Tag Archives: devotional

You Could Be the “Shift Change”

Command Staff Meetings

Some of you know that I am a chaplain with our county’s Sheriff’s office. It is a great honor to be allowed to serve our men and women in blue, for they are the ones who put their lives on the line every day for us.

Myself and Chaplains Rich Payne, Allen Lindon, and Sergio Freeman (who is also a Chaplain with the Air Force and the US Secret Service)

But about twice a year the rotation comes around and it becomes my time to speak at the Command Staff meeting. This is the meeting where the Sheriff and his captains, along with public relation heads and personal staff, meet to discuss everything from the general budget and how much should be allocated to new body armor, to the number of hits the office’s Facebook page received and when the next Presidential visit may be.

Needless to say, these meetings involve some very important, professional, and intimidating people…including a chaplain. And let me tell you, it’s one place I ALWAYS feel intimidated. But it’s always an honor.

Go to some places and you will have a hard time finding anything having to do with God in the public square. But if you were to visit Hamilton County, TN, you would find a highly professional Sheriff’s office, along with “In God We Trust” on ever county police vehicle and a time for a chaplain to open up the Command Staff meetings with a short devotional and prayer… per the Sheriff’s orders.

No Meeting Today

However, yesterday I got an email notification that this week’s Command Staff meeting was cancelled. Therefore, even though I had set aside time in my schedule, the encouraging words I was planning to share with the Sheriff and his team will have to wait till another time…

Unless I share them with YOU! 🙂

The Shift Change

A little over a month ago I suffered a heart attack. Actually, one may label it more of an “event,” not an actual full-fledged “there’s an elephant on my chest!” type of attack. Had I not gone to a hospital when I did, I might have lived through the night, but I was well on my way to assuming room temperature. I had block arteries and my heart was in distress; it was only a matter of time.

That type of heart attack is so dangerous because it doesn’t show up on an EKG. The only way you can tell you are having that type of heart attack is when blood is drawn, then drawn again, and then the Troponin levels are compared. Troponin is a cardiac marker that increases when the heart is being damaged.

On the evening that my wife and I went to the emergency room, all the usual tests were done and came back negative for a heart attack. As a matter of fact, I was dressed and ready to go home because the first doctor didn’t see any reason to keep me. However, before I was to be released, there was a shift change and the new doctor had other plans.

“Before you go,” said the doctor, “I want to run one more blood test, just to see if there have been any changes over the last couple of hours.” “That’s fine,” I replied, not expecting anything at this point.

No more than 30 minutes later the doctor came back to our little room and said, “Well, there’s been some changes…you need to see a cardiologist…. Now.”

You see, what had happened was that from the time of my last blood test my Troponin levels had doubled, indicating a serious problem. By the time I got to the hospital in Macon, GA, by ambulance, my levels had double again. By the time I was taken to surgery later that morning, they had more than doubled again.

If it had not been for a shift change, I would be dead.

You Could Be the Shift Change

Folks, you never know how God is going to use you from one minute to the next. What may start out as any other shift, that shift could be the one that make an eternal difference in the life of another.

Had that doctor stayed home or been late, I would be dead. Had that doctor decided to just let things be and not follow protocol with a new test for his own records, I would be dead. But when he came to work, he did his job, so I’m alive.

Whatever you do, do all for the glory of God. Do the best you can. Be there, be committed, and understand that you might just be the one who’s fresh perspective and energy, who’s unique abilities and instincts, could make all the difference.

Even the difference between life and death. 

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Filed under Life Lessons, ministry

A Reflection, Nonetheless

Real preachers can be distinguished from the rest of humanity by one almost-universal characteristic:

They are always on the lookout for illustrations.

In other words, when a normal, average citizen of earth sees something…anything…his or her immediate response is rarely to make a connection from that thing to some biblical truth. Such were the responses I got when I showed the attached picture to several non-preachers last night.

I’m going to show you a picture,” I said, “and I want you to tell me what you think when you see it.” The immediate responses were skeptical looks that assumed I was trying to trick them. But when they realized it was an honest question, they gave me honest answers.

“Uhhh, a star?” 

“Ummm, I don’t know. Is that a wheel?” 

“I don’t know.” 

“Oh, that’s pretty. Interesting. What’s it supposed to be?” 

Their answers were typical, even though I’d hoped for better. But then again, they rarely alliterate points, read theology journals for fun, or know how to pronounce propitiation. They saw what was there, what was natural, what anybody other than a preacher would see.

But what did this preacher see?

Well, let’s start with what happened, first. I was getting ready to leave for a doctor’s appointment yesterday morning. As I stepped off the back porch and walked up to the door of our Sienna, I noticed the star-like reflection of morning sunlight on the asphalt. I had never seen a reflection like that before, so it captivated me.

No more than a second or two later, I considered how amazing it was that light from the sun was reflecting off that unwashed, brake dust-covered aluminum wheel. I mean, the van needs to be washed, and here there was such a beautiful reflection staring up at me. How could this be?

