“The Check Up From The Neck Up”

As I looked at some old vacation photographs, I was reminded of how hot it was that week, even for the Great Smoky Mountains. I had on shorts in the picture, and with my skinny legs, that was a rare occurrence!

In the photo, some of us were sitting on a concrete bench, trying to catch our breath on our way up to Clingmans’ Dome, the highest point in the Smokies. There’s a 16-mile drive through the forest from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to Newfound Gap, then another seven miles to the Dome. The temperature from the Gap to the Dome usually drops about 20 to 30 degrees, but on that blistering July day, the heat seemed to actually rise. And not until we reached the Dome parking area were we made aware of the quarter-mile uphill walk to the observation tower—at a 45-degree angle!

The Check Up

It was then that God decided to give me a check up from the neck up, a real-time life lesson. We were about halfway up the trail, and boy, was I complaining! “This is a National Park; surely they have the money to install some easier way to get up this hill!” I griped. “I don’t understand why they don’t have a tram to shuttle people up and down this mountain. At the very least they might offer golf carts for fat people like me. I’d be happy to pay for a ride to the top!”

Then God stepped in.

It came from behind us. Someone was laughing. No, two people were laughing, and they were laughing hysterically!

What in the name of pinecones could be so funny on this mountain? I wondered. Nothing about this was funny to me. And not only were they laughing, they were making all kinds of strange noises! Squeaking sounds, like wheels turning; and stomping sounds, like a soldier marching in combat boots.

Loving Every Minute

I turned around just in time to see a tall, lanky country boy taking long strides and almost running up the path in a pair of cowboy boots! He was pushing a wheelchair and laughing at his wife, who was having the ride of her life as they headed for the Dome.

“Excuse me sir, excuse me Ma’am,” I heard him say politely, “We’re coming through.” Then she laughed even harder.

I might add that she was no frail little thing, either, so his work was cut out for him—and he was loving every minute of it! She laughed, and he laughed, as they headed for the top of the world.

Looking for a Hole

At first, everyone on the path stood there, shocked; then they began to laugh and rejoice with the couple. I laughed a little, too—then looked for a hole to climb into and hide!

How many people around us heard me griping and complaining? I wondered. And what do I really have to nitpick over? My wife is healthy and walking by my side.

Why wasn’t he complaining? Maybe because they were too busy enjoying life to concern themselves with unimportant things. Maybe they were too much in love with each other that day to be thinking about anything else.

Perhaps that the man got up every day, looked at her, and said, “Thank God you’re alive!”

