Okay, so it’s not a real blog, but I thought I would use some space to share my thoughts on God, Scripture, life, current events, church happenings, new restaurants, football season…whatever. I always welcome your thoughts, so send me a message.
While I’m thinking about it….I send out a (somewhat) daily devotional thought that I call an Evotion. If you would like to get on the list for that drop me an email at email@example.com indicating so and I’ll be glad to include you!
When we moved into our house it came with 3 large raised bed garden boxes. One of them was falling apart so we dismantled it and saved the old, weathered wood. It has now become 2 king-size bed headboards, a table and an Adirondack chair. That’s another story though. The remaining 2 beds have supplied us with tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers, mint, etc., every summer since we arrived on 3rd street. These old wooden boxes holding dirt are a big part of our lives.
With all the rain and cool days we’ve had this spring, I haven’t paid much attention to my boxes or the rich dirt within. Every time I walked by them or drove my mower down their sides I would notice the weeds growing within and the slowly deteriorating condition of the wood. Something was going to have to change if we were going to enjoy the bounty of summertime harvest, but I would mentally move that ‘something’ to the ‘I’ll do that soon’ section of my to-do list. As is often the case, ‘soon’, being the nebulous date that it is, seemed as if it wasn’t going to arrive.
Then last Saturday, when the sun was out, the afternoon was warm and the day in general was just glorious, ‘soon’ came. It may have been Jenny’s suggestion that it would be a good day to plant some tomatoes. It may have been the farmer that still resides somewhere deep in my soul. Maybe it was our daughters’ comment that we were never going to have tomato sandwiches if I didn’t get busy! Whatever the motivation, ‘soon’ changed to ‘now.’ I bought some plants, pulled some weeds, broke some soil, and planted. There’s still more to do, but the process has begun.
I wonder how often we move spiritual matters to the ‘I’ll do that soon’ section of our to-do list. We want the blessing. We know there are weeds of sin to remove, and soil of our hearts to break up. We recognize the need to plant seeds of faith, water them, fertilize them and guard them from spiritual pests. Yet maybe we too often think there will be a better time to do it in the future. Let me assure you, there’s no better day than today!
What does the garden of your heart need right now? What are you waiting for? Why keep putting it off? Let today be the day! Open your Bible. Hit your knees in prayer. Turn away from sin. Make a commitment to worship and serve. Ask God to move through your life with His transforming power and kick your spiritual growth into a new gear. We have to make a conscious decision that something is going to happen today. Otherwise, soon can stay out in front of us forever. Those things we’re going to do soon never get done until we realize TODAY IS THE DAY!
I’m looking forward with great anticipation to the ripe tomatoes, squash casseroles, homemade pickles, and whatever else emerges. But that end result would never happen without day 1. Let today be your spiritual day 1 and look forward to what is to come!
I’ll see you in the garden – Brojoe
I’ve been watching, as I imagine you have as well, the news reports in the wake of the latest mass shooting. A very disturbed and troubled young man killed 17 and wounded another 14 in a Florida high school while setting a nation on edge once again. Now it seems the news media and the anti-gun crowd are crying louder and louder for laws regulating firearms in the hope of ending such violence. Students and others have held rallies and marches across the country waving their banners to end the violence. I applaud their passion and join them in a deep desire that we would never have to hear of such a horrible act again. That being said, I’m afraid they are seeking a solution that won’t be a solution at all.
Guns are not the problem. Hearts and minds are! No amount of gun restrictions will keep weapons out of the hands of those who really want to get them. No gun law will keep a killer from killing. Think about it…we have a plethora of laws on the books making the manufacture, sale, and use of many drugs illegal, and yet drug addiction is rampant across society. Speed limit signs remind us of the law every time we get behind the wheel. Yet I’m pretty sure I broke one yesterday, maybe today too. You probably did as well. More laws aren’t the answer. Changed hearts, minds and lives will go farther than any number of laws.
If the church, the family, the law makers, the civic leaders, the health care professionals, the educators and the activists, (society as a whole) became passionate about living Biblically, loving unconditionally and reaching everyone, then we would start to see change. This wont change things overnight. Neither will new laws! But it will change things generationally and the change will be significant. So instead of marching and carrying a sign asking a lawmaker to do something, instead of asking a gun maker to do something, instead of asking an officer to do something, instead of doing nothing, how about you and I do something? Reach out to someone who is struggling. Help a family in need. Adopt a child. Be a big brother or sister to a child in an unstable environment. Share a smile with a stranger who looks down. Lend an ear to a troubled soul. Volunteer as a tutor at a local school. Share the love of Jesus!
While we are all working on that, your church staff is working on safety and security issues to help us all have a comfortable and protected environment while on our campus. You’ll be hearing about some of these issues while some of them will remain in the background. We want to insure your safety as best we can while remaining an open and inviting family of faith toward all who will come. At the end of the day, we all remain in the hands of an almighty God who is our ultimate security.
When I think about Christmas, songs always fill my head. For me, the music of Christmas is such a huge part of the celebration. Strains of favorite carols and secular tunes alike dance around my brain all throughout December. As a kid, one I loved and loathed at the same time was Bing Crosby’s classic, White Christmas. I loved it because it’s a beautiful song with a great sentiment. I loathed it because it represented a dream that rarely ever came true for this boy living in Mississippi. I loved snow! Snow in the Mississippi Delta almost always came with ice. Ice meant bad roads and no school. Snow meant playing in the yard would take on a whole new meaning. Snowmen, snowballs, snow ice cream, snow angels, sledding on the MS River levee, just walking though it….magical!! I loved it all right, it just didn’t happen very often, and certainly not at Christmas.
On those occasions when it did snow, I struggled with an internal dilemma. Alongside my eagerness to play in the soft, flakey ground covering, there was an almost equal desire to refrain from touching it. That undisturbed white blanket, pristine and pure, lying across the landscape in just the way that God had placed it held a beauty that no human artist could rival. Part of me wanted to just sit back and look at it. I knew that it wouldn’t be the same once my footprints crunched across the yard and the snowman started to take shape. Such scenes didn’t appear very often in my neck of the woods and I knew rising temperatures would insure they didn’t last long. The pure white beauty of fresh snowfall stood in such stark contrast to the normal browns and greens of my yard that I wanted to marvel at it as long as I could. Of course…I was a kid…the ‘play in it’ drive always won!
So what does that have to do with Christmas and a pastor’s newsletter article? Just a thought that a forgiven heart is indeed a beautiful thing! “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” God inspired Isaiah to compare a forgiven soul to the purity of fresh, white snow. Having the guilt, shame, and corruption that sin deposits onto our hearts cleansed away by the blood of Jesus leaves one absolutely pure. Represented by the unstained white of a new snowfall, the beauty of forgiveness comes alive in the visual metaphor. The reality of experiencing the beautiful transformation that Isaiah wrote about only happens through the man we celebrate at Christmas.
Jesus is the only one who can transform a heart. Jesus is the only one who forgives sin. Jesus is the only one who brings spiritual beauty which surpasses even that of an unblemished field of snow. We celebrate Christmas to worship and thank the ONE who purifies our hearts! Don’t lose sight of that. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the season drown out the clear truth of why this is, to borrow from another Christmas classic, ‘the most wonderful time of the year!’ Come to Jesus often and regularly and allow His crimson flood to wash your heart white as snow. While you’re sitting around dreaming of a white Christmas, remember that the reality of Christmas is more than a dream, and a white heart is the greatest thing you can ever have. I hope we get to enjoy a white Christmas, and whether you look at it through a frosty window, or bundle up and go out to play in it, I hope we will all do it with hearts that match the snow!
Thanksgiving – A season – A day – A heart-felt attitude – A way of life – All of the above! Thanksgiving – the holiday that sometimes gets lost between Halloween and Christmas. The holiday that isn’t all that commercial, except maybe for the turkey, pumpkin and cranberry industries. The day set aside for the giving of thanks…but just a day? Really? Since there isn’t that much of a commercial side to Thanksgiving, one notices that the ‘seasonal aisles’ of your local stores, as soon as the costumes and candy are cleared from Halloween, are filled with red and green decorations, strings of lights, plastic reindeer, and blowup yard snowmen. It’s as if since there’s not a lot of money to be made on Thanksgiving, it’s not that important. Oh contraire!
Thanksgiving – because we have a God who started it all, holds it all, and will bring it all to a close in His time. He is perfect, holy, righteous, and sovereign. He is personal. He is loving. He is available. And He reached into humanity at the perfect time to break the chains of sin so that you and I could live forever with Him in paradise. Thanksgiving – because we are not alone and this is not all there is!
Thanksgiving – because He established His church so that we can share the journey of life together with Him. He gives us the great privilege to lean on each other and help each other as we seek Him in unity. No one needs to face life, up or down, in solitude. God has set us apart to Him and given us this amazing body of faith through which we can strengthen each other as iron sharpens iron. When we neglect that opportunity we hurt ourselves and the others who might benefit from what He has empowered us with and called us to employ.
Thanksgiving – because we don’t have to figure it all out on our own. God has given His Word to guide and inform us. His Word reveals His identity, His nature, His heart, His will, and His plan. It tells us who we are and who we are not. The Word is living and pure. It hits us with truth, conviction, encouragement, hope, direction, warning, history (both past and future), and an everlasting, unchanging witness of God’s redemptive plan. That verse you’ve read 100 times suddenly becomes fresh in light of the day’s occasion. You open to just the right page in the nick of time. As a preacher of old wrote, ‘When we open the Word, God opens His mouth?’
Thanksgiving – because His mercies are new every morning. His blessings flow like the Jordan at flood stage. He smiles upon us in ways we recognize and ways we don’t. Even in the midst of the darkest night, His blessings shine upon us in a myriad of ways. Some are readily apparent in the moment. Others take years to be discovered, yet they are there. They may be masked by pain in the moment, but time will reveal them to those who look over the long haul.
Thanksgiving – because it’s only appropriate that we recognize what He as done. Salvation, forgiveness, redemption, re-creation, grace, heaven for eternity… How could we not say thanks?!? Don’t let it just be a day of overeating, family, and football. Let it be a life!
Thankful to be on the journey with YOU – Brojoe
I went out to my truck the other day, opened the door, slid into the seat, inserted the key into the ignition and turned it…..nothing. No whirring engine, no warning lights flashing, no straining motor trying to crank, not even a clicking sound to indicate the battery saying, “I’m…trying…but…I…just…can’t! My response, “What!?!” I didn’t leave the key on. The lights weren’t on. The back gate wasn’t ajar. There wasn’t any readily available explanation for my slap-dead battery. I’m glad I wasn’t really in a hurry to go anywhere!
A few minutes with Jenny’s running vehicle and a pair of jumper cables and my engine sputtered to life. I still don’t know what ran my battery down, but where everything had seemed fine when I parked the night before, the situation had deteriorated quickly. Something drained all the current from my battery and that shut down the entire vehicle. Nothing was going to happen until a new charge was put in place.
Our spiritual lives can be like that. We may not see it coming. We’re busy serving here and ministering there. We meet ourselves coming and going in our daily routines. The pressures of life pull us in a multiplicity of directions and, without realizing it, our spiritual batteries can run down. One day we wake up and realize that the joy has gone. The energy has run out. The desire to get closer to God went somewhere. We’re not sure where or even when it went, we just know it’s gone. Missing one quiet time made it easier to miss a second. We skipped church one Sunday and the next thing you know we haven’t been in six months. When we stop to think about it, our once vital prayer life is practically non-existent and we’re not sure where we left our Bible. We just know we can’t find it, and it’s no big deal.
