Monday, December 23, 2013

Patient Persistence

Nineteen years ago, I met a young middle school boy at Furman football camp.  He had a lot of innocent mischief as a camper and it drew me into a relationship that carried over to the next summer.  I came to recognize this young man each summer, then as God would have it, I changed coaching jobs and ultimately coached the young man his junior and senior years in high school. By this time the absence of a father was taking its toll.  Alcohol, drugs and much of the violence that comes with these evil darts had become a norm for him. The relationship took on more of a mentoring and coaching in life role off the field. I remember a number of rescues from dangerous parts of town, spending the night with him in detox chasing demons and long talks on long walks.  He would come to our house when in trouble.  We would make popcorn on the stove (as opposed to in the microwave) and sit on the front porch rocking in the chairs and praying about his life.  Most of those years were very disheartening for his mother, sister and me.  It seemed that no treatment program would rescue him from a life of addiction spiraling down toward death. He would sit in those rocking chairs and in tears say, "Coach, one day I want to sit in your rocking chair." That became my undying prayer even at the worst of updates.  Many years later, after successful treatment plans and many setbacks, he came to my church yesterday.  He entered into the waters of baptism.  His belief in God since childhood now grasped the flag of surrender.  We shared a morning of worship with a wonderful body of believers who pledged their continued prayers for him.  God answers in His time.  He always answers.  His glory is always on display in those who are faithful.  Yesterday, His glory was shining brightly in Sumter, SC.  I think God moved his rocking chair yesterday.  I thank my wife and children for sharing their dad all those years with a dear friend and family!  To God be the glory, honor and praise. 

Nativity Perspective

What would light up the world more if we could bring all of them together over the centuries into one measurable, comparable light?  Would the nativities from each Christmas season shine brighter than the fires lit under the martyrs who burned for not denying their Christ? In recent years, the Christmas season has had an unwelcome guest appear at the nativities on display, especially where the politically correct or the unbelieving are offended.  This stirs up the church and not a few well-meaning followers of Christ. I am not being judgmental of my concerned friends but only offering a well-thought out challenge that really raises the bar for me as well. Would Jesus say “Thank you and well done” to all the editorial writers and demonstrators?  Or might He tell a parable about one gentle individual who daily lived as unto His Master, always serving, always sharing, always kindhearted, honest and fair to others as he gently shared the reason for his hope…every day…every day regardless of the circumstances…always looking for His Master to return, daily defending His life, death and promised return by His consistent witness? I know no one personally who gets fired up like this every Christmas.  I do hope that the other eleven months of the year they are willing to light such a fire in their daily relationships and conversations that their light could be seen for miles and centuries.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Forgotten For Never

Imagine that night in Bethlehem’s pastures.  We know not their names.  They remain obscure characters forever etched into a story of wonder and hope for all generations.  We can only presume their age, their welfare and their status.  Some were likely old and experienced.  Some were fathers raising young men behind them to care for sheep.  There was likely a brotherhood to these guys, a “Band of Brothers” so to speak. But we can also imagine one lonely shepherd.  Think with me what a difference a Hallelujah Chorus would make to a lonely widower, resigned to live the rest of his life married to sheep. Others had for years reached out to Abé.  Most had resigned themselves to the fact that Abé preferred to be left alone. Abé was a loner.  He chose the further meadowlands near Bethlehem’s wilderness.  He never came to the market place at the customary festivals.  He was more of a survivor.  Abé chose to live in obscurity. His peers often wondered how he survived.  Abé was at peace with the circumstances life had brought him. He knew the life of the widow.  In the death of his wife in the breached birth of his firstborn, he lost his whole family.  He and Anna had been friends since childhood.  Their love had grown through the awkward years of adolescence and Jewish rites and arranged marriages.  They were so happy that their love was met with mutual consent from their fathers.  Their whole life seemed perfectly arranged.  He couldn’t love another. Abé spent night after night resolved to seek God in his loneliness while serving those he knew were dear to God. Not having to support anyone but himself, Abé had endeared himself to the words of Isaiah: “…Plead the widow’s cause…Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will be like wool.” Words as these the illiterate Abé understood. So his lambs always went to a widow at a price she could afford. Abé looked upon the baby in the manger and his young mother.  His own heart stirred.  He recalled the prophecies and the message of the angels, and Abé knew that he was looking into the face of a Lamb bringing peace for all the people.  Did he offer Mary a little lamb?  I think that would be a perfect gift.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Truth Tellers

