Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Night Rewind - 1/31/16

*  We continued our sermon series today in the book of James here at New Calvary Baptist Church.  Specifically, we focused on verses 26 and 27 of chapter 1.

*  The three areas we looked at were (1) Conversation (2) Compassion (3) Conduct.  May God help us to resemble Jesus Christ more and more when it comes to these three.

*  So after four weeks, we have finished chapter one of this awesome book.  It's teaching me a lot each week when I study, and I hope in some small way it's a help to the fine people who come to the services here at New Calvary.  We begin chapter two next Sunday and look at the idea of impartiality.

*  Tonight was our 5th Sunday Night Singing at the church.  Different people shared their musical talents and we all had a good time together.  Every song had a positive message and moved me.  I enjoyed all of it, and I think everyone else in attendance enjoyed it as well.
*  After tonight's service, we enjoyed a church wide ice cream social.  That was good fun for everyone!  The brownies were an added delight.  :)

*  I'm happy for my cousin, Christy.  She and her fiancĂ© were married today, and I was honored to officiate their ceremony.  We had it at Sawn Lake Gardens here in Sumter.  The weather was just right, Christy looked very nice, and the newlyweds were thrilled to tie the knot.
*  Congratulations, Christy and Danny!  Best wishes to you for many happy years together.

*  Saw a great movie yesterday.  It's called "The Finest Hours", and it's a true story about courage and survival in the midst of great adversity.  I'd highly recommend it to you.  To watch the trailer for this, just click HERE.

*  On a serious note, our friend Lila Gamble went home to be with Jesus this past week after a long battle with cancer.  I liked her a lot.  We had her memorial service on Friday and I preached it.  A big crowd showed up to support the family.  May God comfort the whole family in this season of grief.

That's all I have for tonight.  It's been a good weekend.  I'm blessed and thankful. 

Plenty of new blog posts will be up this week.  Hope you get something good out of them.


Friday, January 29, 2016


I still remember the pain.

One morning in the late 70's I woke up here in Sumter and hurt like I never have before.  Even though this happened years ago in my childhood, it is still fresh in my mind.  Pain racked my body, and I cried.  My parents took me to the doctor that morning and I wound up at Toumey Hospital.  After running tests, they discovered I had salmonella, which is a type of food poisoning.  After a few days, I got better and went home.

But here's the interesting thing:  We learned that turtles carry salmonella.  And I had a turtle in the backyard as a pet.  So after that day, I never touched a turtle again.

I'm 45 years old.  And I still won't ever touch a turtle.  Ever.  This is because it led me to pain.

The way I am about turtles is a small example of how we all should feel about sin.  Why?  Because sin leads to a different kind of pain.  

(1). Sin can enslave us.  We know this from John 8:34, which reads "everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin."

(2). Sin can pull us farther from God.  We know this from Isaiah 59:2, which reads "your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear."

(3). Sin can destroy us.  We know this from Romans 6:23, which reads "the wages of sin is death."

I know what it's like to sin.  Believe me.  I've thought, said, and done things I'll never write or talk about.  But I can tell you this:  Sin has never been good for me.  Never.  What it did was lead me to various forms of pain and regret.

Why does God warn us away from sin?  Not to bore us.  He warns us because He loves us, and He wants to protect us from the pain which results from sin.  

Even though I'll never do it, I suppose I could pick up a turtle, wash my hands thoroughly afterwards, and have no problems.  That is possible.  But when it comes to sin, that's just not the case.  It will always lead to pain or regret in one form or another.  It'll never lead to good things.  

May God help us all to stay away from things which are evil and wrong today.

And may God forgive us, out of His love and grace, for the sin in our lives.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

24 Without Jack

For years I enjoyed the TV show "24".  It was about a counterterrorist agent named Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland.  Simply put, it was thrilling and it kept many of us on the edge of our seats every episode.  It grew very popular and attracted a huge audience in countries all around the world.

Then, it ended.  "24" went off the air.  The show was over.

Now, Fox is bringing it back.  "24" will return.  But this time, there is no Jack Bauer.  He won't be a part of the show.  And for me, that's a letdown.  Disappointing.  He is what made that series so good.

Can I make a comparison here?  I can't imagine "24" without Jack Bauer.  But on a much more important note, I can't imagine life without God.  

He forgives sins.  
He saves souls.  
He calms fears.  
He directs paths.  
He blesses lives.

God is who you and I need.  Desperately.  Eternally.

An old hymn summarizes this in just the right way:

"Without Him I could do nothing
Without Him I'd surely fail
Without Him I'd be drifting
Like a ship without a sail.

Without Him I would be dying
Without Him I'd be enslaved
Without Him life would be worthless
But with Jesus thank God I'm saved."

Jack Bauer is just a fictitious TV character.  Life will go on without him.  But God is the creator, savior, ruler, and sustainer of the world.  And we would not make it a minute without Him.

