The Valley of Tears

As I was reading Psalm 84 today I was drawn to the way God turns tears into refreshing springs for those who live in God’s presence and who find their strength in Him. It doesn’t say that there won’t be tears, but that those tears can be transformed and can transform us when we put our faith and trust in Jehovah-Shalom – the LORD, our peace.

Blessed are those who dwell with God, in His holy presence,

who continually praise Him from sunrise to sunset.

Blessed are those whose strength is in the Lord,

whose hearts are set on a journey toward Him.

As they pass through the Valley of Tears,

it will become a place of refreshing springs

the autumn rains also will cover it with pools of refreshing waters.

They move from strength to strength

till each of them appears before God in glory.

Psalm 84:4-7 – Paraphrased

The Day Jackie Died . . . . . Or At Least We Thought He Did!

As a kid I did a lot of things that today would be considered dangerous. I rode a bike without a helmet. What?!?!? How stupid was I? I had countless wrecks on that bicycle that led to countless skinned knees, legs, arms, and hands, but somehow I lived to tell the tales of my escapades. I played tackle football without a helmet, or pads for that matter. And I suffered no brain trauma – a fact disputed by those who know me best. However, it was not without danger.

I remember one of the many football games played on the Junior High practice field (later moved to the High School Band practice field) by the Sunday Afternoon Ragknots. Jackie had the ball. In the process of being tackled one of us came in to make sure he was down. In so doing, the diligent player hit Jackie in the chest with his knee. For just a couple of seconds Jackie looked dead and then he went into seizures with the accompanying foam in the mouth. Stanley, my best friend, and the competent football team trainer, sprang into action. He told us what not to do – stick our finger in his mouth, because Jackie could bite our finger off. We obeyed. Stanley’s efforts to stop the seizure were unfruitful, so he got his car and drove over to where Jackie lay writhing.

Three of us managed to get into the back seat of the car with the convulsing Jackie on our laps. (BTW, Stanley drove a large Pontiac which allowed room for all three of us and Jackie with room to spare. No, such a rescue attempt would not be possible in today’s cars, but I digress.) Stanley was never known to drive slowly and, in an emergency, he figured he had the moral imperative to speed. As we were flying to the hospital Stanley hit a dip in the road which caused us to actually fly. We went airborne. Jackie flew up and hit the roof of the car and fell back in our laps – totally still, non-responsive and non-convulsive.

We screamed at Stanley, but not to slow down, but rather speed up because Jackie was dead. He looked dead, acted dead, and certainly felt dead in our laps. Stanley was yelling at us to check his pulse, an action that was truly impossible in a car traveling at highway speed on city streets. We didn’t find a pulse but we did get to the Emergency Room in record time. The nurses and orderlies took him into the exam room to check him out. It was a blessing that we grew up in a relatively small town. We were the only ones there besides the medical staff who I think we woke up from their Sunday afternoon naps.

We waited in a quiet yet panicked state – fully waiting for the doctor to come out with head down, uttering those fearful words, “We lost him.” But no – Jackie was going to be OK!

Later, in the room where Jackie was to spend the night for observation, he told us that the doctor wasn’t totally sure what happened, but that he figured that the knee to the chest caused Jackie’s heart to either speed up to 3 times the normal rate or to start skipping beats. Either way, he was going to be OK. I don’t remember Jackie playing with us on Sunday afternoons after that, although my memory may fail me at that point. However, like the NFL, we established a new rule in light of what happened. From that point on, knees were never to be used to make sure a ball carrier stayed down. Full body contact, of course, was still allowed – but no knees.

There is a saying that God watches over babies and fools. It’s not in the Bible and yet, I know that on that particular Sunday afternoon, God was watching over us and sent His angels to step in and help the poor fools who had exhausted all of their abilities to remedy the situation. We should always remember that God is willing to help in each and every difficulty we face – even those times when someone wants to make sure we’re down and that we stay down. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15)

Kingdom Parables

In this session we look at how Jesus taught by using parables – simple stories that gave insight into spiritual truths. In Matthew 13, there are 8 parables that all relate to the Kingdom of God. Through four of those parables we can learn three valuable lessons concerning the Kingdom of God and our responsibility as citizens of the Kingdom.

