It’s God’s Will

If in all of life’s journey, the smooth stretches as well as the rough, we could assess and conclude it’s God’s will; what peace, joy and comfort we would possess!

Unfortunately, we have too often been taught or influenced to believe that God is in the “good” and the “easy” but not so much in the “difficult” and “trying.”

However, one thorough reading of the story of Job will assure us that all his circumstances, both tragic and triumphant, were under the absolute control and dominion of God Almighty.

I know through the years I have often quoted Oswald Chambers. Perhaps some of you think My Utmost for His Highest is the only book, aside from the Bible, that I’ve read. I assure you, though I’ve read that classic book many times, I have read many others by various authors.

But once again, I find one of his quotes so timely and pertinent to the occasion of this letter.

“There is a distinct period in our experience when we cease to say – ‘Lord, show me thy will,’ and realization begins to dawn that we are God’s will, and He can do with us what He likes. We wake up to the knowledge that we have the privilege of giving ourselves over to God’s will. It is a question of being yielded to God.” (O.Chambers)

A thorough grasp of the essence of this quote could and should bring such peace and simplicity to our lives.

When scripture says, “Fret not thyself for tomorrow…” (Matthew 6:34) it actually means just that! When Paul writes to the church at Philippi, “Be anxious for nothing…” (Philippians 4:6) he is encouraging believers to trust that their prayers offered in thanksgiving, minus anxiousness, will produce “The peace of God which surpasses all comprehension…” (Philippians 4:7).

Put simply, all we really have any control over is our relationship to Jesus. And if we are rightly related to Him, then wherever we are is where He has us. If we only feel we’re in God’s will when things are going “smoothly” then perhaps we might determine that we’re not in God’s will much of the time.

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me much of life is challenging, as scripture assures us it will be. Again, let’s look at Matthew 6:34. Some translations say: “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NAS)

Wow, what encouraging words! Every day will have trouble! Try to get an audience for that message on the average Christian TV station. If that’s true, (and God’s Word says it is) then believing that trouble or difficulty can’t be part of God’s will, could only lead one to believe that every day we will be out of God’s will, at least to some extent.

How troublesome a concept!

Or we can believe that no matter what befalls us, as long as we are rightly related to Him we are not only realizing God’s will but as Chambers puts it, “We ARE God’s will.”

In Paul’s concluding remarks to the church at Philippi, he writes: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; and in every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” (Philippians 4:12)

Then from the confinement of a Roman prison, guarded and restricted, he writes: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

To those who may have questioned the journey and circumstances of Paul’s life and ministry, and to those who may question the journey and circumstances of our lives and ministries, may it be clearly stated: It’s God’s Will!

“This is from Me,” the Saviour said,
As bending low He kissed my brow,
“For One who loves you thus has led.
Just rest in Me, be patient now,
Your Father knows you have need of this,
Tho’, why perchance you cannot see-
Grieve not for things you’ve seemed to miss.
The thing I send is best for thee.”

Then, looking through my tears, I plead.
“Dear Lord, forgive, I did not know,
“Twill not be hard since Thou dost tread,
Each path before me here below.
And for my good this thing must be,
His grace sufficient for each test.
So still I’ll sing, “Whatever be
God’s way for me is always best.’”

Author Unknown

In Christ,

Dallas

P.S. Linda continues to improve though it’s a slow, steady process. Please continue to remember us as well as our ministry in your prayers. We love you and appreciate you so much. May God bless you richly!

Finding Peace in the Midst of a Storm

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4:7)

This verse of scripture was sent to us by a couple different friends as Linda and I prepared to fight another round against the cancer that has challenged us for almost thirty years now.

Perhaps you’ve already heard and if not, I will share with you that on February 23rd, following an MRI, we discovered Linda had a tumor on her brain. That same day we met with her oncologist and scheduled an appointment the next day, February 24th, with a brain surgeon.

The surgeon showed us the scan, highlighting the upper right and rear part of her brain where the cloudy mass was located.

Without going into the full discussion on the specifics of the surgery, what they might find and what risks might be considered, let me just say, it was a lot to take in. And then the decision to operate on Monday morning, at 10:00am, in just two days!

It seemed so much was happening so fast and yet we were both struck with a sense of peace in the midst of this sudden storm.

This Was More Than About Us

I think it was Saturday morning as we were preparing to leave the house to go to the hospital for some preliminary lab work, that we both, independent of one another, had this clear sense that this wasn’t just about us.

Yes, we would learn great depths of God’s grace and faithfulness as we always had during these times of testing. But, there was a different and unique sense that this was for and about others as well.

Linda has always said, “When you go through these difficult stretches of the journey, you take everyone you love right along with you.” How true!

