Saturday, December 01, 2018

Why These Miracles?

(This column originally appeared in the Town Talk on Sunday, December 2, 2018.)
If I were to ask you how many miracles Jesus performed what would your answer be? If you ask Google, over 68 million results would suggest that Jesus performed 37 miracles, recorded in the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), with Mark’s Gospel recording the most.

But what if I were to tell you that Jesus did many, many more miracles than this, would you believe me? I can prove it to you. Listen to the words of the beloved apostle John as he concludes his Gospel with these final words: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25 NASB)

It may seem a little surprising that the Bible records only 37 of these innumerable miracles. And even more surprising is that the Apostle John only records seven, prior to the crucifixion! Out of all the miracles that John personally saw Jesus do, how did he come to pick these specific seven?

John seems to have anticipated that question as well because in the second-to-last chapter of his Gospel we find these words: “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31 NASB)

What’s interesting is that when you walk through each of the miracles of Jesus that John recorded you find that very common theme – it always resulted in someone believing in Jesus!

For example, after Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding in Cana John records these words: “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” (John 2:11 NASB)

I could walk you through all seven miracles and with each one you would see that the miracle resulted in someone believing in Jesus. Here’s a good way to summarize it with John’s report of what happened in Jerusalem: “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing.” (John 2:23 NASB)

Hopefully you’re seeing the point very well. Jesus didn’t just do miracles to wow the crowds or drum up a big following. Every miracle had the sole purpose of bringing someone to faith in Him. And so John picked seven specific miracles to help the reader “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”

But the sentence doesn’t end there. John went on to say, “…and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31b NASB)

My question to you is have you received the life that He offers? There are many who might say they “believe” in Jesus, but they don’t have a life that demonstrates that. It’s not enough to believe in God for according to James even “the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19b NASB) At least the demons have the sense to tremble before God!

My prayer for you is that you will receive the life that Jesus offers, and that His life will transform your life! Then you’ll find that life bubbling out onto others, giving them hope as well!

John opens his Gospel by saying that everyone who received Jesus was given the right to become children of God! (See John 1:12.) So why did he include the seven specific miracles that he chose? Because he wanted to give you something to believe in, a hope to sustain you, and a life worth living! Why these miracles? That you might believe! And that believing you might have life! Do you believe?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Alcohol Sales in Pineville??? Part 2

On December 8 the citizens of Pineville will decide the future of alcohol sales in the corporate limits of Pineville, courtesy of two out-of-town corporations (Walmart and Super 1) and a Texas consulting group (Texas Petition Strategies) that does this for a living.

Back on July 22 I shared right here in this blog about an effort by the "big box" stores to promote a petition to put alcohol sales on the ballot. In my opinion their tactics were very deceptive, and I explained that in that post. However, ultimately they were successful because they got just enough signatures to force a vote.

In a nutshell, they made it sound like if you signed the petition the only thing on the ballot would be alcohol sales in grocery stores. The reality is that the December 8 election will actually have 5 different options on the ballot, including options that would allow for bars, strip clubs, drive-through daiquiri shops, and alcohol sales in convenience stores, gas stations, and even drive-through "beer barns." Most who signed the petition had no idea how many options would be on the ballot - they simply thought they'd be voting on grocery store sales.

Having said that, my goal here is not to tell you how to vote. I simply want to help demystify the 5 options, and tell you in plan language what each option would allow.

