Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Toys You Can't Play With...A Room of Lies

“Toys you can’t play with and food you cannot eat…this is a room of lies.”  I heard that line in an ad the other night. I said to Tina, “Some people in our country today make similar remarks of the church.”

I love my church!  Ever say that?  I brag about this church all the time.  I love saying “Come to Crosspoint!”  For going on eight years I have been privileged to be your pastor, but that isn’t why I love this church.  This is my family’s church home.  We don’t love it because we have to or because we are the pastor and family, this IS our church home.  This IS our church family.  Lauren and Dayton are growing away, but they love coming home to their church.  Lauren shared with us recently how she so loves our Crosspoint family. We do so love you!

I think it has much to do with the realness factor.  You have said it before.  Crosspoint is real.  We are who we are. We share our struggles.  We share our lack of real as well.  We are just the opposite of the ad Tina and I viewed.  It was a Kraft Mac-N-Cheese commercial depicting a father showing off his room of Star Wars memorabilia.    Being told to put a Star Wars Mac-N-Cheese box back on the shelf, the son remarked, “Toys you can’t play with and food you cannot eat…this is a room of lies.”  I chuckled to Tina, “Wow!  What a disappointment that would be!” 

I never want to be a church where people visit and go away sensing anything near that boy’s experience.  Never should the church become a museum or showcase of something that used to be but no longer is.  Never would I want us to be all package and no substance.  How about you?  Do you love your church?  Has Crosspoint become your church home/your church family? 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Ten Minutes

An old country song I often recount is “If You’ve Got Ten Minutes” by Joe Stampley.  I just love that old song. The song centers on the hope that with just ten minutes we could fall in love.  Some of you may have a testimony of love at first sight. It makes me think creatively about what I might actually be able to accomplish in just ten minutes. 
I often put off what actually only takes a few minutes.  One of the highlights of my week last week was a ten minute visit with my sister Ann.  We laughed and caught up on memories. Ann’s first comment when I arrived was, “Hey, do you remember Josh and Dani getting married?”  At the end of our visit, I did something I am not sure I have often done with Ann.  I asked her if I could pray with her.  She smiled and bowed her head.  As I prayed I watched a beautiful sight of my sister humbly bowed before her Father. In the rush of a busy week we often neglect things that take little time and effort.
Here is a short list of what may only take ten minutes:
  • You can read the book of James in the Bible in ten minutes
  • You can write a brief note to someone, address and stamp it and place in a mailbox in ten minutes
  • You can call an old friend just to say, “I was thinking about you.”
  • You can stop by an assisted living home and visit a resident—that might be your mother—for ten minutes
  • You really can scrape ice off of a friend’s sidewalk in ten minutes—I promise
  • You can scrape off the ice on the windows of your wife’s or children’s car in ten minutes
  • You can stop and pray with a co-worker in ten minutes
  • You can share the gospel message in ten minutes
  • There are some jobs around the house that your wife has been asking you to do for six months that actually only take ten minutes
  • You can unload and load the dishwasher in ten minutes
  • You can make your husband’s day with a surprise snack bag and a note in his briefcase or backpack that says, “If you’ve got ten minutes, let’s fall in love!” and don’t forget the perfume
  • You can send your spouse that favorite song from when you first started dating in a link with a special note that lists several reasons why you still would say ‘yes’ all over again
  • You can make up your bed and pick up the clothes in your room without being asked

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Bitter Root

While walking across the front of our church yard, I studied more closely why one of our own live oak trees lost a quarter of its shape.  To my amazement, right there in the origin of the split was a mass of roots high in the canopy but within the trunk.  Where moisture had collected in the V of that tree, I thought maybe a bird had sown a destructive seed.  Hours later, I walked out there again with a theory that maybe an acorn fell in the crevice.  Sure enough, there was evidence in other trees that given the right conditions, an acorn could get lodged there from the parent tree and sprout another sapling. Over the years, down through the trunk where that limb met, roots were doing their divisive work to compromise the strength of a mighty tree.  What just a week ago was a beautifully shaped tree now has the scar of that bitter root!

Often within a family or a church family, embittered roots sow destruction within the body. It is a very sad reality that within a family one could be rooted in a spirit of division.

