A PASTOR’S PONDERINGS
May 2, 2021
I have always been blessed by the story of how Jesus, after His resurrection, walked with the two disciples on the Emmaus road. They were so downhearted with all of the events that had happened and as they walked along the road, Jesus joined with them, but hid Himself and they didn’t recognize Him. They told Him of all that had happened around the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Then He began expounding the Old Testament scriptures that pointed to Himself. They invited him to their home and when He broke bread and gave thanks, they recognized Him, and He vanished from their sight.
**Of all the wondrous things this story can teach us, one thing that so impresses my heart is to realize that Jesus’ presence is always there. I believe as someone else suggested that the Lord was teaching them that although they may not always see Him or recognize Him, He would always be with them no matter what they faced in life. He had promised when He went away that He would send the Comforter to be with them and so it is with us today. We have Him with us today through all that we face and go through in this life.
**I have walked down many “Emmaus” roads myself, feeling so downhearted and discouraged by the events of life. So often I felt like saying, “Lord, what is all this about? Where are you in all of these things?” But, you know, He was there all the time. Though maybe I couldn’t see Him or didn’t recognize Him and, at times, couldn’t sense His presence in my heart, still He was present through it all. He is the One who promised, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. He is the Shepherd that David spoke of when he said, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. What a blessing to know that He hasn’t changed and that His presence is always near to us through life.
**Maybe today you feel discouraged by all that you have faced or are facing right now. You may be walking down your own “Emmaus” road and wondering about all that has happened to you. You may be asking your own questions about what the purpose of all these things are. Those two disciples had had their hopes crushed and wondered what the future held for them. It could be you are feeling much the same way. But know this, that He who walked the lonely road with them is walking with you today. You may not see Him. You may not even feel that He is near. You may feel so empty and so alone, but there is One who walks the lonely road with you, and He says, “Fear not, I am here.”
A PASTOR’S PONDERINGS
April 25, 2021
We live in the day of Superheroes. They flash across our television and movie screens with their amazing power to handle the enemy that threatens the day. They’ve been around for a long time. I remember watching Superman played by George Reeves when I was just a boy. He was the “man of steel” and the superhero of Superman still survives today with others who play the part. There are many more that have joined the ranks of “superhero” today, but the idea remains the same. There is something thrilling about one who can defeat the villain and save the day. Human nature wants someone we can look up to, who stands above the ordinary and has the power to be victorious.
**The human mind may concoct many imaginary heroes, but there is truly only one who stands above the ordinary and has the power to be victorious. His name is Jesus Christ. He is the only one who could face the powers of Satan and walk away in victory. The problem is that He isn’t the kind of hero the world desires. The very name of Jesus brings so much hatred and controversy that we are discouraged to use it in our society. There are those who long for someone to help them defeat their problems and give them peace in a world of turmoil, but they don’t want it at the cost of accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior.
**That was the problem of the religious leaders some two thousand years ago when Jesus came to this earth. He preached a message of hope for lives ruined by Satan and sin. He saved those who would come to Him and turned away none who desired His touch. But He wasn’t what the majority wanted so they crucified Him. Peter preached after Pentecost and told them, But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of Life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. (Acts 3:14-15) The words Prince of Life means He is the Captain or Author of life.
**In Him is true righteousness. In Him is true holiness. In Him is the power to change lives and save us from our sins. Peter also said in Acts 4:12-Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Outside of Jesus Christ there is no salvation, but in Him rests all our hope, all our help and all our strength. Superheroes come and go. They are only make-believe and change with the times. But I’m so thankful today that my hope is in One who never changes. He once said, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. He is the One who is superior to every situation and sufficient to meet every need.
April 18, 2021
I got up this morning and read the news of another mass shooting that has taken place. Once again innocent lives have been taken and families and homes will be changed from this day on. It seems that it is almost becoming a weekly event now. Just every few days we hear of another tragedy such as this, a recent one within just a couple hours away. It makes you wonder what will happen next. Of course, it raises all the same political questions and debates, but we never quite get down to the reality of the problem. We live in a world wrecked by sin and Satan seeks to destroy lives and tear apart the very fabric of order in this life.
