Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Wholly Different Look

Just days before, I had placed that dry, shriveled seed in the ground.  It had no life in it.  Yet when it was buried, God brought it to life.  That amazes me!  In just days that which was dead, God made into a living green plant. I will always love the lesson of the seed sown to life.  I guess that is why I love to plant a garden.  I guess that is why I love to see new life in a man trusting Jesus.  Recently, I shared with a new believer that an appointment to get new teeth was going to be life changing for him.  He corrected me and said, “No, several weeks ago, on my front porch, is when my life started changing.”  I was startled at the maturing of this new plant in Christ Jesus. In just a few weeks, he was growing in his faith enough to realize that new teeth do not transform in any comparison to new life in Christ.  I stood corrected and marveled at what God was doing right before my eyes. 
“That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; 37 and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own” I Corinthians 15:36-38.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Death Is Approaching!

I was so saddened this week by an incident in our backyard.  We have so enjoyed feeding the birds and providing nesting homes for bluebirds and Carolina Chickadees.  Our bluebird parents have worked so hard feeding the youngster in the birdhouse behind our shed.  Monday, when I came home, I was just beat.  It was a long and emotionally draining day, so I spent the last few moments of light in the hammock.  I was enjoying the birds singing and noticed urgency in the songs of the bluebirds and purple finches.  I failed to realize that Cookie, our calico cat, was on the prowl.  Had I been more alert, I would have realized the frantic cries may have been to me, “Get up!! Help us!!” Cookie caught and killed the bluebird baby.  As Christians, we warn of the coming wrath not unlike the finches and bluebirds as they urged the young bird to fly and take cover through their flying and singing—“Death is approaching!”  We preach a gospel message that demands repentance and faith.  In the backyard story, we could argue that the bird was innocent.  In our story, none are innocent.  The Bible clearly shows us that we are all guilty before God and are totally dependent on His grace to save us. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014


At the heart of God’s will from our human perspective is the question “Why?”  Why do we have to fear cancer?  Why did mother and daddy divorce?  Why did ______ have to die? 

As I gazed off of the page, I noticed on the bird bath a one-legged purple finch.  I have seen waterfowl with amputations from turtle bites, but I wondered “How did this cute little fellow lose his leg?  And why?” 

A favorite passage of many is in Romans 8: 28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  There is a peace about that verse.  It tells me that if I am His, no matter what may come my way; in the end all is good; all will be well.  I can trust God with all the ultimate outcomes.

R.C. Sproul explained it this way using the story of Joseph as an illustration.  There is the proximate purpose (close at hand) of things and there is the remote purpose (the distant and ultimate) of things. Joseph summed up his life and God’s purposes in Genesis 50:20, “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.”  No matter the current circumstances in your life, remember these truths that help us live life trusting in the promise of never-ever that “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:39

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Far Country

In a sense, while living here on this earth, we are always in the “far country.” So every day is a day when you and I can rise up, turn away from all that entices and honor our heavenly Father in gratitude, worship and obedience.  Come on home, prodigal!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Caterpillar Faith

Recently, I walked by a suspended caterpillar.  It was hanging in midair with an invisible tether.  Pausing to behold this feat of nature, I recalled Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, "Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  The take away is that often our faith is like that caterpillar.  We cannot behold with our eyes the power, love and sovereignty of God and His Spirit as He works in our lives to save us and grow our faith through His Spirit.  But we can learn from this picture.  The caterpillar was not stressing out.  It was not insecure.  It showed no symptoms of doubting faith, but rested in the place, position, favor and grace of its Creator.  It showed no indication of working extremely hard to prove it was a caterpillar, to prove its worth, or to improve its right to be held.  Another take away lesson was just simply to abide in the invisible presence of God’s Spirit promised to us by Jesus. When we respond to God’s love and favor for us as His, we can rest secure in a tether that never can be broken.  I hope you will be encouraged this morning in your faith by this simple picture that has stayed with me this week.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


We love sunflowers.  They seem to smile and say “Hello!” It always has saddened me when they finish blooming each year.  They grow heavy as they turn down to drop their load of seeds to either feed the wildlife or sustain the next generation.  This year, I noticed a lesson. The Bible teaches that our faith is demonstrated through our works.  Perhaps the closest I feel to God is when I am obedient to use the gifts He has given me to fulfill His purpose for me both personally and as a member of His body, the church. We too can present ourselves to God with the same humble, lowly manner as the sunflower.  As God matures us, we bear fruit to feed and grow others.  We bow with gratitude and humility before the Giver of every perfect gift and work. As the sunflower, when we bear fruit, we sustain a future generation of faith.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Anyone, Anywhere, At Any Time

I love reading the stories of missionaries.  Last week I read of a SE Asian missionary assigned to reach a Muslim people group of 7 million.  We can only imagine how daunting and potentially dangerous that challenge would be.  With partner, Zeke, Caleb committed “to share the Gospel with anyone, anywhere, at any time."
In Acts 1:8, we read of the biblical call to missions for each of us as we engage God’s mission for the church. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Two months later, in a very risky place, Zeke met Tom who showed interest in the Gospel.  Caleb joined in and shared the insufficiency of the OT sacrifices and that Jesus had fulfilled the Law in dying for us on the cross.  Tom was drawn by God’s Spirit and responded.  After his conversion, he said he had fifty friends who needed to hear these stories. Days later, Tom’s friend, Hardy, converted and the two have led hundreds of people to Christ.  These disciples have done the same.  It really is simple to accept that all of us are called to be a missionary wherever God has planted us this moment, this day.
Will you take the Acts 1:8 “anyone, anywhere, anytime” challenge?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Midnight Sun