Perhaps she answered, “Thank God that I have you!” and they both laughed.

~~~

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8.

 

Pastor Hal Steenson

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“I’m A Card Keeper”

When you are number nine of ten children you learn to accept a lot of things as fact. One fact is that you will only be able to find one or two of your baby pictures. And, if you’re lucky, when your aunts die, your cousins may mail some of your family photos back to you—usually the pictures your mother sent, but now they haven’t a clue who’s who in them (and could actually care less)! The only thing they recognize in the picture is the old Buick Century your daddy drove, because back then, everybody took pictures standing in front of the family car. It was just an unwritten “Kodak Moment” rule: People, car, stand by car, take picture, mail it to distant relatives.

Another fact I learned early that has stuck with me through the years is that since I was the ninth child, birthday parties were not big blowouts. As I recall, they eventually evolved into blowing out one candle atop a cupcake lit with daddy’s Zippo lighter, and a couple of bucks to spend on candy. That is, until my first fancy birthday card—a store-bought birthday card with Superman on the front! My sister Betty Faye had started to work for Woolworth’s Five and Dime, and had bought me that birthday card and some comic books. The comics were great, but the card was awesome. I read it over and over, then read it again and again, and then hid it in my cigar treasure box.

Card Keeper, Card Reader

However, I was addicted. I not only became a card keeper, but also a card reader. In my younger years, I’d find myself in front of the Lloyd’s Drugstore card rack, reading and thinking how a few wonderful words could make my heart spring to life, when only moments before it may have been flatlined with failure and disappointment.

A real “keeper card” doesn’t have to be bodacious, and should be worded in such a way that the person reading it doesn’t need you to underline a single word, because it would distract from the others. I’ve watched in bewilderment as men approach the special occasion card rack displaying hundreds of beautiful cards, then halfheartedly pick, pay for, and intend to present a card to someone they love, when they’re not even sure what it says!

I’m a card keeper. I still have the cards Mollie gave me when we were first married. I have cards my baby sister sent me years ago for my birthday. I have a mountainous collection of refrigerator “I Love You Papa” cards from my children and grandchildren—because I know they meant it. I’m a card keeper.

Today’s e-cards are nice, but there’s just something special about waking up on Valentine morning in the same house as the one you love, and there on the kitchen counter is a card—a “keeper card” that you can pick up in your hands and allow those written words to filter through your fingers into your heart.

It’s a lot like opening up an old Bible that has become so much a part of you, and reading John 3:16 aloud to yourself: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Now there’s a Valentine “I Love You” line! And it’s a keeper because I know our Heavenly Father means it.

Why don’t you send Him an “I Love You Prayer Card?”

I’m sure He’ll keep it!  

  Pastor Hal Steenson

“Press G9 For Prayer”

Mollie and I were on vacation in the Great Smokey Mountains and we had just eaten a wonderful lunch that included a lot of onions and garlic. I needed some breath mints so I headed for the third floor of our hotel and located the snack machine. There on the bottom row was just what I needed, peppermint Lifesavers, eighty cents. The snack machine had a dollar bill changer so I pulled out a buck and carefully noted the correct number to push—I have been known to push the wrong buttons and end up with a little box of ,  or lip-balm. There was the number I needed right next to the price, G9.

Now you have to understand how my mind works, I store things that I really don’t want or need to store but I do it automatically and systematically. For me, the G stood for God and the 9 represented the 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit. So, no problem. I put in the dollar, I heard the change clink in the tray and I pushed G9 and nothing happened. I pushed G9 again and pressed the coin return several times without any results. So, what did I do? I did what anyone else would have done; I put in another dollar. However, this time the malfunctioning mint machine (by now it had sound effects and was talking and laughing at me) not only denied me of my mints; it also kept my twenty cents change. I was mad at the machine so (After being shaken a little by this irate guest,) I was about to head for the lobby.

That’s when I noticed the little sign on the snack machine stating that the hotel management was not liable or at fault for any monies lost in the vending machines and that I would have to report it to  “Joe from Kokomo!” Phooey! As I slowly walked back to my room in an garlic cloud, I pondered with a much higher intelligence than the menacing machine that the G must not have stood for God and the 9 had nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. (I Think)

It was during that short walk however, that I learned a goodly and godly life lesson. That life lesson was that sometimes we treat God like I treated that vending machine.

1. We locate what we want from God by looking through the window of   His Word.

2. We find a Scripture number verse to back us up (G9).

3. Then we put our prayer into the little prayer slot and press G9.

4. Next, we are unable to accept or explain the reasons why nothing happens and our G9 prayers aren’t answered.

5. We are mad at the management because our prayers weren’t answered but we failed to read the little sign, “Management is not responsible for unanswered prayer, and the problem is never with God.”