A vehicle with a dead battery is likely not going anywhere. So it is with a life that has run out of power. Maybe your battery got drained by serving too much for the wrong reasons. Maybe it was that argument you had and the ensuing spirit of unforgiveness. Perhaps it was the tragedy that struck or the prayer you just knew God was going to answer one way, but He didn’t. Often times, it’s the lack of routine soul maintenance that causes our trouble. Whatever the issue, keeping our spiritual battery charged is crucial for traveling the journey of faith.
“How do we do that?” you ask. I’m glad you did! Here’s one plan.
C – Call out to Him every day, continually.
H – Hear from Him through His Word.
A – Assemble yourself together with His people in worship.
R – Remember His promises and Rest in His power.
G – Get past the disappointment and hurt you’re holding.
E – Expect God to show up and look for where He will.
I’ve had a dead spiritual battery before. I imagine you have as well. It’s a bad feeling. You know there’s more. Something is missing. You know it because you’ve been spiritually charged before and it was different, very different. You want’ to get back to that place of power and fulfillment. You want to experience supernatural power coursing through every part of your being. You want to feel victorious and to know that all is well, no matter what. I want that too. I want it for you. I want it for me. So let’s link arms and hearts and stay charged. Let’s help to keep one another charged. The journey of life is much more enjoyable when you’re running on a full charge!
I’ll see you on the road! – Brojoe
A friend shared this with me. A friend had shared it with him. I don’t know where it came from originally so I can’t give credit to the source, but it’s a good thought. Here goes…..
Could you imagine ordering a pizza, and the pizza guy showing up without a box and he’s just holding your pizza on his hand.. The cheese is just sliding down his arm, it’s dropping on the floor, and you don’t know where that hand has been lol. He says, “Hi, did you order this Meat lovers pizza?” And your first question is, “Where is the box!? Yes, I ordered it, but I was expecting the product to come in a vessel. I was expecting the product to come in a box.”
Well did you know that that box is only worth 13 cents? It’s not valuable alone, but takes on tremendous value because of what’s placed inside of it. The box does not give value to the product, it is the product that gives value to the box, the vessel. We are the box. We are the vessel, and it is Christ that is in us, He is what gives us value, He is the pizza. We shouldn’t get upset when He starts using us. We’re just a 13 cent box, you don’t have to be famous, talented or super good looking. You just have to be clean, and you just have to be empty, and God says, if you’ll be clean and empty, If you’ll give Him a vessel, He’ll fill you with His all. He’ll give you your purpose, He’ll give you His will for your life.
I suppose that you, as I did, watched with breaking hearts as Harvey slammed into Texas and Irma ravaged Florida. The impact of the scenes were all the more real to those of us who have lived through such things first hand. Images of Katrina flashed through the mind of many. A year before Katrina, my family and I experienced Ivan first hand in Alabama. Having felt the wind and experienced the turmoil up close and personal, the pain of others sinks in a little more.
Events as these make us realize what’s really important. Lives matter. People matter. Things can be replaced. Homes can be rebuilt. Infrastructure will come back. It’s the people that really count! When we have assessed that our family and friends, and even perfect strangers are ok, we turn to look for the necessities…water, food, light, shelter, and medical help. I noticed something interesting about that.
As we understand that those items are the things that really matter, the things we need first, it occurred to me that God wanted us to make come connections. Jesus told the woman at the well that He had ‘living water’ for her. He told His disciples that He was the ‘bread of life’ and the ‘light of the world.’ We often refer to God as the ‘Great Physician.’ Isn’t it interesting that our Lord goes by the same metaphorical names as the things that we look for first when all has been stripped away?
Perhaps there’s a lesson in that for us. Maybe God is showing us that the things we need most in life are found in Him. As you and I pray for those who have had their world turned upside down by the recent storms, as we send cases of water and cans of food, as we remember those who are working around the clock to restore power, as we give to help provided medical services, let’s remember that the spiritual equivalents of those physical items are only found in one person, Jesus Christ. Has your life been ravaged by a storm? God has all the necessities you need and He is ready to send them your way!
We’ve all heard the sayings, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts!” or “You can’t judge a book by its cover!” or “First impressions aren’t always correct!” You get the idea and I would imagine you’ve experienced the reality in more than one format. A couple of weeks ago, as I was shaking hands with folks exiting our 8:00 a.m. Sunday service, a church member handed me a small white paper object and said, “I bet you can make a sermon illustration out of this.” He, an older gentlemen, then said, “I’ve never seen one of these before.” Neither had I.
Looking into my hand, I saw a sugar packet, the kind you find in the little boxes on restaurant tables. The packet was perfectly formed, perfectly printed, and perfectly sealed. The size, color, shape, and labeling were all just as one would expect. There was just one issue, the packet was empty! There was nothing inside…no sugar as advertised by the writing on the package, no sweet crystals to sweeten a glass of tea or a cup of coffee, nothing for a Yankee to put on their grits (don’t get me started, that’s a rant for another article!), nothing to fix up your turnip greens in case the cook didn’t add enough sugar, nothing! The outside was flawless, but the inside was flawed. As a result, the package was of no use in achieving its purpose.
Jesus painted a picture of this kind of situation as He talked with the Pharisees one day. He pointed out, in Matthew 23 and Luke 11, that they were good at cleaning the ‘outside of the cup’ but left the inside nasty. In other words, they had spent all their effort on appearance and neglected what really mattered, the inside.
You and I will do well to take a lesson from Jesus and an empty sugar packet. It’s what’s on the inside that counts. We can get all cleaned up on the outside and put up a great appearance to those around us, but it’s what’s on the inside where God sees that really matters. When the Spirit of God, through a faith relationship with Jesus, is working on the inside, the outside will take care of itself. Too many so called ‘Christians’ are like the empty sugar packet. They advertise one thing on the outside, but there’s nothing real on the inside. Let God move on the inside, that’s where it counts!
May brings a significant milestone for many families. All across our congregation, county, and country, folks will be graduating. Some from kindergarten, some from middle school, others from high school or college, and even some will be graduating from graduate school. These milestones will be marked in a variety of ways and at some level they will usher in an important question, “what next?” While many will ponder that question on the surface, the deeper and more important question that a graduate, or any other person for that matter, should ask is “what’s God’s will for me?” Finding the answer to that all-important question of the ages is vital for us all and God has revealed it in His word.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:17, “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” So what is the Lord’s will? We could answer that with a plethora of Scripture that touches on every facet of life and fills far more than this one-page column will allow, but let’s break it down in seven simple categories.
- God’s will is that we be SAVED. I Timothy 2:3-4 makes this truth plainly evident. God sent Jesus to die in your place so that you could be in relationship with Him and it is His will that you are.
- God’s will is that we be SURE. Under God’s inspiration, John wrote of a number of things that allow you to have assurance of salvation. (I John 5:13) You don’t have to wonder! You can know that you have eternal life.
- God’s will is that we be STUDYING. 2 Timothy 2:15 and 2 Peter 3:18 remind us that we are to be studying, learning, applying and growing in the Word.
- God’s will is that we be SET APART. The New Testament word is ‘sanctified.’ Over and over again the disciple of Christ is encouraged to be set apart from the world and set apart to God and His purpose.
- God’s will is that we be SERVING HIM. Romans 12:1, Ephesians 4:12; 6:7,. . . Service to God and His kingdom becomes our expression of thanks to Him for what He has done and is doing. He has gifted you with something you can use in His service and it’s His will that you do.
- God’s will is that we be SHARING. We are to share a witness of what God has done and is doing in our lives (Acts 1:8). We are to share our resources to help others (Acts 2:45). We are to share the journey of faith (Galatians 6:2).
- God’s will is that we be SAYING THANKS. Ephesians 5:20 instructs us to give thanks in all things. There is a reason for everything that God allows into our lives. We may not understand it all, but we can thank Him that He does.
The next time you’re wondering what God’s will is for you, remember that He has revealed it in His Word. When we place our focus here, He brings the rest into place. May His will be a daily reality in all our lives as we seek, serve and share Jesus Christ.
In His hands – Brojoe
December brings us to a season of gifts. Most of us find ourselves thinking, planning, shopping, wrapping, giving, and caught up in finding just that right gift for that certain someone. It seems that the more special the person, the more special the gift must be. I suppose that’s not always the case. Sometimes people give big gifts out of guilt or a sense of obligation. But when the sentiment is genuine and the gift is a real expression of emotion and affection a gift might well demonstrate the giver’s heart for the recipient.
I think that many people today have forgotten that the reason we give gifts at Christmas is because God gave such an amazing gift to us. If you consider the magnitude of what God gave to us on the first Christmas, His unending and immeasurable love for us begins to come into focus. He loved you enough to leave His throne in Heaven, to come to humanity, to suffer the pain first hand of life in a fallen world, and to take your sin and mine upon Himself and bear the punishment we deserve. That is an amazing love! You must be pretty special in the eyes of God! No doubt you are!!!
If that’s who we are, such a realization of ourselves should direct us to a few reactions. First, we should live in perpetual gratitude, awe, and love to and for God. What He has done for us deserves nothing less. Second, you and I should come to recognize who we are. No longer should we feel worthless, useless, or anything less than amazingly special. We are children of a mighty King and He has shouted loudly from Bethlehem to Calvary that we are the apple of His eye. Third, we should come to see that other person, whomever that other person is, that they too are worthy of the most extravagant gift ever given. That will change the way we see them, think about them, talk to them, and hold them in our hearts. All these things start with our understanding of the gift that is Christmas. We love because He first loved us! (I John 4:19)
My prayer for us all this Christmas is that we will come to a deeper understanding of God’s love for us, and in turn develop a deeper love for ourselves and others. As that happens we will, as Dickens wrote, “honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” May God bless you and yours this Christmas with a joyful celebration of His gift of love, Jesus!
Speaking of blessings, don’t miss all that this time of year has to offer at FBC. Come and worship! Celebrate the birth of Jesus with our choir and their Singing Christmas Tree on Dec. 10 & 11. Our Children’s Choirs and several instrumentalists will join them for 2 beautiful evenings of worship. On the morning of the 11th, The Nelons will be in worship with us. You don’t want to miss this amazing singing group! Our annual Carols and Candles service will be Dec. 18 at 6:00 pm. Christmas Day we will have one come-as-you-are service at 10:00 am. That will be the only activity that day. I hope you will invite some friends and take advantage of the variety of worship opportunities presented in the coming days. I thank God for you and wish you and yours a very blessed celebration of Jesus!
In His hands,
FALL!! I love this time of year! The weather starts to become a bit more favorable as cooler, dryer air roots out the heat and humidity we in the deep-south have endured for months. Sitting on the porch or in the backyard swing is so much more enjoyable without the constant dripping of sweat that has accompanied those activities since spring made its exit. Standing over a glowing grill is transitioning from really hot to really pleasant. Football fans are cheering on their teams as baseball fans prepare for the playoffs and World Series. Hunters are anticipating the new season and the holidays are just around the corner. What a great time of year!
Of all that fall has to offer, one of my favorite aspects of the season is the colorful display that God paints in the trees. While folks in other parts of the country may witness the array of fall colors in more dramatic fashion that we do here in our corner of the world, we still get enough to remind us of the amazing creativity that we find in our God. As summertime green gives way to fall red, orange, and gold we have the opportunity to reflect on the unending depth of God’s movement in our lives.
When I was a child, I remember my Mom having a friend who was always saddened by the turning leaves. She was an older lady who only saw that the leaves were dying. From that perspective she missed the beauty found in the reality that new life would soon be springing out. The passing of the old, after it has run its course, yields to the barrenness of winter and then new leaves burst forth to remind us that God always has something new in the works.
