Tag Archives: Encouragement

Act Like Heavenites, Not Like the World

For some reason, although I have my suspicions, the audio from Sunday morning’s sermon never reached the online viewers. Therefore, last night I went back to the church and re-preached what I preached Sunday morning . . . sorta.

I will share the link with you.

(btw, that’s a vintage ’70s Lucerne Jump Date on my wrist 😉 )

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Christian Living, Preaching

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

Courage Encourages Those In Need of Courage – and BOY do we need it!

The High School Skit

Asahi Pentax K1000 Camera Service Repair Manual | eBayIt was 1984: Michael Jackson and Madonna ruled the charts, cars were pitiful, and I was the photographer for my school’s yearbook. I still remember the camera I used … a Pentax K1000 … or was it a Yaschica? Same difference.

Anyway, because I was on the yearbook staff, I was selected to play the part of the Cowardly Lion in a skit meant to encourage sales. I still remember my lines (I was a lion saying lines – ha!) … “Courage!”

Here’s the thing, and this is the honest truth (unlike what the mainstream news will tell you), playing the part of the Cowardly Lion, when I was given a medal to honor my bravery, actually gave me courage. Yes, even though I was only acting, the costume and the script released the inhibitions deep inside me and led me to do something completely off script.

There on stage, in front of the whole school assembled, I asked one of my stage mates, “Does this mean I have the courage to do anything?”  After receiving a “Yes,” I turned to face the auditorium and yelled out to the most beautiful and glamorous girl in the school:

“Lori Gilley! Will you go out with me?!!” 

Long story short, she didn’t. …However, I got a standing ovation! Arguably the better of the two.

Take a Knee (Or Else)

It’s now 2020, the craziest year in the history of years, and courage is all but gone out of style. Oh, sure, you can find it if you look in the right places, like on patrol with a police officer, with a nurse treating a Corona patient, or with parents trying to make ends meet after being out of work for 4 months.

But let me tell you where you will find the LEAST amount of courage – professional sports.

I’ll be honest with you – as I always am – even though I think a certain large-afro’d professional football player of questionable skill is wrong about almost everything, it was courageous to be the first to take a knee during the national anthem. Yes, I said it – he did show an amount of courage in doing so.

But fast-forward to today and everyone is taking a knee, even if the reason for doing so is continuing a false narrative. Yet, is it courageous to do so? No, it’s not. In today’s social climate, taking a knee and wearing a t-shirt that says “Black Lives Matter” is nothing more than an act of self-preservation, not conviction.

OH! Excuse me! Did I say “everyone” in professional sports is taking a knee? I’m sorry … please forgive me! Because a FEW courageous souls have decided to take a stand (literally) while the rest either cower, show allegiance or sympathy to a manufactured social movement, or simply kneel to keep the endorsements rolling in.

Enter J. W. May

J.W. plays professional soccer (football) for the Savannah Clovers, a team in the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA). Even more importantly, he is the son of Tommy and Tammy May (Tommy’s a deacon in our church). One day soon I’m going to drive to Savannah and have coffee with J.W. at Black Rifle Coffee Co. 

Savannah Clovers and Georgia Revolution in Finley Stadium (Chattanooga) during the playing of the National Anthem.

Not long ago, J.W. and his team played the Georgia Revolution FC in Chattanooga at Finley Stadium (shout out to UTC). When the Star Spangled Banner was played, guess who was the only one to remain standing … from either team?

You guessed it, my future coffee buddy, J.W. May.

When you read this, J.W., I just want you to know I am dang proud of you! I’ll buy the coffee!

“Encourage”

How does one define courage? Why don’t we pull an old dictionary off the shelf, one that’s not been affected by modern revisionist culture, and read what it says?

COURAGE: Bravery; intrepidity; that quality of mind which enables men to encounter danger and difficulties with firmness, or without fear or depression of spirits; valor; boldness; resolution. It is a constituent par of fortitude; but fortitude implies patience to bear continued suffering. (American Dictionary of the English Language, by Noah Webster, 1828)

Now, let’s look at how this 1828 dictionary defines encourage.

ENCOURAGE: To give courage to; to give or increase confidence of success; to inspire with courage, spirit, or strength of mind; to embolden; to animate; to incite; to inspirit.

