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The Dawg Howse

The Dawghowse is a place inside the head of husband, father and Pastor Darrell Garrett. It's the place where the real me lurks. Be forewarned: It's probably not what you expect. Sometimes it's a serious place... sometimes it's not. Sometimes my thoughts

Updated: 2018-02-14T17:37:49.149-06:00


Where Does It All End?


I'm sure by now you've heard of the Tide Pod Challenge. You know, that where young people, trying to gain the approval of their peers and get a few minutes of fame have made videos of themselves eating packets of laundry detergent. I mean, how brain-damaged does anyone have to be to eat a packet of condensed soap? So now lawmakers are blaming Proctor and Gamble for making their product look so appealing. They state, "They look like candy. They look like toys."  Timeout... if you are 16-20 years old and you cannot tell the difference between candy and a packet of laundry soap... well, then there just isn't much hope for you anyway. But typical of left-leaning politics, they think they have to tell us how to think and tell us how to act and produce products, so they have proposed legislation to force Tide to make their product less appealing. 
(Here's a short clip to show you what I mean)

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So, I ask, "where does it all end?"  If you just want to continue with the dumbing down of Americans, then you have to assume that they are too stupid to realize that the stuff coming out of that can of shaving cream is not whipped cream. Better ban that. Those little scented wax cubes that smell like pie or candy... Oh my god, better ban those. Hey, that plastic fruit looks appetizing... better ban those fast! And that shampoo smells so sweet... better ban that before your mindless teenager decides to drink it. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. This is getting ridiculous! Where does personal responsibility come into play? (And a little common sense too!)  When do we start saying to parents, "TEACH YOUR CHILDREN HOW TO BEHAVE AND ACT AND THINK!"  This lack of parenting and holding people personally responsible for their actions is what has lead to the disintegration of our society where people think they can do and say whatever they desire and believe they cannot be held accountable for their actions. That's why the snot-nosed 18 year old on a train refuses to comply with a police officer, resists arrest and the masses of people actually support her childish, anti-social behavior. Personally, I think it is time that parents start breaking out the belt again and warming the backside of children throwing their temper tantrums. I believe a child who is unruly at school should be dealt with accordingly and if they cannot comply, then send them home until the parents can teach them how to behave civilly.  It's time for a revival of personal accountability to arise in this Nation... but I fear it may already be too late. 

It's A Different World


Pastoring today is very different than it was when I began in the ministry in the early 1980's. I can recall numerous times where people came to me back in those days and would ask me (in one form or another of these words) to help them because their lives were falling apart and they were desperate. Many times people would say that they knew that I was once where they were and that I'd climbed out of the trap and they wanted me to show them the way.  Today, people (especially younger folks) come to me and they want me to help them BUT they DO NOT want me to tell them that what they are doing is wrong. It happens all the time. Someone comes to me asking for help and it is not very long before they are angry at me because I am "judging" them. They get mad because I tell them they need to change something and they respond, "There it is! There's the judgment I've been waiting for!" Hello?You come to me and tell me you need help because "it's not working." Your life is falling apart at the seams. You want what you see in me... but I'm not supposed to tell you that you need to change? That's insanity! That's like coming to a hitting coach and asking him to help you improve your hitting, but then getting mad when he tells you that you need to change your swing. That's just crazy!  Let's bring this back into ministry or our Christian walk. People look at me and they see a guy whose life was ravaged by sin, controlled by all sorts of worldly "pleasures" (how pleasurable is drug addiction) and depression and suicide attempts and all sorts of other things. They see that I have somehow escaped all that and that my life is filled with joy, I have a wonderful marriage, I'm no longer suicidal and I've been drug and alcohol-free for more than 36 years and they want me to help them... BUT, I cannot tell them they are doing some things wrong! They don't want to hear that the answer is in admitting that my life was a train wreck and that I was bound by SIN, not the tools of sin, and that it was only in surrendering to Christ my entire life that I was born again and given a new nature. No, people today don't want to surrender all... just some. Just enough until life gets a little better. They really are not interested in Jesus as Master, only Jesus as a pain easer. They are looking for a way to remain in their sinful lifestyle but keep a "jar" of the healing balm in the cupboard for times that it gets too painful to manage. The sad thing is, that this IS the "gospel" that is being preached in many churches today. And many will die and face the true judgment completely unprepared. This is the very people that Jesus was referring to when he said, "21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)[...]

Changing Your "Want To's"


Someone texted me and asked me where I got this "want to" idea.
To be honest, it came from a song. When I first gave my heart to the Lord back in 1981, I stumbled upon a cassette tape by a young singer named Kelly Willard, singing a song she had written called, "Willing Heart."  From that song, I began praying, "Lord, change my want to's." He did... and is, and it formed a daily pattern in my prayer life.

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You've Got to Want It


Of late, I’ve found myself quite perplexed at times because I’ve had a couple of different people come to me looking for help and guidance in their lives, and they say they like what I’m saying, they know that what I’m saying is right… but they don’t follow that advice. The truly sad thing is that the “advice” I’ve given them is to return to Christ and surrender their lives completely. So… they hear, they know that the answer is in turning their lives fully over to Christ… but they reject that and try to find another way. I have felt like screaming at the top of my lungs at them and asking them just what they wanted me, or anyone else to do for them. They keep saying they need someone to help… that they cannot do this alone… and the answer is staring them right in the face and they appear to be saying, “There has to be another way.”  I was wrestling with this late last night, unable to sleep over my concern for these two people, and the Holy Spirit directed me to the following Scripture and told me that this is nothing new; that people have been playing the same foolish game for a long, long time.This is what the Almighty Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:You can be saved by returning to me.You can have rest.You can be strong by being quiet and by trusting me.But you don’t want that.Isaiah 30:15 (God’s Word Translation)For the two people that I’m referring to, as well as to anyone else who finds themselves in a similar situation where you feel like you are sinking and cannot go on, I implore you, listen, not just to Pastor D this time, but to what the Word of God says to you! The answer is right before you. The rest, the strength and peace of mind you are searching for is standing at the door of your heart knocking… but you and you alone must open the door and let him in. You’ve got to want it HIS way, not yours. Until then, life will continue to spiral out of control.I love you guys and I pray you make the right decision before you crash.  [...]