What season is your life in right now? In a way, a journey of faith is always passing through seasons. Our primary spring comes at salvation. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old tings passed away; behold, new things have come.” Salvation brings new life, a new start, a new perspective and outlook, and a new hope. We enter the summer of growth and flourish through feasting at His table and drinking in His presence. Sooner or later we may find ourselves in a fall or maybe even a winter when the ‘leaves’ of our spiritual life may dry up and even fall off, but if we are deeply rooted in Christ, as we have been focusing on lately, the budding of a fresh start is just around the corner as God prepares something new in us.
As you enjoy the colors of fall this year, let them remind you that ‘new’ is just around the corner. Offer God a thanksgiving of praise for the beauty of His creation and even more for the way that He brings new life to that which seems old and spent. No matter where you are in your spiritual journey through the seasons of life, God wants to take you to a new place. Soak up the beauty of the season around us and embrace the transformation that God wants to paint across your life.
For years, when I climbed onto my lawnmower and set out to tackle the over-extended grass in my yard, I followed the same pattern, exactly. I had a system I suppose you would say. Dividing the yard into 10 separate sections, I cut each section in the same manner and moved from section to section in the same order. It was a methodical, wrote exercise in yard maintenance. Then a couple of weeks ago that all changed. Due to worn out cogs in my lawnmower’s steering column, the old Craftsman tractor will now only turn left. I like to think of it as training to be a NASCAR driver one day! Everything changed. Not only did this change the way that I mow each section of the yard, but in the process I redefined some of the sections and mixed up the order in which I cut them to accommodate my left-turn-only situation. The change was liberating.
The mowing is now actually faster and more enjoyable. It’s different that it always has been, but in a good way. The whole experience reminded me that change can be a very good thing. When the day comes when Old Red won’t go any more and there’s a new mower in my garage, I’ll keep changing up the mowing to keep it fresh.
“What in the world does mowing have to do with one’s spiritual journey?” you might be asking about now. Lots! We tend to get stuck in ruts. We come to church, sit in the same place, go to the same classes, attend the same service, talk to the same people, engage in the same ministry, and come back next week and do it again. On the other hand, maybe we get into a rut of not doing anything spiritual at all. My half-broken mower helped me realize that ‘different’ can be amazingly refreshing. Although a change may feel awkward or weird at first, I find that seeing something in a new light and from a different angle can open avenues of blessing I’ve never thought about before.
So what about you and your spiritual journey? Are you stuck in a rut? If so, why not change something? If you’re accustomed to sleeping in on Sunday and skipping church, why not get up and go this week? Start a new and different Bible study habit. Take on a new spiritual project. Focus your prayer in a new direction. If you’re already in the habit of attending church, dare I say it….sit in a different place! (If you try that you’ll get to meet and talk to different people. That’s a good thing!) Try something new! I think you’ll be blessed!
If there’s one thing the Christian life should NOT be, it’s stagnant. A journey with Jesus is continually evolving and growing as we embrace the Holy Spirit at work in and around us. If the current stage of your journey is ‘working’ that’s great. Just remember that the longer it stays the same the more it can become a rut that isn’t ‘working’ any more. I hope you will take the opportunity to experience something new with God every day. When the journey is new and fresh we engage with the Lord in depths that we can’t find in the ruts of life. So change something up every now and then and let God take you to a new place!
As I write this article I’m sitting in front of a television watching the unfolding news accounts of the aftermath of the assassination of five police officers in Dallas, TX. The situation is so sad. Our country is more divided that I have ever seen it. There are racial divides, political divides, religious divides, economic divides, flag divides, and so on, and the division seems to be growing. Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” If his words are true, we seem to be racing toward a fall.
The phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ keeps surfacing in the discussion. I suppose I understand the sentiment behind that movement only as much as one who isn’t black can, but here’s what bothers me about it. ALL lives matter…black lives, white lives, brown lives, red lives, yellow lives, republican lives, democrat lives, gay lives, straight lives, rich lives, poor lives, young lives, old lives, unborn lives, …LIVES MATTER! We seem to be missing that truth.
Violence will not bring us together. Gun control will not keep us safe. Vengeance will not bring back a loved one or right a wrong. Only when we start to recognize and respect each other as people created in the image of God will we value one another and understand that we all matter. When we treat others in the way we would like to be treated, when we respect ourselves and others, when we respect the property of others things will change. When we yield our hearts to Jesus Christ and bring our lives in line with God’s instruction laid out in His Word we will see major differences. I hope you will join me in praying fervently for the heart of our nation and as we do, let’s remember that ALL lives matter.
During this month when we celebrate our country’s 240th birthday, I’m wondering how many more she’ll have. I know, that sounds quite pessimistic, but it’s really not. I’m not wondering so much about being overcome by a foreign nation. I’m thinking that we are plummeting toward Christ’s return and God’s culmination of history as we know it. So many end-time prophecies seem to be fulfilling on a daily basis. Wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, natural disasters, rampant evil, hearts growing increasingly cold toward God, and the preaching of the Gospel making great strides toward reaching all parts of the world….sounds to me like we are approaching the end of this chapter of the story. That’s not a bad thing if you’re a disciple of Jesus!
People sit around and fret about what’s going to happen if their candidate doesn’t win the election. They worry about the ramifications of the Supreme Court not ruling in their favor on the issue of the day. They get angered when they see the other side demonstrating and championing things they disagree with. It doesn’t matter which side of the proverbial fence they stand on, people tend they think that where they’re standing is ‘right.’ That being the case, if everybody would just see it ‘their’ way, all would be well. Not!
Proverbs 14:12 tells us, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Most of the 7 billion people in the world are charting what they think is ‘right’ by what they’ve been taught, what they’ve experienced, and what they feel. Since those factors can be wildly different and vastly erroneous, they will never lead us to the ‘right’ way. They will in fact lead us to spiritual death. What will lead us to life is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. His plan, nothing else, leads to life. The next presidential election isn’t going to fix America or the world. All the gun laws congress could pass won’t change a murderous heart. Someone who really wants an abortion will get one whether it’s legal or not. There will never be enough law enforcement and TSA agents to prevent every terrorist attack. Things will continue to spiral downward until God brings it all to a close.
So what do we do? I’m certainly not suggesting that we sit idly by and watch everything run into the ground as if there’s nothing we or anyone can do about it. We pray, we vote, we let our voice be heard, we support those in leadership who are standing up for what’s Biblically right, and we tell the story! We use our freedom as citizens of this great country to share the Good News of Jesus with one person at a time. We surrender our lives to Christ, align our lives to His Word, and invest our lives in others so that they can come to know Christ as well. We pray for missionaries. We become missionaries. We ask God for a missionary’s heart and start to see our lives as having a solitary mission…to make Him known. The general direction of humanity is likely to continue sprinting away from God, but there is one out there that might turn around if we were a good witness. Then there might be another, and another.
God bringing all that we know to an end is not something to dread, unless you don’t know Jesus. For those who know Him, the end will be glorious beyond imagination! I don’t know when it will be and don’t care to know. I know this though, for all of us, the longest we have to be a witness is one lifetime, and that’s not long. Let’s celebrate our amazing country’s birthday by being a witness for the truth. God may use you in the process of changing someone’s eternal destination. THAT will make a world of difference!!!
Sometimes God places a divine interruption in our path. We’re busily doing our thing, caught up in our routine, taking care of all the important items on our plates and out of the blue the Holy Spirit drops something in front of us that slows us down, changes our course and re-routes our day. When those things come, I usually grit my teeth, mutter my frustration, and say to the Father, “Really?!?! Right Now?!?! Come on God, don’t you know I’m busy?!?!” And He says, “But I have plans you can’t see!”
I had been here in Flora for a couple of months the first time that I met Antmore Rose. He was a tall, large framed, black man with a kind smile and soft spoken demeanor. I don’t recall exactly what he needed help with, grocery or gas money, a light bill, etc., but he asked if there was anything he could do around the church to earn the funds he needed. Over the next seven years, Antmore would offer to help a multitude of times in return for a ride, or some groceries, or this, that, or the other. He always wanted to do something rather than just ask for a handout.
We developed a friendship. I had the opportunity, along with others in our church, especially those in the food pantry and benevolence ministry, to be a blessing to Antmore in many ways. He blessed me by reminding me of how blessed I am, of how one can have a pleasant attitude even in the toughest of situations, and how sacrificing for others is a beautiful thing.
Antmore moved to Boston back in the fall to live with his brother. I didn’t know if we would ever see him again. About a month ago, the phone in my office rang. It was Antmore. Turns out the Boston winter was too much for him and he was coming home. He arrived a few days later and we took him some groceries. It was good to see him again even though his myriad of health problems had him looking bad.
He called me on a Wednesday morning. Through the move his Medicaid benefits had gotten messed up and he needed a ride to the Medicaid office in Jackson to get them straightened out. In other circumstances I probably would have put him off, but he was on dialysis three times a week and really needed to get his benefits fixed. I drove him to town that rainy afternoon.
Antmore and I had talked about his relationship with God a number of times before, but I had never gotten the strong impression that he knew Jesus as his savior. As we headed back to Flora, it was as if God spoke into my heart and said, “Talk to him about his faith!” We had just finished talking about how if they didn’t get his Medicaid straightened out so he could get his dialysis he was going to die. That segued into me asking him what he thought would happen to him when he would die. He gave an ‘I’ve been a pretty good person’ answer. Then from the I-220 I-55 interchange all the way to Flora, I led him through the plan of salvation. As we neared his house, I said, “Antmore, you’ve got to ask Jesus to forgive you and save you.” He told me that he was going to talk to God about that when he said his prayers that night.
On Monday morning, I got word that Antmore had died Sunday night. His poor health took its toll and God called him home. I wondered if he had the conversation with God that he told me he would. At his funeral a few days ago that I had the privilege to conduct in our sanctuary, his sister told us all that she had asked him about his relationship with Jesus just 2 hours before he took his last breath. He assured her that he had asked Jesus to come into His life. I’m so glad I’ll see my friend again!
When God interrupts your day with an opportunity don’t let it slip by. You never know when it might be the last opportunity for you or the person on the other side of the equation. Be a witness. Share Jesus. He makes all the difference!
I took a road trip through the Delta recently. Hailing from that flat land, I see it differently than many non-deltans do. I hear lots of people say that the Delta is ugly, boring, and uninteresting. Evidently, some people require hills and trees in their landscapes to appreciate them and consider them beautiful. I see things differently. Don’t get me wrong, I love rolling hills, majestic mountains, and dense forests as much as anyone. But there is a simple beauty to the table-like surface of my homeland that stirs a passion deep in my soul. To say that I enjoyed my spring time, absolutely gorgeous, roll-the-windows-down, turn-the-music-up day would be an understatement of epic proportions. All along the journey, spiritual reminders of one gigantic truth kept leaping from the fertile fields of my childhood….it’s time to plant!
I didn’t see many tractors breaking ground. There were hardly any diesel burning machines pulling disks, or plows, or subsoilers. All the dirt moving equipment I passed sat idle, waiting for another day. Harvest time of course is months away so the combines were parked quietly under their sheds. What WAS moving??? Planters! Tractors pulling planters of various sizes filled with seed moved across the flat landscape of the Delta, doing the work so vitally necessary to produce a harvest. Every farmer knows that the seed must be planted for a harvest to follow.
The scene got me thinking. If all the farmer ever did was shine the tractors, tune the engines, work on the planters, and familiarize themselves with the biological makeup of the seed, there would be no harvest. If they spent all their time getting ready but never went to the field and dropped the planter on the ground, nothing would happen. If the seed stayed in the planter or in the barn, no crops would grow and eventually we would all starve. To know everything there is to know about the seed and not put it in the ground would be ridiculous and an absolute tragedy. To achieve the desired end result, the farmer must plant the seed.
