I see friends in real pain and hurting around me.

And I hear the promise of the Word of God:

John 14:13-17 NKJV

“And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”

So we might ask ourselves a few questions when we have prayed and “asked in His name”, yet we have not seen the “that I will do” part.

I might ask myself things like,

  • “Am I ‘praying’ or ‘asking in His name’ wrongly?”
  • “Am I expecting Him to do it in my own imperfect way or timeline — when His way and His time is better and perfect?”
  • “Is what I’m asking for not going to bring glory to the Father in the Son?”
  • “Am I hindering His prayers on my behalf because I do not love Him and I am not keeping His commandments?”
  • “Have I not been given this spirit of truth that will abide with me forever?”
  • “Is God slow to answer?”
  • “Does God really care about me?”
  • “Does God even exist?”

Those last questions can even feel scary to put down on paper if we have a genuine fear of God — but He knows that these are real questions and doubts that people have in their hearts. So it does us no good to hide them in the shadows.

I wonder how often we are satisfied with rattling these doubts around in our minds but we have been unwilling to bring our petitions to God?

I wonder how often we have been satisfied with taking our requests to God — but not truly speaking the promises in His name, loving Him, eagerly living His commandments, and wrestling with Him over how we might reconcile His promises and what we do not yet see. Yes, this is the life of hope in what is not yet seen — that we walk by faith in what we have seen and already know about Him.

I wonder how many of us have feared a wrestling match with the Almighty, and we have avoided even coming into His courts? Is it because we thought that we might be unwelcome, that we might be unworthy, that we might find an angry God who does not love us but only demands and take from us?

I love how so many encounters between the spiritual and mankind start out with something like “Do not be afraid”.

The door is open. Will we enter into real prayer? Into calling on His Name, into speaking His Word and His promises, into a willingness to wrestle in an active, conversational, confessional, powerful, personal, connected prayer life? Or will we be satisfied with running off to do our own thing with what God has given us like a prodigal — maybe even forgetting to send God a “text and a selfie” type of prayer once in a while just to “check in” — instead of wanting Him involved and engaged as part of our lives?

Shelter and Rest

There is a shelter where we can find rest, and it isn’t lifting ourselves higher and higher, struggling to climb a ladder. The higher a man thrusts himself up a ladder, or the higher he tries to stand up on the backs of others, the more spectacular his eventual fall will be.

But a man who knows his humble part in something bigger, a man who is grateful for being a part of a vision and purpose that is greater than himself — that is a similar type of rest and protection as what us children find living in the shelter and the shadow of the Lord.

But even great causes, even great callings, and even great opportunities are not the firm foundation or the protection that us children will find in the Almighty. He alone is God, and trusting Him is a shelter and place of safety that cannot be taken away from us.

If you don’t know him,
if you don’t even believe that He is real,
if you have laughed at silly people who talk to their “invisible sky daddy”,
if you have thought that “those brainwashed people” are just following some man-made religion —
I personally invite you to come to Him,
Not an invitation to come to me,
not an invitation to join my church,
Not an invitation to follow me,
Not an invitation to be indoctrinated,
But an invitation to meet Him —
And to decide for yourself whether or not He is good.

Please don’t mishear my invitation,
Even wearing the right outfit,
and getting together on the right days,
and doing the right things,
And saying the right things,
And talking about Him,
And calling yourself by His name,
And doing things in His name,
Is NOT the same thing,
As knowing Him and trusting Him,
And Him knowing you.

So this invitation goes out to the white washed religious zealots (who are dead and rotting inside) just as strongly as to those unaware and whose seed has not yet sprouted.

The invitation is to turn to God. You might not even know yet or believe what He might touch and make better. Or you might be very educated “about” the Lord, but there is no life in your scholarly efforts and you need your life to produce fruit from His source of life, not just from your own efforts. No matter the reason that you need oil for your lamp, you are invited so don’t delay. You don’t have to clean yourself up first, come as you are. He is God and knows even better than us what we need. He is not far away, He is near.