**It makes me appreciate my hope even more. I was thinking recently of what the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi. He was talking about departing this world and he said this in Philippians 1:23-24-For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. Paul isn’t describing some morbid desire to die, but he is describing the longing that lies within his heart. It was the desire that the Lord put within him to be set free from a world of sin and sorrows. He is longing for freedom from a world that cares little for the things of God. He is longing for freedom from a world that continues to wax worse and worse. He is longing for freedom from the sorrows, heartaches and heartbreaks that life puts on us as God’s children.
**The word depart that he uses is an interesting word. It speaks of striking tent and moving on. It also has the idea of unyoking the oxen at the end of the day for their work is done. But what caught my heart this past week are the words far better. I am so thankful that God has something “far better” for His children than this world has to offer. We live in a wicked world. No sooner has mankind seemed to stoop to its lowest depths of immorality, but then you hear of something else. I have said it before and I say it again, the longer I live down here, the more out of place I feel. Paul said that God has something “far better” for us.
**What will make Heaven “far better”? That isn’t a tough one. In Heaven there will be no more sorrows or sadness. In Heaven there will be no more tragedies or troubles. In Heaven there will be no more sickness or death. In Heaven there will be no more worries or fears. In Heaven we will be able to live forever with the family of God and experience the wonders of all God has prepared for us. But most of all, in Heaven we will behold the face of the One who died for us that we might forever be with Him. That sure sounds “far better” to me.
April 11, 2021
I guess few people are familiar with the name Edward Mote. Edward was born in the city of London in 1797 in a home that was poor. His parents were innkeepers and wouldn’t allow a Bible in their home. Somewhere though Edward heard the gospel message and was saved by God’s grace. He became a skilled carpenter and, in time, opened his own cabinet shop. Through the years God called him to preach the gospel and he gave up the carpentry work to pastor the Baptist church in his area. You may not know the name, but I’m sure you know the song Edward wrote that was called originally “The Solid Rock” but we often hear it titled “My Hope is Built”.
**The words of the hymn speak to my heart this morning. I have already spent some time in prayer today asking the Lord to help those on my prayer list. The list seems to grow, and people seem to be struggling so greatly these days. You know, there are times when it seems the darkness just doesn’t want to lift in our lives and hearts. Often it is like one of those foggy mornings we have in our area when it seems the fog wants to lay heavy near the ground. Sometimes the fog and darkness of difficulty, worry and confusion lays heavy on our hearts.
**As the pastor of our congregation I search my own heart for answers. I desire to share with those who are hurting something to help them understand why they are going through the things they are facing, but I realize I just don’t have the answers they long for. That’s where Edward Mote’s song came into my heart this morning. In the song, he wrote these words, “When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; in every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil. On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.” In those times when it seems that some darkness has veiled His face and the light of happiness has gotten dim, we can rest on His unchanging grace.
**The Lord never promised to give us answers to all of our questions. He never told us we would understand the reasons behind all of our trials or troubles, but He did guarantee us His grace would be sufficient. When I don’t know why, I do know who I can rely on, and He is my anchor. My great-nephew sent me a song he and his wife recorded the other day that says, “I’m Sheltered in the Arms of God.” It truly blessed my heart that day and it’s so true today and every day. No matter what comes my way today, no matter what storm may lay on the horizon, I’m sheltered in the arms of God and on Christ I can firmly stand.
April 4, 2021 - Easter Sunday
In my daily Bible reading this morning I was in the first chapter of 2 Corinthians. The words of vs 9-10 grabbed my heart and I couldn’t get away from them. I went back to read them again and again. Paul was talking about being in a situation that he caused him to be pressed beyond his strength to the point he thought he wouldn’t survive, vs 8. They tell us in the Greek language it is the idea used of an overloaded ship riding low in the water or a pack animal that falls under the load it carries so that it can’t rise again. Paul was so utterly beaten down that he thought he wouldn’t be able to get up again. He even described it as feeling as though a sentence of death had been passed on him. It is the idea of, “This is it. I’ve had it. There’s no way out of this.” Utterly helpless. There are times we feel ourselves under such a weight in life.