Jesus compared the Gospel to seed. Our job is to get busy planting. We must get out into the field of the world and sow the seed of the Good News into the hearts of all. If we spend all our time working on the planter (us) and trying to answer every conceivable question that may arise about the seed, we will likely neglect the primary job at hand…planting. Now, mind you, a little work on the planter is certainly in order, but we must move it out of the shop and into the field as fast as we can so that we can get back to the main goal…planting. If we’re going to see a harvest we have to make sure to get the most important element accomplished…planting.
Where could you plant today? I remember so many spring days growing up. We would look for a field that was ready to be planted and we would get busy. Is there a field in your world that needs the Gospel? Why not plant some seeds today? Tomorrow may be too late!
In His hands,
I was thinking the other day about how many things I’ve started, messed up, and then started over. Math problems in school, papers in English class, paintings when I used to dabble in that, songs I’ve tried to write, sauces I’ve tried to cook, woodworking projects, retracing my steps to find a lost object…the list could go on and on. I would imagine you’ve done some of the same. We set out with the best of intentions and then everything turns south. The do-over may be the result of an interruption, a loss of concentration, a slip of the hand (or tongue in some cases!), or maybe we just don’t know what we’re doing. Either way, we came to a point where it was obvious that the process we started and the end result we had in mind were never going to meet. So with a desire to reach the end, we backed up and started over.
The ability to start over is a beautiful thing! Imagine a world where we only had one shot at everything. Few things, if anything, would ever have been invented, accomplished, or completed. There would be no such thing as a prototype, a model, or an example. There would only be ‘the thing’ and most of the time ‘it’ wouldn’t work. Life as we know it would be very different if starting over was not allowed!
At the end of this month we will celebrate Easter. This glorious remembrance of God’s ultimate expression of love and grace toward you and me reminds us that starting over is possible. Without Easter, we had one shot at keeping the Old Testament Law, perfectly, from cradle to grave, without the slightest margin for error. With the perfect impossibility of that feat looming before all humanity, God Himself made it possible for us to start over. The cross and the empty tomb opened the flood gates of grace so that you and I could start over on the journey of life with a new power, focus and direction.
When a person comes to the realization of their sin, you might say when they realize they need to start over, God’s abundant forgiveness is readily available to the repentant sinner. When we come to Him, as messed up as ‘it’ may be, His grace allows us to begin again. That doesn’t mean that we will not have to deal with the remnant of the mess, but it does mean that the mess can change.
As we head toward Easter, perhaps you have something, an attitude, a habit, a relationship, a plan, a life that needs a do-over. God can make it happen! God can transform, reset, erase, reshape, replace and refresh a failed attempt at….well, you fill in the blank here. Let the reality of Easter and a risen Savior bring your damaged and darkened soul and situation into the light of His new beginning. Leave the messed up version at the cross and walk away to start again with a heart cleansed of the mistakes and errors of the past. Then as you engage with His Holy Spirit and the sound guidance of the Word, head off in a new direction. You don’t have to stay where you are, in the scattered conglomerate of yesterday’s mess. Because of Jesus, we can start over, again.
In His hands,
Those who follow Christ are called ‘disciples.’ One of the marks of a disciple is that they identify with Jesus. They are so enthralled with Him that they are glad to talk about Him and eager to share what He is doing in their lives with others. Disciples seek Him and serve Him and share Him. They want others to know Jesus and so they tell their story.
Some time ago I read an account of a man who was with the Billy Graham team in a crusade. He conveyed the story of a businessman who came forward one night and received Christ. The following Sunday night he went to a church that he sometimes attended. After the service he walked up to one of the leading elders in this church and told him, “I was at the Billy Graham meeting last week out at the ball park. I went forward and received Christ.”
“I heard about it and I am delighted,” the elder replied.
Then the businessman asked the elder, “How long have you and I been associated in business?” “About 23 years, I think.”
“Have you known Christ as your Savior all those years?” the man asked the elder.
“Yes, I have,” he answered.
“Well, I don’t remember your ever speaking to me about Christ during those years,” the man said. The elder hung his head, and the man continued, “I have thought highly of you. In fact, I thought so highly of you that I felt if anyone could be as fine a man as you and not be a Christian, then I didn’t have to be a Christian either.”
This elder had lived a good life before his friend, but he had not taken the added step of openly identifying with the One who enabled him to live that kind of life. Here was a fine man, but he did not have this first mark of a disciple of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus asks us to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him, what do you think it means? Whatever else it means, I think it means to be identified with Christ, not only when it’s popular but when it’s unpopular. Not only when it’s the thing to do, but also when it seems as if it’s not the thing to do. I like the way the New English Bible puts Revelation 1:9. John writes, “I was on the island called Patmos because I had preached God’s word and borne my testimony to Jesus.”
You and I have an opportunity to identify with Jesus every day. We must decide what we’re going to do with that opportunity ahead of time and prepare for whatever God sends our way. I guess that’s being ready ‘in season and out of season.’ Don’t just be a good person. Be God’s person…and as He fills you with His Spirit let it out so that others can see and hear what Jesus is doing in your life. Wouldn’t it be great if when our name came up in someone’s conversation the first thought they had would be, ‘that person really loves Jesus!’ They won’t know if we don’t tell!
In His hands – – Brojoe
It has taken me a while to get around to writing this. The past 16 days have been the hardest of my life. On January 3rd, in the pre-dawn hours of a chilly Mississippi morning, a young man whom I had come to love like a son and who was the love of my daughter’s life drowned in a duck hunting accident. As I type those words it still seems so surreal. Daniel Franklin treated my daughter the way a father hopes that a man will treat his daughter. He loved her. He was thoughtful and considerate and compassionate and patient and giving and hard working and funny and he loved the Lord. I’ve never seen two kids happier with each other. They were planning a marriage and a life together and we were all so excited about it.
God had another plan. We don’t always understand God’s ways or why things happen like they do, but at the end of the day we trust God. We believe His Word and we rest in the fact that He will use this for His glory and bring about good things. I take comfort that I saw God at work in Daniel’s life. I saw Dan open to the moving of the Holy Spirit in his life. I saw he and my daughter sharing time in the Word together. I saw him talking to his friends about a relationship with God. Daniel told Hannah that she would always be second in his life because God had to be first. How I had prayed for a man who would take that stand. Even though he came into our lives for a short time, we are so blessed that he came at all. Daniel set the bar so high for both my daughters as they consider what a man should be. For that I will ever be grateful!
As I have walked through this I have questioned God. I have been angry and hurt and so terribly disappointed. Yet I have learned to trust Him even more. I’ve learned to hold on to His promises even when they seem far away. He has shown me in so many ways that He is here and making a difference. I don’t know what all He has in store through this, but I know that He is God and He has a plan. I claim Romans 8:28 and will continue love Him and be called according to His purpose.
Hannah has shown amazing strength in her brokenness, the kind that only can come from God. Her faith has inspired so many. Here is what she wrote on her tumblr. It’s long, but worth the read. I hope it will inspire someone who needs some inspiration. You can follow her journey at http://hcole-world.tumblr.com/ God bless you on your journey!
An Open Letter to Young Women:
Many of you may be familiar with our story. I am a young woman from Flora, MS. He was an incredible man from Canton/Camden/Pickens, MS (middle of nowhere). We were a young couple in love and planning our future until he was called home on January 3, 2016.
Daniel came into my life quickly and swept me off my feet. I am not a mushy person at all. Talking about feelings has never really been my thing. However, when Dan came along I didn’t shut up. He brought me so many laughs and good memories. He cared for me more than I thought any man could. He made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world at all times. I truly believe he loved me more than himself. Most importantly, he loved the good lord even more than he loved me. I learned a lot from Daniel Franklin. I have dated a few guys in the past several years and don’t get me wrong they are great guys. But Daniel made them look like dirt. I am writing this letter to young (or old) girls looking for that special person, stuck in a messy relationship, or even just needing a good read. Here is my advice to you young ladies.
1. Stop searching.
I have found that searching for a man usually leads no where but down a road of disappointment. When you’re searching, you usually end up settling and wasting your time. Be independent. Do your own things. Make memories with your friends. When God thinks you’re ready, he’ll throw that special guy into the mix and he will change your life forever. This past September at church one Sunday morning I told God, “Okay I am done looking. Please take my mind off of relationships and fix my eyes on you. I surrender to your plan whether that involves a man or not.” Guess who text me for the first time that afternoon? Daniel. God works in funny ways. You have to trust him to reveal his plan in his timing. We’re just along for the ride.
2. Get to know one another…in person.
Social media has it’s pros and cons. We can make connections easily which is great. But I think as a nation we are forgetting how to communicate in person. So often Daniel and I would be on a date and see a couple or two constantly on their phones. One rule we had was no phones on dates. We talked. Communication is so important. If you can’t hold a conversation with that guy, it’s not worth it in my opinion. A couple should be able to talk about anything. We would start by telling each other about our day and end up talking about some crazy topic like the rapture. I remember this one morning we talked and talked until 4 am then went and got Hardee’s and talked some more! Communication is vital. Put your phone down and talk.
3. Be with someone who c a r e s .
Daniel Franklin was crazy about me and I felt the same about him. He reminded me several times a day how much he loved me or how much I meant to him. And I loved that. But the thing is, he didn’t have to say any of that. The way he treated me showed how much he cared about me. I don’t remember ever being with him and him not opening my door for me. No matter how hard I tried that boy never let me pay for anything. One day he randomly got me the sketch book and charcoal pencils I had been wanting. Did Daniel think of this on his own? Heck no. Daniel Franklin probably didn’t know charcoal pencils existed! He heard me talking to my sister, Rachel one day and took a mental note. He actually had a whole list in his phone of things I had told my family or sister that I wanted and he was going to get them for me. He told me “I don’t want to have to ask you what to get you for your birthday or Christmas. I just want to surprise you.” I never woke up without a good morning message and never went to sleep without a good night message. Those are little things that mean the world to us girls. Daniel truly cared about me and everyone could see it.
4. Be with a gentlemen.
If he doesn’t shake your daddy’s hand and look him right in the eye, give him the boot. If he doesn’t treat your mother right, let him go. One thing I loved about Daniel was how he treated my family. He couldn’t wait to meet my parents. When you tell a guy your Dad is a preacher their first reaction isn’t always ecstatic. But to Daniel, he couldn’t wait to meet the two people that raised the woman that he loved. He treated my little sister like he was dating her too! He paid for her food, opened the door for her, including her in conversation, etc. You can also tell a lot about a guy by the way he treats his family. Daniel’s family has quickly become a part of me. He has the sweetest parents anyone could ask for. Daniel loved them and his sister, Jenny with his whole heart. He also loved Jenny’s family and his half brother, Chris. If your “man” doesn’t know how to treat his own family, what makes you think he is going to know how to treat his future family? Watch for these things. Charm and looks only go so far. Be with someone who will treat you (and your potential family) right.
5. Put God first.
When I was the 7th grade our speaker at church camp said on his first date with his wife he looked her in the eyes and said, “If we work out, just know I will always put God over you.” That may sound harsh to a non-believer but to a daughter of Christ that’s all you wanna hear. Daniel told me this not long after we started dating. I told him that was perfect and that I would do the same. When Christ is first in your life, everything falls together. His plan unfolds the way it should. When you love God first it is so easy to love others. Relationships dodge so many problems when God is put first.. However, he can’t be first in the relationship until he is first in your life, and in the life of your man. Don’t rush into a relationship unless you are both mature in your faith.