We Are Made Strong in Our Weakness

The first verse I ever learned, the night I became a Christian was:

“I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Linda and I have often prayed through the years, “Lord, help Yourself to our lives; use us whether in strength or weakness for Your glory.”

I’ll not take the time, space or energy here to address those who proclaim that the Christian should never be sick, never suffer and never be tested. Scripture clearly teaches us that we dwell in corruptible bodies, we will suffer at times and the testing that these seasons of physical, emotional and even spiritual challenges present is the very thing that “fits” us for kingdom service.

These “seasons” teach us how to comfort those we will meet in their affliction, with the same comfort with which we have been comforted.

Scripture says, “Fear not,” fret not thyself, and “be anxious for nothing.”

These admonitions must work in these crucial times of testing or they will work nowhere!

Oswald Chambers says, “All of our fret and worry comes from calculating without God.” I love that, and it’s so true.

Joy in the Time of Sorrow

In all this, Linda and I just want you to know, there really is a peace that passes our understanding and it does guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, even when all evidence to the contrary would seek to influence us otherwise.

I wrote the lines to the chorus of I Have Hope some years ago that say:

I have joy in the time of sorrow
I have peace in the raging storm
I have faith that Jesus holds tomorrow
I have hope, I’m resting in His arms

I will tell you, those lines have a much deeper meaning for us now than when I wrote them. Those words are true for us and by God’s grace they will be true for you!

God Continues to Perform Miracles

Linda did have a tumor removed from her brain at around 10:00am, Monday, February 27th. It was the same breast cancer she’s dealt with for years.

The surgeon got all he could see and said he would recommend some follow up pinpoint radiation.

Linda’s spirit, attitude and cognitive abilities never suffered one bit from the surgery. She spent a couple weeks in rehab getting her left arm and leg to cooperate a little better. They improved daily and I’m confident that by the time you read this letter, she will be home and doing wonderfully.

She’s an amazing woman! And don’t misunderstand, we believe in a miracle working God who could instantaneously remove every cancer cell from her body. We will continue to pray as we have for almost thirty years now that He will.

But He has performed a miracle. Linda is a miracle! She was diagnosed stage 4 nearly twenty-five years ago, and she just keeps on going for the glory of God.

Remember what the Apostle Paul wrote:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (II Corinthians 12:9)

Early on in this present ordeal, our daughter Jennifer texted us another verse Paul wrote that encourages us to be:

“…joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

We have been joyful in hope, patient through the process and prayer without ceasing has been our mainstay.

And in these things we have found Peace.

LOVE: A few thoughts for Valentine’s Day

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
(John 15:13)

In this one verse we gain a biblical perspective of the very essence of love. True love is sacrificial, even unto death. We know God’s greatest demonstration of love is Christ’s sacrificial death at Calvary.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
(John 3:16)

I repeat, real love has at it’s core the sense of sacrifice; sacrifice even unto death. Now let’s look for a moment at how we’ve trivialized the word. I love those shoes…I love that show…I love my car…and on and on it goes. Really? You love any of the aforementioned and much much more to the extent you’d be willing to die to affirm the assurance of your love for such items?

Now I know, some of you are perhaps thinking, “Man, it’s Valentines Day; ease up on the love thing!” Believe me, I understand the “Day” incites feelings, words and memories of love. I remember all the way back to first grade, hoping Pam or Mary would put a Valentines card in my little decorated shoe box receptacle, that had some fuzzy stuff on the heart or animal adorning the front of the card. Everyone knew (even at the age of six) that the “special” cards meant a special affection.

I just want on this Valentines Day, as we express our love to a husband, a wife, a child or anyone else deserving of our love, that we understand and remember the greater implications of our expressed love. When I tell Linda, “I love you,” I want her to know it’s a love at any cost, even unto death. When I tell my children and grandchildren of my love, I want to be sure that my life demonstrates the love that scripture presents. The Apostle Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, articulates the priority of love.

“But now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
(I Cor. 13:13)

Happy Valentines Day!

Life in the Vineyard

I know I’ve referenced this poem at least once before in a Praiseletter. I learned and memorized it for a year-end program at our church when I was a nine or ten-year old boy.

LIFE IN THE VINEYARD

A year is a long long time you say
Compared to just a second

But I studied and thought about it one time
And this is how I reckoned

There are sixty minutes in an hour
Twenty-four hours a day

Seven days in every week
Four weeks in a month we’ll say

Only twelve short months and the year is gone
And what was there really in it

Multiplied, squandered and wasted
The insignificant minute

I want to be counted worthy
For the time that’s given to me

For what I do on earth with that time
Will count for eternity

– Author unknown

Every year I’m reminded of the challenge of the poem and usually find myself reciting it once again at some year-end occasion.

