Thanking God and Butchering Chickens

Butcher Block

The Butcher Block

“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, who has brought forth bread from the earth.”

This is a typical prayer of thanksgiving given during a meal. Some may phrase it: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, who has brought forth grain from the fields of the earth that we may gather it and make this bread for our nourishment.” The point is, we should be aware that it isn’t just the labor of our hands that provides our bread, it is the Lord God who provides it. Therefore we should be thankful on many levels. First we should be thankful to God for causing the earth to have seasons that will produce crops. Next, we should be thankful we have seed to plant that will produce a crop of its own kind. Next, we should be thankful to have the knowledge and understanding to plant and tend and harvest a crop. For many of us we should be thankful for income allowing us the ability to purchase a portion of the crop. Next we should be thankful to have the ability to take what we have grown or purchased and make a meal for our nourishment from it.

Okay there is a lot more complexity to it all than these few points. However this is not a discussion in irreducible complexity. Maybe some other time I will delve into the fascinating subject of irreducible complexity.

I have never raised chickens until this year. One thing I have learned: if you are buying chicks, buy pullets. Don’t get any roosters! Unless you plan to breed or invite the birds to dinner, as the main course, don’t buy roosters. Roosters, when they mature, will crowd the feeders not giving the hens a chance to eat (think of them as teenage boys at a buffet). Roosters, when they mature, will fight and pick on each other and the hens (think of them as teenage boys trying to impress girls). Roosters, when they mature, will cause so much stress in the hen house that the hens will be too stressed to lay eggs (think of them as teenage boys stealing a girl’s diary and reading it to an audience of her friends)(okay that would probably get a teenage boy murdered). I hope you get the picture. Roosters, when they mature, are trouble.

Well there were 15 roosters too many in my hen house. The time had come to thin the flock. Remember, I mentioned that I have never raised chickens before? Well that also means I have never butchered chickens either.

I remember, when I was very young, watching my aunt Emma butcher a chicken. It can’t be that hard, so I thought as I sharpened my hatchet.

It is known that memories can be triggered by certain smells. I can step into a shed or garage, with its dusty timbers and motor oil stained floor, and suddenly be transported back in time to my grandfather’s garage beside their house, or my uncle’s garage in town. While walking through a produce market I can instantly be swept back in time to the little grocery store in town where there was a basket of fresh fruit near the door and creaky wooden floors. When I butchered and rendered my first rooster I was instantly whisked back to a time when I watched my aunt butcher a chicken. Chickens smell bad on the outside and they even smell worse on the inside. It is a smell that triggered a vivid memory of hiding beside a shed and watching with wonder as my aunt transformed a live chicken into a bird ready for the kettle. On a side note, I also remember how good my aunt’s fried chicken tasted.

So what does butchering chickens have to do with giving God thanks?

As I calmed each rooster, I reminded him that I raised him from the time he was only about 3 days old. As I raised my hatchet, I offered God thanks for allowing me the task of raising the chicken and now being able to provide meat for the ranch. Then it took all my wherewithal to bifurcate its head from its neck.

Now you may be thinking that I was going a bit over the top with thanksgiving. Allow me to share a story, recorded by Luke in the New Testament.

“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’

When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’”

Luke 17:11-19 (NIV)

Too often it is too easy to forget to be thankful.

You may be the type that says Grace before each meal. But do you truly give God thanks for providing the food before you? Now don’t argue and claim that it is because you work hard earning a living to put bread on the table. Remember this is not a discussion in irreducible complexity. The bottom line is, God provided. Don’t go and piously state that you are thankful in your heart and God sees that. I am asking, do you give God thanks for the food you have?

Living as a missionary has given me a new perspective on being thankful for the food we have, since much of it comes from donations. Generous gifts of money or goods from food banks are a primary source of food here. Of course I have a tiny source of income from sales of my books, but you wouldn’t want to live on that income in this day and age. Bottom line is: God provides. Therefore we are truly thankful to God for the food on our table every time we sit down to eat. We understand that God has provided and so we are quick to run back to him and give him thanks.

This month we in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving. For much of the population its about eating too much and then watching football. For some of you it’s just another day to eat too much and watch sports; your waistline is proof of that.

I challenge you, before you pickup your fork, to honestly give God thanks for your food. And I also challenge you to give God thanks, not just on days like Thanksgiving, but every time you indulge in eating. Let’s be like the one in Luke’s gospel that returned to Jesus to thank him, not like the other nine, who were probably thankful too, but didn’t make an effort to come to Jesus and say, thank you.