6. Trust God in any and everything.
I have never really worried about anything. I have been a firm believer in Christ and fully relied on him to do with my life what he thought fit. But I’d never lost someone I loved. Yes, I lost my grandfathers when I was 8 but I didn’t fully understand then. It is so easy to trust God when things are going great. It is when difficult times comes your way that you really have to learn to trust him. Nothing could have prepared me for losing Daniel. The hurt that I, and many others have experienced in the last week and a half is almost unbearable. We want him back. I miss his smile, his touch, his voice, i miss everything. But God has a bigger plan much greater than we can imagine. We humans see a very limited view. We see the now. We see the pain. God sees the future. God sees the big picture. If the creator of the universe tells us he’s got this, he’s got this. We cannot worry about tomorrow. We can only trust God to get us through whatever comes our way. Whether you find a man or you don’t, whether you live happily ever after, or he breaks your heart, whether you spend the rest of your life with him or he goes to be with Christ unexpectedly, God’s got this. He doesn’t put us through anything we cannot handle. So, trust him. Trust him with your whole life. I promise, he will make his will happen. We may not always like it. But we MUST trust it.
I hope every girl has the chance to find their Daniel. I never thought I could love someone the way I love that man. I am beyond thankful to God for letting me get to know him so intimately. Even though our time together was short, it was well lived. I have and am learning so much from him. Thank you God, for giving us Daniel.
I love talking about Daniel and helping others with any questions they have about boys or Christ or anything really. Whether you know me or not, if you need to talk about anything please feel free to message me. I would love to try to help. God bless.
WHEN TRAGEDY STRIKES
Sooner or later, tragedy hits everybody. It’s not a matter of if, but when will tragedy strike. The problem is, we don’t know when, or what, or where. That being the case, it behooves us to be ready all the time. But how in the world can you do that?? How can you be ready for the flood of emotion and depth of pain that sears white-hot through your soul when the unthinkable suddenly is thrust into your reality? In some regards, there is no way. You just ride the tide of grief as best you can, holding on through the waves of hurt and praying that they subside as quickly as possible. That being said, there are some things that if done beforehand, will help when tragedy strikes.
Every day, commit your way to God. Don’t wait until you’re in the depth of need to call out to Him. Go to Him daily and begin a lifestyle of walking with Him. While you don’t know what’s coming, He does. Start relying upon and seeking Him in the everyday mundane events of life and you’ll have a solid foundation when the storm blows against you.
Talk to God continuously. I Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to ‘pray without ceasing.’ If you are already praying, when tragedy strikes you’ll just continue the conversation with God. It won’t be something new or uncomfortable. You’ll keep talking to the one who has been with you all along.
Don’t doubt in the darkness what you know to be true in the light. Tragedy has a way of making one question everything. Yet tragedy does not change truth. Don’t let your circumstances determine your beliefs, but rather let the truth of God’s Word infiltrate your circumstances. If it was true when times were good, it still is, no matter how bad it is at the time. Stay in the Word now and it will give you strength in the hard times.
Surround yourself with people who care, pray, and will be a positive source of encouragement. The support of others who are walking with Jesus will help carry you through the tough times and get you back out of the devastating depths. Let them come alongside you. You’ll probably get to return the favor to them later.
Finally, I think of Job’s response to the news that he had lost practically everything, including his children. “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshipped. He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’” Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.” Job 1:20-22 When it all falls apart and you don’t think you can go on, remember that God knows exactly where you are, He has a plan, and He will turn it to something good. Then go and worship Him.
Let me start with a big Thank You! What a wonderful church you are!! Your outpouring of love and gracious expressions of the same were an overwhelming blessing to me and my family. Thank you for the cards, gifts, goodies, and generous love offering that you sent our way during the Christmas season. We are so blessed to call you family!
2015 at FBC was a good year in many respects. Our church family grew. We witnessed, baptized, discipled, worshipped, and studied God’s Word. We prayed and saw many prayers answered. We gave more and ministered more and went more. We set a new record attendance in Sunday School on December 20 with 397 people digging in to the Word. Our giving exceeded the largest budget in church history by a significant amount. We shattered previous mission offering records and gave more to spread the Gospel than ever before. Yes, 2015 was a good year in so many ways.
On a larger stage, the picture might not look so great. Terrorism, war, refugees, crime, the moral decay of society, and a long list of other prevailing ills fill the newscasts and remind us of the dire situation that exists for so many. Questions about the new president we will elect this year seem to bring as much fear and uncertainty as the world-wide political climate he or she will face when taking office. The good and the bad, as is always the case, coexist alongside one another day after day and serve to keep us from getting too high or too low about the situation of life.
This brings us to the question, “What’s 2016 going to look like?” I wouldn’t begin to speculate on the answer to that question in many realms, but I do know a little about 2016 and what it will hold.
God is not going to change. His Word will still ring true. Prayer will continue to be the most powerful weapon in a Christian’s arsenal. Time spent with God will remain the most important time of the day. Leaning on brothers and sisters in Christ will still help sharpen you and the one you’re leaning against. Worship will maintain its place as a key component of your spiritual life. That which you give away in the name of Jesus will keep returning an abundance of blessings. Serving God by serving others will be an open door to the blessings God wants to pour out on you and a host of others.
No matter what ISIS does, no matter who the next president is, no matter what happens to interest rates, no matter if we even make it to the end of 2016, God is still going to be seated squarely on His throne. Nothing will escape His watchful eye. No child of God will be left alone. None of His promises will fail. That brings certainty and reassurance into our hearts that might get a little worried from time to time. I think of the words of the angel that spoke to the shepherds on the hillside when Jesus was born… “fear not!” I believe that God would have us hear those words again today. I believe that He would say to us, “Do not be afraid…Trust me!”
Will you trust God in 2016? Really trust Him, not just in the easy things, but in everything. Nothing honors Him more than our trust in Him. If we can trust Him for our salvation, it seems we can trust Him for everything. I hope that 2016 will be the year that we will look back upon and say, “I trusted God!” The nations may rage and the devil may make an uproar, but they are no match for Almighty God. Let’s remain calm and trust Him no matter what. He will come through!
Trusting Him with you,
CHRISTMAS – It stirs a lot of different emotions for different people. Some are overjoyed by the hope and good cheer that the season brings. Some see all the happy people around them and are reminded of all that’s wrong in their lives and feel sad. Others despise Christianity so much that they miss the joy for wanting to remove Christ and make it just a secular celebration. Many simply focus on the material side, worrying about the presents and how much the whole holiday bill will come to this year. Yes, Christmas takes on a different meaning for different people, but our perception of it does nothing to alter what it’s really all about. The truth remains…. “God so loved the world that He gave….”
God gave a gift that the world needed. A few knew this gift was coming but most did not. Even among those who knew, the majority of them didn’t recognize the gift because it didn’t come in the way they expected. It wasn’t wrapped in the glorious trappings of a king and heralded by the fanfare normally associated with regal birth. The locale of the gift’s arrival was obscure and ordinary. The initial recipients of the gift were average at best. Those who heard of it first were of a class who wouldn’t have been invited to most people’s dinner parties. The gift slipped in under the radar of the casual observer, but to those who carefully studied the predictions of the gift it was right on time and in just the right place.
God’s gift, as ordinary as it seemed at the time, was and is the most significant thing ever given. In that glorious expression of His fullness He gave hope, joy, love, and peace. We will celebrate those things during the season of Advent. Alongside those amazing benefits we find that the gift of Jesus offers forgiveness, meaning, significance, and purpose. The celebration of Christmas reminds us that forgiveness is found in the person of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. Nothing less. Nothing else. As Jesus poured into His disciples He taught them and all who would come after them that the meaning of life was found in relationship with Him. We flounder in meaninglessness until we come to the realization that we were meant for fellowship with God through Christ. In a world where millions of people struggle with inferiority and the lack of significance in life, Christmas screams to us that we are significant. That God would come to us, live among us, die for us, and promise us a future with Him negates every idea that any one of us is insignificant. Christmas shouts, “YOU ARE AMAZINGLY SPECIAL AND SIGNIFICANT!” And purpose, oh my! Christmas brings to us the overwhelming purpose that we are to spend our lives sharing the Good News of Jesus.
So what’s Christmas going to be like for you this year? You can choose to focus on all you don’t have…people, money, gifts, stuff, OR you can choose to focus on what you DO have…forgiveness, meaning, significance and purpose. Don’t let the Christmas blues creep in and steal the joy that is magnificently bundled in the reality of Jesus. If you find yourself getting weighted down and starting to despair, do something! Pray. Read the Christmas story from the Bible and realize that Jesus is God’s gift to YOU. Sing a Christmas Carol. Go to church and worship. Tell random people “Merry Christmas!” Bake something and take it to someone. Invite someone over for a meal, or just out for coffee. Go riding around to look at Christmas lights. Have an egg nog milkshake for crying out loud! God loves you too much, Christmas is too magnificent, and you are too blessed to let this season come and go without celebrating the most wonderful gift ever given. May this be your best Christmas ever, filled with His joy and abounding with His wonder. Merry Christmas to all!!
In His hands – Brojoe
I love the Bible! God’s Word is a treasure that the Creator of the universe has given to humanity to instruct, inform, inspire, enlighten, encourage and mostly…transform. The Bible holds the record of God’s revelation to mankind and gives us the most important message that exists, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While the Bible contains these beautiful truths, God, through its writings, has instructed us to do some things that at times seem pretty difficult. One such instruction is found in I Thessalonians 5:18…”in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Really?? Come on! Give thanks in everything? Everything includes when my job is lost, when a serious illness comes, when my house burns down or I total my car. Everything includes when I fail a test, miss a deadline, or lose a sale to my competitor. Everything includes my best friend betraying me. Everything even includes the sudden death of one way too young. In everything??? Surely not!
Crazy as it seems, that’s what the Word says. Maybe there are some things we need to understand about this seemingly impossible instruction. Let’s be clear. The instruction is IN everything, not FOR everything. There’s a difference. So while I may never say “thank you God for letting me fall off that ladder and break my leg,” I can say “thank you God!” in the midst of my ordeal. “How?” you ask. Here’s what it takes.
A REDEEMED HEART – I’m never going to be able to give thanks to God in the midst of everything until HE has done a redeeming work in my heart. When a person gives their life to Jesus Christ, God does a supernatural work in their soul that opens the very depth of the person to be transformed by His Holy Spirit. This part is step 1. Nothing else works if we skip this step.
A REDIRECTED HOPE – Too often we put our hope in people or things. When something bad happens it almost always happens in the realm of people or things. If our hope, our foundational hope at the center of our lives, is in those people or things then thanksgiving is going to be far from our hearts. When our hope is secure in Christ, we can still say ‘thanks’ when people and things take the hit.
A REFOCUSED HEAD – The way we think about life is vitally important. If my focus is on me and the world around me then I will not be able to give thanks when life comes crashing down. When my focus turns in God’s direction and I realize that my purpose in life is to bring glory to Him, then I begin to see that the difficult situation provides an unusually unique opportunity to lift Him up. Because HE is my hope and focus, I can give Him thanks no matter what.
A RESTORED HALLELUJAH – An intimate, personal walk with Jesus Christ puts a new shout of praise into the heart and mouth of an individual. When the ‘I don’t feel like giving thanks’ times come, nothing soothes like praising God. Find something to praise Him about and the thanksgiving will follow.
A RESURRECTED HERO – Finally we come full circle. The ultimate key to giving thanks in the midst of whatever comes is found in the truth of the resurrected Christ. His victory over death puts everything in perspective. For those who are His through faith, no matter what comes, the giving of thanks can still go up because He has overcome the ultimate enemy and the future is secure.
As we journey through this season of Thanksgiving, we will likely run across some things we’re not particularly thankful for, but we can be thankful IN them when our souls rest on Jesus and Jesus fills our souls. Happy Thanksgiving friends. May yours be blessed!