We practice a form of falsehood when we withhold that which we have and know that our neighbor needs.  We lie to those who need hope when we have hope and fear sharing the reason for our hope with our neighbor.
"Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak the truth each one of you to his neighbor, for we are members of one another." Ephesians 4:25

Truth Tellers

I had been instructed all my childhood, “Do not run through the dining room!”  One day I ran through and pushed into the kitchen through the swinging door, cape flying behind me in my wake!  From the kitchen I heard a crashing and breaking sound. I laid the pieces back together and balanced them perfectly and escaped to my room on tip toes.  I remember missing Mom those days that I kept her in my deception.  Looking back I recognize that my falsehood created separation.  Then I heard it.  Crash!  I discovered my mother with the four pieces of her grandmother’s dish on the table…weeping!  That lie leapt from my guts as if someone had performed the Heimlich maneuver.  And we are to be lovers of truth once we put off the old and put on the new self!
Ephesians 4:17-24

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


The other week while at Ridgecrest, I was the lone witness of seeing an older Junior Hill make his way from the lower parking lot, up the hill, climb a flight of stairs and then, with a hearty smile and a sense of victory enter the sanctuary with his worn Bible in hand.  This giant of a man looked at me and said, “I made it brother!”  The many years of travel and evangelistic crusades could have rendered him put out to pasture.  But here he was with a gait that showed him more akin to a thoroughbred coming out of the gates at Churchill Downs. I wish I had run down the hill when I first spotted him.  I wish I had walked with him; and if he had allowed me to, even offer a shoulder of support to make that climb.  Another climbs a mountain this week to his 95th birthday and an appeal to America to embrace the cross, receive the message of hope that is found only in Christ Jesus, and be saved.  As of early October, 25,000 churches in the US and Canada have run down the hill, embraced Billy Graham in a nation-wide gospel presentation The Cross, a powerful presentation of hope through the testimonies of Billy Graham, Lecrae Moore and Lacey Sturm.  Check your local listings for the Friday and Saturday night telecast at 7:30 p.m.  You can also catch it Thursday night at 10:00 on Fox News!

Monday, October 14, 2013

When Grace is Grace

When Grace is Grace...Probably a title of a book I am sure, but nothing like self-discovery.  Last night I said to my son, "Grace is not grace until there is repentance." Then I lay awake through the night pondering that statement.  Does God's grace hinge on the work of repentance in the child of God?  Does my grace toward my children rest conditionally on their turning from their wrong toward me, their family, our God or others?  I pictured then the father of the prodigal on the porch night after night.  Was he full of grace on the porch each night or did his grace spring from the porch only when he saw his son on the horizon?  Upon much contemplation, I have much to learn.  I must be as that father, my grace and love for all, especially my loved ones, is offered free from any sign of their turning.  Certainly the grace I felt from God when He saved me was not withheld conditional upon my own heart turning in  repentance.  It is grace that leads to repentance. "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" Rom. 2:4

Monday, October 7, 2013

Two Precious Baptisms

Praise the Lord!  Two precious children baptized yesterday at Crosspoint!  What a confirmation for the parents of God answering prayers and rewarding their making of disciples in their homes.  Good day!

