A “Walton’s Thanksgiving… it isn’t!

Thanksgiving Pumpkins

We watched a Walton’s Thanksgiving television special the other night. (We watch the older programs, when we watch). They struggled through the events of life and in the last they all sat down, them and their neighbors and about 20 of them shared Thanksgiving dinner.

It presents a wonderful heartwarming vision of laughter, sharing and food. Its how we would like things to be in our own homes isn’t it? It seems that for this year at least it won’t be that way for most of us. We personally will be staying home with our youngest son and enjoying the food and fellowship with just us and that’s OK for now… but I sure am tired of the Covid virus, masks, social distancing and self quarantining… as I know most of you are too.

The thing we need to remember is that sometimes we are alone physically, but that doesn’t remove us from the presence of Christ or our family of Christians, does it?

Separation for Christians is not something new. At the beginning of the church there was terrible persecution… Christians had to be Christians in secret until they were sure of whom they might be talking with. One story I read talked about Christians going to the open markets in the town square and drawing a symbol of a fish in dirt with the toe of their shoe. Someone else would see it and draw one in response. They could look across the market and find joy because they shared the same spirit in Christ, they could give thanks even then, they were alone…together.

The apostle Paul wrote to his beloved friends in 1 Thessalonians 3:7-9 and expressed thanks even though he was separated from them in trying times. Notice his words: “So, in all our trouble and suffering we have been encouraged about you, friends. It was your faith that encouraged us, because now we really live if you stand firm in your life in union with the Lord. Now we can give thanks to our God for you. We thank him for the joy we have in his presence because of you.”

That is the thanks we need to have at this holiday season and throughout the entire year. Thanks to God for his love and the love and encouragement of our fellow Christian sisters and brothers. Stay in touch, pray for one another, write and phone one another, stay connected even though separated.

No, it’s not a Walton’s Thanksgiving, but it is a time for Thanksgiving anyway… Never forget your blessings!

 

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Words of hope for desperate times…

https://amzn.to/2DaCDkD

 

About these writings

Thought for the day

“When I first saw the work of Russ Lawson, I immediately recognized that he had a wonderful God-given ability to communicate through writing.

Through the years, he has continued to impress me with his talent of being able to relate everyday experiences (especially those of a parent and grandparent), to spiritual truth. This collection of his writings will often make you chuckle, occasionally cause you to shed a tear, but always lead  you to a deeper understanding of  God and His expectations for you search for hope in these desperate times.”

-Alan Smith – Thought for the Day

Heartlight.org

“A heart for God, a love for people, and the ability to share a message of practical hope are a hard combination to find. Russ Lawson has demonstrated and shared this rare combination of gifts in his weekly articles called, “My unexpected adventure”. Russ has blessed thousands of readers on Heartlight.com for several years and his writing has blessed me personally. Now he has collected a number of special writings in one volume to bless you. You will be blessed, entertained, challenged and changed if you will simply walk with Russ through some of his everyday insights from life that can make an eternal difference in your own.

-Phil ware – Editor, Heartlight.com

Words of hope for desperate times - Kindle

Paperback edition 

Description by Russ Lawson:

This book is full of stories, some true happenings; some just good stories. Each of these short stories is a lesson unto themselves. Mostly they are written with the hopes that they will touch something in your heart and help you in your daily struggle to make it through life in one piece. Our heart is a sensitive thing, putting more good stuff into our lives with help us keep it strong and resilient. Life has brought me many lessons on just surviving day to day and hopefully this book will help you learn to survive also.

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Jesus Saves

Jesus Saves Sign

 

Yes, Jesus Saves!

Most of you have heard the old quip, “Why does Jesus have more success on the computer than does Satan?” “Because, Jesus Saves!” Of course, I’m not Jesus, but when I’m on the computer I save my data A LOT. Last night I was writing an article, “To absent friends,” (which I admit was rather maudlin), when my computer crashed and I lost it all. Now I had been saving it all along, every paragraph and every correction, but after the crash I got an error message that said it was unrecoverable data. I had saved… but it didn’t help… I had no power to resurrect the article… I went back to bed!

