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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Heaven

 It is the season for state fairs. Most states have them, drawing hundreds of thousands of people, and, in some cases, more than a million.  More than 2 million attended the Minnesota State Fair in 2018. The first state fair was held in Syracuse, NY in 1841.

 I grew up in Texas and started visiting the State Fair when I was a kid, wandering the sprawling grounds that circle the Cotton Bowl, birthplace of the Cowboys, site of the Texas OU shootout and the Grambling game. There was always something about the State Fair.  Maybe it was Big Tex, standing at the entrance where he has stood for generations, welcoming all comers with his Texas drawl. Maybe it was Fletcher’s corn dogs smothered in mustard and ketchup, or cotton candy, sugar sprinkled waffles, roasted turkey legs and the deep fried “whatever” that reflects the Texas motto, “If you can fry it, you can eat it!”

 Maybe it’s the midway with barkers promising prizes for a ring toss, a plastic duck plucked from the pond, a water balloon filled to bursting with water guns, or the bell rung by a powerful blow with the sledgehammer.  It could be the rides rotating with screaming and squealing kids.  Or maybe it’s the pig races, the animal barns with blue ribbons or the tastiest jams and jellies.  It could be the bird show, hawks launched from the ferris wheel swooping low over our head to the crowd’s applause. It could be the auto show where the Mustang was introduced in 1964, where today’s cars are on display with gleaming chrome and glistening paint.

 Most of all, I think, it is the people, people who come together to laugh and celebrate family, heritage and culture.  I like to see parents pushing babies in strollers, children dancing with excitement, grey haired men and women smiling at private memories, and lovers lounging on the grass beside the reflection pool.

 God loves people, and he must like laughter.   If the laughter of our children thrills us, how much more does our laughter thrill Him.  God likes to see people coming together to enjoy one another. That may be why Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding feast, providing new wine when the wine ran out.  It may be the reason His teaching is filled with references to banquet feasts and parties, like the fatted calf killed and cooked to celebrate the prodigal’s return.  Heaven is described as a great banquet feast, a mansion with many rooms, a place where all the peoples, cultures and languages of the world gather in celebration and joy.

 The State Fair, of course, isn’t heaven.  It certainly isn’t perfect.  But Heaven is.  Our moments of celebration and enjoyment are dim glimpses of what God has prepared in Heaven.  The Bible says, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” (Rev. 21:3-4). This, of course, is why Jesus came, so that we might experience glimpses of heaven here, and eternal life with Him in Heaven when we die.

Order Bill's Sermon on the Mount devotional eBook FREE Sept 28-Oct 2. click the image to the right.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The Edge of Eternity

On Monday of this week I preached the funeral for Barbara, my wife’s sister. She was 79.

 They grew up on Slaughter Road, a small blue-collar community on the west side of the Brazos River off Highway 36 at Freeport, TX.  The houses were built by survivors of the Great Depression, with their own hands.  While they were building their houses, they built a church, Calvary Baptist Church, also with their own hands.  It was there that Barbara came to faith in Christ. In that same church, a young man named Vernon Bundick came to faith in Christ along with his brother, Bobby. Barbara and Vernon fell in love in the 3rd grade when Vernon had his front tooth knocked out and Barbara thought he was irresistible.  They were married in that same little church.

 In 1995 Vernon died from a tragic accident on their property. Their children were grown, and they had purchased undeveloped land for their dream home. In the process of clearing the property, a tree limb split and knocked Vernon from the top of a dozer where he was standing. The fall left him unconscious. He recovered, but a few days later, a blood clot went to his heart. He died in Barbara’s arms in a matter of minutes.

 She found herself alone, shattered and broken. But through sheer determination, courage, and faith, she fought her way back, developed the property, built a beautiful house, and dedicated herself to blessing others.  Over the last 27 years I watched her grow with a deep faith and a big heart, reaching out to family, friends, and strangers.