Today as I visit the hen house, it is so quit and peaceful without all those roosters causing trouble. Now the hens can get about the business of laying eggs. And I will truly thank God for each and every egg I get to enjoy. Nothing like farm, or in this case ranch fresh large brown eggs for breakfast.




All living organisms depend on the colorless, odorless liquid that forms the earth’s seas, rivers, lakes and rain. If you are thinking I am talking about water / H2O, you’re correct.

Now some will say that whiskey is the water of life; I propose that is hogwash(water used in the washing of pigs . . . mmw—mud, manure, water). Allow me to state: Water is the water of life.

If you live in the United States or most any modern city in the world, you probably can go to a faucet and receive a flow of water, probably clean and possibly hot and cold selectable.

The unique chemical properties of water make it able to dissolve many other substances therefore making it desirable for cleaning and bathing. Because we are one of the aforementioned living organisms on this earth our makeup includes water, therefore we must drink water to sustain our life. Physicians will tell you that you can live for 40-60 days without food, however you can only live 5-7 days without water.

If you cool water it will become solid and if you heat water it will become a vapor.

I will venture to say that if you were to count, in any given day, each time you use water, you would get bored counting and or lose count before your day is half through.

There is no need for me to step out on a limb to state that we take water for granted. In the book, Farewell Otto Tryk, by K.C.Dean (ISBN: 978-1502446541), the author recounts his first visit to an orphanage in South Africa. He observes children bathing in dirty, muddy water you wouldn’t allow your dog near. Each of the orphanages or schools and clinics he visits, water and the wells that supply it play an important role. Oh, by the way, I recorded and produced the audiobook of Farewell Otto Tryk. The print edition, kindle edition and audiobook are available on amazon. If you haven’t read or listened to the book, I recommend it. And by purchasing the book you are supporting a great cause.

Back to the subject of water.

Southwest Agape Ranch Water Main Work

Southwest Agape Ranch Water Main Work

Here at Agape Youth Ranch I have learned to not take water for granted. Our water comes from a deep well, it is stored in a large above-ground tank, then pumped into a pressure tank to be distributed throughout the ranch. If pumps aren’t breaking or malfunctioning then water mains are breaking. Keeping the water flowing here is a full-time job. Here is a photo of an 80 foot long section of water main I recently replaced.

In the Bible, from Genesis to the maps, there are countless stories where water plays a role. It isn’t amazing to me that probably every time water is mentioned in the Bible, there is a teaching moment where we can learn a life lesson. Matthew 10, in the New Testament, is such a place. I’m not going to offer the entire chapter here for you to read, read the chapter in your Bible. For my purpose let me simply tell you that the chapter begins with Jesus calling his twelve disciples. No he didn’t use a cell phone, it means he selected the twelve men to be his close followers. In verse 5, Jesus sends out the twelve disciples with instructions. Let’s focus on the final bit of instructions, beginning at verse 40 and going thru verse 42.

Jesus talking:

He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”

Matthew 10:40-42 NIV

Frequently this passage is used by “name-it claim-it” or “prosperity” preachers. They will tell you all about the prophet’s reward. You will probably hear the story found in the Old Testament book of First Kings 17:7-24. Allow me to offer a hacked paraphrase of the story. Elijah asks a poor widow for a drink of water. As she goes to get him the water, he asks for a piece of bread too. She explains how she was preparing the last of her flour and oil for a final meal for herself and her son, and then they were going to die. Bottom line of the story is that a poor widow gives the prophet Elijah the last of her flour and oil in a meal and for the whole time the prophet stays with her she never runs out of flour and oil.

The “prosperity’ preacher will probably get all excited at this point as they tell you that if you give to a prophet, you will have unending abundance. And oh by the way, they are a prophet and if give to them, even your all, God will guarantee that you will never go hungry. Enough about fringe heresy.

We then turn to authorized commentaries. They will contradict themselves by telling you that giving something as basic as a cup of water to a child will bless you. Their contradiction comes when they erroneously translate the Greek for “little ones” as children . . . Oops.

So if this passage isn’t talking about a reward that looks like a cornucopia of abundance or giving a child a drink of water, then what is it talking about?