As we begin the adventure of a new year in 2017, let’s consider how we might apply the message of this poem to our lives.

The Moments You Make Matter

Simply put, every moment matters! And every moment holds the potential to please the heart of God, honor the name of Jesus and strengthen the Body of Christ.

It all comes down to whether or not we are bearing fruit in and through our lives. Are we more like Jesus now than we were a year ago? Have we brought others closer to Jesus? Do the things that matter most to God matter most to us?

If the answer to any of those questions is “no” or “I’m not sure,” then perhaps we should look to one of Jesus’ parables to gain insight and a challenge.

The Parable of the Fig Tree

In Luke’s gospel account, Jesus presents a parable as follows: “A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard and he came looking for fruit on it, but did not find any. And he said to the vineyard keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9)

Matthew Henry provides insightful commentary on this passage and it reads as follows:

This parable of the barren fig tree is intended to enforce the warning given just before; the barren tree, except it brings forth fruit, will be cut down. This parable in the first place refers to the nation and people of the Jews. Yet it is, without doubt, for awakening all that enjoy the means of grace, and the privileges of the visible church. When God has borne long, we may hope that He will bear with us yet a little longer, but we cannot expect that He will bear always.

Cut It Down!

Let’s imagine for a moment that we are those vineyard keepers who have been placed within His vineyard. We are aware that He has been examining our fruitfulness (or lack thereof) for a season and upon His most recent examination of the tree, for which we are responsible, He has found no fruit. He therefore concludes, “Cut it down!”

We then, appealing to His mercy, cry: “Please give us one more year to till the soil, apply the fertilizer and then if no fruit develops, go ahead and cut it down.”

Now let’s suppose that 2017 is that year to prove our devotion, display our fidelity and produce the expected harvest. What would be different? How would we change? What fruit might be borne to His glory?

I realize analogies, as I have just proposed, can have flaws and be misapplied in ways that open the doors to legalism and performance based relationships to our Lord and Savior.

Legalism always leads to bondage and performance based attempts for relationships always offend grace. I am not in any way suggesting that this year is the year we’d better get it right or else!

And yet shouldn’t our desire be to get it right, or walk in His righteousness, every moment of this year, throughout all the “insignificant minutes?”

Are You Producing Fruit?

We have been placed in His vineyard and because of our privileged standing as sons and daughters of the living God, fruitfulness is a natural expectation.

I often say, “Ministry is a privilege.” We must regard where He has placed us and what He has called us to do, as a great privilege. The tilling of the soil, the dressing of the vines and the pouring of the fertilizer are all to be done with joy and from a heart of gratitude to Him who has saved us and called us.

We do all this to the glory of God, bearing fruit for His honor and storing up treasures in Heaven.

This is Life in the Vineyard.

 

A Prayer Request

The holiday season has once again swiftly come upon us. By the time you read this post, we will have already observed the traditional Thanksgiving celebration and Christmas is just around the corner.

Last year at this time we vowed we would be better prepared and not let the season sneak up on us as it has so often. But alas, most of us once again find ourselves with more to do than time to do it.

Living in Anxious Times

This leads me to have us consider the scripture that begins by saying, “Be anxious for nothing…” (Philippians 4:6)

We live in “anxious” times! I’m writing this post the day after the 2016 presidential election. Extreme anxiety has been the daily portion for many in the months leading up to the election and it seems as though such anxiousness will continue for many, regardless of the election’s outcome.

But what of the Christians? What about we true believers? Someone said recently, “It’s natural for us to worry about our present circumstances when so much is at stake.” I disagree! Our “natural” response should be unwavering trust in a sovereign God who rules and reigns over every aspect of the universe and the most minute details of our lives.

Ultimately, it comes down, as it always does, to whether or not we believe God’s Word.

Our True Authority

“Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” (Romans 13:1)

Remember, this was written to Christians who lived under the rule of the Roman Empire; the same Roman Empire which would soon declare “open season” on Christians and eventually remove Paul’s head!

Paul went on to write, “Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (Romans 13:2)

Any questions? Seems pretty clear and straightforward, doesn’t it?

Do Not Fret Because of Evildoers

Many are worried because of a President elect and leadership that seem to have a resume of unrighteousness.

May I remind all of us, at this point, that we each have a similar resume and apart from the grace of God we would all stand condemned and doomed!

