Tag Archives: hope

Waiting for a Tornado

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Several years ago I was heading back home to Ash Flat, Arkansas from a lectureship in Tennessee. The day of driving was filled with intensity as storms developed all around us. I counted 18 tornados that formed and crossed the highway within ten minutes behind us all the way home.

When we got into Arkansas we were having trouble contacting people at home because of the storms. About half an hour away from home we hit a wall of wind that nearly stopped the 15 passenger van we were riding in. After we got through the wall of the storm we got the call.

My friends Greg and Kendal were riding with us; they lived in Highland, and we were to drop them off on our way just past them to Ash Flat. The call basically said “Highland is gone”.

That evening, while we were traveling home, an EF4 tornado skirted the outside of Ash Flat and demolished Highland. In fact, houses on the same block as my friends’ house were damaged by the twister. The devastation was intense.

The next day we began to survey the situation. The temps the day of the tornado were in the 70s, but the next morning there was snow falling from the sky. Businesses and homes of friends were destroyed. No lives were lost, but everyone’s life was disrupted.

This week we are watching the story unfold of the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma. I am seeing the devastation. I see the same looks on people’s faces that I saw the year of our tornado.

I see something else that I saw before: hope. During times of crisis people band together and help one another out no matter their race or economic status. People don’t care what church others go to or what they believe. In times of crisis we are all humans helping out our brothers and sisters in the storm.

I am saddened by the tragedy, but I am encouraged by the selfless love poured out in such an event.

We shouldn’t wait until there is a catastrophe for us to treat each other with the kind of love and selflessness being shown in Oklahoma right now and Arkansas before. We should be praying for each other and our country at all times. We should be searching for life in all circumstances. To this we are called as followers of the One who showed compete humility and self-sacrifice and love on our behalf through the excruciating experience of the cross.

I am praying for Oklahoma today. I am also praying for you. Let us find unity in Christ and selfless love now instead of waiting until something bad happens. Then we will truly have a wonderful life.

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I Love to Fish

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I went fishing this morning.

I love to fish. I’ve fished in huge lakes and small streams. I’ve fished on the beach and out at sea. I’ve fished in bayous and bays and in between. I love to fish.

I’m not too worried about the fish. I’m not worried that they’ll like me. I just want them to like what I’m presenting to them. But if they reject it like they did this morning, it’s ok. I still love to fish.

I wake up early and stay up late to fish. I travel long distances and walk across the road to fish. I’ve fished in the heart of cities and up on mountain sides where there is just granite and water. I’ve fished in drainage canals and snowmelt streams. I’ve fished in water where you can’t see anything below the surface and water where you could see the bottom 30 feet down. I love to fish.

I went fishing this morning.

I love to fish. I’ve fished in homes and corporations. I’ve fished in malls and banks. I’ve fished in churches and bars. I love to fish.

I’m extremely worried about these fish. But I’m not worried that they’ll like me. I don’t fish to please them. I’m fishing to save them. My message won’t change. It’s just what they need. And when they reject me I realize it is not me they’re rejecting but the One whom the message is about. I still love to fish.

I wake up early and stay up late to fish. I’ve stumbled upon fish walking along my day and been woken up in the middle of the night to fish some more. I’ve fished across the street and in other countries. I’ve fished online and face to face. I’ve fished for fish that were injured and hurting and for fish who thought they had it all together. And what I’ve found is that no matter what type of fish or where they live they all are in desperate need of what I fish with. I love to fish.

Do you love to fish? Have you been caught by the One who brings life everlasting? If so, He is wondering when you’re going to start fishing.

You have been called to be saved from yourself by the only One who died for you. Then you have been called to tell others about your salvation and how it is offered to them too. Are you afraid to do that? It’s quite common to be afraid, but fear can be conquered.

If you want to know more about how to share your faith with others, then let me know. I’d love to help you. If you’re still a fish waiting on that salvation, I’d love even more to let you know about this offer of salvation to which I’m referring. I love to fish. Jesus called me to be a fisher of men. Let’s fish together.


Astounded by Darkness: Caving through Life

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Have you ever been in a cave? Not the tourist trap, sidewalk lined, electronically lit kind of cave; a real, native cave – the kind with headlamps and helmets and bats and mud and darkness…true darkness?

When I was in college, I was a member of a grotto (read: caving club). One beautiful North Arkansas evening we went to a native cave for some fun and exploration of God’s majestic underground creation. The entrance to this cave was at the back of a pond and the stream from the cave was that pond’s water source.