Let’s take the passage apart then reassemble it and see what Jesus is teaching. This is a discipling moment that Jesus repeatedly teaches and it is a valuable lesson for us as disciples.

First let’s build a foundation for this discipling moment by understanding who the “little ones” are. We know he isn’t talking about children so who is Jesus talking about? The passage tells us: “one of these little ones . . .” In the previous sentence we read about prophets and righteous men. Clearly, including the original Greek, the little ones are the prophets and righteous. How are they little ones? In the old English of Shakespeare, the word for little may have been niggardly, meaning an insignificant or small person in status (status more so than stature). So how is a prophet or righteous person insignificant? Let’s jump to the end of Jesus’ ministry.

Join me as we step into an upper room where Jesus and his disciples are eating the Passover meal together, the last supper they will enjoy together. Tradition would have allowed for everyone as they entered to have their feet washed by a servant. None of the disciples seems to be bothered by the fact that no one washed any feet. The meal is going along with laughter and conversation. But Jesus is aware of the oversight in tradition. Finally he gets up, takes off his robe, wraps a towel around his waist, fills a bowl with water and washes his disciples feet. Awkward! Here is the master, the Lord, the rabbi(teacher) washing feet. Can you just see the disciples initial reaction? “What is Jesus doing?” “Why is Jesus doing the servant’s job?” Of course Peter makes a fuss. Then when Jesus is finished and dons his robe he asks his disciples, “Do you know what I did?”

Glancing around the room we can see the look of bewilderment in the disciples eyes. We can almost hear their thoughts. “You washed my feet?”

Jesus explains how he, being the Lord and Teacher, humbled himself and washed their feet, they should do the same. His teaching moment isn’t just in words but in action, and the lesson is: to be great in God’s kingdom, one must have the attitude and humbleness of a servant.

In society, greatness has always meant wealth, fame, power. In God’s kingdom, greatness means being humble, serving, being little or taking on the insignificant position. In Jesus day, about the lowest duty a servant could do was to wash feet, it didn’t get any lower.

So in God’s kingdom a prophet or righteous man is great because he is a servant in deed and in heart. Therefore we can understand Jesus’ teaching moment in Matthew 10, as twofold. Prophets and righteous men are rewarded in God’s kingdom by being called great because they are humble servants. Second, if anyone gives something as basic as a cool cup of water to a prophet or righteous man, because they are a disciple of Jesus, they are being a humble servant and therefore receive a prophet’s reward: greatness in God’s kingdom.

Bottom line for us as disciples. If we want to be truly great in God’s eyes, we should work to serve others before we look to our own needs. At a meal, we should be the one to make certain that others have been served before we serve ourself. If we are thirsty, offer the cool cup of water to a fellow disciple who is also thirsty. It is better to be considered great in God’s kingdom than to be looked upon as being great in this life. And by living this way, those we are discipling will observe how we live, and learn to do the same.

All this talk about water has made me thirsty. First, however, I need to see if the water main here on the ranch is leaking anywhere, or if the pumps are working, or . . . .

Growing Rocks


Just Another Rock?

Here at Agape Youth Ranch in Southeast Arizona, we grow rocks. I’m serious! I will go for a walk on the road that loops through the ranch and come across stones that weren’t there the day before. And I don’t mean little stones, these are rocks big as my hand. Okay the stones don’t grow in the middle of the road—erosion from wind and rain wash the dirt away leaving behind the big stones that had been hidden just below the surface. But it sure seems like the stones magically grow.

Regularly I toss or kick aside the larger stones, otherwise they could damage a car or tire. The other day I was moving aside some stones. I reached for an angular stone and discovered it was an agate. Now you need to know, I’m an amateur rock-hound (emphasis on amateur). I am constantly picking up interesting rocks, and many are added to my collection. I acquired the rock collecting bug from my dad, he had a couple of stashes of interesting rocks—I have his collection in with mine now.

Back to the agate. I confess I was thrilled to find an agate; it is only the second agate I have ever found. Peering into the crystal grotto, I let the sun’s rays fill the agate. It is a “young” geode agate so the crystals are small, but it is still really cool to look at. On the other hand, the outside of the agate is actually rather nondescript, I would go so far as to say it is blah.

