Monthly Archives: May 2014

E-Mail Classics: Donkey In The Well

Donkey In The Well

One day, a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement, he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well and was astonished at what he saw.

With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off!

Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to
getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping stone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up!
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Special Video, Images, and Words: ALL FOR ALL

As I stand on the front porch, rehearsing the Gettysburg Address (for events planned this Summer), I hear the 21-Gun Salute from the Memorial Service, taking place on “Memorial Bridge,” spanning the river down the street.
I think, again, of President Lincoln’s words, “we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain …”
That was November 19, 1863. A year earlier, 1862, “Taps” was “born.”
We’re going to share with you’re a video featuring the narration of John Wayne, and then a series of unforgettable images. Images that we cannot watch and not be changed. To be reminded of those who “gave their lives that that nation might live.”

Under the video, for those of you who have never seen the actual words to “Taps,” are the words.

For today, and every day, “It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”

TAPS
Day is done.
Gone the sun.
From the lakes
From the hills.
From the sky.
All is well.
Safely rest.
God is nigh.
Fading light.
Dims the sight.
And a star.
Gems the sky.
Gleaming bright.
From afar.
Drawing nigh.
Falls the night.
Thanks and praise.
For our days.
Neath the sun
Neath the stars.
Neath the sky.
As we go.
This we know.
God is nigh

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Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part Two

Haggai urged the people to put rebuilding the Temple at the very top of their list of priorities. When we “consider” the 3 important words of Haggai’s message, “Consider your ways,” I think of how important these three words are to us today. Where are we going? Why are we going? And, perhaps the most important question we can ask ourselves … “How did we get here?” “Where we are” just doesn’t happen by accident. “Where we are” is a result of a series of decisions, tied together in succession, all leading us to “where we are” today. I believe that when our priorities change … our lives change. Unfortunately, it is only after we do things our way, that after we “mess things up,” that we then, and usually only then, “Consider our ways.” We look at “what happened;” what actions we took, which resulted in “where we are.” And … it is usually … only then … we start to examine our priorities … and, start to change them. As our priorities change … our lives change. As we see from the example in Haggai, and as we look at our lives, and the lives of others, we plainly see that changing priorities can be either good, or bad.

When Haggai urged the people to put the Temple at the very top of their list of priorities, this showed the importance of worship, and gives us the same message: To put worship at the top of our list of priorities. Of all the things which God desires for us, it is to have an intimate, personal relationship with Him. We can’t have this relationship with God without worship. Worship begins with recognizing God for Who He is, and What He is. When we fully realize Who He is … What He is … we will then begin to realize who we can be-through Him … the natural reaction to this realization is for us to worship Him.

Notice also that the first step for the Jewish people, upon returning to their native land after being released from Captivity, was to build the Temple … their place of both worship and sacrifice. When Haggai arrived on the scene, he had a clear, distinct message, which is just as true today as it was in Old Testament times: Ready for this? National adversity is the result of national disobedience to God. Yes … that does explain-fully-a lot of things …

Two times, in chapter 1, God gives us the best advice for “turning things around:”
“… Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways” (Verses 5, 7).
Of all that I have gotten from this study of the book of Haggai, this was the major lesson for me, and I “got it” the very first time I read the first chapter. When things aren’t going well … when everything we do turns out wrong …nothing, and I mean nothing good seems to be happening … THIS IS THE ANSWER: “Consider Your Ways.” Chances are the reason things have changed is because our priorities have changed. And, the way to bring change in those circumstances, is to first “Consider our ways,” and then change our priorities.

When we “Consider our ways,” I’ve learned that, often, it is what I don’t do which is just as important as what I do. Sometimes, that “peace which is beyond all understanding,” which I have at the end of the day, has as much to do with what I didn’t do today-as what I did do today.

We learn that blessing from God depends upon obedience. We must put ourselves in a position to be blessed. In just 2 chapters, Haggai has the “Consider” command 5 times. We read it in 1: 5, 7, 2:15, and two times in 2:18.

