Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Living Life Fearfully Or Fearlessly?

As I rode up the elevator I wondered what I was going to see when I entered my friend Ernie’s room. Ernie had become sick with a respiratory infection and only after being persuaded by his loved ones did he agree to be taken to the hospital. For me to tell you that Ernie had gotten sick is an understatement. For Ernie was born sick, he had just become more sick.
            As I walked down the hall towards Ernie’s room, I was greeted by Ernie’s sister in law, Laura. I entered Ernie’s room and there was Ernie lying in the bed with an oxygen mask over his face. He was working hard for every breath but he was alert. I said hello and asked if he was in any pain. He nodded no. I chatted with he and his family for a few moments and before I left him, I remember saying something like, “Get well soon Ernie so we can watch ‘A Few Good Men.’” The look in Ernie’s face told me that he had finished the race.
            Ernie died a few days later on Wednesday, February 26, 2011. I got to speak at Ernie’s funeral and  later wrote and published, “My Journey With Ernie,”
            When Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” Peter without hesitation shouted, “You are the Christ! The Son of the Living God.” Jesus didn’t deny what Peter proclaimed but affirmed it saying, “Blessed are you Simon for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven,” (my emphasis) Matthew 16:13-17.
            Peter experienced first-hand Jesus’ miracles. He witnessed Jesus walking out on the stormy seas. He himself walked out fearlessly upon the crashing waves as he focused his eyes on Jesus. But as soon as he focused on the event, the wind and the stormy seas, he became fearful and began to sink. Thankfully, he came to his senses and focused back on Jesus, crying out for him to save him. It was then that Jesus reached out to grab ahold of Peter to keep him from drowning in the sea (Matthew 14:22-33).
            As I reflect on 2011, Ernie’s death was the saddest event of the year for me. But Ernie Hughes didn’t live life fearfully. He lived fearlessly even though he was in constant pain and infirmed.
            The highlight of 2011 was publishing my autobiography, “Touched By The Hand Of God,” on Smashwords and Amazon Kindle bookstore
            In 2012 I plan on making a revision to my book that includes a new cover. I will be making a video as a compliment to the book. I may even publish my book in Chinese.
            I will also be creating some videos to share with those in the Touched By The Hand Of God Community . I created the Touched By The Hand Of God Community for everyone who has been, or is in a seemingly hopeless situation in life and needs the support of others. I also plan on setting up video conference calls to encourage those who are experiencing hopelessness.
            There will undoubtedly be turmoil in 2012. For there are violent storms brewing in this world all the time and we never know when some catastrophic world event will occur. The world is a dangerous place. Will there be a war in the middle east? Will the United States and China embark on a trade war?  Will Europe and the euro collapse and if so how will it impact the United States? Will the United States have austerity or will the debt crisis here at home continue?
            I don’t know the answers to these questions and the best I can do is take an educated guess. I do know that in times of crisis there are many people who will tell you to dig a hole and store up cans of tuna and bottled water, to save your own ass and live fearfully. However, I will encourage you to focus on and center your life on Christ not on yourself, not on events or places.
            I choose to live life one day at a time. To live life fearlessly like my friend Ernie Hughes, like the Apostle Peter and like Jesus. I will keep my eyes focused and centered on Jesus who created the laws of nature, defied them and is above them; who fed five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish; who danced on the crashing waves and calmed the stormy seas; who bled drops of blood as he prayed fervently before his time of suffering; who had his flesh and muscles torn open, his bones and bowels exposed before being nailed to a cross and pierced through his lungs and heart, rising from the dead three days later.
             For when turmoil arises the only one who can save you is the same one who reached out to Peter as he began to sink beneath the crashing waves. It’s the one they worshipped afterward saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do Believers Have Two Natures?

It would make perfect sense to me if I had two natures. This would explain why I still sin. But if I have only one nature, how do I explain all the times that I act selfishly and not in love?
Christians are supposed to be people who walk in love, right? As I understand it, if we have the Spirit of God and if Jesus lives in us, then it should be evident to everyone around us, to everyone who knows us. People should be able to identify us as Christians by our love (John 13:35; 15:13).
The apostle Paul said, “We walk by faith” (2 Cor. 5:7). “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Peter said, we “have received a faith” (2 Pet. 1:1).
Saints (believers) are children of God. We are children and heirs (Rom. 8:15-17). I believe faith is the key to our our journey. We are still children and this is why we sin. We are growing in faith. We are becoming more mature in the faith. We are awaiting our future glory ( Rom. 8:18). However, we have received divine power or the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:3), the seal of sonship, his Spirit in our hearts (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5) guaranteeing what is to come. By grace we have received the precious promises, we participate in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).
Those in the flesh (this isn’t speaking of a mortal body -  it’s referring to the sinful nature) cannot please God. But you aren’t in the flesh (Paul is obviously not talking about being a human being) but in the Spirit, if God’s Spirit dwells in you. Without the Spirit of Christ, we are not God’s children (Rom. 8:8-9).
Jesus lives in Christians by his Spirit, and Christians live by faith in Jesus (Gal. 2:20). It’s true that Christ has perfect faith, but we obviously don’t walk in his perfect faith perfectly. However, this does not mean that we are in the flesh or that we still have the sinful nature as Paul stated in Romans 8.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

911 Celebration Of Freedom

Worldwide Grace Fellowship, Clarksville, TN

“You can take our land, but you can never take our freedom.” Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart, portrayed WilliamWallace, a Scottish knight that helped lead the Scots to an upset victory over the English forces at the Battle of Stirling Bridge September 11, 1297.