Agates are semi-precious gemstones in a form of chalcedony, which is silicon dioxide. Geode agates develop when an empty pocket, or vesicle, inside a host rock fills in with fibrous quartz crystals. At some time the vesicle was filled with fluid rich in dissolved and suspended quartz (silica), as well as other mineral impurities. Gradually the silica began to form crystals and concentric bands of mineral rich deposit creating unique patterns. Agates are commonly found in riverbeds where a flow of water will erode a passage through the vesicle. Once inside the vesicle the water will dissolve the silica. Then during periods of time when the rock is out of the water, late fall for instance when the river is running low, the water will evaporate leaving behind the dissolved minerals and silica. Evidence of this type of agate formation can be found by examining the rock for tiny holes that allow water into and out of the vesicle. I was able to identify the telltale holes in my agate.

Reading the 19th Chapter of the gospel of Luke in the New Testament of the Bible, we come to a scene, beginning in the 28th verse, where Jesus “triumphantly” enters Jerusalem. You are probably familiar with the story. Jesus is riding a colt or donkey and people are paving the road with their coats and palm branches. Excitedly people shout and sing and dance. Now get this, while Jesus is riding along from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem through the din of celebration, the religious hierarchy, the Pharisees, come alongside him; they probably had to shout to be heard above the roar of the crowd. Here is the J.B. Phillips rendering of Luke 19:39-40:

39 There were some Pharisees in the crowd who said to Jesus, “Master, restrain your disciples!”

40 To which he replied, “I tell you that if they kept quiet, the very stones in the road would burst out cheering!”

I am certain that Jesus meant that the stones would in fact begin to audibly praise him. After all, Jesus is the God of Creation. If God can make man from the dust of the earth(see Genesis 1-2 at the beginning of the Bible), He certainly can make stones have temporary voices. Mind you, having stones begin to shout, “Hosanna!” would have terrified most folks.

Now you are possibly saying, “that’s impossible.” Given our limited understanding of science, it is difficult to imagine stones suddenly acquiring voices and cheering. But for just a moment, let’s let God be God. Allow God out of your preconceived “box” of understanding. I believe that God will usually work within the laws of science and order that he established. But this is Jesus we’re talking about. He healed people of all kinds of illnesses and disabilities. This is Jesus, who fed thousands with only a couple of loaves of bread, and on another occasion he fed thousands with a couple of loaves of bread and a couple of small fish. This is Jesus, who confounded the most highly educated men of his day. It is this same Jesus who calmed storms and walked on water.

So, can rocks praise God? Scientifically and artistically I believe that rocks praise God, they display the fingerprints of God the Creator of everything. So let’s take a look at the agate I found and look and listen. Let’s give the rock an opportunity to declare, “the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

Throughout the gospels, Jesus often says the Kingdom of God is like a seed. Seeds are mysterious. Plant the tiniest seed in soil, add water and time, and you will get a plant. So how is the Kingdom of God like a seed? It is a fact that a seed is a wonder of life. We may consider that from a single seed, a plant will grow and produce an abundant supply of more seeds. You may suggest how a single seed can grow a tree that will provide homes for birds, insects and countless other animals. All these ideas are what the Kingdom of God is. But for my purpose I would like to consider how the Kingdom of God is a hidden wonder waiting within our reach to be shared.

Crack open a seed and you don’t get much, unless you have a microscope, and even then it is not too amazing. It is in the planting of the seed that the amazing thing happens. An agate is like a seed, only opposite. Most agates are also not much to look at. Like the one I found, agates are rather blah on the outside. But crack an agate open and, wow!

The Kingdom of God is like a geode agate. What begins as a plain old rock, is gradually changed into a hidden treasure. The Kingdom of God is as close as a plain rock in your hand, but unless you crack it open, you will never know the treasure. You are like that plain old rock and when you accept Jesus as your Lord and savior, the Kingdom of God begins to form within you.

Opening the Kingdom of God happens when we obey Jesus’ final command to go and make disciples. You see, when you open your life to Jesus on one hand, and open your life to others on the other, you become that seed germinating into a great plant; you will reveal the amazing beauty forming in you. When you live your life, allowing others to walk with you in your life, letting them share your joys and your sorrows, your exciting days and your mundane days, you allow others to see into you where the hidden crystals of the life of Jesus’ kingdom are forming.

