Category Archives: Struggles and Trials

Sometimes All You Can Do is Ride the Pieces

Photo by Nadine Biezmienova (free Pexels)

Have you ever thought you were doing well, only to find out you weren’t?

Here’s another question… Have you ever tried to improve yourself, only to find that the improvements you thought you were making were actually counterproductive to your end goals?

Have you ever had the best intentions and done everything right to the best of your ability, only to find yourself making one mistake that dominoes into a pile on the floor?

Believe me, I’ve not just been there, I’m here . . . and I’ve got the t-shirt ordered.

So what now? Question myself even more? Wallow in self-pity or succumb to the darkening clouds of doubt and depression?

What do you do (if, of course, you’ve ever experienced something like this)? How do you deal with it?

How do I deal with it? That’s a great question!

There are times when there’s nothing you can do to fix a problem. We humans – especially men – are all about trying to fix problems. Nevertheless, sometimes the problem is too big to fix, at least by us.

These are the times that I mentioned in a sermon just this past week. These are the times I spoke of (generically speaking) when I outlined the times when Satan will take advantage.

These are the precise times of brokenness, weakness, sadness, futility, and resignation that our Enemy, per his usual mode of operation (the “wiles” of the Devil), attempts to make things even worse by turning our eyes away from Christ and onto the waves about to sink our frail boat.

There are times when it is difficult to say, “Hold on through the night.” No, about the only thing one can do at these times is commit to holding on just beyond the moment we think we can’t hold on any longer. These are the times when we HAVE to depend on God’s strength, His mercy, and His grace.

Friend, you may think all is lost. The truth is that it may be. Yes, that’s what I said. Sometimes all WILL be lost. But that doesn’t mean God is done and everything is over.

There was a time in the life of the Apostle Paul when, as a prisoner, he was aboard a ship that was bound for destruction. Even though everything was done to lighten the ship and keep it afloat through days and days of an unrelenting storm, God told Paul to tell those on the ship that yes, it would eventually sink and be a total loss.

Except – and this is a biggie – no lives would be lost. The only catch was that, at the news the ship was going to crash, no one was to abandon ship. Those that abandoned ship would die. Only those who stayed on the ship till it broke up would survive.

In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.

Acts 27:30-32 NIV

Crazy, isn’t it?

But that’s what happened. They all stayed on the ship until it ran aground and broke into pieces. The pieces are what they were able to use to float to safety.

But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

Acts 27:41-44 NIV

I get it! I understand exactly what you are going through! Satan will try to get us to jump ship, throw in the towel, give up the mission, abandon the post, or simply walk away into the dark never to be seen again. I mean, what’s the use, right? If the ship is sinking anyway, why ride it into the rocks?

Listen, as one wreck-in-the-making to another, it may be scary, and it won’t be easy, but keep sailing – stay in the ship for a little longer. . . just a little longer than the moment when you think you can’t go on . . .

Because God may have a plan for the pieces of wreck that an intact ship couldn’t accomplish.

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Filed under Depression, Life Lessons, Struggles and Trials

My Leg Was Broken?

Not So Funny

Let’s begin with the not-so-funny part of this story, shall we? My right leg hurts.

Yes, it hurts, and it’s been hurting for a while. As a matter of fact, it hurts to cross my leg over my left knee, rest my right foot over my left, and even to walk. Generally speaking, my right leg – most of my tibia – aches.

That is why I went to an Orthopedic, yesterday. I wanted him to discover the source of the pain and to tell me whether or not I can go back to walking. Come to find out, the pain is muscle and ligament-related. The muscle that lies deep behind the tibia, along with the tissue that attaches to the side of the bone, is inflamed.

The sad part is that had I gone to a doctor about this pain a long time ago, it wouldn’t have had to get this bad.

The Funny Part

But here’s what I find amusing (I hope you do, too). When the doctor pulled up the x-ray, he pointed to some cloudy images on the bone. He asked, “Do you remember any trauma to your leg?”