Man has always equated blood for freedom and there have been many battles since the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Many have given there lives in quest of freedom.

In Genesis chapters 10-11, we read about a man named Nimrod, Noah’s great grandson. He saw God as someone who stood in the way of his freedom.  Just like Nimrod, human beings have tried to obtain freedom by their own best efforts.

Everyone wants freedom, but where does it come from and how can we attain true freedom?

Jonathan Ielpi worked for the New York City Fire Department in Squad 288, a unit that handled various kinds disasters. He was called to duty after American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower on September 11, 2001.

After getting a call from his son Jonathan, Lee Ielpi a retired firefighter, drove down to the Twin Towers with his younger son Brendan to see if they could help out. When they arrived, the North and South Towers had already collapsed and looked as though they had been crushed in a giant trash compactor. The two 110 story towers were now just five stories of broken rubble.

Lee and Brendan began to comb through the debris in search of survivors, Lee, hoping that he would find his son alive. The day ended, but Lee Ielpi had not yet found his son.

Somewhere in the pile is a woman named Genelle Guzman. She and some coworkers were heading down Stairway B when she stopped on the thirteenth floor to take off her high heel shoes. That’s when the North Tower collapsed and a rolling wave of concrete, steel and everything else that was in the tower, buried her. Only her head and left arm were free.

For twenty seven hours she waited to be rescued. While waiting, she believes she encountered an angel named Paul, who came and held her hand  until rescue workers could cut her free. Genelle Guzman was the last survivor to be pulled from the fallen towers.

Lee Ielpi was still searching for his son Jonathan. He had given up hope of finding him alive. However, he wanted to be able to bury his son. On December 11, 2001, Lee and Brendan Ielpi, helped carry Jonathan’s body from ground zero.

On this the tenth anniversary of the 911 attacks, families of the victims are gathered at the September 11 Memorial to remember those who were killed. They will notice two huge holes in the ground where the twin towers once stood. For me, these holes represent the 2983 people who were killed in the 1993 bombing and the 911 attacks. Their names sketched in the bronze plates that surround the footprints of the two towers. But they also symbolize our poverty and nakedness without Jesus Christ.

The Freedom Tower is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013. It will be 1776 feet high, commemorating the year of our nation’s independence. However, independence doesn’t equal freedom!

Jesus said that everyone who sins is a slave of sin John 8:31-36. His words offended the Jews who thought they were free men. They were Abrahams descendants and to them, that meant they were free.

But Jesus explained that Abraham’s blood couldn’t set them free from sin. Slaves have no purchasing power, they have no inheritance, they can’t afford to purchase righteous garments to clothe themselves, nor could they purchase immortality. It was only Jesus who could do this for them, because it required his precious blood not Abrahams.

In the old covenant, slaves were set free once every seven years (Ex. 21:2; Deut. 15:12) and only once every fifty years (called the Jubilee), on the day of At-One-Ment could they return to their inheritance - their land and their families (Lev. 25:8-16).

But the good news - the gospel of Jesus Christ is we don’t have to wait fifty years to return to our inheritance - our inheritance is Jesus Christ. We are set free when we trust in Him. Jesus redeemed us. He bought the righteous garments to cover our naked bodies and he will clothed us with immortality. He is rich in the love nature. A nature that is foreign to human beings. It’s the nature that loved even His betrayer Judas, in that Jesus washed Judas’s feet before he was crucified, knowing that Judas had already betrayed him.

How many men did William Wallace slaughter for freedom? His sword and his garments stained with the blood of men. Since the Battle of Stirling Bridge, there have been many battles. I witnessed the battle at the World Trade Center ten years ago this day from a high-rise office building on 15th Street and 8th Avenue.

Throughout history, man has been willing to shed his blood in exchange for what he has perceived to be freedom. In reality the exchange has kept him in bondage to a sinful hurtful nature.

Today Jonathan Ielpi’s fireman’s jacket is part of the remaining artifacts which is held in the September 11 Memorial and Museum. That garment couldn’t save Jonathan’s life.

Jesus died, but He isn’t in the tomb. He is in you and in me and in all those who have surrendered their lives to Him. Christ in you the hope of Glory (Col. 1:27).

I can hear him saying, “Don’t worry. I am your Tower Of Freedom. I have come to set you free from the hurtful, sinful nature. I will clothe you in white garments of righteousness (Rev. 7:14). I will clothe you in immortality (John 3:16). All that the Father has is mine (John 16:15). I am rich in the love of God, because I am God. I am a Warrior of Love! I have violent love for you.

It’s not the shedding of your own blood... it’s not the shedding of another man’s blood... No,  my robe has been dipped not in the blood of men, but in my own precious blood (Heb. 9:12; Rev. 19:13), which was shed for you, and you, and all of you. So that all men can live in freedom-  life forever more.

Let the celebration begin! 

Bibliography: You Tube, Genelle Guzman McMillan, Guideposts TV; Kelly, Mike, “Last Survivor pulled from WTC rebuilds life, recalls horror.” The Record (Bergen County, NJ) Sept. 10, 2003; O’Shaughnessy, Patrice, “God Willing, I Will Find & Bury My Son.” Daily News, October 14, 2001; Hastings, Deborah;/Lennihan, Mark, “911 Father: I Don’t Understand All of This Hate.” AP, Sept. 9, 2010

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Jesus Is Alive

My good friend Clinton Tuck shared his journey of faith today with fifteen people who attended the Support Group meeting in Clarksville, Tennessee. The Support Group is a group of people who believe in Jesus Christ as their everything. Group participants are active missionaries who participate in Jesus' love, compassion and mercy for humanity. This group meets to pray for those who are hurting. Attendees are encouraged to share the love of Christ by using their own pain as training and to consider serving those who are struggling with similar hardships.

