In Taxing Times

The tax cut that changed everything

With all the talk of tax cuts and the ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas…’ and ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas’ barrage, I had a moment of insight today. The airwaves are rife with talk of student loan debt confiscatory taxes, political intrigue, back door deals…and the beat goes on… and, in the midst of it all… Christmas. Think with me for a moment about the first Christmas

Joseph, an ordinary man, by most accounts no one special, has been dealing with the fact that there is a rumor of scandal surrounding his young bride. Enduring what must have been terrible gossip and off balance due to the fact that both he and his wife had been visited by the angel of the Lord and told that the Child Mary carried would be called Emmanuel—God With Us They were told that He would be the long awaited Messiah.

Anyone would understand that they must have been puzzled and perhaps even anxious about it all. Surely their part in God’s plan would be somehow made comfortable. But wait a minute, the government just mandated that Joseph take his teenage pregnant wife who was in her last stage of pregnancy, put her on a donkey and travel to his home town and be registered….SO THEY CAN TAX HIM EVEN MORE. This may be one of the first data mining schemes in history.

We forget sometimes that Joseph and Mary weren’t posing for a Currier and Ives Print. They weren’t taking selfies. It was an arduous, dangerous journey. While they were there the time came for the young woman to give birth.

No family…no friends…no Manheim Steamroller music…

Nothing but the sound of farm animals for the little family. They were truly living in taxing times, but this must have seemed to them too much even for the Romans to expect. But theirs was a heavenly perspective. The angel of the Lord had spoken to each of them, independently of each other, that this child was coming to pay the debt and to save us all from our sins. He was to be God in the flesh, and their part was to endure taxing times to see to it that He would be exactly where He should be, and this task began by getting this family to Bethlehem because it had been prophesied.

They raised the boy under the occupation of the Romans…They watched as God’s plan began to unfold. Joseph just dropped out of the picture; having done his part to advance God’s kingdom. His obituary would read Joseph of Nazareth, Carpenter. Mary would live to see her Son raise the dead and heal the sick. She would also have a mother’s worst nightmare, has she watched helplessly as her son died a tortuous death.

Above the Cross on which he was nailed, there was nailed His Sentence INRI This is Jesus the King of the Jews. It was considered treason for the Jews to have a King. Ironically the political leaders of the Jews rejected Jesus and taunted Him as He was dying.

I was struck by another headline the other day. Beneath the tax cut story was a picture of the U.S Ambassador to the United Nations. Ambassador Haley was defending the actions of President Trump in his announcement that the U.S recognizes that Jerusalem is the capital of the nation of Israel. Virtually the whole world voted to censure the United Sates. Iran, we now learn was given U.S. aid to develop a nuclear weapon the they have continually vowed to use on Israel.

Talk about taxing times!

Just before He gave up His spirit on the Cross. Jesus cried out, “IT IS FINISHED”. The Greek word used in the Scripture is Tetelestai…It means the debt has been paid in full. The real problem in our world is not political or economic…it is the fact that we are all of us sinners who need a savior. That savior is Jesus. Throughout the entire history of men on this planet there have been taxing times. The answer always was and always will be, that we can only be reconciled to a Holy God by having our debts forgiven, and our souls made fit for eternity through the sacrifice of the Son of God on the Cross.

From now on, when I see the initials IRS… instead of swallowing the usual lump in my throat…In my mind I will write over it INRI and remember that Jesus was born in taxing times died in taxing times and has promised to come back…only next time it will be as King of Kings and Lord of Lords

Halleluiah to The King! Christ Jesus is Born!



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Home for the Holidays

This particular season is full of possibilities and fraught with peril. There are expectations and trepidation. One definition of trepidation is “A feeling of fear or agitation about something that may happen…” Some look forward to family ‘get-togethers’. Others dread them. In this post, I want to share a message I preached Sunday, November 26th.

I titled the message Home for the Holidays and I contrast nostalgia with the legitimate longing for home that Christians experience at this time of the year

It is my earnest prayer that you may not only experience hope… but that you will find joy as we focus on what God’s Word promises us about our true ‘Home”

Dr. J


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My Reformation Story

“If I profess with loudest voice and the clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God’s Word except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking…I am not confessing Christ…however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved…and to  be steady on all battlefields beside is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at the one point.”      Martin Luther

As we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I chose this quote by Martin Luther to focus our attention our attention on why the Reformation was necessary. There were many  reasons for Luther’s decision, but for our purposes let’s focus on what I see to be the main issue—how we must be saved. In Luther’s day the Catholic Church had broad sweeping power both politically and spiritually. The power to excommunicate both individuals and whole regions was used to effectively threaten dissidents, and consign offenders to Hell.

The sale of indulgences had reached the point where people were actually made to believe that they could purchase ‘time off’ from purgatory with financial contributions. Salvation by faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross alone was subverted to faith in the intermediaries’ dogma and traditions of men.

This is a deeply personal issue for me. I was raised Catholic, and did my best to adhere to the teachings and the authority of the church. In the midst of a tumultuous time in my life…my second year of University. I experienced something that changed me forever.