**Then he said in vs 9-10-But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us. Paul said that there was a purpose in what he was going through. It was that he would trust in God, not in himself. There are times when the Lord takes us to the end of ourselves, to the end of our resources, that we may fall completely upon Him and put all of our trust in Him. There is a power brought into the picture that makes all the difference. Paul says it is in God which raiseth the dead. Notice he did not say which “raised” the dead, but which raiseth the dead. Not past tense, but present and lasting action.
**The same power that was active in raising Jesus Christ from the dead that first Easter morning is the same power that is active in working in our lives to bring resurrection power into our lives. There are situations that seem dead with no hope of ever being better, but He is the resurrection God. There are people who are dead in their sins, but He still has resurrecting power to bring life into their souls. There are things in our lives that we think are hopeless situations, but we need to remember what Paul said in vs 10 that He is the one Who delivered us from so great a death, and doeth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us.
**Are you dealing with something that looks like an impossible situation? Facing something in your life that looks like the “sentence of death” has written its finality over it? It will never change. It will never improve. It will never get better. Don’t let that word “never” get a foothold in your mind and heart. Remember that He who raises the dead has delivered, does deliver and we trust Him that He will deliver again.
March 28, 2021
We recently had a funeral in our church for a dear lady who had gone home to be with the Lord after weeks of being in the hospital. I preached from a passage of Scripture at her funeral that honestly, I haven’t been able to completely get off my heart. I read from Acts 9:36-39 the story of a lady whose name was Dorcas that had died. Her friends had heard about Peter being in a nearby town and sent for him to come to them. The story went on that Peter, when he saw their broken hearts, put them all out of the room where she was, kneeled down to pray, asking the Lord to touch her and she arose from the dead.
**Well, I’m aware that this was one of the unique gifts given to them that God was using in the days of the early church that proved His power for the Apostles, but that isn’t what I’m focusing on today. I can’t get away from what was said in vs 39 where it said, and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. It had been said in vs 36 that she was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did, and these “coats and garments” were the evidence of some of those things. These were things shown that she had done that had touched their lives and their hearts.
**As I thought about the words of vs 39, I couldn’t get away from this thought…what will be shown about my life once I’m gone? What kinds of things am I leaving behind that is touching the lives of others for Christ? I have often told the story of my dad and his old tiller. Years ago, when I was just a boy my dad had an old Yardbird tiller. We had a little garden just out from the house, and I remember him tilling the garden and laying out the rows for planting. He told the story of how he had laid out one row and got to the end and then when he turned around, he realized I had been following right behind him, stepping right where he had stepped. He said the Lord spoke to his heart and the question came to him, “What kind of row is he laying out for me to follow?”
**I look back now after 62 years and I am thankful for the row that my dad laid before me. I look around in my life and I see things that I can show that he made while he was with us. Not physical or material things, but spiritual things. It makes me wonder, what kinds of things am I leaving for those who are coming after me? What will they show when I’m gone? What about your life? Will they show acts of faith, kindness or love that you have done? Our desire ought to be to leave a lasting impact on those who have known us, that once we’re gone, they can say, “Look at the things they made while they were with us.”
March 21, 2021
I’ve been reading a lot in the paper and hearing a lot on the news about where we were a year ago and where we are now. It seems so long ago that we were first hearing about this new thing called Covid and things were just starting to affect us locally. I remember when we began changing how we did our services and I remember thinking that maybe it would only last a few months. Boy, was I wrong! We have felt the hurt of people who have suffered sickness and loss of loved ones over the course of this past year. We have heard the numbers, which have slowed dramatically but are still a reality to us. We are faced with the warnings that the effects will be with us for months or even years to come. I know the memories of how it touched families will be felt for a lifetime.
**The reality of life is that we have no promise of this life being without problems or pain. Sickness and sorrows are always going to be a part of our lives. I am reminded every morning when I get out of bed of the fact that I am getting older and that I am getting slower. The ache in my back reminds me and the fogginess in my eyesight tells me that this body isn’t what it was forty years ago. I say that realizing I’m not the only one who knows this. When we were younger, we didn’t notice it as much, but as we grow older, we feel it, I guess, more than we see it.