Next Generation Church

When your adult son sends a text "Dad, I am leaving your church."  That is a time for celebration. You may be puzzled by that statement, for surely it does sadden me to see my son leave our church.  But the reality is that the short text sends more than a post.  It is truly a milestone, a rite of passage in a young man's life.  I see it as my son truly leaving boyhood behind to be a man.  Consider this, one change of a word in that text could break a father's heart.  What if the text simply read, "Dad, I am leaving the church." That would speak so much more to a failure to pass faith in Christ and love for His bride to the next generation.  Today, I am a very happy daddy! "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child and I reasoned like a child. But when I became a man, I put my childish ways behind me."  I Corinthians 13:11

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Work Ethic

Memorizing scripture opens doors you never could have anticipated.  I recently memorized Colossians 3:23 which is "Whatever you do, do your work heartily as to The Lord Jesus rather than for men."  In a matter of days I noticed a girl at McDonald's who was just swiping the table leaving a worse mess.  I had already established a rapport so I shared with this teen the verse.  She received my imploring to imagine the next guest to sit at those tables as The Lord Jesus Himself.  I think she heard the lesson. It landed for me too. The real lesson is to think how many opportunities we miss a day without God's Word hidden in our hearts. For whom do you work?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rudder Stuff

I took my son fishing yesterday.  As we paddled along, I would often use the paddle from the back of the boat to guide our direction with just a quick angle of the paddle behind the boat.  As he paddled hard from the front, I could easily change our course with just a touch of the oar in the water.  We laughingly commented that the pastor probably had an illustration.  I just couldn't help myself.  If we try to guide our lives with our own oar out in front, we may find ourselves going in circles or tired from the struggle.  Working with God, as the master of our vessel, steering from the optimal position, we can paddle along with Him in harmony trusting His guiding hand as a rudder steers a mighty ship.  You have probably heard that before, but we need to be reminded often.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Just a Little Help

Last night, a hummingbird flew around and around in our garage, bumping its head on the ceiling but not quite sure how to navigate under the garage door that was in the up position but just made escape awkward but so obvious from our human perspective.  I thought, is that not just like our predicament? We bump along in this world when all along, right before us, is the cross--God's solution from escaping the mundane, the circle of our spinning.  Humility is bowing lower, becoming less. I stood there trying to alter the endless spinning. Once the little hummingbird took to a lower flight, he was able to soar on the heights escaping the ceiling.  Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."  Truth often means becoming less that Jesus becomes more.

Monday, September 9, 2013


God is good at editing our proposals of His Mission for us to redirect our perspectives.  Yesterday, I shared with our church a mission statement for Crosspoint.  It reads "Crosspoint exists to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ by engaging those unfamiliar with the church and empowering those who are."  The typo, which many ran to me to correct between services was simply "Crosspoint exits to...."  Did you catch that?  Well, the more we considered it, the more we realized that the typo also taught us a lesson.  We exist to exit!  In engaging the lost/un-churched, we must encounter the lost away from the campus and bring them near!
"But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." Ephesians 2:13

Friday, September 6, 2013

Miley Cyrus

“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.”  Psalm 2: 2-4

I take great pause in even addressing the gross misconduct the world saw on display when Miley Cyrus stuck her tongue out at someone and screamed, “It’s our party, we can do what we want…say what we want…love who we want…kiss who we want…this is our house…this is our rules…It’s my mouth I can say what I want.”

We do not witness the laughter of God often, but when we boast of our power, our own strength, our will to break the cords from us and claim with great arrogance, “This is our life…our house…our mouth…our rules” then all fear of God is cast aside.  His chuckle is not without judgment, but I still maintain the love-thread throughout scripture “as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” Ephesians 5:2

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” I Cor. 6:18-20

Monday, August 26, 2013


“Mercy!” So many ways have I heard that word used.  I recall movies of the Emperors either raising their thumb or to the contrary at the screams of the innocents or the defeated who begged for mercy.  I have heard my mother many times exhale, “Mercy” or “My mercy” or “Lord have mercy.”  There is a Christian band called Mercy Me.  Do we give it much thought?