Some background and context is in order…

In 1969 a number of things took place

  • Woodstock
  • The Beatles release of Abbey Road…their final album
  • The Draft was initiated
  • Charles Manson initiated Helter Skelter
  • The first Walmart opened
  • My father died unexpectedly at age 54
  • I left home for the first time to attend the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

The week I was to leave for the Academy in July of 1969, My dad broke his hip. While in the hospital he developed a pulmonary embolism and died within a few days. I left after his burial and my oldest brother dropped me off at Kings Point New York to begin Plebe Summer.

I hadn’t slept through the night for days. I hadn’t even begun to process what just happened at home when the initial, intentional pressure of a plebe summer began in earnest. Within a few days of sleeplessness and pressure, the worst possible thing happened (from my perspective)…Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon!

Because the Academy staff were federal employees, they were treated to a day off to honor the historic achievement of Apollo 11. Our training was suspended for the day and we were ‘allowed’ to stay by ourselves in our rooms. That night on the tip of Long Island above the shimmering ocean I looked up at the moon and couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that someone was walking on it. Having a day to sit by myself and ponder the death of my dad, my own radically different and stressful circumstance, and now an event of cosmic proportions…coupled with my lack of sleep… took its toll.

An upper classman began yelling and told to me to brace up against the bulkhead. That’s all I remember. When I came to, I didn’t know where I was. I looked to my right and there was a young man with what appeared to be a stump with a bloody dressing. To my left was another young man with half his face badly injured. I didn’t know where I was and began to shake uncontrollably.

I pulled the covers over my head and began what turned out to be one of the most important prayers I ever prayed. “Oh God, help me. I feel like I’m losing my grip and I’m afraid. Please help me….I want to know you…”

A nurse gave me a shot and I slept for what felt like forever. When I woke I learned that I was taken to a Public Service Hospital on Staten Island, and those injured men were Viet Nam War casualties. An officer from the Academy, accompanied by a chaplain, came and told me I had an Acute Anxiety Attack and has passed out. They told me that I could attempt to rejoin the class, but that I was already behind. They gave me that option and also the option to resign my commission and return home. I was so confused and exhausted, I decided to go home.

Once I was back home feeling a mixture of relief and shame for having somehow failed everyone, I launched into University studies and got a full time job at of all places, a mental hospital. I also began to drink heavily and withdraw from people.

After over a year of this routine I was told by one of my friends. “You ought to quit that job, you’re really getting weird, That hospital is all you talk about.” For the only time in my life I quit a job before having secured another one.

For months I didn’t see any of my orderly buddies from the hospital. I was feeling a little dejected. We had worked closely together and now no one was calling me. I also ran low on money and couldn’t make my car payment. If I didn’t come up with $104.00, they were going to repossess my car. And to top it off I couldn’t find another job. The last place I called was a Rehabilitation Hospital named Hillside Hospital that took care of people with spinal injuries. The HR lady told me “I’ll keep your resume’, but let me be frank. We have next to no turnover here and there are at least three applications  ahead of yours.”

About this time, out of nowhere I received an invitation by a high school acquaintance to hear a protestant minister speak . I said yes fully expecting that I would find an excuse to not go. I ended up going and was surprised, to say the least, at what I saw and heard. What struck me was the fact that there was so much bible throughout the whole service. I didn’t own a bible and I had never darkened the door of a protestant church…I kept going for a number of weeks.

One Sunday night, there were over five hundred people there, but it may as well just been me that the Lord was reaching. The pastor said “Are you tired of trying to be good enough? Are you tired of always falling short? Have you ever personally prayed a prayer like this? “Dear Lord, I believe what you say in your Word. I acknowledge that I am a sinner, and that when Jesus died on that cross He did it for me. I repent. Forgive me based on Jesus’ sacrifice for me. Come in to my heart Lord Jesus.”

I walked down the aisle and dropped to my knees and prayed that prayer. All I can say is that when I stumbled back to my seat I knew that I had been born again.

The next day, I woke up with a calm and a peace that I had never known. It was going to be a stressful day, for I received a notice that this morning someone was coming to repossess the car. While I was at the university that morning I heard someone call out my name…

”Hey Jenkins slow down…” (It was an orderly friend from the mental hospital) “Hey man, where have you been…we couldn’t find your phone number and have  been trying to get a hold of you. All the guys are asking about you.” I was greatly encouraged.

Later that morning at home, while I was waiting for them to come and get the car, I heard the mailbox on our porch close. I leafed through the letters and there was one from the University Bursar’s office. Now I have to admit that I had no idea what a bursar was. I just knew it had to do with money. In fact I assumed that it was going to be some sort of letter of dismissal from the school

The letter said, “Dear Mr. Jenkins, Our office has determined that two semesters ago there was an error to do with one of your grants. Please accept this remittance to you in the amount of $104.00.” (not $103 not $105….104.00!)

While still trembling… with that letter in my hand… the phone rang

“Hello Mr. Jenkins This is Hillside Hospital calling. A very strange thing happened today. All three men ahead of you called the personnel office and withdrew their applications. We have an opening. Can you start this Monday?”

I dropped to my knees. Now I can’t say that my walk with God has always been this dramatic, but I have never doubted the importance of what happened that day. I have lived a life I could never have imagined. I have worn out three or four Bibles.

So on this 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation I can say two things confidently.

I am thankful for my upbringing in a church that acknowledges the God of the Bible, and for parents that cared enough to see to it that I went to church. I am aware that there are some Catholics who are born again and look to the Word of God.