Doing Our Work

Until recently, much of what I’ve written and recorded on here has been generously peppered with Christian vernacular and religious terms. I’m guessing partly because I was trying to confirm that what I believe and what the Holy Spirit teaches and guides me through has been tested and proven. I could use religious terminology and concepts with my pastor and ministry friends to help nail down the topics that we were discussing, contemplating, encouraging, and holding each other accountable.

Dropping quotes and scripture references and religious terms in the midst of my sentences can help make it clear to my Christian brothers and sisters that “I’m one of them” and serve as a common ground to communicate more complex (admittedly sometimes “high minded”) Christian concepts and ideas quickly — in rapid fire sermons, teachings, monologs, etc. And we can quickly go down the rabbit hole into deeper theological discussions by pointing to these terms and concepts while leading scholars and theologians of various levels down familiar and agreed upon roads of ages upon logic and reasoning.

But I’ve found that using these types of “foreign language” can create walls and be a hindrance when my audience is not “good Sunday pew setters” and “Bible thumpers” (yes, those derogatory terms are used for sarcastic effect). And I see the example of Jesus/Yeshua’s “preaching with authority” in His sermon on the mount that starts in Matthew 5. And I see the examples of His parables.

Jesus/Yeshua didn’t follow the same “rabbinical reading of the scriptures” and “explaining what the scriptures meant” to the people that they were used to. That familiarity of the people with a certain type of teaching/preaching seems to parallel what I find many of the expositional preaching and hermeneutics books that I’ve read and been recommended over the years by basis religious teachers and friends. While using the scripture as a source of authority works if I’m dealing with people who have already accepted the Bible as the Word of God — repeating “the Bible says” and using only a stream of religious terms that a non-religious audience wouldn’t understand doesn’t seem to me to be the example that He gives me. As much as I love the high minded theological debates and flowing streams of big religious terminology and references that inflate my teachings into what I might feel are “more worthy” and eloquent masterpieces and beautiful patchwork quilts in the style of Spurgeon, etc. The example that He gives me seems quite different than my self-taught Bible College courses might have impressed upon me more. Maybe this is my own fault and what I was drawn to, not a systemic issue for the trade of prophets and teachers. The use of “ply their trade” in the rebuke of false prophets and false priests in Jeremiah 14:18 in the ESV leaps off of the page in a way of describing the more common “walking/roving around in a land that they don’t understand” — does seem to be a great warning about the dangers of speaking about God versus speaking from the call of God and by the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit.

So in a way, my study, my writing, my worship is returning to my first love. I am returning to a focus on the precepts. I am cleaning my house and my vocabulary from focusing on the terms and references that clearly signal my virtue as a “well studied religious teacher” so that I might sit myself down as a student — to learn,and speak, and think, and live as His example leads me.

I am repenting from seeking the affirmation and attention of long pickled jars instead of harvesting cucumbers. I am repenting from being lukewarm and comfortable in the audience and on the stage one day a week with “all the good Christian people” — instead of uncomfortably challenged every day in the dark places bringing light and hope where the doctor is needed (by not just THEM, but desperately by ME even more).

I wonder how much it would trouble the embedded religious order of the day greatly if the congregants took the love of Jesus into the gay bars, into the strip clubs, into the places of pornography, into the drag shows, into to drug dealers, addicts and whores in the trap houses, into the jails, into the prisons, into the house of the rich and the poor man, into the pro-choice and the pro-abortionist, into the Democrat and the Republican, into the Christian Nationalist and the immigrant/refugee, into the flag waving “the South shall rise again” redneck and the Antifa flag waving “defund the police” militant, into those whose home dinner tables are just as segregated today as they would have been under Jim Crow laws then and to those woke enough to hate all white men and blame them for everything wrong as a victim rather than take ownership and move forward as a champion, etc. and brought all of them into the storehouse together?

