Sunday, February 28, 2016
* I preached on "The Power of the Tongue" out of James 3:1-12.
* This was my outline:
vs. 1-2, 7-8 : Identify The Struggle. It's a hard thing to control the tongue, and we need God's help to do it.
vs. 3-6 : Realize The Power. It's important to know our words make a significant impact on other people.
vs. 9-12 : Make The Choice. It's time to decide if our speech will be constructive or destructive.
* I especially liked this quote by Publius: "I have often regretted my speech; never my silence."
* At the close of the sermon, I shared this:
Only A Word
"Only a word of anger
but it wounded a sensitive heart.
Only a word of sharp reproach
but it made the teardrops start.
Only a hasty, thoughtless word, sarcastic and unkind
but it darkened the day before so bright, and left a sting behind.
Only a word of kindness,
but it lifted a heart of its grief.
Only a word of sympathy,
but it brought one soul relief.
Only a word of gentle cheer, but it flooded with radiant light
the pathway that seemed so dark before, and it made the day more bright."
(I'm not sure who that, but I loved it the first time I read it, and I had to share it with our church family today.)
* Christopher is one of our youth here at the church. At the conclusion of this morning's service, he let the congregation know he has asked Jesus Christ to be his Savior and Lord. LC, one of our adults, has done a fine job of mentoring and encouraging him.
* Here is a picture of LC and Christopher:
* Tonight's 6:00 service was a special one that I won't soon forget. The Ark singers, who are from Ukraine, blessed us with awesome music. It was a worshipful time that we all enjoyed.
* I was glad our church family gave over $400 to them tonight.
* To learn more about their ministry with Slavic Missionary Outreach, check out their website by clicking HERE.
* It was great to see my brother, Condy, and his family this weekend. He's here preaching a revival in a neighboring community, so we've been able to visit some with him. He, Anna, and the kids seem to be doing really well.
* Did you read what Max Lucado (who is one of my favorite writers) posted on his blog about this presidential campaign season? Regardless of where you stand politically, you really ought to read this. Powerful and true. To read if for yourself, just click HERE.
* Lara and I made a quick trip this weekend to visit our Katie who is close to finishing her freshman year of college. I'm sure proud of her. She's doing well and working hard.
* That's it for now.
* Plenty of new blog posts will be up this week, and I hope you get a blessing out of them.
* Good night, and God bless you.
Saturday, February 27, 2016
Rachel, my youngest daughter, came to me a few months ago and told me about these new coloring books that are made for teenagers and adults. She was really interested in them, and she asked me if I would buy her one. "Sure", I replied. And soon enough, she was coloring away.
Not long after that, she came back to me and asked if I could get her another coloring book. Wondering what happened to the one I had already bought her, I asked what was up. She responded, "Well, I was with a bunch of other kids and they all really liked my coloring book. So I tore out pages for each of them to color some too. Now all the pages have been used."
Because of that, I bought her another one. She is enjoying it immensely. And I am proud of her for setting such a good example.
Love. There are plenty of descriptions for it. One of them is this: generous.
We see the generosity of love in the first part of John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that He gave..." Caring for people led Him to give. His love manifested itself in action.
There is a whole lot of selfishness in this world, isn't there? The unholy trinity of "Me, Myself, and I" is what a lot of people live for. And this leads to conflict, betrayal, pain, loneliness, and emptiness. Love is far better! Why? Because of its selfless nature, love aims at blessing others. And it makes life better for everyone involved.
Let's be generous today. Like Rachel with the coloring book, we can do something kind for someone. And when we do, we will experience the joy that is found in putting love in action.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
My parents and brothers sat down with me one day and suggested that I go to counseling. They felt that it would be good for me to meet with someone and talk through my situation. At first, I was hesitant to do it. For several reasons, I drug my feet and put it off. But finally, after repeated encouragement from my family, I went.
