THE DAY OF MY SECOND BIRTH

THE DAY OF MY SECOND BIRTH

On the day after the 37th anniversary of my second birth, I feel compelled to share the story of that day, in order to bring glory to my Lord, my savior, my friend, Jesus.

I will attempt to make this as concise as I can so that those that don’t believe may not get too bored.😉

My family, being a southern traditional Christian family, always belonged to and attended church religiously. I grew up with Sunday School and church attendance every Sunday.

Every Sunday.

Vacation Bible school every summer.

Every summer.

Summer church camp from fourth grade through my senior year in high school every summer.

Every summer.

In fourth grade, as was the tradition of my church, in the spring we would have a “pastor’s class” to instill in us the beliefs of our denomination. In the spring, at the end of the class, we all “joined” the church, making us eligible to take communion, and we were all baptized on Palm Sunday. I felt warm and happy.

In my senior year in high school, I dabbled in marijuana and cheap wine. (Boone’ Farm and Spanada) I explored different moral choices than those I had been taught.

In college, I did not deem it important to be in a church. I joined hippy-type activist groups, let my hair continue to grow long, looked for hippy-type girlfriends.

I remember one time when a campus crusade guy came to my dorm room, showed me a pamphlet that showed a cross on a throne and a person on a throne, and asked me which one was I? I laughed at him, he talked a little bit, smiled and left.

I also took a Jewish girl that I was hanging around with to a “Jesus freak” rally. (Actually, it was her idea) When they started holding up one finger (for One Way) we kinda slipped out the back. I was totally untouched.

I started dating a girl I had gone to high school with, we lied to her parents, lied to mine, and moved in together while I was still in college. She got pregnant, we got married, and we still are.

One good thing from the messy way my life was turning.

Sometime during my senior year, I left school ( yeah, I know, why didn’t I stick it out?), moved back to my hometown, got a job, and settled in to “adulthood”.

Man, when I look back, I realize that every thing I did was for myself.

I worked for Safeway, then got a job as route salesman for Dr Pepper. I loved it, I was good at it, and I got fired for stealing. Later, I got another grocery store job, and I got fired for leaving out the fact that I had gotten fired from Dr Pepper on my application. That was really a low, low time for me.

And yet, I still considered myself a good person by comparison.

Finally after having a few fill in jobs that I didn’t love, I was hired by Pepsi as a route salesman. I became top salesman 3 of the five years I worked there, was written up in an article in the national Pepsi magazine.

I felt pretty good about myself again. After a while, I figured out how I could make a few extra bucks by changing some tickets, and one day as I was leaving one of my stores, I thought I had been discovered. Horror gripped me, and as I was driving back to the plant, I thought I would be fired immediately.

I prayed, “God, please don’t let me be fired. I will give you my life, I will do anything if you will protect me.”

I was never found out. I did stop stealing. I got a new route, one in my own part of town, and stayed on top in sales.

I and my wife, Wendy decided we would begin to go to church, because we had a daughter named Chelsey and I thought it was good for kids to go to church.

So we joined the church that I had been baptized in, 18 years earlier.

After a while, someone in the church asked if I would teach the high school Sunday school class.

“Sure, why not?”

The class had just begun studying the Gospel of John, and I stepped in at Chapter 2. I had never taught anything, had only read tiny portions of the Bible in all my 26 years, and the kids were totally fall asleep bored. So, I took the bull by the horns, checked a big fat commentary out of the church library, and prepared.

Chapter 3 begins with this guy named Nicodemus coming to Jesus after dark so no one would know, and tried to flatter him. Jesus told him he had to be born again to even be able to see the Kingdom of God.

What?! What the heck does that mean? I had never heard of this, and I certainly didn’t know how to explain it, so I read on through, talked a little about John 3:16, bored the kids to death, and finished the class thinking, these kids don’t even care to learn.

The next day, May 8, 1978, I was back at work, driving my big Pepsi truck back to my first stop, doing what I knew I could do well.

But I was so depressed. Tears were welling up behind my eyes, and I had no idea why.

I prayed. “God, why do I feel so bad? Shouldn’t a person feel good on Monday after going to church on Sunday?…….And, what does it mean to be born again?” ( Now, I wasn’t that much of a praying man, but this prayer I remember. I may have prayed out loud.)

I drove up to the Skaggs Albertson on Centerville Road in Garland, Tx, got out of my truck and kind of shuffled in through the back loading dock, hoping I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone just yet.

I was so low.