Here are the definitions of the word “Consider:”
1. To think about (something or someone) carefully especially in order to make a choice or decision.
2. To think about (something that is important in understanding something or in making a decision or judgment).
3. To think about (a person or a person’s feelings) before you do something in order to avoid making someone upset, angry, etc.

Yes, I did go back and read # 3, and how it pertains especially to obedience.
Because of the consequences, Haggai 2:15 and 2:18 both make this statement: “Consider now from this day and upward (forward) …”

It is interesting to note that Jeremiah, who warned against the coming captivity, and then became a captive, said this in Lamentations 3:40, a thought that continued to echo throughout the pages of both the Old and New Testaments: “Let us search and try (examine) our ways, and turn again to the Lord.”

Blessings,
R.V.R.
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Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part One

Here we go … For reasons I didn’t know at the time, “from out of nowhere,” God laid it on my heart to study the book of Haggai. Haggai? Who???
So, I started to read the book of Haggai. I had read the book many times, as I have read through the Bible, but, somehow, the richness of the book had eluded me. Why Haggai? Why now? As I read, I kept thinking, “Why didn’t I see all of this before?”

What I discovered was a remarkable book of Scripture, and what really surprised me was how many “Major” lessons there were in this little book of only 2 chapters. Lessons that are just as real and meaningful and helpful today, as they were when they were written. Which really explains how wonderful the Bible is, how remarkable it is, and how important it is for us today. Haggai is considered one of the “Minor” prophets, but the lessons we learn from the book are “Major.”

Haggai has been called “The Prophet of the Temple,” and we’ll discuss that shortly. He was a colleague of the prophet Zechariah, as we read in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14. In brief, Haggai proclaimed the word of God to the Jews, and as happens today … when we heed God’s word … “they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai” (Verse 14).

The time is 520 B.C. As God’s spokesman, Haggai encouraged the captives who had returned to Jerusalem to complete the reconstruction of the Temple. Yes, this was “Solomon’s Temple,” which had been destroyed, and was still in ruins in Jerusalem. The work on the Temple had started after the first exiles had returned from captivity in Babylon, but the work was soon abandoned-because of discouragement and oppression. Things haven’t changed. How often do we begin a great work for God-including His greatest work-that of restoring/re-building us … when we get discouraged or oppressed, and the restoration/re-building stops?

Within the 2 chapters of Haggai are 4 distinct messages just as real for us today:
1. To rebuild the Temple (what God wants to do inside of us).
2. To remain faithful to God’s promises.
3. To be holy and enjoy God’s great provision.
4. Keep their (our) hearts set on the coming of the Messiah, and the establishment of His Kingdom.

These 4 messages haven’t changed.
See if this sounds familiar: The Jewish people were held captive by a foreign power. Then, they were released from captivity. At first, they worked diligently at rebuilding the Temple, but, soon, they grew tired of the work-the effort involved-and, they gave up the work altogether.
Sound familiar?
Just as now, when we get discouraged, get tired, and want to quit … God will send someone to encourage us to “get back to work.”
Enter Haggai.

I am reminded again that we are “the Temple.”
God is still in the restoration business! Just as Haggai exhorted the people to re-build the Temple, God is still exhorting us to restore our Temple. And, just like Haggai, God offers sharp rebukes for the neglecting of our Temple. It takes work! And, just like with Haggai, God offers promises to those who will “work at it.” Once again, It Takes Work!

Have things changed since Haggai’s time? How about since the Apostle Paul’s time? Don’t you know, don’t you remember … have you forgotten … have I forgotten …that you … yes you … and me … are the Temple? What??? Me???

Point-blank from Paul: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Ouch! But … that may explain a few things. But, it can’t explain why we often forget just who we are “in Him.” In this case, we often forget who He is that is “in us.”
Oh, No! Here’s Paul again: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Think about this: In speaking of the physical building, the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus said “That in this place is one greater than the temple” (Matthew 12:6). So, if Jesus dwells in us, lives within us … then one “greater than the temple” is inside of us! Wow! The question still begs to be asked, just as it was in Paul’s time … what foundation is your temple built upon? “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). It’s still true: A building, any building, even a Temple, is only as good as its foundation.