I am also eternally grateful for Martin Luther and the other reformers who cared enough to risk their lives to point out that the Bible is for everyone and that each of us can call out to God, trust and rely upon the shed blood of Jesus and experience new birth.

“Heaven and earth shall pass away”, said Jesus, “but My Word shall never pass away”

To God be the glory, great things He hath done.


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How We Get to Be Key People

man key

I haven’t posted anything on this blog since March. More on that subject later. For now I want to wrap up what originally was intended to be a series of posts on the subject of “Key People.” If you go back and see the previous posts. You will find that I was in a hardware store once and that I brought a key that I wanted to get copied.

As the man set out to make the copy, be began to give me a tutorial on the process. He said , “Now the first step is to present a blank.” He then took a blank key from the little carousel.

“Now you’ll notice that this looks like a real key but it is useless in that there are no teeth in it. He then went on to take my key and the blank and to screw them onto the machine. “Make sure that the blank is locked in  for the entire process or else the key will be ruined.”

Next he said, “Now people say it wrong, keys are not made…they are CUT. Everything that cut this one will now cut the copy”. By now an entire series of messages was forming in my mind.

After the cutting was done, the man said, “Now you can’t pick this up yet because there are sharp edges that will cut you worse than a paper cut. We need to use the next step….grinding off the rough edges.“ You might want to wear eye protection”, he warned, “This is when the sparks fly!”

After the grinder he then used a buffer to finish the process. (see my last post)

“There” he crowed….”All done… Now everything that the original key could open this new one can open.” I thought of how sharing in the sufferings of Christ is part and parcel of our attempts to minister  in His Name.

I remembered the account of Saul of Tarsus getting knocked to the ground and blinded before God could use Him. He was given instructions to go to a man named Ananias. This man was all too aware of Saul’s reputation as a brutal persecutor of Christians. The Lord spoke to Ananias and said, “I will show him how much he (Saul) will suffer for my Name’s sake.”

Throughout this whole encounter at the hardware store I kept thinking that realizing our potential as Key People in the Lord’s kingdom involves the same steps

  • Present a blank
  • Get and stay ‘locked in’ for the entire process
  • There will be cutting…i.e. sharing in the sufferings of Christ
  • There will be grinding and sparks will fly in order to deal with the rough edges in our lives
  • There will be storms too and we will be buffeted…
  • Finally, the experiences of all these processes will make us people the Lord can use.

As I took my newly cut key to the checkout, the man said one more thing.

“Do you know what we call the process?”

“No” I replied….”

“Being keyed to the master” he said.


I said I was going to come back to the subject of why I haven’t posted anything since March. I am in the process of a great ‘Reset’ in my life. I am going to go through all the comments on this site most of which have been spam…or worse. I got tired of sifting through all those replies. I am going to start fresh and invite you to join me in this ‘return to the default settings’ process.

The Jude 3 Fellowship is needed now more than ever. I am going to get the help I need to make the site more effective and accessible. Will you prayerfully consider partnering with me financially? You can make a one time donation to The Jude 3 Evangelistic Association or you can donate monthly so that I can get this message about the trustworthiness of God’s Word to as many people as possible. Just use the DONATE button. I am available for speaking engagements and conferences and retreats and may be reached at

Thank You.

Dr. J.

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Key people need to be “Buffeted”



I know that this series on Key people has been interrupted a few times and  there has been an obvious irregularity to the posts. I want to tell you that the reason for the sporadic postings is a personal issue that I will briefly address.

Truth be known I got discouraged.

I’m not proud to admit that, nor am I ashamed to tell you that I have been taking a long look at the Jude 3 Fellowship and why I started it and what has and hasn’t happened since its inception.

Originally my expectation was that once I completed my book,  Fatal Drift…Is The Church Losing Its Anchor? I would be traveling around the country doing interviews and book signings and most important of all…I would be speaking at churches.

Now I must say that I have spoken at some churches, and some para church groups but on the whole I just didn’t seem to get the message of the book out sufficiently to create some momentum.

Frankly the publishers gave me the impression that they would arrange for the book to get into bookstores and would arrange for signings and publicity. As it turned out they merely got it on distribution lists and did no marketing at all.

That being said, I can report that once I actually get in front of a congregation, there is is great interest in the topic. Since I don’t have a staff or and clerical support, it is left to me to administrate, and contact pastors, and to try and get interviewed on the radio.

So for now, I am going to try and be more regular in my posts in this venue and trust that the Lord will get me where He wants me to go.

Now back to the topic of “Key People”. So far, we have talked about the process of making a key:

  1. Present a blank
  2. Get “Locked in” for the entire process
  3. Keys are “Cut” not made
  4. The sharp edges have to go though the Grinding process to take off any rough edges
  5. Once the grinder has done its work then the key must be “buffeted

Now I put the word Buffeted in italics because when the man at the hardware store was giving me a tutorial on how keys are cut, he made mistake. I am sure he meant to say “Once the blank had been cut, and ground, it still need to be “BUFFED.”

When he said buffeted, I knew that I once heard that word used in the  Bible. It is used to describe someone who is being tossed about in a wind storm or pounded by the waves of a storm-tossed sea.

To become a Key person is to submit to a process and stay locked in to a regime that involves periodic seasons in which you and I are buffeted….storm-tossed….or generally caught up in a whirlwind. In seasons like these, the last vestiges of the sharp edges are literally blown away.

