Category Archives: Family

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Hope In Death

Let’s get right to the point –

Today, I watched a man die, and I’m happy.

At this point you’re thinking: “Who in his right mind would admit to being happy he saw a man die?” Well, without the proper context, only a sick man, that’s for sure!

But here’s the context: I was with a family from my church as a 51 year-old son, father, brother, and grandfather breathed his last breath, and I was able to rejoice with them in the hope of Jesus Christ.

Meeting Joey: the 1st Time

Joey and his dog, Willie

Several months ago, I was able to talk with Joey Armor for the first time. He was sitting on the tailgate of his truck, taking a break from welding. As we got to talking, he apologized for not coming to church more often, but he appreciated that I was the new pastor, and he hoped to become more regular. He also told me how sick he was.

Joey had battled with a lot of health issues over the last few years, and at that point he was not doing bad enough to keep him in bed. As a matter of fact, he was the type of person that not only avoided pain medication as long as possible; he never wanted to stop being active doing something, even if only a little welding here and there. The day I first talked with him, he was having a hard time breathing, but he was happy to be doing something he enjoyed.

Faith, Assurance, and Hope

The next few times I saw Joey Armor was in the hospital. It seemed that his body all of a sudden decided to give up, even though he was not willing to. The doctors had hope that he would recover, and for a little while it looked like he would, but it wasn’t long before things began to look dire.

The last few times I saw Brother Joey was when he was at home, a couple of times sitting in his recliner, a couple of times in his bed. On one occasion, I felt compelled to lead Joey through the plan of salvation. Because I had never seen him make a profession of faith, and since I could tell he was nervous about dying, I had to make sure he had an opportunity to accept Christ as his Savior.

Come to find out, Joey had indeed put his faith in Jesus, but he had come to the point where he was scared of what was to come. He had made some mistakes, not been perfect, and now he was facing death head-on. He needed to be reassured God did indeed love him and was faithful, as He always is, even when we are not.

Another time I took a communion kit, and with a deacon from our church I shared with him the elements and together rejoiced in the goodness of our Savior! We talked about Christ’s body and His blood, how each was given for us, and how by taking part in communion we proclaim his death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:24). Even though he could barely swallow anything (he even had a feeding tube inserted into his abdomen), he took the little piece of matzoh and the tiny cup of grape juice and consumed them both. It was a special moment, indeed.

Talking About Home

The last time I saw him before today, the Holy Spirit had placed in my heart the urgent desire to go talk with him about Heaven. Joey new he was going, and he knew it wouldn’t be that long. So, I wanted to go by and encourage him with the facts about the place he was about to see. He asked for his large-print Bible so he could read along with me.

First, I turned to John chapter fourteen:

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also.” – John 14:1-3

These verses deserved a little amplification, and I knew Joey would appreciate it. I focused on the words “mansions” and “place.” Jesus wasn’t telling Peter he would have a four-story house of gold in Heaven; Jesus was telling him not to worry, for even though he’d mess up by soon denying Him, there was already a place in His Father’s house prepared – a room of his own! Compared to here, that room might be a mansion. But how much more wonderful is the promise that God wants us to live in HIS house with HIM forever??

And when it came to the word “place” (τόπος tópos), heaven is more than spirits floating on clouds; it is more than a feeling; it is more than being absorbed into the infinite: Jesus said it is a PLACE! I said, “Just like Chicago or Atlanta, Heaven is a place just like any place on a map down here. It is a place, and you are going there!” 

Next, I turned – we turned – to Revelation 21 and 22. There, within the verses of those chapters we read of a holy city, a heavenly city, that God has prepared for those whose name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Joey listen as I read, awake, but with his eyes closed, resting.

I said, “Well, Joey, I guess it’s about time we get out of here and let you rest.” He nodded.

Then, with weak voice and a slight smile, Joey said,

“I’m looking forward to seeing what my Father has for me.”

Today, around 12 p.m., my brother in Christ, Joey Armor, exhaled one last time, only to inhale for the very first time the celestial air of his new home.

I am glad his family was able to be there. I’m glad I got to see him off.

He’s seeing what his Father has prepared for him, and even more importantly, he’s hugging Jesus.

I’m happy for him!

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, Family, General Observations, Life/Death, salvation

I Love to Tell THE Story (w/Benny Berry)

It was 2012

Back in 2012, I was the pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Lookout Valley, TN. I was there from August of 2008 to October of 2016.

It was a mixed bag of good, bad, joyful, and tragic. During that year I was neck-deep in finishing my master’s degree, driving a school bus, preaching 3 different sermons a week, and dealing with a sick wife. What’s more, things were happening underneath the radar that would nearly destroy my family and cost my youngest daughter her life.

I don’t know why I am telling you this right now, because it has very little to do with what I wanted to do when I sat down. Actually, all I wanted to do was give a little context to a video I was going to link. However, it just seems like the words I’m typing are being guided. Maybe they’re just what’s on my heart and I need to get them off. I don’t know.

While I was pastor at Riverside, some very bad things happened (hopefully, one day, I’ll have the freedom to share more details). But one of the most painful aspects was finding out – at least being accused – that if I had not been spending so much time studying and working I might have been a better and more attentive father… The one making that accusation was evil and simply trying to make excuses for his own actions.

Yet, in some ways, it was true, which is what makes it painful. I was focused on trying to do things FOR the family and missed some critical times WITH the family. Since then, there has been forgiveness, but scars remain. Thankfully, I serve a God who can even work miracles with scars. He has some too, you know.

Like I said, I didn’t plan on writing this, but somebody evidently needs to read it. Your #1 ministry is your family, not your community, your job, or your church. There is no success in life, whether it be earning millions or having the largest congregation, that is worth losing your children to the enemy. Let me help you put things in order:

  1. God (your personal relationship with Jesus and your obedience to the will of God)
  2. Family
    1. Your spouse
    2. Your children
  3. Providing for your family (i.e., career, vocational ministry, etc.)

If you’ll look carefully, there’s a lot NOT on that list. What about hobbies? What about community service? What about politics? What about friends?

Oh, you can have those things, but if they break the above hierarchy of priorities, you’ll one day find yourself face-down in a pillow wet with regret.

But what if you’ve already made mistakes you can’t correct? Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Delight thyself also in the LORD, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him, and he shall bring [it] to pass. – Psalm 37:4-5

Today is a new day and the first day of the rest of your life. The race is not over, so finish well.

His grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9).

Here’s the video I was going to share. It’s still my theme.

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Filed under Family, Relationships and Family

Adultery and Saints: What Ephesians 5 Says

Credit: Unknown

A word of advice:

When you pound the pulpit, make sure your fist splashes in tears.

That’s the way I felt this past Sunday when I preached a difficult sermon on adultery. I had to “pound the pulpit,” but my heart was broken for those who really need to repent.

You see, I know that there are those of us who’ve been affected by unfaithfulness or been unfaithful. Maybe you’ve even experienced the pain and devastation that divorce brings.

Some of you reading this have stumbled, fallen, and now would do anything to turn back the clock and erase the steps you took that led to failed relationships. If you could go back, you’d never be the “prodigal.”

You are not the primary audience for this sermon.

No, this sermon is mainly meant for those who think sexual sin is just something natural, excusable, and no big deal. Most importantly, t’s a wake-up call to those who may have been deceived into thinking their eternity is secure.

It’s a sermon that I hope God will use not only to restore some wounded relationships, but open the blinded eyes of the lost to the Light of salvation.

Listen and Share

I’m so tired of seeing marriages fail, people hurt, and children suffer. It doesn’t have to be!

I’d like to invite you to listen to the sermon I preached this past Sunday (Feb. 16, 2020) at Bethlehem Baptist Church. I hope it will encourage you to strengthen what you have, avoid temptation, and, if you feel inclined, examine your relationship with Jesus Christ.

And, if it’s a blessing to you, share it with someone.

To listen, click the “Sermon Audio” box, or just click HERE for “Adultery and Saints: What Ephesians 5 Says.” 


Oh, one last thing! … If you make it all the way to the end of the recording, you’ll get to hear my wife admit to the whole congregation that she needs to be a better wife! 🙂  No joke!

And I didn’t know it was coming!

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Filed under Culture Wars, Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, Divorce, Family, Marriage, Relationships and Family

Unrepentant Adultery and the Christian: Can the Two Co-Exist?

Gotta Say It

Have you ever been in a room full of people… maybe even a few… and they were talking about something… something you’re passionate about… and they were either arrogantly boasting like they knew what they were talking about,  or they were talking like there were no answers to the subject at hand… or, even worse, they were completely off their rocker with their conclusions?

And, if you’ve ever been in a room like that, have you ever gotten fed up to the point where you couldn’t take it anymore, stood up in your chair, and belted out, “OK, I gotta say something!”?

Well, that’s what I’m doing right now…

I’ve gotta say something.

Good and Bad

Today is Valentine’s Day (happy Valentine’s Day to you). It’s a day that, for me, always comes with a mixed bag of emotions and thoughts. For one, I’m glad we have a day that promotes the good things about being “in love” and the valuing of other people, especially women. For the record, it’s a holiday that is banned in several Muslim countries, including the Muslim districts of others, all because it’s considered a Christian holiday and overvalues women. Think about that for a second.

On the other hand, Valentine’s Day is rife with the stereotypical misrepresentations of true love and overflowing with encouragements to sin. And by sin, I mean fornication, adultery, lust, envy, you name it. The worst part is that it’s a day when the sexual aspects of relationships are elevated above everything else, including fidelity, trust, compassion, and selflessness.

So, it’s because of the subject matter of the day that I come to you, dear reader, to vent my frustration and hopefully offer some common sense and biblical wisdom.

Too Many

Image result for divorce imagesIf there had been only one broken relationship, only one divorce, only one potentially devastated child come to my attention in the last couple of weeks, that would still be too many. Yet, just this week I’m looking at several couples and families being destroyed, or potentially destroyed, by adultery and divorce.

On that note, let’s get real and ditch the nice-sounding labels and socially-palatable descriptions of sin, shall we? Married people don’t have “affairs”; they commit adultery.

The word affair makes it sound like you’ve done nothing more than go out for a walk, picked up some coffee, then – oops! – somebody flirted! But whether or not you sipped a milkshake with somebody besides your spouse; looked at porn in order to get the affirmation your wife wouldn’t give; or told yourself he’d be better off with you than his wife, so you pushed his buttons until he undid yours… it’s ALL ADULTERY.

I’m seeing too many people who call themselves Christians shacking up, playing house, competing with spouses, sharing spouses, buttering up kids that don’t belong to them, and jumping under the sheets like it’s nothing more than a workout at the gym! Folks, it’s called fornication, adultery, greed, idolatry, and, if you want to be honest, murder (because you’re killing – putting “assunder” – what God has joined together).

What’s Even Worse

And get this! As if committing adultery wasn’t bad enough, there are those out there who do these things on a regular basis, then brazenly go to a place of worship!

Think about that… they are sexually active, committing adultery, and going to church together… in public… with no shame or regret. Does it ever occur to them that they are there to worship the Savior who died to save them from the wages of sin? That He bore their pet sin on the cross?

This is the very sin of which Jesus was speaking when he told the woman about to be stoned, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).

And people wonder whether or not God is merciful! God killed Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5), yet they use HIS house to play house? Do they think that God approves of this?

Blind, Hardened, and Lost

Why am I writing this? Because I am sick to my stomach. I’m heartbroken. People I love are playing with fire and risking the judgment of God.

I am fearful, also, because those who are doing these things are convinced they are right with God … saved, born again, going to heaven. They have assumed their ticket for the Glory Train has been punched, that their spot is secure, nobody’s perfect, and God is going to love them, anyway. Worst comes to worse, they will deal with the consequences when they come… then, when they are ready, “He is faithful and just to cleanse them from all unrighteousness.” …which, by the way, is the sin of presumption.

Dear friend, if this is you, I fear you’ve been blinded by the Enemy, your sinful heart has been hardened, and you are most likely lost without Christ and on your way to eternal destruction.

How Can I Say That?

Right now there are some of you who are probably thinking I’m some pulpit-banging, self-righteous preacher spitting and yelling at you. You might have a picture in your mind of a red-faced, polyester-suit-wearing, hateful wingnut pointing his finger at you and yelling “sinnerrrrr!” through gritted teeth.

But I’m not; I’m weeping for you! Because somehow, somewhere, you’ve forgotten some very important facts:

  • “But the man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys himself.” – Proverbs 6:32 NLT
  • “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NKJV
  • “Marriage [is] honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” – Hebrews 13:4
  • “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” – James 4:4

You might also be convinced that since somewhere in the past you “got saved” or “became a Christian” that even if you regularly fornicate or commit adultery, your salvation is secure. If you are referring to “eternal security,” I believe in that!

However, it’s one thing to mess up and give in to temptation, be remorseful, repent, and ask God to forgive you; but continually and willfully living in outward disobedience to God is something altogether different and is evidence you’ve never been redeemed. If you are truly a new creation, old things are passed away (2 Cor. 5:17), and what is “new” will want to “keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

The FACT, as stated in the above Scriptures, is that adulterers and adulteresses are ENEMIES OF GOD and WILL NOT inherit the kingdom of God!

In other words, those people who are not born again believers in Jesus Christ, but deceived souls whose nature has never been changed (which is evident by their unrepentant, unashamed, unabashed regular actions that fly in the face of God’s clear commands) will, unfortunately, go to hell.

Am I perfect? No. I don’t pretend to be.

Do I sin? Yes. But I regret it every time and try to avoid the next time.