I think when we say a phrase like the aforementioned, we are gasping at something grand, awesome, or shocking.  I wonder if attached to the emotion exclaimed in “Oh my mercy” or “Goodness Mercy!” may also be a plea of desperation.  Have you ever said, “Mercy sakes”? 
Consider the wonder of God’s mercy and grace in our salvation.  This mercy of God that by His grace He saves us is a wonder isn’t it?  How undeserving we are that He would give us the thumbs up—extending mercy.  Out of God’s great love for us, He moves His will to favor us by sheer grace—a determination of His will.  I loved what Lacy Sturm said last week. It was something like this.  “Oh Mercy! God is holy.  And I am so not that. He would have every right to push me away.  In fact that would have been just…but He didn’t.”  That small word makes a lot of difference in our eternity doesn’t it?  “But God…”
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” Ephesians 2:4-6.

Sunday reflections

Just a few reflections from a wonderful Lord's Day:
  • From Jamie H. Williams' "Faith Matters" in the Sumter Daily Item--Having seen a truck with Grace written on the tailgate she thought..."I am glad in comes by the truck load!"
  • Comparing grace/mercy to the greatness of the Ocean, I recall my sister first seeing the ocean as a child..."Well, it's big." 
  • Lacy Sturm on the holiness of God and His mercy..."I realized the holiness and righteousness of God, and that I was not that!  He had every right to push me away...BUT, He didn't."
  • Mercy Tests could have been the title to the message.  How many mercy tests have you had since yesterday?  What is a Mercy Test?
    • A mercy test is when the mercy of God towards me is put to the test in me for others.
    • That neighbor that is just full of meanness despite the heaps of love and service I offer up
      • Lord, allow me just one more time to show mercy and not revenge!

Friday, August 23, 2013


In Matthew 12:7 Jesus taught us something about worship and charity, love and compassion. "But if you had known what this means, 'I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent." I have been taught a lesson.  Yesterday, my heart sunk, and has been somewhat empty ever since.
I was raised attending every church function, every revival and even the "all the other" that my parents gave to the church as pastor and wife.  AND I do not regret that.  I love every memory.  I love the church, Christ's body of believers.  But yesterday's news does allow me to get a view of myself  that I had kept hidden from myself. For the first time I admit, rather reluctantly that I am religious.  I have often said to people, almost as if boasting, that I am not religious, I am relational.  Pushing on others that all of this "church" devotion that I have modeled all of my life is about my relationship with Jesus.  I am now humbled.  I am now more honest with myself. 
You see, yesterday--August 22, it was announced to me that a friend that I had not realized had taken my heart captive, was dead.  In fact, he had passed away August 9.  Upon receiving the news, I began to have a deep longing to speak with him just one more time.  To carry him from his house to his car, just one more time.  To clean his house or mow his yard for him just one last time.  To feed his bird and check his mail just one last time.  To visit him in the hospital or take care of his errands just one last time.  To push him in his wheel chair just one last time. To pray with him just one last time or laugh with him at the realities of this life here in the now. To drive him to pay his bill or deposit a check or just sit with him just one last time. To speak with him on the phone or listen to a voicemail or leave one.  To have him lend me his counsel from a life of struggle, pain, sickness, hardship, ridicule, abuse, neglect, handicap, loneliness and despair...just one last time. To hear him share insights God had given him in all these and from his reading of God's word...just one last time.  To cry with him just one last time. He was not my pet project.  He was a place where I could be a friend to "the least of these." I don't even like the sound of that, for he has become one of the many "mosts" in my life.  He allowed me to look in the mirror at my life, my religion or religiosity, my so often proclaimed "relationship" and see it not as an image or shadow, but for what it really is.
You see, Peter was handicapped from birth.  He was sexually and physically abused as a child.  He was picked on and thrown down in the streets. He had made a mistake in adulthood and paid dearly for owning up to it.  He was judged, persecuted, and basically thrown away.
I do not boast in any of this.  I boast solely in Christ.  I boast for my friend.  Peter has taught me much.  We all doubt ourselves.  We are often our own worst enemy.  We stupidly listen to that whisperer of deceit that suggests "I am not good enough." In this man, I gave.  I was a friend.  It started in obligation--That is just what a pastor should do. It continues in a wonderful and endearing friendship.  Peter, through his own suffering and exile, has taught me that true worship, true religion, true relationship with Christ Jesus my Lord, is in being like Christ not in my Sunday deal or my giving or service, but in my compassion, love and charity.  I hope I will not soon or ever forget the lesson of a year with Peter.  I will miss you brother!!! But, I shall soon walk with you.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Scripture memory