Job’s children were all killed when a strong wind knocked down the house in which they were celebrating. Yet it is also by means of the whirlwind that God Almighty eventually speaks to Job.

The office of the pastor/teacher involves preparing people for the inevitable storms of life

“And he gave… some to be pastors and teachers ‘to equip the saints for the work of the ministry…that we be no longer babes; tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine…by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming…” Ephesians 4:9-14

I don’t know about you but I feel like the church is in the midst of storms right now. I took great comfort from reading Psalm 107: 25-30. I hope you will too…

“For He spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away.

They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits’ ends. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble and He brought them out of their distress.

He stilled the storm to a whisper the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm and he guided them to their desired haven.”

Buffeting is not punishment. It’s necessary preparation. Going through a storm or being buffeted by the waves is not to prove your strength or bravery…it is to teach you and I dependence upon the One Who can calm any storm by the word of His mouth.

Calm me down Lord. I trust You that I will get to a safe haven. Amen.


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The Hack


Note: I am interrupting the series on Key People due to the urgency of what follows

On March 3rd…. Coming to theater near you

The Shack

the shack

This past weekend I had to privilege to speak at a colleague’s church in Junction City Oregon. I titled the message “The Hack.” I preached about the whole issue of what the late Francis Schaeffer called ‘True Truth.” Millions of people have read The Shack, a novel by William Paul Young.

I had the privilege of meeting with Dr. James DeYoung, a Seminary professor who wrote the book Burning Down the Shack. Dr. De Young was a close colleague and neighbor to the author of The Shack, and his (De Young’s) book chronicles the intentionality behind the runaway best seller. William Paul Young, years before publishing The Shack, wrote and defended a paper to do with the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation. The Shack represents his effort to get us all to reconsider the very nature of Godburning down the shack

Universal Reconciliation basically asserts that if there is a Hell, it is not for punishment but rather a place of adjustment and purging from which all, even the Devil and the Fallen Angels, will one day make it to heaven. I challenge anyone reading this to try and square that notion with the Bible…particularly Jesus’ own remarks.

In my message, I next talked about how these progressive notions have infiltrated the church. I told the sad story about the late Francis Schaeffer, whose book The Great Evangelical Disaster (1984) was eerily prescient and predicted the very struggle in which we now find ourselves embroiled.

Another author named Schaeffer wrote a book that has subtitle in which be bids ‘farewell to God’ and announces he has abandoned his faith. Yes that’s right… Francis Schaeffer’s son basically refutes his father’s important work and says the following.

“I’m glad for my dad’s blessed hypocrisy”

Frankie Schaeffer in an interview offers this telling glimpse into his attitude. The Huffington Post described him this way,

Frank Schaeffer is a New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen books. Frank is a survivor of both polio and an evangelical/fundamentalist childhood, an acclaimed writer who overcame severe dyslexia, a home-schooled and self-taught documentary movie director, a feature film director of four low budget Hollywood features Frank has described as “pretty terrible.” He is also an acclaimed author of fiction and nonfiction and an artist with a loyal following of international collectors who own many of his paintings. Frank has been a frequent guest on the Rachel Maddow Show on NBC, has appeared on Oprah, been interviewed by Terri Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air and appeared on the Today Show, BBC News and many other media outlets.

Frank Schaeffer in an interview is blunt as he describes his motivation for writing his book, Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God.

One of my aims is to unhook them from the Bible as something to follow instead of their conscience…I want to introduce the younger evangelicals to the idea that they have to re-calibrate their loyalty. They can live by the Bible or live by Jesus. They can’t do both.”

Frankie Schaeffer also appeared with Emergent ChuMcClarenrch guru Brian McClaren.

McClaren in his book Everything Must Change called for a moratorium on anyone even discussing gender issues. He neglected however to mention (the New York Times did…) that he had already ‘presided over‘ the union of his son with another man.

Emergent Church guru Rob Bell, whose book Love Wins made the case that there is no Hell (at least not the one talked about in the Bible.) is yet another writer who sold lots of books. (By the way… Bell left the pastorate after hitting the mother lode and now has a program on Oprah Winfrey’s network) Bell is on record as saying,

“We shape our God… and then our God shapes us”

So, why did I title my message The Hack? Listen to this definition of Hacking.

Computer hacking refers to the practice of modifying or altering computer software and hardware to accomplish a goal that is considered to be outside of the creator’s original objective. Those individuals who engage in computer hacking activities are typically referred to as “hackers.”

Let me close with this. Do you think that The Shack and the writings of Frankie Schaeffer and Brian McClaren, and Rob Bell accurately reflect the Bible? The next question is reasonable to ask. So why then are Christians raving about the upcoming movie?

Please visit the website of King’s Grace Fellowship (Junction City Oregon) Later this week they will post a podcast of the message I preached last Sunday. I go into much greater detail. For now, it is my purpose to alert you that this movie will make a big splash and believers are already confused as to what to make of it. It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit (a.k.a. The Spirit of Truth) will guide you in your response.


Dr. J.


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The Grinder

metal filingsEver suffer a paper cut? For such a small wound to cause such discomfort is quite remarkable. I worked in a metal fabrication shop for a while when I was in college. I discovered something else at least as miserable as a paper cut…a metal shavings cut.