Through Jesus Christ, we can have an intimate connection with God.  And we can have all we need for life now and forevermore.  Without Him, we would be in a mess.  But with Him, we can consider ourselves blessed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Life As A Bivocational Pastor

I'm a bivocational pastor.  Let me tell you what that's like.  It may actually surprise you.

Bivocational means I have two jobs.  In my case, I pastor a wonderful church, and I work at a great funeral home.  Each week, I perform duties for both.

One neat thing about this kind of life is that I get to interact with all sorts of people.  A lot of the people I deal with in the church world are Christians.  When it comes to the funeral home, my coworkers (who are Christians) and I do business with a variety of people.  Some of the people who come to us are Christians and have churches.  But there are others who are not people of faith and do not have a church home.  I've had plenty of opportunities to work with families who need a minister's help.  I am glad I get to come alongside these hurting people and serve them in the name of Jesus.

Bivocational pastors will tell you this often.  Getting to deal with the unchurched, unsaved world through that other job often opens many doors to do God's work.  It leads to some cool ministry moments.

Also, when it comes to being bivocational, I have to think realistically about time.  There are only so many hours in a day, and I have to map out a schedule in my head or on paper to get it all done.  Some weeks I'm better at this than other weeks.  But I'm learning, and I'm getting better at it.  Fortunately for me, everyone has been very supportive and patient with me as I juggle my two places of employment. 

Bivocational pastors deal with this on a daily basis.  It's about using time wisely.  That requires careful planning and scheduling, but it can be done. 

Another component of being bivocational is communication.  This past Saturday, three people from our church wound up in the local hospital.  As soon as I got the phone call, I spoke with my boss at the funeral home.  I explained to him the situation at hand.  He immediately figured out a way for me to get to the hospital so I could visit them.  Then, I returned to the funeral home and resumed my work there.  He's always been supportive of my ministry, and communicating with him is vital to making things work.  To succeed in this kind of life, I have to keep in touch with people about what is going on around me.  It's true with the church too.  I work closely with church leaders and fill them in on my schedule so they know what is going on in my life.    

Bivocational pastors quickly find out that sharing information is a must.  It's essential to communicate with people from both jobs and make sure they are aware of what is happening.  This reduces confusion and enables things to run smoothly.

Finally, as I bivocatonal pastor, I choose joy.  I like my life!  Sure, it gets busy and exhausting at times, but I'm thankful that God meets my needs and allows me to partner up with great people at both places.  I'm joyful because I get to do things I love with people I love.  And I get to use the gifts God has granted to me.  Plenty of people in this world work two or three jobs, and they know that the attitude they have about their situation is up to them.  We all can choose to be joyful or miserable.  I pick joy! 

Bivocational pastors are fortunate in a lot of ways.  They get to do a variety of things with their time and talents.  And that's a fulfilling way to live.

Who knows what my future holds?  Maybe the church I pastor will grow to the point where I solely focus on the church.  If that happens, I will gladly do that, and enjoy it.  But if it doesn't work out like that, I'll be just fine continuing what I'm already doing.  Either way, I love New Calvary Baptist Church, and I'll serve them regardless.  I've learned to just be thankful for what I have in life, and enjoy whatever God puts before me.  It's just good to be alive, enjoy good people, and serve God.   

Monday, January 25, 2016

Oh, Now I See It!

I pulled into my driveway this afternoon.  Glancing to my right, I saw some bushes.  Everything looked the same there, just like it does every day.
Then, a moment later, I looked to my right a second time.  Surprisingly, I noticed something I didn't see the first time.  A cat was sitting right in there, and it was staring right at me.
It kind of shocked me.  Something that initially escaped my notice was now crystal clear to see.  This time around, I was able to lock my eyes onto the cat with ease.  It was a neat experience.

Isn't it cool when the same thing happens with Bible reading?  We can check out a familiar passage of scripture that we've dealt with before, and then suddenly we may notice something in it that we've never latched onto earlier in our lives.  It happened to me just this morning.  I was reading a verse in James 1, and I saw something in it that I've never noticed before today.   It was one of those neat "Aha!" kind of moments.  Most likely, you've been there before too!  

What's the deal with this?

God "illuminates" scripture for you and me.  He enables us to see things in it that maybe we've never noticed before.  And that's a good thing!  Psalm 119:18 is where we see one prayerfully asking God to "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law."  I like that!  He wants a little help from above when it comes to peering deeply into the Bible.

When you read scripture, ask God to help you "see wonderful things".  Tell Him you want to see more than what's on the surface.  Request Him to help you notice promises to claim, directions to follow, and wisdom to embrace.  Come to think of it, let's all ask God for a little help.  Once this takes place, I bet we will notice something for more significant than a cat in the bushes.  We will see a golden nugget of truth to live by, and that's a good thing!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Night Rewind - 1/24/16

*  Today's sermon here at New Calvary Baptist Church was "Take It In.  Live It Out".  The scripture was James 1:19-25.