In Haggai’s time, there was work to be done. But, guess what? The people were more concerned with their own affairs than with the Lord’s work (Haggai 1:4). Did I say in Haggai’s time? Or, in my time? Ouch again!

Before I close, I must address the “Three Words” of which I wrote, which make up what I think is the major lesson I got from the book of Haggai. Those three words are “Consider your ways.” To me, this was the life-changing message which I got-immediately-upon beginning to read the book. I got the message early, and often. These 3 words contain the real “secret” to success or failure: “Consider your ways.” We’ll write more about that later. These 3 words, “consider your ways,” would be echoed often by Paul in his letters, with Paul using the phrase “take heed,” as in “let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (1 Corinthians 3:10).

For now, we close with this message of hope, aimed at us, just like it was the audience in Haggai’s time. If we will just do the work … the hard work which is required … and, not give up … stay focused on what God wants to do, especially within us, to our Temple, we have this promise: “Be strong … be strong … be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:4).

Blessings,
R.V.R.
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“Heaven is for Real”

A couple of weeks ago, Carol and I had the opportunity to see the movie “Heaven is for Real.”
I’m glad we did. I think it’s interesting that, in just the last couple of months, there have been a number of movies with Biblical themes. There has been “Son of God,” “Noah,” “God is not Dead,” and “Heaven is for Real.” I always say that God will use any means necessary to reach us, and that would include the media.

I was heartened by the number of people who were at the movie that day. This is the third of these recent movie releases we’ve seen, and, by far, “Heaven is for Real” had the most people in attendance.

First of all, allow me to say that I loved the book. I love the way that Todd Burpo (the father) writes. It was Todd’s writing about the day-to-day struggles he faced, and the personable way he wrote about his life, that made me not want to put the book down. Before the book moved to the central theme of son Colton’s journey to Heaven, it was about an honest, decent family man, who was facing many struggles. His thoughts and feelings, and how well he communicated to me, personally, is perhaps what I remember most about the book. And, he was also a Pastor.

I can honestly say that I also loved the movie. It was, for me, such a great family movie. And, I really needed to see a real family, a loving family, a Godly family, portrayed up on the big screen. We need more of those. I am reading the series of books written by David Pelzer, beginning with “A Child Called It.” When I saw the movie “Heaven is for Real,” I had just finished reading this first book in the series. I know many of you have read it. It is required reading for many “Early Education/Teaching” courses, and while I was Librarian at the High School, I’d seen the book checked out hundreds of times. But, I had never read it. It is the story of a child who suffered unimaginable, horrific abuse. Each night I would read a chapter, and each of those nights, I just couldn’t get to sleep. As a writer, I try to demonstrate a gift to write things which deeply move people. This book, as hard to read as it was, proved to me how deeply affecting a book can be. Working with young children every day, praying each day to “be a father to the fatherless,” this book moved me as maybe no book ever has. The first chapter begins with young David getting “rescued” from his situation … as I finished reading the final pages of the book … the first thing I did … was to go back and read that first chapter again. I had to … I had to re-establish the fact that he was truly rescued, that he did make it out …

Hey-I’m beginning to think the same thing: Which book am I “reviewing” here? Well … really … neither … I just had to share how great a family movie “Heaven is for Real” is … I had read the book, knew how it ended, and, in this case of the “Heaven” movie, I knew many of the lines (like many of you) by heart … yet, it was still a great movie. And, coming on the heels of reading “A Child Called It,” I really needed to see a loving, Godly family.

So, there you go … I know Heaven is for real, I’ve read the book, etc. But, the movie really touched and moved me deeply. It was so well done. The acting was superb, the “pacing” of the movie was excellent, and the inner plots were intensely captured. There were times I laughed and I cried. And, was deeply moved. See, I already know Heaven is for real, that Jesus is for real, and I’d read the book already. But, I was still on the edge of my seat, enjoying the story. To me, that says it all about how good this movie really is.