 My wife and I stayed at my brother’s house in Galveston to be near Barbara in her final weeks. I have had the opportunity each morning to go for sunrise walks on the beach.  It seemed to me that the waves washing on the shore were like the heartbeat of the earth, echoing the heartbeat of the universe.

 On Wednesday last week she was no longer able to leave her bed. She struggled for consciousness, increasingly overcome by the cancer.

 When we arrived at the house, she was awake. She was surrounded by her children and grandchildren. After she smiled and greeted her sister, I spoke with her. Her sparkling blue eyes had grown dull and gray. But her smile was still there. She whispered to me. “I am near the edge.”

 I said, “Yes, you are.”

 I said, “This morning I went for a sunrise walk on the beach. I stood there, on the edge of the eternal sea watching the sun rise in the distance, a great red ball rising among the broken purple clouds.  I thought of you,” I said.  “It is a beautiful place to be, on the edge of eternity.”

 She nodded her head, “Yes, it is.”

 I asked if we could pray. Again, she nodded her head.  ‘I would like that.”

 We held hands, Barbara, me, her sister, her children, and her grandchildren.  We prayed, letting her go, committing her to the Father who first loved her and gave her to us. Her body lingered for two more days. It is difficult for the human body to let go.

 On Friday I believe she heard another voice whispering in her ear, perhaps those tender words He whispered into the ear of a 12-year-old girl, “Talitha, kum, (Little girl, I say to you, arise.)” (Mark 5:41). 


Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Prayer

 Prayer is often our last resort, the final step in a hopeless situation.  We refer to it with such phrases as “he doesn’t have a prayer,” or “there is nothing left to do but pray.”  But it is perhaps the most important aspect of our human condition.

 We share many attributes with the animal kingdom including instincts for hunger, reproduction and survival. Other animals provide care and nurture for their young. Some construct elaborate shelters whether nests, caves, or tunnels. Many have complex social systems.  But no other creature has the capacity to communicate with the Creator and to pray. Only man is endowed with that gift.

 I have never met anyone who complained that they prayed too much. But I have known many who wish they had prayed more.  In our most desperate circumstances and in our finest moments, we cry out to God in prayer.  The greatest gift we can bestow upon another human being is to pray earnestly for them.

 Some understand prayer as a psychological exercise merely benefiting the one who prays. But Scripture affirms that there is more at work when we pray than we imagine.

 Jesus prayed.  In fact, He rose early in the morning before sunrise and sought solitary places where He could spend time alone in prayer. Occasionally he prayed all night.  He taught us to pray, not as a public display to impress others, but in secret where “your father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6).  He taught us to pray constantly with discipline and determination. His prayer life was so powerful that his disciples asked him to teach them to pray. 

 Prayer is not a matter of reciting particular words or repeating religious rituals. God looks on the heart.  He hears the person who is convicted of guilt and feels unworthy to lift his eyes to heaven. And God hears those who humbly seek to do His will, “The effective prayer of a righteous man,” the Bible says, “can accomplish much.”  (James 5:16)

 The mystery and the miracle of prayer resides not in us, but in the One who created us and founded the vast universe that we have only begun to explore.  We are not cogs in an accidental machine that grinds its way toward extinction. We are created in the image of God and our very nature hungers for His presence.  He has endowed us with personality, intelligence and freedom.  He desires our company. He listens and He invites us to pray.

 “Ask,” Jesus said, “and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you [who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”  (Matthew 7:7-11).

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Putting God First

 Football is back.  College stadiums were packed last weekend and the pre-season favorites tested.  Starting this week, the NFL games will count!  The starters will play. Pre-season is over.

 I grew up in the Tom Landry era of the Dallas Cowboys.  When he was hired for the expansion team in 1960 they had little prospect for success. After going winless in their first season, Landry told the team his priorities were God, family and football, in that order.  Bob Lilly, who had just joined the team as the All American recruit from TCU said to himself, “We will never win.”  Under Landry they went on to win 20 playoff games, appeared in 5 Super Bowls and won two.