To say it has been dry would be as understated as saying that ice cream is pretty good on apple pie. In my 50 years on the planet I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a stretch of so little rain and so much heat as we have experienced since the middle of the summer. That being the case, the rain we received Oct. 24-26 was much needed and wonderfully refreshing. People were smiling as they walked into church that Sunday in the rain. I heard no complaints about wet shoes or driving conditions or even wet hair-dos. A few folks just strolled into the building with upturned faces, both embracing the falling moisture and offering a prayer of thanks to the one who sent it. When a drought sets in one longs for the soothing, cooling, refreshing blessing of water.
The Psalmist, writing in a land that experiences long periods of drought, spoke of a deer’s longing for the refreshing brooks of water that sometimes dried up during the dry seasons. He compared that longing to the longing that a spiritually dry soul has for God. Psalm 42 begins… “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirst for God, for the living God;” The writer goes on to convey that there was once a time when he was leading the procession to church and lifting his voice in worship. We don’t know what happened, but evidently he drifted away and found himself dried up and down-trodden. That always creates a longing in the soul.
I’ve been through dry times. I suspect you have as well. Whether we know it or not, there is a longing in the depths of our souls for the refreshing that only God can give. How do we come to the springs of living water and find the only drink that satisfies???
REMEMBER – Remember the Word. Remember the promises. Remember the truth that life is in Christ. The central focus of our lives must be the living, growing, all-invasive presence of Jesus in our souls.
REFLECT – Reflect back on what He has done. When the children of Israel would stray, the prophets would remind them of how God had led and blessed their forefathers. Look back at what God has done and know that He still can and still does.
RELEASE – Release your grip on control. It’s an illusion anyway. The tighter we hold on to the need to control everything the more we dry out our hearts. When we sit in the driver’s seat and neglect the presence of the Spirit we wring the spiritual moisture from our very beings.
RE-ENGAGE – Re-engage with God. Open your Bible and soak in the water of the Word. Cast aside the distractions that steal your attention away from the central message of the universe and draw it toward the façade of human reason. Forsake prayerlessness, or worse the shallow, meaningless, rote prayers that often make us think we are doing God a favor by talking to Him. Fall on your knees and open your soul to the sovereign God in an honest outpouring of your spirit. Engage what you know into the daily moving of your life and find His presence all throughout.
RETURN – Unlike our physical drought, the spiritual water never went anywhere – we just quit drinking. Return to the refreshing spring of life in Christ Jesus and drink deeply. Nothing else will satisfy!
I’ll see you at the stream – – -Brojoe
Preachers are notorious for borrowing ideas from others. So when my daughter wrote this on her blog I thought I would borrow it and share it here. You can check out her blog at http://hcole-world.tumblr.com/
“& if not, he is still good.” Recently I have been seeing this verse everywhere! Curious, I looked it up to read the background behind it. These words are a paraphrase from the book of Daniel. It is taken from the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. King Nebuchadnezzar was threatening to throw anyone in a fiery furnace if they did not bow down to his statue and worship him. The three men refused to bow down telling the king that his threat meant nothing to them. They said God would rescue them and if he didn’t, they would still never worship his statue or serve their gods. If you know the story you know the men do get thrown in the furnace and when King Nebuchadnezzar looks he sees not 3 but 4 figures. The fourth person was God. They let the three men out and the bible says that not a single hair was singed.
The faith that these men had is incredible to me. They trusted God to save them but also acknowledged that if he didn’t, they would still never serve another God.
As Christians, when a tough situation comes our way often times the first thing we do is pray about it. We plead to God to get us through it and turn things to our favor. If things don’t turn out how we hoped we sometimes think of it like God failed us. God will never fail us. Sometimes we’ll pray and God will answer exactly how we wanted. But if not, he is still good.
Deer season is upon us. I realize that doesn’t excite everyone, but there are lessons to be learned from hunters that we can apply to our spiritual lives with great benefit. With the archery season opening and the gun season on its heels, hunters will be busy getting ready and going into action. As I think about all that involves I think about these things….
Hunters plan. They think about when, where, how, and what they’ll hunt. Somewhere in their subconscious they probably even think about ‘why’ they hunt. Most will not just walk into the woods on opening morning. They will have thought about it quite a bit.
Hunters plant. I’ve talked to numerous people lately who, with the possibility of rain in the forecast, are finally planting food plots. They’ve been nervous about how late the planting is this year, but they’re excited to get it done. Hunters plant crops for the deer to eat in order to provide a bountiful harvest.
Hunters practice. I’ve noticed that hunters, bow hunters in particular, spend many hours practicing their shooting. In our part of the world, a drive from wherever you are to wherever you’re going will likely cause you to drive past a house with an archery target in the yard. The riflemen will go to the range and make sure their rifles are accurately sighted in. Shooting practice will help to insure the shooter hits the mark.
Hunters prepare. Hunters love their equipment so they get it ready and make sure everything is in proper order. As a boy, I remember my Dad getting all the hunting clothes out of off-season storage, having my Mom wash them, and hanging them on a clothes line outside to make sure the musty closet-smells were gone. Hunters scout with trail cameras, track game movement, and read the latest how-to tips in order to give themselves the edge they need.
Hunters participate. When the hunt comes around, hunters go. It wouldn’t make much sense to do all the pre-work and then never actually go to the woods. You have to get off the couch and go to where the deer are and hunt. That’s why it’s called hunting!
Hunters proclaim. One thing hunters do very well is tell a hunting story. Whatever happens, good, bad, or indifferent, hunters will have a story about it and it seems they love to tell it. (Unless they don’t want anyone to know where the big one is!!!)
When we think about our spiritual lives there are many correlations. We should PLAN. Do you have a plan to study the word? Do you have a plan for your prayer life? Do you make plans to arrange your schedule to be in worship? Planning for our spiritual growth plays a big part in its reality. We should PLANT. We talk a great deal about planting seeds of faith in others, but we should plant those same seeds in our own hearts. Every time we open the word or listen to a sermon or engage in a spiritual conversation we are planting seeds of faith in ourselves. That’s a good thing! We should PRACTICE. As an archer or rifleman trains to carefully place a shot, we should learn how to carefully apply God’s truth to the situations of life, being careful to shoot accurately. We should PREPARE. We should sharpen our skills for ministry and learn the context of our mission field. God has gifted every Christian for ministry and we must prepare to use those gifts. We should PARTICIPATE. If all we ever do is sit on a pew now and then there wont be many spiritual victories. Christians are called to get off the pew and get into the field. And when we get into the field, we must PROCLAIM. The Gospel is GOOD NEWS, and you and I have a privilege and obligation to share it. The season is upon us. Let’s get busy!!
God speaks. He does it in a variety of ways. He speaks through His word, His Holy Spirit, His people, His creation, circumstances, and sometimes maybe even in an audible voice. The problem in hearing from God is not that He is not speaking, it’s that so often we aren’t listening. When we do listen, good things happen. Here’s an example.
Back in May, a group from our church went whitewater rafting in North Carolina. After a few days and a great time, we packed up to come home. In the hustle and bustle of departure I neglected to get my guitar loaded into the van for the ride home. When we returned to Flora and I realized it was missing, I called the cabin manager where we stayed to be sure they found it and determine how I would retrieve it. This guitar had been with me for 28 years and I was sick over leaving it. Things only got worse when she called me back to say they couldn’t find it anywhere. I was heartbroken.
Fast forward to two weeks ago. On a Wednesday at lunch I felt a nudge from God to lead a couple of songs in our Wednesday night Bible study. I don’t do that very often but I perceived it as a word from God. I took the old cheap guitar that I had been playing since losing mine and shared some songs with the Wednesday night crowd. At the end of the service I told the story of how the guitar had disappeared and how God had worked through that to get me playing and writing music more than I had in years. I closed with a song I had written and we all prepared to go home.
On the way out I met a visitor who asked me what kind of guitar I had lost. I told him and he said, “I knew that’s what you were going to say.” He followed that with, “I’ve had one of those sitting around for a long time wondering what I was going to do with it and tonight I found out. God told me to give it to you!” I was floored. He said that he felt God telling him to go to church that night so he did. I felt God telling me to play some songs. I did. God worked in two perfect strangers to put together an awesome blessing. If one of us had not been listening perhaps nothing would have happened. As it was, something amazing did.
Listen for the still, small voice of God my friends. When you hear it, don’t ignore it. Who knows what God may have planned???
When we moved into our house, we inherited three raised bed garden boxes. Each one was 4 feet wide by 16 feet long and about 2 ½ feet deep. One of them was falling apart, and after deciding that 2 garden boxes would be enough, we disassembled the third one. The old boards, weathered by wind, sun, water, dirt, and insects were piled in a corner of the yard and forgotten. There they sat for almost 5 years. Grass grew up around them. Rain fell on them. The sun baked them. Time and the elements worked on them so that they took on the appearance of old wood. These long, solid, once-new boards were neglected and left out for dead.
As I suppose all children do when they leave the nest, Gray and his wife, Lauren, took furniture out of our house when they set up their house. In the aftermath of their move we found ourselves with a guestroom that had a bed with no headboard. One day while stumbling around the old board pile in the yard it hit me like an inspirational voice that had been just waiting for the right moment. I thought to myself, “I could use those old boards to make a really cool headboard like I see in eclectic resale shops going for big bucks!” I pulled a few boards out of the pile and realized that the time, weather, wind, sun, water, dirt, and insects had turned these plain planks into beautiful antique-looking beams. A few hours of cleaning, sawing, and hammering saw those old neglected, forgotten boards become a beautiful, rustic, king-sized headboard. They moved off the junk pile and into the house. Their value, which was always there, just had to be seen, appreciated, and put to good use.
People are a lot like boards. Sometimes we are cast aside and left to rot out in the weather. The reasoning for that can be as varied and diverse as the number of people in question. Life has a way of casting folks aside as if they weren’t good for anything and moving on to the next pressing matter. God, however, looks at people, even the ones that have been out on the wood pile of life for a while, and sees what can become something beautiful and useful. He can take the most weathered soul and transform it by the power of His Holy Spirit into something new and priceless. As we encounter those who look like they’ve been sitting out in the corner of life’s yard for a while, remember that God may have a special plan to turn them into something remarkable. And He may plan to use you and me in the process. We must learn to look past the outside and see that potential within. Then just maybe we will realize what treasures lay all around us.
A few days ago, a couple more of those old boards and some pieces off of an old palate got together to form a table. The problem I have now is, I’m running out of old boards and I’m wondering where I can get some more. Instead of wondering how to avoid the people on the wood pile of life, if we worked harder at being part of their transformation process, we might start looking for them and getting excited about the potential they possess. I guess we all need to stop settling for seeing what is, and start looking for what can be. Who knows what God might do with that!
PRAY! We should have started a long time ago with even more fervency than we did and we definitely need to kick the prayers into gear now. Here we are in the month that we celebrate the birth of our nation, a nation founded on Biblical principles with a high priority on religious freedom, a nation “under God,” a nation with millions of blood-bought, Bible believing Christians whose voice and beliefs once mattered, and our Supreme Court has ruled that homosexual marriage is just the same as real marriage. The night of the ruling, the White House, a symbol of American identity, was lit up in rainbow colors demonstrating the president’s support and elation at the decision. In presenting such a brazen display of partisan politics, liberal agendas, and support for a small segment of society the president thumbed his nose at God, Jesus, the Bible, Christians, conservatives, pastors, Sunday school teachers, traditional families, and so much that has been held dear for so long by so many. When I saw the White House become the “Rainbow House” on the evening of June 26 I was offended. I hope you were too.
