Welcome to my blog, or should I say to the ramblings of an old man. I doubt that my ramblings are of much value, but at least I have an opportunity to share them.  So, please be kind and humor me. If nothing else of value stands out in these thoughts, I hope that you at least sense the value I place on a daily walk with the Lord.  That walk is what has provided me with motivation and a sense of purpose throughout my lifetime.  My prayer is that you, too, are experiencing this direction and joy in daily living which is available to everyone who puts his trust in Christ.  So, thanks again for joining me.  Please don't go without leaving some comments here so I can get to know you better as our paths intersect today in this blog.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Prayer Today

          Since writing my previous blog on prayer warriors, the subject of prayer has continued to be in my mind.  Could it be that failure to pray might be one of the major reasons that the evangelical church appears to have become so ineffective in recent decades?  Despite the fact that we know God is in control and the final victory is His, it has become apparent that we are losing the battle against today's sinful culture.
          Many things have changed in churches over the decades.  Some of it may be good, but some of it may not be.  In most churches prayer is no longer a prominent part of worship services and church programming. 
          Brief prayers during a worship time might now be the only prayer in a morning service.  Generally there are no public prayers for particular needs of people, government leaders, missionaries or our country.  Where prayer services were an important part of church programs in the past, few have them today and if they do, they are probably the poorest attended of any services.  We have become too busy – and maybe too content – to spend time in corporate prayer.
          Now many churches do have prayer chains.  In our church we head up our church e-mail prayer chain which includes about 100 persons.  And these chains are good and important.  But are all the people on these chains really praying?  I know many are, but I admit that from things I observe I am fearful that many just want to know what is going on.
          I am not the only person who is concerned about this apparent trend.  I recently read an article in the Decision magazine, "Bringing Prayer Back", by Ronnie Floyd.  In the article he states "Christians want prayer back in schools; however, we ought to first bring it back into the worship services of our churches.  Most churches spend more time in worship services promoting the ministries of the church than praying.  Jesus wants His church to be a house of prayer for all the nations!"  Unfortunately, he is correct.
          Floyd goes on to say, "Prayer is dependent.  When we pray we are depending upon God.  When we do not pray, we are depending upon ourselves. …  Prayer is faith.  When you pray you are declaring absolute dependence on the Lord!  Therefore pray whenever you need to exercise any level of faith, because prayer is faith.  When you pray rightly, you are trusting in the Lord completely … Prayer is action.  When you start your day with God, you are taking action upon your day.  When you pray anywhere about anything, you are taking action."
         He concludes by suggesting that each day we do the following.  "Make prayer your first choice.  Realize that when you pray you are demonstrating great faith in God.  Live in a way that proves prayer is important to you.  Make prayer a priority in your church.  In your life and in your church, pray like it matters."
           Are we prayer warriors?   Is your church known as a house or prayer?  Floyd concludes by stating "It is past time for us to prioritize prayer both personally and in the church.  For far too long we have seen what we can do; it is time for us to see what God can do.  This can only happen when we pray. " 
          Acts 4:31 says, "When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God's message with boldness."       

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Prayer Warriors

          I have never seen myself as a great prayer warrior, but I do believe in the power of prayer and have seen the Lord answer so many requests over my life time.  Recent surgeries and unexpected "down time" and sleepless nights have not only given me more time to pray but have allowed me to think about the power of prayer in my own life.
          As a child I was taught to pray and as I grew I saw so many answers, many of which still stick out in my memory.  Later, as the leader of our weekly prayer meeting, I had the opportunity to study what the Bible said about prayer and then to share with those in attendance what I had learned.  Prayer meetings used to be an important part of the church ministry.  Some held them once a week and others twice a week. Today, unfortunately, many churches no longer have formal prayer meetings, for a variety of reasons.  
         For at least 30 years my life, my wife and I have led prayer chains in our church.  Originally they were phone chains, now we have an e-mail prayer chain.  Within seconds we can send out requests to nearly 100 intercessors.  Each month we send out about 40 requests and answers.
          But a highlight of my life personally was having several prayer warriors who remembered me daily.  My mother and father definitely did.  Dianne's parents had a list that they prayed for each morning.  We miss them but especially their prayers.
         One of my major prayer partners was my grandfather, Norman Wolf.  I knew he prayed for me each day.  His grandchildren often sent him special requests to pray for, such as key exams that they were taking.  When we had a family ministry we knew he was praying for us each Sunday morning as we traveled many miles to minister in churches.  In nearly 25 years of ministry we only got lost once in driving to a church.  While we finally found it in time, we suddenly realized that Grandpa Wolf was not praying for us that Sunday  - he had been buried earlier that week.  We were suddenly even more aware of the power of prayer and the impact on our lives.
          My Aunt Thelma Smock was another prayer warrior.  The night before she went home to heaven, we visited with her in the nursing center.  We knew she was weak and thought that she was sleeping, so I chose not to pray with her before we left, as I had always done in previous visits.  That was a choice I regret.  For as we began to leave she opened her eyes and told us that she had been laying there praying for us.  That is a visit I never will forget and a lesson that I needed to learn.
         My Aunt Ellen and Uncle John were also great prayer warriors.  Although they lived in Wisconsin, they were always interested in us and our family and always asked about each in much detail.  And it was obvious that they prayed for us daily.  Even after Aunt Ellen's stroke, she continued to ask about us and pray for us.  Uncle John continues to do that.  Since Aunt Ellen graduated to heaven, he has continued to call us and ask about each member of our family.  What great prayer warriors.
          Maybe all of these folks valued prayer because of the tough times they had gone through - the depression, World War II.  They had learned that only God could bring them through times like this.  This was a lesson that carried over to everyday life.  Maybe life has just been too easy for most of us today and we tend to depend ourselves rather than upon the Lord.
          As I've thought about these great prayer warriors who have supported me over the years, I am sadly aware that most of them are now in heaven.  That realization leaves a deep hole in my life.  Now I know there are those who pray for me when I have a particular need, but those who pray regularly are few and far between.  Blessed is the person who has faithful prayer warriors supporting him.
         Now while I live with that disappointment, I also realize that it is now my challenge to be a prayer warrior for others, especially my family members.  And I pray that I will be faithful in doing this.  What a precious responsibility to do this.
       "Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known."   Jeremiah 33:3

