Category Archives: Christian Living

Thanking and the Thankee

I’m Thankful For…

So many people will be celebrating tomorrow (Thanksgiving) by starting off sentences with the words, “I’m thankful for…” Traditionalists will say it before carving a turkey. Vegans will say it before carving a large piece of vegetable protein disguised as something they secretly wish they could eat. Children will even say it just to please their grandparents and to be assured an extra scoop of Cool Whip on their pumpkin pie.

But one thing’s for sure, being thankful implies the influence of an outside source and suggests things could have been different, despite a person’s will. And even though it might sound crazy, being thankful suggests there is someone to be thankful to.

Thankful to Whom?

Maybe you have never stopped to think about it, but being thankful for anything is pretty ridiculous when there is no one to be thankful to. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary* defines “thanks” as  a “plural noun…an expression of gratitude…another way of saying THANK YOU.” So, who is the “YOU” that you are thankful to?

According to many of the stories I have heard, especially in public schools, the original celebrants of Thanksgiving were thankful only to the Indians (Native Americans). According to many accounts, the Pilgrims were so happy that the Indians provided them with food and land that a party was necessary. So, in other words, the first “thanks” of Thanksgiving was given to Squanto and the Wampanoag people.

That’s not totally correct.

Thankful to God

Like those who celebrated in 1623, I am thankful to God. Unlike the common history lessons, the Pilgrims recognized the true Source of blessing.

“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.

‎ Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

‎—William Bradford, Ye Governor of Ye Colony

If I am going to be thankful, I am going to be thankful to the “great Father…who has granted us freedom to worship [Him] according to the dictates of our own conscience.” As a pastor, I will lead my congregants in praise to the “Almighty God for all His blessings.

What am I thankful for?

I am most thankful for those things which I could not have had if it were not for the grace of God. Among those things are mercy and forgiveness; a family; a peace that passes all understanding; joy unspeakable and full of glory; and even a love for my enemies.

I am also thankful for and to those who serve this great nation, putting their lives at risk for my (and others’) freedom.

I am thankful for and to those who enforce the laws and keep the peace here at home, and for those who brave dangers to rescue us from harm.

“O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” – Psalm 107:1

And ultimately, I am thankful for all the blessings which I do not deserve, including all of you who read this blog, even those who do not believe a word of what I am saying.

One More Thing

One more thing…being that I have some Cherokee blood in me, I understand that Thanksgiving may not be a Native American’s favorite holiday, but the principle of thanksgiving remains. When we give thanks, to whom do we give it?

“All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.” – Psalm 86:9 

“O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.” – Psalm 117:1 

“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;” – Revelation 7:9 

One day, when all is said and done, we all will stand before God and give thanks, for He is the God of us all, despite what we have done to each other.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

*Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

6 Comments

Filed under America, Christian Living, Culture Wars, Faith, God, Thanksgiving, worship

Don’t Be Immoral; Be Thankful

Title Undetermined

As I sit down to type this, I still don’t have a title for the post. Several things have crossed my mind, but nothing has clicked.

When I got to thinking about it, maybe that’s a good thing: having a title before the piece is written could affect what I write. So, I’m going to share what’s on my mind, then come up with a title – hopefully a catchy one.

Ephesians 5:23

I was reading through the Book of Ephesians and got to the passage you see in the photo (that’s actually from my Bible). The last part of verse 4 stood out to me so much that I grabbed a couple of colored pencils and marked it (yellow and orange).

But rather… What you have here is an either/or kinda thing. It’s a contrasting statement. Instead of doing one thing, do something else. And what is it that we are to do other than something else?

Give thanks.  Giving thanks is the contrasting opposite to six things described in verses 3 and 4. And what are those things?

  • fornication (πορνεία porneía): any illicit sexual activity outside of marriage
  • all uncleanness (ἀκαθαρσία akatharsía): in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living
  • covetousness (πλεονεξία pleonexía): the greedy desire to have more
  • filthiness (αἰσχρότης aischrótēs): obscenity
  • foolish talking (μωρολογία mōrología): stupid or rash conversation; like the conversation of a drunk man
  • jesting (εὐτραπελία eutrapelía): witty talk, usually with double, vulgar meanings 

Corruption and Comedy.  Notice, the first three (in verse 3) have to do with immoral actions and desires, while the last three (verse 4) have more to do with talking about it. Isn’t that what most comedians talk about?

Unbecoming.  The fact is that sexual immorality, along with even joking about it, does not “become” saints (Christians). It doesn’t look good on us. We can do better.

Beautiful thanks.  Giving thanks IS becoming! Giving thanks to God for all His blessings is a beautiful thing! It looks great on those who wear the name of Christ.

Why the Highlighted Part?