My hope is also that we will respond to that offense in a non-offensive way. Some will carry signs in days to come that proclaim condemnation. Some will shout angrily at crowds. Some may make hateful comments to gay couples as they go on their way to get their marriage licenses. None of that is going to turn the hearts and minds of Satan-deceived individuals. On the contrary, it will drive a wedge even more deeply into the divide between the homosexual viewpoint and the Christian perspective. If we, the people who hold dear the truth of God’s word and believe that homosexuality is sin, and that Jesus died for sinners, and that ANY repentant sinner can be forgiven and saved, are going to make a difference then we must speak the truth in love. We cannot water down the truth and say that this sinful lifestyle is OK. We also cannot condemn those caught up in it. We must be redemptive.
On the last Sunday in June, two days after the SCOTUS ruling, I preached a message I entitled “What Would Jesus Say to the Church?” It is available on our website. The points were this…1. “I died for sinners.” 2. “Every sinner needs me.” 3. “My word and I haven’t changed.” 4. “Condemnation and separation will not win the lost…but neither will compromise.” 5. “Stay on the right track.” I think we can define the ‘right track’ as…Biblical, Authentic, Unwavering, Redemptive, and Prayerful. The leadership of our country is taking us down an ever expanding path away from God’s pattern for life and they are taking us there at an ever increasing pace. The president said that some of the accomplishments of his administration would have been “unimaginable not too long ago.” How true and how sad! Church, we must become and remain fervently prayerful in the midst of the increasingly hostile environment we find ourselves in each day.
In all of this, remember that God is still God. The Supreme Court nor the president nor all the unbelievers in the world can change that. God will allow people to make their choices, but they do not get to choose the consequences of those choices. We will all stand before him one day. May we each live to bring glory to God, stand firm on His truth, and share that truth in loving, passionate, and effective ways at every opportunity. Though the darkness may enjoy its short season, it will not prevail in the end. Find hope and be encouraged in knowing that the outcome is sure. In the love and hands of Christ, stay strong my friends.
The Supreme Court of the United States voted 5-4 that state’s bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. I was not surprised by the decision, but I am terribly saddened. Many, including the president, are claiming that ‘love won.’ Love did not win today. Love won 2000 years ago on a hill outside Jerusalem. Nobody won with this court decision. The Supreme Court agreed with those who choose to declare that God’s word is irrelevant and in doing so moved our country farther away from that which is right. That is not a win. I hope that Christians will keep praying, keep standing on the truth of the Bible, keep sharing the love of Christ, and keep looking to the originator of marriage to understand what it is. Homosexuality, like many other things, is sin. It can be overcome. It can be forgiven. The grace of God through Jesus Christ can make the homosexual new . That’s something no court ruling can do.
I John 1:9
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Yesterday was an amazing day at FBC Flora! We just finished VBS with the theme…Unknown to Us, Known to God. We got to see that truth in action. For months we knew that Bro. Gil, our Minister of Music, was going to be out yesterday. He had the privilege of serving in a homecoming service at his childhood church. Gil had arranged for someone to fill in leading our worship music. It was all set up. Then on Friday, the week before, he got a call from the substitute saying he would not be able to be with us. As Gil was considering plan B, about 30 minutes after he got the call, his phone rang again. Curtis, the Minister of Music at a sister church in the area informed him that The Nelons were doing a worship concert at his church on Saturday night and they were looking for a place they might sing on Sunday morning. God just poured the opportunity out on us and we said, “sure, we would love to have them.”
The Nelons came, sang about 45 minutes in both our morning services and God used them to bless our socks off!! What sweet people with glorious voices, exquisite harmony, and Spirit filled worship. It was the kind of stuff that gives chill bumps and touches the heart with the amazing love of God. We didn’t know what we were in for, but God did. He created a divine appointment that we weren’t even looking for and made it all fall together. He is an awesome God.
We went to lunch after the service at Main Street Café in Flora. Owners Jeff and Teresa Sones are great people and we enjoyed a delicious lunch. As we went through the buffet line, Jason Clark of The Nelons commented on the military images on the wall and the helicopter picture in particular. I pointed out that Jeff, who was serving our plates, had served in the US military as a helicopter pilot. They struck up a brief conversation and we then went to enjoy our lunch. The meal finished, Jason turned to Kelly and Amber and said “let’s do something for Jeff in honor of his service to our country.”
On our way out of the restaurant, in the midst of everyday Americans enjoying a Sunday lunch in a small-town café, three of the most amazing singers on the planet stood among the tables and harmonized The Star Spangled Banner acapella in honor of Major Jeff Sones (Ret.) and his service to this great nation. It was a moment to behold that I’ll never forget! I don’t imagine anyone else there will forget it either.
If you get a chance to hear The Nelons, have them at your church, see them on TV with The Gaithers, buy their CDs, take them to lunch…whatever, by all means do it! They are a great bunch of folks!!! And keep this in mind, you may not know what’s coming, but God does. Trust Him and keep your eyes open for the blessing He may want to dump in your lap today!
Pay attention! I don’t know how many times I heard that from my teachers, coaches, parents, etc. I, like many of us, tend to get focused on one thing, or nothing, and can fail to pay attention to things that matter. Doing so can be terribly costly. I was reminded of that after our recent Spring Rafting and Renewal Adventure.
We had a great trip! 19 of us rafted the Ocoee and Nantahala rivers. An afternoon on a high ropes course added to the fun. We had great devotional times, ate well, enjoyed the beauty of the Smokey Mountains, traveled without breakdown, and grew closer to each other and to God. It was a super-blessed experience!
Many folks expressed concern about my knee and back before the trip, wondering how they would hold up. As far as the rafting was concerned they did wonderfully. The bed on the other hand was a different story. I got up on the morning we were leaving with a back that was far less than cooperative! That being the case, my effort in packing up for the trip home amounted to pointing out things for others to load in the bus. Through all the commotion I wasn’t paying enough attention. When we returned home I realized that I had left my guitar in the cabin where we stayed. After a frantic call to the manager I waited to hear a report from the cleaning crew. I was sure they would find my guitar and I was planning how to get it from NC to MS. With the subsequent phone conversation my fears were confirmed…nobody could find my guitar. Somehow, miraculously, it had vanished into the mountain air!
My disappointment overwhelming, I have asked the repeating question “how could I have left my guitar???” This was my main ax, my first string, my go-to instrument. I bought her new in 1987 and planned to hand her down to one of my children. If you’re not a musician this may not strike a cord with you, but she was like a part of me. I don’t think I fully realized that until the reality set in that I will likely never see her again. I was, am, heartbroken. My prayer is that whoever took her will be touched by some of the words of songs I left in the case and come to know Jesus. My loss would be insignificant compared to such gain. God always has a way of bringing something good out of bad.
The lesson…there are many things in our lives that are vitally important to us and we don’t pay enough attention to them. We take them for grated. We overlook them. We assume they’ll always be there. Such may not be the case. Pay attention to the things that matter. They can be gone in an instant. Some things, unlike guitars, can’t be replaced.
As a fan of blues music and a native of the MS Delta, I lament the passing of fellow deltan and King of the Blues, B.B. King. He died last night and in doing so left behind the fame, fortune, and fans. He did not, however, cease to exist. B.B. stepped out into eternity, either into heaven or hell. I don’t know if B.B. knew Jesus as his savior. In the many recorded interviews, radio shows, concert videos, and the one time I heard him play live I don’t remember ever hearing him saying anything that would make me think he knew the Lord. I hope he did! On this first day of B.B.’s post-earthly existence, whether or not he knew Jesus is ALL that matters. That last day is coming for us all. Only knowing the King of kings gets us ready for what lies ahead.
And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,
AS I SEE IT
I have watched, as I imagine you have, the continuing saga of people against police play out in the streets of America. The news media has made sure we get a steady diet of the latest clash between law enforcement and those protesting their actions. My heart breaks for those on both sides of the situations that have lost loved ones. Seeing the tension and turmoil that has gripped our nation over the past weeks and months disturbs me deeply. The latest incident in Hattiesburg, brings the tragedy all too close to home. There are many facets of these stories that concern me and well they should. So here are some of the things that I think about.
While there are bad apples in every bunch, I believe with all my heart that most law enforcement officers are doing their best to serve and protect the American people. Sure, we hear of some who abuse their authority, but by and large the men and women who put on the uniform every day have their heart in the right place. They risk their lives on a regular basis for low pay and less thanks. I believe they do so out of a sense of calling, a calling to help their fellow man and make our cities, towns, and neighborhoods better places to live. I applaud their efforts, pray for their safety, and thank God that they are out there protecting the public.
In light of recent events, a few basic truths occur to me. 1 – If one doesn’t commit crimes, hang out with people who do, or frequent places where they happen, one probably doesn’t have to worry too much about trouble with the law. 2 – If confronted by law enforcement officials, being respectful, calm, and non-threatening will highly decrease the chances of being shot, tazed, or mistreated. 3 – Running away from an officer is dumb, dangerous, and makes one look guilty. 4 – Respect for authority, even when one doesn’t agree with that authority, has too long been neglected by those who teach upcoming generations and needs to be reinstated immediately with gusto. That, by the way, will require teaching by example. 5 – Addressing a perceived injustice by rioting, looting, and general destructive behavior serves no positive purpose and shouldn’t be happening. I believe that the growing lack of respect for authority in general found in our nation stems from a lack of respect for God in particular. When one has no respect for the ultimate authority, one will probably not have much respect for lesser authorities. I am praying that change will come, but that it will come through faith and the transformation that respect for God brings into a life. I hope you will join me in praying for and engaging with that transformation.
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of rear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same. Romans:13:1-3
This story is about a month old now, but I had to write it down. There are so many spiritual parallels and so many people have asked about it. One Sunday afternoon, about a month ago, we realized that our dog, Mayer, was missing. He wore a collar that would give him a little shock when he approached the edge of the yard and kept him at home. Mayer had been part of our family for about 2 years, ever since Hannah rescued him from the roadside as a puppy. He was a happy, yet peculiar hound. We loved him, treated him well, fed him well and life seemed good for Mayer. I don’t know what made him run through the electric boundary of our yard, but he was gone.
We searched. We put out fliers with his picture. We posted him on social media. Living in the great place we do, many friends and neighbors kept an eye out for him, prayed for his return, and called us with possible Mayer sightings. All the sightings turned out to be dead ends. On Thursday morning of that week I got a call from a dear neighbor who informed me that Mayer was running up the street just around the corner from our house. I headed out in hot pursuit.
Sure enough, there he came, running toward my truck alongside another dog with his confining collar nowhere to be found. I stopped, jumped out of the truck, and began to call him, assuming he would be overjoyed to see me. Mayer moved to the other side of the street and continued past me like I wasn’t there. He turned the corner toward our house and I thought to myself, “he’ll stop when he realizes he’s home.” He didn’t. Mayer never turned his head to notice his home and kept right on running. I drove ahead of him and tried in about three different spots to catch him to no avail. Finally, on the next block, I got my hand on him, picked him up and put him in the backseat of the truck. He looked at me like I was spoiling all his fun.
Wet and muddy I brought him home, put him in the house, and headed to town to purchase a new electric collar. He continued to look at me like I was an alien all the while. I sent texts to the family letting them know the good news. All were overjoyed. When I returned home, I put his new collar on him and let him out in the yard. Within 2 minutes he had run through the barrier and was gone again! 3 hours later, I had him back at the house. This time I locked him in the garage. He continued to look at us all with blank stares.