Here is what Clinton had to say to us: “I had two strokes,” he said. “I lay in the bed at the nursing home with my grandchildren sitting around me. I couldn’t talk to them. I wasn’t able to speak. I had a tube in my chest because I had double pneumonia. I had another tube in my stomach, a feeding tube. I asked God why did you keep me alive? God has a reason for everything. He put this on my heart,” referring to encouraging those who have ended up like him and have given up hope.

“Have you ever been to a nursing home? he asked. People in a nursing home can’t do anything for themselves. All they do is lie in bed. Many of them are just dropped off there. The people that bring them to the nursing home sometimes leave them there to die without ever coming to visit them, as he paused to take a deep breath, his voice somewhat broken. “If you visit a nursing home, you will be more thankful for what you have. You will stop complaining. I said I had two strokes. After the first one, my doctor said I needed to quit drinking and smoking pot, but I didn’t listen. I recovered and ignored what he said to me. I had all these friends and everyone loved me. It felt good to feel loved. They would say to me, ‘Oh Clinton, I love you,’ then when I got sick, they forgot all about me. I never heard from them again. Then I had a second stroke. It was massive. I thought I had an asthma attack. I said to God, ‘If you give me my voice back, I will praise you, no more filth will come from my lips.’ It took sixteen years to get where I am today. I am so thankful. I can get out of the nursing home now. I won’t let this stop me,” he looked down at his partially paralyzed body, his right leg is in a brace and his right arm is supported with a device to keep his fingers from curling up. “I want to tell everyone what God has done for me. Jesus is alive. He is a true friend. Friends are a dime a dozen, but a true friend is someone I want to hold on to.” He glanced around at various people as he spoke.

“God brought me back. I didn’t do anything. So many times I wish I could get on my knees and pray. When I was able to get on my knees to pray, I never did and now I can’t. But I can still thank him and praise him. We come to church to give him thanks and praise not to criticize one another. Be thankful. We have so much to be thankful for. Be thankful for Jesus. Do you think what you are complaining about can compare to what Jesus went through? He didn’t have to do it, but he did it for us. We’re never to good to help another person. When you see me, you see Jesus. He is alive and he is your true friend and my true friend.”

Monday, August 1, 2011

Camp TAG 2011, Lasso Your Grief

I was privileged to attend Camp TAG (Teaching About Grief) for the third year in a row. Camp TAG was started to help grieving youth. The whole idea of grieving youth really disturbs me. Yet it is a reality of the world in which we live. A world in which sickness takes the lives of so many without regard to age, gender, or race. Some of the kids who attend camp have lost their moms or dads to illness, some have parents who have an addiction and others have no parents at all.

The highlight of Camp TAG is the memorial service, which this year was held on Friday July 22. During this service, we gathered in a large outdoor pavilion. There was a table set up with candles and photos of loved ones. Young campers and older campers got up to light a candle in remembrance of their loved one. There were many tears and some huddled together to comfort one another.

After the memorial service, the young campers gathered on the basketball court outside the pavilion. Each camper received a miniature hot air balloon made out of fabric. On the outside of the balloon, the camper had written a note to their loved one that they were remembering. We opened up the balloon and lit the inside fabric. Soon the balloon expanded and launched into the sky. It was exciting to see the young campers as they watched their prayers and letters ascend into the heavens.

I learned that day that the young campers weren't the only ones grieving. In fact I met a man whose son committed suicide and a woman whose son was murdered. I think everyone who attended camp was grieving in some way.

When God stepped into humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, he didn't come to be exalted. He came to suffer and share our deepest pain. He experienced it first hand when he was crucified for all our sins. Just like the miniature balloons that we sent off into the sky, Jesus Himself ascended to the Father in Heaven (Luke 24:51). However, now that He is glorified He isn't limited to any particular location. The King of the Kingdom is alive living in all those who yield to Him.  As noted by the apostle Paul:

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20 NKJV first part).

People often ask, "Where was God?" when something bad happens. But I prefer to say, "God is present wherever and whenever something good happens."  I do believe He showed up at Camp TAG living in those who yield to Christ and working through the Holy Spirit even in those who may not know it.

I look forward to the time in which children will no longer grieve. A time when children will be happy and never suffer. A time when the King and His Kingdom will reign throughout a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1-3).

The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets’ (Zechariah 8:5 NKJV).

Lord Jesus come.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Simplicity In Christ

Several months ago I thought I smelled something burning in my bedroom. I was pretty sure it was the light fixture. I climbed a ladder and took the glass cover off the fixture. I unscrewed the light bulbs and didn't smell any odor of anything burning. When I tried to screw the nut onto the screw that held the cover up, it turned along with the nut and I wasn't able to get the nut tightened over the glass cover. The screw went through a plate that was fastened to the ceiling. I put the glass cover on a table in my living room, thinking that I needed to get up in the attic to tighten the entire fixture. Several days later, I crawled around in my attic trying to find the mounting bracket for the light fixture. There is no floor in my attic, so I had to walk on a small piece of plywood that I dragged over the two by six beams. I moved along the attic by standing on the plywood that I laid on top of the two by six beams. When I walked to the end of the piece of plywood, I stepped off it and onto the two by six beams and then pulled the plywood out ahead of me. Then I walked on the plywood from the rear of it to the front it. I continued to do this for about forty feet, until I got to the place where I thought I would find the mounting brackets for the light fixture. I have cellulose insulation that covers the beams and the sheetrock ceiling and that made it difficult to locate the light fixture.

