Category Archives: Faith

Cold as Hell?

The other morning it was a brisk and refreshing 55 degrees on my school bus. I had not yet turned on the heaters before picking up one group of students, and that’s when one highly-intelligent, highly-literate teenage girl said,

“Damn! Turn on the heat! It’s cold as hell!”

I took no time in responding, “You know, I think hell is a little hotter than this.”

Here’s what I’m going to start doing. Every time someone uses Hell as a descriptive adjective, I’m going to consider it an open invitation to share the gospel. When someone says “cold as hell” or “hot as hell” I’m going to say something like:

“You know, it’s funny that you should say that, because from what I’ve read, specifically from those who’ve actually been there or seen it, Hell is much, much worse than you’re describing…and I’m glad I won’t have to go there! You want to know why?”

There are also those who commonly use the descriptive of “funny as hell.” To those I will reply:

“You know, what’s really funny is that something could be ‘funny as hell,’ because from what I’ve heard Hell isn’t funny at all. Do you actually believe in hell?”

Honestly, if we really want to share the gospel with people, we can find the opportunities.

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Filed under Faith, Life Lessons, ministry, Preaching, salvation

Monday Meditations

“When you hit rock bottom, remember this. While you’re struggling, rock bottom can also be a great foundation on which to build and on which to grow.” Dr. Rick Rigsby

But sometimes God has to bring us down to “rock bottom” in order to remind us of an even greater truth: “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

 

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Filed under Christianity, Depression, Faith, Struggles and Trials

If We Could Only Comprehend!

This morning, as I preach from the third chapter of Ephesians, my prayer for you (and myself) will be the same as what the apostle Paul prayed…

I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:16-19 CSB

Oh, that we might comprehend the the width, the length, the height, and the depth of God’s love through Jesus Christ! If we could only even slightly comprehend the vast, expansive spread before us, mercy and grace for every need; the never-ending, eternal, infinite promise of his love and care; the heights to which we are raised, far above the lowly, humble truth of our natural condition and state; and the the depths of Christ’s love – humble depths to which the love of God had to reach down in order to pluck us from the pit of sin… If we could only even slightly comprehend them!

Yet, through His strength (v. 16), and being rooted and grounded in His love (v. 17), it is possible! Hallelujah! Because He “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according the power that works in us! (v. 20 NKJV)

This morning, and every morning, to God the Father be all glory in the church by Christ Jesus, to all generations, wherever they may be, forever and ever, “world without end” (v. 20).

And all the people said… “AMEN!!” 

 

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Filed under Bible Study, Christianity, Church, Faith, God, Love of God, Preaching, worship

Keep Looking Up

Totality

Now that it’s been a little while since the Great American Eclipse of 2017, permit me to share with you a thought.

Do you remember the first time you saw something for the first time face-to-face, something which before you had only seen in pictures? For example, how excited were you when you drove over a hill and caught your first glimpse of the Washington Monument, the entrance to Disney World, the tops of a mountain range, or the ocean horizon? Didn’t you heart leap within you?

My daughters and I took part in a meeting at Bryan College on the day of the eclipse. Little did I know – because we had forgone attempts to make it to Hopkinsville, KY (the perfect viewing spot) – that in Dayton, TN, we would also be able to view “totality.”

Fortunately, my wife had gotten some viewing glasses a few days before, so we were ready when the moon started creeping across the sun. We, along with hundreds of others, stood around in the field adjacent the college and hung out in the heat, continually wondering if this was going to be worth all the hype. After all, it was hot outside that day.

But it got darker…and darker…and cooler…and cooler. It wasn’t too long before the crickets started singing and the street lights started coming on. It seemed all the world was confused at what was happening, all except for those of us who were… looking up.

I could stop right there and preach! It just occurred to me what I wrote as I was writing it. Hallelujah!

Anyway, the light from the sun grew dimmer and dimmer as the moon slowly crept in front of it. We kept looking up… more constantly, now… and then all of a sudden all of the light disappeared. I could see nothing as I looked through the glasses.

Then it happened… I was totally unprepared for what I was going to see with my own eyes… no darkened lenses… (is there anyone out there feeling the way I’m feeling as I write this for the first time?) … with my own eyes I saw the splendor of totality… like a light switch just came on and all of a sudden a big, blazing, golden ring hung in the darkened sky!

What I was then viewing made me immediately realize that all the waiting was worth it. No picture in a book… no description… nothing anyone had said about it from a scientific standpoint… nothing could have prepared me for what I saw, for it was like nothing on this earth could ever capture or replicate.

A once-in-a-life-time event that was totally worthy of the hype.