Fast forward to Friday afternoon. A neighbor called to say, “Bro. Joe, I think you may have my dog. I saw your fliers and your dog looks just like my dog and my dog is missing.” She came over and sure enough, ‘Mayer’ wasn’t Mayer at all. He wasn’t even our dog! What a case of mistaken identity!! She took him home and we started our search over.
To make a longer story even shorter, later that day, through a tip from a concerned friend, we found Mayer. The bad news was, the train had found him first. As is always the case, in the battle of dog vs. train, the dog is bound to lose every time. We got him home, got him buried, and had some closure. It was painful, but a relief to know that he wasn’t out starving somewhere.
So if you’re still reading this far down, here are some spiritual truths we can draw from the saga of Mayer:
1. God sets up boundaries for our protection because He loves us.
2. Something inside us makes us want to push through those boundaries and go experience that which He has said
we don’t need.
3. When His children are lost, God will go to great extremes to save them…even dying for them.
4. Sometimes Satan can make a lie look like the truth. We must know the truth well and look hard at it.
5. Sooner or later we’re all going to meet our end, we better be ready.
Postlude – I know my daughter. As sad as she was over Mayer, I knew it wouldn’t be long before she was on the hunt for a new puppy. I told her that if perhaps, someday, later, maybe, way on down the road, if by chance we might think about getting another dog, let’s think about something small and short-haired. Small and short-haired! Did you catch that part???? Four days later she shows up with a puppy….a cross between and Golden Retriever and a Great Pyrenees! She’s a cute bundle of unceasing energy that will eventually become a 100 lb hairball! Lesson #6….my daughter doesn’t listen to her father any better than we often listen to our heavenly Father! Oh well, we’ll make the best of it, and isn’t that what God can do for His children when we disobey. I’m thankful for that kind of God!
Sitting at my desk a few days ago, I turned to the side, leaned forward, and reached out to grab a book from the shelf. Unbeknownst to me, that motion, repeated over time had cracked and weakened the welds holding the foundation of my chair. As my weight shifted to the front edge of the chair, the final strands of metal that were holding things in place gave way. The chair, in an instantaneous burst of movement, tilted 90 degrees forward and unceremoniously dumped me into the floor. Let’s just say I was surprised…didn’t see that coming…had no warning…in a flash there I was, sprawled on the office floor. I laughed at myself, and immediately gave thanks that no one was sitting across the desk from me. I’m even more thankful that no cameras were rolling, for I can see the whole thing plastered across social media! No damage done to me or the floor, I got up and began searching for a new chair. In the process, I thought about how often life comes upon us just like that.
One day, or even one instant, everything is running smoothly and going according to plan. We are engaged in that which we’ve done time and time again. Life, normal, mundane, regular…then suddenly the weld breaks and we are cast onto the floor of existence by circumstances we never saw coming. Such times call for three things.
- Evaluate the damage. When you are dumped out of your chair of life you check to see how badly you are damaged. Not doing so can result in injuries that fester and create further problems down the road. The other tasks you were engaged in at the time of the dumping fade into temporary insignificance as you evaluate the situation. In life, being dumped in the metaphorical floor will always create some spiritual opportunities. We must take inventory of them.
- Address the resulting issues. If we see that the sudden expulsion from the chair has indeed created significant issues, we must then address those issues. Every injury calls for different treatment, but applying that treatment is vitally important. When we are hurt we need the great physician to come to our aid and do what only He can. Don’t be stubborn and keep your wounds a secret. Let Him work on them to bring healing and restoration.
- Fix or replace the chair. You’ve got to get back to work, right? You need a chair, but you need one that will not dump you in the floor. So you take a look. You find what broke. You determine if it can be fixed or if it needs replacing altogether. With determination made, you do it. When I say, “you do it,” I mean that you engage with God to take the necessary steps to avoid being tossed onto the floor of life again. His role in the process will supersede yours. You may get dumped out of a different chair, but make sure you don’t get tossed by the same one again.
I don’t know what your chair will be, but I know that sooner or later we all end up on the floor. Thankfully, there is a God who is always there to help us get up and keep going. Trust Him. Rely upon Him. Allow Him to pick you up, dust you off, heal your hurts, and get you back in a sturdy chair. The Psalmist wrote, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. When your chair breaks, He will be there!
At 50 years of age, new experiences don’t come around as often as they used to. Oh they still come, but it seems their diminished frequency is often rivaled by an equally diminished wow factor. I guess it just takes more to crank my tractor than it once did. Tonight, however, I’m experiencing something I’ve never done before, and it’s awesome. Jenny and I concluded a really great pastor & wife conference today with Johnny Hunt and eagerly pointed our vehicle toward Gainesville, GA. This beautiful town, NE of Atlanta, is now the home of our oldest child, Gray, and his wife Lauren. They moved from ’45 minutes away’ to ‘eight hours away’ about 9 weeks ago. It seems much longer than that.
So tonight, for the first time ever, we are spending the night in the home of our son and his wife. We are guests at their house rather than the other way around like it has been so many times before. What a neat experience! I thank God for giving me the awesome privilege of being a Dad. I thank Him for my Dad, who instilled so many life lessons in me and taught myriads of things I cling to every day. I thank Him for Jenny’s Dad, who became my second Dad and treated me as if I was his own son. It may not have always been an intentional effort, but along the way of the past 25 years of raising our son, I think God gave Jenny and me the grace to pass on the lessons and love we received from these mentors to Gray.
Now I’m hanging out at his house, watching him build a life, experiencing him give godly leadership in his home, and feeling a warm sense of completion. By the grace of God, maybe I didn’t mess the kid up too bad! Growing up with a preacher for a Dad isn’t always the easiest thing in the world. Gray is following God’s call to ministry on his life. God is impacting future generations for the kingdom through him. He is standing on his own two feet, with those feet firmly planted on Jesus. What a humbling and amazing realization to experience as a Dad. I thank God for His unending blessings.
I write all that to remind myself, and all who may read this, that we have such a vital job to do in reaching and shaping future generations. If Christian people, especially Christian parents don’t pave the way toward faith for their children we are going to keep heading in the sad direction our culture is speeding in now. You and I have an impact on someone. Let’s be sure we’re pointing them toward Christ. Maybe you’re a parent with kids at home, model Jesus for them. Perhaps your a grandparent, model Jesus for those grandkids. Maybe your kids are grown and on their own, it’s not too late to be a picture of Jesus for them. Maybe you have a neighbor’s kid that likes to hang out at your house, show him who Jesus is. Maybe you have virtually no contact with kids at all, pray for those that do. We’ve got to reach people for Jesus!
So I’ll spend a few nights at my boy’s house. My feet will be under his table. I’ll let him drive me around his town. On Sunday we’ll worship at the church where he ministers. The tables will be turned and I’ll thank God every minute for the blessing of the experience. I guess you could say that tonight, my tractor is cranked!
Gray and Lauren will celebrate their 1st wedding anniversary on March 8. She teaches middle and high school Spanish and he is the High School Pastor at Lakewood Baptist Church. They have two ‘furry’ boys, Samson and Jax, and Rocket, a half (no mostly) crazed cat that lives with the Grandparents in MS!
In light of yesterday’s blog, I can’t wait to see what God’s going to do today. Missed all of the morning conference sessions sitting in a walk in clinic trying to keep bronchitis from turning to pneumonia. Exciting! Thanking God for a really amazing caretaking wife!
On the home front, school was cancelled today due to winter weather. Another proof that God hears the prayers of kids! 🙂
This story starts a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been teaching on the Lord’s Prayer on Wednesday nights and was looking for a good video version of the song. A youtube search for ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ pulled up a rendition by a group called Veritas. It was amazing! As I watched and listened, I realized I had seen/heard these guys before. They got their start at the University of Mobile and I heard them there when our son was a student at UM. A quick switch to their website and I discovered that they were coming to FBC Jackson in a matter of weeks (3 days ago as I type this.) I was so impressed by them that I considered cancelling our Sunday night service and asking everyone to meet at FBCJ to hear them. But we had already canceled the next Sunday night’s service and didn’t want to do that 2 weeks in a row. I lamented not getting to hear them.
Backtrack 5 months. Jenny and I registered for the Timothy-Barnabas Pastor/Wives Conference. It started tonight. About 2 months ago I got an email from the conference telling me I had to make dinner reservations at one of the restaurants at the hotel where the conference was to be held. I procrastinated. Several weeks later I called to make those reservations and found that the only times available for dinner would likely make us late for the opening session of the conference. I regretted that, but hey, a guy’s gotta eat. I made our reservations knowing we would be late for tonight’s session.
Fast forward to tonight. We went to the restaurant a few minutes early hoping to get a jump start on dinner. Didn’t happen. We had a great meal. Our server acted as if he was sensitive to our time schedule and said he was hurrying things along in the kitchen. Who knows if he really was? Upon finishing dinner we walked back to the banquet hall for the evening’s program. We were late. The room was packed. Jenny and I found a spot on the back wall to lean against and started to settle in. Someone from the conference came over to say, “y’all are welcome to stay back here but there’s NOBODY on the front row.” I twisted Jenny’s arm a little and we headed down to the ‘splash zone’ as Pastor Johnny Hunt was finishing his welcome. About the time we sat down he introduced the entertainment for the evening….VERITAS. Wow! Not only had God put us in a place to hear what we thought we had missed just days before, but working through my inept planning, He put us on the front row! It was awesome. What a great time of worship.
Next time you put something together and it doesn’t come out the way you planned or hoped, just remember that God may be planning to do something bigger than you thought. Had I gotten our dinner reservations at the time I wanted, we would have been there in plenty of time to settle into a seat in the back and missed out on a great blessing. You never know when He will turn your mess into something meaningful. He’s an amazing God.
Be blessed friends, and check out Veritas. www.veritasfive.com
Most schools and lots of businesses are closed in our corner of the world today. We had a little ice over the past 48 hours and all the talk on the weather report last night was how bad it would be today. So far, it’s mostly just really cold rain. It could get worse this afternoon. I’ve noticed that God doesn’t always watch the weather report! He just does His own thing. The point here is that sometimes we get all worked up over what might happen. We worry and fret because it might go this way or that way, whatever ‘it’ is. Often times ‘it’ turns out to be no big deal. Should we plan ahead based on the information we have? Sure. Should we take precautions? Absolutely. Should we worry about what might or could happen? NO! Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow. God has it under control. Paul told us to replace worry with prayer and find the peace that comes. Whatever you’re worried about – turn it over to God and let Him take care of it. Tomorrow may not be so bad after all!
A year ago nobody I know had heard of ISIS (or IS). Several months ago they started invading small towns in the middle east and taking over. These Islamic terrorists give people choices: convert to Islam, flee, pay them, or die. Christians seem to be a favorite target of theirs. In recent months they have beheaded Americans and others in a very public manner. Just over a week ago they marched 21 Coptic Christians out on a beach and removed their heads. Now it appears they have taken over 70 Christians hostage, including women and children, in Syria. This will likely not end well.
So what do we comfortable American Christians do? We’re far away, yet this unrestrained evil being enacted upon Christians has to hit home within the hearts of believers. These militant terrorists are not merely attacking the people of God, they are attacking the one true God Himself! This is not a political, ideological, or philosophical issue – this is a spiritual issue. Brothers and sisters we must pray! Pray for the strength of persecuted Christians. Pray that their faith and witness will be strong. Pray that they will withstand the onslaught of terrorism with the grace and courage of one indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Pray that God will intervene. Pray for the foiling of terrorist plots. Pray for the salvation of those so blindly deceived by Satan. Pray for God’s people around the world to stand together against this sinful plague. Pray that you and I will stand firm in the face of evil when and where we confront it. There may be more that we can do after we have prayed, but we must start on our knees. Would you stop and pray right now? There’s someone with a knife at their throat who needs it!