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!