Paul didn’t’ write, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities…” if they’re good, righteous, likeable or any number of other qualifiers. In fact, the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Apostle Paul to write the verses we have just considered, also inspired the Psalmist David to write centuries before, “Do not fret because of evildoers…” (Psalm 37:1)

It’s interesting and noteworthy that only a few verses later he writes, “Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing.” (Psalm 37:8)

Think of it! Fretting about evil doers will lead you to become the very thing you were fretting about, “evil doing.”

I don’t know President-elect Trump and I’ll bet you don’t either. I do know God the Father, His Son Jesus and the precious Holy Spirit.

Scripture highlights throughout the centuries how the Triune Godhead can take men or women and save them, redeem them and call them for His purposes.

The Apostle Paul is one of the greatest examples of this. A persecutor of the early church, a killer of Christians and a zealot for the organized religious system of his day becomes a humble servant of the Most High God!

A Prayer Request

So…here’s a Prayer Request. There are many important and pressing issues facing our new President and administration, but I would like to offer a list of three things to pray for. I believe that if God will move and have His will and way in these three areas, all other concerns will be addressed wisely and properly.

  1. Pray that President elect Trump will be drawn to and humbled before a Holy God now and each day going foreword.“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)
  2. Pray that President elect Trump will assemble a wise council of leaders. “Where there is no counsel, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14)
  3. Pray that President elect Trump will appoint Supreme Court justices who will properly interpret and uphold the constitution of the United States. “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” (Proverbs 29:2)

At the beginning of this post we looked at the first part of a verse in Philippians. Now let’s read the rest.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Remember: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 33:12)

At Praise Ministries we meet every Monday morning at 9:00am to start the week with prayer. We pray for the suffering
church around the world, for missionaries everywhere, for the prayer requests you send in and for our own personal needs.

May I invite you to join us wherever you are at 9:00am CST in prayer for our President, our leaders and our nation?

Let’s focus in and pray especially for the three requests I have listed, and believe God to guide, direct and bless our nation so that we might bless and honor Him.

Only God knows what can be accomplished when in fervor and persistence, His people respond to A Prayer Request.

Warning!

That word always gets your attention, doesn’t it? It seems we live in an increasingly dangerous world. Warning signs are on our highways letting us know of low overpasses, washed out bridges or road construction areas. If we violate the rules of the road, the law enforcement officer turns on his warning lights.

Amusement parks have warning signs to let us know that even though a particular ride was created for our enjoyment, it may be hazardous to our health.

And then there are the warning labels and disclaimers posted by the pharmaceutical industry. Is it just me or does it seem that those drugs advertised on TV have many potential side effects more threatening than the disease they’re designed to cure?

In an ever evolving modern society with new products, new ideas and new technologies, it is essential that we investigate the risks that may accompany that which is “new.”

All consumers of the “new” are not affected the same way, but if only one out of thousands are adversely affected, then a warning must be issued or posted to protect others who may potentially be at risk.

A 10.0 Magnitude Earthquake

Yesterday when I awoke in the morning, I turned on the TV to see what was going on in the world. I turned to the History channel at one point and there was a program dedicated to exploring the possibilities of a 10.0 magnitude earthquake. Almost every scientist contributing his or her opinion to this potential dilemma agreed that it was highly unlikely, if not almost impossible, that such a cataclysmic event could occur. Still, they speculated as to what might happen and how one might go about warning of such a disaster.

On they went discussing other possibilities related to volcanoes and asteroids. The somewhat cynical part of me suspects that by presenting even the possibility of such horrific, cataclysmic events, (thus inciting fear amongst the general population) funding for research continues.

In other words, scientists almost unanimously agree that such a disaster as a 10.0 earthquake is likely never to happen; still, in the extremely remote possibility it might, they would like several hundred million dollars to continue to consider the possibility.

Warning Signs in Scripture

There is, however, a much greater cataclysmic event that is occurring even now on a regular basis. Warning signs have been clearly posted for centuries and everyone is at risk.

Here is but one of the warning signs posted in scripture: “For the time will come when they (some translations say men) will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.” (II Timothy 4:3-4)

Keep in mind that this portion of scripture, written by the Apostle Paul to Timothy, is given within the context of warning what things will occur in the last days.

“The last days,” when referenced in scripture, points to the time between Christ’s ascension and His return. Our perspective, because of fulfilled end-time prophecies, would influence us to consider ourselves as living in the final moments of the last days.

I believe we are, and never has this scripture warning been more timely and applicable than now. There are many “voices” in the land today engaged fully in the “tickling ears” approach to ministry.

The Gospel Message

I have recently been made aware of some, of great notoriety and repute, who seem to be on a mission to diminish the gospel message in an attempt to be more relevant and less offensive. This, of course, is nothing new, but in view of our proximity to Christ’s return, it does seem to be especially concerning.