Let's start with the actual language that will be on the ballot regarding the 5 options, or "Propositions" as they are officially called, and I will bold the key phrases. Remember, Pineville citizens, you will vote Yes or No on each one.)
  • Proposition 1: Shall the sale of beverages of alcoholic content containing not more than six percent alcohol by volume be permitted by package only and not for consumption on the premises in the City of Pineville, State of Louisiana?
  • Proposition 2: Shall the sale of beverages of alcoholic content containing not more than six percent alcohol by volume for consumption on the premises be permitted in the City of Pineville, State of Louisiana?
  • Proposition 3: Shall the sale of beverage alcohol containing one-half of one percent alcohol by volume and above for consumption on the premises be permitted in the City of Pineville, State of Louisiana?
  • Proposition 4: Shall the sale of beverages of alcoholic content containing one-half of one percent alcohol by volume and above by the package only and not for consumption on the premises be permitted in the City of Pineville, State of Louisiana?
  • Proposition 5: Shall the sale of beverages of high and low alcoholic content be permitted only on the premises of restaurant establishments which have been issued an "R" permit as defined by law in the City of Pineville, State of Louisiana?
    (This language comes from LA Revised Statute 26:588.)
There are several important terms being used in the legal language, and here's my attempt at a simpler explanation:
  • "no more than six percent alcohol" - this language is found in Props 1 and 2 and reflects the sales of "low alcohol" beverages, i.e., beer, wine coolers, etc. This is currently what is available in Ward 9 outside the city limits of Pineville - for example, along Highways 28E and 107.
  • "containing one-half of one percent alcohol by volume and above" - this language is found in Props 3 and 4 and reflects the sales of ANY alcoholic beverage, no matter the percentage of alcohol contained.
  • "by package only and not for consumption on the premises" - this language is found in Props 1 and 4 and allows the sale of packaged alcohol at retail locations in sealed containers not to be consumed on the premises. Examples would be liquor stores, grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations/convenience stores, beer barns, drive-through daiquiri stores, etc..
  • "for consumption on the premises" - this language is found in Props 2 and 3 and allows the sale of prepared alcohol beverages in restaurants, bars, strip clubs, lounges, theaters, etc. because all of these sales are for the purposes of consuming them ON the premises where the sale occurs.
  • "only on the premises of restaurants" - this language is found in Prop 5 and is the current status in Pineville where alcohol is only available for sale in restaurants.
You can see the perplexity because there are 2 descriptions of the type of alcohol that can be sold (low alcohol content and any alcohol content), and 2 types of locations where alcohol could be sold (off premises and on premises). And they're all mixed up! Then you have Prop 5 which allows all alcohol in restaurants only! Now you see the confusion.

In an effort to simplify how all the various options terms and definitions, here is a small table that hopefully explains it better:

PACKAGE SALES
Grocery & Convenience Stores, Liquor Stores, Drug Stores, Beer Barns, Daiquiri Shops, Etc.
CONSUMPTION ON SITE
Restaurants, Lounges, Hotels, Bars, Private Clubs, Strip Clubs, Theaters, Etc.
LOW Alcohol Content Prop 1 Prop 2
ANY Alcohol Content Prop 4 Prop 3
(Prop 5 would only allow for alcohol to be sold in restaurants only without any of the expansions listed above.)

There you have it! It all boils down to what Pineville wants. So here's what you do:
  • If you want alcohol to be sold in grocery stores, drug stores, convenience stores, gas stations, stand-alone liquor stores, beer barns and drive-through daiquiri stores, etc, then vote YES on Props 1 and/or 4.
  • If you want alcohol to be sold in restaurants, bars, strip clubs, lounges, hotels, theaters, etc, then vote YES on Props 2 and/or 3.
  • If you want alcohol to be available in restaurants only, as it currently is, without any expansion of alcohol sales, then vote YES on Prop 5.
  • If you want alcohol freely available in every form, then vote YES on all 5 options.
  • If you don't want want alcohol to be sold in any form in Pineville, then vote NO on all 5 options.
On December 8 THE CHOICE IS YOURS! And don't forget the early voting is Nov 24-Dec 1 (excluding Sunday, Nov 25) which you can do at the Courthouse or at Kees Park Community Center! It's your decision. Choose well.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Honor to Whom Honor is Due


(This column originally appeared in the Town Talk on Sunday, November 11, 2018.)

Honor to Whom Honor is Due

One hundred years ago today, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918,  the “war to end all wars” finally came to an end. “The Great War” mobilized over 70 million military personnel making it one of the largest wars in history. The following year President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the nation’s feelings about what the day meant to Americans. That was just the beginning of recognizing today, November 11, as a special day to honor our military veterans.