A couple of weeks later, I called my neighbor's son Payton and asked if he would come over to help me. I had him stand under the light fixture and tap on the fixture so I could find it as I crawled around the attic for the second time. He kept talking to me and tapping on the fixture and I was able to locate the electric box that the light fixture is connected to. However, there weren't any mounting brackets for the light fixture. I came down from the attic and observed the fixture for the second time. I realized that the tin plate somehow must drop down from the ceiling so that I would be able to tighten the nut behind it.  I called my cousin Mike to confirm this. He told me that everything that is holding the fixture up is below the ceiling. So yesterday I unscrewed the two screws that hold the tin plate that is mounted to the ceiling. I dropped the tin plate down from the ceiling and was able to tightened the nut that screws onto the stem and holds the glass cover in place. It took me about fifteen minutes to repair the light fixture.

After I put away my tools, I started thinking about my relationship with Jesus. Paul reminded the Corinthians that our relationship with Jesus is simple based on faith and trust in Him. Jesus Christ is everything that we need to stand on. He is the Rock that is under our feet. Our salvation is in Him. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3 NKJV).

Paul was defending the gospel of grace from those who wanted to make it complicated thinking that faith in Jesus wasn't enough. Three different times the Lord spoke to Paul and said to him:

"My grace is all you need" (2 Corinthians 12: 9 NLT).

The gospel is grace by faith in Jesus Christ. We need to keep it as simple as that.

Oh yeah and the burning smell that I thought was coming from the light fixture, turned out to be a plastic bag that I had in the room which had the smell of garlic in it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Clinton Tuck, "Keep Hope Alive"

You wouldn't think a guy who has had two strokes would have much hope, but Clinton Tuck not only has hope, he is excited about his life. (See the link at the end of this story to read more about Clinton's journey). Last week, during my visit to Shady Lawn Nursing Home, Clinton asked if I would take him with me to Trigg Manor Nursing Home to participate in their weekly prayer service. So yesterday, as I was preparing to pick him up, I thought that as long as he was going to come with me, he might as well be given the opportunity to talk to the residents and share the love of Christ with them. I know that Clinton loves Jesus and loves to encourage others.

It's not easy for Clinton to get around. I pulled around to the back of Shady Lawn Nursing Home to pick him up. He refused any help from me choosing instead to push himself forward with his left arm and left leg. I watched as he plodded along in his wheel chair. His right side is mostly paralyzed, so it takes a great deal of effort for him to get from his room to the exit ramp at the back of the building (approximately seventy-five feet). He rolled his wheelchair alongside of the front passenger door of my 1998 Toyota Camry, then I helped steady him as he lifted himself up from the wheelchair. He held onto the front door of the car while I packed the wheelchair in the trunk. Thankfully, it collapses almost like an umbrella and easily fits in. Even though the front seat of my Camry was pushed all the way back as far as it would go, I still had to help him lift and twist his legs to get them into the car.  

Trigg Manor Nursing Home is only a few miles from Shady Lawn and when we arrived there, we went through the same procedure, only in reverse, to get Clinton out of the car and into his wheelchair. I don't know that Clinton will ever get use to his struggles, but he certainly isn't a complainer.

Every Thursday we meet for prayer. All the residents at Trigg Manor are invited. On the last Thursday of the month, we also have a Bible Study. After our prayer time,  Clinton spoke to about twenty residents. Here is a summary of what he said:


I had two strokes but I didn't give up hope. We need to keep hope alive. God supplies all our needs. I was on a feeding tube, I couldn't walk-it was God who brought me where I am today. I am so thankful. We need to be thankful. We all have so much to be thankful for. We are so blessed. God loves everybody. Tell people about God and don't be ashamed of Him. Tell people about how He loves you. We all have a different story to share. Your story is different than mine.

Take one day at a time. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow isn't promised to anyone. We need to start with our children. How many of you have children? We have to leave them an example. It starts in the home. You can't blame the principal.  We need Jesus.

I am so thankful that I met Clinton Tuck. He is an inspiration to me. Sometimes it takes great hardship and suffering to recognize that all we really need in life is right before our eyes. Don't let another day pass before you come to this realization. Take what my friend Clinton says to heart. And be reminded of what the apostle Paul wrote:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18 NKJV).

Monday, July 4, 2011

God Is An Infinite Supply Of Love

Are you receiving enough love? Are you looking to fulfill your desire for love by trying to find it in another person? We as human beings crave love.

I have repented from trying to obtain love from human beings. Although I have some great friends and family members who love me, I know that the love that they have to give is limited. They cannot satisfy my most intimate need for love. How do I know this? Because they are human beings just like me. No human being can meet our need for love. God created us to need Him. In Jesus Christ, God became man so that He can share this love. He is forever united with us. God loves you and me and every human being that has ever lived.

As human beings we have expectations and sometimes we expect to receive from another person only what God can give us. Only God is an infinite supply of love. Only He can meet our deepest need for love. He is the source of love. There is freedom in understanding this truth. It helps us show grace to others who fall short of our expectations and it helps us point other human beings to Christ.