Who's Serving Who?


I know that I am getting older, but I’m not that old. Yet it seems to me that since I first began my pastoral ministry in 1986, things have certainly changed within the Body of Christ. Even more so since I was a child growing up in the church in the sixties and seventies. Growing up, it was about serving the Lord. It was about abandoning our way of life and giving ourselves completely to the will and service of God. It was about denying ourselves, picking up our own cross and following Christ. Today… the only cross for many is worn around their neck as a showpiece. There is no denial of self or sacrifice. Slick hucksters have sold a gospel of wealth and prosperity and few seem to notice that the only ones getting wealthy are the ones selling that message. What has happened is that gullible people have bought into a gospel which does not require change or sacrifice. In this gospel, they are not the followers. Instead, they have made Jesus out to be the follower of them. It’s like Jesus shadows their steps, waiting to be summoned like a genie in a lamp to grant their wish or get them out of a mess they have created in their selfish way of living. It used to be that “believers” followed Jesus saying, “What can I do for you today, Master.” It used to be that we followed the Biblical pattern where Jesus called out to Peter, Andrew, James, and John, saying “follow me” and they got up, left everything and followed Jesus. Today’s gospel insinuates that we simply continue doing what we have always done and Jesus follows after us removing every obstacle and pouring out blessings like a fairy god-mother. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that God wants to and does bless His people, but that should not be our motivation in following Christ. Our motivation should be pure love and devotion to the one who ransomed us from Hell and set us free from the curse of sin and death.  I’m gravely concerned for the church. In the area where I live I have personally witnessed people who have walked away from the church and Christ because they are disillusioned because their “wishes” did not come true. They were never taught to deny themselves or carry their cross and when troubles and trials came, and the magic wand did not swipe them all away, they walked away, blaming God. They never comprehended that the gospel teaches us to: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” They never contemplated the words of Paul where he said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  They may have read the words, but they never applied them. Peter clearly penned these words, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”  That is for me, you and for all believers. Yet these hucksters say that it is a lack of faith or that you need to give more to their ministry so that you might be delivered from your situation.  It’s just not the gospel that is found in the Bible.  Rather than following Christ, deceived men and women are following the glitz and glitter of men and women who are living high on the hog on the gullibility of those who follow. Like the Pied Piper, they are leading millions to their destruction.As I close this, I am reminded of the words of a song penned by Carman…I believe in God the FatherJesus Christ, His only SonAnd the blessed Holy SpiritDistinct, yet three in oneI believe there is forgivenessFor everything we've doneThat is why all the moreI will serve HimI believe the Son of GodWas crucified upon the treeAnd laid within a borrowed tombNot far from CalvaryI believe He rose up from the deadAlive for all to seeThat is why all the moreI will serve HimI have made my decisionI have staked my [...]

Looking for a New Start?


New Years Day 2018... and Facebook is filled with posts of people "starting over" or going to lose weight, stop smoking or any number of other resolutions that people are making as they start a new year. Of course, it happens every year, and most of those people making resolutions lose their resolve within a few days or weeks. I especially want to talk about those resolutions for a "new start" at life. I just want to say to those people, I really appreciate and understand your heart and desire, but there is something lacking to your resolution. If you want a "new start" they what you really need is to be born again. I'm not talking about a resolve to "be better" or "act better" or stop a bad habit. I'm not talking about religion. I'm talking about a radical and powerful transformation that takes place when the spirit man inside of us is quickened to life through the power of the Holy Spirit and the blood of Jesus Christ. All of your good intentions will not bring about the change that you are seeking. That work can only be done by Jesus Christ. And the really great news is that Jesus has already finished that work! All that need be done is for you to accept the gift of salvation that God has offered to you and I through the work Jesus did on the cross of Calvary. It is this simple: In the book of Romans 10:9 the Bible says that "if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." That's it! It's as easy as saying, "Jesus, I'm turning my life over to You. From this day forward I'm Yours." If you really want a fresh start in life, why not make that decision today? What better time to turn your life around than today? Why not start the New Year with a brand new life?

By request...