Maybe the same struggles between cultures and weaknesses and imperfections and immaturity that we see in the churches in Paul’s letters that people wag their fingers and tongue at today (from one side or the other) are exactly the kind of thorn we need in our own side, for us to be humbled, and “our own ministry” to be of any use to God as truly “His ministry”?

Lord, I can’t say that I know exactly where we are going with this. But I know that you are calling for change, for a return to the heart of worship, for a casting side of everything that hinders. I need you desperately in order to not make a complete mess of this. You are my strength. Keep me close to you and in your will, so that I won’t distract, hinder or stumble any who might taste and know that you are good. Amen.

Why would I resist my desires?

Now why in the world would we resist temptation? If I have a desire (of something I want), why don’t I just go get it, and fulfill my desire? Well, not all desires are healthy or good for you. In fact, a lot of the strongest desires will produce more debt in your life, more pain in your life, more poison in your life than the momentary fulfillment.

Harold “Hop” Ballinger, Good Morning Friends, January 27, 2023

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

James 1:14-15 NLT

What are we looking for and seeing around us?

The self-righteous seek out and find in others and the world around them the evidence of sin and imperfection so that they can act as if they are better.

The humble and contrite know and confess their own weaknesses and imperfections easily and sell and find the evidence of God in the people and world around them.

These two perspectives are very different and produce a different attitude in people towards one another. Teaching this distinction is what art Jesus apart from the religious leaders of His day, and is still today what sets apart walking with God in The Way from practicing religion.

The songs “Where could I go but to the Lord”, “I can’t even walk without You holding my hand”, and “Why Me Lord” come to mind. Also this story Jesus taught  recorded in the book of Luke:

“Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 18:10‭-‬14 NLT

Lord, be merciful to me. I have sinned against you and against so many. Help me to be a blessing and not a curse to all those around me, and help me to see you and praise and worship you for all of it. Amen.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

I was watching a Twitch stream of a friend playing last night when the streamer asked us viewers, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

There were all kinds of answers that flooded the chat immediately, but the two fastest answers were “a good father” and “a good friend”. If this had been a high noon, western shootout between two lone gunmen, I would have been dead because that first answer of ” a good father” rang true and resonated with me.

That first answer of “a good father” IS extremely important to me as well, but it seemed a bit too isolated after a second glance because I also want to be a good “husband”, “neighbor”, etc. However, all of those types of answers have a “positional” limitation to them.  Being “a good father” means that I might be great with my children, but says nothing of how I might treat my wife, my neighbors, my colleagues and even my enemies.

My answer of “a good friend” felt like it was less preferential/ exclusive, but it still doesn’t cover being good in my essential being — not just doing no harm to others, but (as much as possible) doing good even to those who might try to do harm to me. That to me sounds like someone who is mature and “grown up”.

I want to be patient and kind; to not envy or boast; to not be arrogant or rude. I don’t want to insist on my own way; I don’t want to be irritable or resentful; I don’t want to celebrate wrongdoing or be unmerciful to people who have done wrong; but I want celebrate what is good, and fair, and just, and is the truth. I want my life to be loud in good, generous, even sacrificial actions towards everyone around me and quieter about myself.

As I recently watched someone ranting about how “Christians” can be like disrespectful, pushy recruiters when they bring up their religion to other people in competely non-religious settings — that also resonated significantly with me (because I’ve seen the ugly side of overzealous yet cold and unloving evangelism that Jesus speaks out against in His seering words in Matthew 23). Hypocrisy is ugly (and clearly “not good”) no matter your culture, background, religion, or beliefs. I would hope that none of us hope to grow up to be a hypocrite. However, life experience tells us that either some people do, or some people “never grow up”. I feel the second option there is the more likely culprit.

So maybe the topic (the underlying precept and principle here) is immaturity. And “immaturity” reveals its ugly head in many different ways, to all of us, everyday – right?