First, we must faithfully and consistently sow the seed of the Kingdom and proclaim the message of salvation in Christ to all, knowing that when the gospel takes root in good ground, it produces bountiful fruit.

Secondly, we must sow the seed of the Gospel of Christ in our culture and throughout the world so that the Kingdom can take root in all corners of the earth.

Finally, we must realize the true worth of the Gospel, which we hold in our hearts, and not conceal it. Rather we must sow the seed of salvation so that all who receive it can know its riches as we do and know the joy and fullness of Kingdom living.

Too often we choose to live in the muck and and mire of life thinking that’s all there is this world. However, when we realize that we are only passing through this world as aliens from another Kingdom – the Kingdom of God – we will take on a whole new attitude about our roll in this foreign land. What is our roll? We are Ambassadors for Christ and His Kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:20) and these parables outline our responsibilities as such. Praise be to God Who has entrusted us with such incredible truth and such a solemn duty.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, November 7, 2021. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

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The Transfiguration of Jesus

One of the most, if not the most, neglected and underrated events in the life of Jesus is the transfiguration. Before the beginning of time itself, the Glory of God was. From the beginning of time till now, the Glory of God is. From the end of time throughout all eternity the Glory of God will be. He is the Great I AM!

But as Jesus walked on the earth (as the Glory of God shone in the heavenly realms) the transfiguration is the first time we see the Glory of God at its source – Jesus Himself. We had seen the power of God in the miracles. We had heard the wisdom of God in the parables and teachings. Indeed, Jesus was Emmanuel, God with us. But this is the first time we had seen the Glory of God in God Himself, Jesus Christ.

Jesus, Moses, and Elijah discussed the impending crucifixion and the debt that had to be paid. The One who was light itself had to take on the darkness of man’s sin. And then He placed His light in us. Unbelievable, but true. And we must respond.

  1. We must see the Glory of God, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
  2. We must seek first the Kingdom and Glory of God and His righteousness. (Matthew 6:33)
  3. We must urgently join with John the Baptist and Jesus in proclaiming, “Repent! – For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2 & Matthew 4:17)
  4. We must fall down and worship Him so that He can lift us up and use us to accomplish His will. (1 Peter 5:6; Matthew 23:12; James 4:10)

How will you respond when confronted with the Glory of God in Christ Jesus? You can’t ignore the light – you have to respond.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, October 31, 2021. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org
Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast
Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Forget Black Friday – Remember Black Tuesday

I know it’s Friday, but today is Black Tuesday – the 92nd Anniversary of the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the beginning of the Great Depression. Now, I don’t want to depress you, but at that time America had just gone through the end of World War 1 (1914-1918 although the USA didn’t get involved until 1917) and the Spanish Flu epidemic (1918-1919.) Those events were followed by a period of economic growth we know as the Roaring 20’s. From 1921 to 1929 the stock market grew by 539% from 72 points to 381 points. During this same time period the economy grew by 42%. While there are many political and financial events that had some impact on the 1929 crash, I think this cartoon, published in the Los Angeles Times in 1926, may give some insight into another problem of the Roaring 20’s that may have led to the Great Depression. God has a way of correcting things that we may not always see. I’m not saying that we are headed for such a correction 100 years later. However, as stated by George Santayana, an American philosopher, in his work, The Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Jesus sends us as Christians into the world to be salt and light and ambassadors for the Kingdom. However, He never promised us that our mission would be easy. In fact, He promised us that in this world we will face troubling times. In Matthew 14:22-36 (also Mark 6:43-56 & John 6:16-24) we discover that Jesus sent the disciples into a troubling situation, but He knew where they were and what they were dealing with. If you have ever faced troubling times – times when the waves were beating against your ship of life – times when your legs and feet seemed to give way beneath you – times when your best life-preserving skills simply didn’t help – then you know what it means to truly need the One Who can walk on the troubled waters and the One Who can calm the angry wind and waves. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

In this study we learn that:

  1. We must go where Jesus sends us and do as He commands us knowing that it may be be a bumpy ride.
  2. When we face the storms of life we should know that it may be the obstructionism of Satan or the teaching and testing of God.
  3. We must realize that Jesus sees us in the storm and is waiting for us to see Him – and call to Him.
  4. We must worship Him and respond to Him as the omnipotent ruler of this world.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, October 24, 2021. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org
Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast
Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas