Category Archives: Struggles and Trials

Mustard-Seed Faith and Moving Mountains

Just a word about faith and moving things…

Remember the verse where Jesus said if we had faith the size of a mustard seed – very small – we could move mountains from one place to another?

And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. – Matthew 17:20

But when we talk about moving mountains, remember movement can also be directional.

So often we want God to positionally relocate a mountain so that our forward path might be easier to navigate. In other words, we want God to move the mountain out of our way so that the journey might be less of a struggle.

But what if the mountain remains? What if, despite our faith, it’s part of God’s plan for our lives that the mountain stay right where it is – in our way? That happens more often than not, doesn’t it?

It’s when the mountain doesn’t move to “yonder place” we need to have faith Jesus won’t let us fall from the jagged cliffs as He pulls us, pushes us, and gives us the strength to climb, thereby moving the mountain – not away, but behind us.

For today, have a little mustard-seed faith…the kind that says to the most formidable cliff, “You will not stand in my way!”

If it’s the Lord’s will for the mountain to remain in place, He’ll make it possible to conquer it and move it to “yonder rearview mirror.”

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Filed under Faith, Struggles and Trials

Would You Pray for Us?

I don’t want to go long with this post, but I need to ask for your prayer support. We are nothing short of desperate for your intercession.

Here are some specific ways you can pray:

  • Please pray for my family and myself, that the Lord will protect us, strengthen us, bind us together.
    • Pray that God will protect our marriage
    • Pray that we will be wise parents during these later years
    • Pray that our daughters (even though the youngest is now turning 18) will not suffer any more harm due to ministry, but will grow in their desire to serve Him
    • Pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen me and encourage me in my role as husband, father, and spiritual leader
  • Please pray for the health issues my family is facing, specifically for my wife and my mother.
    • Pray for healing
    • Pray for clarity and provision with treatments
    • My mother’s back surgery
    • My wife’s myriad of health issues
    • Pray that the Lord will strengthen “the weak hands [and] steady the shaking knees!” (Isa. 35:3 CSB) Heck, just pray the whole chapter over me!
  • Please pray for provision through this very lean time.
    • Pray that my income will increase in order to not only pay the necessary bills but to allow me to pour into ministry needs
    • Pray that financial provision will come into our church in order to continue the work of reaching our community with the gospel (we have only enough funds to last through September, that’s all)
    • Pray that favor will be shown as I seek new clients (I work with Aflac)
    • Pray that God will burden the hearts of those in the position to give generously unto the work of a local ministry
  • Pray for our little church that it will become mighty through prayer and an outpouring of grace.
    • Pray that we (I and a couple others) will be able to reach the lost and unchurched with the good news of the love of Jesus
    • Pray that the Lord will send us workers, even just a few
    • Pray that God will receive glory through the revitalization of South Soddy Baptist Church
    • Pray that our new website (set to launch in a couple of weeks) will be successful in reaching new people, both here and abroad
    • Pray for clarity and vision as I do my best to shepherd this congregation, including my family
  • Pray that I (I can’t speak for anyone else), no matter what, will see that my Hope, like sung by Mercy Me, is not just in Jesus, but IS Jesus. He is why I do what I do. He is why I’m still here.

  • Help me to remember the words of Lauren Daigle’s powerful song, “Trust In You.”

Brethren, pray for us. – 1 Thessalonians 5:25

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Filed under Christian Unity, Church, ministry, Parenting, Prayer, Struggles and Trials

Different Metal, Different Furnace

Without a doubt, there is someone who needs to read this today. I know I did.

The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests the hearts. – Proverbs 17:3 NKJV

Gold or Silver

In case you were not aware, there is a difference between gold and silver (Well, duh!). Seriously, there is a difference between the two, and that fact should not be taken lightly. Gold is gold, and silver is silver. Obvious stuff, right?

Well, sometimes the obvious is profoundly important.

Gold is extremely valuable but is soft and pliable. Silver is not as valuable per ounce but is nevertheless a harder precious metal. Gold is highly sought after and coveted; silver is more common but is still critically important for a wide range of applications, everything from electronics to medicine.

How one refines gold, compared with silver, is not the same. What’s more, the temperatures of the refiner’s fire is hotter for one than the other.

What R You?

When I read Proverbs 17:3 yesterday during a Sunday School class I teach, something obvious proved to be very profound: depending on how God wants us to be used, each one’s trial by fire will vary in intensity, the heat of which will determine what metal we are made of.

gold furnace

Source: The Australian

Unlike gold and silver, we are human; our qualities and usefulness change. Some days we are made of gold, while other days we are silver, but most of the time it is hard to determine which. That’s when the Refiner turns up the heat.

There is a lot to refining gold and silver. Not only is there heat involved, but various acids, too. Therefore, it should come as no surprise when God not only allows us to endure intense pressure (heat), but permits the caustic, painful situations of life to eat away the impurities within us.

God is the refiner of hearts.

Iron Man

But, you know what? Gold and silver, while both rare and beautiful, will never make good axes, swords, cannons, I-beams for skyscrapers, or bridges across raging streams.

Sometimes there are jobs that can only be done with iron.

Don’t feel special? Don’t think of yourself as gold-like? That’s OK! You’re important, too! As a matter of fact, the melting point of iron is nearly double that of gold.

You may think what you are going through right now is far tougher than anything a “golden saint” might deserve. Don’t lose hope; the fires forging you are instilling a strength that may be needed to wage war against the Enemy, support the heavy loads of many, or bridge the gap between understanding and ignorance.

Don’t curse the furnace. Let the Refiner do His work.

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, General Observations, Life Lessons, self-worth, Struggles and Trials

Our Worst Days

I am going to be honest with you, dear reader… I’m not writing this for you to read.

I’m writing for myself.

If you remember, way back in the day blogs were still called “web logs” and they were really nothing more than digital diaries. Some people still use blogs for that reason, and I believe that a lot of them are flat-out liars… Just keeping it real.

Maybe I’m a little/lot jealous of the ones who seem to have it all together. But again, they’re probably lying.

I don’t have it together, believe me. I’m not the perfect husband, dad, son, pastor, or anything. I really do have issues. Doesn’t everyone?

Well, maybe not you.

I’m just sitting here trying to type out my frustrations and get a grip. It’s been a bad day.

Now, even though I said I’m not writing this for anyone to read, there are some people out there who can relate to what I’m dealing with. They are the preachers and pastors who must get up on Sunday morning with the responsibility to encourage the believers, teach the Word, and appeal to the lost. Many of them know exactly what I’m talking about when I say, “I hate Saturday nights.”

There are three days that can be considered a pastor’s worst days: Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Sunday afternoons and evenings after church, along with Mondays, are usually the most depressing days of the weeks. It’s on Sundays that the pastor has so many expectations and hopes, then Monday is the day he considers another career. Sunday afternoons aren’t always that bad, but it’s usually in the evenings, after the final services (unless there’s only a morning service), that the pastor becomes his worst critic and often blames himself for the lack of attendance or the stone-faced parishioners who rarely smile, much less participate in heartfelt corporate praise.

On Sunday afternoons the pastor blames himself for everything.

Mondays are a little different. On Mondays the pastor has gotten a little past his self-guilt and has moved on to fighting the fight against becoming angry or bitter. It’s on Mondays that many pastors think about leaving their churches or ministry entirely. And if you want to know the cold, hard truth, it’s on Mondays when many pastors consider suicide – it happens.

You know, this might be uncomfortable to hear; but ministry places a lot of stress on a pastor (and his family). Try to put yourself into your pastor’s shoes (or his “glass house”) for a moment. Think of the stress he is under –

  • the stress to preach the Truth without compromise, but without offending somebody;
  • the stress to grow the church, but without taking the credit;
  • the stress to teach and preach quality sermons, but the lack of time to put into it;
  • the stress of balancing family responsibilities with church responsibilities;
  • the stress of finances;
  • the stress of seeing people walk away without ever explaining why;
  • the stress of trying to be human, but always being put on a pedestal;
  • etc., etc., etc.

Real pastors (not the ones on TV who beg for millions to buy new jets) are some of the most sensitive people you will ever meet, but they have to have thick skin (and wear the full armor of God). They love their people and want to see them on Sunday (and other days), but so often the people in the pews rarely think of how it affects the preacher when they decide to stay at home. Frankly, it’s discouraging.

Yet, we have to do what we are called to do, even if only 2 or 3 show up.

On Mondays many of us wake up asking ourselves the question: “Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing?” 