After the machinists were through, I would be tasked with handling the shavings left over from the fabrication process… a tiny, almost invisible metal shaving can cause an annoying, miserably painful cut.  It’s impossible to handle these miniature razor blades with your bare hands. Even with the proper gloves you can still get cut.

In previous articles I have been talking about what it means to be a ‘key person’ in such a time as this. To recap, we talked about the whole notion of being a key person—that the world’s definition of a key person has to do with traits or abilities that make one indispensable. To be a ‘key person’ in God’s economy of things, however, is the opposite. To become a key person (like the first step in copying a key) the first thing is to ‘present a blank.’

The next step in making a key (or a key person} is to get and to stay ‘locked in for the entire process.’ You will remember that I wrote that if the blank key is not locked in, once the cutting starts—things will spin out of control and the key will be ruined.

Next I brought up an important point. As I watched a man make a copy of a key for me in my local hardware store. the man said. “Keys are not made—they’re Cut.” He went on,

“Now that the blank is locked in…everything that has cut the one key will now cut the blank.” The motor whirred—the metal was cut and sure enough, the blank became a replica of the original.

My hardware tutor now said,

“Put on these safety glasses—This is when the sparks fly. You can’t handle the new key yet…until the sharp edges are ground off. It’s time for the Grinder.” He was right. Sparks did fly as the grinding tool removed the sharp edges.sparks flying

What I offer next for your consideration is an observation that it has taken a lifetime to get my head around. It is not possible to become a key person in the Hand of God without experiencing the grinder of accountability. “As iron sharpeneth iron, so one man sharpeneth the countenance of his brother.” (Proverbs 27:17) We each of us and all of us have sharp edges that can only be dealt with by interacting with others—even if the sparks fly!

When I attended the Basic Course for Navy Chaplains, our training consisted of chaplain specific skills and protocols and military training, such as

  • the proper wearing of uniforms
  • military courtesies
  • military justice
  • And drilling (marching in formation) Lots of drilling…

I considered myself to be somewhat athletic and coordinated. I was stunned to learn that it is not so easy to take a rag tag group of ministers and priests and train them to function as one unit. I was surprised to learn that sheer repetition—in tandem with others– is the only way to learn to move as a unit…all the while listening for the next command…the command to march and the command to halt…and the command to change direction.

The paved area where we practiced drilled was called “The Grinder.” As we neared the end of our basic training, it was rewarding to no longer hear many feet randomly hitting the pavement, but one footfall, one unit in sync and intentionally listening for the next command.

To be a key person is to be one who has an attitude of submission. “Be subject to one another” said the Apostle Paul. The Greek word translated ‘subject’ is actually a military term meaning “finding one’s place in ranks.”

Is there anyone who has served in the military who does not remember the command “Dress right…Dress”?  You immediately line up directly behind the man in front of you and extend your right hand to the right to insure proper spacing and alignment with those next to you.

My hardware store Guru closed his tutorial on the Grinder with this. “Now that the sharp edges have been ground off, you can handle it.”

Here is an exercise that may help us to see how the Lord uses people to deal with our sharp edges. Next time you are in church. Imagine the pastor saying “Dress right dress!” Then picture yourself lining up behind someone you might not usually associate with. Then extend your arm to the right and realize that you are in ranks with some other people you might not ‘prefer…’

Then as the pastor preaches the Word of God, remember that we read in Hebrews, “The Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword; piercing to the division of joints and marrow, soul and spirit… discerning the thoughts and the intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

That sort of truth can either cut you, or carve an image in you. I guess which outcome results has a lot to do with how we receive it.


Dr. J.

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My best friend went to heaven


Note: This is the message I ‘shared’ on the occasion of the home-going of my dear friend Pastor Larry Johnson

My name is Jim Jenkins and I was supposed to be conducting this service today. Due to Ice storms in Oregon where I live and glitches in airline reservations I am not able to be there today. I’ve asked his daughter Melissa to read this.  Before she begins, she will say,”Please turn to the person next to you and say ‘Praise God…I’ve heard Jim preach before…and he goes on forever…even longer than Larry!’”

As I thought on what I may say on this occasion, the movie It’s a Wonderful Life came to mind

What follows is the back story you may not have known about the star, Jimmy Stewart and the Director Frank Capra.

The 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life is now a Christmas classic… It was the first movie actor James Stewart made when he returned home after serving as a pilot in World War II. His military service was an experience that left him adrift and not without psychological fallout.

Author Robert Matzen writes about this postwar period in the actor’s career in the new nonfiction book, Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe, and said that during the course of his research, he spoke with “the guys that flew with him, who told me about the fact that he went flak-happy on a couple of occasions – which means, shell shock, battle fatigue, what we now know as PTSD. He wasn’t afraid of bombs or bullets. He was afraid of making a mistake and causing someone to die. That was his endless stress, and that’s what ended up grounding him.”

Which is to say that much of movie character George Bailey’s angst was, to some extent, Stewart’s own. Before agreeing to do the film with director Frank Capra (recently back from the war himself), he considered quitting acting altogether.

It’s a Wonderful Life helped set him back on a path in Hollywood.

“The war had changed Jim down to the molecular level,” Matzen writes. “He could never begin to articulate what those four-and-a-half years, including 15 months in combat, had done to him. One thing he could do was express a bit of it on-screen.”

The following is an edited conversation with Matzen about Stewart and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Q: When did Stewart return stateside after the war?