I had someone contact me asking me about a piece I wrote some time back and wanting me to repost it. Here it is. NOVEMBER, 2008Imagine If You WillToday I was having lunch with my son at a Mexican restaurant in Champaign, and he was noticing some of the pottery that was used to decorate the place. He asked me if I had ever seen any of the black pottery that came from Mexico, and was telling me about how there was a black clay in a region of Mexico and how unique it was. His conversation got me thinking about making pottery. Long ago, in seemingly another lifetime, I originally started out my college career as an Art major, and I used to do some pottery in my art classes, so have used the potters wheel some.Daniel got me to thinking about the process of making of a pot on the wheel, and the scripture passage in Jeremiah 18 came to mind where God speaks to Jeremiah through the work of the potter. That work on the wheel represents us and the process that we go through in the making and shaping of our lives.As we drove home from Champaign tonight, I got to thinking about this more. Allow me to share with you some of the thoughts I had.Imagine, if you will, that the beautiful pot you see above was able to speak to us. I believe the conversation would go something like this:I wasn't always like this. At one time I was just a cold, dirty, wet lump of clay. One day the potter picked me up and said, "I can do something with this." Then he began to knead me and to pound on me to work out all of the air bubbles. He patiently continued to knead me, pausing now and then to pull out all of the pieces of stone and other impurities in me that would cause me to be marred and to break if they were left behind. Then he threw me onto the wheel and started to put pressure on me and change my shape. It hurt, and I asked him to stop because the pressure at times seemed to be too much to bear, but he said, "'Not yet." Then he began to spin the wheel around and around until I shouted, "Stop, I want to get off." Again he replied, "Not yet." He began to put more pressure on me, stretched and pulled on me and shaped me into the shape of a pot. Just as I thought I could take no more, he stopped and I thought it was over and I could rest. Just then he suddenly took a knife and began to cut at me! Again and again he cut pieces away and then he took other tools and began to scrape away at my surface and it hurt so that I screamed and asked him to stop... but once again he said, "Not yet."Finally it all stopped and I was left alone to rest, and all seemed well for a few days. But just as I thought it was all over, he picked me up and put me into a hot oven and turned on the heat. I screamed at the top of my lungs, "STOP! Let me out of here! I can't take the heat! I'm suffocating!" But he looked at me with a knowing look and said, "Not yet."Finally, the heat stopped, but I was left alone in that cold dark oven for what seemed an eternity. One day, the door opened and he took me out of the oven and I thought his work on me was over, but then he started to paint me with some stuff that smelled terrible and made me sting. I could not believe what he did next. He put me back into the oven and cranked up the heat again! I cried and I said, 'I can't stand this, please let me out!' But he said, 'Not yet.'Finally he took me out of the oven and set me on a shelf where I sat for such a long time that I thought he had forgotten me. Then one day he took me off the shelf and held me up before a mirror. I couldn't believe my eyes. I had become a beautiful vessel, more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. All of a sudden he turned me over and began to scratch at my base and it hurt so bad. I could not imagine what he was doing at the time, but I learned that he put His mark on me so that anyone who saw me would immediately know who my m[...]

Time to Speak Up and Speak Out


allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />In the times we live in, it seems that if a church is large and has influence, they can do whatever they want and no one seems to hold them accountable. A few days ago Pulpit and Pen exposed the fact that Bethel Church in Redding, CA was including "Christian Tarot" readings in their practice of worship and ministry. Videos were included in their story which showed one woman trying to sell her reading and another video of Todd White endorsing the readings. Both videos were removed from Youtube within hours of their story going public. I have reached out to Charisma Magazine, which promotes Bethel Church and Pastor Bill Johnson regularly asking them to explain why they are refusing to cover this story and expose this wickedness. They have yet to respond to me. If they do ever respond, I will report that response here. This is a HUGE deception being brought into the Body of Christ and needs to be exposed and confronted. When will leaders of the church respond accordingly? 

Remember How Blessed You Are


This morning my wife and I were in Peoria for an important business matter that finished up much faster than we thought it would, so we had time to spend together. We decided to drive over to East Peoria and have breakfast at Steak and Shake on the riverfront. The riverfront is one of my favorite places to hang out. I just have an affinity for water, and I love the view looking back into the city.
So, we are sitting there eating when my wife notices a man come in, who appeared to be homeless. He sat near the back of the restaurant and was bundled up. A few minutes later my wife asked the waitress if she knew if the man was homeless and she said that he was, and that for the past 3 months he has lived there on the riverfront and spends a great deal of time in Steak and Shake. My wife asked the waitress to bring us his check. When she went up to pay for our meals, she also purchased a gift card and asked the waitress to give it to the gentleman anonymously. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, the emotions of it just got to me and I began to weep as I said to my wife that could just as easily been us. It only takes a sudden turn of events and most any of us could find us jobless, homeless and destitute. I realized just how much I take for granted just how blessed we are. We struggle at times and it causes us to get weary, but then I see a vivid reminder right before my eyes that screams at me that I am blessed beyond measure.  I just wanted to share this today to maybe stir someone else to recognize for themselves that they are in fact blessed... and if you are in Christ Jesus, things are only going to get better!

"It's All Your Fault!"


Yesterday I received a phone call from someone I had not spoken to in several years. This family used to be very active in the church and ministry but slowly drifted away from the church and I would say, from the Lord. After they had left the church, I frequently received phone calls and emails either asking for my help OR blaming me for the problems in their lives. I was accused of "failing" their family by allowing them to leave the church and things got so ugly that I finally told them that it was best that we parted ways. So… yesterday, out of the blue, many years later, I received a frantic phone call asking me to please come. I dropped my plans for Drive-Thru Prayer and went to see if there was anything I could do. I will not go into details as it is of a personal nature, but the family is facing a crisis of gigantic proportions and desperately need a miracle. When I arrived, I was a little apprehensive about going in because the last time we had spoken, years ago, it was so ugly with each family member trying to lay the weight of their situation on my shoulders. I prayed it would be different now.  It wasn't. 

Within a minute or so of my arriving the blame game started once again. It was all my fault. I did not love them enough to stop them from making the choices they made. Honestly, I was beginning to get a little steamed under the collar when it hit me… every charge they were throwing at me… they were leveling the same charges against God himself. I finally said to them that it was time that they collectively pull on their "big boy pants" and take ownership over the choices they had made and that not only could I not help them, but neither could God until they stopped pointing their accusing fingers at God and realize that God had absolutely nothing to do with the mess they were in. I told them that God was more than able and willing to help them, but he could do nothing until they confessed their sin (1 John 1:9) then got out of the way and allowed God to do what only he could do. 