New Day, Fresh Thoughts

With fresh eyes on it this morning I commented to my wife: “I guess the Lord didn’t want me writing those thoughts”. To which she replied, “Maybe it was Satan that didn’t want you to write them!” Well, I guess I will never know, but I have a new day and a fresh outlook about things.

Life is full of difficulties and disappointments

We just found out that an old and dear friend has terminal cancer. She is a Christian so we pray that this transition from one life to another will not be too difficult. But it also brought to memory many of the other dear friends we have lost in the past few years. But I guess, “Lost” is not the best description for them. We know where they are, it’s just that they aren’t here in our lives any more. As much as we would like to “resurrect” them to be part of our lives, we just don’t have the ability anymore than I could resurrect my article. We know that Jesus is the only one who has the power to do that.

Open for prayer sign

 

We do have a choice

Honestly, we don’t have a choice as to what to do. We can’t change the past and the things that have happened, but we certainly have control of our future. Now, of course I’m not talking about our physical future, we all know how quickly things change physically, but our Spiritual future is still under our control.

We live in hope because there is a better place prepared

Jesus promised us that he was going to prepare a place for us after this life ends and that is our home and reason to remain faithful to the end. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, “Our friends, we want you to know the truth about those who have died, so that you will not be sad, as are those who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will take back with Jesus those who have died believing in him.”

You see, we have two choices, “Hope” or “No hope”. I choose to have hope and I pray that you and all those who face that great transition of death do also.

 

Books that will help lift your heart and encourage your soul:

Stories to touch the heart

Stories to touch the Heart

More stories to touch the heart

More stories to touch the heart

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Justice for Jonah!

Justice

Surely almost everyone in America and probably much of the world has heard of Jonah. They may know the story surrounding the name, but they know the name. As a background; Jonah was a regular guy living in Israel during the Old Testament days. God came to him one day and said, (basically): “Jonah, I want you to go the city of Nineveh and tell them they have to repent of their evil ways and follow me or I will destroy them”. Jonah responded, “No way, that isn’t happening… go ahead and destroy them.”

Would you talk back to God?

That’s kind of a funny way to talk to God isn’t it? I mean, first of all he is God and second of all, He’s there talking with you face to face! I can’t imagine many of us reacting that way, can you? But here is the thing; the folks from Nineveh were bad people. Not just bad, they were evil through and through. They were a warrior people who made the folks we see in the movies look nice. They cut the unborn babies out of the wombs of the mothers and smashed their heads on rocks. They covered people with oil and lit them on fire, they cut open peoples stomachs and pulled out their intestines and laughed as they would bleed to death and even worse things. And the worst part of it for Jonah is that they did it to the Israelites, Jonah’s people.

We don’t have to experience it ourselves to act irrationally!

Did it happen to Jonah himself? No, but he knew about it and there was no way he was going to forgive these people, no matter what God said! He had his pride, he had his rights and he had decided he was going to hate them no matter what… well right up until he was swallowed by as whale!

Jonah Storm

God’s way is the only way!

You see, God doesn’t ever take NO for an answer to something he says to do! Jonah jumped on a sailing ship to run as far away from Nineveh as he could and he thought from God too. But, God had other plans. God caused a “Storm of the century” to come up and Jonah ended up swimming for his life in the water of the Mediterranean Sea. No, he didn’t die… God sent a whale to swallow Jonah and while in the belly of the whale you might say, “Jonah got religion”. He began to pray like he had never prayed before and promise God if he ever got out of there he would be a changed man.

The rest of the story!