A: He flew his final mission at the end of February 1945 and he was grounded because of his PTSD issues and then he came back at the end of August.

He returned to Indiana, Pennsylvania, where his parents lived and he’s home for a week or 10 days and realises, “I have to go back and face Hollywood. I’ve been away for five years, other people are taking my roles.” There’s a whole new generation of leading men that are younger or more vital, and he didn’t know where he fit anymore.

So he goes back to Hollywood and has no place to even live – he lives with Henry Fonda, who offers him a room. Fonda had just come back from the Pacific, and they both just sort of unwound and didn’t get any job offers. The only job offer Stewart had was, Louis B. Mayer, his old boss at MGM, said, “Let’s do The Jimmy Stewart Story – we can show you flying over Frankfurt, we can show you as a military hero.” And Stewart said no. He wouldn’t talk about it.

Q: Why wasn’t he getting job offers?

A: He came back looking like hell. There’s a before-and-after photo in the book that shows him in 1942 looking all youthful, and then in 1944 looking like hell. And now there were stars like Gregory Peck who were getting roles he might have gotten.

 But it was only a couple of months until Capra called with this idea of It’s a Wonderful Life.

The back story here is that Stewart, very publicly, when he got back from the war was asked, “If you’re going to make a picture now, what do you want to make?” And he said, “A comedy, I have to make a comedy. The world has seen too much trauma and horror and suffering.”

So when Capra calls, Stewart gets his agent, Lew Wasserman, and they sit down with Capra, who tries to tell them the story, telling him about this role and how only Stewart can do it and it’s about a guy who wants to commit suicide. And Stewart’s like, “Well, wait a minute. That’s not what I want to do.”

Q: What was it like on set, since it sounds like Stewart was a reluctant participant?

A: Capra (Who had some severe PTSD of his own; having filmed the atrocities of the death camps and the horrors of war) had supreme confidence in this story. Stewart not so much, but he got on board with it. It was this sense of, “This is our last shot. Hollywood went on without us, we’re not getting any younger, and if this bombs after we’ve both been away for five years …”

They started shooting at the beginning of ’46 and it was a long shoot, it went into June. It was a very expensive, exhaustive production. It cost $3 million to make the thing.


Q: Was Stewart also on edge because he was still working through some of his PTSD?

 A: Oh, absolutely. At this point, he had just started to eat again. He always had a high metabolism and always had trouble digesting food, and during the war it got worse and worse. He himself said that the only thing he subsisted on was peanut butter and ice cream. He just hadn’t been able keep food down. Now he’s starting to gain weight. But he’s still having nightmares and the shakes and the sweats. He’s got some hearing loss now, from the sound of the bombers on those seven-, eight-hour missions. So now you have an actor who, it’s not easy for him to hear his cues.

 Q: He wasn’t of the Method actor generation, but it sounds like he was, intentionally or not, drawing from his life in that performance, especially those scenes that reveal how untethered or frantic George Bailey is feeling.

 A: It was a personal and professional risk, playing that role. While he was making that film, he was questioning the superficiality of Hollywood and acting in general, and Lionel Barrymore (who plays Mr. Potter) said to him, “So, are you saying it’s more worthwhile to drop bombs on people than to entertain them?” And that really hit Stewart and was one of the things that turned him around and made him think, “OK, I do have an important role and there are things to be done.”

 Another writer talked of Stewart and George Bailey and the inevitable similarities

George was frustrated over his unrealized youthful goals which he thought would have made a world of difference. What appeared to him and a few others as commonplace and routine was just the opposite. Then Angel Clarence gives him heavenly help at the critical moment.

The connection becomes unmistakable between George Bailey and Jesus’ explanation of the last judgement in Matthew 25. We can picture George someday surely standing there among the sheep asking Jesus, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or see you thirsty and give you drink? When did we welcome you away from home or clothe you in your nakedness? When did we visit you when you were ill or in prison?”


And the answer George would get hear: “I assure you, as often as you did it for one of my least brothers” — the people in Bedford Falls like Ernie the cabdriver and Burt the cop who came to the Bailey Savings and Loan; the immigrant families over whose heads you put a roof; the misguided like Violet to whom you gave a helping hand without thought of repayment; bumblers like Uncle Billy who you treated with patience and love; those ill like Zuzu who you cheered and uplifted; those whose lives you saved like Old Man Gower and you kid brother Harry; and the Bailey family that you sacrificed for — “you did it for me.”

But before that George is blessed. Clarence the angel shows him what the town would be like and how others would have suffered if he’d gotten his wish and were never born. Psalm 91 was taking over — “For to his angels he has given command over you, that they guard you in all your ways. Upon their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”

That’s not all.

Decades later, Stewart recalled the moment eventually leading to the revelation. In that scene, George believes his life is a shambles, and he’s on the point of despair. Yet deep inside him there’s a spark of insistent hope

Stewart explained that he followed the script, pleading, “God…God…dear Father in heaven…I’m at the end of my rope. Show me the way.” And as he said this, Stewart said he “felt the loneliness of people who had nowhere to turn,” and his “eyes filled with tears.”

“I broke down sobbing,” he said. “This was not planned at all, but the power of that prayer, the realization that our Father in Heaven is there to help the hopeless, had reduced me to tears.”

The spontaneity stayed. Director Frank Capra worked hard to transform the unscripted, unrepeatable, heartfelt honesty into a telling close-up of that moment in the story.