We honor our veterans for their service. Whether they were drafted or volunteered, they served us and our country, fulfilling their obligation with honorable service. For that we are grateful.

We also honor our veterans for their sacrifice. Many of us will never know the cost of their service. Boot camp alone is an incredible sacrifice! But long tours away from family, emotional hardship, physical danger, some were even wounded or injured – all of these are sacrifices that we honor.

We also honor our veterans for their love. Soldiers learn to love in a very unique way, a way that can best be summarized by what Jesus said in John 15:13. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” We honor our veterans because they exhibit the greatest love of all – the willingness to lay down their life for their friend.

The word veteran is generally understood to describe a former member of the armed forces. However, it comes from the Latin word “veteranus” which simply means mature, experienced or old. I believe that by extension all Christians are called to be veterans in our service of Christ. We’re not to be “flash-in-the-pan” Christians or “one-hit-wonders” but rather to develop a life of consistency as we serve Jesus.

Jesus talked about this in Luke 9:62 when He said, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Jesus called us to keep looking forward, not looking back over our shoulder at what we’ve left behind. He tells us to fix our eyes ahead. You don’t become a veteran over-night. And you don’t become a veteran by fixating on your past. Once you’ve committed your life to Jesus it’s time to follow through.

And there are no guarantees that things will be easy. Sometimes people have mistakenly communicated the idea that when you accept Jesus life becomes a bed of roses. But the reality is that Christians enlist in a spiritual battle with unseen forces that war for our soul. Paul described this warfare in Ephesians 6:12-17 when he urged us to “take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day.” 

We can’t give up just because it gets tough. In 2 Tim 2:3 Paul urged young Timothy (and us) to “suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” And in Gal 6:9 he calls on us to “not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” So press through and don’t give up, Christian, because you, too, are called to be a veteran – a veteran follower of Jesus!

Today on this Veteran’s Day we pause to honor the veterans among us because it is proper to give honor to whom honor is due (Rom 13:7). Thank you for your service, your sacrifice, and your love. We are grateful for your example of setting others before self and pray that you will feel our appreciation and honor. And we never get tired of saying, “Thank you for your service!”

Friday, October 26, 2018

2018 Election Recommendations

Source: Public Domain
I'm honored that many of my friends ask for my recommendations on elections. Hopefully it's because they trust me, even though I am involved in politics! LOL! In previous years I would give my recommendations on candidates for specific offices, but I've largely stopped doing that. In the last few years I’ve essentially limited my recommendations to Constitutional Amendments, mainly because they are often hard to understand, and only occasionally have I spoken about a candidate or cause I feel strongly about.

This year the main elective offices before us are the following:
  • LA Secretary of State
  • US Representative in the 5th Congressional District
  • District Judge for the 9th Judicial District
  • Several Rapides Parish School Board members
  • Mayors of Alexandria, Ball, Boyce and Lecompte
  • Councilman-at-Large and District 2 Councilman of Alexandria
  • Aldermen/Councilmen of Ball, Boyce, Glenmora, Lecompte, Forest Hill, McNary, and Woodworth
  • Some area-specific taxes and propositions.

I'm going to keep my mouth shut in those races and just share some thoughts about the Constitutional Amendments. 😃

There are six amendments on this ballot, plus a state-wide vote on the expansion of gambling for fantasy sports. I'll give my quick recommendation on each issue, and then a more detailed explanation for each one below. BTW, a GREAT resource is the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana's excellent non-partisan guide, which I highly recommend. And please note that the wording of some amendments can be confusing - sometimes you vote "YES" for something you DON'T want and "NO" for something you DO want! Whew! So without further ado, here are my recommendations:


  1. AMENDMENT 1: Felons in Public Office. YES.
  2. AMENDMENT 2: Unanimous Juries for Felony Cases. YES.
  3. AMENDMENT 3: Allow Local Governments to Share Resources. YES.
  4. AMENDMENT 4: Diversions of Dedicated Transportation Funding to State Police. YES.
  5. AMENDMENT 5: Tax Exemptions for Property in Trust. YES.
  6. AMENDMENT 6: Large Tax Increases on Homes. YES.
  7. BALLOT ITEM: The Louisiana Fantasy Sports Contest Act. NO.