Then there is the night before the sermon. It’s the night when a pastor should already have his sermon prepared and his ducks in a row (especially if he’s an Aflac agent). It’s the night when he should be spending time with his family playing games, watching TV, or going to the park. However, Saturday night is usually the time when the average bi-vocational pastor is up until 1 or 2 a.m. trying to finish what he had little time to do during the week. It’s during those late hours that he’s all alone and able to think and pray…while trying not to feel too guilty for not having everything already done.

But unlike Sundays and Mondays, Saturdays are unique in that if there is going to be a spiritual attack, it’s usually going to be on that day. Aside from the tense couple of hours on Sunday mornings when everybody in the house is trying to get ready at the same time, Saturdays can see more go wrong in a short time than any other 24-hour period. If you think it’s only coincidence, you’ve never lived the ministry life.

On Saturdays the Enemy tries to defeat the minister before he has the chance to preach.

But I’m only defeated if I quit. So, I’m not quitting. I’m not giving up. I’m not backing down. I’m not giving in.

“I am doing a great work, so why should the work cease…?” – Nehemiah 6:3a

When people give up, even when it seems they’re the last one standing, a whole city could be in danger!

“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” Ezekiel 22:30

It was my Savior, Jesus, who “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2), so what is my cross? Is it any heavier than His? And He endured it because of the “joy that was set before him,” or, in other words, what He knew was going to be the result. Like a woman in labor endures the pain of child birth so that she can hold her baby in her arms, so Jesus endured the pains of Calvary so that we could become the children of God.

Are not the pains of ministry – all that our worst days may bring – worth the joys set before us?

I’m not defeated, for we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us (Rom. 8:37).

Like I said in the beginning, I didn’t write this for you; I wrote it for myself.

I needed it.

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Filed under Church, ministry, Preaching, Struggles and Trials

My Thoughts On the Suicide of Anthony Bourdain

I’m not going to try to be fancy with this post, so I’m not going to worry about font size, layout, pictures, links, etc. All I’m going to do is sit here at the keyboard and write.

Read it if you want to, but nobody’s forcing you. What I’m about to write may offend …no, it WILL offend some people… so consider this a warning. Go click on CNN’s coverage of all this if you want to feel all warm and fuzzy.

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Just the other day I heard of Kate Spade’s suicide by hanging. Then, a little while ago, the notification popped up on my phone telling me Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide. All I could do was shake my head.

I’m still shaking my head.

I just came from the funeral of my father-in-law. It was not the most pleasant of experiences, as most funerals are not. His death was not a result of suicide, however, and yet it was still a source of grief for his family.

But those who commit suicide seem to not care too much about what happens in the hours after the body is found. They rarely seem to care what happens to the family in the next 12 hours, 2 days, or the rest of their lives. I tend to wonder how many family funerals those who commit suicide have ever attended.

I wonder how many have heard a mother, spouse, or especially a child cry out over the casket, “Why did you leave me?” And to think, it WAS a choice.

Like was said in a post I reblogged just a few moments ago, there is nothing brave about suicide. I used to think that the only reason I could not actually find the courage to pull the trigger to blow the top of my own head off was that I was a coward, which only added to the self-pity and lies that I was worthless. But it wasn’t cowardice that kept me alive; it was the innate sense of intrinsic human value that crept up from my sub-conscience  and screamed, “I want to live!” It was also a still, small Voice that whispered into my ear, “I still love you, no matter how much you want to hate me.”

I read that suicide rates have gone up 25% in general, and 30% in some states. It’s sorta becoming the “hip” way to die. But why? What are the reasons for wanting to kill one’s self?

I’ll list for you some reasons why at one point I thought I wanted to die: anger, disappointment, revenge, weariness, hopelessness, shame, worthlessness, and a general sense of bruised pride. I wonder how many of those Anthony Bourdain felt were legitimate?

A few weeks ago I went to the house of a man who committed suicide and sat with the wife and daughter in the driveway as the police did their job securing the scene. The best I could tell, the gentleman was tired of being a burden on his family, so he shot himself in the head and left his wife to live with the burden of being a widow.

Was Anthony Bourdain tired of being a burden to someone?

I don’t know Anthony Bourdain, and I only watched a few episodes of his television program. I literally know less about him than I know how many slices of cheese are in the refrigerator. I have no idea why Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.

What I do know with certainty is that it didn’t have to happen. What I do know for certain is that it wasn’t the best option, nor was it brave, nor was it loving – not unless there were terrorists demanding he choose between his life or another.