**But we live with hope because with each passing day we are one day closer home. Where would we be without that kind of hope? Growing up in my home church we used to sing an old song from The Brushy Mountain Scrap Book called “Some Day” that said, “My trials here on earth will cease, Some day…some happy day”. And thank God, they will. There will come a day when we’ll lay aside these weary bodies of clay and we’ll have a glorified body that will never decay and be in His presence for all eternity. What a glorious day that surely is going to be.
**But what do I say to all these things as I look back to a year of pandemic, problems and pain? God has been faithful through it all. Through sickness, through loss, through change, through disappointment, through difficulty, through sadness, through frustration, through fear, through doubt, through the unknown—God has been faithful. You know, that is exactly what He promised He would be. He always abides faithful according to 2 Timothy 2:13 and He always will be.
**For some reading these lines, your life and your world has turned upside down since March of 2020. Things that seemed so stable then have so drastically changed today. But know this, the One who never changes has promised to be with you no matter what you face in this life.
March 14, 2021
There are so many of the psalms that have given me comfort and encouragement throughout the years. There is one that I have gone to for help at various times in my life. The words of Psalm 61 have been a strength for me on more occasions than I could count. We are told that it is a psalm written by the hand of David. He is a man who knew what it was to face good times, as well as the bad times of life. He knew what it was to have someone close to him turn against him. He knew what it was to have a child to die. He knew what it was to experience sadness and loss. He knew what it was to need hope restored.
**We aren’t told exactly what experience it was that David had in mind when he penned this particular psalm, although he refers to himself as king in verse 6. So, it had something to do with the period of time in his life when he was king of Israel. What we do know is how he feels. He says in verse 2-From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
**David feels himself at “the end of the earth.” He seems to be describing a situation where he feels that he has gone about as far as he can go. When you’re at the end of the earth, where else can you go? He has been pushed to his limits. Whatever is pressing on his life has been about all he can handle. It may be some sorrow of heart. It may be some struggle of life. It could be some situation he is facing. Whatever it is, David feels that it has brought him to “the end of the earth.”
**Then he said his “heart is overwhelmed.” He is saying he feels like a ship being tossed by the waves, then suddenly one wave crashes down violently so that it nearly sinks the vessel. The idea of the word is being without strength, being muffled or smothered. Someone said it’s like sitting down at a desk full of papers and not knowing where to start. Do you ever feel that way? That is how David describes himself as feeling.
**He feels helpless to face what he is facing within himself, but he knows this one thing—he knows that there is a rock higher than where he is. David knows of a place. He knows of a refuge. He knows of a resource. He knows of a shelter and a place of hiding when life is more than we can handle. The Lord is the Rock that is higher than I. When the enemy surrounds you. When troubles camp on your doorstep. When sorrows like sea billows roll. When your heart is overwhelmed by life. When you feel as though you are at “the end of the earth.” Do what David said, from there I will cry unto thee. Pour out your heart to the One who will hear and who will help you in your time of need.
March 7, 2021
I have had this morning a verse of scripture on my mind that has always been a blessing to me personally. It is one that Paul wrote to young Timothy in his first letter to him and is found in 1 Timothy 1:14 where he says, And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. In one of my devotionals today it was talking about grace and how important it is to our lives. That’s what led me to think about this verse once again. Sometimes I think we forget just how blessed we are to be partakers of God’s amazing gift of grace.
**Let me begin by just thinking about what grace is all about. I’m not talking about what we say just before we eat one of our meals. I’m talking about the grace of God toward us. The word grace is a word that, according to the dictionary, means a disposition to be generous or to show mercy. It goes on to define it as divine favor bestowed freely on people. Then one more says a favor rendered by one who need not do so. Grace then is God’s generous favor freely given toward us when He didn’t have to do so. That is what makes grace so amazing.
**There isn’t a single one of us that deserves God’s grace. There isn’t a single one of us that deserves one milli-second of His favor. There isn’t a single one of us that deserves one breath of celestial air. There isn’t a single one of us that deserves one glimpse of heaven’s glory. But God in His amazing grace has chosen to redeem sinners and gives us the privilege to experience the fullness of His glory and His heaven for all of eternity. Can you imagine that? I can’t. I can’t imagine God, who created the universe and the world on we live, caring enough about someone like me to redeem me and allow me to enjoy His presence forever.