“See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled.” Hebrews 12:15


Monday, November 2, 2015

Dear friends, how full of love are you right now?  I am not talking about while you are here in this place, just today.  If there were a gauge on your chest that measured the love inside of you, what might it read?  Is it full?  Has it all been spent?  Is there a limit to how much you can or will love?  To what object do you refer, Pastor John?  Well, I am talking of course about your love for God and your love for others.  But let’s just narrow our focus and consider your spouse, how have you loved him/her this week? How would you describe that love?  Was it out of duty?  Did you love as you first loved?  Was there any measure of love displayed this week for the love of your youth?

Marriage in this country has taken a direct hit in our children’s lifetime.  It seems that we have forgotten what a covenant is.  Our nation redefines God’s institution and we are faced with the question of how to stand up to a small percentage of people who have won the favor of an unbelieving lawmaking body and to exercise both truth and love at the same stroke.  I welcome your disagreement, but I do believe that it is futile to shout and cry for justice from a stance of weakness.  I am speaking of being doers of the word and not hearers only.  When Christians in our generation have spoken down in judgment to the ways of the world and unbelievers in a feeble attempt to gain back lost ground, we are perceived with hypocrisy.  I have been reading Romans 2 over and over each day for several weeks and I recall God’s warning to those who possess the Law.  Are we to judge others by a standard that we do not keep ourselves? Our greatest response to a lost culture is to live as true believers.  Our lives and our marriages have to honor God’s commands.  Our testimony of healthy families and healthy children will create a hunger and thirst in a culture turning to unspeakable impurities.  Paul speaks in Romans one of the approval of a culture’s idolatry.  Consider pornography as just one example.  When a  professing Christian man or woman watches this impure and immoral act, not only have they worshipped the creation instead of the Creator, but they have given hardy and sometimes financial approval to those who practice these impurities.  There are many more instances where even professing Christians have exchanged the truth of God for a lie.

Each morning, I look at a framed picture of Tina in her wedding dress.  Oh how beautiful she is!  I am reminded of the covenant made on July 18, 1987.  We are not perfect, but my how we love one another. 

Friday, October 30, 2015


When I was a child, I can remember Judge Todd slapping my wrists for reaching for more grape juice after communion.  I always thought he was a mean old man.  As I have grown older, I have come to respect this gentleman’s correction of a rambunctious little preacher’s boy.  I just didn’t know any better.  You see, the Lord’s Table is to be revered, respected and remembered.  I read this week that this sacrament is more than just a time when believers remember Jesus’ death on the cross and the shedding of His blood for man’s sin.  Jesus instructed His disciples to remember Him whenever they eat of this bread and drink this cup.  In the church, we must recognize that no other group gathered practices this.  It sets us apart. 

When we eat of the bread that represents Christ’s body broken for each of us, when we drink of the cup that represents His blood shed for us, we distinguish ourselves as His.  We are His people.  We are His disciples.  We are His church.  We remember Him.  We recall what He has done for us in saving us. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Have you ever gotten in a sticky situation?  A place you really never intended to be?  An uncomfortable or compromising predicament from which there seems no escape?  It is akin to that situation where you had two options, you chose, and immediately down the road, when there is no turning back, you know the choice was wrong, potentially hurtful? I have.

What a welcome sight is a helper, one who rescues! My dad rescued me from many situations like that. He was gentle and instructive at the same time.  Now look at us!  We are in a sticky, hairy situation!  We are in a place we were never intended to be. It is a deceivingly comfortable yet compromised and dangerous predicament.  There seems to be many means of escape; at least we would be led to believe that.  And there is a helper, a rescuer. 

This week I discovered a new encounter with one of bird enthusiasts’ favorite.  In our garage late one night, there was a hummingbird.  It flew around and around in purposeless circles only to land on the wire antennae hanging down from our garage door opener.  The way out was wide open for the door was open, but it just chose to fly in circles, bumping its head continuously against the ceiling.  The door being up led it to perceive that life was now reduced to just an existence between two spheres. 

No hope!  Paul once wrote, “I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me?” Romans 7:24 The Message.