*  The first part focused on verses 19-21.  "Take It In" means to welcome God's Word into our lives.  Through listening and reading, we can feed on scripture.

*  Two barriers to this are [1] Anger, and [2] Moral filth.

*  Taking in God's Word sets us free, and positions us for blessings from above.

*  The second part focused on verses 22-25.  "Live It Out" means to put into practice what we hear and learn from God's Word.

*  We are to be doers, not just hearers.  This means God calls us to put into action what He teaches us.
*  I'm enjoying our time in the book of James.  What an awesome book it is!! 

*  It got cold here in Sumter this past week.  Really cold!!  But I love it.  This is my kind of weather.

*  We got a little bit of snow yesterday.  Not enough to stick, but just enough to enjoy looking at for a few moments.  Beautiful stuff!

*  Watched a great movie on DVD this weekend.  "Taking Chance".  I highly recommend you watching this.  It's about the care and honor our US military shows to those who die in the line of duty.  To watch the trailer for it, just click HERE.

*  Looking forward to the Super Bowl.  I'm pulling for those Carolina Panthers!  Supporting the home team all the way.

*  Revival services are coming up here at New Calvary Baptist Church, May 1-4 of this year.  Our guest speaker is Dr. Wyman Richardson.  I know him pretty well, because he is my youngest brother.  Wyman pastors Central Baptist Church in North Little Rock, Arkansas.  He has also written a couple of books that were published and well received.  In addition to this, Wyman has participated in several short-time mission trips.  I'm really proud of him, and I'm excited about him coming here in May.  While I probably am biased, I unashamedly will say that he is one of my favorite preachers.  God has blessed him with a special ability for communicating His Word.  To check out Wyman's blog, and read some of his stuff, just click HERE.

*  That's all for tonight.  Life is good, and I am thankful.  Not much more to report other than that. 

*  Plenty of new blog posts are coming this week.  I hope you enjoy them and find them helpful or encouraging.

*  May God richly bless you and yours!!

Friday, January 22, 2016

28 In A Row

Yesterday, I was in the zone!

My son and I were playing basketball in the driveway.  I took a shot and made it.  Then I made another one.  And another one after that.  Man, I was feeling good and making everything.  So I kept on shooting.  I made ten in a row.  Then fifteen.  Even Emerson was impressed.  All my shots were going right in the hoop.  Before long, I hit twenty eight shots in a row!  I have to admit, I was right proud of myself.

Then I took my twenty ninth shot.  Can you guess what happened?  I missed it.

Oh well.  In the game of basketball, nobody can be perfect.  Sooner or later, we all are going to miss the mark.

In the game of life, there is only one who is perfect.  He is flawless in every way.  Without blemish.  He is the Lord!  Rick Warren was right when he wrote these words:  "We are not perfect; God is perfect.  We are flawed; God is flawless."

Check out these two scriptures...

Psalm 18:30 -  "As for God, His way is perfect."

Deuteronomy 32:4 - "He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just.  A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He."

These two passages combine beautifully to remind us of one point:  God is perfect in every way.  Everything He does is right.  Always!

What does this mean to us?

(1). God is worthy of worship.  We sing praises to His name and speak favorably of Him because He has more than earned it.  Take a moment today and worship God for His perfection.

(2). God is worthy of trust.  Because everything He says and does is right, we can put our faith in Him with every area of our lives.  He will always treat us right, and He will never do us wrong.  Find comfort today in knowing that you can talk to God about your life, and you can trust Him to handle everything in it.

Sure, I felt good about my twenty eight in a row.  That was fun.  But I feel much better about the total perfection of God.  And you should too.  He never misses the mark.  Ever.  How blessed we are to have Him over our lives.  What a wonderful God He is!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Full Of Answers

My dad told a story last night that I've never heard before.
Years ago, he knew a lady who was caught up in a rough lifestyle.  She rode with the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang, was into drugs, and got involved with stuff that wasn't good for her.  But she was nice to my dad when he saw her.  They got along well.  She would ask him questions about the Lord from time to time.  Dad began to realize that she had an interest in the things of God and she seemed to be seeking something.  Instead of judging or condemning her, he showed her kindness.  One day Dad gave her a gift.  It was a Bible.  And inside the front cover, he wrote this:  "In a world full of questions, this is a book full of answers."
I like that story.  It shows us the right way to treat people.  And it reminds us of the truth about the Bible.
The Apostle Paul wrote these words in 2 Timothy 3:16 - "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness."  Here we see that the Bible is the perfect word of God.  It teaches us what is true.  It warns us away from what is wrong.  And it helps us grow up spiritually.  Only good things result from spending time in the Bible.
May you and I always remember that.  We need a daily dose of scripture.  I can guarantee you that none of us will regret it.  And I know for sure we will find all the answers we need to the problems of life in its sacred pages.
Dad said he doesn't know what happened to the lady after that.  He and I both hope she is ok.  But one thing we do know for sure is this: Everything she needed to know was found in that book. 
Thank God for the Bible!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Run The Church Like A Business?