So why did I highlight the last part of verse 4? it’s because when I looked back at all the sexual sins that are so unbecoming, all of them have roots in ungratefulness.

Simply put, if we would just be thankful and content with what God has given us, then we wouldn’t try to seek out sinful activities to satisfy our longings. It really does make me think the last days are getting closer.

“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,” – 2 Timothy 3:2 CSB

Let’s be thankful for what we have and leave what we don’t have alone.

It’s more becoming that way. 

(Now I have to think of a title…hmm.)

3 Comments

Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, Culture Wars, Thanksgiving

My Pre-Salvation Testimony

Testimonies

I’m a Christian. So, when I talk about my testimony, I’m talking about my personal story, not what’s given from the witness stand.

You see, we Christians, particularly we church-going folk, like to talk about what God has done in our lives. We like telling others about where the Lord has brought us from, how he’s changed us, and what He’s currently doing in our lives. We like to “testify.”

But as I say that, it seems to me that more Christians than not are pretty silent about what God has done to transform them. To be honest, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve been to a “testimony service” where there’s no preaching, just people telling their stories – their testimonies.

The “Great” Testimonies

But maybe it’s because so often what gets the most press, so to speak, are the testimonies that wow the audience, the “great” testimonies of how God delivered a horrible sinner and turned him into a saint. …Yeah, I know, that’s what salvation is, but work with me for a moment

What people really want to hear are the salacious details of debauchery and crime, the drugs and alcohol, the millions blown on a life of sin … you know, sort of like Kanye … and THEN how God miraculously saved them from all the excitement.  You don’t draw a crowd with a boring testimony like, “I was saved as a small child and lived a relatively God-honoring life the last 40 years.”

Why would the average Christian want to stand up in front of people and watch them yawn? For the most part, a lot of people who are born again by faith in Jesus Christ think their story isn’t worth telling, at least not worth making a big deal.

That’s why I want to share, for the very first time, my pre-salvation testimony… to encourage the average believer who’s never been a murderer, a drug dealer, a dope addict, a wifebeater, a famous musician, or a politician.

My Story

I’ve written before about my life after God saved my soul, but I’ve never written about what I was like before I gave my heart to Jesus. I didn’t want to give the devil too much credit or make my past life look attractive to those who might be tempted by the depravity to which I was bound.

Honestly, some people talk about their lives before Christ like salvation was only something they resigned to. It’s like: “I had everything money could buy – women, drugs, fast cars, airplanes, houses on the beach, and a modeling contract – but then I got saved, and now I go to church.

But not me… I was a true sinner, lost and on my way to hell, and I’m glad Jesus saved me!

Before I got saved, I was an immature, unpredictable, maladjusted mess. For a few years, I was in such a world of my own that nobody could understand me; my vocabulary was horrible, worse than a sailor’s. My language was so bad I’d even make up words to express the neediness inside.

For at least a year I drank all the time. Rarely ate a bite of food.

I never cared about my own well-being, but lived every day without any thought of life or death. I took every risk, broke every rule, and in trouble with authority on a regular, sometimes daily basis.

Before Jesus saved me, I was self-centered, self-serving, and entitled; I felt everything should be done for me, that I shouldn’t have to do anything for myself. For a couple of years, I didn’t even try.

I was like the homeless in San Fransisco; I’d defecate anywhere and anytime I wanted. Once, while attending a party at my parent’s house, I literally walked into the middle of the living room where the church people were sitting, and urinated into an ashtray on the coffee table!

The face of an unrepentant sinner full of unholy potential.

I took advantage of everyone who loved me, especially my mother. Fortunately, I had good parents who loved me through those unredeemed years, even though it seemed like every paycheck of theirs was meant to keep me alive.

That is why I could never thank God enough for what He did when He saved me on September 26, 1973… when I was only six years old!

God spared the world from what I could have become.

10 Comments

Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Humor, self-worth, Witnessing, worship

You Might Be a Sinner If…

I’m a Redneck

Yes, I confess it… I’m a redneck.

I know that I’m a redneck because Jeff Foxworthy told me so. If you remember, Foxworthy’s comic routine made famous the line: “You might be a redneck if…” He would then follow with descriptions, examples, qualifiers, etc.

Below are some I know have applied to me at least once over the last 50+ years.

You might be a redneck if…

  • You read the Auto Trader with a highlight pen.
  • Every socket in your house breaks a fire code.
  • The taillight covers of your car are made of red tape.
  • Directions to your house include “Turn off the  paved road.”
  • Going to the bathroom at night involves shoes and a  flashlight.
  • You use the term `over yonder’ more than once a month.

I’m a Sinner

But unlike a lot of people in this world (and in a world of their own), I can also admit I’m a sinner. The only difference is that once I confessed my inability to change my nature, I traded my “filthy rags” for the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:9). Now, I’m still a sinner, but I’m am a saved sinner.