Heaven

As I stood there looking up at the eclipse, the following thought (not very spiritual) went through my mind: “This must be what it would feel like should a person actually be confronted with an “Independence Day-like” alien encounter…like, I never believed, but there it is.” Being a preacher of the gospel, I don’t know why I thought that, other than the fact that I was completely dumbstruck.

Later, when I describing this to an older, fellow believer, he replied, “Imagine what it will be like when we first see heaven.”

DUH! ABSOLUTELY!

Dear friend, there is coming a day when all descriptions will go out the window like worn-out chewing gum. Heaven, the place we’ve heard about all our lives, will actually come into view. And not only that, the Person who created us, loved us, and saved us, will step out, eyes blazing brighter than “totality,” and say, “Welcome, child, to your new home! Come see what I’ve prepared for you!”

[shouting time]

There, right in front of your eyes, totally beyond the description of eyes and ears, will be the ultimate reality…it will be real…it won’t be a dream…what Jesus Christ has gone to prepare. Totality like you never could have imagined!

But just think of stepping on shore
And finding it heaven
Of touching a hand and finding it God’s
Of breathing new air and finding it celestial
Of waking up in glory and finding it home

– from “Finally Home,” by Don Wyrtzen and L. E. Singer

Just keep looking up! TOTALLY worth the hype!

 

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, God

Just Hold On

This might be a little out of the ordinary, friends, but I feel led to do something a little different for you today (I can do that).

Are you discouraged? Do you feel like the world is coming down around you? Do you feel like there’s no one you can talk to, no one who can understand?

Are you under attack? Are people out to get you? Do you have people around you that would rather you fail than succeed?

Do you need a place to hide? Do you feel like crawling up into a little ball and hiding in a corner, away from the noise and confusion, away from the messes you may or may not have created?

Believe it or not, I have felt every bit of that at one point or another. And, I regularly have people wishing they could have my head (and if I were in some countries it might have already happened). But not too long ago, when I was under so much stress and burdened with worry and sorrow, God showed me two verses from Psalms, chapter 57…

“[1] Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. [2] I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.” 

Whatever you are going through right now, know that you can cry out to God, and He will hear. Just hold on until “these calamities” pass over, till the storm passes by. Be humble and trust in the One who can do all things.

Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try, for there’s no end of sorrow; there’s no hope by and by.” But I know thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise, where the storms never darken the skies.

Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more, till the clouds roll forever from the sky, hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand! Keep me safe, till the storm passes by.

– Mosie Lister (“Till the Storm Passes By”)

If this has spoken to you, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below.

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Filed under blogging, Faith

Saved from Irrelevance: the MacBook and Me

This morning I was seriously thinking about walking away from blogging for the next 30 days, or so. Last night was just one of those nights when all the emotional energy I had was sapped out of me, leaving me awake this morning with little or no desire to be transparent, much less creative. So, what was one of the first things that came to mind? Walk away from blogging for a while.

Now, the big question is why would I think like that? Well, it’s not really that difficult to understand: I wanted to atone.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes we like to act destructively in order to relieve stress or pain? Some people do it by drinking too much and getting drunk, while others shoot up drugs or watch porn (is this hitting home with any of you?). Many people, if not most, find some temporary comfort in doing something harmful or self-abasing in order to either punish themselves for something they feel they did wrong, or just prove to themselves they are as bad as they feel. Both options are tragic in their own right.

Why am I writing this? Well, what I am doing is the opposite of what walking away from blogging would do – I’m trying to make a difference.

If you have gotten this far I congratulate you. Most people, in my experience, would have tuned out by now, thinking the subject matter of this post is too emotional, depressing, or something. However, I am not writing this for anyone’s entertainment; I’m writing it because I need to.

And if I ramble, that’s because I am writing with no agenda, no editing, just to get this off my chest.

Anyway, last night was one of those nights that drained me, like I said. It was a night full of family drama, the kind parents sometimes have to go through when there are teens and young adults in the family. It’s that parenting thing that can be so hard…and the struggles within a marriage relationship…when multiple people get together, have differing opinions, different communication skills, and struggle to see things eye-to-eye. The single life does have its advantages in that one can just walk away when things get tense or uncomfortable – but not family. Family is hard work, and painful, too.

So, I woke up this morning, ready to quit blogging for a while. It just seemed like a statement I could make that would make me feel better. Really, the truth is nothing more than what I really wanted to have control over something. We can’t control other people (not unless we are tyrants, or something). Life itself is often nothing more than a four-wheel skid in a generally predetermined direction. Therefore, had I just announced that I was going to quit blogging for a while, I would have at least given myself a temporary emotional boost, one that said something to the effect of, “You are in control!”