One of our senior adults here at New Calvary Baptist was talking with me the other day about the church.  I really respect her, and I enjoy our conversations.  She made this remark:  "You know, in some ways, the church does have to be run like a business."

You know what?  She's right.  There are those in any church you can find who may not like to hear that, but it's still true.  In some ways, the church does indeed need to be run like a business.

Here are just a few ways I think all churches should operate like a business...

[1]  A church needs to operate on a budget ... and so does a business.  When money is collected, we must be very careful about where and how we use it.  There needs to be an agreed upon plan on how all funds will be managed.  A budget is key to making this happen. 

[2]  A church needs to operate under clearly defined policies ... and so does a business.  There must be guidelines for how things are done at any church.  This can include all sorts of things like job descriptions for volunteers and staff, regulations for the use of facilities for weddings, showers, or reunions, and rules for using church buses or vans.  As for these policies, they should be typed in a neat and orderly fashion so they can be easily found and followed.  Most importantly, these policies have to be followed.  Without structure, there is chaos. 

[3]  A church needs to have evaluations on a regular basis ... and so does a business.  How are we doing?  What is going well, and what needs improvement?  When it comes to the staff and volunteers, do we have the right people in the right places, and are things getting done successfully?  These are good questions that healthy churches should ask and answer on a regular basis.  Doing this objectively and honestly will help any church stay on its toes and in the right zone.

[4]  A church needs to have a plan ... and so does a business.  There should be goals in a local community of faith.  The staff and the congregation should know what these objectives are, and the focus must be on meeting them.  Without a plan, churches wander aimlessly and die eventually. 

The church sure is a special organization.  Jesus Christ is the head of it.  The Bible is it's manual.  The Holy Spirit nudges, guides, and convicts it.  And all the credit for success should go to God.

Truly, the church is a unique institution.  But it's still true that the church does deal with business.  God's business!  We must conduct it in an orderly, focused, and efficient manner.  That's how things get done.  And that's how God is honored.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bell To Bell

Mom has worked at the same school for over twenty years.  She recently told me something about her principal, who she respects greatly.  He tells his teachers the following:  "Teach your class from bell to bell."  This means he wants them to make the most of their time in the classroom.  When the first bell rings, he wants them to start class promptly.  And he wants them to continue teaching and working with students until the bell rings again.  Stopping before that bell rings is not acceptable. 
Mom agrees with him.  She says he is right.  And it makes perfect sense to me as well.
That makes me think about our time here on Earth.  When we're born, it's as if a bell rings.  That means our time is beginning.   And when we die, it's as if another bell rings.  That means our time down here is ending.  What we do with our lives in between the two bells of birth and death is very, very important. 
It's vital for you and me to maximize our moments.  God gives us life and opportunities.  He puts us here for a purpose.  Our responsibility is to use wisely His gift of life.
This does not mean we should become frazzled workaholics who exhaust ourselves at a breakneck pace.  Not at all.  God wants us to have a healthy rhythm of work and rest.  A good life has the right mixture of both.  The point is, however, that time is a precious commodity.  And we should use it wisely by being productive and getting things done.
The Apostle Paul mentions "making the most of every opportunity" in Ephesians 5:16.  That is a call to carefully consider each moment God has given us.  We, like the people of ancient Ephesus, must use our minutes, hours, and days prudently.
Steve Jobs was right when he said, "It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time."  Each day of life we have is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference and be a blessing.  And each day is a new chance to utilize the talents we have been blessed with from above.  
God has given you and me life.  What a priceless gift!  With His help, let's do all that we can with the time we have. 
Educators should teach from bell to bell.  And all of us with a pulse and breath should live bell to bell.  It's how time should be spent.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Monday Morning Rewind - 1/18/16

*  It's MLK Day.  I like how Dr. King said he dreamed of a time when people would "not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."  May that dream become a reality.  Why?  Because the outside of a person doesn't matter nearly as much as the inside.

*  I feel good about yesterday (January 17) here at New Calvary Baptist Church.

*  Our Sunday crowds are getting larger in number.  I'm noticing an increase in people under the age of 50.  All ages matter.  We don't value one age group over another.  But understanding that none of us are getting younger, it's always good to see young people coming into the church.

*  Financially, things are looking up.  Giving at New Calvary is strong.  Isn't it a thrill to give back to God a portion of what He has given us?!

*  I continued our series of messages through the book of James.
*  Specifically, we focused on James 1:13-18.  The message was entitled "When We Face Temptations".

*  This was my sermon outline:
Accept Personal Responsibility - vs. 13-14 : Our sin is our fault.
Consider The Cost - vs. 15-16 : Sin has a heavy price tag.
Be Mindful Of God - vs. 17-18  : God offers us better gifts than sin does.