My head was down, and I had to step over a pile of trash that the floor crew had swept to the back room.

Right on top of the pile, there was a tiny pamphlet that said in bold letters, “Have You Been Born Again?”

Huh?

I picked it up and stuck it in my shirt pocket. As I walked out into the store, I stepped over another pile of swept up trash, and right on top of it was a tiny pamphlet that said in bold letters, “What Does It Mean To Be Born Again?”

Huh?!

I picked it up and stuffed it into my shirt pocket.

After I finished my work in that store, I walked out to my truck, climbed in, started the engine, and pulled the two pamphlets from my pocket.

I read them both from start to finish, reading the prayer at the end of each, out loud, with feeling!

The prayer said something about believing that I could not attain heaven by anything I could do, I could not even get any favor from God for my own “goodness.”

It wasn’t enough to believe in Jesus; I had to let Him own me.

I had to belong to Him.

That day, I gave up my right to myself, and I asked Jesus to take over, that I would follow Him wherever He wanted me to go.

Now, here is the part I want you to hear, if you can.

( When I was in the fourth grade, I got my first pair of glasses. I had never realized that I had difficulty seeing at a distance, until I walked out of the optometrist’ office and saw, for the first time individual leaves on trees.)

When I looked up this day, my perception was as if I was seeing color, for the first time. There was no sadness, no depression, and I felt like I was alive to life for the first time!

For the first time in my life, I sensed love for God, I mean a real love for someone that I had hardly ever really thought about for 26 years of my life.

A lot has happened to us in our lives since this day, but that is a book in itself. God’s presence has NEVER left me, He has proved His truth to me countless times, and my love for Jesus grows even stronger by the day today. If you had asked me on May 7, 1978 if I was a Christian and if I thought I was going to heaven, I probably would have said yes. ( Though, honestly, I hadn’t given it much thought.)

But if you asked me what I knew on May 8, 1978, I would have told you, I have LIFE, FOREVER!

I never tire of telling this story, and, the funny thing is, this was only the beginning. The richness of my life since that day has made the first 26 years just seem like so much darkness, and self-centeredness. If you have never tasted the life that I am trying to describe, I would love to share with you anytime you would like.

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A PARABLE: THREE COFFEE BEANS AND FAITH

A PARABLE: THREE COFFEE BEANS AND FAITH

Jim had a horrible addiction to cigarettes.

He had a dream one night, and in the dream, a man told him that God could take the desire away, but, that Jim had to believe that He could.

“Oh, man, if that is what it will take, I will believe.”

The man handed him a bag of roasted coffee beans.

“Every time you feel the cigarette’s pull, say, ‘My trust is in God,’ and eat three coffee beans, one at a time.”

Jim looked inside the bag and asked, “What kind of coffee beans are these, anyway?”

“The cure is not in the beans. The beans are just beans. They are a reminder to you that your trust is in God.”

Jim woke up.

There beside him, in the bed, was…his wife.

No coffee beans.

No bag.

He looked under the covers, under the pillows, on the floor, on the bedside table.

No beans.

“What are you looking for?” his wife murmured with her eyes still closed.

He told her the dream, in vivid detail.

She snored before he finished.

“It was so real,” he thought.

He went into the kitchen, got a ziplock bag, poured some coffee beans into the bag, sealed it, got dressed, stuck the bag in his pocket, and poured a cup of coffee.

“Cigarette!” He grabbed a pack, stopped, laid it back down.

“My trust is in God.” He ate three coffee beans, one at a time, and went to work.

That day, he ate a lot of coffee beans, but each time the urge for a smoke came on him, he would quietly say, “My trust is in God.”

Two days later, he threw his cigarettes away.

10 days later, he was only eating three beans a day, first thing in the morning, but that was only because he started each day saying,”My trust is in God.”

The coffee beans just seemed appropriate.

Jim’s neighbor, Ray asked him if he could borrow a cigarette one day.

“I quit, ” Jim said.

Ray looked at him, puzzled. “How’d you do that?”

Jim told him about the dream and all that followed.

Ray laughed, went to his other neighbor, borrowed a cigarette, and went home.

A couple of days later, he started eating coffee beans.

No change.

He called Jim. “Hey, what kinda coffee beans were those?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Jim replied, “the power is not in the beans.”

“You serious? You really think ” God” did this?”

“Yep.”

Ray laughed and went home.

Ray never stopped smoking.

But four of Jim’s friends did.

They heard his story.

They believed him.

