Friday, June 26, 2015

Our 22nd Wedding Anniversary

June 26, 1993.  Grace Baptist Church in Sumter, South Carolina.  That's when and where Lara and I got married.

And that's what makes today an important day.  It's our 22nd wedding anniversary!  A special time for us to celebrate.

God has been good to us.  He has blessed us with four children that we love to the moon and back.  He has helped us overcome some difficult times.  And He has brought us closer to one another.

I love this girl!  And my prayer today is God will help me continue to grow into the right kind of husband that she deserves.  She's been good to me, and I want to bless her in return.

We'll go out tonight for a nice dinner.  We'll reminisce about the past.  And we'll talk excitedly about the future.  I'm sure it will be a nice time indeed.

Happy Anniversary, Lara!  Thank you for the love and forgiveness you've poured on me.  I love you now, and I'll love you until I take my final breath.  I'm glad to be your man.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

David Uth Cared

(Lara and me with Dr. David Uth in Columbus, Ohio.  June, 2015.)

David Uth is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Florida.  That is a huge church with thousands of members.  And he is a very busy man with much to do.

Two years ago, I was fortunately able to meet him in his office.  It was a thrill and an honor for me to sit down with him and talk.  I was working through some issues that required wisdom and advice from someone with spiritual maturity.  David Uth filled that role!  He listened patiently as I talked about my life.  He asked questions and offered good insights.  Then he prayed with me.  It was an incredible experience that I'll never forget.

Last week, I was able to reconnect with him in Columbus, Ohio.  We had a great visit for a few moments in the middle of an exhibit hall at a downtown convention center.  He met Lara for the first time, and was really kind to her.  Then he congratulated me on getting to pastor New Calvary Baptist Church here in Sumter.  Right before we parted ways, we got a picture taken with him.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, first of all, I count it an honor to meet this guy.  He's a fine pastor who has a great ministry going.  And He's passionate about God's kingdom.  (To read an interview with Dr. Uth and learn more about him, just click HERE.)

But, more importantly, I want to make this point:  David Uth cared.  He took time to minister to me a couple of years ago.  As busy as he was, he still chose to work with me.  I had nothing to offer him.  But he cared anyway.  He just wanted to help.  And my life today is better because of it. 

The truth is, God will bring people into our lives from time to time who need us to care.  They need us to slow down, hear them out, speak truth into their lives, and pray for them.  When that time comes, may we follow the example of David Uth.  Let's care, and let's help.

Jesus is like that.  He's available to us when we need help.  He listens.  He helps.  He cares.  24/7, He is there for you and me.

If you're hurting, look to Jesus.  He is full of compassion.  You do matter to Him.  And He will help you through whatever issues you have in your life.

And if you know someone who is hurting, slow down and take time to minister to them.  Listen to them, ask questions, and help in any way you can.  Most importantly, show them you care.  When you do this, you may be making a larger impact in their life than you realize.  And I can promise they will appreciate you greatly.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day 2015

Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there!  Please know that you guys are appreciated.  May God bless you on this special day.

What an honor it is to raise up sons and daughters.  And a joy!  May we celebrate this day and resolve to continue loving and leading our children in the days to come.  

Now, as for my dad....
Wade Richardson is top-notch.  Quite a guy!  He raised me in a Christian home.  And he often worked two jobs at a time to make sure my mom, brothers, and I had what we needed.  I've noticed the older I get, the closer we get.  And I've caught myself at times beginning to do some of the things he does.  Yep, I have a great dad.  He's a blessing!

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Finally, in my home...
I count it a joy to be Dad to Katie, Elizabeth, Rachel, and Emerson.  I love my four kids with all my heart.  They've hung in there with me and loved me along the way too.  I'm proud of all four of them and am excited about how well they are growing up.  On this Father's Day, I'm thankful that I get to enjoy life's journey with them.

As you can see, I'm blessed.  I have a great dad.  And I'm fortunate to be a dad to four awesome kids.

Finally, I'm thankful for God, my Heavenly Father.  He's the best Dad of all.  What a difference He makes in all our lives!  May we all embrace and honor Him with our hearts.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

My 2015 Southern Baptist Convention Thoughts

Our family spent a few days this week in Columbus, Ohio.  We attended the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention and had a fantastic time.  In a nutshell, I walked away from that meeting feeling better about our denomination than I have in a long, long time.  It was very encouraging!