As disciples of Jesus we are to live our lives in such a way that others can see into our life. Think of the word intimacy. Say the word intimacy out loud this way: “In to me see”. This is how the Kingdom of God grows like a tiny seed or like a mysterious agate. We must allow ourselves to be like Jesus and invite others to be immersed in our life. It is living life on life. We must teach others with words and by letting them see how we live. Invite others to see into you where the mystery of God is being formed. And then send them out to do the same.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood the model of discipling that Jesus lived. Otto Dudzus, one of the men Bonhoeffer was discipling said this about him. “Whatever he had and whatever he was, he made that accessible to others.” (Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy – Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010)

Hmm, sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it?

Can it be said of you that whatever you have and whatever you are, is accessible to those you are discipling? (Of course I am assuming you are being discipled and are discipling others.)

If you think that being a Christian is about going to church, being a good person, and hoping you will win a place in heaven . . . you are only walking down the road stepping on rocks without realizing their hidden treasure. You are eating the ear of corn because you’re hungry. However, you’re probably neglecting the fact that corn are seeds, and if you hold back some of the corn and plant them, you will soon harvest a crop of corn that you can share with others who are hungry.

Being a Christian is about living in such a way that you invite others to see how the Kingdom of God is forming in you, so they will learn how to live like you do and go and do likewise.

Geode Agate

Geode Agate

You are like a geode agate, probably kinda blah on the outside. However, God is forming a mysterious beauty within you, you just need to be willing to allow others to see into you what God is doing within you. And the best way to show others the life you have in Jesus, is to be in relationship with Him and them.

Sunsets and Sunrises

Sunset 01

Sun Setting at Agape Ranch

Viewed from our front porch, nearly every evening we are treated to a dazzling sunset. We look across the southern Sulphur Springs Valley and watch the sun set behind what are called ‘sky islands’ or ‘sky mountains’. Looking west we clearly see two ranges, the Dragoon Mountains and the Baboquivari Mountains. On a side note, the Baboquivari mountains are home to the only known wild Jaguars in the continental U.S. The primary peak, pronounced BA BO QUAY VI RA, the place for the mother lode of flint, is a great place for rock hounds to find plenty of flint.

Back to sunsets.

In life we may say that a person who has died has come to the sunset of their life. Sunset for you and I probably equates to being the end of a day. Surrounding the sunset is an evening meal, maybe a glass of wine, hopefully catching-up with family and friends, and then a time of sleep allowing our bodies to rest from the day of work. The day ends and a new one begins at midnight. But is this the only way to look at a day?

Before the modern clock, a specific hour of the night could not be precisely known, whereas an hour of the day was easily determined by sighting the location of the sun. Therefore, the day began by precise, simple and universally recognized standards. This meant the day had to be reckoned either from the beginning of night or the beginning of day.

Anthropologists have found that nearly all cultures began their day at sunrise. Egyptians and Aztecs, along with countless cultures, worshiped the sun and its rising. And then there are the Jews.

The Jewish day does not begin and end at midnight—midnight is not a distinguishable astronomic event. The Jewish day does not begin at sunrise. Why are the Jews so . . . unique?

In Jewish time, the day begins with the sunset (and the appearance of the first three stars). Why? Because that is how Torah describes it. “. . . And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” We can find these words recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible, the first book called Genesis.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” Genesis 1:3-5

Did you catch the order there? “And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” Therefore sunset is the beginning of the day, not the end. Also in the Jewish culture the major holidays all begin and end after sundown and the appearance of the stars.

It was once explained to me that beginning the day with the night is a metaphor of life itself. Life begins in the darkness of the womb. Then life is born into, or erupts, into the brightness of the light. Finally life settles into the darkness of the grave, and is followed by a new dawn in the world-to-come.

So as I sit on our porch swing watching the splendor of another sunset, I’ve grown to appreciate the Jews perspective of sunset. The swirling reds and oranges along with the deepening blues and grays declare to me that a new day is approaching. I no longer consider the sunset as the end of my day, a time to rest from my work; I consider the sunset the beginning of my day—a time to rest, preparing me for the next day’s work.

Funny, we often consider the Jews as being so backward. Yet, in truth, the Jews are probably more inline with God’s kingdom than they even know. I wonder, when Jesus taught his disciples to pray (Luke 11:1-4), was it at or about sundown?

Next time you pray asking the Father to give you your daily bread, consider praying it at sundown.

Finally, from the time we “erupt” from the darkness of the womb until we enter the darkness of the grave we are given a day, a life, to live. What we make of that time is what counts. Have you submitted that time to the lordship of Jesus? If not, then what’s your life other than a countless repetition of meaningless days. On the other hand, living under the lordship of Jesus is life filled with adventure and some amazing sunsets. Sorta like the song from Fiddler On The Roof says:

“Sunrise, sunset,

Swiftly flow the days.