Monday, April 18, 2016

Fraud Warning

        One of the scary things that all of us face today are the many attempts to scam us and to steal our identity.  Some of these come in e-mails that falsely tell us that we need to click on a link to update our existing accounts and if we do, they steal our identity.  Some come in phone calls like the common one which tells us that our Windows on our computer has been infected and we need to allow this company to have access to our computer to fix the problem.  Some come with devices added to ATM's to steal our debit card or credit card numbers.  Others come with attachments to e-mails or in replies to Facebook postings.  It appears to me that these attempts are becoming more clever and much  more frequent.  And many, especially seniors, are taken in by these criminal actions.
          So what does one do?  First, you never reply to e-mail links or requests to verify or update your information.  You don't open up attachments.  You don't give out your information online unless you are on a secured site (https).  You shred all documents that contain your address, account numbers and personal information.  You use your credit card carefully and stop using your debit card.  Doing these things may help protect you. 
          But criminals are very clever.  We have been doing all of these things, and, yet, somehow, we became victims of fraud.  We don't know how our information was secured by criminals, but despite being very careful, it was.
          The night before my bypass surgery my wife received a call from Macys.  She was told that I needed to call them to open my credit card account.  She said that we didn't want a Macys card, never applied for one, and that since I was in the hospital I couldn't call.  The lady told her that I had applied.  After getting nowhere, my wife finally hung up on her.
          The next day when I had surgery, my wife found that she could no longer use our cell phone and nobody could call her.  After a day or two of frustration she went to a local AT&T store and was told that they could not help her because the account was in my name.  The fact that I was in the hospital after major surgery made no difference.  So from my hospital bed I contacted AT&T using the hospital phone and had them add her name to the account.  Then back to the store she went where she was now told that our phone service had been turned off because we had purchased another phone with a different contract.  As it turned out, somebody had stolen our identity and had purchased a $500 iPhone from Apple and had used our account number.  We then had to contact AT&T's fraud department and, fortunately, they believed us, canceled the new contract, and turned our cell phone back on.  However, a month later, our AT&T bill showed an additional charge of nearly $400 in charges for calls overseas. A call back to AT&T took care of those charges.
         About a week later, after I was released from the hospital, we received two Macys credit cards in the mail.  But we also received a separate letter from Macys which told us that they had some difficulty verifying our application.  We called their fraud department and found that somebody had already charged over $400 to this new account which we had never asked for or authorized.  They agreed to cancel the bill and the account but we had to complete a fraud report for them.  They recommended that we also contact the local police, which we did.  An officer visited us and gave us a case number to give to Macys.
          We thought this fraud was now all done until we received another letter, this one from Pay Pal which told us that they couldn't open an account for us because they could not verify the information which we provided.  Another attempt to use our information but this one was stopped before any damage could be done.
         We contacted one of the credit bureaus and they agreed to put a 90 day hold on our account and ask the other bureaus to do the same.  So have we reached the end of the fraud attempts?  We certainly hope so but are watching all of our accounts very carefully.  We were concerned that our income tax accounts might also be compromised or stolen, but, PTL, those did process smoothly.
         Now we still have no idea at all how our information was stolen, but it was.  And this has been a very scary and time consuming experience that I hope we never face again.  The moral of our story?  I guess be vigilant, be careful and never assume that this couldn't happen to you, because it can.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Oceans And Waves