Now let's take a look at each amendment a little more closely:

1. AMENDMENT 1: Felons in Public Office.
This amendment would prohibit felons from holding or seeking elective public office for five years after completing a sentence. (This restriction would not apply to felons who are pardoned.) Voters in 1998 approved a similar constitutional amendment that prevented felons from seeking and holding public office for 15 years after completing their sentence. However, in 2016 the Supreme Court threw out the amendment because the wording on the ballot didn’t exactly match what was passed by the Legislature. This new effort continues the same philosophy of trying to clean up the reputation of Louisiana having "the best politicians money can buy," but shortens the time that a felon can’t seek or hold public office to 5 years. In my opinion, this is needed if Louisiana is going to break its reputation for corruption in politics.
MY RECOMMENDATION: YES

2. AMENDMENT 2: Unanimous Juries for Felony Cases.
US President John Adams wrote, "...it is the unanimity of the jury that preserves the rights of mankind." However, Louisiana is one of only two states that allow for felony trials to be decided without a unanimous decision (Oregon is the other). Only 10 out of 12 jurors have to vote guilty for a person to be convicted. This was originally instituted in the 1898 Louisiana Constitution as 9 out of 12, and then revised in the 1974 Constitution as 10 out of 12. The reason appears rooted in racism of the past, as the Official Journal of the 1898 Constitutional Convention states, “Our mission was, in the first place, to establish the supremacy of the white race in this State to the extent to which it could be legally and constitutionally done.” (Thomas J. Semmes, Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, explaining the rationale behind many of the proposals put forth and adopted in the Constitution. ) This is a stain on our state that needs to be reversed.
MY RECOMMENDATION: YES

3. AMENDMENT 3: Allow Local Governments to Share Resources. 
The state Constitution prohibits donations or loans by governmental entities except in cases of emergency. This causes political subdivisions to duplicate resources, for example, having to purchase expensive equipment that they only occasionally need. The amendment would allow cities, towns, villages, police juries, etc to loan equipment to each other as long as they have a written agreement, making sure such loans are kept in the public eye for the public benefit.
MY RECOMMENDATION: YES

4. AMENDMENT 4: Diversions of Dedicated Transportation Funding to State Police.
In 1990 the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) was created to ensure that state fuel tax dollars would go to transportation projects. A portion of the fund was allowed to support the state police for traffic control purposes, but that amount ballooned to about $700 million since its inception, causing many people to “not trust the trust fund.” Since 2016 the current administration has NOT used TTF monies to fund the state police, trying to reestablish “trust in the trust fund.” This amendment would ensure that future administrations would not return to the practices of old, while having NO impact on the operations of the state police.
MY RECOMMENDATION: YES

5. AMENDMENT 5: Tax Exemptions for Property in Trust. 
It is becoming increasingly common for people to place their home into a “trust” that will insure that their assets go to who they choose after their death. Current law allows for the homestead exemption to be applied to property placed in a trust. However, there are other exemptions passed by the voters (i.e., not increasing assessments for those over the age of 65, surviving spouses of military personnel killed in action, or the permanently disable, etc), that are not being applied to properties in a trust due to a 2017 opinion from the Attorney General. This amendment would allow properties placed in trust to continue to receive ALL the normal exemption as long as the the original owner continues to live in it, not just the homestead exemption. This clarifies and codifies the will and intent of the Legislature and public. (NOTE: This section was edited for clarity.)
MY RECOMMENDATION: YES