Billy Sunday once said this about sin:  "I'm against sin.  I'll kick it as long as I have a foot, and I'll fight it as long as I have a fist.  I'll butt it as long as I have a head.  I'll bite it as long as I have a tooth.  When I'm old, fistless, footless, and toothless, I'll gum it 'til I go home to glory and it goes home to perdition."

*  As I sit here this morning, this goes through my mind about yesterday's sermon:  May God, out of His grace, help us love Him and His righteousness.  And may He help us run like crazy from sin.

*  I love this church.  New Calvary Baptist is the place for me.

*  These cooler temperatures here in the Palmetto State are awesome.  Enjoying this January weather.

*  Personally, I'm ready for this presidential campaign season to be over.  Wishing we could go ahead, vote, and be done with it.

*  These Carolina Panthers have a good shot at reaching the Super Bowl.  Happy for them and hope they win it all.

That's all for today.  God is good.  I'm blessed and thankful.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Great Word. Greater Attitude.

Maria Taylor is a reporter for ESPN.  A few weeks ago, she was working at the 2016 Rose Bowl game between Stanford and Iowa.  Stanford won big time, and one of their players, Christian McCaffrey, put on an amazing display of talent.  When the game ended, Maria found the young man on the field and interviewed him live on tv.  In the midst of praising him for such a tremendous performance, she accidentally mixed up a couple of words and asked him about his "productition" during the game.  When she said it, my buddy and I looked at each other and started laughing.  "Productition" is not even a word.  To make sure we heard it right, we jumped on Twitter, and people were joking about it all over the country.  "Productition" immediately became the new buzzword, and of course we used it several times during the rest of the day.

A little later, after she realized what she had done, Maria took charge of the situation and handled it brilliantly.  On Twitter she explained that she accidentally combined the words "productivity" and "production".  That's how she wound up with "productition".  But she also laughed at herself and took it all in stride.
I admire how Maria handled that.  She owned up to her little mistake, laughed it off, and demonstrated a great attitude.  Instead of getting upset or defensive at the reaction of people, she stepped up to the plate and dealt with it in an admirable way.  And here's what happened after that:  Talked died down, people mostly forgot about it, and everyone moved on with their lives.  No big deal!

It seems to me that we all can learn something from Maria here.  When we mess up little things in life, let's be secure enough to claim it, learn from it, and get on with the day.  Sure, some folks may pick on us for a little while, but that's not the end of the world.  Their doing that is just a reminder that we're normal human beings who should keep a humble heart.  

Perhaps another moral to the story is this:  Let's not take ourselves too seriously.  God is perfect, and we are not.  We're far from it.  "Works in progress" is how we all can be described.  While we strive for excellence and give our best, our flawed humanity reveals itself from time to time.  And that's alright.  God loves us anyway.  Besides, mistakes are good opportunities to learn and do better next time.

Are folks laughing over something you said or did?  It's ok.  Just share a laugh with them.  You're human, and you're going to make mistakes.  Just like the rest of us.  It doesn't mean you're a failure or a flop.  It just means you're like everyone else on the planet.  You're learning and growing, and that's what matters.

I tip my hat to Maria.  She did it right!  May we all follow her example.

And you know what?  I kind of like her word "productition".  It's actually a pretty cool word!  :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Smiling Rock

Every morning I drive my kids to school.  And each time we ride down the road in my old truck, I notice the smiling rock.  Sitting there on a street corner, its yellow face is beaming.  This is a daily reminder for me to keep on smiling.

Is Jesus Christ your Savior?  If so, you have a bunch to smile about.  Just think about this...

[1]  You were put here intentionally by God.  He chose to create the heavens, this world, and you.  That means you have immense value.  You're not an accident or the result of some cosmic mishap.  Far from it!  Your very existence is the result of God wanting you to be here on this Earth.  (See here and here.)

[2]  You have been forgiven of your sins.  Regardless of whether it's your public wrongdoings or your private failures, God gives you a full pardon and wipes the slate of your heart clean.  Shame and guilt can no longer bother you over your past.  And if when you fail morally again, His forgiveness will still be there.  His grace will continue to be greater than your sin.  (See here.)

[3]  You have a God who will meet your needs.  Maybe you're lacking something right now.  He knows your situation.  He understands what your circumstances are.  And He will take care of you.  One way or another, He will provide.  (See here.)

[4]  You have strength for your battles.  There's no need to rely solely on yourself in the struggles of life.  God, who is strong beyond description, will empower you.  He will equip you with whatever you need for whatever you face.  (See here and here.)

[5]  You have peace for your storms.  Life can get crazy and chaotic.  Stress levels can skyrocket in this world.  But God soothes hearts with His divine calmness.  He will saturate you with His serenity and enable you to feel at ease.  (See here.)

[6]  You have a home waiting for you.  When your life here on Earth comes to an end, your life up there in Heaven begins.  And this home will be a place of perfect security, complete happiness, and everlasting life.  Your new home will be far better than anything you can ever imagine.  (See here and here.)