So, based on the actions of Adam and Eve in the third chapter of Genesis, I took a cue from Jeff Foxworthy and came up with my own list of “you might be’s.” From that list I preached a message entitled “You Might Be a Sinner If…

You might be a sinner if…

  •   You have ever talked to a Serpent – and taken its advice (v. 2).
  •   You know the difference between “Naked” and “Necked” (v. 7). Side Note: If you consider fig leaves appropriate attire, you might be a sinner.
  •  You feel like running when the law shows up (v. 8).
  •  God is searching for you, and not the other way around (v. 9).
  •  You feel self-conscious or defensive about anything you’ve ever done (v. 9-10).
  •  You ever play the “blame game” – Others, “The devil made me do it” (v. 11-13).
  •  You were born (Romans 5:12).

Change of Status

Some people try on their own to change their status in life. Sometimes rednecks move away from Redneckville in order to become a different person. But what they find out is that Redneckville never left their heart. They still have those same desires to grill Spam and fish with dynamite.

In the same way, many people think, once they finally realize they are sinners, that change can come with a simple change of atmosphere, or the turning over of a new fig leaf.

The fact is that sinners don’t become “saints” on their own. It takes outside intervention.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9

If you really want to change, only Jesus can do it.

If you ask, He may even give you a hankerin for grits 😉

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, clothing, Humor, Preaching, salvation, self-worth

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: the Gnat Line

GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Gnats

I had never heard of such things growing up in Tennessee. And when living in Kentucky, there was nothing like it in the blue grass. But down here in middle Georgia there are these critters called eye gnats, or simply “gnats.”

You see, where we are is where the soil is just right for a particular kind of pest that will quite near make a non-native preacher cuss. These things will fly (no disrespect intended) into your eyes, your nose, your ears, and even your mouth. They’re dreadfully-annoying flying flecks of near demonic frustration.

But however annoying these little critters can be (and one just flew by my computer screen), at least they are not flies. Annoying is one thing, but at lest they’re not disgusting and deadly.

Believe it or not, the average fly is much worse than a hundred of these ear-buzzing hellions.

Flies

I don’t want to gross you out with all the stuff that flies do, but I could.

The worst part is that in order to eat they have to regurgitate stomach acid onto their food source (your food), dissolve it, then suck it back up. In the process, whatever was left in the gut of the fly from its last meal (road-kill or doggie poop) just got puked onto your burger or ice cream.

Now THAT is DISGUSTING!

Because flies are so nasty, annoying, and ever-present, the writer of Ecclesiastes chose to use them (not gnats) in an illustration. He said,

Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor: [so doth] a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom [and] honor (Ecclesiastes 10:1).

What does that mean?

Well, an apothecary was someone who made perfume, or a medicinal ointment. Some of these ointments could take a long time to create, not to mention use a lot of costly ingredients in the making. If left uncovered, the sweet smell would attract flies. Only one fly landing in the ointment could cause it to spoil and create a foul odor.

Losing its beautiful smell, the ointment was no longer capable of doing what it was designed to do.

Like the ointment of the perfume maker, our reputations (testimonies) are hard to come by, but easy to ruin. All it takes is just one little mistake, misstep, or sin to cause a big stink. So, watch out for the little sins that can ruin your hard-earned reputation.

Keep the lids on and the screens closed.

“The Fly Song” (Dead Flies)

A few years ago, in a moment of creativity, I stayed up late one night putting a song together on my 8-track Tascam. A while later, my friend (Roy Cavender) came and laid down the lead guitar track.

I’m going to let you listen to it, but you need an open mind and a sense of humor. Maybe one day I will have the time and money to take it to the studio and do it up right, along with some other works recorded late at night when I should have been asleep.

Click the link below to listen! Then, by all means, be thankful if all you have buzzing around are middle-Georgia gnats 🙂

Dead Flies

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Living, General Observations, Life Lessons, Uncategorized

Being Judgmental of Angels

So often, when people do crazy stuff and have their actions questioned by a believer in Christ, they respond with the creme de la creme of rebuttals: “Christians aren’t supposed to judge.”

It matters not they usually have no earthly idea what they are talking about, or where they even get that phrase; they simply respond with a pious sneer and proudly shut down any criticism from those concerned enough to say anything.

Sadly, many Christians don’t even understand what Jesus meant when He said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Therefore, as so often is the case, unbelievers, who only know enough about Jesus to use Him as an excuse, intimidate Christians into silence.

But what is really sad is when Christians REALLY do what we’re accused of (make assumptions from which we cast judgment).

It happens all the time… like when we see someone on the side of the road with a sign that says, “Will work for food,” or, when you are sitting in your car and a woman walks up and taps on the window, only to ask if you have some spare change.