One famous preacher has shifted specific and almost exclusive emphasis to the resurrection, at the expense of considering the atoning blood of Calvary’s cross. Scripture teaches us that, “…without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22)

The resurrection confirms that God’s plan for the substitutionary atonement for sin was accomplished. These components of God’s eternal plan simply cannot be separated.

Again, Paul writes to Timothy: “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17)

Warning! There will be more and more in ministry who will succumb to the pressure to water down, distort or ignore portions of scripture. What’s the risk to those who follow such as these?

According to II Timothy 3:16-17 if you don’t receive and believe all of God’s inspired Word, you will be receiving unprofitable teaching. You will lack in the benefits of reproof and correction and will not be trained in righteousness. Finally, you will be inadequate and ill-equipped for every good work.

This is serious stuff!

May I encourage you to study God’s word diligently so that you might know the truth? Make sure you are receiving sound biblical teaching and preaching from your pastor and church leadership.

The Solid Rock

We used to sing as children in Sunday School: “The wise man built his house upon the Rock” and when the rains came down and the floods came up, “the house on the Rock stood firm!”

Build your life, your faith and your eternal hope on the solid rock of God’s Word and Jesus’ name.

Storms and floods will come. Adversity and persecution will happen. But if we have built our lives upon God’s unfailing and sufficient Word, we will be able to say with Paul: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

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One Nation Under God?

Arrogant. Dishonest. Immoral. Profane. Unkind. How’s that for a list of very unflattering words? Not only do those words bespeak a lack of character, integrity and morality, they are the words used daily, both in public and in private, to describe our two leading candidates for President of these United States.

In fairness, some of those words and perhaps all could be used to describe us at points in our lives. Hopefully those points would be in our “pre-surrender to Christ” days.

However, we must confess we all have sinned and continue to do so, thus prompting repentance and requests for forgiveness.

It is shocking, however, and greatly concerning to me and apparently many others, that high praise for spiritual and moral character seems to be in short supply for our presidential candidates.

If it was just a matter of words, that would be one thing. But the arrogance is astounding, profanity regularly punctuates primary speeches, dishonesty has been documented, immorality has been illuminated, and unkind could be the word best used to describe the whole spectacle of the presidential debates.

Early on President Obama said, “America is not a Christian nation.” One has to ask if that is an observation or a prophetic insight.

Prayer in the Capitol Building

Linda and I just arrived back from Washington DC. We had a wonderful trip and were privileged to minister in our nation’s capital.

Some dear friends of ours moved to DC a couple years ago to minister in our capital city. Through a series of events, relationships and God’s favor, they were able to secure a room within the Capitol building itself for a Wednesday evening Bible study/prayer meeting.

To give a little context, this was the first time in over one hundred and forty years that a regularly scheduled, on going prayer service was being held in the Capitol building.

So when I say Linda and I were privileged to minister in our nation’s capital, I mean in our nation’s Capitol!

More and more congress men and women are attending this service. Our friends are having regular times of private prayer and fellowship with our congressional leaders.

God is moving in the hearts and lives of many of our elected officials and for this we should all be thankful and encouraged.

After our time of ministry through singing and preaching, we were privileged to take a special tour of the Capitol building. Our local representative from East Texas, Louie Gohmert, was our guide. Louie is a good friend, a true conservative and a wonderful Christian brother. He took us places and showed us things the normal daily tours miss. There are probably very few more qualified to speak about our nation’s history than Louie. He loves to talk about our founding fathers, the price of freedom and the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights.

God was in, through and above all that birthed this nation. That is simply undeniable.

But my, how far we’ve come! We’ve kicked God out of our schools, banned prayer and the Ten Commandments whenever and wherever possible, made same-sex marriage the law of the land, made the killing of millions of innocent babies for convenience legal, and now can no longer define what constitutes a man or a woman.

Christianity is being attacked and marginalized before our very eyes.

A “Civilized Nation”

While we were in DC we went to the Holocaust Museum. I had been to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Dachau, Germany back in the early seventies. In the mid-eighties Linda and I visited Yad Vashem, World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, Israel.

Each time I was struck by the absolutely insane brutality visited on the Jewish people and others, by a “civilized nation” under the arrogant, dishonest, immoral, profane and unkind leadership of an individual.

Now while some of you are catching your breath, wondering if I am likening our current situation to Nazi Germany or our potential leaders to Hitler, let me say this: We’re not to that point and I pray we never will be, but any and all arrogance, dishonesty, immorality, profanity and unkindness is the absolute antithesis of humility, truthfulness, morality, holiness and goodness.

And when these Godly qualities are absent, ungodliness wins the day.