The entrance tunnel was low, so we were duck-walking while wading ankle deep in this stream. About a hundred feet into the cave we startled a group of bats. These were small like flying mice (without tails), and they were everywhere, even landing on my helmet. It was an experience I’ll never forget, but that’s not the part of this trip I want to tell you about.

When we got back in a ways, we decided to do some alone time in the cave and meet back together after a short time. I crawled along through the wet tunnels, gloved hands coated in mud, until I found a place I could sit in silence…alone. Then I did it…I turned off my light, and it was dark. Not the nighttime in the country with no moon dark – real dark. This was the darkness you can only experience underground – a subterranean darkness in which, try as you might you can’t see even your hand waving frantically six inches in front of your face. I know…I tried.

If you’ve never been in this kind of cave, it’s hard to imagine this literal kind of darkness, but maybe you CAN understand this figuratively.

As I go through life, I notice that I have to pay close attention to the perspective with which I view the world around me. If I see with a positive attitude, the world just seems to light up, but when I’m pessimistic, darkness reigns. Have you ever been there?

Back to my story…

After a few minutes, I turned my headlamp back on and decided to do a little more exploring before heading back to the rendezvous point. The tunnels were like Swiss cheese with each one connecting to the others so there shouldn’t have been a problem with me getting back.

My eyes were now accustomed to this dim light, this quasi-darkness, this twilight, so I thought I could see well enough. I crawled along at a quick pace, trying to see as much of the cave as I could before time was up, so I was looking straight ahead as I crawled. I let my hands “see” the floor. This is typical for being in darkness – using multiple senses to make up for the deficiency in one of the senses.

Up ahead, I saw a room that opened up, and I got excited. I thought it was a place I could go back and tell my crew about so they could come explore with me. What I didn’t realize was it was a room we had been in already, but that wasn’t the worst part. I didn’t stop crawling until I felt my fingers curl down. Remember, I’m “seeing” the ground with my hands. Suddenly, I stopped, heart racing, realizing I wasn’t on the floor of that room. I was actually on a small ledge about 30 feet above the floor. If I had kept crawling, even one more step, I would have gone headfirst into a painful fall that probably would have killed me. Close call.

What’s this have to do with life?

This event reminds me of what Jesus says in the bible about light and dark.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your while body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
— Matthew 6:22-23

He’s not talking about a literal light in our eyes. He’s talking about our perspective. My perspective in the cave was full of darkness, and it almost cost me my life. I was clicking along thinking I was safe, but I was in terrible danger all along and just didn’t know it.

When we have a pessimistic outlook, we see the darkness in the world, and have a fixation with that darkness. We can see the worst in any situation. How does that make us feel? The darkness consumes us. It’s not pleasant, and it can seriously danger your life. From relationships in family to friends to work, any relationship…even that with your very self can be killed when darkness is in our eyes.

BUT when we have the light in our eyes, we can see the good in circumstances. I have known many people with this attitude, and I want to be around them as much as possible…maybe it might rub off on me. When you fix your eyes on what is good, everything can be bright..even family strife and layoffs and church trouble.

Perspective is a choice. We get to choose how we look at the world, and our past definitely influences which view we take…but it is not our jailer. We can choose to see with light in our eyes even when our past has been dark.

I don’t know about you, but I want to have light in my eyes. I want others to see it in my eyes, and most of all I want to glorify God with the light in my eyes. What about you?

When we got out of the cave that night, it was about 10 pm. The sky was clear, and because we had spent so much time in the darkness, when we started looking for the lights in the sky, they astounded us. We were truly attracted to those lights. I have never been able to see so many stars in all my life because I had been in the dark so long.

As you start this journey from darkness into light, you may not be the brightest light at first, but you will grow, and you will find that people are attracted to the light that shines in you…even the smallest bit of light.

May you be full of light, and may God shine through you! If there’s anything I can do for you, please let me know at jddobbs@Verizon.net or call me at 245-1611.

God bless you all!

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James Taylor and the Bible

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Have you ever had a time in your life when you felt like life just isn’t fair, and you’re discouraged? Have you ever been faced with a decision where you couldn’t see the consequences of any choice? Have you ever felt utterly alone in this world? Have you ever wondered what your purpose is set out to be; where does God want you to go; what does He want you to do?

I would say that if you answered yes to any of those questions you are extremely – normal.

We all feel that way at some time or another. Today I want to remind you of some promises from God for you as you journey through life.