It took a while, but I finally coaxed our carport friend out of the mundane and into the great expanse and freedom of where it was always meant to be.  Jesus came to rescue us from a world of sin, death and the unintended to restore us to God’s intention, life and righteousness. Life is much better outside of the garage!

Friday, October 9, 2015

MY life?

“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

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


When I was a child, I can remember Judge Todd slapping my wrists for reaching for more grape juice after communion.  I always thought he was a mean old man.  As I have grown older, I have come to respect this gentleman’s correction of a rambunctious little preacher’s boy.  I just didn’t know any better.  You see, the Lord’s Table is to be revered, respected and remembered.  I read this week that this sacrament is more than just a time when believers remember Jesus’ death on the cross and the shedding of His blood for man’s sin.  Jesus instructed His disciples to remember Him whenever they eat of this bread and drink this cup.  In the church, we must recognize that no other group gathered practices this.  It sets us apart. 

When we eat of the bread that represents Christ’s body broken for each of us, when we drink of the cup that represents His blood shed for us, we distinguish ourselves as His.  We are His people.  We are His disciples.  We are His church.  We remember Him.  We recall what He has done for us in saving us. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Lost to be Reconciled

Many of you heard that last weekend we lost Brody (our male toy poodle) for 48 hours.  He was a long way from home.  Many helped us locate him but I always seemed to be about an hour behind him.  “He was just here” was a common response as I spoke to residents in Idlewild and along Loring Mill Road.  I drove for hours and rode a bike for three calling his name and whistling to draw him out of hiding to no avail.  In those hours I kept thinking of all of you.  Numerous times God would whisper to me how Jesus taught that leaving the 99 to find the one lost sheep is the heart of the Shepherd.  I felt that truth as I considered how Brody is Tina’s buddy.  She was missing him terribly and so I was determined to find him.  Love is a great motivator.  Naturally upon Brody’s return, he was hungry, thirsty and in need of briars and burs to be removed from his coat.  Life is difficult away from the safety of the fold.  More than food and water, this family pet seemed most content to be on the pillow next to Tina where he belonged and felt safe, cared for and loved. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Prayer Prompt

I hope you have begun reading Romans 6 answering the seven questions given out Sunday.  As you write the prayer from Romans 6 in Question 7, I invite you to post it and share it with me on FB under the  #R6Pray.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Allow me to share two applications of Colossians 3:23 this week.

Dayton and I grabbed supper at McDonald’s after the ballgame.  As we sat there enjoying the burgers, I noticed a young worker fly through our section swiping tables.  She barely wiped the tables leaving them more of a mess than clean and flinging to the floor what the dirty rag happened to graze. Suddenly my Deluxe Quarter Pounder didn’t taste as good.  I wondered if the guy who put my burger together may have had the same work ethic.  Since this same girl seemed friendly when she had taken my order, and there was some rapport, I wondered if she might listen to a verse I had memorized.  So I strolled up to order a Mocha Frappe (“Don’t tell Mom!”) and asked if I might give her some really good advice. She smiled and said, “Sure!”  I said, “You are probably a good Christian girl.  You probably go to church and have a godly grandmother.” She affirmed both with a smile. I shared “Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord, rather than for men” Colossians 3:23. She liked it but did not connect.  I then said, “I love young people, so please just hear me.  The way you wiped those tables really made me question my burger.  Imagine in the future that you are not serving man.  Imagine that the very next customer is your Lord, Jesus Himself…walking right through that door.  Would you want Him to sit at those tables over there?”   She took it well and promised me she would apply that truth to her work.  It was a different kind of divine appointment.  Other workers were listening in and ultimately all were invited to worship at Crosspoint. It was really a fun exchange! We all enjoyed a moment of simply being friendly.

Then Saturday morning, our men came together for breakfast and yard work.  Someone prayed, “Lord, thank you for this food and the opportunity to work together on your place.” I loved that reminder! 


Crosspoint Family/Friends,
Yesterday was an awesome day in the Lord's House among His people!  Just a quick reminder to study Romans 6 this week asking the seven questions we reviewed yesterday to help you understand and apply the truths you will discover. I am praying for you! 