Someone doesn’t put their cart away at the grocery store? Immaturity. 

Someone acts like a Karen when they don’t get their way? Immaturity.

Someone tries to convince you to believe what they say they believe — but you can tell even at a first glance that their life’s actions, or how they spend their money, or how they spend their time, or how they treat strangers and people unlike themselves is not good?

Here’s a twist.  You might expect me to lump this one in there with an excuse of “immaturity”, but I’m not. Because that would be a cop out. It’s one thing if you’re out there just representing your own name and reputation and character by advertising your own immaturity with foolish behavior.

But what about people who say they are “representatives of their god”?

What about people who insist “their god” is “the only god” and “everyone else is wrong and going to hell”?

There is something clearly wrong in rude and hateful people trying to “sign people up” for their exclusive little clubs using fear, emotional manipulation, and oppression — and the wide history of religious atrocities by one group against another shows us this clear and present danger.

But what if amongst all the lies and the hypocrisy, there is a truth?

A truth that is unique amongst a sea of lies and imposters?

Or maybe a single underlying and unique true precept that people have gotten twisted up into a mix of opposing feelings and opinions based on their own immature understanding, culture, traditions, feelings, and personalities.

So we might best look at the precepts, right? We might look at what people actually believe and how they live, rather than how well they have memorized or can quote their group’s documentation?

I can open up my checkbook register and add up the different ways I’ve spent my money in the last 6 months. That would give us all insight into what I truly believe and what is truly the most important to me.

I can log my time on a calendar by category and add it up. That would give us all insight into what I truly believe and what is truly the most important to me.

You could poll every neighbor and online follower and coworker to score me in categories like patience, kindness, humility, envy, ego, arrogance, rudeness, irritability, integrity, generosity, fairness and justice — and that would give us all insight into what I truly believe and what is truly the most important to me.

I don’t expect that any of us who went through the above 3 exercises — accounting for our money, our time, and our relationships — would score a perfectly mature 100% in every category. And I get the feeling that some folks’ religious dogma and traditions and practices are actually a detriment to us aligning the reality of our lives with the precepts we want to believe. This is evidence of hypocrisy, of immaturity, at its core.

When I grow up, I want to be mature.

I want to have obtained the full measure of the most valuable precepts. And these most valuable precepts are all meant to produce the greatest value for those around me — not just stack up money, properties, experiences, and enjoyment for myself.

I look at how Jesus didn’t just stand around quoting scripture and law but He revealed valuable precept after precept in parables and stories where they had to be sought and found — even though the precepts themselves are clear enough that a young child could understand if they truly listened.

I look at how Jesus went out to the people and revealed valuable precept after precept in how He lived and served and sacrificed on behalf of others in need.

And I know personally how He has touched my life and shown me the value of choosing to truly believe and live out these precepts myself.

I’m still growing up. I hope you are too, my friends!

Lord, I haven’t gone this way before. Hold my hand?

I tried something new tonight. I live streamed interactively on YouTube, FacebookLive, LinkedIn, and Twitch all at the same time.





I hope to eventually add Tiktok and Instagram as well. People on any platform can type questions or comments live in the chat, and I can answer them live.

I’ve done various pre-recorded videos in the past, but the amount of time that I would spend in post-production to try and make everything look and sound right just wasn’t sustainable as a one man team.

Plus, I feel like a prerecorded video is better if I have a specific topic that I’ve studied deeply and have a polished “teaching” message to deliver and to keep a record of long term.

But my intention with live interaction is to just hang out, in an imperfect, unpolished, and unpracticed setting. I want to be genuine and inviting as a person someone might want to talk to or get to know — not as much focused on wanting others to listen to what I have to say. It’s a subtle difference from what I’ve done in the past. And it seems to be more about making myself available and stretching myself to honest and transparent discussions “off the cuff”.