First of all, remember Abraham. God told Abraham to go, but He didn’t tell him which way or how far. He just told Abraham to trust God, and He would lead him to the place He would give his descendants.

Abraham left. I don’t know if he walked out his tent and went left or right, but whichever way he went was the right way. Abraham was seeking to follow God, and God did not disappoint Abraham by abandoning him.

God gives us the same promise today. Whatever situation you are in, God wants you to know He is with you, and if you follow Him, then you will be going the right direction and doing the right thing wherever you land. God is trying to bring you peace no matter the circumstances.

Let’s look at a few passages that reflect these ideas:

Isaiah 30:21 “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'”

God is trying to show you that He is with you wherever you go. You merely need to be listening for his voice. We tend to worry that we made a wrong decision, but God is affirming you. He is telling you that He is still with you and helping you and guiding you even in your decisions – even after your decisions.

Matthew 6:31-34 “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

The secret to finding contentment in Christ comes from a change of focus. If you are focused on all the physical needs you perceive, then you will easily become discouraged when troubling times come. If the answers aren’t clear, then a physical-focused mind becomes muddled. But if the mind is focused on the Kingdom of God and being in His righteousness, then there is peace in knowing that He is in control and will take care of all your needs. It is when we understand this passage that we can more readily trust in the Isaiah passage.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

This is an amazing passage. God blanketly says here that everything is going to be ok. He wants you to know that even if you make a decision that you don’t think was best He is still working it out for your good. You can go to the bank on that. This is a promise from the God who cannot lie. You have been called, and as you love him (more than a feeling – its an action) he works all things out for your good.

Whew! That’s a load off! That means that even if you chose a job that may not be the best you can still be blessed in that. Maybe you made some bad decisions earlier in life that you now regret. God is working to make all things good for you. He’s awesome like that.

Lastly, in Hebrews 5 the writer quotes God as saying “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Maybe you feel all alone in life. There is disaster on every side. You are not alone, and He will never leave you. Even when you draw away from Him, He never leaves. He is very much like a good parent that, though the child does wrong, He still loves the child and desperately wants the best for that child.

That’s the God we serve. That’s the God I want to serve.

James Taylor sang a song that many of you know, “You’ve Got a Friend”. If you know that song, then think about the lyrics. It’s a song of a friendship that would sacrifice anything to help the other out. That’s a pretty great image of our God, and He has already sacrificed everything to help us out. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

I hope that this has brought you some encouragement in your life. We all need encouragement from time to time, and the promises of God are true and bring life. Share this with your friends; chances are that they need to hear this message too.

If there’s anything I can do for you, please feel free to contact me at jddobbs@verizon.net or through my blog at http://www.mrdobbs.org. God bless you…wait, He already has.


The Voices Inside My Head

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I’m exhausted. My family and I just got back from a 3,000 mile round-trip excursion to Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, back to Tennessee, then Missouri, back to Arkansas, then finally back to Texas. We got to see family and friends we haven’t gotten to see in a while. We got to visit with a couple of my former students – one of whom got back in January from Afghanistan. I also got to go to a marvelous Youth Ministry Conference while in Louisville. It was a time of refreshing as I gathered with 3,000 other youth ministers from around the country to get refueled for ministry.

As I was there breathing out the stressors and worries of life and breathing in the words of God I recognized just how many voices speak into our lives.

What voices speak to you each day? Someone this weekend said that the four hardest jobs in the world are politicians, coaches, teachers, and ministers. They are the jobs where everyone else thinks they can do a better job than you can, and they frequently tell you so in no uncertain terms. What voices speak to you?

Maybe your voices come from outside influences. Maybe your family tells you something about yourself. Maybe it’s your friends or co-workers. Maybe it’s media that are significant sources of the voices that convince you of certain “truths” about yourself and the world around you.

I heard a news piece just last night talking about how even the continual images of the “perfect” women in all the visible roles in media influence our young women to think that they must also look that way. There was one story of the little girl in the beauty pageant, and when she didn’t win, she asked her mom “does this mean I’m not pretty?”

These outside voices can be brutal. Perhaps they tell you that you aren’t pretty enough or smart enough or that you don’t work hard enough. Maybe they tell you that you don’t fit in.

These voices, however, are not as potent as the voices in our own heads. I’m not talking about the schizophrenic voices where we talk to ourselves out loud. I’m talking about the subtle whispers in our minds that try to define us.

“You’re a failure as a mother or father.” “You may as well give up.” “No one really cares about you.” “You have nothing of value to contribute to society.” “You’ll never be the spouse you need to be.” “It’s ok if you do that; no one will be affected by your actions.”