I am reminded of that insurance commercial where one person says to another about “15 minutes can save you (whatever) on insurance,” and the other person says, “Yeah … everybody knows that.” So, I knew Heaven is for real before I read the book, or saw the movie. If it takes a movie to convince you of … well, anyway … maybe you really didn’t believe to begin with.

Which I thought was really the whole catalyst behind the story. Real or not real? (Isn’t that a game show?) I know this: In every believer’s life, there comes a time, a point, where they must make the decision about what they really, really believe. Do they really believe the Bible, that God’s word is true? Do we really believe? For many of us, this decision is made over a tragic situation we have to face, or the hardest struggle we’ve ever had to face. We sometimes find that the hardest struggle is the one inside of us. Do we really believe? How about this one: How come they were blessed, allowed to have or experience something we weren’t?
You know from reading the book that this was the underlying struggle that Todd, and others, were having. Do I really believe? I mean, do I really believe???

I do know this, and that is that God can do anything, and there is nothing too hard for Him to do. When God shows me something, He shows and explains it to me in a way that I can understand.
If God was to show a 4 year old something, He would show it to them in a way that a 4 year old boy would understand. I hope you can read between the lines there.

This may be the strangest “movie review” we’ve written, but the point, I hope is clear. I was certain of many things going in, and going out. Still am. I think we need more movies which portray a real, Godly family. Real as in going through real problems, real issues, real times, and staying together through it all, even through doubts and fears. And, coming out stronger, with stronger faith.

A Christian man I work with, whom I encouraged to see the movie, walked into my room the other day, and the first thing he said was, “You’re not right about many things, but you were right about this one.”

I’m not concerned about what “others” may say about the book, or the movie. There are some people who don’t seem to like anything. But, I was interested to hear what Todd Burpo had to say about the movie. So, I’d like to share with you this video from CBN, featuring the Burpo family, from just over a month ago, in an interview with Pat Robertson:

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From “Modern-Day Psalms”: “Lord, I Want to Thank You for a Mama That Prayed”

Lord, I Want to Thank You for a Mama That Prayed
Introduction

It took me several years to finish this, though the title rang like a chorus through my mind for all of those years. This is a completely true story in song. Mama never wished fame for us; only that we would serve God with our lives.

I added many of the things she would say, including things like “Honor Him and He will honor you,” which, all through my grown-up years, she would encourage me with. This saying made such a strong, lasting impact on me that our first online business, Pastor Appreciation Gifts, which sprang from “Why, Pastor, Why,” used “To Honor Those Who Honor Him” as part of our company logo.

Of all that I’ve written to honor my mother (and, by so doing, honoring all Godly mothers), this is one of my favorites, because it is so true, and the words really tell the story. Mama had four boys, so she spent a lot of time on her knees. I also included a favorite reference to Psalms, which was her favorite book. The phrase “The Lord is my Shepherd, trust Him today” is such a part of her, that I also included it in the special “Mama Version” of “Don’t Weep for Me.”

When I present this to a church audience, I always add, “How many of us are here today because of a Mama who prayed? And, would not stop praying for us?”

“The first gift, and the best gift that God gives a child is a loving, Godly mother. The first view of Jesus that a child receives is through her loving care.”

“The first time I ever saw, felt, or heard Jesus, was in your eyes, in your arms, and in your voice.”
R.V.R.

Lord, I Want to Thank You for a Mama That Prayed

Lord, I want to thank you
For a Mama that prayed
And from your path
She never strayed
Lord, I want to thank you
For a Mama that prayed
No matter how tough the times got
From your path
She never strayed

Lord, times were tough
And the days were long
But Mama wore a smile
As she taught us this song

“Honor God and He will honor you
Trust in God because His Word is true
You’ll have a home in Glory
And with Him you’ll stay
The Lord is my Shepherd
Trust Him today”

She prayed not for riches,
Nor diamonds, or gold
All the time
Laying up treasures untold

For all of her children
She prayed not for wealth or for fame
But that each one of us
Would just honor His name