Blatant rebellion is not what I’m known for; I’m not characterized by it. I have a new nature that fights with the lusts of the flesh in which I live (Rom. 7:14-25), but until this “mortality puts on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:54), the struggle will always be difficult and real. Temptations are around every corner these days.

But if you call yourself a follower of Jesus; if you know what God has said about marriage and adultery; yet, you continue in your sin, like it’s no big deal, you might do well to reexamine your salvation.

“Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.” – 2 Corinthians 13:5 NLT

Because I care, I had to say something.

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Filed under Christianity, Family, Marriage, Relationships and Family

Grandparenting Suggestions Needed

I know I’ve already uploaded a post this morning, and I hope you’ll check it out – it’s a quasi-political post with a spiritual ending. Awesome stuff!

But this morning I received via text several pictures and and some video from our daughter in Charleston. They are pictures of our granddaughter, Emma, in her new princess pavilion (or whatever you call it).

Here’s the honest-to-goodness question: How’s a grandparent supposed to spoil a grandchild when the parents do things like this?

The only think I can think of is letting her get away with stuff that she’s not allowed to do when at home, like eat spoonfuls of sugar, drink coffee, play with matches, listen to three hours straight of Rush Limbaugh, etc.

If you have any suggestions, I’m happy to consider them. Thanks 🙂

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Filed under Family, grandchildren, Parenting

A Daddy’s Prayer

Dear Lord,

She’s no longer the baby I could hold in my arms. If I hold her these days, it’s a quick hug, a slight embrace. Gone are the days when she would put her head on my chest and fall to sleep, completely trusting in me to protect and provide.

But now I pray she’d seek your embrace, your protection, provision, and peace in Your rest.

An evil lurks around each corner, in the valley where death hides in the shadows. No longer there, I can’t be her guide. If You are not her Shepherd, the shadows will prevail.

Watch over her as only You can do. Guide her, with pain, if necessary, to the prize at the end of her race. I’ll be in the stands cheering.

Amen

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Filed under Family, Parenting, Prayer

Emma’s Birthday (and a guest post from a daughter)

Hey, folks! Check it out!

Today is my granddaughter Emma’s first birthday! Yay Emma!

But what I wanted to do for you (and her) is share what our daughter Alicia wrote on her Facebook page. I believe you will be blessed (and she won’t mind).

But let me tell you what, her first birthday party was the event of the year in Charleston, SC! I shudder to think what her Sweet 16 will be like!

But again, I hope you’re blessed with Alicia’s story.


One year ago today a beautiful baby girl was born into this world. Due to her prematurity she would be rushed to the NICU where she was cared for by amazing nurses and doctors. There she thrived with the love and nurture of strangers for ten days until we were chosen to be her parents. On January 16th, 2019 we got a call that flipped our world upside down and the journey it set us on has been amazing. We had waited so long to adopt that I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen for us. I never should have doubted God because he taught me a huge (and expensive) lesson on patience and trust.

The day we met her there was a very special nurse that watched us from afar as we cried and held our little girl for the first time. She later came to us and told us that she had been rocking her earlier that evening and praying over her. You see, she did not know at that time that her birth mother had chosen adoption for her. All she knew was the circumstances of her birth and that she had not had any visitors for ten days. She later told us that the very day we came to meet Emma was the day she had been rocking and praying over her. She prayed for God to do something special in her life and to watch over her. To bring her love and a good home. Little did she know that God would provide just that the very same day! Not only did we cry seeing her that night, but this angel of a nurse said she cried too watching from afar as we met our daughter for the first time. Whew! That still makes me all wet eyed!

For seven weeks we went back and forth to the hospital every day to see our sweet girl. We fed her, cuddled her, bathed her and cherished our quiet time bonding with her. We were ecstatic to take her home the day after Valentines Day. We were nervous, but embraced parenthood. It has been about ten months since we brought her home. Ten blissful months. Yes, there was fighting, crying and exhaustion. We had a hard time adjusting to the roles of a working mom and a stay at home dad busy with school, but we did it. Somehow together we got through it and we wouldn’t have done it any other way. I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything in the world.. we finally have a baby girl!

She has grown to be so fun, loving and so very sweet. The way she gets excited when her daddy walks into the room warms my heart and the way she looks for me across the room when she is starting to get nervous makes me melt. This feeling must be motherhood and I love it! I thank God for choosing us to be her parents and for entrusting us with her life. Happy First Birthday sweet Emma Lou! We love you so very much and are so excited to share our life with you!!!

Image may contain: 3 people, including Alicia Westbrook, people smiling, people standing

Alicia, Emma, and Josh Westbrook. I’m proud of all three of them!

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Filed under Family, Guest Posts, Relationships and Family