“Uh, no, not really. Why?” I asked.

“Well,” he began, “do you see these two cloudy-white areas on the bone? This is evidence of a healed fracture. At some point, you broke your leg.”

Yep, you read that correctly – I broke my leg and didn’t even know it, or at least I couldn’t remember when I did it. Either that or I didn’t think much about it at the time.

Who has their leg broken and doesn’t remember it?

Now I Remember!

After a few minutes of discussing the pain in my leg, how to fix it, and such, a memory popped into my head. Totally changing the subject, I interrupted the doctor and exclaimed, “I think I know when it got broken!”

Back in the late ’80s, I was heavily involved in martial arts (the real-life Cobra Kai kind). I remembered this one time when I was doing drills with a new student, a BIG guy, who knew nothing of “control.” To keep the story simple, he did a round kick the same time I did, except with a good amount of power. Our shins locked with an audible “whack,” and for several days I walked with a limp.

it's only a flesh wound - it's just a flesh wound | Meme Generator

Imagine that! I fractured my leg and didn’t even know it! Well, I felt it, for sure! However, I didn’t have a clue of the severity of the injury – I just kept working out.

Eventually, I healed.

Time, Tibias, and Trauma

Before I say anything else, time does not heal all wounds. However, most wounds do heal over time, even the painful ones.

Only a fool discounts the severity of an injury, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual. And when it comes to trauma, what is terribly painful for one person might not affect another the same. Every trauma, every pain, every wound, though very similar – like one snowflake is similar to another – all are unique.

But the discovery of my long-forgotten battle wound has led me to ponder some encouraging truths.

  • Time can heal memory. For some people, the wounds of the past are as fresh today as they were 30 or 40 years ago, therefore the pain never goes away. But when we learn to focus on moving forward, given enough time, most of our hurts will heal and the pain, even the cause, will be forgotten.
  • Some trauma NEEDS to be forgotten. My broken leg incident probably happened between 1984 and 1985. If I had been talking about it, rehashing it, trying to figure out the why and how it happened, the trauma inflicted on my right leg would continue to afflict me, and others.
  • I’m so glad that, because of the blood of Jesus, God has chosen to remember my sin no more! Can you imagine what eternity would be like if the wounds inflicted by us were never put as far as the east is from the west? Yeah, it would be Hell.
  • Sometimes we are more broken than we realize. Fact is, my leg was broken and I didn’t even know it. It wasn’t broken in two . . . there was no bone sticking through the skin . . . but imagine what might have happened if I’d locked shins again in a tournament? What kind of life-threatening situation might I have faced? …and without a Mr. Miyagi!

Better than an Orthopedic

I’m sure we could go on and on with analogies and comparisons, but the fact is that all of us are broken in one way or another. Some know what complete healing is like, while others are still wiping away the initial tears.

Ultimately, Adam’s sin was the ultimate trauma inflicted on mankind; it left ALL of us broken. Unfortunately, though the healing balm has yet to be applied, many, many, many broken people don’t even realize their brokenness.

Then finally, there are those – praise God! – who are pleasantly surprised to be reminded of how God healed wounds that were once so painful the future, even survival, looked insurmountable. Sadly, some of those broken legs were brought about by our own rebellion . . . NOT the Shepherd.

Yet, isn’t it wonderful how He rescued us, picked us up and carried us until we healed, and never even brought it up again? Or did you forget?

Thank you, Lord, for this pain. I needed to be reminded of some things.

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Filed under Depression, fitness, Life Lessons, Struggles and Trials

When my heart is overwhelmed

“from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I‭‭” Psalm 61:2 Over the past few days, …

When my heart is overwhelmed

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Filed under Guest Posts, Love of God, Struggles and Trials

For Such a Time As This

As I woke this morning, names started coming to mind.

I would like to share them with you.

Of the following names, try to think what is common among them all.