6. AMENDMENT 6: Large Tax Increases on Homes. 
Every four years all taxable property is reassessed. In addition, property is also reassessed when it is sold. Sometimes the property owners can receive large increases in their property tax bill. This amendment would allow tax assessors to gradually increase the assessment of a property owner’s primary residence over four years whenever a properties reassessment is greater than 50% of the prior assessment. That means that if the tax assessor raises the value of your home over 50%, your tax burden would not increase immediately, but would be phased in over 4 years.
MY RECOMMENDATION: YES

BALLOT ITEM: The Louisiana Fantasy Sports Contest Act.
Although not a constitutional amendment, this item will appear on ALL ballots statewide on November 6. This act would allow for the expansion of gambling in Louisiana by allowing betting on “fantasy sports” to take place.  According to some research, Louisiana is the 5th most gambling addictive state in the United States. Do we need more gambling?
MY RECOMMENDATION: NO


Well there you have it. For what it’s worth, those are my recommendations, which you’re free to accept or ignore. But no matter how you feel on the matter, please don’t forget to vote! It’s both a right and a responsibility of citizenship! And pleas note that  EARLY VOTING is going on Oct 23-30 (except for Sunday) from 8:30AM to 6:00PM. And you can early vote at either the Registrar of Voter's office in the Rapides Parish Courthouse OR at Kees Park Community Center on Hwy 28E in Pineville!

And wherever you live in Louisiana, you can get your custom sample ballot by simply going to https://voterportal.sos.la.gov/Home/VoterLogin - just input your info and you’ll find every option on your ballot coming up in the November 6 primary election! 

BTW, if you have any thoughts or think I overlooked something, please don’t hesitate to comment and let me know. I enjoy the feedback and look forward to some good dialog!

And one more BTW - there will be another election in December for those races that end up in a runoff. BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! December 8 is when the citizens of Pineville will vote on 5 different options regarding alcohol sales within the city limits. The story behind that upcoming vote is both deceptive and intriguing, and the options will be CONFUSING. I'll try to break it all down for you shortly after the November election. So stay tuned!!!

            Sunday, October 07, 2018

            Beauty for Ashes

            (This column originally appeared in the Town Talk on Sunday, October 7, 2018.)

            Many of us are familiar with the phrase “beauty from ashes.” It evokes a sense of comeback, of a phoenix rising from destruction, of finding something good in the midst of so much evil. Throughout history ashes have represented loss and mourning. So the idea of finding beauty rising out of the ashes strikes a chord of hopefulness within all of us.

            Many people believe this phrase comes from the Bible. But they’re mistaken. However, there’s actually a very similar phrase found in the book of Isaiah. Looking forward to the coming Messiah, Isaiah wrote that the Redeemer would “appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…” (Is 61:3 KJV)

            Did you catch it? The prophet did not say that God’s promise was to bring beauty FROM ashes, but rather He would give beauty FOR ashes! There’s a big difference between the two!

            We like the idea of God making something beautiful from something ugly. And He can certainly do that. But His promise in Scriptures is to actually replace our ashes with something else!

            I believe this points to the salvation that God provided through Jesus Christ. When God saves us, He doesn’t simply improve us, He creates something new! Consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

            “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor 5:17 KJV)

            When you repent of your sins and confess Jesus as Lord, having believed that God raised Him from the dead, God doesn’t just “improve” you. He re-creates you! Salvation doesn’t make you a better version of your old self. It creates a whole new you!

            This is why Jesus spoke of the “new birth” as being necessary to be part of the Kingdom of God. When He spoke with Nicodemus, a learned religious leader, Jesus said, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 NASB).

            It’s not the amount of religious education you have, or even how often you go to church. The question is, have you experienced the new birth that Peter described when he said, “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Pet 1:23 NASB)

            While we may not understand all the nuances of this “born again” language, there is something within our hearts that cries out for a new beginning. We long for “old things” to pass way and for all things to become new! There’s something within us that cries out in our broken condition for a new beginning. Not for beauty to come out of our ashes, but to be given beauty in place of our ashes.