I am not sure if you know my love for horses.  My first TN Walking Horse was named Midnight Sun.  His half-brother, Shadow, was a hand taller, so he was my brother’s. Both loved to play freely on the farm but could easily be caught and rode without saddle or bridle.  I know…we were spoiled.  My brother and I spent many years with these two that we grew attached quickly.  Tragedy came one spring.  The best we can tell, they were playing on the old road alongside an 8-10 foot gulley.  Sun must have slipped, fell into the gulley and may have broken his back or neck against a tree near the bottom of the fall.  It was days later that we found Shadow alone.  His countenance told us something was wrong.  I was torn up.  I spent the weekend running up the hollow to chase away the buzzards. We kept Shadow on the lower end of the farm away from the dangerous ravine.  In the fall, my brother took a ride on Shadow up the hollow not even thinking about what awaited him. He tells the story better than I but he had kind of dropped the reins and was just letting Shadow walk at his own pace.  Suddenly Shadow came to a jolting halt.  He stood with ears at attention staring straight ahead for what seemed like an agonizing tribute.  My brother was curious but didn’t put it all together until Shadow voluntarily resumed his pace with a somber gait.  He looked to the left and saw the remaining bones of Sun lying among the limestone rocks at the bottom of a painful memory.  We have often revisited that memory.  My brother wrote an “A” English ode in high school, and I tried to break a Shetland pony. Soon we got a horse named Star, a feisty horse that often tested me, but never replaced my love for Midnight Sun. 

Family dogs have spent many a trial with me sensing my need for a shoulder to cry on, an attentive ear to listen and remain loyally silent but comforting.  When our youngest left for Clemson a few weeks ago, our Maddie sensed our need for a little closer snuggle. 

This week I read a missionary story of two elephants competing to pick up a gospel tract a missionary was using to share with the local people.  Their mutual zeal to wrap their trunk around truth contributed to the locals desire to hear the gospel.  A church began among the seven believers that day.  Amazing how all creation (even horses and elephants) yearns for the restoration of the heavens and the earth when all pain and suffering will cease!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Playing 4 Quarters

Honestly it is probably more hindsight than foresight, but one can often predict the outcome of a football game in the beginning of the third quarter.  The first series can tell you if a team is playing not to lose or playing to win.  It is often observed when an under-ranked or unranked team is beating a ranked team.  It has much to do with how the offense breaks the huddle or how a defense plays with equal resolve and intensity.  I don’t think it is intentional except when a basketball team decides to delay the game.  It is my personal observation that if that scheme begins too early it sucks the life out of a player and a team.  I think it has much to do with failure to recognize a basic flaw in mankind.  We easily grow too satisfied with ourselves.  I like a coach who takes the last thirty seconds of the first half and calls aggressive plays to score even if he is up by two touchdowns.  To me it communicates to players we are calling every play, playing every down as dissatisfied and resolved.  I recognize there are exceptions, I am just saying I like that gutsy resolve.

Not many hunters go to the deer stand without a gun or bow even if he is content with the season’s harvest.  I haven’t met many fishermen who do not tie a plug at the end of the line or bait their hook.  Purpose begs for intentionality, invites a daily, uncompromising resolve to live with the last series, the last shot, the last putt, the last breath, the last day and the last testimony in mind.  Regardless of the context or the enemy, if you were asked to choose life by denying Christ or death by professing Him before men, what is your game plan?  Are you playing to keep from losing, or are you playing to win?

Thursday, October 2, 2014


In Youth Bible Study last week, we were exploring the “large letters” with which Paul wrote as he closed his letter to the Galatian believers.  How might a young person emphasize something important in a letter?  The better question became how to make sure your tweet was read on Twitter or an important part of your text was read.  Suddenly we realized how we # something or how many or which Emoji’s we select definitely brought emphasis in the tech world of this generation.

So, God gave us an insight.  If the Apostle Paul were to text us, what would he emphasize to us?  If we were to receive a tweet from him concerning our walk with Christ, what would he alert us to consider? Then we asked, “How would we know it was authentic?”  I mean first of all that any incoming text will be identified according to my contact list.  Then we explored this thought.  If the Holy Spirit were to text me concerning my walk, what Emoji’s would He use to alert me to the importance of the text?  If the Holy Spirit were to tweet me (correcting, guiding, teaching, convicting, encouraging, etc.) what would the # be?

Then we realized that we receive tweets from the Holy Spirit “All Day Every Day!” Truly, if Christ be in me, then His Spirit convicts and alarms me long before I am in a situation or before I speak an ill word.  I must long and be attentive to His tweets!  As my situations worsen or temptations become tougher, I should heed the #s.  Just one example: John, serve your wife today!  #Love her! #Eph525

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Derek Webb sings a song about a wedding dress...

I enjoyed celebrating my wife's birthday.  She loves birthdays and so I enjoy making the day special.  I am not lying to her when I tell her that with each passing year I still see her with the same eyes of that July evening in 1987, when all the guests stood to see the beautiful girl that drew all the attention.  Here comes my bride!  It is truly a magical moment in our culture when the music invites us to stand and behold the bride.

This week, I was struck with a powerful picture of the community at Wilson Hall and Carter.  In many ways, our community is similar to the community in Grant Park where Restoration Church will be planted.  Johnny Harvey shared with us that the people there “work to live and live to play.”  Many are on the fast lane with their days filled with activity and the weekend spent with their last thought about God or the church. Praying each name of the neighborhoods here, I saw a picture of Christ’s bride on Carter Road—Crosspoint.  Here she stands arrayed in pure white by the washed blood of the Lamb, a gathering of the redeemed people, and I saw no one standing. The picture saddens me.  Can you imagine a beautiful bride, a groom awaiting her march down the aisle, and everyone is sitting, sleeping, playing, talking and totally oblivious to her presence?