Years later it also brought to mind how Psalm 91 ends: “He shall call upon me and I will answer him, I will be with him in distress; I will deliver him and glorify him; with length of days I will gratify him and will show him my salvation.”

Capra, the Norman Rockwell of movies, explained in detail what he had wanted to accomplish in It’s a Wonderful Life. One major goal was “to show…that each man’s life touches so many other lives.” Though in his isolation and desolation George Bailey didn’t know it, that’s exactly why the townspeople were at the very same moment praying for him.


It also reflected Capra’s major ideas and intentions in making movies.

“I will show the overcoming of doubts, the courageous renewal of faith,” he wrote in a book, “…and I will remind the little man that his mission on earth is to advance spiritually…my films must let every man, woman, and child know that God loves them, and that I love them, and that peace and salvation become a reality only when they all learn to love each other.”

The prayers of the Bedford Falls townspeople that Christmas Eve were answered. George gets the rare gift of seeing that his supposedly commonplace, routine life has truly been a wonderful life — a life that’s tremendously helped make others’ everyday, ordinary lives shine as worthwhile and wonderful too.


So, who was this Larry Johnson

  • Known frequenter of donut shops
  • Dachshunds fanatic
  • The one who honored WWII veterans by opening their meetings with invocations he took weeks to prepare
  • The one with such respect for Civil War history that he bought uniforms to re-enact Civil War battles
  • And with brother Ron… Shot Stonewall Jackson (See Gods and Generals)
  • The one holding the hands of parishioners as they died
  • Who held babies and children as their parents were being were arrested in the middle of the night
  • Who cried every time a police Officer was killed in the line of duty
  • Who prepared to preach with a care and study worthy of Charles Spurgeon
  • Who stared down Cancer and followed His Lord to the end

Who’s Larry Johnson?

It’s easy…sometime over this Christmas season lift a glass and give a toast…

“To Larry Johnson… The richest man in the world”

Dr. J.



Sources Cited

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Keys are “Cut”

We have been posting a series of articles to do with the subject Key People at the End of the Age. We began by talking about the popular view that so called ’key people’ are somehow, by virtue of their education, or pedigree or skills or innate character traits, deemed to be indispensable. Hopefully I showed why that notion is not compatible with the kingdom of God

No, a key person in the Kingdom of God—especially in days like these which very well could be the end of the age referred to in the Bible–must go through some things. So we come to the process of how keys are made. What is the process and what is the significance of each part of the process?

First we talked about Presenting a Blank. Next we talked about the absolutely necessity of staying locked in for entire process. Today I’d like to meditate on the idea that keys are cut not made. Made speaks of fabrication and human creativity. Cut refers to conformity and the external actions of God that produce character.

When I originally went to the hardware store to get a key made or copied, the man went out of his way to explain every step of the process in great detail. It was no different when it came to this step. He said “You originally asked me to make a key. Allow me to correct you. Keys are not made they are cut. Once the key is locked in, then the cutting takes place. Everything that cut this key will cut the blank to make the new one…the copy if you will.key-cut

The sound of a key being cut reminds me of the sound the dentist’s drill makes when he or she gets deep into drilling a molar…a different bit is used and it makes horrible sound. The dentist will (if one whines like a small child as I am wont to do) explain that this drilling is necessary before the filling takes place. That’ll preach!

Why, I have often wondered, is it necessary for us to suffer?

C.S. Lewis in his book The Problem of Pain wrote,

“Let Him but sheathe that sword for a moment and I behave like a puppy when the hated bath is over—I shake myself as dry as I can and race off to reacquire my comfortable dirtiness, if not in the nearest manure heap, at least in the nearest flower bed. And that is why tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.”

Lewis’s mentor, George MacDonald wrote

“The Son of Man came not that men might not suffer but that our sufferings might be like His…”

“Tribulation worketh…” wrote the Apostle Paul. Tribulation (Thlibow in the Greek) means to be forced through a narrow opening. It is the word the ancients used to describe a mother’s birth canal No one could ever argue that there is no suffering in childbirth. No, for new life to begin, there must be contractions, pain and anguish… in order that new life can be birthed.

Some things no longer fit… for instance the umbilical cord that connected (past tense) the baby to its mother… No, now the child must face the trauma of birth to breathe the new air of the new realm into which it has been born. So it is with suffering or cutting. To release or reveal the diamond the diamond cutter must take his hammer to the rough-cut stone that will yield the precious stone.

To be a key person, we must share in the sufferings of Christ. “It has been granted to you to suffer” said the Apostle Peter. Paul, his second letter to the Corinthians, said that our ability to be any comfort to others is contingent on our own experience of God’s comfort…as we suffer.

I have noticed it to be true in ministry, that often what I share about my own sufferings is the very touch point by which the Lord uses the lessons of suffering in my life to comfort another. One of the most powerful experiences I had at Ground Zero occurred when we as chaplains were tasked with accompanying family members who lost loved ones on Sept. 11th to the actual “Pile”… to see the only real grave their loved ones would have.

On the very first trip, the Mayor’s point person for caring for family members introduced the team that would accompany these grieving family members to see the horror that was Ground Zero. As Lt.Telesco,  a psychologist with the NYPD, told the group of fifty family member on that first trip.