I’m not what you would call an overly political person. Like Chuck Colson said, “The Kingdom of God is not going to arrive on Air Force One.”

However, if Christians aren’t willing to speak up, take action, fight for our rights, defend the innocent, denounce injustice and cast our vote, not for a person or a party, but for a nation “Under God,” what then should we expect?

The Lesser of Two Evils?

Many have said, “It looks like the upcoming election will be about ‘the lesser of two evils.’” My friend said, “It’s always been about the lesser of two evils unless Jesus Christ was on the ballot.”

Well said! The system has its flaws and people are imperfect, but God is in control and He still saves.

If Saul, the great persecutor of the early Church, can be knocked to the ground to be humbled by a Holy God and blinded so he might see clearly the way of truth and righteousness, then there is hope for any and all who might aspire to lead this nation.

One Nation Under God?

Join with me to commit to complain less and pray more. Let’s not just hope someone does something to protect the innocent unborn, but let us rejoin the fight and find what we can do.

We must guard against a cynicism that suggests all our leaders are corrupt. Let’s pray for those in authority (which is our scriptural mandate) and be encouraged by the many in offices of governmental leadership who love Jesus.

Don’t we benefit from those who tell us they appreciate us, love us and pray for us?

I would imagine our congress men and women would be blessed likewise by a letter or phone call letting them know we appreciate their service to our nation and we are praying for them.

Our nation, no matter what its present condition, is in the hands of God. “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1).

This is one of those oft-debated portions of scripture. But the debate only ensues because of a lack of willingness to understand and accept God’s sovereign rule and reign over everything.

The question we should be asking ourselves is, “Is this nation in our hands or have we dropped the ball?”

In a very real sense, this nation and where it goes is largely dependent on our actions, our hearts and our prayers.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. The King’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely, but his anger is towards him who acts shamefully” (Proverbs 14:34-35).

Let’s be wise – let’s pursue righteousness and in so doing let’s remove the question mark from One Nation Under God!

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The God of All Comfort

In our culture I fear the word comfort is most defined by that which pertains to ease. Anything that might possess the potential to dis-comfort must be avoided at all costs. Our definition of comfort often has a sense of passivity if not laziness.

We ride in comfort, we walk in comfortable shoes, we lounge in comfortable chairs, and we even eat comfort food.

We sleep beneath comforters on our beds. Actually, here is where someone in our culture seems to get it wrong. Who makes these ten pound, claustrophobic bed coverings that seem to be in every motel and hotel room in the country? When my wife and I check into a motel, which we do often in our travels, one of the first things Linda does is pull that lead impregnated decorative tarp off the bed. Who can sleep under the weight of all that comfort? But I digress…

It’s interesting to note that the first definitions given to us in the older more reliable dictionaries are, “strengthening aid or to give strength and hope to.”

Older, more reliable dictionaries define comfort as 'strengthening aid or to give strength and hope to.”Click To Tweet

One does not get a sense from these definitions of passivity or self-ease but rather a call to aid or involve one’s self in the task of strengthening, lifting and encouraging others.

The World, The Devil and The Flesh Are Conspired Against You

Perhaps you are that one who needs this kind of comfort now. Maybe it seems the world, the devil, and the flesh have all conspired to discomfort you. The cares of life, the deceitfulness of riches, the daily news, and just the reality of life in a fallen environment have made you un-comfortable.

So, from where will your comfort come? May I suggest that first and foremost, for the true believer, it will come from within. One of the very names of the Holy Spirit is The Comforter!

Contrary to the doctrinal discrepancies of some, every true believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. What hope could we possibly have of taking one step in Christ without His presence dwelling in us? Scripture tells us, “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:9) So then, those who belong to Him, purchased by His blood, saved by grace through faith, have His Spirit and thus possess His very comfort within. For me, I find tremendous comfort in that.

Perhaps Why God Allows Things that Make Us Uncomfortable

The question then becomes, why would God allow the things of life that make us uncomfortable or in need of comfort? The following quote gives us insight:

“Dost though wonder why thou art passing through some special sorrow? Wait til ten years have passed, and thou wilt find many others afflicted as thou art. Thou wilt tell them how thou hast suffered and hast been comforted; then as the tale is unfolded, and the anodynes applied which once thy God wrapped around thee, in the eager look and the gleam of hope that shall chase the shadow of despair across the soul, thou shalt know why thou wast afflicted, and bless God for the discipline that stored thy life with such a fund of experience and helpfulness.”

Selected
Streams in the Desert

We have given ourselves to Him, have we not? We have agreed with Romans 12:1 and presented our very bodies to Him, a living sacrifice….which is our reasonable service. Just as He has within us brought necessary comfort in difficult seasons and sent others as emissaries of His comfort to aid and strengthen; so He sends us as ambassadors of His grace to aid, strengthen and comfort others.