Lastly, I would like for you to note how Webster uses the word encouragement in a sentence.

“The praise of good men serves as an encouragement to virtue and heroism.”

For whatever it’s worth, Colin Kaepernick encouraged other African-Americans (primarily youth) to make a social statement against police violence (based on an unfortunate false narrative). Whether or not their cause was justified, one can’t help but admit those kneeling when everyone else was standing and deriding them was, in all fairness, courageous.

Flip the script… Now, with nearly every professional and non-professional athlete, regardless of color, taking a knee — instead of standing in honor of the flag of the very nation that affirms their right to be disrespectful to it — true courage is seen in those few who stand out from the crowd … literally.

In the book of Daniel we read of three Hebrew men who wouldn’t bow before a 90ft. golden statue. Even though God worked a miracle and rescued them, they were thrown into a furnace because of their uncompromising… ummm… stand.

These days the furnace isn’t quite as hot, but it’s still deadly to one’s career and social standing, at least.

Thank you, J.W., for the courage to encourage others… we sure do need it.

J. W. May tending the goal for the Savannah Clovers. Photo Credit: J. W. May

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Filed under America, Culture Wars, current events, politics

A Helpful Heave for Hump Day

Hump hill

It is Hump Day (i.e., Wednesday)!

So, besides using the Paint program on my computer to draw an amateurish illustrative, I have creatively compiled a collection of encouraging encouragers which may help heave your heavy heart over Hump Hill.

10 Reasons to be Glad It’s Wednesday

  1. At least it’s not Tuesday.
  2. Going uphill works muscles you use all the time; going downhill works the other ones.
  3. Oh, Monday is now two days in the past!
  4. Wednesday night is prayer night at many churches. That means tonight you can finally vent and feel spiritual at the same time.
  5. If you’re reading this that means your power hasn’t been shut off or your fortunate enough to have a charge on your phone. Yay for you!
  6. People don’t like you? That’s OK! The people still liked Jesus on Wednesday and look what happened to Him by the time Friday rolled around. It’s Wednesday, but it could be worse.
  7. If you like Wednesdays, it’s only 7 days (or 6, depending on your time zone) till the next one! Yippee!
  8. Unless you’re using it as a metaphor for impending doom, or unless your brakes have failed, you just fixed your hair, or there’s a swarm of bees ahead… going down hill can be fun!
  9. It’s easier to coast on a bicycle and yell “Look Ma! No hands!” when you’re going down a hill, as opposed to peddling up it. Take advantage of the week winding down to lift your hands in praise!
  10. Sunday is that much closer! Hallelujah!

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Determined to Reblog a Blessing

This morning, before I got out of bed, I read a post from Jill McIlreavy at Mustard Seed Blog.

The first thing I thought after reading her inspirational post was, “That’ll preach!” That, of course, is a common saying from around these parts (the South), but some of you might have never heard it. Jill hadn’t.

What it means is that a good preacher could take that there post and walk up to a pulpit and let the devil have it! At least that’s one way to describe it 😉

Regardless, I tried to “reblog” this post, but dagnabbit!, WordPress just won’t have it! So, I’m just going to bypass the normal “reblog” route and post a link below.

Believe me, it’s worth the effort. If you are now or have ever gone through a dark time in life, this piece from Jill McIlreavy will genuinely encourage you.

God bless,
Anthony

Just click on the picture or the link in the text.

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6 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor When He’s Preaching

Other Guys

I know I’m not the only blogger in the world. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of great blogs out there, some of which I read on a regular basis – and others I avoid.

Two very popular blogs in Christian circles are those of Thom S. Rainer and Chuck Lawless. Both are famous for lists like Eight Characteristics of the New Bivocational Pastor” and “Things I’ve Learned about Corporate Worship.”

This Guy

Well, I’m not the “other guys.” My blog is not as professional; I’m not a seminary professor (only minorly adjunct) or a contributor to denominational publications; and I don’t do enough research to come up with new lists every day.

However, today this guy is in total “list” mode! The following is a list from which ALL of us can benefit.

Are you ready?