Well, God caused the whale to vomit up Jonah on the shore not far from Nineveh and Jonah walked to the city and began preaching God’s message of forgiveness to these enemies he hated and you know what, they began to repent, from the king down the beggars they repented and promised to change their lives and God forgave them. You know the worse part of the whole story? Jonah didn’t like what God did, because he didn’t think it was justice being served. He forgot he wasn’t God and that God can forgive or he can give justice at the final judgment. (You should read the book of Jonah, it’s not that long and truly interesting).

God views justice differently

Could it be that you are like Jonah? There are folks you need to forgive, or allow God to forgive. Someone once said: “Forgiveness doesn’t make them right, it makes you right!” Jesus had this to say about it in Matthew 7:1-2, “Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, for God will judge you in the same way you judge others, and he will apply to you the same rules you apply to others.” He also said in Matthew 6:12: “Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us”.  Will God have to bring a storm into your life or put you in some dark place to get you to understand this message? you see, God’s justice may be different from our justice.

Have you ever wondered why?

Natural Cancer Cure

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The T.C. Principle

Things Change

Many years ago there was a preacher by the name of Jack Exum who often liked to talk about the T.C. Principle. The meaning behind the T.C. was simple… It meant, “Things Change”. You actually don’t have to live that long now days to realize the truth of that principle. And, of course as you deal with life today you are, as many of us are, surely amazed at how quickly things change.

How quickly things change

Honestly, 4 or 5 weeks ago we were planning vacations; we were excited about school graduations; talking about what we would do when the kids were out of school for the summer. We were looking forward to cooking out in the back yard with our friends. In short we were planning for the future with hope and expectation, but things changed didn’t they.

Our focus changed

Changed focus

In just a matter of days for many the focus has changed from being excited about the future to wondering if we will survive this present crisis of the Corona19 virus. I know that for some who are quarantined in their home… they are loosing hope. How many know someone who has contracted this virus or has died of this virus already and they tell us it is only going to get worse. What are we to do? What can we do?

Focus on what you can do, not what  you can’t!

Let me suggest a couple of things: First, you take all of the precautions you can to keep yourself safe physically. You act wisely, conserve your resources and do what you can with your own abilities. Second, you begin to take a close look at what really matters in life.

God of the second chance

For much of our world the concept of God or Religion has become something to be laughed at as a silly superstition. Those who practice their Christian faith openly have been ridiculed and in some places in our world actually persecuted. Perhaps it is time for you to rethink your position of God and Religion.

Where is your hope?

Things change in this world, quickly, and often not the way we would want, but there are some things that never change. And the most solid thing you can hold on to is our God. There is an old hymn that proclaims: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness”.  Hope of what you might ask, it is the Hope of something better than what we have here in this life. It is the hope of eternal life with our God after this life is over.

The Apostle Paul trying to encourage early Christians about life and death says: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14,Our friends, we want you to know the truth about those who have died, so that you will not be sad, as are those who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will take back with Jesus those who have died believing in him”.

You need protection in this scary world of ours!

Shield of faith

Is our world a scary place, is it sometimes a discouraging place or even a depressing place? Yes it can be… IF you do not have any hope. I don’t know about you, but for me, My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and his righteousness. And as another old hymn says, “This world is not my home I’m just a passing through, my treasure is laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” How about you?

 

 

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The church of the second chance

Second Chance

I was in Michigan recently and saw a sign on a church building that declared it was, “The Church of The Second Chance”. That thought has stayed with me and I have mulled it over and what the true message is in that description. I think it boils down to the idea of “Hope”.

Hope is necessary

How many times have we wished for a “do over,” a chance to redeem ourselves or correct some words we said or actions we have taken. We sometimes beg for a second chance to make things, our lives or the lives of others better, but far too often that possibility is denied us.

Forgiveness in necessary
Forgive

So many times hearts are broken, spirits are crushed and souls are lost because we don’t understand the concept of grace and forgiveness. A quick question… according to Jesus, can you tell me how many times you are supposed to forgive someone? Answer: Matthew 18:21, “Seventy times seven”. That’s a bunch isn’t it? An interesting application to that is given by Jesus in Luke 17:3-5 where he says: “So watch what you do!”If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in one day, and each time he comes to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him. The apostles said to the Lord, “Make our faith greater (or increase our faith).””