As we go on in our lives these voices can easily morph from whispers to shouts as we feed in to their influence on our lives. When we start believing these things they cripple our ability for forward momentum.

I’ve seen the skits where a person stands in front of the mirror and says out loud to him or herself “Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” In every skit they say it with enthusiasm, but their eyes reveal the truth that they don’t really believe what they are saying.

Many of these voices keep the dark places of our lives close by so that we don’t allow God to take over those places and eradicate the darkness. The voices keep us captive. They cripple us in our potential.

God is desperately desiring to speak a different message into your life. He wants to remind you that you are His MASTERPIECE (Ephesians 2:10). He wants you to know that when you listen to Him he will help you have the best life possible (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28). He wants you to know that you are totally worth it.

Worth what? Worth His sacrifice on the cross. God thought and still thinks that you are totally worth sacrificing Himself so that you can live eternally with Him.

We listen to these voices because we desperately want to be accepted and liked by society around us. We are constantly trying to impress the world – the created world – while the whole time the God who created that world, the Master of all existence, is trying to tell us that we are His favorite, and he already likes us. He even loves us. I once heard Jon Acuff say that “God follows our Facebook, and he likes, likes, likes!”

That’s pretty good news isn’t it? Let me challenge you. Spend more time listening to what God says about you in His word than what society said about you or even than what Satan whispers in your head. If you do this it will be much easier to combat those voices. I propose that you will even have a much brighter outlook on life. “You are more than a conqueror through Christ.” “You have been given a spirit of power, love, and self discipline.” “God will never leave you nor forsake you.” These and so many other promises are found in scripture. And when we read these promises, we also need to remember that God cannot lie.

You are awesome! God made you the way you are, and he doesn’t make junk. Satan has been trying to remold you into his likeness since you were born. It’s time to allow God to reshape you back into the masterpiece he created you to be. That reshaping can only happen when we let the voice of God be more influential than the voices of this world.

I’m on this journey with you. External voices are constantly trying to tear me down. Join with me in becoming more dependent on the voice of God than the voices of all the “haters” – even the ones inside our heads. And may our lives change for the greater because of it.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to call me at 245-1611 or via email at jddobbs@verizon.net. God bless you!


Fixing a Flat the Wrong Way

I was angry today.  Very angry.

I went to the tire center at Walmart.

That sentence kind of explains it all, right? I got there around one in the afternoon and didn’t leave until after four.  I went in to get my tire fixed.  The attendant there came back after an hour and told me that my tire had dry rot, and he was not willing to risk airing it back up again for fear it would explode on him.  My only option was to get a new tire.

I never only buy one tire, so I asked him the prices of the tires, and he assured me that there was enough tread on the tire to get a pro-rated charge on the new tires.  I finally agreed to two new tires and began my waiting process again.

At 3:15 my car was finally outside, but they hadn’t called me.  I went up to the counter and asked if it was ready, and they showed me the sheet of what had been done.  The charges were almost one hundred dollars more than I was told to expect.  I was not prepared to pay that kind of money today.  I went in expecting to get a free flat repair and ended up with an over two-hundred dollar bill.

I was not happy.  They had not pro-rated the tires, and this whole idea of my tires being dry rotted did not set well with me.  My wife had gotten the tires checked just last week by the dealership, and they said the tires were fine.  Tires don’t get dry rot in five days.

They decided to call the manager.  At about four o’clock she finally showed up, and I explained my dilemma.  Fifteen minutes later she finally decided what to do.

I want to stop there for a minute.

Did I have reason to be angry?  I had been there three hours for what was supposed to be a flat repair. My expectations were shattered.  I had been given false information and over-charged for services rendered.  I felt like I had every reason to be angry.

In the process of this, though, there are so many things to consider.  First, what was my conduct like?  Did I keep my head or lose it?  Am I showing them love even when I’m angry?  Is it possible to show love when angry?  What would Jesus do (the old cliche fallback)? Why was this all happening to me?

I don’t like being angry.  It doesn’t make me feel good, and it doesn’t help those around me either.  Nevertheless, I find myself at various times caught in the trap of selfishness where I am consumed with myself and become angry.

The bible doesn’t say that anger is a sin.  It is what we do with that anger that is the sin – or not.  If I had started throwing a temper tantrum, then that would definitely be in the sin range.  Fortunately, I didn’t go there today. Had I become hateful or rude beyond normal explanation of my side of the argument that would have been over the top.  If, however, I can control my tongue (and the rest of my body) when I’m angry then I can be angry and not sin.