**But to go back to the verse a moment, Paul says that God’s grace was exceeding abundant. Paul seems to be saying that God’s grace was superabounding for salvation and then still for everything else he would need afterwards. In other words, God’s grace is sufficient for saving us but then also for anything and everything else we will ever need from now until we reach home. Whatever you are struggling with in life, God has ample grace to meet that need and then much more on top of that.
**We will never exhaust God’s grace. Like the widow of Zarephath in the days of Elijah, we can just daily dip into God’s barrel of grace. There will never be a time when we dip into His barrel that we will find it empty. He always has grace to meet our need. Are you needing His grace today for some situation? He has an exceeding abundant supply. Just look to Him and let Him fill your heart with His amazing grace.
February 28, 2021
The month of February has been called the month of love because right in the middle of the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day. It was on that day that we sent cards, gave flowers or gifts to show those we love our love for them. As the month comes to a close, once again my mind is on the thought of love. As a matter of fact, it is on God’s love for you and me. There is a word found twenty-six times in the Old Testament and all but five of those times it is found in the Psalms. It is the word lovingkindness. The word takes on various meanings such as, of course, simply love and kindness, but then faithfulness, mercy and goodness. It speaks of God’s gracious character as it is shown toward us in love.
**I read a statement today that went something like this, people often love us for us being us, but God loves us for being who He is (Max Lucado). Just reread that a time or two and let that thought sink in a moment. It is the idea that God’s love flows from Him just being love Himself. It isn’t based on us doing anything to deserve it or to merit such love. But He loves us simply because He chooses to love us based solely on the fact that He is God, and He is love. Nothing will ever change that love to make it greater or less than what it is right now.
**There was a man named Perry Joyce, who was a member of the first church I pastored in Mount Airy. Brother Perry has long been with the Lord, but I remember something he said to me once while we were there that I have never forgotten. He was telling me about something one of his grandchildren had done, thinking he would be disappointed in them. He said, “You know, I told them, I love you and you’ll never do anything that will ever cause me to love you any less.” I thought that was amazing love from a grandfather to a grandchild. But how much more amazing is God’s love toward us?
**David said in Psalm 143:8-Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. David is saying, “Lord, I just long to hear your love and mercy toward me every morning. I have no other place of confidence. I have no one else to lean on, but I’m trusting in You. Show me the right way, the safe way, that I need to go.”
**We all have those who love us. We have family and friends, people who care so deeply for us, but no one ever loved us like Him. Every day of my life I long to hear anew just how much He loves me. I want to hear it in His word. I want to hear it in the birds as they sing. I want to realize every day as the sun rises, yes, He truly loves me!
February 21, 2021
I don’t think I have ever met anyone that enjoys the problems or afflictions of life. There isn’t any of us that has the idea, “Bring them on! I can take them!” We want to be rid of them as soon as possible, do we not? But there is a verse in Psalm 119 that has always intrigued me. It is verse 71 where the psalmist says, It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. I have often read that verse and every time I do it searches my heart. Can I say the same thing as the psalmist that it has been good for me to go through some of the afflictions of life that I have faced?
**The word afflictions in this verse means to be bowed down, to be humbled or brought low. I wonder today if there is something in your life that has brought you low that you would describe as some affliction. It could be something someone has done to you or something that you have experienced that has bowed down your spirit and brought you low in heart. I think of the many afflictions that David experienced in his life. Things he faced at the hands of King Saul. Things that were completely out of his control that he had to deal with on a daily basis. Some were even his own fault, brought on by his foolish actions.
**But he says, It was good for me. The word good means profitable. He is saying that there was profit in my afflictions. The profit was that I might learn thy statutes. Do we realize that the reason the Lord allows us to face such afflictions in our lives is for the profit of learning more about Him? David says that his afflictions came with the benefit that he might increase in his knowledge of the word of the Lord. There are things about the Lord that we will never truly learn apart from the experiences of life’s afflictions. It is in the storms of life that we learn that He is our Refuge in time of need. It is in the valleys of life that we learn that He is our Shepherd leading us through them. It is in the trials of life that we learn He is the one who gives sufficient grace. It is in the emptiness of life that we learn He is all that we need.