Sadly, they were still mad and leveling accusations as I walked out of the door. I pray that God can somehow get through to them. He is their only hope.  Countless people find themselves in this exact situation. Rather than turn to God and say, "I blew it! Help!" The point their fingers at God and accuse, "It's all your fault!" Accepting ownership over our mess is two-thirds of the battle. God's just waiting to do his part, but he will not do it until we confess our sin. 

"You're Doing Something Right"


In the past few weeks, I've been told on four separate occasions that "you're doing something right" by people who have come to visit our church. One person told me that they were just "waiting for the lecture" telling them how they were living wrong and going to Hell. Another told me that they came to the church, actually more or less to shut me up, because they figured they people would be judgmental and condemning, but they were shocked to feel nothing but love and acceptance. I cannot tell you how good those words sound to me! 13 years ago, Pastor Jim Bolin invited me to a conference at Trinity Chapel in Powder Springs, GA and it was there that I first heard a phrase, "Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness." Pastor Bolin gave me a copy of a book by that title, written by Pastor Jerry Cook. In his book, Cook wrote:“When love, acceptance, and forgiveness prevail, the Church of Jesus Christ becomes what Jesus was in the world: a center of love designed for the healing of broken people and a force for God.”From that time on, it has been my goal to make that phrase the heartbeat of the church where I pastor. When I began introducing that phrase and that concept to the church, the response, at least verbally, was very positive. People loved the idea of "Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness" in theory, but not so much in practice. People in the church would say we are going to love everyone who comes through our doors... but then look down their nose at a single mother on food stamps and talk trash about her. Or an elderly man would accidentally wet his pants in the sanctuary and people would say, "Pastor, you have to get rid of him! He's ruining our church!" A teenage girl got pregnant and they would "speak" of support openly, but then run her down when they broke into their little clicks. People were excluded from invitations because they were on welfare, or their skin was the wrong color or any number of other things. There had to be an overhaul of the church if we were going to be a church that lived, breathed and practiced, "Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness." It's been a long, tough road... but we are finally getting there. I won't name the issues, but the fact is that in recent weeks people have come and sat in our congregation that struggled with issues that the church would consider "taboo" and in times past have kicked people out of the church over those issues. I've been teaching for 13 years that if we stand at the door of the church with a measuring stick and make sure everyone measures up, then the very people who desperately need to hear about and experience the love, acceptance, and forgiveness which we speak of, will never have the opportunity! Unfortunately, many people sitting in our congregations have forgotten where we came from ourselves. I'm quite certain that we will still have bumps along the way, but I so happy to see and hear people who need to experience the grace of Jesus Christ expressing that when they came in our doors they felt welcomed and loved. This is the exact reason why we changed our church name to "The Oasis." It is our desire to be a place of refuge, relief and refreshing for those who are weary travelers on this road of life. Keep it up Oasis Church. I'm so proud of you... but we still have a lot of growing to do![...]

"Your Words Are Nothing But B.S.!"


Today I had someone try to take me to task because they heard me say to someone that I barely know that I love them and that I’ll be praying for them. This person told me that my words were BS and that you cannot “love” someone whom you just met.  I’m not going to go further into that dialogue we had for this writing. I only share this to introduce my topic. I’d dare say that there are many in the church who really don’t understand this either, so I want to address this briefly. I am not going to go into a deep teaching, but simply highlight how it is that I (we) as a Christian can say and mean that we love someone who we just met or someone who seems unlovable by the world’s standard. First, let me say that there are 4 types of love in the Bible. (Psychology today says that there are 7 types, but I’m not going to go there today because that is not the purpose of this writing.)  The four Biblical types of love are:1) eros, which is a sensual or romantic love2) storge, which is a family love, the bond between parent and children or siblings3) philia, which is brotherly love and is the love that most Christians practice or express toward one another. It is a powerful emotional bond that is seen in deep friendships and encompasses love for fellow humans, care, respect and compassion for people in need.  4) Agape, which is the highest form of love. It is the type of love that is expressed in God’s immeasurable love for mankind. This is the love that took Jesus to the cross. And this is the love that I was referencing when I told this person that I loved them. Agape love is different than the other types of love in that Agape love first exists, and then it affects the emotions. Let me illustrate it this way… John 3:16 does not say, “For God so loved the world that He sat in heaven and had warm feelings?” That just seems silly, doesn’t it? We know that John 3:16 says, “For God so  loved the world that He gave…”   And that is the point of Agape love. Agape love is a volitional commitment to love. It’s a choice that we make of our own free will… something we CHOOSE to do. Agape love is a thought out choice to love… to give. Agape motivates us to act toward a person with love. We may not know them, but we show and express love toward them as a choice. It is unconditional, which means we expect nothing in return. Agape love is the giving that we choose to offer to others because Christ first gave to us.  This is considered strange or weird in the world we live in, because it is completely contrary to the way of the world. People cannot relate to someone giving without expecting something in return. I’ve seen this frequently when I’ve met new people, shown them Agape love and when they tell family and friends they warn them to watch out because, according to them, I have to be after something!  It’s simply the mentality of the culture we live in today. We hear it all the time, “Nothing is free! There has to be strings attached.”  Not even all Christians operate in Agape love. If there is not something given in return, whether it be emotional, physical or whatever, many Christians become hurt and offended. They do a good deed, and they mean it to be an act of love… but if there is no show of gratitude, or if they are not given recognition for it, they become hurt, offended and bitter. Again… Agape love is not like that. It is not attached to the emotions and therefore does not expect anything in return. Agape love is the type love that the Father wants and expects to be in operation in the Kingdom of God. In the world, we become acquainted with other people first, then we move into relationship and perhaps love. In God’s Kingdom we first lo[...]