Deitrich Bonhoffer
Jim Elliot
Joseph (the one with the coat of many colors)
Brother Andrew
Cory Ten Boom
Harriet Tubman
Frederick Douglass
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Casey Jones (the railroad engineer)
Todd Beamer (flight 93)
Abraham Lincoln
William Wilberforce (member of Parliament)
Sir Winston Churchill
Horatio G. Spafford (It Is Well With My Soul)
Rosa Parks
William Wallace
Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, Col. William Travis
Oskar Schindler
Moses
Esther

If you haven’t figured it out, there may be other similarities, but all of these names have at least one thing in common: You would have never known them had it not been for their moments of adversity, the challenges forced on them, or the stands they took in the face of injustice.

Consider the words of Mordecai to a fearful and hesitant Esther:

Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” – Esther 4:13-14 NLT

Dear friends, whatever the future of this country, God has us here “for just such a time as this.”

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Filed under America, Church, current events, History, politics, Struggles and Trials

Does Jesus Care?

Watch the sermon from last Sunday and find out 🙂

But here’s a hint…. YES!

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bible, Christianity, Love of God, Preaching, Struggles and Trials

The Hilly Straight and Narrow

Working Out

As many of you know, I have committed to exercise and to lose weight. In other words, I want to look like Tom Cruise.

But even more important than looking like Tom Cruise (because he still looks awesome as an old man – like he’s never aged! …which is a little creepy when you think about it), I want this body that the Lord has given me to be the best “temple” it can be for His glory.

However, remodeling this temple of the Holy Ghost has not been easy.

Walking and Riding

I’ve been doing two kinds of exercise, walking and riding my bicycle. Each has it’s benefits, and each has it’s drawbacks.

For one, it takes longer on a bike to burn as many calories as walking, if, that is, the walking is fast-paced in sync with a song from Building 429. Riding, though, is more fun.

Last Saturday morning, with rainy mist in the air, I rode a 13-mile circuit around our little community. It was an enjoyable, scenic ride with very little traffic (I only saw 4 cars in the first hour). It took me 1 hour and 58 minutes to complete.

Today (a Tuesday), I rode 8.23 miles, and I did it in 1 hour and 3 minutes. The only thing is that I was less tired after the 13-mile ride than the one I did today!

I think I know the reason.

The Straight and Narrow

As I was riding this morning, I came to a point where I had to peddle in 1st gear for what seemed like an eternity (maybe 5 min.). You see, although the road I took was a straight shot from our community to the next town, there were some places where I had to ascend over a period of time. These inclines didn’t look like hills, yet what I rode added up to 196 feet in elevation.

While pacing myself, and while reminding myself of heroes like Marcus Luttrell (Navy SEAL) and all he went through to survive, I peddled in 1st gear until I reached the point where I could finally coast. It was then that a profound thought managed to form inside my brain, despite the 146 heartbeats per minute.

“The straight and narrow is not always the flat and level.” 

Yes, much like the “straight and narrow” path of faith (loosely based on Matt. 7:14), the road I traveled was straight and free of any hidden obstacles or traps. Yet, “straight and narrow” should NEVER be interpreted as “flat and level.” No, there were more ups and downs than I could count! It took more energy to finish than the longer, more curvy road I was on last week!

If you’ve never heard it said, the Christian life is a joy, but it’s not easy. As a matter of fact, if you want an easy-peasy life, stay a tool of Satan; he’ll keep you comfortable till your dying day. But for the true follower of the One who carried a cross up a hill, why should we expect a road without those slow, aching, 1st-gear inclines?

God bless! Keep peddling! 

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, fitness, Life Lessons, Struggles and Trials

June 6th… Would We Do It Again?

d day

Seventy-six 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-six 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-six 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-six 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-six 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-six 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, 2020, but are we still a people with the stomach to liberate? If we were the ones living seventy-six 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 socialists in Congress, or the mobs who attack anyone who wears a red hat.

Ask the millions as they enjoy their legalized weed.

Ask the rainbow-painted parade attendees as they throw glitter at each other.

