills


When I moved to eastern Tennessee with Heidi back in 2015, I couldn’t help but being overwhelmed by how beautiful that portion of the state was. I remember driving to church our first Sunday there and seeing a small creek running along side the road, through the front yards of the people who lived along the street. Unlike Texas creeks, which only run after a good hearty rain, this babbling creek had a constant flow over rocks, under bridges, and was full of wildlife. It also has water that was somewhat clear.

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Unbroken


I finished reading Unbroken to our boys last night. Both of them loved the story, even though at times it was hard for them to follow with the Japanese names, some of the technical terms, and the multiple characters involved in the story. But we got through it, all 416 pages of it.

The hardest part of reading it to them, was the detailed abuse that Louis Zamperini endured while a POW. The book was far more graphic than the movie, and the boys got a real taste for the ugliness of war. (I told Heidi at one point that I don’t think I could ever read the book again as it was so gut wrenching.)

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Worse Than the First



In the Gospel of Luke, we find the following parable:

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26).

In this parable, Jesus gives us insight into the life of a counterfeit believer. A counterfeit believer is one who is deluded into thinking he or she is a Christian, but is, in reality, not. Jesus is showing us what is taking place in that person on a spiritual level. It’s an insight only He can give us.

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Should Patriotism Have a Place in Worship?

Every Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day, churches all across the country bring out the flag and patriotic tunes in a show of solidarity for God and country. But should they?

To many, it seems harmless to sing such tunes and wave the flag. After all, what could be wrong with showing pride in our country and in recognition of all those who have died in the preservation of this great nation? But when we worship, we enter into the presence of a holy God who is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).  This requires that we enter with reverence and awe, and with holy fear.

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Death-to-Self Diet


Chocolate? Out of the question!

Wine? Are you kidding me?

Beer? Just the smell of one is too many carbs.

Toast? Are you not listening?

A cookie? Now you’re being hardheaded.

Yes, my wife and I are on what I call the Death-To-Self Diet, meaning that you have to die to the idea of eating anything you crave, want, think of, for at least three weeks. It’s a serious diet and is not for those who just toy with diets. You know how some people are, they change diets like they change churches, trying one here, then another there, but never really getting serious about it.

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Cracked Pitchers


William Gurnall writes:

If the provisions were left in our own hands, we would soon be bankrupt merchants. God knows we are weak, like cracked pitchers–if filled to the brim and set aside, the contents would soon leak out. He puts us under a flowing fountain of His strength and constantly refills us. This was the provision He made for Israel in the wilderness: He split the rock, and not only was their thirst quenched at that moment, but the water ran in a stream after them, so that you hear no more complaints for water. This rock was Christ. Every believer has Christ at his back, following him as he goes, with strength for every condition and trial.

The truth is that out Father often brings us to a sense of need before He provides. He wants us to feel the want of not having, so we can see that He is the One who supplies our need. He wants us to ask Him to meet our need and trust in Him to do so. He may not answer our prayer immediately, but may use the need to keep us coming back to Him. He would much rather have His children returning to Him for their daily needs instead of blessing them with riches, and have them fall away.

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Dear Church, It’s the Pastor’s Job to Warn You of Savage Wolves

On Facebook, a fellow pastor pointed out the what celebrity pastor Andy Stanley was teaching about the Old Testament was “really wrong.” Of course, this brought out all kinds of comments from the enemies of truth implying how unloving, mean, and wicked the pastor was for doing so. Given Andy Stanley’s track record, of winking approval at homosexual couples in his congregation, and declaring that we need to un-hitch ourselves from the part of the Bible that Jesus, Peter, and Paul all preached from, every orthodox pastor in America should be warning their flocks against Andy Stanley.

This is, the pastor’s job to do so.

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Three Ways We Join Satan in Saying “Indeed, Has God Said…?”

The lie that continues to be repeated from Genesis 3 that still plagues us today is the words spoken to the woman by the serpent: “Indeed, has God said…?” At the heart of his question is doubt. The serpent convinced the woman to doubt God’s goodness, His word, and His provision. In doing so, she then led Adam in eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and for the first time in human history, mankind knew what evil was from an experiential level. Before the fall, they knew only goodness. But after the fall, they knew evil in a real way and because of their transgression, we know evil as well.

What makes it difficult for us is that we have trouble knowing true goodness. It is only when we come to God’s word, and know God Himself, that we know and experience true goodness. This is why the serpent, known as Satan, is still using the same lie “Indeed, has God said…?” in our day. He doesn’t use those exact words, but we have all heard them used over and over again. The question is the same, only phrased differently.

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Photo of the Week: The Caboose Family

Heidi and I finally had an opportunity to visit Ed and Susan, members of our church. Their home is quite unusual, in that it is roughly under 400 square feet in size. You may have heard of people living in tiny houses, but Susan and Ed are the real deal. But, truth must be told. Their current home is actually bigger than their first home on the property, which was a genuine Burlington Northern caboose. It is only about 300 square feet. So they are currently living high on the hog. I really admire them for being able to happily live in such small spaces.

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When the Chief Shepherd Appears

Except pastors retain this end in view, it can by no means be that they will in good earnest proceed in the course of their calling, but will, on the contrary, become often faint; for there are innumerable hindrances which are sufficient to discourage the most prudent. They have often to do with ungrateful men, from whom they receive an unworthy reward; long and great labors are often in vain; Satan sometimes prevails in his wicked devices. Lest then, the faithful servant of Christ should be broken down, there is for him one and only one remedy,–to turn his eyes to the coming of Christ.

From John Calvin’s commentary on 1 Peter 5, specifically verse 4: and when the Chief Shepherd appears.