Enough Excuses


Those of you have followed my blog for several years know (as do those who know me personally) that I LOVE to eat good food. I love just about all types of ethnic foods and for me, eating is not as much a necessity as it is a guilty pleasure. I love to savor the aroma, the spices and flavor of fajitas, a good (emphasize GOOD) pizza, Kabsse at my favorite Lebanese place (Kabob G) in Peoria or any number of other foods. Eating is an adventure for me. Unfortunately, it has also become an "adventure" trying to keep my weight down. Five years ago I was rocking a much larger me, weighing in at 242 pounds at my heaviest. It bothered me, but like many of us do, I laughed it off and pretended it did not matter. It mattered. I did not feel well at all. I was always exhausted and easily worn out. I became winded walking the stairs to our bedroom and we won't even talk about how exhausted I became while preaching! I started a journey… no crash diets, but a journey and I got down to 195 pounds about 5 months ago when I suffered an injury which forced me to stop working on our church building for several months while wrist healed. In that time, there is no other word for it, I became lazy and careless and my weight rapidly crept back up to 216 pounds. A couple of months ago I looked in the mirror at myself and had a serious talk with myself. One of the things that I found myself saying absolutely rocked me as I said, "This is not just a weight issue, you're being ruled by your flesh!" It was almost like someone else said it to me. Those words stung like fire ants biting at my spirit-man. I really thought about that for a couple of days and I decided that it was time to wage war with my flesh and take authority over it. I started a group on Facebook called "Temple Builders" where a few of us have shared our battles and our successes. Some are still just watching on, and that's OK because I'm believing that they are going to get inspired and go for a life transformation themselves.  So… how's it going? It's going… but it's rough. My body is not just laying down without a fight. My flesh is lazy. My flesh craves cookies, turnovers, and baklava. My flesh tells me that I'm too tired, or that my body hurts too much to exercise. Sometimes it, in fact, does. I just went through a period where I went 5 days without exercising because of the pain in my neck and shoulder, but today I had another serious talk with "self" and said, you are going to exercise today, even if all you can do is seven minutes of aerobics.  It took me more than an hour to get determined enough to get up off my duff, turn on the jazz (I like to exercise to jazz) and get with it. It hurt, but I kept telling myself, "just 7 minutes."  As I approached 7 the 7-minute mark I said, "let's do 10 minutes." Then it was 15. Then 20. I ended up pushing through to get in 33 minutes.  Yes, it was difficult… but I won a major battle with my flesh today. I'm determined that I'm not going to give in to my excuses. This is not just about my weight. My weight is a reflection of my spirit man, and I'm determined that things are going to change. For years I've convinced myself that I could never get my weight down to 190 (or below) but today I set my sites on 190. I will not back down. I will no longer allow my flesh or my age tell me what I cannot do. I have declared war on my flesh and I can do all things through Christ who is my strength![...]

The Only Way to Freedom


Many years ago I read a story in a newspaper in which told of a prisoner in Australia who was in the county jail awaiting to be transferred to the State Prison. He was facing a lengthy sentence and knew that if he was going to escape, he had to do it from the county jail. He began to plan a daring escape. The day came when he executed his plan flawlessly by crawling under a delivery truck parked at the prison receiving dock. He clung to the bottom of the truck and rode it out of the front gates of the prison. He held on for dear life to the bottom of that truck as it drove down a major highway for about 20 minutes or so. Finally, the truck began to slow down and when it came to a complete stop, the man quickly let go of his grip and dropped to the ground. As fast as he could he rolled out from under that truck to freedom.  As he stood up he was stunned to find that he was inside the walls of the state prison, five miles from the county jail from where he had come from.  You know, a lot of times it really seems that life is like that, doesn’t it?  Life boxes us in and we get to a point where we feel imprisoned by our fears or anxieties… our guilt and shame. These pressures seem to wall us in emotionally and spiritually, and we begin to desperately search for a way out. We try one thing after another, trying to escape, only to discover that we're just moving from one prison to another, one anxiety to another. We might try friends or relationships. Some might try drinking or drugs or even risky behavior, trying to find a release from the pressure we are under and the wall that is closing in on us. And with each “escape attempt” that fails, those walls get even tighter, higher and thicker and there just seems to be no way out. The reality is, there is no way out… except for Jesus. It does not matter what else you try, or how many times you try it, eventually it is going to lead to the same dark, cold and lonely place. The sooner we learn this and we give up our folly, the sooner we will find the only real purpose and fulfillment that there is to find I this life. Yes, those things work for a season, but the end result is always the same. We’re just riding from prison to prison, thinking we are free, but when we stop and look around and discover that all we’ve done is exchange one prison for another. Only Jesus can set us free. And he whom the Son sets free is free indeed. [...]