 I heard Tom Landry speak at the Billy Graham Crusade when Texas Stadium was built. He described his emptiness when he achieved each of his career goals as a star running back for the University of Texas and all-pro defensive back for the NY Giants.  He quoted Augustine, “Our hearts are restless indeed, O God, until they find their rest in Thee.”  A year before he became the first coach of the Dallas Cowboys, he came to faith in Christ and gave God first place in his life.

 Scottie Scheffler stunned the PGA tour this year coming from nowhere to world number one and winning the Masters.  After his Masters win, he said, “The reason I play golf is, I am trying to glorify God and all he has done in my life, and so for me, my identity isn’t a golf score.”

 Our oldest son had difficulty “launching” when he grew up.  His first semester in college he passed racquet ball.  It was the only course he attended.  His second semester he was on probation.  It was a struggle, for him and for us.

 During this time I told him he needed to put God first in his life.  “If you put God first,” I said, “everything else will come into focus.”  His response wasn’t immediate. It took several years, including boot camp in the Marine Corps. But he followed through and put God first.  Everything else came into focus. Today he has a successful career in It, just celebrated 23 years of marriage and is a wonderful husband and father of three who are leaving home and finding their way.

 The first of the Ten Commandments is God’s invitation for us to know Him.  “You shall have no other gods before me.”  This is amazing. The creator of the universe wants to have a personal relationship with us in which He alone takes first place.  If He is not first in our life, He is not God. Everything starts here.  Life comes into focus when God becomes the priority of our life.

 Sometimes we are drawn away from God by personal pleasures and the pursuit of sin. Sometimes we are drawn away by things that simply make us too busy for God.  We think we know what is best and we pursue our goals and dreams without taking time to submit those goals and dreams to God.  

 In His sermon on the mount Jesus addressed the fragmented life that is filled with worry and anxiety.  He said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33).

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Tinsley's Book receives Gold Medal Award

 For immediate release:Author's new book receives a warm literary welcome.

Readers' Favorite announces the review of the Christian - Historical Fiction book "Bold Springs" by William Tinsley, currently available at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1520324804.

Readers' Favorite is one of the largest book review and award contest sites on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the "Best Websites for Authors" and "Honoring Excellence" awards from the Association of Independent Authors. They are also fully accredited by the BBB (A+ rating), which is a rarity among Book Review and Book Award Contest companies.

"Reviewed By Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite 

Bold Springs by William Tinsley is a work of historical fiction with a Christian theme.

Set during the Civil War, it’s an epic tale that spans the secession of Texas to the battlefields of Virginia and crescendos at Gettysburg. It is centered around two men: storekeeper William James and the Reverend John Browder, neither of whom is either pro-slavery or pro-secession, one a man of uncertain faith and the other of deep belief, one a veteran of the Battle of San Jacinto and Texas independence and the other a more recent northern immigrant. It follows the lives of a company of Texas Confederate Army volunteers and some of their family members as they experience the drama, trauma, and social upheaval of the war that once divided the country.

In Bold Springs, William Tinsley gives us an engaging, dramatic, and ultimately uplifting story that satisfies on many levels. Whether you’re a fan of Civil War fiction or anything about Texas, you won’t be disappointed. The characters of William James and Reverend Browder are carefully and believably drawn. These are men who have imperfections but who attempt to do what is right even in the face of threats to their lives from their own neighbors. William’s friendship with Sam Houston and John’s with Abraham Lincoln, along with references to military leaders and combatants on both sides, provide historical insight. Most of all, a golden thread runs throughout: an edifying call for brotherhood, unity, and peace. Highly recommended."