So on this Independence Day, why not experience true liberty. If you haven't done so already, why not ask Jesus to give you His love and to live His life within you. His love will meet your innermost needs and your deepest desires and will truly set you free.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

God Does Miraculous Things With Average People

Yesterday I met a woman named Jackie, a professor who wrote five textbooks. She offered me some fruit cobbler and we sat down to talk. She asked about my illness so I shared my story,"Touched By The Hand Of God" with her. Then she said, "Don't be offended, but who are you to write an autobiography?" A question I asked myself prior to writing my book. The answer is: I'm just an average Joe. But that is the basis of my story. God does some miraculous things in the lives of average people like you and me.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty 1 Cor. 1:26-27 NKJV. 

I try not to look at myself and my weaknesses, but rather focus on Christ who is working in me to accomplish his will. He is able to accomplish all things because He is God. He works in the lives of those who submit to him thereby confounding the mighty of this world. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

"F... ing" Up All The Statistics

In the words of my gastroenterologist, "You F... up all our statistics." I hate four letter words, but in this case I say, "Praise God!" God has a way of confounding the smartest men. I don't believe I had anything to do with F... ing up my doctors statistics. I actually had more to do with getting myself into the dilemma I was in.

In 2002, I was diagnosed with cancer. Later the diagnosis was changed to Crohn's Ileitis- severe inflammation of the ileum. After everything that my doctors tried failed, I ended up in ICU on life support. But God has a way of intervening in our lives when thinks look most bleak. That is exactly what He did in my case. Surely by now, after spending time on life support and surviving three major surgeries, including exploratory surgery, something would have gone wrong, but God continues to befuddle wise men everywhere.

Dr. P., my gastroenterologist, recently said to me, "Joe, I'm going to start sending all my patients to Kentucky," thinking that my move to Kentucky back in 2004 had something to do with keeping me out of the hospital. I looked him in the eyes and said, "Doctor P, it's not Kentucky. It's the peace that surpasses all understanding."

I know who rescued me from the depths of darkness and brought me into His marvelous light; while I lay in bed unconscious and the hospital staff asked my wife if she wanted to donate my organs.  It was God who reached out His hand to touch me and heal me. It was God who raised me up from my deathbed after the wisest of men failed to prevent me from becoming deathly ill.

None of us is guaranteed a long healthy life without any difficulties. In fact, life is filled with hardship, sickness and trouble. But the lesson that God has taught me is that no matter how bleak life appears to be, there is a God who is the Creator of life, who sustains all things and who desires to share eternity with human beings everywhere. He is Savior of mankind. Trust him wherever and whoever you are.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

You Must Be Born Again

The topic of being born again was brought up by none other than Jesus Christ (John 3:1-21) when Nicodemus, a religious leader, came to visit him one evening. Human beings can only bring forth more human beings, but God brings forth sons and daughters of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. The process starts when we believe in the Son of God, Jesus who came to take away our sins and live within us.

Although the body will die, the Spirit gives life. It's the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:1-17). You are in the Spirit if the Spirit of God dwells in you. If you don't have the Spirit of God, you are not a child of God. But if you are led by the Spirit of God than you are a child of God and an heir. The heir receives the inheritance, in this case the inheritance is eternal life. The slave or servant never receives the inheritance.

God never intended for us to remain the way we are. The Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world so that God could bring us into his realm, the Spirit realm-being born again is the process that makes us children of God. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Take Up Your Cross

Religion teaches blessings and cursings, but contrary to what religion teaches, Jesus taught his followers to take up the cross and follow Him. The cross is a symbol of suffering and following Christ is a life of suffering; not suffering for the bad choices we make, but suffering in Christ, because our life is in Christ. Those who live outside the United States, in hostile nations are familiar with this suffering.

In addition, the cross also symbolizes suffering with others who are sick, grieving and traveling through the valley of the shadow of death. Those who believe in the religious teaching of blessings and cursings, are setting themselves up for failed expectations. The moment something doesn't work out the way the one who believes in this teaching thought it should work out, is the moment that this one begins to doubt. They might go back and try to figure out what went wrong. They might then decide to work harder at "getting it right." After all their attempts at getting it right fail, they might then begin to question God and ask, "Why are you letting these bad things happen to me?"

The truth is God is sovereign and becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ is committing to a life of suffering. Jesus said, "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:27 NKJV). Why would one commit to a life of suffering? In the words of the Apostle Paul, "For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18 NKJV). 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dedication to my friend Clinton Tuck

Yesterday I presented Clinton with a copy of my book, "Touched By The Hand Of God." I customized it for him and put it in a loose-leaf binder. Clinton Tuck, Rod Kennedy and Ernie Hughes (now deceased) were instrumental in helping me complete my autobiography. I wasn't able to finish the book until I met these three wonderful men. I met each of them in the local nursing homes. All three have inspired me so very much that I dedicated the final chapter of my book titled, "Location, Location, Location," to them. Touched By The Hand Of God, is available in digital format at Smashwords and other online eBook retailers like Apple i Bookstore and Kindle.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

From the gospel according to Matthew 26:20-75

Based on our own love, we are just like the Apostle Peter who said (paraphrasing), "Lord I am willing to die with you." Jesus responded, "Peter how about just praying with me for an hour." Jesus went to pray and came back and there he found Peter with the other disciples, sleeping. Jesus responded, "Hello Peter, Peter, wake up Peter. Peter can you pray with me an hour?" Jesus goes away again to pray, overwhelmed with sorrow and when he returns, again He finds Peter fast asleep. Based on our own efforts to love, we all fall short and are just like Peter before He received the gift of God, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul said, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" Gal. 2:20.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Happiness Is Fleeting