When the "Tithe" is Misdirected It is No Longer Tithe


In the times we live in, many people have chosen to take their "tithe" and use it to bless other people rather than give it to the church. Paul addressed this head on in this passage:1 Corinthians 9:8-14GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)8 Am I merely stating some human rule? Don’t Moses’ Teachings say the same thing? 9 Moses’ Teachings say, “Never muzzle an ox when it is threshing[a] grain.” God’s concern isn’t for oxen. 10 Isn’t he speaking entirely for our benefit? This was written for our benefit so that the person who plows or threshes should expect to receive a share of the crop. 11 If we have planted the spiritual seed that has been of benefit to you, is it too much if we receive part of the harvest from your earthly goods? 12 If others have the right to expect this from you, don’t we deserve even more? But we haven’t used our rights. Instead, we would put up with anything in order not to hinder the Good News of Christ in any way.13 Don’t you realize that those who work at the temple get their food from the temple? Don’t those who help at the altar get a share of what is on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who spread the Good News should earn their living from the Good News.The simple, straightforward truth is that when a person takes their tithe (not God's, but their own) and places it anywhere else, they are in disobedience and rebellion to the Word of God and God is not going to bless that. In truth, the issue is that they want to control where the money goes because it somehow makes them feel good that they have "blessed" someone else. They have received their "reward" right then and there, self-gratification. But the Biblical blessing will not come upon them because they are acting from a selfish and rebellious heart. If a person wants to bless another, that bless another, that should be done as a free-will offering over and above the tithe. Those that take their tithe and use it such a manner are typically fight periods of deep depression, anxiety and suffer financially themselves and they cannot see that they have brought all of this upon themselves by trying to do works of the flesh rather than obeying God. God's Word is clear... "obedience is better than sacrifice."  So even if a person sacrificially gives to another but in the process is disobeying God's Word, they bring curses upon themselves. [...]

This, Too, Shall Pass


I’m sure we have all either said the phrase “This, too, shall pass” or at least heard it said. Most often those words are spoken as words meant to encourage and comfort someone who might be going through a particularly tough or upsetting period of their life and the words are said to say, “Things not going so great? This, too, shall pass. It will get better sooner or later. The thing is, I’ve learned in my life that it works the opposite way as well. “Everything hunky-dory and going your way? Well, enjoy it while you can, because this, too, shall pass.  Life is filled with ups and downs and twists and turns, and changes as do the seasons, so enjoy it all while you can, because this season will come to an end.

I’m quite certain that we have all enjoyed seasons of favor where it seems that everything falls neatly into place and it all comes together for us with minimal effort on our own part.  Those are great times… but we all know that the tide is going to turn and it can’t last forever.  For me, the past two years have been, by and large, the opposite. Yes, there have been some ups in that period, but for almost two years, beginning with the storm that ripped the roof from the church which I pastor, followed by 8 inches of snow that came 6 days later filling our building with water… and for two years we have been in a state of transition and rebuilding, not only the building but the congregation as well.
During this time key people opted to leave the church. Others moved. We’ve fought with contractors and the insurance company. Illnesses and family needs have caused those helping me rebuild to cease helping. It’s just been a rough period and I’m exhausted, physically, emotionally and even spiritually. Through it all, I encourage myself with the knowledge, “This, too, shall pass.”

Right now, I’m battling with Viral Arthritis which has shut me down from working on the building completely as I ached from pretty well every joint in my body. I have a deadline on getting a particular job done, and I’m seeing that I’m probably not going to make that deadline. But the reality is that this is a self-imposed deadline, and life is not going to come to an end because it is not completed. I just have to give a little and not be so tough on myself. Concerning these past two years, I keep telling myself that it HAS to get better soon. It just has to. I keep reminding myself of something John Lennon once said, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it is not okay, it's not the end."

When You Get Off Course


Yesterday my wife got off work early so we decided to spend the afternoon in Peoria and to have dinner there. We stopped by to see our son for a few minutes where he works, went to Bass Pro Shop and then went down to spend some time on the riverfront. I took her down to see my favorite "escape" spot which I had never shown her before, and then decided to drive across town because I wanted to pick up something from Schnuck's grocery. Rather than hop back on the Interstate I decided to take the route through town, which I had not done in probably at least 4 or 5 years. I figured I could find the way and started out heading the right direction. Now, I should explain that I have a problem, in that when I am driving and I get to talking, I pay no attention to where I am going. In the past, and I have found myself WAY off course. I mean like 40 miles off course  in the past. Yesterday was no exception. I headed out in the right direction, and Libby and I were just talking about school, the church and life… and the next thing I know, I see a road sign and I think to myself, "How in the world did we get here!" I knew exactly where we were  but I had no idea how I had gotten there because as I was pre-occupied, I had simply gone another way, nowhere near where I had intended to go. We were not in a hurry at all and were just enjoying the day, but the point is, we'd started out going one way and ended up somewhere else.  This morning I was thinking about yesterday's events and I thought to myself, "that is a great illustration of how people stray away from the Lord." They point themselves in the right direction and take off, but then fail to pay attention to where they are going. They don't notice the signs. They don't realize how far they have gone, because they are so busy with other things, and then they look up and say, "How did I ever get here?"Spiritually, it is vital that we pay attention to what is happening around us. Peter said, "be sober" which means to be alert and aware. Many times we get so busy with all the "stuff" in our life that we just are not even aware of where the road is taking us and that we are so far off our intended path that it is very difficult to get back.Yesterday when I saw how far I had gone, I decided to keep going on in that direction because it was such a long way back. In fact, we changed our plans as to where we were going to have dinner, rather than turn back.  I think many people do the same thing in their spiritual lives. They see how far they have gone and they think it is too far to go back. But with Christ, all we have to do is ask his forgiveness and repent (which means go the other way!) and we are back in right standing with God.I know most of you who read this are walking the right path with Christ, but if you happen to read this and you have made a wrong turn and you think you have gone too far; turn back today. Don't go any further. Yesterday, I simply spoke into my phone, "Siri, get me directions to Schnuck's" and then followed the directions she gave, which lead me right back to where I needed to be. If you are off course, rather than call out to Siri, why don’t you just call out to Jesus. He is ready, willing and able to get you back on course, headed in the right direction and to deliver you to your appointed destination. If you have never made that decision before, to call on Jesus… can I tell you that it really is the easiest and best decision you will ever make, to admit that you are going the wrong way, and that you need the help of Jesus Christ to help you turn your life around and then stay on that course, following a[...]