The question then becomes, why would God allow the things of life that make us uncomfortable or in need of comfort?Click To Tweet

“God does not comfort us to make us comfortable but to make us comforters.” (Dr. Jowett)

Paul writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (II Cor. 1:3-4)

And sometimes I feel I’m drowning
In a sea of deep despair
Will the waves of sorrow ever cease to roll
And I wonder in my weakness
Is there anyone who cares
Will I find a peaceful harbor for my soul

Lord please comfort me
Before this undercurrent sweeps me out to sea
Tugging within, it’s sink or swim
Lord please comfort me

“Comfort Me”
words and music Dallas Holm, Mesa 1993

These words are the cry of many a weary soul on life’s tempestuous sea, but they are always heard above the storm by The God of All Comfort!

New in 2016

Did last year fly by as swiftly for you as it did for us? It seemed one minute we were blowing off fireworks for the Fourth of July and the next minute we were spreading the table for Thanksgiving. We barely dried the dishes from that scrumptious feast and we were gathered around the Christmas tree, opening presents and celebrating the birth of Christ.

Now January 2016 is already behind us and I’m pretty sure this year will fly by just as quickly, which leads me to the specific and exciting purpose of this edition of the Praiseletter.

The End of 2015

Over year’s end, my wife Linda, my daughter Jennifer, our website and social media consultant Dave, and I spent several days discussing, strategizing, and praying about 2016 and beyond.

We looked at the past and rejoiced in God’s faithfulness: His provision, guidance, and protection. He has certainly protected us physically through the miles and miles of travel both here and abroad. Even more importantly, He has protected the integrity of this ministry and by His grace has kept us on a course that has not detoured from His call to present the gospel and lift up the name of Jesus.

We carefully examined the present to assess what things we are doing well, what areas if any need improvement or refocusing, and whether or not there are things that have run their course.

I’ve often said, “We run a lean mean machine” and I do believe that is an apt description of our ministry. We desire to remain unencumbered by anything not aligned with our calling.

As we look toward the future, I am very excited about several new opportunities which I believe will enable us to reach more people, stay connected with them in a more personal way, and minister more effectively into their lives.

The Frustration I’ve Endured for Over 45 Years

For over forty-five years I’ve traveled to every state in our country and twenty plus countries around the world. Always, I have sung and presented in testimony and preaching the truth of God’s word. As a result many have come to faith in Christ and lives have been truly transformed by the power of the gospel.

My frustration has often been that after we leave the concert venue and community, we are unable to have much continued interaction with those whose lives have been so significantly touched.

Years ago when we were touring with the band, Dallas Holm and Praise, we would jokingly say, “I wish we could figure out a way for all these people to come visit us.” Now of course, through the miracle of modern technology and the internet, that’s a very real possibility.

We, of course, will continue to travel and minister as we have for these many years, but I believe we now have opportunity to connect with the friends of our ministry in new and exciting ways.

I’ll confess, I’m not a computer whiz but I’m learning. Linda and I have been surprised how many of our generation and older do much, if not most, of their communication via the internet. Hence, we are embarking on a new course of action which will not in any way replace that which we already do, but I believe will greatly enhance it.

While there is much I will share in coming weeks and months, today I would like to share with you something that we are very excited about.

For the First Time Beginning In March

In March I will be launching the first of several Q & A session videos. As I mentioned above, leaving a location after the concert always left the desire to connect beyond the gathering. Now, as a faithful subscriber of the Praiseletter we can, indeed, connect beyond the gathering.

Next month all who are subscribed to the Praiseletter will receive a link to a special Q&A session with me. We will continue to produce additional Q&A session videos on the months the Praiseletter is not released. Each month subscribers will have the opportunity to submit questions and I will take time to answer some of these on video and share them with you.

How You Can Participate

So, now over to you! I’d love to hear what God has put on your heard and answer any questions or share any stories that might bless you, your family and the season of life you are currently in.

To submit your question, click here. Our team will go through all the questions and select the ones that we believe will build our relationship together as well as God’s Kingdom here on earth.

The next Praiseletter will be entitled, The God of All Comfort. The ministry continues….and as they say, “Stay tuned…”

In Christ,

Dallas Holm

The Christmas Story

We have in our family a Christmas tradition which has now endured for over sixty years. Our family has always chosen to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus and all related joys of the Christmas season on Christmas Eve day.

Some would argue that the “related joys” such as lights, presents, decorations, and all that accompanies what we call Christmas have no place in the Christian celebration. I would beg to differ however. I believe every twinkling light, every gift exchanged and even those poor inflatables that come to life in the yard at night and lie sadly deflated during the day, serve a purpose, though perhaps unintended.