Can it be that so many people are depressed today because they are trying to obtain happiness? Can happiness even be attained? It seems to me it's a never ending struggle and it's idolatry. If life is based on achieving happiness, than everything evolves around me. I focus all my efforts on being happy.  It's self centered not Christ centered. Yet we as human beings have been duped into thinking that's what life is about. Have you heard the saying,"Whatever makes you happy?" A Christ centered life is centered on Jesus Christ. The mystery of the gospel is: Christ in you the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). The gospel: Christ is in you and in me, gives us joy, a fruit of the Spirit. Joy endures forever. It's not transitory like happiness. Christ in us is long-suffering with others. Our life in Christ is about suffering with others and for others. It's the greatest love that Jesus spoke of, that a man should lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). The love of God, Christ in us, expresses Himself through long-suffering. In life most of us will experience times of happiness, sadness and grieving. Yet throughout life and into eternity we can experience joy in Christ. This is the gospel, it's good news for everyone who has ears to hear.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Is there such a thing as a successful Christian?

If there is, what does he or she look like? For a very long time I have tried to be a "successful Christian." But I believe I created a false image in my mind and without realizing it, I was practicing idolatry. Most often I was discouraged and even depressed when I didn't live up to the image of a "successful Christian." I have come to realize that a successful Christian doesn't live for his or her own happiness and isn't necessarily happy. But just maybe a successful Christian is one who knows his identity is in Christ; knows he has Divine life and knows he has been given eternal life in Christ. Maybe the successful Christian is the one who knows what Jesus Christ accomplished for him at the cross and  lives in the reality of who he is in Christ. Maybe believing the reality that we are in Christ and Christ is in us and we are one with God, means that we don't have to live up to a false image that we create for ourselves and we are free to allow Christ to live His life through us and to suffer with others as He suffered for us. Just maybe that is what a successful Christian is.

(References: The Book of Colossians, especially Col. 1:12-14,19,27; 2:9-15,20; 3:1-4,11)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Grace Walk, Dr. Steve McVey

My Review Of This Book

Dr. Steve McVey decided to leave Alabama with his family and accept a Pastoral position at a struggling church in Atlanta. In Alabama he was recognized as an "outstanding young religious leader," and he was confident in his ability to get this church turned around. However, after one year this church had declined in attendance. He learned that despite what we are taught in our culture, trying harder doesn't work in our relationship with God or in His service. God works through our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-10). Dr. McVey was brought to a place of brokenness and complete surrender (the valley of the shadow of death). It was in this place that he began to trust God and quit trying to be a Christian. He gave up trusting in his own abilities and discovered that the only One who could live the Christ life is Christ. He found his new identity in Christ; as Paul told the Corinthians (2 Cor. 5:17). He came to understand that he was no longer a sinner but a saint. He recognized his old nature was dead and he now had a new nature. The sin nature died with Jesus Christ on the cross (Gal. 2:20). Dr. McVey learned that the Christian life is easy when we let Jesus do it. We have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) and don't have to fret over trying to figure out what God's will is.

I loved this book. It is more of a book to study with questions on each chapter in the back of the book. I did the questions and didn't rush through the book. I have learned three things from Dr. McVey's teachings in Grace Walk:

1) My relationship with God is based on an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ-it's a love affair.
2) My identity is in Christ-He lives in me and expresses His love through me.
3) I have the mind of Christ. I abide in Him and no longer have to fret about knowing His will. His will comes naturally.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Jesus: Betrayed, Denied and Abandoned

Jesus was betrayed, denied and abandoned by his closest friends. So where is the love Jesus spoke of? He had just demonstrated to His disciples the difference between life in this world and life in His world. In this world the rulers rule for there own gain, but in Jesus' world, those who desire to be great must be servants of all. Jesus then took on the role of the least of servants and washed His disciples feet  (John 13). He told His disciples that He was going to leave this world and that they were not able to follow Him. He referred to them as little children because just like little children they got excited for the moment, while He was with them in the world. Peter even said He was willing to die for Jesus. Mark says all the disciples said that they were ready to die with Jesus (Mark 14:31). But none of them were. Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter denied Jesus, the other disciples abandoned Jesus.

So where is the love? The love that Jesus referred to is agapao love or God love. Agapao love can only be expressed by God. That is what Divine Life is all about (thank you Dr. Steve McVey). Agapao is expressed by God living in human beings. The fullness of God is in Christ and Christ lives in the lives of those who trust and believe in Him (Col. 1:19,27).

It's a love that transcends this world.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Resurrection, did it Really Happen?

Are you among those who don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead?  The apostle Paul said, If there is no resurrection, then Christ is not risen and if Christ is not risen, then our preaching and faith are in vain (useless or futile) and you are still in your sins (1 Cor. 15:13-14, 16-17).

The scriptures show plainly that Christ was raised from the dead. Matthew states that Jesus first of all appeared to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Mat. 28:1-10). Mark states that Mary Magdalene was the one out of whom Jesus cast seven demons and that after Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to her first. Then He appeared to two others and finally the remaining eleven disciples (Mark 15:47-16:14).