“There is one other group of folks that are going to make this trip with you” She then introduce a goup of survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing. These folks traveled to New York at their own expense to be with you today…because they understood that they above anyone else might know something of what you feel today.”

Wow! It was like a warm blanked being placed on you as you lay on the Emergency room gurney.

To be a key person in such a time as this will, of a necessity, involve suffering and tribulation. We can grouse at it, whine about it, or embrace it. If we are locked in to the process, The Holy Spirit will help us.

Remember the incident in the Bible where Jesus used a coin to teach his disciples a lesson.  One of them picked up a coin. Jesus said, “Whose image is on it?” “Caesar’s” they replied. Well then said Jesus, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”

The word translated image is derived for a root word Karaktehr from which we get our word character. It means literally to carve or stamp an image into a medium using a sharp instrument. Sounds like ‘cutting’ doesn’t it? Even Jesus Learned obedience through the things He suffered

T.S. Eliot wrote a powerful poem

The wounded surgeon plies the steel

That questions the distempered part

And beneath the bleeding hands we see

The sharp compassion of the healer’s art

Resolving the enigma of the fever chart

To be a Key Person in days like these it is necessary that we must suffer and “share in the sufferings of Christ in order that the we might share in his glory” (Romans 8:17)

I close with the words to a chorus we used to sing

Make me like you

Make me like you

You are a servant

Make me one too

Lord I am willing

Do what You must do

To make me like You Lord make me like You


Dr. J.


A reminder that we are fast approaching the end of the year… which means this is the time for you to make any charitable donations in order to claim them on your taxes. Won’t you prayerfully consider a donation to the Jude 3 Fellowship? I would love to begin to conduct chapel services and seminars all around the country. This of course requires a budget. If you are interested, please hit the DONATE button below. Thank you. The mailing address of the Jude 3 Evangelistic Association is

P.O. Box 667, Monmouth, OR 97361


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Locked in For the Entire Process

This is part three of a series of posts I’ve titled Key People at the End of the Age. In the first article, I talked about the whole notion of being a ‘key person’ and what the Word of God says about the subject. What and who we deem to be indispensable, the Lord views in an entirely different fashion.

Next I talked about how physical keys are made and how the process begins with “presenting a blank.” If I have learned anything after almost forty years of ministry, it is that the Lord doesn’t need my advice. In fact, all I bring to the equation is weakness and sinfulness and a penchant for pride and stubbornness.

I believe it was Bill and Gloria Gaither who wrote “Something Beautiful.” One lyric sticks in my memory.

“Something beautiful…Something good. All my confusion He understood. All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife…but He made something beautiful of my life.”

So now we come to an essential part of the process of becoming a key person for God’s Kingdom purposes. In keeping with the analogy of the actual making of a key we need to back to the hardware store guy who was lecturing me on the process of making a key.

locked-inAfter he showed me what a blank looked like. He said, “Now we’re ready to place the blank into the machine.” He then warned that the blank must stay “locked in for the entire process” or it will be useless. It is also dangerous if the partially cut jagged metal flies off the machine before the process is done.

The other day I was talking with my neighbor Bob. He’s a coach and we talk sports sometimes. We were talking about the World Series. I confessed that I had hoped the Indians would have pulled it off but acknowledged that the Cubs won it fair and square. Bob said “Yeah, I’m not into it for the whole season but when the playoffs come around I follow baseball.”

I’m like that too. When it is highly publicized and current fodder for the water cooler discussions I trot out my minimal knowledge of baseball and opine as to who is the best team. You and I know for any individual or any team to reach the pinnacle of their sport, it is required that they give their all—In years of obscurity and fighting through pain and suffering recurring injuries and failure.

I think that there is a misconception out there today that to be a Christian, all you need to do is make a profession of faith and ‘identify’ as a believer. When Jesus told his disciples “Follow me” he wasn’t inviting them to read the box scores every now and then, and go The Sports Authority store and buy the team gear. No, He did not mince words. He said “Take up your cross and follow me.” I remember hearing of the little girl saying her prayers with mommy at bedtime. Kneeling at her little bed, She folded her hands, closed her eyes as tight as she could and said…Dear God….Please make me like Jesus….Only NO NAILS.”

Now I don’t know how you reacted to that story but I remember when I first heard it, feeling uncomfortable, thinking, I’m just like that. I want to be perceived as being with Jesus but I balk at the nails, and the reproach associated with walking with God in times like these. I experienced a great deal of anxiety as to whether I had the ‘right stuff’ to be a disciple. My conclusion? No I don’t have the right stuff…and I’m sorry to break it to you, but neither do you.

The Apostle Paul said the most encouraging thing to the believers in Philippi

“I thank my God every time I remember you, in all my prayers for all of you. I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until, now, begin confident of this—that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus  Phil 1:3-6

In another letter…the last letter he would write before his execution, he wrote to Timothy “

“And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and I am persuaded that He is able guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.” II Tim 1:11-12

Please note that Paul didn’t write these things from a villa on the Mediterranean. He wrote from prison. In II Timothy, he was ‘chained like an animal’, cold and lonely….’Come before Winter’ he wrote …and bring the cloak…the warm one…”

Clearly Paul stayed locked in for the whole process…literally to the last ‘cut’. The Lord will help us to stay locked in. He has committed to us that His Holy Spirit will help and guide and comfort us

Are you in? “Whosoever will, let him come….”

Dr. J.

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