It's Never Too Late!


I look in the mirror nowadays and barely recognize the guy who stares back at me. It's hard to believe that I'm only 16 months shy of turning 60. In my head and mind that vibrant 35 year old is still kicking and screaming. But the mirror tells the tale. The graying and thinning hair, the sagging jawline and eyes and the dunlap disease around my waistline tell me that all those years of "intending to" start exercising have come to naught. Don't get me wrong, I'm not ready for the grave and I'm better than what I was a few years ago. An encounter with a blocked artery that should have killed me, but thankfully was discovered before having a major heart attack gave me my first reality call. That blockage required a stint and a boatload of medications which the told me I'd be on for the rest of my life. After that, I began working on my weight. I slowly dropped from 238 pounds to a low of 193, but then it began to edge back up and the next thing I knew I was back to 212 pounds and beginning to have a lot of problems again. I found myself praying and asking God to help me... when I can to a startling reality... God was not going to help me as I ate doughnuts and Hostess pies. God gave me a brain and expects me to use it. So, a few weeks ago, I made a decision... no more talking about it; it was time to exercise. I've "started" before, and done a few days and found myself slipping back into my sedentary lifestyle that led me to this condition.  So I started a group on Facebook which I have named "Temple Builders" where others are joining me in this battle to beat our bodies into subjection. We are sharing our struggles and our successes. We have agreed to hold one another accountable as well. I've made it a goal to exercise a minimum of 4 days per week to start. Thus far I've met or exceeded that goal each week and in 3 weeks I'm down 8 pounds. My wife and I have joined Planet Fitness, which opens in just a few days and we will begin going to work out together once it opens. I've set a long-term goal for myself. On my 60th birthday, I want to be down to a lean and fit 185 pounds. I've not been there since I was in my 30's. I'll be honest, I look in the mirror some days and tell myself it's too late and that the damage has been done.  But I refuse to accept that. I'm telling myself daily that it is NOT too late and that I'm going to turn back the tide and reverse the damage.  I invite folks to help hold me accountable, and if there are any readers who'd like to join me in this battle, feel free to join our group on Facebook by clicking this link. Temple Builders[...]

It's Not a Laughing Matter!


For those who do not know my church and I are doing "drive-thru prayer" in varying places in town where we set up and are there praying over our city and the people driving by. We also have people pull in for prayer and have seen several people led to Christ through this effort. Well, last night as we were doing this, one car was stopped at a traffic light and was within about 10 feet of me. I was holding a sign which read: "Praying for You!"  I do not mean this to sound judgmental, but is the reality of the situation. Both the man and the woman in this car had all the tell-tale signs of extensive alcohol and drug abuse in their physical appearance. She was driving and he was on the passenger side and he leaned out of his window and yelled out, "You are going to have to pray extra hard for me, you son of a bitch cause I'm on my way to Hell and enjoying the trip!" They were laughing as I said, "You don't have to go tell Hell, all you need is Jesus!" He replied, "I want to go to Hell!"  As they drove off, my heart was breaking. These people have no possible grasp of the reality of what they were saying. The thought of the prospect of this man spending eternity in Hell with the memory of those words running over and over in his mind is simply beyond what I care to imagine. It's not a laughing matter. Hell is real and people do go there. I pray for these two and so many others who have bought into the lie that Hell is going to be a big party with all of their friends.

It's Heartbreaking


Today I ran into someone who I have not seen in a few years. This person and their family used to attend the church where I pastor. So after catching up just a bit I asked if they were attending church now and the response was "we don't go every week but we do go now and then." I asked where they were going and then I said, "If you don't mind my asking, what made you stop coming to our church and what do you like better where you are now." The response I got was one of the most heartbreaking things I've ever heard as a pastor. They said to me, "when we went to Harvest (the old name for The Oasis) we always felt a heavy feeling when we left the church like we needed to change or something. But at (X,Y,Z) church, we don't. We can just be us and live our lives and when we go, no one cares how we live our lives or how often we attend. We always feel good about ourselves and we like that." Then they added, "and if we don't go for a month, no one pesters us like you guys always did. They allow us to be who we are and that's ok." 
I was floored.
This person was raised in church and had a real relationship with God but was now saying they did not want a message that spoke the truth, but made them feel good about living their lives just as they are. That is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is heartbreaking to see people who have fallen into deception like this.

I'm Deeply Concerned


I find it truly sad that we have a generation of "preachers" coming up that find pleasure in criticizing other ministers. They mock the fact that men and women pastor in small churches in small towns. They don't understand that not everyone desires to be in a megachurch, nor do they understand that the vast majority of those attending church today attend a church of under 100 people. They criticize and mock pastors for not having a cross-cultural ministry and even call them "racists" without even considering all the facts. For example, I pastor in a town where the demographics are 97.62% white, so if I happen to have a few people of non-white ethnicity, it is an amazing statistic. They criticize their sermons and accuse them of trying to imitate someone else. They criticize the music because it's too "old fashioned" or the musicians are not good enough. They criticize the methods of other pastors and mock them. They call them derogatory names, criticize their buildings, and so many other things. And many of those doing the criticizing have yet to ever pastor their first church. The Bible is clear that we reap what we sow and these young preachers are sowing for a harvest that they do not desire. God, awaken this generation before it is too late. 