         On my birthday we spent a few days relaxing at Ocean City, Maryland.  We love going to the shore off season, not to swim or shop, but just to watch the waves and relax.  There is something very refreshing about watching and listening to the powerful waves roll up on the beach. I could spend hours during this.
         This time while I was watching my mind began to recall many hymns and choruses written over the centuries in which the author used the ocean, sea and waves to illustrate spiritual truths.  For example, "Wide, wide as the ocean, high as the heavens above, deep, deep as the deepest sea, is my Savior's love." 
         Then there is the beautiful hymn that begins "O love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee. I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be."  
         Or how about "Since Jesus came into my heart, since Jesus came into my heart, floods of joy o'er my soul like the sea billows roll, since Jesus came into my heart."
          Now while some hymn writers used illustrations of seas and waves to express the depths of God's love, more often they used them to illustrate the various storms of life that we all face.  "Be still, my soul, thy God doth undertake to guide the future, as He has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake, all now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still my soul, the waves and winds still know, His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below."
         Or how about "My soul in sad exile was out on life's sea, so burdened with sin and distressed. Till I heard a sweet voice, saying, "Make Me your choice",  and I entered the "Haven of Rest"!   I've anchored my soul in the "Haven of Rest,"  I'll sail the wide seas no more. The tempest may sweep over wild, stormy, deep, In Jesus I'm safe evermore. "
          Then there is "Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,  threaten the soul with infinite loss. Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,  points to the refuge, the mighty cross. Grace, grace, God's grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within. Grace, grace, God's grace,  grace that is greater than all our sin!"
         "Jesus, Savior, pilot me over life's tempestuous sea. Unknown waves before me roll,  hiding rock and treacherous shoal. Chart and compass came from Thee. Jesus, Savior, pilot me."  And don't forget, "Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,  when the clouds unfold their wings of strife?  When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,  will your anchor drift or firm remain?  We have an anchor that keeps the soul, steadfast and sure while the billows roll. Fastened to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love."
         Now while we could list so many more, I close with one of my favorites which is based on a true story.  "Master, the tempest is raging!  The billows are tossing high! The sky is o'ershadowed with blackness, no shelter or help is nigh. "Carest Thou not that we perish?" How canst Thou lie asleep, when each moment so madly is threat'ning a grave in the angry deep? The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will. Peace, be still! Peace, be still! Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea, or demons, or men, or whatever it be, no water can swallow the ship where lies the Master of ocean and earth and skies. They all shall sweetly obey Thy will! Peace! Peace! be still!"  And I must include the last verse.  "Master, the terror is over, the elements sweetly rest. Earth's sun in the calm lake is mirrored, and heaven's within my breast. Linger, O blessed Redeemer! Leave me alone no more. And with joy I shall make the blest harbor, and rest on the blissful shore." 
          And those of us who have placed our lives in the hands of our Lord have experienced His protection and His peace in the times of our storms when the waves almost overwhelmed us.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Happy Birthday

        Wow, how time flies!  I can't believe that once again it is my birthday, or should I say the Xth anniversary of my birth day.  And I just can't believe that I am now X years old.  Although, at times this past year I did feel more like 99 than X.  But God is good and I thank Him for X great years of life.
          Now how is your memory?  If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you should have no problem figuring out what X is.   All you need to do is add one to the age revealed in last year's blog.  That's simple math - old, modern or Common Core math. Now if your mind isn't that sharp anymore or if you didn't read last year's birthday blog, I'll give you a number of hints in case you want to find X.  And you thought this blog would be easy and quick to read.  Probably not.  And maybe you don't even care what X is.  Just know that it is high.
         Now X is the product of three prime numbers.  It has six divisors.  In the binary system it is 1001011.  Or in base three it is 2210.  Now, even more fascinating, it is palindromic in base 14 - 55 and in base 24 - 33.  Now that should make it easy.  But in preparing this I learned something new, it is also a Keith Number.  I never heard that term before, but X actually appears in a Fibonacci like sequence started from its base 10 digits.  Fascinating!  It is also a Nonagonal Number and a Pentagonal Pyramid.  So there!
          Now if you haven't solved this yet, this clue will give it away, especially for those of you who remember high school chemistry class.  It is the atomic number of Rhenium.  For you historians, X is also the age limit of Canadian senators.  I wonder why we don't have such a limit in the United States.
       And for you scholars of the Bible,  X was the age of Abraham when he left Haran.  And I think the thought of moving to a retirement home is tiring.  It is also the number of family souls that were sustained by Joseph in Egypt when he brought Jacob and his large family to live there.  And finally, it is the width of Noah's Ark.
         Unfortunately, other than me, nobody very famous was born on April 6, unless you want to count Bert Blyleven, a baseball player, or Janet Lynn, an Olympic star.   And nothing very noteworthy happened on the day I was born except that Craig Woods won the 8th Masters Gold Tournament with a 280.
         So another year has quickly passed.  And when you reach this point in life and have had some of the experiences that I have faced during the last year, you begin to realize that life passes quickly and only what is done for Christ is important. And you appreciate that He continues to give you more days because He still has something He wants to do through you.  And whether that is to continue to build a spiritual legacy for my children and grandchildren, or to be an encouragement and help to someone who is struggling, or to share the Gospel with another, or something else, it is vital to continue to serve the One who controls each day and each breath.  And you don't need to reach X years before you can realize the importance of this.   My desire is to continue to serve the One who has been so faithful to me for X years whether He gives me X, or X+1, or X+10, or even X+20 more years here on earth.  God is so good, all the time.
          Incidentally, rather than send me a card to me, maybe you can enjoy some of the cards that I might send to myself.