One would think the wheel would have needed to be perfectly clean, like an aluminum mirror, to reflect the light of the sun, right?

Wrong.

BOOM! I saw an illustration!

Name one of the Disciples/Apostles who were faultless. Go look at the the judges God used to deliver His people in the book of Judges…were they flawless? What about the book of Genesis? The Patriarchs were the poster children of dysfunctional human beings! Yet, simply because they were obedient to the call, God used them to project His glory to a darkened world.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got issues. I’m not perfectly polished and showroom quality. Yet, as long as I’m looking at the Son, allowing His light to shine upon me, then there’s going to be a reflection of His light.

I won’t be a perfect reflection…it might not be as bright or distinct as it could be…but it will be a reflection, nonetheless.

You see, it’s not about us; it’s about Jesus. Even when we are dusty from constantly driving through this world, God still wants to use us to reflect His light into the darkness, even if the light is dimmer and the image isn’t as distinct as it could be. All we need to do is be looking at Him.

I know this is true, because, the first thing I noticed wasn’t the wheel…

I saw the light. 

 

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Filed under General Observations, grace, Life Lessons, Preaching

Jesus Is More than a Crutch!

Last night I was sifting through boxes of stuff in my tiny office in the basement of our church and I came across several notebooks in which I’d maintained somewhat of a diary.

I’ll be honest with you, it’s been a pretty difficult time around here, lately. Not only has my faith been tested on an hourly basis, but my own brokenness has been made clear over and over again. When I took a few minutes to flip through the pages of those old notebooks, all from over a decade ago, the truth that my broken condition is chronic became obvious.

But there was one page I found where I had written some encouraging words. However, they weren’t words of affirmation meant to build up my ego or make me feel better about myself; they were attestations to the fact that Jesus is more, so much more, than a crutch to me.

Below is a copy of the text…

You say you don’t need Jesus because you don’t need a crutch. If you don’t think you need him, then maybe you’re crippled to high for crutches.

Jesus is more than a crutch!

Throw away Jesus and take the Devil, but I choose Jesus.

Just think about it:

The Devil tries to burden me down
    -Jesus says, “Cast your cares on me.”

“Forgiven” by Thomas Blackshear

The Devil wants me to sin.
    -Jesus bore my sin.

Satan will try to weaken me.
     -Jesus is my strength.

When Satan fires his arrows at me,
    -Jesus is my Shield.

In the midst of the storm
    -Jesus hides me in his hand.

Satan would see me defeated.
    -Jesus fights my battles.

Satan would have me fall into despair.
    -Jesus lifts me from the pit.

Satan would harm me.
    -Jesus will heal me.

When darkness is all around and Satan would blind me,
    -Jesus is my Light.

When Satan says, “There is no way,”
    -Jesus says, “I AM THE WAY”

When Satan says I’m guilty,
    -Jesus paid my debt.

When the Devil would lead me astray,
    -Jesus is my Shepherd.

When the Devil would watch me fall,
    -Jesus carries me.

“Precious Lord, take my hand. Lead me on, help me stand. I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light:
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.” – Thomas A. Dorsey

He leads; He goes before; He walks beside; He holds me; He carries me; He helps me to stand; He gives me a race to run: He’s so much more than a “crutch” to me.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Depression, Faith, Jesus, worship, writing

Blind Leading the Blind (A Life Lesson)

It’s been over a year since I drove a school bus, but there’s a strong possibility that I will once again be getting behind the wheel very soon. I would appreciate your prayers regarding this situation.

In the meantime, here is a true story of something that happened nearly 10 years ago, along with a little advice.

And remember, you can find a lot more stories from my school bus days in my little book, Life Lessons from the School Bus.”  


 

“Blind Leading the Blind”

Do you know what a “small bus” is? Maybe you know it as the “short bus.” Either way, it is a bus on which the physically and mentally handicapped ride to school. Fun, fun, fun.

One day I was filling in on what was called a “Special Needs” route. Being that I was not familiar with where all the stops were, it would have helped to have someone on board, like an attendant, to give me directions.  You see, even though drivers are supposed to write out directions, the ones that get left for the sub drivers aren’t always up-to-date. Attendants regularly help with the “rights and lefts.”

Oh, I’m sorry! You need to know what an “attendant” is, don’t you?

Usually, on all “Special Ed” routes, there is what is called an “attendant.” This is the person who rides along to watch the kids in the back, making sure they stay seated and buckled in, ensuring their safety. However, many times the attendant’s job consists of being cursed, spit on, puked on, drooled on, kicked, and even looked at “funny.”

Anyway, I did not have an attendant this special (pun intended) day. I had a list of directions, but they were pretty vague. I might has well been driving blind, cause I was totally in the dark. I needed a little help. Then, I pick up my first student…maybe she could help me?  Nope….she was blind.

Me: Good morning. How are you doing?

Girl: I am doing great! You don’t sound like our regular driver. You filling in for him?

Me: Yeah, and I wish he had left better directions to get where we need to go. I wish I had some help.

