Category Archives: Christian Maturity

Be Thankful for Your Trials

In all things praise the Lord (James 1:2).

This is Haley and me in a tow truck (Cain’s Wrecker Service) with her car behind us. We were on our way to an appointment at First Baptist Church in Fort Oglethorpe when only a block from the church (at 12:40) the steering went out. Haley barely got it into the parking lot.

It has been POURING RAIN, so getting out to check the car was wettening. Once I did look under the hood, I noticed the belt had slipped off. Then, upon closer inspection, the whole dang harmonic balancer had come off (the big pulley on the engine block)!!

Well, my appointment was at 1pm, so Haley and I left the car in the parking lot and decided to go on inside. But the entrance to the building on the side we were on was locked. They were already in a staff meeting, so nobody answered the phone. Soooo, we had to walk (run) in the rain to the other side of the building to the office door. By that time we both were soaked.

I went ahead with my meeting and Haley went back out with an umbrella to wait for the wrecker. After the meeting I went out to ride with Haley in the wrecker, and that’s when she asked, “Did you know about the tires?”

What??

Both front tires were nearly ready to separate on the inside. Being low-profile tires we never saw the inside edges. So, it was only when the car was lifted up on the wrecker that the tires were easily viewed. The Acura drove fine and did not give any hint that the front was out of alignment. However, at any moment either on of the front tires could have blown out while Haley was driving.

So, here we are in the cab of a wrecker on our way back to Soddy Daisy to drop this car off at a garage, then go get my car. From there we will finally get back on the road to Charleston, SC. I have an Aflac open enrollment scheduled for tomorrow at our daughter’s business and I can’t afford to miss it. We need all the money we can get right now.

But, what could have happened if this car had not broke? A blowout while Haley driving up or down a mountain or on a highway at 70mph?

which trial would I prefer? How we are going to afford to fix my daughter’s car, or how to pay for my little girl’s funeral?

Count it all joy, my brethren! Count it all joy.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Struggles and Trials

Call It All James

This morning (Sunday) I am beginning a new sermon series through the book of James. It will be a verse-by-verse expository series and one that I’m excited about.

If everything goes well I will be posting recordings of the sermons on my “Sermon Archive” page. I’d like to post them on the same day they’re preached, but editing takes a little time, so give it a day or two (like Monday or Tuesday) before expecting to see them.

UPDATE: Click HERE to go to the Sermon Archive page.

One of the main themes – if not THE main theme – in James is the idea of enduring while having our faith tested. So many people get discouraged when their faith is tried by circumstances, yet James reminds us to “count it all joy” (James 1:2).

Another reason James writes is to offer practical instruction on displaying a living faith through what we do. James argues that “faith without works is dead,” meaning that a living faith does something.

So, in this upcoming series of sermons, as I try to exegete the letter of James to those “scattered abroad,” I hope you will be encouraged to keep your faith as you work it out for others to see.

If you don’t regularly attend a church, and if you’re a little skeptical of the big TV-type ministries, I would encourage you to visit the website of the church where I pastor. Go to http://www.SouthSoddyBaptist.org. It’s not a big website, but it’s growing in content – simple, basic stuff meant to encourage and keep things real.

Have a great Lord’s Day!

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christianity, Church, Preaching, wisdom

Hiding In Plain Sight

Back in 2010 (Sept. 14th, to be specific) I wrote a post that later became the basis for a story in my book, Life Lessons from the School Bus. If you don’t yet have a copy (you can order one), the following story, “Stop #13,” can be found on pages 45-46.

I am no longer a school bus driver, but the truth of this story remains the same: Sometimes bad things can hide in plain sight.

The Story

As you can see in the picture, a typical school bus has two mirrors immediately to the left of the driver window (besides the convex mirror below). With mirrors everywhere, driving is made much safer and easier, even in heavy traffic. What you don’t see is what is on the other side of the mirrors.

(This picture at the very spot an accident could have taken place.)

I was beginning to exit a gas station directly across the street from another station, and a Hardee’s. I looked in every direction and checked my mirrors. Then, as I started to pull out, an 18-wheeler appeared out of nowhere…directly in front of me! It had been hiding behind the mirrors.

Take a look at the picture. Right behind the top mirror sat a Peterbilt. I never saw it. What saved me was taking my time and being cautious. Had I rushed on forward I may have pulled right into the path of that big truck. Only going slow and expecting the unexpected made the difference.

The Lesson

So many tragedies in life could be avoided if only we would take the time to “consider our ways.”

“Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5 KJV).