You know what? I'm glad I did. It helped me in a big way. No, my life didn't turn perfect because of it. But I can tell you it did play a major role in changing the direction of where I was headed. Still today, I thank God for the counseling I received. It was the right thing for me to do, and it really was a blessing!
Are you dealing with some tough matters in your life? Let me encourage you to do something: Go to counseling. Seriously. Just do it. It'll play a huge role in helping you process thoughts, manage emotions, and make decisions.
The Bible advocates counseling:
Proverbs 11:14 - "Where there is no guidance, the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory."
Proverbs 13:10 - "wisdom is with those who receive counsel."
Proverbs 15:22 - "Without consultation, plans are frustrated. But with many counselors they succeed."
Proverbs 12:18 - "the tongue of the wise brings healing."
A good, wise counselor offers an objective point of view and helps us see things a little more clearly. And he or she can be an effective sounding board for sorting through our thoughts and feelings. Of course, a counselor can also give us helpful suggestions that we may never have come up with on our own.
Some people say, "I don't need counseling. I just need to read my Bible more and pray more." Listen, I'm all for reading the Bible more and praying more. By all means, do that! But counseling is still an effective way by which God brings help and healing into our lives. God can speak to us through a wise counselor. Furthermore, God is all for counseling. He did tell us in His word to seek it.
Go to one who is proven and trained. There are plenty of licensed, educated counselors out there. It just makes sense to talk with someone who has spent a lot of time learning and growing themselves.
Yes, it can cost you a little bit of money. But you can get it at an affordable rate. Lots of insurance plans help with this, which is a good thing.
On a personal note, I chose to meet with one who is a Christian. That felt right for me. I wanted to talk with someone who was going to come at me from the same belief and value system. Some people may disagree with me on this, and that's ok. That just really mattered to me, and I am glad I went that route.
Finally, it's nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, I met with a counselor a few years ago. I am not embarrassed one bit about it. My only regret is that I did not do it sooner. There's no shame in getting help that all of us flawed human beings need from time to time.
If you're hurting in any way, please seek help. Seriously. It's ok. Don't go through life struggling all alone when there are positive, God-ordained resources available to help you. Just make that phone call, set up the appointment, and go. You'll be so glad you did. And it'll help you get a better grip on what's happening in your life.
P.S. I'd like to offer you some links if you are considering counseling. Just click on the links, and they will take you to websites for different counselors. This will help you learn more about who they are and how to get in touch with them. Also, these counselors have not asked me to link to their practices. They don't even know I'm writing this. They're just good people I respect and recommend to you:
If you're here in the Sumter area, try THIS.
Also, if you're near Columbia, try THIS.
Finally, no matter who you are or where you live, you'll be blessed if you try THIS.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
"Lord, be my help."
Not long after it happened, I came upon a truck that crashed here in Sumter. It had gone off the road and down into a big ditch. And it was sure in a tight spot. There was nothing the driver could do to fix the situation. Fortunately, help arrived, the truck was pulled out, and it looked like the driver was going to be ok.
Seeing that crashed truck got me thinking...
It's possible for our lives to crash. Traumas and hard times come knocking along the way. I've been there, and so have you. On some occasions, the crash is our own fault because of wrong choices we make. And then there are those times when something bad happens to us that is beyond our control.
When there's a crash in your or my life, let's remember the following...
 Take responsibility. If we are in a mess because of a wrong choice we made, it's always best to admit it, take full blame, and accept the consequences. Blaming other people or difficult circumstances is out of the question here. We must be transparent and admit "I have done wrong" when we are guilty. No, it's not always easy. But it is always best. And it's the first step towards healing and recovering from the trauma.
 Let people help. Get real with family and friends about what has happened. Listen to words of wisdom from people who are mature spiritually. Get counseling. Open up and be vulnerable with people about what has really happened. This allows others, who have an objective point of view, to give us helpful advice.
 Try God. If you're stuck in a mess of any kind right now, pray to Him and ask for help. God knows it all and can do it all. And He deeply loves His people. Who better to cry out to for help than Him?