This is what we are called to do.  Jesus never asked us to not become angry.  He asks us to not sin when we become angry.  Let me tell you, it’s not always easy to do.

Back to my story.  The manager showed up and found out both sides of the story.  It turned out that the guy that gave me all the quotes is the newest member of their team.  He gave me bogus information.  The tire wasn’t dry rotted, but it was in need of replacement.  The manager overrode the price, and she gave me a hefty discount to ease my mind.

As I look back at the events of today, I can’t help but see how God worked in this situation to make all things work out for my good.  I got two new tires (which I needed) for much less than even had originally been quoted to me because of the fiasco surrounding this situation.  I didn’t really need to be spending that money today, and God helped me out financially.  I just had to persevere through the rough time to see the benefit.

I still don’t like going to the tire shop at Walmart, but I am grateful for that manager.  I am grateful that God helped me keep my cool today.  I am grateful that He worked this out for my good (Romans 8:28).

If you’re going through a rough time where you constantly feel angry about your situation, pray to God for new perspective.  May He show you the good that is being done all around you FOR you.  And may you not sin in your anger but be a shining example of Christ to those around you.  We aren’t perfect, but thank God that through Jesus we’re forgiven.

If there’s anything I can do for you or pray with you about, feel free to contact me at 245-1611 or via email at jddobbs@verizon.net.  God bless you!


What Are You Afraid Of?

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What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of snakes or bugs or creepy crawlies? Are you afraid of the dark?

I know people who say they are afraid of heights, but that is merely an easy way to explain that they have a fear of falling from high places.

Some people are afraid of wicker furniture or clowns or the number 13. Some people even have pantophobia – fear of everything!

I have agliophobia. It’s a fear of pain. Apparently it’s not a very strong fear because I was able to do the Tough Mudder with all the shocking and bleeding involved. However, it is something I had to really psych myself into accomplishing.

I’m writing this article on Valentine’s Day. Why would I be writing about fears on Valentine’s Day? The answer is found in 1 John 4:18.

We all have things of which we are afraid. Certain things, when we even think about them, cripple us and freeze us in our tracks. I remember growing up with Mom being afraid of snakes. She couldn’t even see pictures of them in magazines. Movies that had snakes in them were out. Those scenes in Indiana Jones where he is in the pit with all the snakes made her leave the room. If I left my bullwhip (a boy’s gift from a loving grandmother) on the floor overnight, then I would get in trouble because it would freeze her in her tracks. She would automatically see that bullwhip coiled up and think “snake”.

When you think of fears, however, what is the root source of that fear? Are you afraid because of the actual object or event? More often than not we are afraid because during that moment all we can think of is ourselves. When I am paralyzed in fear my thoughts are consumed with myself and what might happen to me and how it might hurt me…me, me, me.

When we love we aren’t concerned with “me”. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says that “Love is not self-seeking.” If we are concerned about ourselves then we are not loving someone else. 1 John 4:18 sets fear and love as opposites. They are mutually exclusive of one another. It says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The man who fears is not made perfect in love.”.

This has many implications on our loves. It’s Valentine’s week. Have you shrunk back in your desire to show love to someone for fear of how they’ll treat you in return? In that case you aren’t truly thinking about them but yourself. Have you distanced yourself from someone because you just weren’t sure the outcome of your interaction? That’s fear, and that fear is all about you.

God’s promise to us is that He “did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and self discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). That fear that you feel did not come from God. What comes from God is a powerful ability to love others even against out knee-jerk reactions to shrink back. That’s love done out of self control in a powerful way.

When we get this idea deep into our psyche, then we will have much less difficulty telling others about the love of Jesus. Think about it. We have the greatest message in the world about the greatest event in the world offering the greatest gift to their the world, yet we don’t bother to tell even the people we claim to love about this. Is that love? Love would want them to have what we have. Yet we are paralyzed in our fears and don’t speak.

May you make a resolution today to live according to the Spirit of God. May the Spirit fill you with that power, love, and self discipline. And may the world be changed starting with the relationships we have at home because we are no longer afraid to love others. I know that’s my prayer for me; it’s my prayer for you too.

Thanks for reading this each week! Have a blessed day, and if you’d like to talk more about anything you read here or would like me to pray for you please let me know at jddobbs@verizon.net. Remember: power, love, and self discipline – they are yours in Christ!!


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