. . .

Sunset 02

Sunset at Agape Ranch

Sunrise, sunset,

Swiftly fly the years,

One season following another,

Laden with happiness,

And tears.”

A Firm Handshake


Have you ever shook hands with someone and it was like grabbing a dead fish? Or how about the guy who crushes your hand wanting you to believe he is Mr. Universe? A handshake can tell you something about a person. I was taught that a firm handshake is a sign of confidence and a weak handshake is an indication of lack of confidence. I tend to believe that some guys just don’t know how to give a firm handshake.

Moving to Arizona I have met a few men, including teenage boys, mostly ranchers, and they have calloused hands and firm handshakes. In South Dakota farm country, where my family is from, the men there also have calloused hands and firm handshakes. Guys who work on their own cars also tend to have a firm handshake. And then there are the guys who sit at a desk pushing paper, or keys on a keyboard, who attend endless meetings, who have paltry handshakes (not all of them, but . . .). Oh and I will not go into the phony firm handshakes of a politician!

Anthropologists speculate that the origin of the handshake comes from a form of greeting between warriors to show their weaponless open / empty hand. I would extend my hand to show that I held no weapon, then you would extend your hand to show that you held no weapon, then we would grasp hands to indicate our desire to not fight. This symbolic clasping of empty hands gradually became a universal greeting of welcome and unity. And in some cultures, the handshake can also symbolize that we are in accord, a firm agreement of identity.

I like the book of James in the New Testament of the Bible. James is considered to be the oldest book (earliest epistle) in the New Testament. James was written by James, the brother of Jesus. James has a lot to say to the early Christians, the people of the way, (most of whom were Jews who acknowledged that Jesus is Messiah, the redeemer and savior of mankind) on a lot of topics. In the Bible, the book is divided into chapters and verses to help us read it. When I read the book, I get the feeling that James and I think and write much the same way: shotgun, cover a lot of topics and hope my reader can follow all the points. Read with me the portion of James found in chapter 2, verses 14 through 26.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless (or dead). Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

James is talking about shaking hands with God, coming into unity and agreement with Jesus.

The gospel of Mark, in the New Testament of the Bible, tells us that when Jesus began his ministry he proclaimed: “The time has come, . . . The kingdom of God is near (some translations: at hand). Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15.

Think of it this way, the kingdom of God is as close as a handshake away.

To repent and believe the good news is to shake hands with God. To shake hands with God is not just an act of faith, it is an action. When we shake hands we are physically touching, we are doing something—it is action!

James is frustrated with “Christians” who are talking the talk, but not walking the walk. The kingdom of God, Jesus declared, requires us to repent and believe the good news. That is doing something, not just mentally consenting to “believe” and think we are living by faith.

If James were writing today, he may address the “Christians” who say they are looking to enter the ministry, but want to know what the salary is. Far too often well meaning folks declare their desire to work for God, but only if the pay is sufficient. In my opinion, they are more interested in working for the religion of Christianity, than working for the kingdom of God.

Recorded in the old Testament of the Bible in the book of Proverbs are some sayings of Agur son of Jakeh. Read with me Proverbs 30:7-9.

Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

Now read with me a scene recorded in the new Testament in the book of Luke chapter 11:1-4.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

He (Jesus) said to them, “When you pray, say: “ ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

And lead us not into temptation.’”

The thing I want you to note is the message of asking for our daily bread. We are not to ask for the $50,000 a year salary. We are not to ask for the regular paycheck. We are to ask for only what we need each day. And the amazing thing is, God will take care of us. He takes care of the birds. He will take care of you. He took care of the whining Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years, one day at a time.

One of the issues facing a ministry seeking workers is the mindset that the ministry supply a paycheck comparable to a corporate job. People don’t believe that God will take care of their daily needs, unless it is backed by a human resources department agreement for regular paychecks. But is that really trusting God? Is that humbling our self and truly praying the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray? Is that agreeing with the wise council of Agur?

James is almost ranting about the folks who say they trust God, but then want to know what the new religion has to offer if they join. They talk the talk, but do they really want to walk the walk. Too often we get tied-up talking about works. James isn’t talking about works, he is talking about trusting God for our daily bread, he is talking about acting like we believe God will take care of our needs as we have them daily.