I love these words from Psalm 40:2 "He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." Just as the driver was helped with his crash, we can be helped in our traumas. God truly is a help to those who are in need.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
A man in the Chicago area had a secret. And he hid it for 26 years! His name is Charles Price, and what people found out was amazing.
It was recently discovered that he had in his house an alligator. A long time ago, Charles got the gator when it was a baby. And he kept it. Over the years it grew to over six feet in length and a couple hundred pounds in weight. Most of the time it stayed in a big cage in his basement. But every now and then he would let it out in the back yard.
Finally, after 26 years, his secret was found out. An appliance repairman was working in the basement when he heard something stirring around. He did some exploring, lifted a cover, and saw the gator. Man, I bet he was shocked!
Anyway, the gator is fine. And Charles will probably have to answer for this, because it is against the law and not a good idea to do what he did. I doubt the court will throw the book at him too hard. At least I hope they don't. Maybe it'll just be a little fine and a "Don't ever do that again" kind of talk. It doesn't sound like he was trying to hurt the animal or do anything terrible to anyone.
When we look at people, we just never know everything that's happening in their lives. There is so much beneath the surface of what we see in folks. It's impossible to know it all. This includes our neighbors, friends, and family.
Here are a few thoughts to consider about this...
 We should remind ourselves that there is always more than what meets the eye when we deal with people. This includes people who are close to us. It's just the truth: I don't know everything about you. You don't know everything about me. We don't know everything about anyone. I'm talking about good, not-so-good, and trivial things. The sooner we accept this reality, the less we will be surprised when we learn things about one another.
 God knows everything about us, and we can keep no secrets from Him. He sees and hears all that goes on in your life and my life. Nothing is hidden from Him. Absolutely nothing. Psalm 139:1 says, "Lord you have examined me and you know all about me." And verse 3 states, "You know everything I do." He knows when we succeed. He knows when we hurt. And He knows when we fail. And the truth is, this is a good thing. We should be glad that God knows us thoroughly. That enables Him to understand us and work with each of us in the way we need it most.
God knew about Charles and the secret gator.
God knows all about the public and private aspects of your life and my life.
That's just one more proof that He is awesome.
And here's the best part of it all: God knows everything about us and He still loves us anyway!
Sunday, February 21, 2016
* We finished up chapter two of James during this morning's sermon here at New Calvary. The series of studies in this awesome book rolls on, and it's sure teaching me a lot along the away. I think every Christian ought to spend some time in this book.
* My message today was "Faith And Works". The scripture was James 2:14-26, and you can read it for yourself by clicking HERE.
* Today's point was that we are saved by grace through faith, and this should affect how we live our lives. Faith and works both matter. Our beliefs and our behavior both count.
* Our youth group went on a skiing trip this weekend to North Carolina. They had a great time at Beach Mountain Ski Resort. They got to enjoy beautiful scenery and snow.
* Two of my daughters went, and they enjoyed it. Here is a look (from left to right) at three of the kids who went on this trip: Kristen, my Lizzie, and my Rachel.
* I appreciate our adult workers showing these kids a fun couple of days. Good job, youth workers!
* Our Youth Group is selling t-shirts now. They have to do with being rooted in Christ. A lot of people have placed orders for one, and folks still have a few more weeks to do so.
* Yesterday (2/20/16) was a big day as we had primaries here in South Carolina. The polls were open and I went to vote. Lara snapped a picture of me when I got home from the polls.
* Here's a closer look at the sticker on my sweatshirt. Everyone who voted was given one.
* Right before I walked out the building yesterday, I looked at the ladies who were working there. They all were quiet, and nobody else was in the building at the moment. So I said, "You know, I'm sure glad we live in a county where we all can have our own opinions and cast our own votes. What a privilege it is to do this." They all nodded and a couple of them said they agreed.