I liked how the SBC took the following stands:  We are for marriage being between a man and a woman.  We are for racial unity and harmony.  We are for the sanctity of human life, whether it's unborn children or the elderly.  These resolutions passed easily and were approved enthusiastically.

I liked the leadership of Ronnie Floyd, our president.  His address was the speech of a lifetime.  It really moved and inspired me.  He's the right guy to be leading our convention at this time.

I liked the reports on our seminaries.  Our 6 SBC schools are training over 18,000 students.  It was neat to see how passionately these academic institutions are equipping the hearts and minds of young ministers.

I liked the unity of our gathering.  There was a cooperative spirit of oneness that permeated the time we all spent together.  People focused on common ground under the name of Jesus.  The presidents of our seminaries encouraged and prayed for one another.  And the presidents of our missions agencies demonstrated unity as well.  This was all great to see.  There was no tension or friction at these meetings.

I liked the emphasis that was placed on missions.  Southern Baptists have thousands of missionaries spreading the gospel here in the Americas and around the world.  We celebrated the sending of more missionaries onto the field.  And we were motivated by the words of David Platt, our IMB President.

I liked how scripture was again acknowledged as the inspired word of God.  It was reiterated several times that we will hold on to the teachings of the Bible, regardless of what our surrounding culture may say or do.

I liked the music and worship.  A lot!  It was a powerful time of praise as thousands of Christians united and sang to Jesus.  

I'm a Southern Baptist because of the convention's commitment to Jesus, scripture, and missions.  This week's gathering was a great encouragement to me as I saw over 5,000 people gather to reaffirm these core values.  May we continue to stay focused on these all-important matters.

I do realize there are many, many fine Christians that are not Southern Baptist.  My report in no way is intended to diminish the awesome work others are doing in the name of Jesus.  I have plenty of family and friends who are a part of other churches and groups.  They have my utmost respect and appreciation.  I just wanted to share what's happening in my little corner of God's mighty kingdom.  I hope this in some way gives everyone a better grasp of what Southern Baptists are about these days.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Approaching The Throne

I had a good talk with a buddy of mine yesterday.  He told me about his teenage son, who really likes this girl from school.  As this school year was drawing to a close, he started thinking about how much he was going to miss this girl.  The challenge was that, for some reason, the girl did not have permission to text or hang out with him.  So my buddy's son did something impressive.  He got a ride to the girl's house, knocked nervously on the door, and walked inside to speak with the girl's father.  The teenage guy, with some fear and trembling, explained that he was interested in being able to talk with the girl and maybe even hang out with her some throughout the summer.  Then he asked the father for permission to do so.  Finally, he assured the father that he would treat the girl with respect.   
All I can say is I'm impressed.  That took some courage on the part of my buddy's son.  And I hope it all works out for him.  After taking that step, I'd say he's earned the right to see the young lady who has captured his attention. 
This has me thinking about Hebrews 4:16, which states, "Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  Approaching God is a much bigger deal than approaching a girl's dad.  God is the ruler, sustainer, and judge of Heaven and Earth.  And He is The King of kings.  All authority belongs to Him.  But the neat thing about this awesome God is we, through prayer and worship, can come before His powerful throne with full confidence that He is glad to hear from us and ready to visit with us.  We can have confidence that, because He is full of grace and mercy, He allows us imperfect people to stand in His perfect presence.
I can understand my buddy's son being nervous while approaching the girl's father.  That's normal.  And that shows he understood the seriousness of the situation at hand.
But I'm also glad to know we don't have to be nervous when we approach our Heavenly Father who rules from His majestic throne.  He's pleased when we choose to approach Him.  He welcomes our presence with a loving heart.  And He is more than ready to hear us out.
Never be afraid to talk with God.  You can pray to Him anywhere, any time, about anything.  And you can do it with full confidence that He is glad you've approached His throne. 
What is it you need or desire?  Go before the Lord and talk with Him about it.  He will listen to you and respond in the way He knows is best.  And you will enjoy the privilege of spending time with The King.   