Getting back to the handshake—if we truly desire to shake hands with God, we should see that he comes to us with an extended open hand. God is not our enemy. He is interested in a relationship with us. Having a relationship with God means trusting him. Trusting him means . . . trusting him!

Today marks the 1-month anniversary of our arriving at Agape Youth Ranch. In some ways it is easy to accept the open hand of God our Father; we are physically and emotionally exhausted and His open hand is all we have. It is amazing however, each day our basic needs are met. We can pay our bills. We have a place to call home. We have food and water. Continually we are amazed at how God moves the heart of a friend, or stranger, and our daily need is met by a check in the mail or a delivery of food for our pantry and refrigerator.

Bottom line: Are you willing to trust God? Are you willing to extend your hand in peace and shake the hand of the Almighty, the Creator of everything. If the thought of shaking hands with God Almighty terrifies you, then you need to know, Jesus’ nail-scared hands will gently take your hand and guide you to the Father for a wonderful reception. He is wanting to offer you a firm identity in His kingdom.

Why The Move to Arizona?

AYM BannerWhy are we going to Agape Youth Ranch in south east Arizona?

Too often we live our lives going to church, signing -up for “service” and hoping God will see our good work for the church. It is much easier to do something than to trust in God; we see the activity and mistake it for inspiration. That is why we see so few fellow workers with God, yet so many people working for God. We would much rather work for God than believe Him.

This was my life only a few years ago. Then I began to ask myself some questions, such as:

Do I really believe that God will do in me what I cannot do?

Is my own personal experience such a wonderful realization of God’s power?

Has any spiritual work been accomplished in me at all?

Was I going to church just to be fed? Hoping for some inspiring teaching?

I realized I was the type of Christian who was carrying around good teachings like a bag of puzzle pieces. I was collecting these amazing and powerful teachings like little treasures.

Pieces of a puzzle

Pieces of a puzzle

I was the type of Christian who would look for occasions to showoff my bag of teachings, teachings that honestly were mostly just milk.

Then one day a few years ago I was challenged to take the bag of teachings and instead of just collect more, to dump them out and assemble them; to put the picture together.

One day a young man came to Jesus and asked what he must do to be saved. After a bit of conversation Jesus told him simply to sell his positions, give to the poor and follow him.

On another occasion an elder of the people came to Jesus and asked a similar question, Jesus told him that he must be born again.

These two men, with Jesus’ help, put the pieces of their puzzle together and saw the picture of God’s will for their life—how did they respond? Matthew 19: 16-22, John 3:1-20

When we put the pieces of our puzzle together the picture was of lives being willing to go and make disciples, to be witnesses of Jesus life, sacrifice, love and eternal hope. Bottom line the picture was to be willing to go . . . wherever God was working and we could offer our time, talent and treasure.

That is why we are going to Arizona.

And if I could give you with one word of encouragement it would be this:

No matter what your age or place in society, no matter what your circumstance, if you haven’t assembled the picture of God’s will for your life, stop trying to find the next great teaching that will hopefully tickle your ears and your toes. Quit trying to work for him, and get to know him; He desires a relationship with you more than your work. And don’t worry, not all missionaries go to Africa, or India or China or South America, but all go where the Spirit of God leads them, once they get in a relationship with the father, and they go and become living epistles.


Soap bubbles are a lot of fun.  Here I am making giant soap bubbles  with our friends Rick and Amy Moyer. I’ve included the recipe for making these incredible soap bubbles.

Soap bubbles are a good visual for how the Holy Spirit of God fills us.  Too often we think in terms of the spirit filling us like wine filling a cup.  Liquid in a cup is trapped, going nowhere, stagnant.  The Bible gives us a different image of someone filled with the Holy Spirit of God.

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  John 3:8 NIV

I think in terms of the Spirit  filling us like wind in a sail, or like a breath filling a soap bubble.  Each of us takes on a different shape when the Holy Spirit fills us, and each of us are moved differently and in a unique direction by the Holy Spirit.  And then some of us just pop when the Spirit of God fills us, and we go nowhere.

If  you are truly filled  with the Holy Spirit of God, then you will be GOING and Moving where he wants.  And you will become living epistles, serving others, even if it is simply to brighten their day.



Debbie and I are on a new adventure!  We are moving from Ocean  Shores, Washington.

We will miss being by the ocean, but are looking forward to more sunshine in  Arizona.