* I don't want to get all self righteous about it. But I do think voting is important. And I'm thankful we Americans get to have a say in what happens.
* Like everyone else, I have a personal opinion about this upcoming election. I do lean in a specific direction. But I also think this: Regardless of who wins this, God is still ultimately in control. He is The King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Sure, voting is a good thing to do. And I do practice it. But I don't put my faith in politicians of either party. The greatest hope for America and the world is God.
* I sure didn't like hearing about a shooting last night at Columbiana Center. That's a great, classy mall that we all have enjoyed for years.
* Hopefully they can catch whoever did it, get them off the streets, and make things a little safer.
* That's it for tonight.
* More new blog posts will be posted this week.
Saturday, February 20, 2016
James is a great guy I met back in the mid 90's in Fort Worth, Texas. We took some seminary classes together. I always enjoyed being around him. Now he lives in Hawaii.
One day, James went to get in his car. While approaching it, he noticed something was on his windshield. Immediately, he wondered if someone in his family had played a trick on him.
As he got a little closer, James realized it was a bunch of stickey notes. Each one was a short message of appreciation for the difference he made in someone's life. It turns out, a group of people got together and did this to show some him some gratitude. And it really moved him in a good way.
This story about James has me thinking, Each of us knows at least one person who has made our lives a little better. Maybe it's a parent, spouse, neighbor, classmate, friend, co-worker, or fellow church member. From time to time, it would be a blessing to that someone if we showed him or her some appreciation.
When we thank people for the difference they make, they receive a good feeling of encouragement. This is because they are made aware of the positive impact they are making. And it lets them know that their efforts are worth while. Furthermore, it protects them from feeling unimportant and irrelevant.
Appreciation. It really is a powerful gesture. It meant a whole lot to James. And it'll mean the world to others when we show them some as well.
Let's all tell someone "Thanks" today.
"I have not stopped giving thanks for you"
Friday, February 19, 2016
Emerson, my 10 year old son, had a little bit of money in his wallet. $5 to be exact. And he wanted to do something with it.
He asked me to take him to Food Lion one night. While driving over there, I asked him, "Buddy, what are you planning on doing with your money?" Now I was expecting him to say he wanted to buy some candy, like he usually does. But he surprised me when he responded, "I just want to do something nice for Mama."
So we got there, and he walked straight to the Valentines stuff by the door. He took his time, looked around, and spotted what he wanted to buy. Emerson picked up a little stuffed monkey and said, "I want to get her this."
I have to confess, my heart melted a little bit as I watched him walk up to that counter, open his Captain America velcro wallet, pull out the wrinkled up money, and buy a gift for his mom. And I could tell he was really excited about it. When we got home, he proudly walked into our room and gave it to Lara. Needless to say, it made her night. (And the monkey remains right here in our room!)
It's more than lip service.
Love takes action.
These words from 1 John 3:18 explain it perfectly: "Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." There it is. A crystal clear description. Love is a verb. It is something we do. It gets in motion and blesses others.
Emerson reminded me of something important with the stuffed monkey. It's easy to tell someone we love them. But it's far more meaningful to show them. Whether it's by giving them a listening ear, a meal, or a little stuffed animal. It doesn't have to be a big, expensive deal. As long as it's from the heart, that's good enough.
Let's all show someone today that we love them.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
I read in the February 5, 2016 edition of The Item an article about the GED. Just in case you don't know, the GED has to do with taking a series of tests for earning a certificate equivalent to a high school diploma. Anyway, in the article I learned that the required score used to be a 150. But now the required score has been changed to a 145. So now people can score a little lower and still earn the certificate.
See what happened? The standard changed. What once was expected of people is not what is expected today.
But what about God? Does He raise and lower the bar of His standards for you and me? Let's think about this for a moment.
The Bible tells us that He is "the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8) That's all about the unchanging nature of our Lord. His character and ways are permanent and set.