Go On And Hate Me If You Must


I am often attacked by people who say, "he always wants to tell people how they are living wrong." Truth is, it's not me telling them, it's the Word of God, and the sad reality is that many people will awaken one day to the fact that the never KNEW Jesus, but only knew about him. Am I judging people with that statement?Let's see what Jesus said about it:Mathew 7:21-2321 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.And then in Matthew 25:21-46 we read:31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.So YES, I'm going to warn people who have a case of religion but do not KNOW Jesus.  I'm going to warn people who claim to be Christian but do not live the life of someone who is a Christ follower.  Go on and hate me if you want... but I'm doing my best to rescue people from a Devil's Hell.[...]

Words Are Funny Things


Let me first say that I'm sure I will be judged for the blog entry which I'm about to write. Go ahead... I'm ready for it and I'm used to it. The thing is, I get so stinking tired of Christian people who seem to get a spiritual rush out of the act of criticizing and judging other Christians (especially pastors!) because of the verbiage they use. Specifically, I'm referring to those who accuse others of using "curse words" and find pleasure in trying to heap shame and guilt on others for using words that they believe to be shameful. Let me first be very clear that I am not meaning to imply that Christians should use curse words and declare "liberty in the spirit" as many have done in this present time. But I must confess that for years now, I've sat back in amazement as I've watched people judge other people's use of words when they, in fact, have "replacement words" that they use in the exact same manner. I contend that those "replacement words" carry the same connotation as the words which they have replaced. One Christian comedian calls them "Christian curse words."  For example, rather than dropping the "f-bomb" a person will say "friggin" or some other similar word instead of that word we consider to be so vulgar.  Isn't that really trying to get as close to the word as you can while hiding behind a false sense of religious piety? Think on that one for awhile.Now to the point. In the past week, I was soundly chastened by another minister because a picture I posted had the word "pissed" attached to it by Facebook. Now, mind you... Facebook did it, not me... but that is neither here nor there. It was that according to this man (and others who also jumped in on the attack) this word "piss" is a curse word. I asked him if he knew the meaning of the word, and he said he did, but it was still considered a curse word. And here is the question I would ask.... "Just who decides what is a curse word and what is acceptable?" About 20 years ago I was in Germany and I have to admit that I was stunned, yet had my eyes opened because people there commonly used words that I had always been taught were taboo... but in their culture, it was perfectly acceptable, even from the pulpit. Let's look at that word "pissed".  In England, the word means to be drunk. It also means to be very angry or agitated.  The word is used in the Bible to mean urinating. But someone somewhere decided to label this word "taboo" and now the word police are quick to judge someone else as a lesser Christian if they use the word in their vocabulary.  But somehow, it would be acceptable to say, "I'm mad as heck" when we all know that what they were imply is that they are "mad as Hell."  Funny how that works. Anyway... on to what prompted me to write this today.Yesterday I was talking with someone and I said to them that there was a "buttload of people joining the new Planet Fitness in town. Their face looked as if I'd just told them that I was a serial rapist. I mean, absolute horror came across her face as she literally backed away from me and turned three shades of pale. Finally, she said, "I cannot believe that a "pastor" (spoken very snidely and with guile) would use such a word! You ought to be ashamed of yourself!"  I could not help it... I laughed out loud and said, "You have NO idea what "buttload" means, do you?"  She said, "I don't know how to explain it, but it is absolutely profane!"  I explained [...]

Enough of This


Last night I tossed and turned, not able to sleep as my mind was just racing and I could not seem to slow it down for hours. I found myself thinking about and going over that craziness that we've allowed to creep into the church (corporately) since the time I pastored my first church in 1986 until now. We've had so many fads and trends and buzz words and catch phrases that it makes my mind spin. This morning, I find myself again sitting here wondering when it stopped being enough to preach the Word of God and how we started with all the gimmicks and "door buster" approach to getting people in our church doors? I believe it has a lot to do with the atmosphere of competition that has been created between churches. With our mouths, we claim, "we are all one body" but our actions on display prove otherwise as pastors and members work harder at stealing sheep from other folds than we do at making converts and disciples of Christ. This spirit of competition has caused churches to constantly be trying to "one-up" one another and come up with a better dog and pony show than what the church across town has. When one remodels, the other has to hurry up and put together a remodel or expansion project to make sure they are "keeping up with the Jones".  One church has a singing, revival or special service and rather than join in, we make sure to create something in our own church to keep the folks interested in and attending our own church. This competition is evident in the fact that across America, churches are not really growing, but simply swapping members from one church to the other and our numbers are in a steady decline across denominational lines. Let's be brutally honest...we pushed God right out of the equation as we plotted and schemed to become the latest, greatest happening church in town with the newest lights and sound and gizmos and gadgets. 

I'm tired of all this. I just want an old-fashioned move of God with the power of the Holy Ghost being the only thing on display. That is what it is going to take to transform lives, churches, and communities. No more searching for something new. Just give me that which is tried and true... Give me that old-time religion.

Learning From Setbacks


David Jeremiah wrote:

British inventor James Dyson spent 15 years making 5,126 prototypes of a revolutionary kind of vacuum cleaner—all of them failures. The 5,127th version was a success. James Dyson learned about the mechanics of design from each failure, but "learn" is the key word. That is the benefit of disappointment or failure in life... the opportunity to learn. There are many things to learn, of course. Jesus learned obedience (Hebrews 5:8), which is another way of saying He learned about trusting His Father God. We have the opportunity to learn about God as well, with every disappointment. The psalmist wrote that his afflictions reminded him of the faithfulness of God. There is an infinite number of ways to learn about God from life’s disappointments.

If you are disappointed today, use it as an opportunity to learn more about God and His love for you. Don’t view disappointments as obstacles, but rather as gateways to learning.