Pray for more faith

If the truth be told, I am right there with the apostles… I need more faith to do a better job of forgiving! I need more faith to do a better job of truly understanding grace and forgiveness. I need more faith to understand the true nature of having and giving a second chance!

Grace is necessary 

We are told in Ephesians 2:8,For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it”. Basically this scripture tells us it doesn’t matter how good we think we are or how much good stuff we do, we are saved simply because God loves us enough to give us a second chance.

Second chances are necessary

In all of this I’m trying to say, our churches need to be a place where we understand the nature of giving a second chance, or a third chance or a fourth chance… or wait… perhaps even seventy…. I understand we can’t condone or embrace sin, but we can forgive, because each one of us is forgiven ourselves. This is why Jesus adds in Luke 17:3,So watch what you do!”If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.”

God of the second chance

I don’t know about you, but I live in Christ, because I have been given a second chance, and a third, and a fourth and so on my life continues, because we are loved by the God of the Second Chance!

 

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The Corona Virus and a Snake on a Pole

Humanity

The Bible is full of wonderful stories that show us the power of God and how much he loves us as the people he created. We are called “humans”, but at times I wondered how much “humanity”, we really have in us… What does that word tell us about what or who we should be? It is defined as: “noun. The definition of humanity is the entire human race or the characteristics that belong uniquely to human beings, such as kindness, mercy and sympathy. An example of humanity is all the people in the world. An example of humanity is treating someone with kindness.”  (www.yourdictionary.com).

Satan has led many away since the beginning

I guess our world is not so different than it has been since almost the beginning is it. I mean it; near the beginning our history began with Cane killing his brother Able and quickly grew in sin after that.

Cain and Able

As we look at the past few thousand years of our history it is easy to see it filled with all kinds of wickedness. We know how far we as “humans” have strayed from what the Creator intended us to be. So many approve of killing unborn babies, yet protest the mistreatment of animals. We as a people wait with bated breath for the next episode of some television series that preaches to us the acceptability of lying, cheating, stealing and even killing our fellow humans. We live in a world where people have forgotten God and His purpose for creating us. Rather than showing kindness, mercy and sympathy to others and loving and worshiping our creator, (our God), we only want to make ourselves happy, no matter who else it hurts.

Not much seems to have changed

serpent on rod

No, not much has changed, even through God has tried repeatedly to bring us back to the right way of living and thinking. In the book of Numbers 21:5-19 there is a brief story of God’s chosen people once again forgetting their God and only thinking of themselves. They started complaining about how hard things were in their lives and how much God had let them down. They were rejecting God and His love and leadership and wanted to do things “their way”. Because of this God sent poisonous snakes among them to kill those who rebelled. Well, as usual when this started to happen…. Well people changed their mind about what was right. In Numbers 21:7-9 we read: “Then the people came to Moses and said, We have done wrong in crying out against the Lord and against you: make prayer to the Lord to take away the snakes from us. So Moses made prayer for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, Make an image of a snake and put it on a pole, and anyone who has been bitten by the snakes, looking on it will be made well. So Moses made a snake of brass and put it on a pole; and anyone who had snakebite, after looking on the snake of brass, was made well.

Corona Virus Snake bite

coronavirus

I wonder; could this Corona Virus be our “snakebite”? A large portion of the humans of our world are being brought to its knees. Could it be God’s way of telling the world it is time to start showing humanity to others as well as making trusting, loving and serving God a priority again? I know so many people who have thought, “One day soon, someday I’ll go back to church, I’ll read my bible more, I’ll pray more, I’ll love more, I’ll help others more”. The problem is that for many they will and are being brought down by one of the smallest things in the world… a tiny virus that may keep them from ever seeing… “someday”. What about you? We don’t have a snake on a pole or even a king on a cross, but we do have an empty tomb and a risen savior. Perhaps it’s time we truly looked at them.