Luke states that Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and other women encountered two angels, who told them that Jesus had risen from the dead (Luke 24:1-10). The women then went to the eleven disciples, and others with them, and told them that Jesus was alive. But the disciples did not believe the women (Luke 24:9-11). Jesus met up with two believers, Cleopas and another who did not understand the resurrection (Luke 24:18). He rebuked them because of their unbelief (Luke 24:25-26). Jesus appeared to the eleven and other disciples, showing them that while He was glorified, He still had flesh and bone (Luke 24:36-40). He then ate fish and honeycomb in their sight (Luke 24:41-43).

John sates that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared first to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-17) and then to His disciples (John 20:19-20). Thomas was not with the others when Jesus appeared and would not believe their testimony. He wanted to examine the physical evidence, so Jesus appeared to him with the other disciples present. Jesus told Thomas to put his fingers into the holes in His hands and  his hands into Jesus’ side. After Thomas examined and felt the wounds of Jesus, he said, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Thank God for Thomas, who like a good lawyer, had to physically examine the evidence before he came to a logical conclusion (John 20:24-29). His testimony is more persuasive than his contemporaries. Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29). John goes on to say that “these things are written (the witnesses' testimonies) that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).

Paul states that Jesus appeared to Peter and the disciples. Then to five hundred believers at one time. Then He was seen by James and all the apostles and finally by Paul (1 Cor. 15:5-8). Chuck Swindoll, Insight for Living, said that the five hundred witnesses were not delusional. Greg Albrecht of Plain Truth Radio, stated that Jesus' disciples were transformed from cowards to (valiant, my added description) martyrs. He said that no one would give their lives for a myth.

Without the resurrection Christ is not risen and if Christ is not risen then our preaching and faith are in vain (1 Cor. 15:13-14). But Christ is risen from the dead. That is what Easter pictures and what we have just seen from the testimonies of many witnesses.  

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Having a Love Affair.

Peter was adamant. He was so sure he was ready to die with Jesus. Yet he, as foretold by Jesus, denied Christ three times (Luke 22:33-34, 54-62).

Peter made the mistake that many of us make today. He thought he was able to love,  fulfill the requirements of the law, on his own strength. Jesus knows that no human being is able to fulfill the requirements of the law of love on their own strength. That is why He came and died and rose from the dead; that He might live His life of love within each and every one of us.

After Jesus rose from the dead, He asked Peter three times, "Do you love me?" Three times Peter said he loved Jesus  (John 21:15-17). Our relationship with Jesus can be a academic experience, a religious exercise or a "love affair." Jesus wants the love affair. As a human being, Jesus is united with all of humanity. But He wants a deeper more intimate relationship with you and me. He really wants us to tell Him how much we love Him and desire Him to live within us. Invite Him today to live within you. Tell Him that you love Him more than anything or anyone. He is waiting to hear from you.

Monday, March 28, 2011

This is my Beloved Son, Hear Him Mat. 17:5

In the movie, “A Few Good Men, Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, a navy lawyer played by Tom Cruise, is defending two marines who were accused of assaulting Private William Santiago. The assault leads to Santiago’s death.

The defense believes that Lance Corporal Harold Dawson and Private Louden Downey, the two accused of the assault, took part in self policing within the ranks; self policing that is referred to as “code red.” They believe the “code red” was ordered by Colonel Nathan Jessup, played by Jack Nicholson.

Lieutenant Kaffee has Colonel Jessup on the witness stand and in an attempt to obtain the facts, screams at Jessup, “I want the truth!” Jessup yells back, “You can’t handle the truth!” Kaffee traps Jessup when he catches him in a lie. Jessup had stated that his orders were always followed and that he gave the command that Santiago was to be protected. But he also stated that Santiago was in grave danger and needed to be transferred off the base. Jessup cornered with no way out, finally admits that he ordered the “code red.”

For many the gospel of Jesus Christ has been reduced to nothing more than a religious form of the marine’s “code red.”  With the popular teachings of, “Get right or get left,’ and “Turn or burn.”

Jesus took Peter, James and John up a mountain with him. While Jesus was praying, they saw a vision of Moses, Elijah and Jesus glorified and talking about Jesus coming death on the cross. Suddenly a loud voice spoke out of a cloud saying, “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, Hear Him” (Mat. 17:5). The disciples fell on their faces in fear. But Jesus came over to them and said, “Do not be afraid.” The message from the Father is that the gospel is all about Jesus Christ, the Rock under our feet (Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:6; Isa. 28:16), not the rock on top of our heads-a religious form of “code red” that would have you believe the rock is on top of us crushing us. No the Rock Jesus is our foundation in whom we live. The gospel is not about what we need to do for Jesus, but about what Jesus came to do for us.

Two people in the New Testament heard Jesus voice and understood the gospel perhaps better than any of their contemporaries; Mary and her brother Lazarus. Mary was commended by Jesus for choosing the “one thing” that would not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42). What was the one thing that Mary did? She sat at Jesus feet and heard his word. This is much more significant than you might think. Sitting at Jesus feet has to do with recognizing Jesus as her Kinsman Redeemer. Boaz (See Ruth 1-4) was only a type of the True Kinsman Redeemer. Boaz was able to provide all of Ruth’s provision for life. But Jesus is far greater than Boaz, in that Jesus is God in the flesh and He is the True Kinsman Redeemer not just for Mary, but for all of humanity. He is our provision for salvation-all that we need.

Jesus allowed Lazarus to die of illness so that he could show his power over death. Jesus reins over death-it’s under his feet. When Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb (John 11), Lazarus had already been dead four days. He confirmed what he told Martha (John 11:25-26) that he was the Resurrection and the Life. Lazarus heard Jesus voice even though he was dead. Jesus voice is powerful enough to wake up the dead. Lazarus has not been recorded as saying one word in the scriptures, but the message that his life speaks is perhaps more powerful than any other (except for the life of Jesus) that we read about.