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


US 50 in Nevada is often referred to as "the loneliest road in America".  Take one look at the pictures of it and you can see why.  There is nothing out there, and one can feel mighty isolated travelling it. 
But we don't have to travel US 50 to be lonely, do we?!
Tom Hanks once said this:  "Everybody has something that chews them up, and for me that was always loneliness." 
Anne Hathaway put it this way:  "Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life.  The thing that I'm most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me."
Tom and Anne are big time celebrities.  They are well known and very wealthy.  Yet even they struggle with the fear of loneliness.
It's part of the human condition.  We crave community.  The longing to connect with others and enjoy relationships is deeply entrenched within us.  And when that's not happening for us, we hurt.
Elvis Presley asked in one of his songs, "Are you lonely tonight?"  Well, how about you?  Do you feel all alone?
Everybody's situation is different.  Maybe it's helpful to remember that if we want to make a friend, we need to be a friend.  In other words, we need to put ourselves out there and show interest in other people.  That does improve our chances of connecting with others and building relationships.
But I think there's something even more important to remember.  It's on a spiritual level.  And it has helped a lot of people over the years.  This is it:  We have a God who will never leave us alone. 
In Psalm 46:7 we read "The Lord Almighty is with us."  Jesus Christ says in Matthew 28:20 "I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  Hebrews 13:5 is where we are God reminds us "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Maybe you're travelling US 50.  Perhaps you're a big time celebrity.  Or possibly you're just a normal person sitting on your couch at home right now.  I have good news:  You are not alone.  God is here.  And He longs to enjoy closeness with you.  Talk with Him through prayer in the name of Jesus.  Hear Him speak to you through His holy word.  Open yourself up to experience the nearness of His presence and the warmth of His love.  I can promise you this:  Nothing will cure loneliness better than connecting with God.
May you feel the presence of God in your life today.  And may your life be rid of loneliness.  Enjoy closeness with The One who loves you more than you can possibly imagine.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Celebrating Katie, Our Graduate

Today was a special day in the life of our family.  Katie, the oldest of our four children, graduated from Sumter High School.  Thousands packed the football stadium as we watched just under five hundred students get their diplomas. 
While we were sitting in the stands, Lara looked at me and said, "Well, one child graduated.  Three more to go!"  We both shared a good laugh at that.  Of course, we're not in a hurry for the kids to move out.  But it does feel good to see them growing up and reaching milestones. 

Lara cried during the ceremony.  My eyes watered a time or two.  It was a little more sentimental for us than we expected.  I guess one reason is we realize how far God has brought our family the past three years.  His grace has been incredible and life-changing.  And another reason is we are surprised to see our little girl becoming a mature, young woman so quickly.

Anyway, after the ceremony, there were plenty of hugs and smiles.  Of course, we got some pictures too.  I snapped one of Katie, her sisters, and Lara.  Then I got one with her and Lara.
Katie has been accepted into a couple of great universities.  We are finalizing details and should have everything set in a week or two.  Then we will definitely know where she is headed next.  Here interest is in nursing.  I think she would be a great in the medical field.
Katie, I count it a privilege being your dad.  You're lovely, smart, sweet, and determined.  I'm very proud of you.  You're going to do great as you launch out into this world.  Remember to pick your close friends carefully, manage your money wisely, and do your work with excellence.  Most of all, keep your eyes on Jesus, your Savior and Lord.  He will always lead you in the right direction, and He will make your life complete.  Finally, always know that I love you.  And that will never change.  Enjoy this season of celebration.  You've earned it!  And when the time comes to pack your bag and hit the road to your next school, give it your all.  Personally, I think you're going to shine!!  Love, Dad

Friday, June 5, 2015

Hey Christians. Be Quiet!

It seems to me that the world around us is morally and spiritually a mess.  People celebrate what is wrong and mock what is right.  To make matters worse, there is a real push to silence people of faith who speak out against this downward spiral.  "Hey Christians.  Be quiet!"  That's what a growing mob tells us today.  And that's what some fellow Christians seem to be telling us today as well.  And when this is said, it always sounds like "You need to be loving" and "It's not your place to judge".  

Yes, we are to love others.  Yes, God alone is the judge.  I agree with those points 100%.

But doggonit, we are also called to speak up!  Courageously.  Directly.  Unapologetically.  Wisely.  We are to talk about what is right.  And we are to talk about what is wrong.

Ezekiel 3:18 is where God says, "When I say to a wicked person, 'You will surely die', and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood."  Did you see that?  We are held responsible and accountable when we remain silent.

Then, Ezekiel 33:9 states, "But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life."  There it is!  We are to speak up and warn others.  And when we do, we have met our obligations.

Too many of us Christians have wasted time being "nice guys" and "sweet girls" by remaining quiet and doing nothing while this world spiritually dies and morally rots.  We've allowed outspoken and aggressive people on the other side of the aisle to intimidate us into silence and, even in some cases, acceptance.  It's time for that to stop.