There are plenty of theologians and preachers out there with recorded lessons and sermons to watch — and I have a high school degree, no seminary, and less than a decade of intentional and focused study in The Word. I’m not going to share anything new that hasn’t already been said by one of them, and I sure wouldn’t want to tackle difficult topics and confuse or hinder someone (because even my best of intentions still fall short of perfection this side of glory).

So instead of just “teaching” or gathering others to “listen to me” — I want to make myself available to “listen” and to “interact” (if possible as a friend and a personal connection — on equal footing, not as a leader or teacher up on a stage).

It’s just something different that the Lord has laid on my heart. I still enjoy writing, singing, studying, etc. But I have little interest in debating theological positions if I can instead love people and share with them why I love God. I guess each person has their part in the body, and this is the donkey that He has me chasing. Lol!

Today’s YouVersion Bible app verse and devotional was definitely timely:

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

Watch Jeremiah 29:11 by Luis Palau Association:

REVIEW: Chasing Donkeys, Dwayne Morris

“…he had an affection for people who were searching for their identity in things that were neither healthy nor safe.” – Dwayne Morris, Chasing Donkeys, Chapter 1

These words really hit home for me.

Ever since Jesus touched and changed my life 10 years ago, I have NOT been drawn to spend time with the “religious” and the “churched” that are a part of the many Southern religious traditions where I grew up.

But I have been drawn to make friends and spend time with people who might be labeled names like “homeless”, “addict”, “criminal”, “thief”, “foreigner”, “black”, “asian”, “immigrant”, “illegal”, “muslim”, “gay”, “lesbian”, “homosexual”, “stripper”, “prostitute”, “porn star”, “drunk”, “drug dealer”, “abortionist”, “transvestite”, “divorced”, “orphan”, “widow”, “grieving”, etc. — that clearly do NOT fit into the nice little cookie cutter conforming box of what I thought that White Evangelical Southern Baptist Republican Christianity looked like.

Dwayne continues a page later with “just another guy who loved Jesus and people, especially those who were searching for purpose, but in all the wrong places”. And while some might focus on the words “all the wrong places” as being somehow judgmental — I know what he is getting to here. I’ve tried so many unhealthy and unsafe things myself and excluded others who “weren’t like me” before I realized those were all the wrong places. So, I can’t fault anyone for ending up in the wrong places too, can I?

He continues just a paragraph later with “his passion for people who were living life far from God”, and it was another confirmation that maybe I’m not so uniquely “insane” in my passion and my drive to be close to people who probably don’t agree with or believe what I believe. And it is almost scary to admit that I am not passionate about being close to them in order to “convert them to my religion”, or to “change their mind”, or “win them over to Christ”. I just feel compelled to offer them my love and my friendship — without the judgement, or condemnation, or persecution, or vitriol that they have come to expect from “religious people”. I truly don’t know whether they will see the love of Christ that lives in me, and I truly don’t know if they will ever consider getting to know this Jesus that I know and love. But He rescued me and has filled me with a spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control that is so different than the self-righteous hypocrisy that most unbelievers would attribute to “religion”. My heart hopes that maybe, just maybe, He might reveal Himself to them. And even if He doesn’t, what better gift could I give them than my friendship, if they do not yet have His.

I don’t know that anyone would ever think this of me personally about my Jesus, but when Dwayne says on just the next page “it marked him as one who clearly loved the Lord Jesus Christ”, my heart soared at the thought that my love for the Lord might be so utterly foolish and naive to an unbeliever — yet still so undeniable. Even if they pity me for my belief in something so childishly foolish, maybe they might envy me just the slightest for what love it produces towards them in my life?

And several pages later on page 26, I get to the man’s asking “I need to know more about that Jesus you were talking about…” and the opportunity that came of “talked with Ricky for an hour and a half about what Jesus Christ meant to him”. Many would focus on “eventually guided Ricky in a prayer…”, but I can tell you truthfully that I’m more excited about the “getting to tell what Jesus means to me part”. Because the Lord is going to do what He is going to do, when He is going to do it, when it comes down to someone “surrendering their life”. He doesn’t need my help in that department, and I sure don’t need to act like I should get any credit for any part of it. But to get to genuinely open my heart up about how good He has been to me? That is so very precious, my friends.