Mary and Lazarus show us why the Father said, “This is my Beloved Son, Hear Him.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Help Nominate Ernie Hughes Into The WWE Fan Hall Of Fame

Recently I was having a conversation with my friend Clinton Tuck and I was told that my pal Ernie Hughes was a huge WWE wrestling fan.I wish I would have known this before he died. Nevertheless, it's never too late to recognize someone whom you respect and admire. So now I am nominating Ernie into the WWE Fan Hall of Fame. With your help, we can to do this. Use this link and fill in the information on WWE's website. You can copy and paste my letter into the comment section if you would like. I sent the letter below to Vincent McMahon on Tuesday, March 15.

Please share this information with everyone you know. Thanks for your help. I know Ernie would be thrilled.

Vincent K. McMahon, Chairman & CEO
WWE Corporate Headquarters
1241 E. Main Street
Stamford, CT 06902

Dear Mr. McMahon:

I am writing on behalf of my friend Ernie Hughes who died on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 (Please see the enclosed story titled, “My Journey With Ernie" I would like to nominate Ernie Hughes to the WWE Fan Hall of Fame. Although I didn’t see such a title listed on your website, please consider creating one and making Ernie the first nominee.

Because of his disability Ernie spent most of his time in bed and the last eleven years of his life at Shady Lawn Nursing Home in Cadiz, Kentucky. However, when Friday night came along, he would “claw” his way out of bed after sleeping all day (he would actually have to be lifted out of his bed with a crane and lowered into his wheelchair) just so he could watch WWE. I don’t believe you could have had a more devoted fan.

I believe fans all around the world could relate to Ernie and his story could help you win the hearts of people whom you don’t already have as fans.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Jesus Loves And Respects Women

A twelve year old boy drew a picture of what he remembered about how his dad abused his mom. In the drawing his mother is lying on the floor and his dad is about to push a television set off the shelf on top of his mom. The boy is looking through a window and watching the abuse take place. His face is divided by a cross. He loves his mom and his dad and is confused about what to do.
The United States is called the land of the free and the home of the brave. Yet in the land of the free, every nine seconds a woman is abused by her partner (male and female). Jesus treated women with love and respect. There are many illustrations in the Bible that show that Jesus respected and loved women, but the one that demonstrates this most to me is the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11 NKJV).
In the story the religious leaders of Jesus’s day, brought a woman to Him that they said was caught in the very act of adultery. They said that Moses commanded that such women be stoned to death. They wanted to know what Jesus would do. But Jesus wrote on the ground with His finger and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Those who heard Him were convicted by their conscience and left Jesus alone with the woman. Then Jesus said to the woman, “Where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” Jesus was left alone with the woman because He is the only One without sin (Rom. 3:23). He didn’t condemn the woman. In fact He went to the cross to shed His blood for her, for you, and for me. The cross represents freedom which every human being deserves.
No one should be oppressed or held captive. Jesus came to set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18).
If you are being physically, sexually, or emotionally abused, call this number for help: In Clarksville, Tennessee 931-552-6900 otherwise call 1-866-592-6900. Someone from SafeHouse will help you. SafeHouse is a program of United Methodist Urban Ministries. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

One of the Happiest Days of My Life.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times over the past eight years I just wanted to die. I entered the valley of the shadow of death and each time I met Jesus there he carried me out. He wouldn’t leave me in that place of darkness and despair.

I spent a long time in the valley back in 2001 after witnessing the 911 attacks on New York City from a highrise office building a mile or so from ground zero. Although I wanted to reach out and stop the pending death and destruction, I was helpless to prevent it from happening.

A year later I was told I had cancer. I took pride in my health and having some serious illness was the furthest thing from my mind. I prayed all the time and I read and studied the Bible every chance I got. I wrote my prayers and scriptures in a notebook that later became my journal. Upon reading and studying Psalm 91, I “heard” the Lord speak to my heart and say, “I will sheild you with my wings, I will shelter you with my feathers.” The diagnosis was miraculously changed shortly thereafter. However, the pain that I experienced grew more intense with each passing day and I ended up in the Intensive Care Unit of Greenwich Hospital (Connecticut). I had to have surgery to remove the diseased portion of my intestine. All was thought to have gone well, but three days later, I lost consciousness. I spent the next two months fighting for my life. I remember very little from those two months. But I was told that I was very near death for a good part of that time, and even had to be resuscitated. My wife used my journal to encourage those who were my caretakers. I kept writing in my journal for encouragement and inspiration.

I didn’t think my life could get any worse, however in 2004 I got separated and then divorced. I turned again to my journal; reading, writing and editing. I started visiting those who were sick at local hospitals and nursing homes. I told them how Jesus met me in the dark place and wouldn’t leave me there. The more I told my story, the more I was inspired to go forward. I continued to write and thought that my story might encourage others who had little or no hope.

Today after many years and many revisions, I have completed my story. It’s called, “Touched By The Hand Of God.” I published it as an independent author on Smashwords. You can read a portion of the book for free. Follow this link or paste it in your browser

Thanks to Smashwords proprietary software the book can be downloaded in many different formats. I personally prefer the Mobi format which is used by Amazon Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the free Kindle for PC software by clicking this link

Another good ebook format is EPUB. It’s used on Apple devices. If you want to download the software for use on your computer, click this link
I appreciate your feedback.

Joe Radosti