Honestly, we’ve got to quit being so passive and coddling with the eulogies of those who off themselves. I would bet a dollar to a gold-plated donut that at Anthony Bourdain’s funeral no one will stand up and tell the A-list crowd attending, “Anthony acted like a damn fool when he did this, and now he’s added his name to the long list of cowardly fathers who abandoned their children to deal with a pain they’ll never outlive.”

No, just like so many other funerals I’ve attended, barely anything will be said to shock the crowd into cold, hard reality. All that will be said about suicide is something akin to: “What a tragedy. If you feel like you might want to hurt yourself, find someone to talk to.”

You know what needs to be done at every funeral or memorial service (especially those held on college campuses when a college student kills him/herself)? Show pictures of the crime scene! Show the horror!

Despite what some people think, there’s nothing glamorous about suicide.

Have you ever set foot in a room where someone has put a bullet through his head? I have. It’s nothing like what you see in the movies.

Have you ever heard the sound of real people screaming and crying while looking at blood-splattered walls and ceiling light fixtures broken by skull fragments? I have. Actors can’t make it sound that real. It will wound your soul.

Yet, so many will go on and kill themselves – by whatever means – thinking that it’s the best or only option. Some will do it to make a point by trying to hurt others. Some will do it in a moment of sadness and grief while thinking there’s no use in going on. And most will do it never having been exposed to or having been made to consider the true aftermath.

But before I close this long rant, I’ve got to end it with some hope.

Let me remind you of those reasons I listed earlier: anger, disappointment, revenge, weariness, hopelessness, shame, worthlessness, and a general sense of bruised pride. THIS is why I preach the Cross. THIS is why I preach Christ crucified and risen.

One of the songs played at the funeral today has a chorus that goes like this:

“And the old rugged cross made the difference/ in a life bound for heartache and defeat./ I will praise Him forever and ever,/ for the cross made the difference for me.” – Gaither Vocal Band

Angry? Go to the cross. Disappointed? Go to the cross. Weary and hopeless? Run to the cross. Full of shame and reproach? Fall at the foot of the cross! Got a problem with your pride being wounded or offended? Focus your eyes on the cross!

You want answers for how to deal with suicide? Go to the cross of Jesus Christ where the Savior of the world was slain – so you and I could have life, and have it more abundantly.

Satan is the enemy of the soul, and any thought of suicide is a suggestion straight from the pits of hell – and if you sniff you might just smell the smoke.

I don’t know why Anthony Bourdain committed suicide, but I’d have a hard time believing he did it while thinking about how valuable he was to his Creator. I’d venture to guess that traveling the world and seeing so many things did nothing but expand the void in his soul and compound the questions for which he had no answer.

Jesus asked, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” ( Mark 8:36)

I thank God I’m alive. I thank God I have a Hope. I thank God for purpose. I thank God I’m loved. When He wants me to leave this world, He’ll take me. Until then I will live my life for the One who gave His life for me.

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Filed under current events, Depression, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

June 6th… Would We Do It Again?

d day

Seventy-four years have passed since the pride of the Allies, 156,000 strong, stepped out of landing craft and jumped out of airplanes into the mouth of a monster ready to eat them alive.

Seventy-four years have passed since young men from America, England, and Canada (and we must not forget Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland) landed on beaches called Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.

Seventy-four years ago, long before the fancy rock-climbing walls which are so popular in today’s health clubs and gyms,  the 2nd Ranger battalion “led the way” up the 100 ft. cliffs of Pointe du Hoc.

Seventy-four years ago, on the 6th of June, 2,499 American and 1,914 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4,413, gave their lives for the sake of freedom.

Seventy-four years ago men were stepping on the backs of their comrades as they sloshed through red water, breathed in the mist of war, and wondered if they would live to see the ground only yards (meters) in front of them.

On June 6, 1944, seventy-four years ago, it was said of those who landed:

They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate.” — President Franklin D. Roosevelt, radio broadcast, June 6, 1944

It is the 6th of June, 2018, but are we still a people with the stomach to liberate? If we were the ones living seventy-four years ago, where would we be today?

Ask those who take a knee, or hide in a locker room when the anthem is played.

Ask those who protest the same American flag that their African-American ancestors fought and died for – the same ancestors who fought in segregated units, but were still ferociously proud to be Americans. What did the pilots of the Red Tail Squadron do when the flag was raised and the anthem was played?