They all testify to the fact that something happened! God invaded history in a manger in Bethlehem and the world has never been the same. Now I would certainly concede that one can go too far in all this celebratory extravagance, but the fact remains if Jesus isn’t given in a manger, there are no lights, presents, carols or anything we refer to as the Christmas season. Thus, “…all things in moderation” remains a good guide.

A Family Christmas Dinner

Our family gathers for the traditional Christmas meal (at least at our house) of Swedish meatballs, even though we’re mostly Norwegian in our heritage. Our children used to and now our grandchildren continue to suffer through the slow motion process of adults enjoying a wonderful meal. Comments like, “Oh, these mashed potatoes are the best!” or “I think I will have one more meatball,” seem so meaningless compared to the desire to dive into the sea of presents at the base of the Christmas tree.

Then the dreaded conversation every child mourns at the end of the meal…”Should we do the dishes before or after presents?” To a child anxiously waiting to see if they’ll get to utter those wonderful words…. “Oh, that’s just what I’ve always wanted”, a conversation about doing dishes is as deflating as what the blow up Santa in the front yard will experience in the morning.

Then, in a surprising if not miraculous turn of events, one of the adults (usually me) says, “The kids are excited, let’s open presents, we can do the dishes later.” (I’m good at the “presents” announcement but a little weak on the “we” part of doing dishes.)

With great excitement and unbridled energy the children rush to the living room as meatball, mashed potato laden adults follow carefully and slowly behind. Still, before presents are exchanged there is one more detail to take care of, a tradition to be observed. The reading of the Christmas story.

My Christmas Story Tradition

When I was four years old, my mom and dad bought a Christmas story gift set. It contains a spiral bound book containing two Christmas carols: While Shepherds Watched and Away in a Manger. It also contains a short and sweet account of the age old Christmas story replete with wonderful illustrations. The set also contains a 3D cardboard nativity scene which must be assembled by inserting tab A into slot A and so on.

As I write this account, I’m a little teary-eyed as I remember being a small boy sitting around the tree as mom, dad or perhaps my brother would read the story. One day I would be old enough to read the story myself and this would surely be a significant rite of passage.

Speaking of passage, the years have come and gone, our daughter and then our son have read the story often. Now our grandkids have read it. Not that long ago our now fourteen year old grandson, Jacob, read the story while Sophia held the all-important star of Bethlehem (a flashlight) to illuminate the manger scene. Sophia is now twelve and such a reader of books. In recent years Sophia has read the story and Alex held the star. Maybe Alex, now seven, will read this year while Caleb (3) holds the star, though I fear the star will be moving and shining everywhere. Ava, just short of a year old is waiting in the wings to someday shine and read as follows:

Mary and Joseph were on the way to Bethlehem. Mary rode on a donkey. Joseph led the donkey carefully over the rough roads. They had traveled all day and now it was growing dark.

At last they came to an inn. “Have you any room for us?” Joseph asked the innkeeper. “No, there is no room in the inn,” the innkeeper replied.

The innkeeper looked at Mary. He saw how tired she was. Then he said, “If you like, you may sleep in the stable. There is some clean hay that will make a soft bed for you.”

“Thank you sir,” said Joseph. Joseph helped Mary off the donkey. He led her into the stable. They were both glad to have a place to rest.

There in the stable, In the quiet night-time, God sent His Son to be Mary’s Baby. There was no bed for the little Jesus in the stable.

“I will make a bed for the Baby in the Manger,” Mary said to Joseph.

Mary wrapped her Baby in some soft, white cloth and carefully laid him in the manger on some sweet hay.

Out in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were watching their flocks. The sheep were resting quietly while the shepherds were gathered around the fire talking together.

Suddenly a bright light shone around them. The shepherds had never seen such a bright light before. And they were afraid.

Then an angel appeared. The angel said, “Do not be afraid, for I bring you tidings of great joy. Jesus is born in Bethlehem. You will find Him lying in a manger there.”

And as the shepherds listened to the wonderful news the heavens were filled with angels saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

“Let us go and see this thing that has happened,” the shepherds said. And they hurried across the fields to Bethlehem.

(The Christmas Story By: Ruth S. Gray Warren Press 1952)

So this Christmas let’s read the story again. Let’s tell the story every day of our lives through the words we speak and the way we live. Let’s shine the light on the reality of Christ and the truth of His word just as surely and clearly as God lit up the sky over that little manger in Bethlehem so long ago.

May all we are and all we do express The Christmas Story

In Christ,

Dallas Holm