Book - Is God mad at me?

Is God Mad at Me?

Have you ever wondered why?

book- have you ever wondered why?

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My Anniversary

Russ Lawson

Unexpected Anniversary

Can you believe how quickly anniversaries roll around? I really hadn’t thought about this one coming… not that it was a surprise, I just didn’t think about it, however I have it marked in my calendar. Now I’m not suggesting that I want to celebrate or expect cards and such, because it is my one year anniversary of my nearly dying.

Yep, one year ago on March 21st I had a major heart attack. The heart specialist who worked on me said that I came very close to dying and if they had not worked on my quickly enough I would have died. For most of us who have been through this type of event, it generally of makes you take a look at your life and how you are living it.

Examining our lives

I’m sure you remember the story Jesus told in Luke 12:16-21 about the fellow who was satisfied with his life to the point he was gloating about his success. He was so successful that he was planning on building bigger buildings just to store his stuff.

I like the way a modern translation puts the story so I’ll share the last part of it here with you:

“Luke 12:19 Then I will say to myself, Lucky man! You have all the good things you need for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself !’

Luke 12:20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night you will have to give up your life; then who will get all these things you have kept for yourself ? ‘ ”

Luke 12:21 And Jesus concluded, “This is how it is with those who pile up riches for themselves but are not rich in God’s sight.” (GNB)

 

Be ready for the unexpected

Now I remember very clearly not being afraid when my “near death event” happened. I prayed when they were wheeling me to the ambulance, “God, I’m ready to come and be with you, but if possible I’d like to stay around and be with my loved ones awhile longer.”

 

Take a closer look 

Of course after things settled down I began to take a look at my life and see some things I could do better at. No, I didn’t make a list of them, but I have been trying to be more like I think God would want me to be. Yes, at times I struggle just like you to do the right thing and say the right thing, but just like you, I am a work in progress.

John reminds us in 1 John 2:5:  “But in every man who keeps his word, the love of God is made complete. By this we may be certain that we are in him”. (BBE)

Now we know that no one can keep God’s word perfectly and never sin, (1 John 1:7-10), but God does expect us to make the effort. When we try our best, he takes up the slack and helps us across the rough patches by His Grace. You see, that’s what I am doing with my “Second chance” at life. I am doing my best and letting God’s grace fill in the spots where I fail.

So how are you doing with the life God has given you… sometimes OK and sometimes not so good? If that’s you, you are perfectly normal…. Just make sure you are doing your best to do the right thing according to his word.

Stories to touch the heart

  Stories to touch the Heart

More stories to touch the heart

More stories to touch the heart

Have you ever wondered why?

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Corona Virus and Faith

Faith and the Corona Virus

Now what does Faith have to do with the Corona virus? Well there actually are some folks that will tell you, “All you have to do is have faith, Trust in God and pray hard and you will survive this virus.” Now although I have a very strong faith in God and trust in his to help us in many ways, I don’t think just praying alone will protect us from this virus.

Not a new problem

I was looking at a list yesterday of things that were suppose to kill off earth’s population in the past 30 years or so. So far it hasn’t happened, people are still living and God is still in control. Now whether or not this becomes a pandemic that kills off vast portions of the earth’s population or not I just can’t say and don’t spend a lot of times worrying about.

Will prayer be enough?

As I said, “I don’t think just praying alone will protect us from this virus”. I know God is on the side of the faithful, but I also know he expects something out of us also. I mean, if  you think all you have to do is pray hard enough, why do you bother washing your hands or wearing face masks, or avoiding large gatherings of people. Could it be that you realize the praying alone is not enough?