For that matter, what did Tuskegee Airmen Dr. Harold Brown, a pilot with the renowned 332nd Fighter Group in World War II (an all-black squadron) say when asked the following question during a recorded conference call: “Why [when the slavery trappings, the discrimination was all there] would you raise your right hand and swear to defend this country?”

“Oh, that’s very, very simple, in my opinion. I was a citizen of the United States of America! This was my country, too! Even though it had some shortcomings, it was still the greatest country in the world. There is no other country I would ever trade for it.” (Feb. 28, 2018)

Ask those who are burning the American flag because “America was never great.”

Ask the protesters who don’t even know why they protest.

image

The reflection pool at the WW2 Memorial in Washington, D.C. Each gold star represents 100 Americans who died or remain missing during the war.

It cost a lot to buy seventy-four years of freedom. Would we do it again?

If we could get them out of the locker rooms, maybe. But first, they would have to be willing to fight to defend something, and too many no longer believe what was purchased with the blood of others is worth fighting for.

Would we be willing to do it again?

If not, God help us.

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Filed under America, Countries, Culture Wars, current events, General Observations, Life Lessons, Struggles and Trials, World View

Addressing iWorries With iPraise

First of all, I have no photos to upload and post.  If you want to call and talk about it, forget it.

Secondly, I am looking at a computer screen with 1 1/2 times the letters I’m actually typing.

Thirdly, the weeds are still there.

Fourth, I’m an emotional bag of nerves.

Will this be an inspirational post? I don’t know. It all depends. If you have a wonderful life where nothing out of control stresses you out, then you may think to yourself, “Man, I’m glad I’m not that guy.”

On the other hand, you may be in Zimbabwe and might think to yourself, “I wish my problems were as few as his.”

Nevertheless, here’s my story.

iProblems

Last night I went to bed and was going to set my alarm on my phone. When I plugged it into the charger, the charger port was broke. How/when did that happen??! I have no clue, but that has to be fixed…today!

I had photos I was going to upload for a post, but now I dare not turn on my phone and run down what charge I still have. Should there be an emergency, I will need to make a call. But now my wife can’t get ahold of me, and that’s a big problem – as you will see in just a second.

iBlind

And if the phone problem wasn’t enough, my glasses broke yesterday. I mean, I literally took them off my face and the dang things just fell apart! We’re not talking a loose screw, or anything – the frame broke!

If you want to know why that’s a big issue, let me just tell you the brand name of the frame: Silhouette.  Another expensive fix.

iNearly Cursed

Before my glasses fell apart in my hands, something else decided to up and die – the new lawn trimmer.

Look, I don’t have to mow the lawn surrounding our church, the fellowship hall, and the house we live in; someone else does that. However, that someone is a little bit older and has difficulty getting on and off his riding mower, not to mention trimming the grass around three structures and parking lots. So, in order to help out, while at the same time give me the satisfaction of doing something outside, I broke down and purchased a new trimmer.

Keep in mind, I might be 5+ months past shoulder surgery, but pulling the crank on a lawn trimmer is still not easy. So, after about 50 pulls I almost let loose a string of profanities, but I didn’t. Well… maybe a word or two.

iMiss’em

Then, on top of all that, my wife and youngest daughter just drove around the corner and out of sight as they are on their way out of town for 3 days. They are going to a conference in Knoxville, TN.

What’s wrong with that? Well, I absolutely hate it when my wife leaves town, especially with one of the girls. Why? Because they are out there somewhere and I can’t protect them. I’m also pretty clueless when my wife isn’t around to manage things.

It’s sorta kind of crazy, I guess. It’s no big deal for me when I leave town for something, but when my wife leaves town I can’t even sleep at night.

iPraise

So, as I was writing down all my first-world problems, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a scripture passage – literally, it came to mind as I stepped away to let the dog out to pee:

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV

No, that doesn’t mean I should be thankful my glasses, iPhone, and weedeater broke. But what it does mean is that I should be thankful that even in the middle of all this brokenness, Christ has a plan for me. Yes, even when things like these break.

I must remind myself that God ordains my footsteps, and it might just be that He needs my witness at a repair shop or return counter. If a broken iPhone allows me to talk about Jesus, wouldn’t that be great?

Then, right after I thought of the above verse from 1 Thessalonians, another verse came to mind:

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7 CSB

No, I can’t always be there to watch over my wife and daughters, but God is there. They are in His hand. He can watch over them far better than I can.

If I keep that in mind I might just get some sleep.

 

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Filed under Faith, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials, worship