Because of that, His standards remain the same. "Be holy, because I am holy." That's what God says in 1 Peter 1:16. God is pure and righteous inside and out. Simply put, He is good in every way. And He holds us to that standard. God expects purity and righteousness from us. That was true in the past. It's true in the present. And it will remain true in the future.
In His word, God calls us to behave ourselves appropriately. He wants holiness in our lives. And this will always be the case.
What society deems acceptable will change.
But God and His standards forever remain the same.
Sunday, February 14, 2016
* Man, oh man, what a weekend! It was a really good one.
* Today is Valentine's Day. It's a special time to celebrate the people we love, and to be thankful for the people who love us. And what a blessing it is to be loved by God!
* Today was also a great one because of the good things happening here at New Calvary Baptist Church.
* After our 11:00 am worship service, I stood around and visited with people. I was the last person to leave the building around 12:30 pm. When I walked out to my truck, I turned my phone back on, and received the following text from my mom:
* Mom was referring to the 11:00 am worship service we had this morning. And I agreed 100% with her text. It really was a fantastic hour of worship!
* Dawn Smith Jordan was our special guest this morning. She won Miss South Carolina 1986. And she's got a special ministry going. She speaks, sings, writes, and shares a message of grace and love everywhere she goes.
* Dawn really did an awesome job here at New Calvary today. Her music was inspiring. Her honesty, humility, and transparency helped us feel a connection with her. And the stories she shared were touching. It was an incredible time of worship that I will remember for a long, long time.
* After the service, my daughters and I were glad to get a picture taken with Dawn.
* Thanks for coming today, Dawn!! We appreciate you. And we wish you nothing but the very best as you continue to serve the Lord.
* Tonight at 6:00 pm, our youth group put on a Valentine Banquet. They served a delicious meal. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it. The food was delicious, and the fellowship was fun.
* We've got a fine group of young people in this church, and I sure do appreciate the adults who work with them.
* God's growing this church, and I'm thrilled to be along for the ride. One of the guys in our church told me the other day, "Man, God is about to blow the walls out of this place!" You know what? I think he may be right. Possibly. But either way, it's an absolute thrill to see people filling up the pews and becoming a part of this place.
* My oldest daughter, Katie, turned 19 years old on Friday. We all had a great time celebrating with her at California Dreaming in Columbia, SC. Dad and Mom came along for a delicious meal and good fun. I was glad to get a quick picture snapped with her that night.
* I was talking with Mom on the phone this afternoon, and I told her that I'm so thankful for all of the good things happening in my life right now. I do not deserve the blessings that are falling on me. Really, I don't. But God's grace really is amazing. I am truly grateful for it, and I want to handle it the right way.
* Plenty of new blog posts are coming this week. I hope you get something good out of them!
* Have a great night. Peace to you and yours.
Friday, February 12, 2016
In 2013, I worked at the wastewater treatment plant here in Sumter. Many times my shift was from 11:00 pm - 7:00 am. Usually I worked with Jody. He was really smart and understood how to do the job with excellence. He was also good to me. I look back on my time with him and have good memories.
A lot of nights, Jody showed up to work with food that his kind wife, Leigh-Anne, had prepared for him. She really fixed him up right with great food to eat. The cool thing was that plenty of nights, he showed up with two meals ready. One was for me. Out of the goodness of her heart, she fixed extra food so I could have some too. Now I didn't ask them for those delicious meals. They just wanted to be good to me. I'll always remember that and be thankful for it.
Generosity. One definition I've found for it is "the quality of being kind." It has to do with blessing others when we are able to do so.
There are so many people in this world who have needs...
Some need a listening ear.
Others need a shoulder to cry on.
Lots need guidance.
Many need someone just to sit quietly by their side.
Plenty need food, water, and shelter.
All need a friend.
And everyone needs our prayers.
When we are generous, we help meet needs such as these.
There is something more important than getting. Way more! It's giving.