[7]  You are loved.  As long as you're down here, God will love you.  And when you reach your home up there, God will continue loving you.  It is a pure, unconditional love that cares deeply about you.  Don't you see that?  You are treasured and highly valued by the Almighty God of Heaven and Earth.  (See here.)

You have a lot to smile about.  And so do I.  We have plenty of reasons to rejoice.  Maybe we won't have a smile on our faces 24/7.  Perhaps that's not realistic.  But we can sure smile on the inside by holding on to our joy and assurance that we are more than ok in His arms. 

God is good.  He's got you covered.  And you can feel mighty good about that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Pray For Them Anyway

Years ago, when Diana was married to Prince Charles, their names remained on the prayer list of the Church of England.  They were listed as "Prince and Princess of Wales".  As we all know, the marriage didn't survive and they eventually divorced.  Then on November 24, 1996, Dianna's name was removed from the church's prayer list.  Queen Elizabeth II had it removed as "a necessary matter of form", and from that day forward it only read "Charles, Prince of Wales".

Ouch!  That had to sting.  Getting kicked off the prayer list in that fashion had to leave a bad taste in her mouth.

That got me thinking about prayer.  It seems to me that when we really pray for people, it's hard to be bitter and hold a grudge against them.  Also, if we are lifting them up to the Lord, it's hard to wish them ill will.  What I'm saying is this:  One advantage of praying for people is that it helps us have the right attitude towards them.   

It's easy to pray for people who treat us well or are close with us.  That doesn't require a lot of effort.  But what about people who do us wrong or exit our lives?  On one hand, we can write them off and never think about them again.  But a far more noble response is to pray for them anyway.  After all, Jesus did say "pray for those who persecute you".  (Matthew 5:44)

Most likely there's more to the story here.  But I sure do hope some folks still prayed for Diana.  I hope there were people who continued to lift her up to the Lord. 

May God help us to remember that in addition to praying for our family and friends, we can also pray for those who have brought us pain or checked out of our lives.  Doing this will help us keep our hearts in the right place.  And it will be a way to still bless those who no longer have anything to do with us.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunday Night Rewind - 1/10/16

*  As I sit here on my couch at home tonight, I feel good about the Sunday we enjoyed at New Calvary Baptist Church!
*  Our Sunday morning crowd today was big.  Thanks be to God, we are seeing good sized crowds every week.  Very happy about that.
*  The music today was really worshipful and well done.  I appreciate the women and men who make up our music ministry.  They do a fine job.
*  I started a new sermon series today.  For the first part of this year, I'm preaching through the book of James.
*  Specifically, I preached this morning on James 1:1-12.  This included an introduction to the book, and a look at dealing with trials. 
*  Something I started doing today is preaching with PowerPoint.  It's been a few years since I've last done it, but I'm glad to get back to using it during the sermon time.  I think PowerPoint, when used properly, can be a good tool for helping the congregation and me.
*  I could not be happier with things at New Calvary Baptist.  They are a fine congregation, and I continue to enjoy being a part of them.  God sure blessed me when He allowed me the privilege of joining this church family.
*  The holidays have wrapped up, and my Katie headed back to college this weekend.  I was glad to have her home for a few weeks.
(Katie and me.  Saturday, January 9, 2016.)
*  Katie is growing up and doing really well.  I'm proud of the good things she's doing with her life.
*  Clay Smith, pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church here in Sumter, wrote a fantastic blog post this week entitled "Three Things You Have To Share".  It's short but powerful.  Let me encourage you to read it by clicking HERE.
*  One thing we've been enjoying lately is South Carolina Gamecock Basketball.  So far, our guys are undefeated this season.  15 wins and 0 loses.  The ladies are undefeated as well, and ranked #2 in the country.
*  A few days ago we went to one of the games.  We sat in the upper deck and had a blast. 
*  The best blog post I've read lately on parenthood is entitled "5 Ways You Are Ruining Your Child's Life".  It's something all of us parents need to read.  It definitely made me think about how I raise my children.  Maybe it'll be a blessing to you as well.  Check it out by clicking HERE
*  So that's the latest.  No, my life is not perfect.  Everyone deals with challenges and issues, and that includes me.  But I'm blessed and thankful.  God's been good to me. 
*  Thanks for checking out my blog.  Some of you stop by here several times each week.  I'm honored that you choose to spend some of your time here reading my posts. 
*  I'll have plenty of new blog posts this week, and I hope you get something good out of them.  So feel to swing back here any time.
Good night, and God bless you.    

Friday, January 8, 2016

Approaching Royalty

A Texas girl experienced a big thrill recently.

Kacey Musgraves, who is a popular country singer, sang at Royal Albert Hall on November 13, 2015.  In attendance was actual royalty.  During that evening she got to meet Prince Harry.  That's a pretty huge deal!