They put their trust in God.

And chewed their coffee beans as reminders.

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DOES THIS MAKE YOU NERVOUS?

Does this make you nervous?

We saw this bumper sticker on a car a couple of weeks ago.

At first, we thought it said, “There is nothing that can be solved with the use of high explosives.”

We were wrong, weren’t we?

That is a little bit scary, that someone would actually put these words on a bumper sticker.

I started thinking, “Is this even remotely true? What exactly can be fixed by an explosion? A lot can be destroyed…but nothing is made better .”

Dynamite. Now, that is a high explosive.

Did you know that the word “dynamite” comes from a greek word that is pronounced “dunamis” (I think. I don’t know how to put greek letters on this blog…yet.)

This word means “power.” A lot of power.

It is used in Romans 1:16 in talking about the good news of the gospel, that it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes…

The power to change a selfish, self-serving individual into a new person, one who begins to love others more than himself.

One guy, Stephen, was full of grace and power, and he was doing signs and wonders among the people. (Acts 6:8)
Because he had received this ability to love.

They killed him because he talked about God as if He were his Father, and because he knew The Son.

And, yet, one of the guys that killed him, Saul of Tarsus, received this same power, became Paul, the apostle, and literally began to change the world.

This power is talked about all through the New Testament.

It is a gift, from God, that becomes more and more powerful as you realize your own weakness without it. (2Cor. 12:9)

You know what it is?

It is the Life of God (dynamite) being revealed in the people of God (those that have been born again, born from above, born by the Spirit) walking in humble obedience to the God that created them, because of the great love for Him that He has given to them.

That’s right. You can’t even love God unless you receive this new life from Him.

You can’t receive it until you realize that you need it.

If you think there is any possibility of earning it yourself, you won’t receive it.

It is free to those who will receive it.
But, it will cost you everything.

Because, the One who created you has this big plan for you to find purpose…His purpose…in your life.
And…you will never be the same.

Because…

There is nothing that can’t be solved by the use of “the power of God” in His people.

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A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE

THE MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE

Try to say the colors (not the words) as quickly as you can.

Go ahead…try it…I’ll wait…

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Now, if you have a three year old standing around, give her or him the chance.

My guess is the kid will do better than you.

My mom taught me to read when I was five. I remember the wonder of going to the old Nicholson Memorial Library in downtown Garland, Texas…the high shelves crowded together, and the joy of losing yourself in these canyons of books…and the smell, that wonderful musty smell of old books.

Mom did a good job.

I can’t stop reading.

So, when I try this puzzle, I have to wait for my brain to read the word first, then I look at the color, and say it.

A three year old can just see the color.

So, this makes me think about another puzzle.

We are all born into a natural world; what we can see, feel, smell, hear.

Then, for some of us, there comes a day when we “hear” the call of God, “Come to me.”

We respond, yield to His rule, and everything begins to change.

We become like little children in a brand new life, experiencing this new way of living for the very first time.

A new set of rules emerge; not the old rules that were based on what we knew around us, but an awareness of an invisible world, a world of power and possibilities .

A world that begins to teach us about a different kind of love.

A love that cares more about others than ourselves…

A love that we receive from the Invisible one who called us…

A love that begins to change the way we look at everything…

EVERYTHING.

We begin to change our mind, change the way we react to the physical world around us…

We become children of the God who created us…

We find the Joy of living a life of purpose, as we begin to find the purpose for which we were created…

We learn how it “feels” to please our Father…

And…

We finally start to see the colors.

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12 English Standard Version (ESV)