Corrie Tin Boom was so right when she said, "The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration but it's donation." What we give and how we bless are good indicators of what kinds of people we are. The way we treat others speaks volumes about what is going on inside our hearts.
Thanks Leigh-Anne and Jody. Y'all were very good to me. I'll forever be thankful for your kindness.
And may we all remember that each of us can show generosity to someone. Each of us can bless another soul with an act of kindness. And none of us will ever regret it. Ever.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
I was standing with two older guys the other day when an interesting conversation broke out. One of them said, "I knew your dad years ago when he raced cars at the Sumter Rebel Speedway. He was a good man that would race clean. He didn't try to hurt people or crash the other cars." I could tell the other guy was pleased to hear his dad being talked about so favorably. And I think it made him proud.
Our reputation is one of the most important things we have. We can have a good name that causes people to smile and talk positively about us. Or we have a not-so-good name that causes people to roll their eyes and speak negatively about us. And the way we live our lives mostly determines what kind of reputation we have. It's based on the choices we make.
The Bible speaks about this. In Proverbs 22:1 we read, "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver and gold." Wow! A good reputation means more than money. That's so true. When we have built a good name for ourselves, people respect us and trust us. And that's a good thing.
Maybe you've made some wrong choices in your life and messed up your reputation. Is there any hope left? Sure. Humble yourself, own up to your mistakes, apologize sincerely for your wrongdoings, and do better with the rest of your life. It may take some time for people to come around and trust you again. But you can help yourself and your reputation day by day with good choices, honest living, and God's help.
Money is important. But a good name matters much more. And each of us have the opportunity to build a good one.
Let's all live God's way today. When we do that, we will naturally honor Him, bless others, and manage ourselves. This will lead to something really valuable: a good reputation.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
(Drew Choate and me)
I've always looked up to Drew Choate. Just a great guy! For years he and his wife were missionaries to Africa. Now he is the pastor of Harmony Church here in Sumter. I was around him mostly in the 80's when he was a football coach and teacher at Thomas Sumter Academy. He made our school a better place, and he was greatly respected. Actually, he still teaches Bible there at Thomas Sumter.
Since I played football, I got to spend a lot of days out there on the field learning from Coach Choate. One of the things I remember most about him was his attitude. Without fail, he would say something every day to us when we were practicing. Coach would walk out there with a whistle around his neck and he would yell out, "Boys it's a great day for football!"
It didn't matter if it was sunny or rainy.
It didn't matter if it was boiling hot or freezing cold.
It didn't matter if we won or lost the previous game.
We always heard those words.
"Its a great day!"
Coach Choate's good attitude makes me think of this verse in the Bible: "This is the day that the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it." That is Psalm 118:24. The writer is saying that every day is a gift from God, and we can enjoy it.
We woke up and get to live another day. Let's rejoice!
We have an awesome God who sticks with us. Let's rejoice!
We get to enjoy the beauty of His creation. Let's rejoice!
We are loved by Him like children are loved by their father. Let's rejoice!
We have all our deepest needs met by Him. Let's rejoice!
We can find peace in Him when times get tough. Let's rejoice!
We can get direction from Him when making decisions. Let's rejoice!
We can be empowered by Him to face the day. Let's rejoice!
There is so much we can feel good about as children of God. And because of that, we can approach our days with optimism, positivity, and joy. Every day is a gift from God. And every day is another opportunity to walk with God. So we really can rejoice!
I remind myself and my family of this quite often. There is a lot we can feel good about. And the same goes for you.
So, thanks, Coach Choate!
And more importantly, thank you, Lord!
We can choose joy today. And we can opt for sunshine in our souls. Why? Because "This is the day that the Lord has made!"
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
The Harbaugh boys were given great advice on how to approach every day. John and Jim, both of whom grew up to become big time football coaches, were sitting in the back of their father's car. When they were being dropped off at school, their father would say to them, "Ok, men, grab your lunchboxes and attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind!"
Now THAT'S a good motivational speech to hear in the morning!!