She later admitted that she didn't exactly know the rules for approaching royalty.  In fairness to her, a lot of us Americans probably wouldn't know what to do either.  She didn't curtsy, as a lot of women traditionally do.  But she did give him a high five!  Being the good sport that he is, Prince Harry smiled and enjoyed the moment with her. 
I'm sure that's an awesome moment she'll always remember.

God is the ultimate royalty.  He is often referred to as The King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  This means He outranks all Earthly rulers and leaders.  

When we approach Him in prayer, are there any rules?  I'm pretty sure women don't have to curtsy and men don't have to bow.  And I don't think a high five with Him is possible.

But I do know this about approaching our all-powerful God....

#1. We can come as we are.  In prayer we can be honest about what we really think and how we truly feel.  There is no need for us to perform when we interact with Him.  We can just be ourselves.  And God is more than ok with that.

#2. We can rest assured He welcomes us into His presence any hour of any day.  Unlike dealing with royalty of this world, we can approach the throne of God whatever time our heart desires.  He is available around the clock for you and me.

I'm happy for Miss Musgraves!  It's neat that she got to meet Prince Harry.  That's a wonderful experience that I'm sure she will always treasure in her heart.

And I'm even happier that she, you, and I can talk with the incredible God of Heaven and Earth whenever we want or need to do so.  He's just a prayer away.  And He enjoys conversations with us all.  

Why not talk with The King of Kings today?  It's really quite a sacred honor.  And it's always a blessing to the soul.

Thursday, January 7, 2016


I was fired up and ready to roll!

This took place the night before my first day of school in the fourth grade at Thomas Sumter Academy:  My backpack was by my bedroom door and it was loaded up with new school supplies.  My lunchbox was stuffed full of good food and chilling in the refrigerator.  There was only only one more thing to do:  I got dressed in my new blue jeans and shirt.  I put on everything but my shoes.  Then ... I got in bed and went to sleep!  Yep, you read that right.  I slept in my clothes.  I was ready for whenever my alarm clock would ring the next morning!  Like the Batmobile shoots out the Batcave, I was ready to shoot out the front door and race to school.

Childhood enthusiasm can be a funny thing.  But there is something good about being ready for important matters.  Readiness is even biblical!

Paul wrote these words in 2 Timothy 4:2 - "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season."  He was telling young Timothy to always be ready to share the good news of Jesus with whoever he could, whenever he could.  He was to be prepared and set for any opportunities which opened up before him.

The same is true for us Christians today.  There are hurting, lost people out there who desperately need to hear about the great hope there is with God.  And we should always be ready to share with them what God can do for them.

Be ready to tell the guilty about God's forgiveness.
Be ready to tell the empty about God's fulfillment.
Be ready to tell the lonely about God's friendship.
Ultimately, be ready to tell anyone what God has done for you!

Think about your testimony.  Formulate your story in your mind.  Practice sharing it in two or three minutes.  And memorize a couple of important scripture verses you can share with those who need to hear them.  Theses are practical, simple steps you and I can take to be ready.

Sine my childhood, I've learned to not sleep in the next day's clothes.  That's a little excessive.  But I've also learned to transfer that same energy and enthusiasm into telling others about the awesome God of the universe.

May God help us rediscover the thrill of telling others about Him.  

And may God help us to always be ready, day in and day out!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Dealing With Criticism

George Lucas, the creator and mastermind behind the original "Star Wars" movies, revealed the hurt he felt after a while in Hollywood.  He apparently didn't enjoy his business so much after all.  This is what he once said in an interview:  "You go to make a movie and all you do is get criticized.  And it's not much fun.  You can't experiment."  

Mr. Lucas felt a sting that is all too common in our world.  Even successful, wealthy, powerful people like him are not immune to the pain that comes from being criticized.  In fairness to George, it can hurt badly at times when we receive it.  And if we're not careful, we can let it shut us down.

Jesus was criticized during his ministry.  In Luke 7:34 He addressed some folks in this way:  "you say 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard'".  The problem was quite obvious:  Jesus was NOT a glutton or a drunkard.  Their criticism was unfounded, unfair, and untrue.

George Lucas.  Jesus.  You.  Me.  What do we all have in common?  We all at times are criticized.  

So, what do we do about it?

Perhaps it would be helpful to remember these words of John Lydgate:  "You can please some of the people all of the time.  You can please all of the people some of the time.  But you can not please all of the people all of the time."  That's just reality, and the sooner we accept it, the better off we will be. Criticism will come our way partially because we will always have some people who don't agree or aren't pleased with us.  That's life.

Also, we need to keep an open mind and consider the possibility that some criticism leveled against us may be justified.  Sometimes our critics can be right.  And when that happens, we need to be mature enough to admit our failure, learn our lesson, and do better the next time around.  Not all people who criticize us are "haters".  At times, they are people simply addressing a situation that needs to be corrected.  On a personal note, I'm thankful for some who have criticized me before.  Their words helped me learn about myself and make necessary adjustments.  See, some criticism can actually help us grow and become better people.