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SIN IN MY DRIVEWAY

SIN IN MY DRIVEWAY
When we bought this house in 1992, it had a nice asphalt semicircular driveway through the front yard, from Green St to Blackbourn St.
It was flanked by a nice row of cherry laurel bushes between the driveway and the front yard.
Through the years, the bushes became unmanageable so we allowed them to became trees.
Grass started growing through the asphalt…just little spots at first, then larger and larger patches.
I had to mow the driveway.
People visiting the new nail spa next door were blocking one of the entrances to our driveway.
“Why don’t you kill that grass so they can tell where our driveway is?” Wendy asked. “I have a recipe for a homemade “Roundup” that I found on Pinterest.”
So, last week, I mixed some up, filled my pump sprayer, and sprayed the whole driveway.
Sure enough, that evening I looked out there, and the grass was a dead, dead brown.
I planned on getting it out of the driveway the next weekend.
When it arrived, (the next weekend) the green grass had returned. I had to mow it.
“Honey,” I said, “I need to pick up some more vinegar and Epsom Salts to spray it again. Heavy, this time.”
So, Saturday morning, I doused that driveway (well, the side that the people were parking in front of) and, when I got back from church on Sunday, it was dead, dead brown.
“After lunch, I think I’ll see about scraping that off the driveway so it won’t grow back,” I told the Bohemian Beauty, thinking that might get me some brownie points. (What exactly is a brownie point?)
“Oh, you’ll need to plant those three cone flowers we bought Friday,” she replied.
I began to worry what this “day of rest” was about to become.
After lunch (some call it Sunday dinner), I got my wheelbarrow and a couple of flat shovels to start cleaning the driveway.
The sparse patches were pretty easy…the big patches, not so easy.
The sun was hot. A small plane circled overhead. I wondered if small planes like that have air-conditioning.
I haven’t finished…not by a long shot.
I did learn something, though.
If I had, over the last 26 years, snipped those little sprigs of grass off as soon as they poked their heads through the asphalt, we would still have a pretty decent drive through.
But, since I didn’t, this grass kind of moved in, got comfortable, and remodeled.
Sort of like, when I get a little bit lazy about the need for discipline in certain areas of my life…
And I take a few short cuts…
Or procrastination becomes easier and easier…
And I think, yeah, we can probably do better…next week…
And the connection to my God just starts to get a little bit fuzzy…
A little bit blurred…
And the whisper that keeps reminding me gets a little bit quieter…
And the roots that don’t get stopped early, go deeper, and take a lot more effort to remove.

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I FOUND MYSELF MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE

WOW, IT’S ACTUALLY PRETTY COOL TO SEE YOURSELF MENTIONED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT!

Back in January, I began another through the Bible in a year plan, this time in the New Living Translation.
It’s a joy to see the scriptures I am familiar with in a different wording, and I am really enjoying this trek.
But, some books are just hard. Numbers, some of Leviticus, and, now, First Chronicles. So many names. Too many vowels. Sometimes I just have to plod through.

Today, though, I got to the part where king David was so appreciative of all the things God had done, that he was struck in his heart that God had to dwell in a tent, while David lived in a massive palace. So, he was going to build God a magnificent temple.
But God stopped him, told him it wasn’t his to do.

Then, God told him this, “For when you die and join your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, one of your sons, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for me. And I will secure his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my favor from him as I took it from the one who ruled before you. I will confirm him as king over my house and my kingdom for all time, and his throne will be secure forever.”
‭‭1 Chronicles‬ ‭17:11-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/1ch.17.11-14.nlt

Did you see me? I was there. I am that temple.

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself,”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:19‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/1co.6.19.nlt

I wonder, are you mentioned in this verse as well?

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BECAUSE I KNOW SO LITTLE…

BECAUSE I KNOW SO LITTLE….

In the grand scheme of things, I really don’t know that much.

That may not be a shock to those of you who know me, but, it is a bit humbling to me.

But, that gives me another proof for the existence of God.

I meet together most every week with three different groups of men, all believers. Our purpose in each of the groups is to share and discuss different aspects of the Bible.

What we have all learned is that we love and serve a God of infinite abilities, infinite wisdom….

And we can’t begin to grasp what that really means.

But each one of us shares something, some tiny little glimpse into the nature and ability of God that we experience because He has placed that little part of himself into us.

We are so finite…we can only think one thought at a time, we get so easily distracted, I mean, literally, we could stop living in the next second, and we would have no idea that it was about to end.

But, back to the existence of God…when God spreads his Life through his people, he speaks through them as well.

This gathering together with believers…man, you have no idea how inspiring and energizing it is to hear God’s voice coming out of the mouth of a friend, a brother (or sister) in Christ.

You can find areas where you are wrong, ideas where you are right, and see how God’s plan to make a “building” of living stones out of his people is a plan that grows stronger men and women that walk through a world in darkness in order to shine his light.

But, I have to tell you, when I see the talk that pours through the social media about the hate and animus that Christians are forcing on this country… well, truthfully, I don’t see that at all. I don’t think these people know any Christian people. (I am talking about people who have been made new, who were changed at some point in their life by the power of God as they finally gave in to his will, to his way).

Because we realize that we know so little, we can sit in a group and talk,

disagree,

agree,

laugh,

cry,

and walk out as if we are really brothers…

Loving each other…

Trying to shine the little flash of light we do have.

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