So just like Dwayne shares a paragraph later, I too am “just trying to follow the greatest commandments of loving God and loving people”. If you see me sharing scripture or talking about Him, I honestly can’t help it — I just love that He loves me. And He loves YOU TOO.

Check out Dwayne’s book, Chasing Donkeys on Amazon

I’m still reading it myself, and so far, it has really been a blessing.

I Hear You, Lord

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

Revelation 3:20 NLT

Some great insight on Revelation 3:20  by Pierre Du Plessis – The Father’s House:

A great worship song that we can soak into while contemplating and lifting our prayer:

I want Jesus to be my first love. I have played Gomer far too many times in my walk and have been distracted far too many times by my own complacency and life’s circumstances. My grief has overtaken me at times and so has my doubt. Other times it has simply been my lack of love for those He loves. I have walked through too many of my days awake yet asleep, treating time as if each breath wasn’t precious but could be wasted or overlooked — letting the oil in my lamp go too long without fresh oil being poured.

Lord, help me — your wandering Lamb who can’t even walk without holding your hand. I have not been a great warrior in every battle. I have not done great wonders in your name with each opportunity before me. I have not been a great, shining example of your love and a hope to all those in need around me.

Yet, I have seen you work even through someone like me, and I know You can do it again, and that You will finish the work that You have started. I do not need men to remember me or my name. But if even through my weaknesses and my many failures they might see that your flame burns bright within this house — they will know Your mercy and Your grace, and see Your glory, and long to know You. Amen.

Thanks Giving

We slept late and didn’t start moving around until almost 7AM, but the beautiful sky was still there when we woke up this morning. I love how it is uniquely and beautifully painted each morning.

This morning, the blue greys of a cold winter morning behind the naked limbs of all the trees wasn’t flashy or striking — yet it made me slow down and consider how unique and beautiful it is. Like fingerprints and like people, each sky is unique — it even changes moment by moment throughout any given day. And depending on where you are standing on the earth, even at the same moment, we will see a different yet lovely sky.

We may not love every type of weather that comes from the sky. The rain might spoil our outdoor plans for the day. Or the snow might create shoveling work for us. But it all serves its purpose, even while the sky is doing its work dressed quite stunningly.

Today is a day about giving thanks. So I thought to myself and I wondered about folks who don’t believe in a creator, an architect, a painter of the skies. If they have decided it is all chaos, then what room does that leave for thanks? Do they thank themselves? Do they thank their friends, or the parents that birthed their closest friends? Or thank the individual clouds that might in a moment later be raindrops and later be a puddle on the ground? Or thank the sun the moon and the stars? Or is it a thankless life because “it just is the way that it is”? Or are they blind to the beauty of it all? Or do they thank chaos itself?

It was a curious thing for me to think about, so I was thankful to be able to consider and try to understand and appreciate what their perspective might be this Thanksgiving morning. For me, thanks giving isn’t just a one out of 365 day event — it is a way of life. And thanks giving isn’t an obligation as if my God demanded my worship. No, I can see so much blessing in my life that I can’t help but give praise.

In fact, when I’ve missed out on praise and thankfulness and worship, it isn’t God who has lost out on receiving anything, it is me because I didn’t even recognize the blessing so that I could appreciate and learn from it and grow. Blessings aren’t just a bright and sunny day of prosperity and my desires fulfilled immediately. Even the dark, stormy challenges in life bring us blessing, whether or not we are willing to see it and appreciate it.

My God has done all these wonderful things, and I am grateful. And that gratitude — that closeness to Him — is even more of a blessing than the things He gives throughout my life in order to reveal Himself to me.

I pray that you have so much to be thankful for every day, my friends!