Finally, we need to find our security in God.  If scripture affirms what we are doing, and if we are at peace with God in our hearts, then we can turn a deaf ear to undeserved criticism and move on with life.  Remember this, my friend:  If God is ok with you, it doesn't matter what other people say about you.  He is your judge.  Your critic is not.  So be secure in His approval and don't let people steal your joy or destroy your confidence.

I hope George Lucas doesn't let the criticism get him down too much.  He's really great at telling stories and making movies, so he needs to continue using his gift.  And I hope the rest of us do the same.  We have a life to live and a difference to make.  May God help George, you, and me respond to criticism the right way.

Monday, January 4, 2016


Some folks were hunting recently in our county when they made a dangerous error.  They were taking aim with their guns and then fired away.  The problem was they were way too close to houses for hunting.  Some buckshot struck the home of a good friend of mine.  It went all the way through his home and out the back side of it.    

Fortunately, my friend and his wife were not at home when it happened.  That's a good thing.  If they or anyone else had been there, this story would have resulted tragically in more than damaged property.  It could have ended much worse.

Those hunters made a gigantic mistake.  In thinking only about themselves, they damaged the property of someome else.  And they could have severely hurt another person.  

That story reminds me of this truth:  When we say and do things in life, we've got to consider more than ourselves.  It's also wise and caring to consider how our words and actions affect other people such as our families, friends, and fellow church members.

When we do wrong, we're endangering more than ourselves.  Way more!  We are also putting others at risk for great hardship.    If we're selfish and reckless, we could emotionally wound, financially cripple, mentally scar, physically endanger, socially humiliate, professionally destroy, and spiritually confuse people around us.  

One thing I've learned about life is this:  It's not about me.  Far from it.  Life is about loving God and loving people.  So I've got to consider more than my thoughts and feelings.  I've also got to consider the well-being of other people around me.  And so do you.

May God remind us and help us to think about more than just ourselves.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Empty Boxes

Joey is this guy I met here in Sumter a few months ago.  He was telling me the other day about his son.  And from what I hear, he's a pretty extraordinary kid.

After the Christmas gifts were opened one year, Joey asked his son, "So what are we going to do with all these empty boxes?"  The kid thought a minute and then decided to do something special.  He went to his room, got some of his toys that he wasn't going to play with any more, and packed them in the empty boxes.  After this, he informed Joey that he wanted to donate the toys to a local charity so less fortunate kids in our area will have something to play with.  The young boy had come up with a great idea that was sure to bring a smile to the face of someome else.

Wow!  That's inspiring.  The rest of us should take to heart the example he set.

Here's what I believe:  God blesses us so we can bless others.

In Genesis 12:2, God tells Abraham "I will bless you and make your name great so you shall be a blessing."

In 2 Corinthians 1:4,  Paul explains God "comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God."

This idea is in the Old and New Testaments.  God does good things for us out of love and grace.  He likes to bless His children.  Our response is to then turn around and do good things for others out of love and grace.  It's a cycle of kindness that keeps on going.

Let's think about how blessed we are by God.  Is there a way we can use what He has given us to help out someone else?  Joey's kid found a way.  And I bet you and I can do the same with a little help from above.

We are blessed to bless.  What a privilege it is to be an agent of spreading God's gifts around the world.  You and I will get a lot of joy out of it, and it makes life better for those less fortunate.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Some New Year's Day Thoughts

This year, what if we all just...

Got real with each other.  It's easy to wear masks, play games, and project polished images of who we actually are.  Let's be our authentic selves and open up about who we genuinely are underneath the surface.  God already knows who each of us are on the inside anyway, so why not own it and share it with each other?  In the long run, life gets better and things make sense when we deal with truth.

Dealt with our own faults and quirks before addressing the faults and quirks of others.  The older I get, the more I think we all should mind our own business.  Jesus sure thought this too.  He was the one who said "First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."  The first person I need to work on is the guy who stares back at me in the mirror.  Isn't that true for us all?

Loved everyone.  There is just too much hate and bitterness in this world.  We human beings can be cruel in the ugliest of ways.  May God help us all care, forgive, and bless others.  And this includes our enemies.  We can make this world a better place if we are filled with compassion and share it with everyone we see.

Showed grace to the fallen.  God forgives and patiently works to restore us when we fail.  He treats us much better than we deserve.  What if we did the same with each other?  Let's not shoot our wounded.  A better way is to help them out, as God has helped us out.  The last few years, I've been much more of a "grace guy" than I was before.  And you know what?  It feels right.

Prayed more and worried less.  God can handle everything.  We can not.  He's bigger, stronger, smarter, and better than we'll ever be.  So we should give our problems to Him and quit living in anxiety.  Listen, worry has never once fixed any of my problems.  But God sure has!

I'm not going to create an unrealistic list of resolutions this year.  But on this New Year's Day, I'm thinking that putting these principles into practice may position you and me to have a blessed 2016.  Happy New Year to you and yours!