God is not a prayer “Vending” machine and there are no G9 prayers. God is Love and He is patiently waiting to answer our prayers, but not because of any buttons we push but because … The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16

  Pastor Hal Steenson

“Salty Christians”

Jesus told parables or stories to illustrate important truths, and since I’ve always loved stories, here’s one I would like to share:

A baby camel asked his mother why he had two wide, funny-looking toes and she responded that they were given by God to help him walk through the desert sand without sinking. He then asked her why he had such long bushy eyebrows, and she told him God gave them to him to keep the desert wind from blowing the harsh sand into his eyes and blinding him.

“Well then, what are these funny-looking humps on our backs for?” he asked.

“Those are our food supply, so we can travel for days and miles across the barren desert without dying of hunger,” she replied.

“But Mom, may I ask you one more question?”

“Sure son, what is it?”

“What are we doing in the zoo?”

Believers Are Salt and Light

The Bible says, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Matthew 5:13

When Jesus shared this illustration, it was obvious to His disciples what He was referring to by mentioning salt. They knew salt was a preservative and that without it, much of humanity would not have survived. As fishermen, several of His disciples had used salt to preserve their catch, keeping the fish from spoiling before they got them to market. They would take the salt, hand rub it onto the fish, then cover the entire catch with salt as much as possible.

However, Jesus goes on to say that if salt loses its preserving power, it is good for nothing, and will be thrown out and trampled under the foot of men. I believe it’s safe to say that Jesus was telling them, “It is you and all the true, future, salty Christians that will help preserve the earth. All of you will be rubbed into and poured upon this world as salt and light, and you will become known as those who are willing to take a stand against evil. Without you—the preserving salt of the earth—the world will become corrupt and decay.”

Then He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15.

The Zoo?

Sadly, salty Christians can lose their savor if they turn the public-social gospel into a self-centered gospel, and use the church like a zoo! They gather in holy huddles and ask the pastor to salt them down so they can make it through the week—inaccessible to the world. At that point, the gospel that should be shared with the world becomes isolated, the salt loses its savor, the light in them no longer shines, and the world will no longer be drawn to Jesus. The Great Commission becomes the great omission!

It’s okay to love the zoo, enjoy the zoo, attend the zoo, and fellowship in the huddle. However, Jesus didn’t call us to live there. And come to think of it, He never commissioned the world to go to the zoo, but commissioned the zoo to go to the world, instead!

So, can I ask a question? What are so many Christians doing huddling at the zoo?

  Pastor Hal Steenson

“The Ultimate Door To Door Salesman”

I was old enough to read but I didn’t know what the word “Solicitor” meant. It was a daring sign on a neighbor’s front door and it said, “No Solicitors.” I asked my mother what it stood for and she told me they didn’t want any door-to-door salesmen bothering them. So I stayed away from that house on several occasions during my youth when school, Scouts or paper route promotions called for a knock on their door. I didn’t want to be thought of as a solicitor and certainly not a door-to-door salesman.

I have to admit that it must have been that little sign that put a bad taste in my mouth for door-to-door salesmen and I was glad to see them go the way of the dinosaur. It had been years since one had actually knocked on my door and attempted to make a pitch for their product—that is until the early morning of November 8, 1976 at 6am when I heard one knocking. It was early for a salesman, but I had been waiting for this particular one for almost 20 years and this time I was ready to listen. So I asked, “What do you want sir?” I heard Him say through the door, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:18-20

He had knocked at my door once before at the tender age of eight, knocking patiently–calling my name and asking me to open the door. I had called out, “Come in,” but He just stood outside the door knocking and telling me what He had to offer. I grew tired of listening and turned away from Him refusing to open the door. It wasn’t until several years later that I saw Warner Sallman’s picture of Christ standing at the cottage door knocking, wanting to come in and even many more years before I realize there wasn’t a door handle on the outside of the door in that picture. The door could only be opened from the inside. My door could only be opened by me.

On that chilly November morning in 1976, I opened the door and the ultimate door-to-door salesman walked into my life and  began to clothe me with His glorious wares. He anointed me with gold representing the pure nature of the Father. He covered me with His white raiment of righteousness that my sins might be forever forgotten and he anointed my eyes with the Holy Spirit that I might see and understand that His Word is for both instruction and correction. I repented, He forgave; we supped.

Today Christ still stands at the door of men’s hearts and knocks. It must break His heart to know He has accomplished all in His power to provide love, mercy and eternal life for every individual behind every door and yet He has no power to open that door on His own. It will take you, body, soul and spirit totally surrendered to Him to turn that handle. I urge you to take down your “No Solicitors” sign and open your heart’s door to Christ and invite the Ultimate Savior in to sup with you.

  Pastor Hal Steenson

“A Time–Share God”