Girl: Don’t worry, I’ll keep you on track. (EXCUSE ME!!)

Me: (Puzzled) What are you going to do, whack me on the back of the head with that stick? (Yes, I said it.)

“Life Lesson”

When the “blind lead the blind,” nobody gets picked up; nobody rides; and the Destination is never reached.

Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. – Matthew 15:14 KJV

Teachers of the Word, be mindful of your doctrine…

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. – 1 Timothy 4:16 NKJV

Followers of the Word, be mindful of your teachers…

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. – 2 Peter 2:1 KJV

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I’ve Been Tozered

A couple of weeks ago I started reading a new devotional every morning. It is a compilation of writings from A.W. Tozer, and it is meant for the Christian leader.

To be honest, I have been convicted by some of the things that I have read.  Today’s entry alone gave me reason to pause and consider my own carnality.  In the devotion entitled Faith Dares to Fail, Tozer says:

The man who is elated by success and cast down by failure is still a carnal man. At best his fruit will have a worm in it.” Believe me, there are times when I get down.

But it was yesterday’s devontion that stood out the most out of all the ones I have read recently. In Greatness Has Its Price, Tozer uses painful analogy to point out one reason why most Christians (and churches) are pitifully inadequate and effective, the power of the Holy Spirit aside:

The amount of loafing practiced by the average Christian in spiritual things would ruin a concert pianist if he allowed himself to do the same thing in the field of music. The idle puttering around that we see in church circles would end the career of a big-league pitcher in one week. No scientist could solve his exacting problem if he took as little interest in it as the rank and file of Christians take in the art of being holy. The nation whose soldiers were as soft and undisciplined as the soldiers of the churches would be conquered by the first enemy that attacked it. Triumphs are not won by men and easy chairs. Success is costly.”

Yet, even though we are told to “be ye holy, even as I am holy,” we treat our faith like a weekend leisure activity, never caring much about the eternal outcome, only the present pleasure of half-hearted activity and even less commitment. Need proof?

  •  How many verses of scripture have you memorized “that [you] might not sin against God”?
  •  Is your commitment level to a local sports facility more than your commitment level to a local assembly of believers?
  •  Do you brag more about your child’s batting average than his boldness to tell others about Jesus?
  •  When’s the last time you ever voluntarily did any Bible study outside of what was spoonfed to you in church?

Is there any wonder the church, along with most of its members, is weak?  We’ve forgotten what it means to “be sober and vigilant.” We’ve become lazy and insubordinate soldiers in the army of our God,  yet spend millions in research to determine why we’ve lost ground to the Enemy.  We’ve even traded our powerful pulpits for motivational ministries that adjust our “easy chairs.”

Maybe it’s time we take our faith seriously – because the One to whom we will answer to does.

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Filed under Bible Study, Christian Maturity, Christianity, Faith

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

Overtaken vs. Granted

If you’ve been around this blog for more than a few years, maybe you’ve noticed that I have been going to the archives and bringing back some older posts. It’s not that I have writer’s block; it’s just that I don’t have as much time as I’d like and there is a lot of good stuff packed away in over 1,000 posts.

Some stuff is worth repeating, don’t you think?

Anyhoo, here’s something from 2014, and it’s still true…

Scary Things

There aren’t many of things that scare me now that I am an adult. However, as a child I lived in dread of a lot of things. I was afraid of vampires, clowns, Russians, and girls with cooties. Now I know that vampires can be killed with a good flashlight (the handle part, that is) and Russia is less of a threat than China, I think. However, clowns and girls are still a problem.

On the other hand, I used to love to fly in airplanes, drink from unwashed soda cans and public water fountains, and drive sports cars at ungodly rates of speed down curvy mountain roads. Now, as an adult, I know that it takes a long time to fall from 30,000 feet, germs are everywhere, and deer have a habit of walking in front of good drivers.

But the biggest thing is that most of the scary things in life are either in my mind, or avoidable. I have no fear of them eventually catching up with me. If killer bees get too close, I’ll just move. The wicked, however, have no such hope.

Gonna Getcha

The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted. – Proverbs 10:24

I like the way the NIV translates the first part of this verse, “What the wicked dreads will overtake him…” This proverb is telling us that the wicked are running from something, while the righteous are running to something. And more than that, whatever the wicked are fleeing from will eventually catch up.

What do the wicked fear? What will eventually overtake them? A few things come to mind: being alone, pain, loss, falling, and death.  Huh…coincidentally, all of those will be present in hell. Go figure.

Gonna Grant It

But for the righteous…the ones who know every good gift is from God, the ones who know grace can’t be earned…their desires will be granted.

Amazing, isn’t it? What does the righteous desire? To be loved. To be healed. To have treasure that won’t decay. To be caught up. To have eternal life. Wow! Everything that heaven will bring!

But there’s one more thing: the righteous will welcomed into the presence of their greatest Desire – Jesus.

Don’t run from Jesus. Run to Him. Make Jesus your desire.

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Filed under Christian Living, Faith, Life Lessons, Theology