In Acts 27, the shipwreck on the island of Malta is recorded when Paul was on the last voyage taking him to Rome.  Here we see a wonderful principle of the necessary unity within any church body that guarantees the key to a successful journey.  I have never seen this part of the story until in the backdrop of our passage that we consider today in Ephesians 4:1-6.

Paul has seen a vision that the voyage would certainly be with danger and real loss.  It speaks to us in guaranteeing that our purpose in life as individuals and as a church will also involve loss and many dangers if we are faithful and obedient.  Just ask any Christian in an Islamic country. During many days and nights of a storm that covered the light of day and the stars of the night, the threat of certain demise led some aboard to deceptively let down the life boats for selfish escape.  Upon Paul’s testimony and leadership that all would survive if all remained and stayed united, the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s life boats and let them fall away.  Having gained all the men’s trust, Paul blessed the remaining bread and broke it and they ate together and received strength.  Paul then made a promise from God, “not a hair from the head of any of you will perish.” And so it happened that they, all 266, were brought safely to land.

I challenge you to read beyond the written account and ask good questions.  Why must they all stay on the ship?  Why did Paul seek to keep everyone on the ship united in the promise?  Surely there were onboard some rank, offensive, low-down scoundrels who really in man’s opinion had no merit of surviving.  Why would it matter if a few were allowed to escape?  Wouldn’t that mean more food for the united that remained faithful and aboard?

Look to the end.  Look at the view from God’s perspective.  His promise and purpose was to bring Paul to Rome.  There were still responsibilities and work that would need to take place in running the ship aground, making it to shore, surviving together among unforeseen inhabitants, and ultimately boarding the next ship from Malta to Rome. So where are you going with this Sorrells?

Each of you is on a God-sized mission on a voyage of a lifetime.  God has unique assignments for each of you according to your gifts. All must remain.  None can be lost.  Regardless of merit, class or rank, we all have a role to complete in order for us to carry a most precious cargo to the world, the gospel—the good news of salvation.  Onboard that ship was the missionary Paul, who was the vehicle, the instrument God had purposed to bring a message to Rome of salvation in Christ alone.  Go to the island of Malta today and you will still find a contingent of Christ followers who date their faith to the influence of a crew of 266 shipwrecked strangers. 

What has God uniquely gifted and assigned you to do in your church to assure that the gospel message is not lost at sea?  Stay aboard!  Hang on!  Commune together!  Keep the faith! Cut the life lines of escape and remain committed to the call to which God has called you. 

Friday, July 31, 2015


When does grace become grace? That sounds like a book title.  Last week 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 grace toward my children rest conditionally on their turning from 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 confess I have much to learn.  I must be as that father, my grace and love for all, especially my loved ones, must be extended 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.

The Bible does not teach us that we, in some state of repentance, turn the heart of God toward us.  Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers that it is by God’s grace that we are saved and that our salvation has nothing to do with any work that would merit us favorable toward being saved. It is clearly stated that it is God’s grace, His loving kindness that initiates the wayward heart toward any feeling of being sorry, penitent.

I am learning that I need to think before I speak.  I need to pause and consider all of the scriptures, the whole counsel of God, before I answer.  I need to think on a heavenly level instead of an earthly level. 

"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


Wednesday, July 29, 2015


I remember as a child walking up the hollow at night to catch catfish in the pond.  The old road twisted and turned by caves, dark woods, foggy hayfields and the Redd family graveyard, as well as an old homestead and barn that were deteriorating. Often the wind off the hilltops would howl and cause the loose tin to bang and rattle.  I look back at those moments and wonder how in the world I ever made it to the pond.  The lure of the pull on my rod had to have been strong.

In a man’s study called “Stepping Up,” Several men and sons in our church confronted the definition of real manhood. Our men’s study at noon on Wednesdays has also mixed in some great teaching on being a man. I recall lessons such as rejecting passivity, accepting responsibility and leading with integrity. 

Read about Moses, Joshua and Esther this week and the courage they demonstrated in leading Israel in difficult times of her history.  In Esther’s case, she had to confront her fear of certain death by confronting the king with the violent scheme of Haman to destroy her people, the Jews.  She had to overcome her fear and trust in the Lord’s invisible hand of providence and the truth that His people are always under His watchful eye even when we must risk everything for Him.