But only God is truly in control, you know? The best I can do is remain faithful in the life He has called me to live. I will make mistakes; I will do things I regret; I will say things without thinking; I will hurt feelings; I will give advice today that tomorrow I may regret; and that’s because I am human. Even king Solomon, the wisest man on earth, made mistakes; am I wiser than him? All I can do is “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). In a broad application of Ecc. 12:14, God will handle the rest.

I don’t want to walk away from blogging – although I would like my posts to become ever more relevant and impactful. Just like this computer I am using this morning – one that I rescued from the trash – even though I am not the fastest, sharpest, most up-to-date, and all that, God want’s to take what I do have and put it to good use for His purposes. It’s a much better feeling knowing that something I am writing will make a small difference, rather than feeling that temporary gratification of being in “control.”

Lord willing, even thought I am not the best at it, tomorrow morning I am going to be preaching on the topic of prayer – specifically  “Prayer that Works.” Much of what I preach is nothing more than something I need to hear myself, and this will be no exception. And just like this blog post, one that is an attempt to show I don’t have everything under control, but I’m still making it through another day, tomorrow’s sermon will be an example of God using a flawed, imperfect example of humanity to showcase his glory and grace.

So, if nothing else, I’m thankful for this old computer, rescued from the trash heap, for giving me the urge to do a little bit more typing. God knows how He is going to use it. He’s the one in charge and in control, not me.

Our county school system had relegated this “outdated” MacBook to the trash, but I rescued it from the crusher. After a cleaning up and cleaning out, it still works fine, just a little slower than the new stuff – just like me 😉

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Filed under blogging, Christian Maturity, Faith, Life Lessons

Walking or Riding?

A Familiar Story

If you are familiar with the Bible, you probably remember the story of Jesus walking on the water. And if you remember that, you may also recall that the apostle Peter was the one who walked on the water with Jesus – until he began to look around.

But if you don’t remember the story, here it is as found in the NIV version of Matthew 14:25-33.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.

“It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Familiar Pictures

Now that you are familiar with the story, have you ever seen paintings or illustrations depicting this passage of Scripture? Of all the ones I have ever seen, Jesus is usually portrayed as a calm, sad-looking, and often effeminate water-stroller. Peter is always some scruffy-looking, heavy-as-stone fraidy-cat.

Then what about those waves? In all the depictions of this story, how high are the waves? Usually they are no more than just a few inches high around the Lord and his bobbing disciple, Peter.

Well, I am here to challenge the common perception based on these fallacious (that means stupidly wrong) paintings.

The Waves

I am not a seafaring man like my friend David Welford, but I would bet even he would say that 6-8 inch waves would have been NO problem for some experienced fishermen. What ever frightened Peter, once he looked around, had to have been more than a ripple on the surface.

Consider how the Bible described what was happening to the boat in Matthew 14:24: “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.” Do kiddie pool waves toss a boat? No, but real waves do.

In stead of tossed, other translations use words like buffeted, beaten, and battered. The New Living Translation says that “a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.” It would seem to me that the disciples were facing a life-or-death struggle, not inconvenient weather.

The Wacky Request

People often belittle Peter for his “lack of faith.” They think less of him because he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. But who on this earth that is not currently on anti-psychotic medication would actually ask a UWG (Unidentified Walking Ghost), “If it is you, compel me to do something totally irrational and dangerous, OK?” What kind of crazy question was that?

I believe there is more to this story than we have been told. Why didn’t Peter just ask Jesus to come a little closer? Why not just ask Him to get in the boat and take a load off? What would have caused Peter to think of leaving the boat?

Maybe, just maybe, what Jesus was doing looked like fun.

Wave Riding

The next time you look out over a stormy sea capable of sinking a boat, try to find the smooth spots. The paintings that show the Savior walking delicately over glassy H2o in the middle of a gale are unrealistic.

My guess is that Jesus was doing more than simply walking. He was having fun! He was probably surfing without a board. It is possible that He was going up and down…up and down…up and down…smiling the whole time. That’s when Peter said, “If it is you, Lord, tell me to come out there with you…that looks like fun!”

Seriously, just stop and think about it. Here was a storm that was beating up a boat and wearing out the crew; waves that were anything but small; a boat full of panicking people; and a Man walking on water. Peter must have concluded that if there was going to be any place to be, it was with Jesus, riding the waves.

With Jesus

We can’t help the fact that storms come. But if there is any lesson to be learned from this story it is that the worst possible place to be can be the safest and most peaceful, as long as our eyes are on Jesus and we are walking with Him.

Does it make sense? No. Is it irrational? Maybe. But as long as we have faith in Jesus, we can ride atop the tallest tsunami, admiring the view.

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Filed under Faith, Struggles and Trials, Uncategorized, worship