Ask Antifa, the group of thugs who can’t tell a real Nazi from a urinating dog.

Ask those who burn their fellow man’s business and take away his livelihood, thinking this will somehow make our nation stronger.

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-six years of freedom. Would we do it again?

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. We’re too busy fighting each other.

Would we be willing to do it again?

I seriously doubt it. God help us.

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

The Light Beckons

Image may contain: indoor

As I was walking through the darkened auditorium of our church, I saw the light beaming in through the stained glass. I couldn’t help but be impacted by the profound truth I was seeing, that there was no light inside these walls; the light was outside.

***********

For so long we’ve known it, we’ve taught and preached it, but where God wants his Light to be seen is outside, in the world, where Hope is needed. Yet, it took an “act of God” to get us out of our hallowed walls and out where we’ve been needed.

So, for now, the lights inside are off and the pews are empty. God, the Great Teacher, has taken us on a field trip. He’s causing us to regain or acquire a better perspective and understanding of what matters, what is needed, and what it truly means to be “in the world, but not of the world.” Because, if you haven’t noticed, we’re all in this together.

Will the real Church now stand up and walk in the Light, as He is in the light?


Image may contain: sky, tree, house, outdoor and text

 

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Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Operation Re-Evaluate

Bethlehem Baptist Church
95 Bethlehem Church Road, Warthen, GA 31094

It’s Our Time

I know I am not going to be the first person to make this observation, but as I said on Facebook this morning, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and crisis is this generation’s World War Two.

Make no mistake, this is a world war . . . a war for survival, both physically and economically, against a killer virus. But unlike wars of the past, this one is being fought on every continent – none are immune from its effects.

However, as tragic and scary as the upheaval may be, just like our forefathers did in the 1940’s, what we have is the potential to come together in ways thought impossible just weeks ago. Where less than a month ago people had no plan for how to survive a national crisis, now you see the creative minds working to solve difficult issues.

It’s not an easy thing to say, for it could be interpreted the wrong way, but as strange as it may sound, this crisis could be the best thing to happen to America since WW2. In so many ways it is forcing us to unite to fight a common enemy that cares nothing about politics, race, or religion – it just wants to destroy us. So, where petty ideological differences, even serious political and social ones have threatened to destroy our country in recent years, this virus – like Nazi German and Imperial Japan – is deadly and costly enough to force a re-evaluation of who we are.

And just think about it! What time in history would have been a better time to fight a war like this? We were created for such a time as this, and in this time we will be victorious.

It’s the Church’s Time

How often have you heard it said that the modern Church is irrelevant? How many times have you heard the complaints about living within our buildings’ four walls and never engaging people outside?

How many times has it been said that the modern, local church cares only about itself? How many churches, for real, exist only for those who walk through the door on Sunday?

COVID-19 is the wake-up call – no, more like the Pearl Harbor – that Christian churches across America have needed for a long time. We have had an Enemy waging war against us for ages, but we’ve been content living with the effects being on distant shores. Now, the fight has been brought to us, and even the old “home guard” is being activated.

Throughout the history of Israel and the Church, God has brought conflict, even foreign invaders, to shock His people out of complacency and lethargy. At times God called our enemies His “servants” to discipline us. And as we should be thankful God loves us enough to discipline us, it should not be too far of a stretch, then, to be thankful the “virus” has come at this time.

What of the Walls?

So, finally, here we are in a situation where the walls of the church don’t matter too much anymore. Oh, sure, we will get back to corporately worshiping together like we should, but what of the walls right now? Not only are they doing us little good, but they have no relevance to who and what the Church actually is or how it must operate right now.

Most local churches have operated on the model that worship, fellowship, community, bearing each other’s burdens, etc., happens only when people show up to the building, the campus, or wherever the bulk of the member choose to gather.  In other words, when you miss out on what happens at the church property, you not only miss out, but you get left out, ignored, forgotten.

All that has abruptly changed.