Plato said that “Courage is knowing what not to fear.”   The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We need His wisdom, so we must begin to know Him intimately and trust that His eye is ever upon us. 

I read this week that “without Christ, you are all you have.” I am so glad we have Christ!  I am so glad we have one another—in Christ.

Monday, July 27, 2015


“We’re grateful to you for saving us.  We will never forget what you have done for us.” This is a statement very near to many today.  Consider the many in history that have made this statement.  The people of Israel, though they complained against Moses and God in the wilderness, one might argue that some may have expressed this sincere gratitude. Slaves in every part of the world, when freed by any entity would certainly say this to their rescuer.  Certainly there are recordings of freed American slaves expressing such gratitude to the work of Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman and others. Jews across Europe have thanked those, like Oskar Schindler, who helped them escape the death chambers.  From the Talmud we read, "Whoever saves one life saves the world entire."  I heard a similar statement by a desperate mother to the man who would attempt to rescue her daughters from ISIS, “If you’d save all these girls, you would give us the whole world.”   We recently viewed the PBS Frontline segment, “Escaping ISIS.” A Yazidi man, who escaped ISIS was featured in his mission to rescue as many of the thousands of Yazidi women and children captured by ISIS to be bought, sold, molested, raped and killed.  With each rescue, I heard this familiar statement… “Thank you for saving me.  I will never forget what you have done for me.” I often thank God for saving me.  I do.  I had to pause when I heard this played out in front of my eyes—escape from sin, persecution, captivity, gross and barbaric mistreatment, and escape from religious tyranny.  Seeing a group of refugees crossing over a hillside still in range of ISIS gunfire, embracing fathers, brothers and mothers, from whom they had been separated months to years, hearing their cries and extreme gratitude, then encountering their savior, lawyer turned warrior, Khalil al-Dakhi, I came to a surreal moment of truth—how really grateful am I that my Jesus, my Savior, gave His life to rescue mine from this same death?  When I thank Him, is it just part of my prayer, or might I really pause and consider from whence have I been rescued?
“We’re grateful to You for saving us.  We will never forget what You have done for us!”


Monday, July 20, 2015


Once while at Ridgecrest, I was the lone witness of seeing an elderly 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 a warn Bible in hand.  This giant of a man looked at me and said, “I made it brother!”  As he walked inside I realized, “Wow that was Junior Hill!”

I had heard his thunderous sermons as a younger man.  Now, 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.
The lesson I received is that as an Ambassador for Christ, we never retire!


Friday, July 17, 2015

Garden Lessons

Last week, my son came to the garden to help me harvest corn, squash, tomatoes and cucumbers to give to United Ministries and Sumter Mission Outreach.  It was an opportunity to teach.  He was in a teachable mood even sharing lessons he was receiving with me. We spoke of Jesus’ parable of the wheat and tares.  We spoke of the parable of the soils.  We spoke of all the obstacles to growing a garden to harvest.  Perhaps the biggest obstacle this year has been the deer. 

We found my two rows of okra overcome by weeds.  They were in great need of being freed from the forest of weeds since recent rains kept me from entering with a tiller.  We had to be careful (remembering Jesus’ parable) to not pull up the okra with the weeds.  Also, as we cleared the row, we feared that we were only making it easier for the deer to distinguish the okra from the weeds. I have replanted these rows multiple times between early May and late June because the deer have eaten the plants to the ground. 

Recent events in our nation have weeded the mission field and made it easier for us as Christians to distinguish the dispirited, the helpless, the weary and worn out.  Jesus said that he did not come for the healthy, righteous and wealthy but for the sick, the unrighteous and the poor. We were challenged last week to ask God to fit us for the harvest.  Let me share one last truth with you. 