6 Ways You Can Encourage Your Pastor When He’s Preaching

  1. Feedback. Don’t just sit there like a knot on a log when your pastor is preaching; give him some feedback! Say, “Amen!” Wave your hand. Throw a hymnal at the pulpit. DO SOMETHING! How is he supposed to know he’s getting through to you if you just sit there silently with a blank look on your face? At least nod your head in agreement once in a while.
  2. Sit closer to the front. Look, if you were going to a concert where someone was singing that you wanted to hear, where would you sit – if you could afford it? The front row! What does it convey to the minister when you sit all the way in the back? Especially when you’ve already admitted you’re hard of hearing?
  3. Actually show up to church! Let me tell you, it really does encourage a pastor to have his congregation actually show up on Sunday morning. Sunday evening is even better!
  4. Get Your Sleep – At Home. Please, make sure that you go to bed on Saturday night at least by midnight. When a pastor sees you nodding off all he can think is, “I’m boring the snot out of that person,” and that is NOT encouraging.
  5. Pray. Try not to do it with your eyes closed (see the previous point), but pray for your pastor when he’s preaching. Let him know beforehand and afterward that you lift him up before God while he’s slugging away from the pulpit. Courage builds when one knows someone’s got his back.
  6. Put a $100 bill in his hand when you shake it. OK, that’s a stretch, I know. But hey, I won’t stop you if you feel the urge 😉

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OH! Do you know what would REALLY be encouraging? Leave a comment below! What would you add to this list?

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It’s a Reality Show In the Making

Folks, I’m just going to shoot straight with you this Saturday morning. I only have a short amount of time to write this, so I’m just going to type it, post it, and not worry about the aesthetics.

Like the title of this post says, our life is like a dad gum reality show in the making. I don’t know who would sponsor it, and I don’t know who would watch it, but there’s more that happens to us in any given week than ever takes place on a TV reality show. The DRAMA! The TRAGEDY! The COMEDY!

The only problem is that what happens in our family, should it be made into a reality TV program, would be considered made-up, fake, or overblown just to get ratings. In other words, no one would believe it.

You may be reading this with a little smirk, thinking to yourself, “Yeah, right. It couldn’t be THAT bad, Anthony. Everybody’s got their issues.” Maybe, but consider what has happened in just the last couple of weeks.

  • After 14 months out of work (except for the occasional insurance commission), I finally got through all the red tape of getting my CDL (Commercial Drivers License) back in order to drive a school bus – that story is a book to itself. THEN, I only worked 2 days before Spring Break came – without pay.
  • Friday, the last day of Spring Break, I had a heart attack which required 4 days in the hospital and 2 stents. Now I can’t drive a school bus until I’m cleared by a cardiologist.
  • Our insurance through the Marketplace changed, so NONE of our doctors were covered – we had to find new ones. The only problem is that hardly any doctors or hospitals in our area take the new insurance! SOOOO, I’m having to wait 2 weeks to see a cardiologist.
  • The day before yesterday, in the morning, on the first day I was at home from the hospital, my mother (who stays with us) wouldn’t wake up. We had to call an ambulance. I had to take a nitro pill. She went to the hospital and didn’t wake up until 8 p.m.! We still don’t know why!
  • While at the hospital, I got a little too winded, so my wife said she would push me in a wheelchair. On the way to the van she flipped her knee scooter – the one she was riding because she had a broken bone in her foot and a fractured tibia from dropping my mother’s wheelchair arm on her foot – and fell in the hospital parking lot, doing more damage to her leg…now she’s in a full-blown cast.
  • Oh, she also broke her toe in the hospital where I was being treated. She closed the reclining chair she was sleeping on and it closed on her toe.
  • When my wife and I got the wheel chair out of the van, she pushed me (imagine how that looked) into the hospital where my mom was (they moved her from the ER to a room). As she was pushing me in, she looked down as we were going through the automatic doors. They opened outward, not inward, so she ran me right into them!

We’ve had little income, more bills than money to pay them, multiple injuries and illnesses, sermons to preach, people to visit, jobs that have been lost, arguments that have escalated, death that nearly happened, and people wondering what in the world we did to deserve all that’s been happening to us for the last 25 years.

YET… God is good, all the time.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. [We are] troubled on every side, yet not distressed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; – 2 Corinthians 4:7-8 KJV

People look at us with wonder and ask, “How do you do it?” All I can say is that “He giveth grace.”

I don’t know why we have so much happen to us. I don’t know why it’s been so hard the last year and a half, especially. It could be that Satan is trying to attack us and defeat us. It could be that the Lord is testing us.