"Therefore, as you have received Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him." Col. 2:6 NASB
"See to it, that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." Col. 2:8 NASB

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Teacher of the Year!!

Photo: Congratulations to this beautiful and incredible woman. Sumter School District Teacher of the Year! You deserve it! So proud of you mom! Love you so much :)
Many innocently asked why we were all there; if we had already been informed that Tina had been named the winner.  Last week, Tina Sorrells was named the Sumter School District Teacher of the Year.  Now Tina will be the first to tell anyone that many are more or equally deserving of the honor and I guess I will have to go along with her on that one.  But I do have a front row seat to the many hours this lady gives to education and her special second graders each year. She will always be my T.O.Y.  Tina loves teaching and gives far beyond what most people give to their career.  I am very proud of her.  Josh, Lauren, Dayton and I gladly share her each year with 20 or so children and all their parents.  Why were we there?  Regardless of any honors or titles, she has taught us by her example that birthdays, anniversaries, special awards or the potential to be honored are opportunities to celebrate.  It was not whether she won or not, we knew she might.  And we wouldn't have missed being there for the celebration or congratulation of either.  Tina said it best, "That is just what families do."  I am glad she won though.  As Esther in the Bible, I think this special lady was chosen for such a time as this.  She will be a great asset to the district's need to heal this year.  Pray with me for her.  Congratulations Tina!


Hello Ember Friends, I have to confess that I am still learning this blogging deal.  The main thing is developing a discipline to weekly post.  I have now set a calendar date to weekly post a blog.  I plan to do this each Monday in addition to each new insight trying to train myself to join cyber world with what God has shown me or anything else that is just cool to share!  Thank you for following.  I have few but desire to have many not for my sake but only to the glory and fame of God, who keeps each of us living, breathing and potentially bringing Him more and more glory.  So stay tuned.
Here is one thought I share before posting this week's weekly.  I read it in Psalm 52:1 "The mercy of God lasts all day long."
Please share with others how to join EMBERGLOW.  I really do desire to keep this living and breathing.  Any pointers will be well-received.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Breaking Old Habits

Our basketball goal is broken.  Our next door neighbor’s goal is good, unused but the pole is bent. So I made the offer to get rid of it for him if we could have the rim.  DEAL!  Well, riding to Lowe’s we noticed the exact pole we needed in a backyard dug up and still in concrete.  I stopped and offered to break that one up as well for the pole.  DEAL!
THEN THE WORK BEGAN!!!  We thought a few licks with the sledge hammer would do the trick, but we were in for hours of drilling and tapping to get the concrete off.  We worked several hours Saturday and some Sunday afternoon and finished Monday night with both poles. We are now set for digging a new hole, pouring new concrete and soon enjoying a really good remodeled basketball goal in our driveway. 
Here was our lesson.  Sin clings to us like hard cement on a pole.  Sometimes through the pounding from a friend, big pieces fall away.  More often, it takes the constant drilling, pecking, chiseling of a brother friend to piece by small piece rid ourselves of what clings to us. The pole has its responsibility as well.  It must let go.  Several times I noticed pieces falling away that had no bearing on our work, they just fell away.  By the time you are reading this, hopefully in my driveway, a brand new creation will stand tall and firmly grounded as a testimony of a life renewed and no longer as an eyesore. 

“Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17