Did you catch what he said? "Attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind!" Think about it...
We are not to endure this day or just try to get through it.
We are not to timidly approach this day with fear and weak knees.
We are to charge courageously into this day with the firm belief that, thanks be to God, we've got everything we need to do what must be done.
And we are to launch into this day enthusiastically. That has to do with passion and intensity. It means were are to be excited and ready to roll with a positive, can-do attitude. Confidence and readiness are to be boiling up inside of us as we get started in the morning.
Jack Harbaugh taught his boys right! And I think if we follow his advice, we too can accomplish great things. Let's choose the right attitude as we approach this day.
Because of God, we've got what it takes!
We're well equipped and divinely assisted for all the tasks and challenges that wait for us.
We've got absolutely nothing to fear.
Just like the Harbaugh boys, let's charge into every day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind!
Sunday, February 7, 2016
* We had a good sized crowd today. Guests and members alike showed up, and I was glad to see every one of them.
* Thrilled to have a young family join our church family today! I was happy to see them take that step after visiting for a while. My hope is that we can be a good church for them, and that I can be a good pastor for them.
* I swung by a Sunday School class full of boys today. They're all great kids, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. Here's a quick look at this cool crew of guys:
* We are called to be impartial and not play favorites. Regardless of the person's appearance, gender, skin color, economic condition, place of residence, or social status, we are to show them love and acceptance.
* Studying and preaching through the book of James has sure been a good exercise for me personally. It's teaching, convicting, and helping me. As I do my homework each week, I'm discovering more and more of why this is such an awesome book. I just hope that this study is helping folks the way it is helping me.
* Super Bowl 50 was today. I am a life-long Dallas Cowboys fan, and since my team didn't make it to the playoffs, I pulled for the Carolina Panthers.
* We enjoyed a bunch of good food tonight! That made the big game even more fun.
* We travelled out of town yesterday and visited our oldest child, Katie. She's a college student now, and is really doing well. I'm proud of the young lady that she is. Katie is growing up, making good choices, and pursuing her goals.
* Emerson was recognized at his school this past week for making the honor roll and for good conduct.
* Rachel continues to be a great kid that warms my heart. She's quiet and shy, but she's also a deep thinker.
* Elizabeth earned her drivers license a few days ago. She's one happy girl! And she visited a college for the first time. It's hard to believe that she will be entering that next phase of life in the not so distant future.
* Moving from Florida to South Carolina a couple of years ago was an adjustment for the kids. It was easy for me, because this is my home. But it was hard for them to leave their friends. The good news is they are adjusting to their new lives and doing well. I'm proud of them.
* Dawn Smith Jordan will be with us at New Calvary Baptist next Sunday morning, February 14. She will be singing and sharing her story. I'm really looking forward to this. Everyone is welcome to come out for this special service at 11:00 am. To check out her website and learn more about her, just click HERE.
* Clay Smith recently wrote a really good blog post entitled "For Or Against". Plenty of politicians talk about what they're against. But have you ever wondered what Jesus is for? I'd encourage you to take a moment and read Clay's thoughts. You can check it out by clicking HERE.
* That's all I've got for tonight. As you can see, life is going well. Not perfect, obviously. But I am blessed and I am thankful. God's been good to me.
* Thanks for checking out my blog. I'll post new stuff here this week, and I hope you find it encouraging.
* God bless you and yours!!
Thursday, February 4, 2016
I read that story in a western novel written by Louis L'amour. The part about how Johnny "always sort of perked a fellow up" really grabbed my attention. It made me think about 1 Thessalonians 5:11, which reads "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up."
Boone, in his tough predicament, needed some encouragement. And plenty of people all around us need the same thing today. Feeling low and discouraged, they long for someone to give them an emotional boost and a ray of hope.
Sickness. Divorce. Unemployment. Grief. Failure. Loneliness. These are just some of the real issues that plague people we rub shoulders with in this world. And we can do something about it!