            I’ve got good news for you! This is the hope of the Christian faith! And it’s something we cannot earn – it’s the free gift of God! There is hope for a new beginning!

            That hope is the very message that many churches from many denominations across Central Louisiana have come together to present at the Rapides Parish Coliseum on Oct 14-17. The event is called #Hope4U2018 and the goal is present this message of hope to every citizen of Cenla!

            You don’t have to live in the ashes of your failure and brokenness any longer. There is #Hope4U! And it’s found in Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 63. In fact, He quoted from it when He taught His first ever sermon in Luke 4, and after reading the prophet’s words He simply said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21 NASB)

            How could He say that? Because Jesus IS the Hope for you and me! Please join me Oct 14-17 at the Rapides Parish Coliseum for #Hope4U2018 and let God replace your ashes with His beauty! Because there is hope!

            Sunday, September 02, 2018

            How to Pray for Your Pastor

            (This column originally appeared in the Town Talk on Sunday, September 1, 2018.)


            Recently the news has carried disturbing stories of yet another pastor committing suicide. Pastor Andrew Stoecklein of Inland Hills Church of Chino, CA, attempted to take his life at his church on August 24, and sadly passed away in the hospital the next day. He was just 30 years old, married, father of three, and the lead pastor of a “megachurch” that his father had founded 20 years ago.

            I wish this were an isolated story, but a simple Internet search for “pastors and suicide” will give you literally millions of results. One laments that “the pastoral profession has one of the top 3 suicide rates of any profession.” Another points out how the vast majority of pastors feel like the ministry has had a negative impact on their family. And yet another simply asks, “Why are so many pastors committing suicide?” And that’s just on the first page of results!

            Ministry today is harder than it’s ever been before. The pressures on a pastor are great and the expectations are high. Paul Valo, the lead pastor of Christ Church in Orlando, FL, summed it up well: “In this generation, pastors are expected to be business savvy, Instagram quotable preaching celebrities, fully accessible, deeply spiritual, not too young, not too old, and if a pastor doesn't quite measure up to someone's expectation at any given moment, they are given a two out of five star rating on Google. Wow! We have reduced the ministry to star ratings on Google!”

            I’m not claiming that a pastor’s job is more difficult than everyone else’s. Many professions deal with extreme levels of trauma and stress. But because of the unique role of pastors as role-models, and the high expectations of near-perfection placed on them, many pastors don’t seek care or share their struggles. So they suffer alone.

            Your pastor needs your prayers! Even the great apostle Paul asked for prayer on many occasions in the Scripture (Rom 15:30-32; 2 Cor 1:11; Eph 6:18-20; Phlp 1:19; Col 4:3; 1 Th 5:25; 2 Th 3:1-3; Phlm 1:22; etc) And if Paul, with all his spiritual strength, needed prayer your pastor does, too!

            So how can you best pray for your pastor? Perhaps by reading some of Paul’s prayer requests we can get a better idea. Here are just a few:

            Pray for God’s anointing when they speak. In Ephesians 6:19-20 Paul them to pray that when he spoke he would communicate well the mystery of the Gospel. Every pastor I know wants to communicate God’s Word faithfully and accurately. And most feel like this is one of their greatest struggles. So pray for God to anoint them when they speak. And let them know when you’ve heard God speak through them.

            Pray for their protection, physical and spiritual. In Philippians 1:19 Paul’s prayer request was for his “deliverance.” Some say this was to be delivered from prison, but others suppose it was from whatever spiritual oppression he was suffering. Pray for your pastor’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical protection. Pray that they be delivered from evil, from temptation, and from the snares that the enemy would set before them.

            Pray for their rest. In Romans 15:30-32, after asking them to pray that he would be rescued from those who opposed his messaged, Paul asks them to pray that he would be able to find “refreshing rest” in their company. Most pastors work 55-70 hours a week and don’t know how to set boundaries. Pray that they will understand that even God rested from His labors, and so should they!