“Honor God and He will honor you
Trust in God because His Word is true
You’ll have a home in Glory
And with Him you’ll stay
The Lord is my Shepherd
Trust Him today”
She never turned her back on God
The Bible, or on me
I first learned about Jesus
While I was at her knee

And all of the times from his Word I would stray
I didn’t know why God would keep me this way
God honored His Word, and kept me alive each new day
All because on her knees she would stay
My life kept on because of a Mama that prayed

She was small in stature
Sometimes weak, sometimes frail
But, she prayed to a God
She knew would not fail
I look back now, and see her bended knee
Praying for me, taller than any tree

“Honor God and He will honor you
Trust in God because His Word is true
You’ll have a home in Glory
And with Him you’ll stay
The Lord is my Shepherd
Trust Him today”

There are so many millions
Who are in Heaven today
Who would not be there
If not for Jesus
And a mother who prayed

So, let’s all stand
Those of you, here today,
Who would not be here,
If not for a mother who prayed

“Honor God and He will honor you
Trust in God because His Word is true
You’ll have a home in Glory
And with Him you’ll stay
The Lord is my Shepherd
Trust Him today”

And, when I get to Heaven
His face I shall see
I’ll look into His eyes
And thank Him for the one who prayed for me

Lord, I want to thank you
For a Mama that prayed
And from your path
She never strayed
Lord, I want to thank you
For a Mama that prayed
No matter how tough the times got
From your path
She never strayed

“Honor God and He will honor you
Trust in God because His Word is true
You’ll have a home in Glory
And with Him you’ll stay
The Lord is my Shepherd
Trust Him today”

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Half-Way in Threes: Jackie, The Anthem, and Football

Today is May 8 … and, maybe I’m delirious because, just last week, the rest of the snow melted here … we’ve had at least one day where the temperature is in the 60’s … and, today, the skies were clear from morning ‘till night … I think Spring has arrived … I think that Summer will come … I think of Fall … (NOTE THAT I NEVER, EVER “THINK” OF WINTER) … I think of football … Football?
Yes, I think of football. I think that it’s ok to think about, to even like sports. Even … football.

No, I’m not as big a fan as I was when I was younger, but, I still like football. I know when it is going to start, and I know when it’s going to end. I don’t watch much television, ever, but I do enjoy football. A lot. I have a tough schedule, and, since I know when a football game is going to start and when it’s going to end, I can plan a football game into my schedule. Yes, I still love the game of baseball, but I can actually plan a schedule around a football schedule. I know when the game is going to start and end. Even the playoffs: I know exactly when each game will start, and when it should end. One and done.

When I listen to a baseball game on the radio, I turn the radio on as I start the truck and pull out of the driveway … I get to town (2 Miles Later) … the same batter is up, taking time to adjust “everything” between pitches … I arrive at my destination … in town … 10 minutes later … the same guy is at bat … taking time to adjust “everything” between pitches … Between pitches, I still wonder … How can a guy, who has played baseball since he was a kid, be able to hit, but not play first base … ? Or, how can a guy, who has played baseball since he was a kid, not be able to play in the field?

Anyway … I try not to even think about guys like Dizzy Dean, who pitched both games of a double-header … as the announcers, since the second inning, have worried about the pitch count …

Anyway … I look at the calendar, and today is May 8.
So?
Well, it’s been 3 months-exactly-since the Super Bowl.
In 3 months, it will be football season … at least, pre-season games.
3 months later, it will be Thanksgiving …
3 months later, it will be Super Bowl …
Each game that is played … we’ll know when it will start … and when it will end. Regardless of the weather.

I have written much of the National Anthem. How often, outside of sporting events, do we hear it?

I’d like to share with you the following video … the incredible Jackie Evancho, singing the National Anthem, in Detroit, on Thanksgiving Day, 2013. By the way, Jackie just celebrated a birthday a couple of weeks ago …

We are now half-way, between half-way, of the next Super Bowl … 3 months until the start of the season … then, 3 months until Thanksgiving … then, 3 months until the end of the season …


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