Speak up, Christians.  Now!  Do it with humility and love.  Just do it.

Let's unapologetically proclaim spiritual truths such as...

Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven.

God's judgement is coming.

There is a Hell.

The Bible is the true word of God.

And let's address moral issues by saying things like...

Marriage is for a man and a woman.

Sex is for a man and a woman who are married to each other.

A baby in the womb is alive and must be protected.

Men should be men, and women should be women.

That's what I believe.  And I won't back away from it.  Period.

Hey, Christians.  Speak up!  Maybe people will accept what you have to say, and maybe they will reject it.  Either way, you can at least know you did your job.  And you will know you did the most loving thing you can do, which is delivering a true word from The Lord.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Right Crowd

I have a friend who is down and out right now.  He is really struggling.  And my heart goes out to him. 

Along life's journey, he has made some wrong choices.  And now he is suffering the consequences.  His life is painful and his heart is heavy.

I don't look down on him or think less of him.  We all are sinners, and we all make wrong choices.  I too am a sinner that is saved by grace, and I am no better than him. 

The other day, he and I were talking on the phone.  At one point of the conversation, he said this:  "You know, David, I just really need to surround myself with good people.  I need the right kind of people in my life."

I told him I agree.

The truth is, we all need that.

Here's what Psalm 1:1 tells us:  "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the company of mockers."  When I read this verse, here's what I think it's saying:  We must be careful about who we closely connect with.  The right kind of people can lift us up, and the wrong kind of people can drag us down.

While I think it's a good thing to smile and be friendly to everyone, I also think it's important to be selective in who we pick as our closest friends.  Even though everyone fails in life, some folks will inspire us to live better and reach higher.  Other folks will be happy to pull us away from God and down an unhealthy path. 

I'm proud of my friend.  He's getting it!  He realizes his need for connecting with the right kind of people.

May we all do the same.

I think it was the principal of a high school here in Sumter, SC who put it best.  He constantly reminded his students of this golden nugget of wisdom:  "Show me your friends, and I'll show you your future."  Amen.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Odds And Ends - Edition 11

There are a lot of Odds And Ends to life in my world these days.  Here's the latest.
*  Saturday, May 30, was quite a day.  I officiated a burial at sea.  A very nice family in our community wanted to spread that ashes of their late parents in the Atlantic, and they asked me to be the minister for the occasion.  Of course, I agreed.  A boat was chartered and we went three nautical miles into the ocean.  Then I read some scripture and shared a few words.  One of the family members delivered a touching eulogy.  After this, I watched them quietly pour the ashes of the parents into the Atlantic.  It was a touching moment.  I'll always remember it.  And it was an honor to be a part of something so unique and meaningful.  God bless that fine family for how they honored their parents.
*  Sunday, May 31, was a special day here at New Calvary Baptist Church.  We had Graduate Recognition Day.  Each of the graduates was recognized and given a gift.  Our church family is very proud of the these young people for moving forward in life and reaching important milestones. 
*  Of course, my Katie was one of the graduates recognized.  This coming Saturday is her big day to walk the stage and receive her diploma.  She's getting really excited about this, and our family is proud of her.
(Lara, Katie, and me.  Graduate Recognition Day.  May 31, 2015)

 *  Sunday night was fun.  We had our "5th Sunday Night Singing" here at the church.  I think this was my favorite one we've had.  Different people got up and sang special songs that touched a lot of hearts.  After the service, our church family enjoyed ice cream, brownies, and cookies.  People sat around the fellowship hall eating and visiting.  It was a neat time that everyone seemed to enjoy.
*  Emerson has his awards ceremony this morning at school.  He wanted to dress up in his finest for today, so we let him do it.  I was proud of my boy and the awards he got.  He was recognized for good conduct and performing well in art class.  Emerson also enjoyed his teacher this year.  She was the perfect teacher for him.
(Emerson and his 4th grade teacher, June 2, 2015)
*  Lizzie and Rachel are doing really well too.  I'm proud of how those girls are growing up.  They're excited about the upcoming summer.  
*  I'm blown away at how far God has brought our family the past three years.  He has blessed us and poured His goodness into our lives.  We're learning a lot, growing a lot, and bonding a lot.  Gratitude fills my heart because of how good He is to us.  Grace really is an amazing thing!