            There are many other areas where your pastor needs your prayers. Go back through some of the scriptures I shared earlier and make a list of how to pray for your pastor. Or even more personally, ask him how you can pray for him. And then do it! Nothing will encourage a pastor’s heart more than a congregation praying for him!

            Finally, understand that depression is real, and pastors can struggle with it just like anyone else. But if you are struggling with depression, whether you are in the ministry or not, please reach out for help. Talk to someone and let them in. Call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Or call me. You’re not alone.



            P.S. Here's a great article based on the Rom 15:30-32 passage that you might find interesting: http://myfaithfamily.com/how-to-pray-for-your-pastor/

            Sunday, August 05, 2018

            When We Mess Up

            (This column originally appeared in the Town Talk on Sunday, August 8, 2018.)

            Have you ever messed up? Have you ever made such a mistake you thought you could never get over it? Have you thought about just quitting? Then this message is for you!

            One of the common occurrences of the human condition is that we mess up. No matter how hard we try, from time to time we just blow it! We miscalculate, we procrastinate, we overestimate – and the result is we let someone down in a big way.

            The Bible doesn’t hide the stories of failure of even its biggest heroes. Rather than sugarcoat their lives with pretend perfection, the Bible paints vivid pictures of passionate, alive men and women who live life loudly, and sometimes mess up loudly as well!

            Peter is one of those passionate protagonists whose story makes us all feel a little better about ourselves. If any of the apostles were going to put his foot in his mouth, it would be Peter! He was quick to judge, quick to offer an opinion, even quick to rebuke Jesus Himself when he thought Jesus was wrong.

            But on the biggest night of history, the night Jesus was betrayed, arrested, tried, and condemned to die, Peter made his biggest screw-up of all! When given the opportunity to stand with Jesus, which he had so boldly declared he would do, he denied ever knowing Him. Not just once, but three times! (And the third time he included some choice words to get people off his back!)

            That was when he knew he blew it! Luke 22:61 tells us that after Peter’s 3rd denial that Jesus turned and looked at Peter. And that’s when Peter knew he’d blown it. The next verse tells us “he went out and wept bitterly.”

            But thank God that Jesus doesn’t leave us in our failure! After Jesus rose from the dead Mark reports that He specifically sent word to Peter to meet Him in Galilee (Mark 16:7). And when Jesus met them on the seashore He made sure to get across to Peter a very important message – that not even his failures could separate him from God’s love!

            The scene was carefully set. Just like the night that Peter had denied Jesus there was a charcoal fire. And just as there had been three opportunities to acknowledge Jesus, Peter is now asked three times, “Do you love Me?” (See John 21:1-19 for the full treatment.)

            Serious students of the Scriptures recognize that Jesus used a Greek word for love (“agape”) and that Peter responded with a different Greek word (“phileo”). It’s as if Peter couldn’t accept the restoration Jesus was pouring out on him. So the third time Jesus asked the question, He used Peter’s word, “phileo” – fully coming down to Peter’s level in order to lift Peter back up again.

            But there’s more to the story. Each of the three times that Jesus restored Peter back to love He reminded Peter that he was still useful to Jesus! Each time He reminded Peter of God’s call on his life to shepherd, feed and tend God’s sheep. Each time He reminded Peter that no matter how much he had messed up, God still loved Him and had a purpose for his life!

            So let me ask the questions again. Have you ever messed up? Have you ever made such a mistake you thought you could never get over it? Have you thought about just quitting? Don’t do it! Jesus still loves you and has a purpose for your life, and even for your scars.

            Paul understood this when he wrote about the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor 1:3-4 NASB)

            Could it be that God will use your failure, and your recovery, to encourage someone else? Could it be that your scars will give someone else hope? Could it be that you’re still useful to God? Yes, it could be! In fact, it is! Just don’t quit!

            How do you take back that lost ground? Do what Peter did. Run to Jesus. Talk to Jesus. Listen to Jesus. And tell Him you love Him! He’ll take care of the rest.