Do we stop to think about where we are going? Do we take the time to make sure there is nothing hidden behind the obvious? Sometimes our judgment can be clouded by the determination to move forward with our plans. Wisdom understands that the Enemy loves to capitalize on things hidden.

For example, how many people have fallen into financial ruin because they rushed into a business deal or bought something too expensive? Many times there are dangers lurking in the fine print or hidden in words we don’t take time to understand. Even though the path may look clear, it never hurts to take one more look before proceeding.

Ironically, big dangers can hide behind the very things meant to point them out.

Route Suggestions

The following are a few suggestions to help you navigate the route of life:

  • Never get too comfortable behind the wheel.
  • Never make quick assumptions based on past experiences.
  • Never let someone rush you into making an uninformed decision.
  • Read Psalm 119:105…”Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” How important is it to have a light when driving down a dark and unfamiliar road? Where does this verse say we can find light for the road of life?

The road of life can be a dangerous place, dear reader. Why not follow the One who not only knows the way but IS the Way?

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Life Lessons

Sometimes I Feel Like a Failure

I am going to be very honest, as I’m sure you will appreciate: Sometimes I feel like a total failure.

You may have some impression of me, and that impression might be a good one. However, sometimes I see myself as a failure for not having accomplished a fraction of my stated goals, thereby leaving myself wondering, “Will I ever be able to do this?”

This morning has been difficult. It’s been a long time since any regular income has come in. And even though I felt sure I was supposed to be doing what I’m doing career-wise, it’s not put much money in the bank as of yet. I’m not talking about ministry; I’m talking about my work outside the pastorate (I’m bi-vocational).

So, I went to Blueletterbible.com and did a word search for “fail.” There were over 60 occurrences of the word, but two of them stood out to me.

The first one spoke of how David understood pain and doubt. He had questions about God’s compassion and promises.

Is his mercy clean gone forever? doth his promise fail for evermore? – Psalm 77:8

But then David went on to answer his own question by remembering what God has done and said:

Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people. – Psalm 77:14

Then I came to the following verse:

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. – Isaiah 41:17

I am poor and needy. We have more than a water bill. I can’t do this on my own! Much of the help that should come from man is missing, but I have a God who hears my plea and has not forsaken me!

All I have to do is cry out to him!

I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me. – Psalm 57:2

Lord, I am not a failure as long as there is still breath in my lungs and an opportunity for me to step forward to my Goliaths. My strength is small; my abilities are few; my vision is limited to the horizon, but You will not forsake me, and Your presence will go before me. You will get the credit for my successes, for Your name will be glorified as You help me stand, fight, conquer, and provide for my family (Deut. 8:18). I am not a failure because You are not.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Depression, Faith, God, self-worth, worship

The Passing of a Matriarch

This morning at 2:05 a.m. my the last of my grandparents went to be with the Lord. My grandmother (on my mom’s side), Lorene Cagle, died at the age of 96.

My granny was a godly woman who loved the Lord and prayed for every family member on a daily basis.

She came to know Jesus as her Savior when, as a young girl, she walked the aisle when Mordecai Ham came to Chattanooga, TN, in 1933. She was saved a year before Billy Graham!

Please pray for our family as we deal with this great loss.

My mother, me, and my grandmother, Lorene Cagle (1922-2018). Photo taken May of this year. It was to be her last time to hear me preach.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Life/Death

Don’t Be Skeerd

OK, so if you don’t get it, “skeerd” is “scared” spelled that way we say it sometimes in the South.

My Nightmare 

This week I was woken up by a dream – a bad one. In reality, I can’t tell you for sure if it was really even a dream – it might have been real. I was walking down a hallway (I don’t know where) when a deep voice spoke to me, almost speaking through me, getting my attention.

The hallway down which I was walking was lit where I was, but towards the end it was dark. I was walking toward the darkness. When the voice spoke, it said something like, “I’m here, too,” or “You’re not alone”… I just can’t remember. I looked to my left and there was a 3D shadow…a walking dark shadow of a body…walking beside me as I was walking, and it looked at me.

The next thing that happened was I fell to the ground and started saying, barely able to voice the words, “Help me, Jesus!”

Immediately I woke up.

Honestly, I was rattled. That scared me. My heart was racing.

Then I got mad. I hated being scared. I knew that “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world!”

So I tried to go back to sleep so I could get back into that dream. This wasn’t over.

But the dream never came back.

Don’t Let These Skeer You

The dream I had reminded me of a post I wrote several years ago. In it, I made a list of things of which Christian should not be afraid. Below is an edited version, including an addition.

8 things of which a Christian should not be afraid:

Dracula, or any other vampire that stalks you through your window.