Dayton and I were filthy as we exited the garden.  Dirt, sand and weed stain were all over our fingers and legs.  It is messy to enter the harvest.  Ministry is messy.  It involves great sacrifice.  It is not always comfortable or easy.  It takes time and energy.  Soon we will be gathering okra.  It is our favorite summer vegetable.  Dayton will learn that its taste will be more delightful because of the sacrifice made to harvest.  Do you desire to see a harvest?  Do you desire to enter the harvest? 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Gut Wrenching Truth

I will never forget the terrible lie to my mother when I was a child.  It ate at me for days.  I had been instructed all my childhood, “Do not run through the dining room!”  Mom had nice antiques and family heirlooms in there, but as a child I just couldn’t yet grasp what in the world a hair loon was! I certainly did not think ants were nice and only dogs had ticks.  One day I ran through and pushed into the kitchen through that enticing swinging door, cape flying behind me in my wake!  From the kitchen I heard a crashing and breaking sound.  With dread, I discovered a very old plate in four pieces.  Mom would be coming inside any minute, so I laid the pieces back together and balanced them perfectly.  She will never know until someone else walks through here.  I escaped to my room on tip toes. 

It took a day or so and the whole time I had a knot in my stomach.  I stayed clear of my mother.  And I remember missing her.  Looking back I recognize that my falsehood created separation.  I was away.  I was hiding and waiting.  Down deep, I wanted the truth to come out but was not yet brave enough to admit my disobedience, my deception and now the broken fellowship.  Then I heard it.  Crash!  I sneaked down stairs.  Nothing in the dining room, so I quietly tip toed through the swinging door to discover my mother with the four pieces of her grandmother’s dish on the table…weeping!  I tried to console her, but she just kept saying, “Thank you sweet boy, but it is not your fault!  I just don’t understand how I made it fall!”

I had a free ticket.  My deception had worked!  I had deceived her.  I was home-free!  But love and relationship trumped fear. I couldn’t take it anymore.  I hated myself.  I hated the separation.  I hated for my mother to take the blame for something I knew that I had done. That lie leapt from my guts as if someone had performed the Heimlich maneuver.   I learned a life lesson that day. I may have, but I don’t remember lying to Mom after that. Even as a teenager, I cannot recall lying to my mother.

And we are to be lovers of truth once we put off the old and put on the new!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


I still get tickled when I think about the overwhelming amount of energy anger expends.  You see this very clearly when you take a fighting young buck teenager by the arms and literally remove him from a crowd of on-lookers and into a classroom behind closed doors.  Suddenly the audience, the threat and the drama is removed.  Many times I have seen a young man who seconds before was in a fight now collapse on the floor in tears and exhaustion.  Anger eats up a lot of energy. It leaves us confused and shaky.

Ephesians 4:26 warns us to be cautious with this emotion.  We are commanded to practice it only in a certain way—righteously.  We are to control our fleshly use of anger that is not founded in justice and uprightness.  Paul also instructs us to not let a day end with any leftover anger. 

Dr. Sam Peeples said, “The circumstances of life, the events of life and the people around me in life, do not make me the way I am, but reveal the way I am.”  That is an eye-opener! It is what is inside a man that produces either righteousness or wickedness. Solomon warned, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”  

When I look back at some of the most tumultuous times of parenting, I regret that oftentimes, I lost control.   There can be  harm done when we lose control.  Today, we can see the wise counsel above that we need to seek wisdom.  Some need to realize that if anger is a default emotion, it is not the environment that needs to change, but a clear sign that renewal is needed in the inner self.  We need Truth to live in us.  We need our minds renewed by the Spirit.  We need to strip off layer by layer the old way of responding to our world. We need to put on the new self—established in faith in Christ Jesus.

Monday, February 23, 2015


I never thought much about Pigpen while growing up, but he was one of my favorite characters in Peanuts.  I guess I related to him as a little boy with a kinship to dirt.  You remember him don’t you?  He could be seen coming from a distance because a cloud of dust and dirt followed him in each frame. You can encounter people like that too sometimes, whose words are often toxic instead of encouraging.  You can see the cloud around them as they approach you.  I read an enlightening devotional last weekend entitled “Speaking the Truth in Love.” It asked two questions that safeguard our speech and help us to know when to speak and when to be silent.

What exactly does Ephesians 4:15 mean for us to speak the truth in love?

Does it mean that we should always make the truth known in every situation and never remain silent under any circumstances?