Either way, I will not yield ground to the Enemy by giving up. I will not surrender my faith by doubting God’s goodness, mercy, and grace. I will not give up. I’ll keep getting up. I’ll keep pressing on.

I’m still not sure what I’m going to be preaching on tomorrow morning, but I can promise you one thing: The devil won’t like it.

God bless you all, and have a great weekend!

Go to church somewhere this Sunday.

Tell the networks we are ready to talk.

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Filed under blogging, Christian Living, Faith, General Observations, grace, Life Lessons, Life/Death, Love of God, ministry, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials

A Helpful Heave for Hump Day

Hump hill

It is Hump Day (i.e., Wednesday).

So, besides using the Paint program on my computer to draw the amateurish illustrative you see above, I have also compiled a creative collection of encouraging encouragers which may help heave your heavy heart over Hump Hill.

10 Reasons to be Glad It’s Wednesday

  1. At least it’s not Tuesday.
  2. Going uphill works muscles you use all the time; going downhill works the other ones.
  3. Oh, Monday is now two days in the past!
  4. Wednesday night is prayer night at many churches. That means tonight you can finally vent and feel spiritual at the same time.
  5. If you’re reading this that means your power hasn’t been shut off. Yay for you!
  6. People don’t like you? That’s OK! The people still liked Jesus on Wednesday, and look what happened to Him by the time Friday rolled around. It’s Wednesday, but it could be worse.
  7. If you like Wednesdays, it’s only 7 days (or 6, depending on your time zone) till the next one! Yippee!
  8. Unless you’re using it as a metaphor for impending doom, or unless you’re brakes have failed, you just fixed your hair, or there’s a swarm of bees ahead, going down hill can be fun!
  9. It’s easier to coast on a bicycle and yell “Look Ma! No hands!” when you’re going down a hill. Take advantage of the week winding down to lift your hands in praise! …Just be careful when you’re tempted to say: “Look at me!”  Pride (and stupidity) often precedes a fall…that’ll ruin the rest of the week.
  10. And lastly… Sunday is that much closer! Hallelujah!!

So, HAPPY HUMP DAY! At least it’s not called “lump day,” right?

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Filed under current events, Easter, General Observations, Humor

A Pastor’s Worst Day

Every once in a while I try to share some down-to-earth insight into the pastorate, or ministry in general. Granted, my perspective is limited, being I have only pastored smaller, bi-vocational churches; therefore, I can’t speak for all my brothers who lead larger congregations (200+).

However, some things are pretty consistent with those who regularly stand behind the pulpit (or beside a table, if that’s your thing). Many of the stresses are similar, as well as the spiritual battles we must fight. Whether the battlefield be small or large, our weaponry and armor are the same (Ephesians 6:10-18), and so is our adversary (1 Peter 5:8).

Therefore, all things being equal as possible, I believe Sunday nights – not Saturday nights or Mondays – are the worst times of the week for a pastor. The following are two excellent reasons why I feel this way.

First, the pastor is his own worst critic, especially right after the sermon. After a long Sunday, he may find himself looking back and wondering things like… “Did I give it my best?” “Was I used by God?” “Did I preach in my own strength?” “Did I pray enough?” “Why did God call me?” or, “How much does a truck driver make?” 

Any pastor who cares about his preaching ministry will concern himself, to one degree or another, with the proper exposition and delivery of his sermon. But if he gets no “amen’s,” sees no conversions, rededications, or even a few approving nods, it’s not going to be long before the poor man will question his abilities, maybe even his calling. A lack of visible response can take the wind right out of a preacher’s sails.

Seriously, stop and think about it. If you were to build a small, wooden toy, you could hold it in your hands when finished, admire it, nod with approval, and say to yourself, “Good job! Well done!” Clean a dirty kitchen and how do you feel? A sense of satisfaction, correct? But when a pastor is done preaching, more often than not there is nothing tangible to show for it, especially if there is little feedback; the “well done” will have to wait till later.

So, since the “job” is never done, and much of the fruit of a man’s labor won’t be recognized until eternity, it’s easy to be critical of one’s self. Sunday nights are when we can be the most critical.