Encourage people by letting them know you care. That will remind them they are not alone.
Encourage people by assuring them God is in control. That will remind them they are in His hands.
The wounded cowboy in that story just wanted someone there by his side. And plenty of wounded people today want the same thing. They long for caring people to be with them. That will be a blessing to their soul in the midst of their pain.
Let's help the hurting today with an act or word of encouragement.
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
In my wallet, I keep a card. My son, Emerson, gave it to me for Father's Day in 2011. And I'll probably keep it there forever.
On the front of the card is a picture of him.
On the back of the card is a little message that reads, "When I am not around and you get lonely for me, just open up your wallet and my picture you will see."
That means a lot to me. Why? Because I love my boy, and I realize I won't always have him with me. One day, he will become a man, move out, and get on with his life; therefore, I'll hold on to that card so I can at least see his picture.
God is described as a "shepherd" in Psalm 23. Specifically, in verse 4, He is praised for this reason: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." Just as a good shepherd stays with the sheep, God stays with us.
I love that idea!
People come and go. Nobody can stay with us 24/7. It's part of life. But God, on the other hand, is eternally by our side and in our heart. He does not depart or check out. He does not vacate the premises. With us is where He remains. Forever.
When we are dancing on the mountaintop, and everything is going our way, God is with us.
When we are grieving in the valley, and life hurts, God is with us.
I have read in countless places that these were the final words of John Wesley before he took his final breath: "The best of all is God is with us!" Amen to that! Wesley knew perfectly that in living and in dying, we are never alone. He is with us indeed.
May we find comfort in the everlasting presence of God. If the sun is shining or if the skies are dark, He looks after us as a shepherd looks after his sheep. And we are blessed because of it.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Christmas was a few weeks ago. Recently, I was talking with a friend about it. After sharing with each other about what gifts we gave the kids, the conversation turned a little more serious. I told him, "You know, I don't think I even asked for anything this year. I guess I'm realizing I don't really need anything." His reply was, "Yeah, same here. I didn't ask for anything either."
I think a lot of people reach that point in life. Part of it is just growing up. But I think it's more than that. Ultimately, it's the realization that nothing in this world can satisfy us like God can.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." This is the first verse of Psalm 23. Sheep are blessed to have a shepherd look after them. And we are blessed to have God look after us.
I like that phrase "I shall not want." The Message puts it this way: "I don't need a thing." And the Holman Christian Standard Bible states "There is nothing I lack."
A shepherd meets the needs of the sheep. When his work is complete, they are filled and satisfied. In the same way, God meets the needs of His people. And because of Him, we too are filled and satisfied. That is why we can say, "I shall not want." With God, we have everything we need.
I once heard Charles Stanley talking about this idea of satisfaction. He described walking through a mall and seeing all sorts of nice merchandise. Then he talked about how when he returned to his car in the parking lot he thought to himself, "Thank God I don't need any of that stuff." See, he realized that everything he really needed was found in God.
In verse 2 and 3 of Psalm 23, we see a quick list of some blessings we receive from God:
[a] "He makes me lie down in green pastures" - This means God gives us peace so we can rest easy.
[b] "He leads me beside quiet waters" - This means God meets our basic needs.
[c] "He restores my soul" - This means God helps us catch our breath and recover from the demanding and exhausting seasons of life.
[d] "He guides me in the paths of righteousness" - This means God points us in the right direction.
It really is true. Everything that the human heart longs for can be found in God. He satisfies us like nobody else can.
Here's a word of caution: Let's never love the gifts more than we love The Giver. It's great to enjoy the benefits of a relationship with God, but let's remember it all starts with the relationship.
May the words "I shall not want" become a reality in your life and my life.
May we remember that a connection with God through Jesus Christ is what fulfills a heart the most.
And may we worship Him with hearts full of gratitude for all that He is and all that He does.
As members of His flock, we really are blessed, aren't we?!