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Never Give Up

 Ken Burns’ documentary about Mohammed Ali contains an interesting and pivotal moment that might have determined the destiny of the young athlete. 21-year-old Cassius Clay had finally  obtained his dream, a match with the heavy weight champion of the world, Sonny Liston. After 3 rounds, Liston and his corner were shocked at the young fighter’s toughness.  Entering the 4th round many believe Liston’s handlers smeared his gloves and shoulders with an ointment that would burn his opponent’s eyes.  Clay stumbled to his corner unable to see. He begged his trainer, Angelo Dundee to cut off his gloves. He was done. He couldn’t continue. 

 Instead, when the bell rang, Dundee pulled him to his feet and shoved him into the ring. His eyes cleared and he unleashed a barrage of withering blows to Liston’s face, opening a gash around his left eye. After the 6th Liston refused to rise from his stool. Cassius Clay was crowned heavy weight champion and a week later changed his name. Had Dundee removed his gloves and allowed him to quit the world might have never known Mohammed Ali.

 Few elements are as important to success as the determination to continue, to refuse to give up.  How many victories have been lost because the competitor lost the will to continue? How many marriages have failed because a husband or a wife decided to walk away? How many dreams have vanished because a student, an artist, an entrepreneur decided to quit? 

 Winston Churchill, the WW II Prime Minister of England is best known for his determination.  Standing alone against the onslaught of Nazi Germany’s onslaught,  he issued this challenge in 1941, “...never give in, never give in, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

 The Scripture has a great deal to say about the importance of endurance and perseverance. James wrote, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him,” (James 1:12).  Paul wrote, “We celebrate in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but [we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope,” (Romans 5:2-4).  Peter said, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love,” (2 Peter 1:5-7).

 Like Moses enduring 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.  Like the Apostle Paul imprisoned, beaten, and left for dead.  Like Elijah driven to despair, we must all face moments of discouragement, tests that will determine our destiny.  We must never quit. Never give in. We must endure to the end looking to Jesus who endured the ultimate suffering and shame that we might be “more than conquerors,” (Romans 8:37).

Monday, August 22, 2022

Centerpiece of History

 Every time I write a check, I document the date with reference to the most important event in human history.  This year is 2022 A.D., Anno Domini, Latin for “Year of our Lord.”  Approximately 2022 years ago Jesus was born.    Any date before that is B.C., “Before Christ.”

 his makes our secular world uncomfortable.  But, we have to reference history by some date, and it needs to be universal enough that we all know what date we are talking about.  In 1615 Johannes Kepler adopted the “Vulgar Era” designation, a reference that was later changed to C.E. “Common Era.”  Today, in most academic documents, the terms B.C.E. “Before the Common Era” and C.E. “Common Era” are used.  But the years remain the same, 2022 AD is 2022 CE.

 The date for both designations A.D and C.E remains the time when Caesar Augustus ordered that all the Roman world should be taxed and a little known carpenter in Nazareth started out for Bethlehem leading a donkey on which sat his pregnant wife. The life of that child defines every other event in history.  

 Why is Jesus the centerpiece of all human history?

 Part of the answer is the teaching of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount is the most radical teaching in the history of the world. If everyone practiced Jesus’ teaching the world would be totally transformed. God’s Kingdom would have come on earth.

 Part of the answer is the death of Jesus. We cannot practice the Sermon on the Mount without a transformation of heart.  The Cross of Jesus Christ makes this possible. Our sins are forgiven and God is able to create in us a new heart.

 Most important of all is the resurrection.   If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, his followers would have quickly dispersed and he would have been forgotten. The disciples had all forsaken him at his trial. Peter had publicly denied him.  But, when Jesus appeared for forty days with many undeniable proofs, everything changed. (Acts 1:3).

 This was the message that changed the world. “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.  But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” (Acts 2:23-24).

 /He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-18).

 Jesus destroyed the rule of power and prejudice, retaliation and revenge.  On the Cross he overcame violence and injustice. By the resurrection He conquered death and the grave.  For this reason every document we date this year bears the number 2022.