Just show them your cross. If that doesn’t work anymore, then quote Scripture. Of course, if you are a girl, then you’d be better off to just call 911, or better yet, shoot the idiot trying to act like a character from Twilight.

Disclaimer – DO be afraid of Vampire Bats. They have rabies. You may be alright when they bite you, but then again, you may be wishing your church family had something else to pray for…(I ended with a preposition, see?).

Atheists

If they prove that there is no God, no reason for faith, and no reason for the forgiveness of sin, then you have nothing to worry about. They can’t prove there is no God, you know, but if they ever did, then you are free to whack them in the head with the biggest hardcover KJV you can find. If there’s no God, then there’s no absolutes or basis for morality outside of what makes you feel good. Make yourself feel better when they take away your hope by knocking the grin off their face…they should understand.

Crazy worship styles and screens on walls.

No reason to fear these things, people. As long as the worship is from the heart and it IS true worship, not self-satisfying, self-glorifying entertainment, then God will be pleased. On the other hand, if church attendance continues to decline in this country, you won’t be able to afford the electricity needed to run the projectors and fancy sound equipment used by many praise bands. Where two or three are gathered together, there the non-electric bluegrass will be in the midst of them.

Disclaimer – For the record, I love bluegrass gospel. Sorry. Wait, I’m not sorry. Scratch that. I love bluegrass and want to see the words projected on screens in church for all to sing along….with.

Stray dogs that wander in through an open door and listen to the church service.

Had it happen. Didn’t mind. At least when the dog fell asleep he didn’t snore.

Week-long revival meetings.

Where have these things gone? All we see anymore are the 3-day kind, if not the weekend ones that include Sunday, but not Friday.

Just think, if we went back to longer revival meetings, then……wait…..does anybody have revival meetings anymore? We must be too skeerd of having to get dressed up each night; miss some TV we could easily DVR for later; miss a ball game or party, or hear something from God that might convict us. THAT should scare our socks off.

Visitation

What is there to be scared of? Why do we hate knocking on doors, prayer-walking streets, etc.? As long as we’re not trying to sell anything, then most people are happy to meet someone who cares about them. Sure, there are the few vampires that don’t want you coming around, but most folks are at least cordial, at least here in the South. Folks don’t like being banged over the head with your Bible, but they do appreciate being greeted kindly and invited to someplace nice. Just invite them to the King’s house for a meet-and-greet (with a little sweet tea and love, they might just figure we’re not out to take their money).

Change

Some things remain the same, and they have stones above their heads. Now, when those things come back from the dead, you DO have something to be skeerd….of (one more preposition misplacement). Of course, it all depends on Who raises the dead, too. Are they being raised to “walk in newness of life,” or to eat the flesh of screaming movie-goers? Either way, just invite them to a homecoming dinner on the ground and they’ll be alright.

Bad Dreams

Yeah, nightmares are not fun. Heck, dealing with anything demonic is not fun, either. However, God is still God, even in your dreams. He is Sovereign, even over the thoughts and intents of the heart. Therefore, don’t be afraid to go to sleep, particularly if you know that the God who created sleep is ALSO with you in the dark.

The next time you encounter a walking shadow or monster of any kind, call out to Jesus for help – no joke. YOU decide how the dream is going to turn out by inviting Jesus – the Name above all names – to take over.

Darkness will flee and He will deliver thee.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Culture Wars, General Observations, legalism, Witnessing, worship

Were You Spiritually Attacked?

Have you ever stopped to wonder whether or not you were under spiritual attack? Have you ever stopped to wonder what a spiritual attack actually is?

Let’s think about it for a moment.

We humans are made up of both spirit and flesh, and it is well understood that the flesh wars against the spirit. Sometimes a spiritual attack can come from our own fleshly desires; it doesn’t have to be from outside influences.

I believe there is an Enemy who wants to destroy our souls and thwart any effort to build the Kingdom of God. Certainly, any effort on his part would be considered a spiritual attack, no matter from which direction it comes. However, much of what wars against our spirit comes from the selfish desires we often refuse to battle.

The apostle Paul said that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, but don’t let that statement for you. The flesh is weak when it comes to temptation, yet when it is the tempter it can be very, very strong.

Too often we give Satan and his minions far more credit than they deserve. More often than not the most dangerous enemy to our spirit is our own flesh. If you don’t believe me, then why else would we need to crucify it daily?

Focus on building up your spirit through prayer, faith, and obedience to Christ’s commands. Then remember that you put on the whole armor of God, not only to wage war against the Prince of Darkness, but also the petty, whining, selfish, lustful, envious flesh in which you reside.

You’re under more spiritual attack than you realize.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Depression, Faith, Life Lessons