For the first time in the history of the Church, local congregations are being forced by a virus – not the government or a tyrant – to make “church” something other than simply attending a one-hour meeting while sitting on a pew.

For the first time in history, churches are now, for the most part, gathering online over the internet, not inside four walls.

For the first time in a a LONG time, local churches are going to have to prove their worth to the members. For if coming together on Sunday to hear a choir or listen to a pastor is all church is, many are going to wonder why they tithe or give offerings.

Frankly, this pandemic is going to open the eyes of a lot of people and make them ask the question: “Why do I even go to church?”

What is our answer going to be?


In my next post I will address ways that churches (including the one I pastor) can use this current crisis to turn us into the effective, healthy Church Body we should have been all along. 

Until then, make a phone call, do a video chat, and pray with a fellow believer. We must not forget each other, nor our need for fellowship.

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Filed under baptist, Christian Unity, Christianity, Church, community, current events, ministry, Struggles and Trials

Prayers for Nashville

Tornadoes

Image result for nashville tornado

ABC News

Last night one of the most terrifying things in nature descended upon the capital of my home state of Tennessee. Destructive and deadly storms brought tornadoes right through Nashville, leaving (as of this writing) 9 people dead, possibly more. As of this moment, several of my friends have already checked in as “safe,” but a few more have not responded.

I hate tornadoes! I’ve been close to 4 or 5 and actually been in a hotel in Clarksville, TN when it was damaged by one that destroyed houses across the street. Tornadoes scare the crap out of me. I think that might be one reason why I experience feelings of panic or anxiety when I feel/hear a train (because the sound of a freight train is very similar). In a matter of seconds, everything can be gone.

I’m thankful to God that what came through Nashville last night was not as destructive as what destroyed so much of Georgia back in April of 2011. That storm, if you remember, killed nearly 300 people and decimated Ringgold, GA. But for Nashville, our prayers and thoughts are with them.

Thoughts and Prayers

What about those “thoughts and prayers”? What does that even mean?

As of late, many in the media have started to publically make fun of and shame those who say “our thoughts and prayers.” Some politicians have even been so bold (and arrogantly foolish) to stand up and declare that our prayers are worthless; we need action!

Granted, thoughts don’t do much other than say, “We’re thinking about you.” Unless that thinking leads to help in some tangible way, what good are the thoughts except to let the people who are suffering know that others know they are hurting?

And what about the prayers? First off, unless the Object of our prayers is capable of doing anything, they are actually of less value than “thoughts.” Keeping someone who is hurting on your mind might lead you to do something to alleviate the suffering. However, prayer is calling upon the aid of Another, or those whom He will send to address the need.

Yet, if the prayers are made by those whom God hears, then they are not worthless, but helpful and empowering. God moves on the backs of our prayers, and godly prayer has a tendency to become self-fulfilling (i.e., when we pray for workers to collect the harvest, we often become the workers). That’s one of the ways He works “mysteriously.”

So, my thoughts and prayers this morning concern Nashville.

Help me pray, would you?

  • Heavenly Father, nothing that happens in this world catches you by surprise – You know all things. There is nothing outside of your all-seeing, all-caring, all-judging eye. I am thankful you already know what has happened in Nashville, and even long before last night you were working in ways we will never comprehend.
  • Lord, comfort the ones who are mourning the loss of loved ones. Bring peace to them through the power of your Spirit.
  • Ease the pain of those who are wounded, and give the medical personnel added measures of endurance as they are pressed into longer shifts and greater stress.
  • Please protect those who are on the ground clearing debris, directing traffic, and protecting the most vulnerable.
  • Give a mighty voice to those who survived! Like so often is the case, send the reporters and news crews to the places where survivors give You the glory so the world may hear your name praised.
  • Jesus, as we know you have the power to calm storms, You also have the power to use storms. you know the hearts of the people of Nashville. Open their eyes to your mercy and grace.

Amen.

 

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Filed under community, General Observations, places, Struggles and Trials, Weather