Secondly, a pastor expends a lot of mental and spiritual energy over the weekend, especially if he works another job during the week and preaches more than one sermon on Sunday. Believe it or not, some pastors (especially bi-vocational ones like myself) never – yes, I said “never” – get a day off. By the time Sunday night rolls around, you’re looking at a physically and spiritually drained individual, and Satan knows it.

Therefore, because our enemy is not stupid, he knows the best time to attack us, and that’s when we are tired and vulnerable. He is far less likely to defeat a man of God while he’s charging into battle or waging a righteous war against the forces of darkness; it’s when he’s coming down from a spiritual high, or when he’s depressed and down over a perceived failure behind the pulpit, that the preacher’s at risk. No, our Enemy is sneaky and stealthy; he lurks in the shadows, waiting for just the right moment when our guard is down and our frailties are exposed.

So why do I share this? Not for your sympathy or pity, that’s for sure. As the lyrics of a song go, “It’s a battlefield, brother, not a recreation room…It’s a fight and not a game,” so I am well aware of what I’ve gotten myself into (or, rather, what I’ve been called to do). The reason I share this is to encourage you to pray for your pastor…especially when the church services are over…when he’s tired…when the Enemy is most lethal.

Don’t wait until Sunday morning to pray for your pastor and his family.

Don’t wait until Saturday night to say a quick prayer that he’ll do “a good job” the next morning.

Start right now! Pray! Interceed for your spiritual leaders, for they watch for your souls and must give an account (Hebrews 13:17). Their challenges are unique, and the consequences of failure can be far-reaching and eternally catastrophic.

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

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Filed under Church, Depression, General Observations, ministry, Preaching

The Day After Father’s Day

Please forgive me if there are any grammatical or spelling errors in this post, but I am talking into my iPhone as I’m walking around in the rain (The seven can handle that kind of stuff, thankfully), waiting while a bus driver trainee is taking his test at the DMV. I had to bring a school bus down for him to test own, so I’m on the clock and writing a post at the same time. What do you think about that?

Anyway, today is the day after Father’s Day, and I wanted to share with you a thought or two that I had as I was standing in the rain.

Yesterday was a wonderful day, and I enjoyed preaching a great message that was very convicting for all men present, including myself. And I also enjoyed spending time with my daughters who I love very much. 

One of our daughters lives in Charleston South Carolina, so she’s not able to be here. But the other two were in church with me yesterday, and then later for a lunch which a church member graciously provided the money for. 

Last night we ate dinner at home, late, and that is when my two younger girls gave me the presents that they purchased (with their own money!). I have included a picture below.


My youngest daughter, Haley, procured for me the complete box sets of the first two seasons of the television program called “The Unit.” And by the way, that was a fantastic series of which I think they should have never canceled.

The other daughter, Katie, brought back something very unique from Norway. She found a wallet made from the skin of the Nordic moose! I don’t know how much she paid for it, but I know it had to cost more than something I would’ve gotten at Walmart.

After both presents had been opened, Haley asked a question which was very difficult, if not impossible to answer. She asked, “Which one is your favorite?” Now, I don’t know if she was being facetious, or if she was being serious, but my wife quickly answered for me: “That’s like asking which one of you he loves the most; he loves you the same, just differently.” 

This morning as I was thinking about the gifts my daughters got me, and the question Haley asked, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Cain and Abel. I couldn’t help but think of Sunday morning and our worship. I couldn’t help but think of how so often we wonder if God loves us more or less than someone else, simply because of what we have to offer. I thought about what it must be like to be God the Father – our Abba – after a Sunday has passed. 

One of those gifts cost a lot of money (relatively speaking), while the others probably cost a lot less. However, based on the means of each daughter, both were a sacrifice. In the same way, when we go to church to worship God, the gifts and offerings we bring may cost one person a lot more than it cost another. But who are we to judge whether or not those gifts that were given were sacrificial? We don’t know the heart of the child, nor do we know the heart of the Father. All we can surely know is that if the gifts were given out of love, then they are of equal value. More so, if the Father truly loves his children, which He does, there’s nothing that can compare to those gifts given by the children who love Him.

So, in conclusion, this is not only the day after Father’s Day, this is the day after Sunday. What gifts of love did you give your Father in heaven yesterday? I have no doubt they are giving him a smile today.

Happy day after Father’s Day!

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