Who are we to say that they are lying?  Is it possible they really do need money for a fan belt, a gallon of milk, or a bus ticket home?  Is it just possible the scruffy-looking, unkempt fellow or madam you’re looking at is, in actuality, a heavenly messenger?  An angel?

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. – Hbr 13:2 KJV

During this time of world chaos and financial uncertainty, it is far more likely that the “bum” on the side of the road is actually homeless or out of work.  Who knows for what reason he/she is there?  Are we to pass judgment upon them?

Maybe we should just love them and do what we can to help when we are confronted – or before.  In one of the same chapters that talk about not judging another unjustly are found the following verses:

Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do for others as you would like them to do for you. – Luke 6:30-31 NLT

By not giving that dollar or two to the one who asks, are we not, in actuality, disobeying a direct command of Jesus?

Really, by not giving, are we not committing two sins? One would be that we did not give when asked; the other that we judged them unworthy.  It would seem to me that it would be the better part of wisdom, not to mention a display of our faith in action, to entertain the “stranger.”

Who knows, he may actually be taking notes for his Boss in heaven.

God will be the Judge. Just be faithful.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Christian Living, Christian Unity, Do not judge, General Observations, legalism, Uncategorized

Advice to the Will-Seeking Christian

This morning I saw a post from a friend on Facebook. It was a question that many ask, and I felt compelled to answer it with more than a clever quip, cliche, or copy-and-pasted quotation.

The question was:

“How do you know you are where you are supposed to be and doing what God has called you to do?”

Below is a word-for-word copy of what I wrote (names omitted). I hope that by sharing it here it will help others beyond the realm of Facebook.


[For all my friends]

Whenever people ask how to know God’s will – especially when it includes questions like, “How do I know I’m where God wants me to be?” – I have to ask some [three] clarifying questions.

First, are you doing what you already know He wants you to do? I mean, just start with the basics like do you read the Bible and pray to your Father just to get to know Him? Or, do you only do these things when there is a need? He desires our fellowship like any father or friend, you know. Are you telling others about Him? Are you putting Him first? Are you doing your best with the “talents” He has given you?  “Whatsoever you do, do it with all your heart, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23). These are important first steps.

Second, is your heart aligned with the heart of God? Remember, we want to do HIS will, not ours. However, God does promise to give us the desires of our heart, if, of course our desires are HIS desires. How is this possible? Well, go back to the first question – are you spending time with Him for love’s sake? Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Third, would you be OK with wherever you are, or wherever you went, if you KNEW it was God’s will for your life? The Apostle Paul, as you know, had it good, bad, was rich, was poor, in bad situations and good, yet he said: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11). If your prayer is, “Wherever, Lord, I will serve you,” then He will bring fulfillment to your life wherever you are. You will see Him working through your life. You will know that wherever you are, He is with you.

Once you have truthfully answered the above three questions, be a light where you are, let God open and close the doors, and walk in faith. If you are in close fellowship with the Father, follow the desires of your heart, for He wants to give them to you. But understand, even in the following He may lead you places you never knew you’d enjoy. Just like when Paul had a desire to go to Asia to preach, the Holy Spirit prevented him and led him to a place he never intended – Europe (Macedonia). Paul was certainly in God’s will and trying to do what He thought was right, but the Holy Spirit used that momentum to take him in a direction he never saw coming and didn’t even know was needed.

Lastly, understand this important truth: Our Father in heaven wants us to be mature. Just like any other parent, He wants us to grow up in our faith and walk so that we don’t have to be led around like little babies (not saying you are). He wants us to think and act with a transformed mind, one that is becoming more and more like Christ, and do the things that we think He would do – we are His body. The desires of your heart, if aligned with His, will give you the freedom that Grace affords to step out in faith, trusting what you are doing is His will. But rest assured, He will never leave you nor forsake you, and His arms are there to catch you and redirect you if you fail while in the process of trying to please Him.

Oh, one more thing: His thoughts and ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9), and no matter the direction we take, the decisions we make, the places we work, or whether we stay or go, God is our Sovereign King – He is still God – and He is always in control.

One of my favorite verses from Proverbs (and the Bible) is Proverbs 16:33. It reads:

The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof [is] of the LORD. – Proverbs 16:33 KJV

Or, as another translation puts it:

We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall. – Proverbs 16:33 NLT

Others have mentioned Proverbs 3:5-6, and those verses sum it up nicely. Trust in the LORD with ALL YOUR HEART, and lean not, like a crutch, onto your own understanding, or at least what worldly common sense my dictate. Instead, in ALL your ways (the things of your life) acknowledge Him (put Him first), and He will direct (make sure you walk in the right direction) your paths.

God bless!

4 Comments

Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Christianity, General Observations, ministry