Example from Scripture 

I am reminded of the Israelites a couple thousand years ago. God brought them back to a Jerusalem that had been completely destroyed by foreign invaders. Both the city and the great wall that has surrounded it had been completely burned, destroyed, toppled over and torn down. The people were instructed to rebuild the city and the wall. God was on their side, he was watching over them, yet the neighboring kingdoms were threatening to come and kill them all. We read in Nehemiah 4:12-14:

But time after time Jews who were living among our enemies came to warn us of the plans our enemies were making against us. So I armed the people with swords, spears, and bows, and stationed them by clans behind the wall, wherever it was still unfinished. I saw that the people were worried, so I said to them and to their leaders and officials, “Don’t be afraid of our enemies. Remember how great and terrifying the Lord is, and fight for your relatives, your children, your wives, and your homes.”

God expects more of us!

My point is that all of the time in every area of our lives, God expects us to do more than just pray or have faith in him. He expects us to take responsibility for our lives and take action as needed to save ourselves and serve him better in the end. James reminds us of this in James 2:14, 17-20:

What use is it, my brothers, for a man to say that he has faith, if he does nothing? Will such a faith give him salvation? Even so faith without works is dead. But a man may say, You have faith and I have works; let me see your faith without your works, and I will make my faith clear to you by my works. You have the belief that God is one, and you do well: the evil spirits have the same belief, shaking with fear. Do you not see, O foolish man, that faith without works is of no use? (BBE)

Work and Prayer together is the key! 

So, yes, trust God and have faith, but be wise in defending yourself from this Corona Virus, wash your hands and all of the rest. But remember it takes both faith and works to please him as well as to survive any disaster.

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Reading God’s Word

Thus says the Lord!

I know it is a little past the first of January now, but I also know that some of you haven’t yet started reading God’s Word on a regular basis. I want to encourage you to think seriously about doing this.

There are many, many reading plans as well as bibles specifically designed to help Christians read their bible daily. My wife and I have been reading the bible through, (from cover to cover), each year for somewhere between 20 and 30 years now. So, I thought perhaps I might share some insights with you.

First, it never get’s old… each year when you read God’s Word afresh, you find new things that you never noticed before. Perhaps it is because of events that have taken place in your life or our world, but suddenly you see new lessons and stories that you may have read over quickly before, suddenly take on a new life.

Now having said that, there is a problem that I have and with which I have been struggling, (though it may not happen to you). I realized that reading the bible had become more something I check off my list of things to do and less about letting God speak to me. I rushed through my readings rather than savoring the time with God. It became more a thing to accomplish that a time of learning. Interestingly in talking with preacher friends I found that some had faced the same problem.

Having realized my weakness, I started looking for a way to make my bible reading more meaningful and more of a time of learning. For most all of these past years we have used
The Daily Bible in Chronological order,” compiled by F. LeGard Smith, (available on Kindle). It has small commentary sections mixed in with the daily readings and has been quite helpful. However, I decided I wanted more depth, so I decided to make a drastic change in my Bible reading/study time.

I have used “The Word in Life” study bible and enjoyed the bible studies mixed in with the text. However this year I decided to use one of my favorite commentator’s study books “The Daily Study Bible Commentary” set by William Barclay. (A very expensive set available on Kindle, but only individual books, but you can find it for free on line at http://studylight.org). If you consider this study, I have to warn you that I do not agree with some of the doctrinal views held by Barclay, but he is one of the best scholars I have ever read when it comes to giving the background and history regarding the bible texts. He is very wordy and the explanations are often lengthy, but if you want to better understand the cultural thinking of those who spoke and those who heard there is none better. He gives in depth studies of the Greek and Hebrew words, which can be rather dry, but if you want to add depth to your reading and study, he is a very good source.

I don’t care what plan or program you use, just do it… read your Bible, let God talk to you through His Word. You may be getting a late start, but that’s OK, you are on no one’s time table, God doesn’t care how you do it or how long it takes, He just wants you in his word. Paul writes, “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God …” Ephesians 6:17.

 

book- have you ever wondered why?

 

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