Mollie and I were in Branson, Missouri on a weekend getaway. We had taken this little excursion on the condition that we would tour a time-share condo–while the condo was beautiful, the price was not. We would be able to use the condo two weeks out of the year, but with our schedule, God only knew exactly when those two weeks would be. To me, it seemed like buying a new car, making the payments on it, and paying for yearly maintenance—only to have someone else drive it for 50 weeks out of the year!

While we were there, we met up with some old friends from Florida and started catching up. They were excited about the big revival they had just attended in Brownsville, Florida. All they could talk about was what God was doing there. The services were lasting until after midnight, and people were staying and praying around the clock. People were coming from all over the world and being impacted by the Holy Spirit in a mighty way. Miracles and healings were everyday occurrences and it was glorious!

However, I couldn’t help but ask them, “What about Toronto? The last time we saw you, the big revival was going on in Toronto, Canada, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” they said, “but it fizzled out.”

“God fizzled out?” I asked.

Their answer was that it was time for God to move on. The time for revival there was over, and now it was Florida’s turn for God’s presence and the moving of the Holy Spirit.

Their Turn

It almost took my breath as I sat there, puzzled in my heart. Wow, is God like this time-share condo—one part of the country gets Him for a while and then another part gets their turn? Down through ages, history records the accounts of the mighty outpourings of God—of countries, cities, and hamlets that shut everything down for the cause of Christ. However, there’s not one mention of God ever fizzling out! The bit in the mouth of every revival came from the bridle of man.

The world needs God, but we need a full-time God! God will stop being a time-share God when His people awaken to their need for continuous revival and stop expecting a twice-a-year touch from Him.

I Noticed It

After returning to work, I was updating my new 2012 desk calendar and adding carry over appointments from 2011–this was when I noticed it. There were two weeks blocked out, one in May and one in September with the words, Campmeeting! Although I didn’t buy into the time-share condo, I had unwittingly settled for a time-share God in 2011. What I had considered appalling was staring blatantly up at me from my desk calendar. I wondered which other people, churches and other ministries were enjoying the presence of my precious Lord the other 50 weeks when my time-share was over.

A New Commitment  

This was where I made a new commitment to myself and to my Lord–I will set up a permanent residence with Him just as He has done with me. I must stop settling for a time-share God a couple of weeks out of the year and start hungering for the time when His presence is overflowing and everlasting. I will pray as never before for a worldwide revival and believe that because Christ died for the sins of the world, He can have a worldwide revival for the repentance of those sins. I will pray that no matter how many miles may separate communities or countries, whether it’s in Australia or America, our God can be in both places changing lives. Isaiah 2:2 says, “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.”

At the bottom of my 2012 desk calendar I drew a line blocking out the entire year and penned, Lord help me not to Fizzle Out! Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” You may want to check your 2012 calendar to see if you have your two weeks scheduled for your share of God.

   Pastor Hal Steenson

“Go See What Is Available”

Mark 6: 34-38 And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.

Jesus already knew what He had to work with—five little barley loaves and two small fish. However, what he was verifying was the “Who” He had to work with. His disciples were concerned about the people and their hunger, while Jesus was more interested in proving the disciples’ willingness to present what was available to their Lord. It turned out that Phillip did not even consider the little lunch they found available to be worthwhile, but Andrew anticipated the thought of Jesus doing a lot with just a little.

The boy was from a poor family because the loaves were made of paltry barley and the fish were probably the size and variety of smoked sardines. Nonetheless, Andrew approached him about his meager lunch, the small amount that would feed over five thousand people. Andrew didn’t search through the multitude to find the biggest bounty; Jesus had said, “Go see what is Available,” and what he found was that scanty amount.

The Scripture is silent on how Andrew may have asked for the meal, but I do not believe the boy hesitated when he was approached. I believe he was overjoyed with the prospect of Jesus needing his food. I believe that not only did the child make his lunch available; he also made his life available. He may have said, “Yes sir, the Master may have my food, in fact, the Master may have all of me to use any way He desires.” Jesus saw fit to take, pray and break that humble offering and feed the entire mass of men, women and children.

Wouldn’t it be great to think that the twelve baskets of leftovers gathered by the disciples actually became a processional that followed the child though the streets of his village? What if they stopped in front of his house with the baskets filled with fish and bread and watched him as he invited everyone in his neighborhood to come and dine on the “All you can eat Free Buffet,” compliments of Jesus.

Jesus is still telling His disciples to “Go and see what is Available.” So, if you’re approached and asked to give what you have for the cause of Christ, you may just be the next little child of God that witnesses yet another miracle for the multitudes because you made what you had available.

  Pastor Hal Steenson