The answer is to be found in the word love. The author, Guy Richard, offered two ways in which love affects our speech.  It will affect how we speak the truth and it will affect what truth we decide to speak and what truth we decide to leave unspoken. He then offers two questions that help us apply this verse:

  • Are we really chiefly concerned for the best interest of the other person?
  • Or is it a selfish desire to clear the air or get things off our chest?

This truth has encouraged me this week to remember the wisdom of my grandfather who was slow to speak and quick to listen.  I remember how he sat at the table and listened to all of us, then would finally speak as a wise chief over the younger clan.  Let’s each of us apply this truth in our lives each week.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Martyr Deaths Increasing

Read this in On Mission Summer 2014 magazine...worth distributing:

"More than 2,000 Christians died for their faith last year, according to Open Doors.  The conflict in Syria accounted for the largest group of Christian deaths, some 1,200 casualties. The total number of confirmed martyr deaths reported, 2,123 for 2013 include no numbers for North Korea, where no official Christian deaths were recorded, but most certainly took place.  Pray for Christians who risk their lives simply for publicly proclaiming faith in Jesus."  Source: Relevant, March-April 2014


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bethlehem Fiction

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.

Unwelcome Guest

Imagine Super Bowl 2015 with me for a moment.  What will that night look like for you and your family? Now imagine this…A few friends get together for a party.  Several hours into the evening, everyone is having fun cheering for their teams and ragging one another about the score.  Now enters a screaming, but seemingly silent murderer in the room.  He is disguised as the spirit of any good party.  He can be bottled or canned, straight from the cooler or over the rocks.  For most his disguise is welcomed as an innocent friend so everyone looks the other way. Some will taste his poison for the first time and deny their own senses in favor of the pressure in the room and among peers to laugh, raise their glass and join the majority.  Tastes Good!! In this gathering imagine that there are people from all walks: experienced, novices, pagans, Christians, first-timers, adults, youth, male, female, family, strangers, repeat offenders and law-abiders.  Now, let’s stop imagining and go back to Super Bowl '13. 

I received a letter from Kirkland Correctional Institute that year.  It was from James.  He attended a Super Bowl Party with friends just two months after graduating from USC.  He is from a good home and had never been in trouble with the law, but after a few drinks, he and a friend drove home. His friend is now dead, and James is serving time for his death, having been found guilty of felony DUI.  He was one mile from his home.  We can be so blind to avoidable circumstances.  We as parents often freeze in passivity when God has given us complete authority to guide our children in the right direction.  I would guess that there were many exits along James’ evening that could have helped avoid all of the sad outcomes of Super Bowl Sunday 2013 for his family and his friend’s family.  How many of us need to really step it up in our responsibilities to God and one another?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Our Church in the Community

Remember that the Good Samaritan was a walking, seeing, meeting and staying man! Luke 10:25-37
Original Message by Aaron Coe

Monday, January 5, 2015

Transforming Power

In Matthew 13:33, Jesus taught about the kingdom of God likening it to yeast kneaded into dough.  The New Living Translation describes the effect as permeating every part of the dough. We are challenged through this parable to enter our communities, our workplace and all our associations and to permeate our world praying that the gospel which saved us will permeate every portion of our daily lives resulting in others being drawn into the kingdom of God.

Popcorn and Rocking Chairs

Twenty years ago, I met a young middle school boy at Furman football camp.  He was a mischievous camper and it drew me into a relationship that carried over to the next summer.  I recognized Rick each summer at football camp.  As God would have it, I changed coaching jobs and ultimately coached Rick 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. I became more of a life coach and mentor off the field to Rick.  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 together.  Most of those years were very disheartening for his mother, sister and me.  It seemed that no treatment program would rescue him from his life of addiction spiraling 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 after the worst of updates.  In the last five years, I have seen more forward steps than setbacks.  Rick followed the Lord in believer's baptism.  Rick longs to honor the  Lord with his life, to demonstrate God's grace in his life.  Rick truly has a God-given desire to help others, especially young men, to avoid the destructive lifestyle of alcohol and drugs. God is so good!  Popcorn and rocking chairs...a great trade!