**Whenever we face some affliction of life, we need to try to remember that God is using even this to draw us closer to Him. Trials aren’t designed to drive us away from Him, but to draw us closer to Him. What are you facing today that is an affliction to you in your life? Stop for a moment today to realize that the reason the Lord has allowed it to come in your life is for the purpose of drawing you closer to Him. I’m not saying it’s always easy, but I’m saying with the Lord’s help we can view life’s afflictions differently than we ever have before.
February 14, 2021
I remember when I was younger, and VCRs became the “hot new” item. To have the ability to record a television program and then watch it at a later time was just something amazing. Technology has vastly improved these days and now we have DVRs which have done away with those old VHS tapes and you can now digitally record your program and then go back and see it again and again, whenever you’d like. You can even go back to a particular spot in a particular program and just see that part of it one more time.
**Have you ever thought that you’d like to be able to go back to a particular time in your life? I mean, I was thinking about the days before certain difficulties happened in my life and the thought came to me, “Man, I wish I could just go back there before all that happened to that point in time again.” Well, we all know we can’t do that, but we aren’t the first who have had that kind of thought either. Job, which is believed to be the oldest book of the Bible, records the events of his life. We all know his story well, but did you know that he had those same thoughts? In Job 29 Job said in verses 2-5-Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; When his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness; As I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle; When the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were about me.
**Job was doing the very same thing I was describing. He wished he could hit the rewind button and go back and replay the events of his life when things were better, when life was good, when his family was about him and all seemed well. You know as well as I do that we can’t go back to those days and change anything. What we can do is live on the promises of God today. There are so many of them to think of, but there is one that comes to mind for me today. It is found in Hebrews 13:8-Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
**It is the promise and assurance for us all that the one who was Lord when we thought things were so much better in the past, is still the same today and will be tomorrow and forevermore. He loved us then and He loves us now and will forever love us. He was with us then and He is with us now and He will be with us forevermore. There isn’t anything about Him that has changed toward us. No matter what has changed in our lives, He has never changed, and He never will. He was the same Jesus before your present situation, and He is still the same Jesus in your present situation, and He will always be the same.
February 7, 2021
There are some people who are notoriously late. Come on. You know who you are. You’re always a few minutes late to work. A few minutes late wherever you go. To be honest with you, I’m late on occasions, but I hate being late. I am the kind of person that I’d rather be early than late. But that’s just me. Usually if I’m running late, it’s because I’ve intended to be late. Which brings me to my pondering for today.
**When Jesus arrived in Bethany, He was four days late according to the timing of Mary and Martha. It wasn’t when they wanted Him to arrive. They had sent word to Jesus before their brother Lazarus had ever died saying that he was sick and thinking that Jesus would make a beeline for Bethany. But He didn’t. As a matter of fact, when He received the news, Jesus waited two more days and then when He did arrive Lazarus had been dead four days. Even before He could get to the house Martha heard He was in town and ran out to meet Him with her first words being, Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother had not died.
**Have you ever felt that way about some situation? “Lord, if you would have intervened, I wouldn’t have gotten sick.” “Lord, if you would have touched, I wouldn’t have been diagnosed with cancer.” “Lord, if you would have healed, my loved one would not have died.” Lord, if you would have…” And the list could go on and on, could it not? There isn’t a single one of us today, but what we have some situation, some problem, some burden or some need that we could wonder why the Lord didn’t show up “four days” earlier and help us.
**When Jesus spoke to Martha, He said these words, I am the resurrection and the life. Everything that was about to happen revolved around that I am statement of Jesus. It was help for the immediate and hope for tomorrow. Being the “I am” said to Martha that He was the One who was in control before Lazarus got sick and died, and that He was the One in control of what would happen now. Although we have the benefit of knowing the whole story, Martha didn’t. When Jesus told her that tremendous truth that day, He asked her a simple question…Believest thou this? And Martha with, no doubt struggling and wondering faith, said, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.
**We may not always understand how He will use our delays for any good cause, but if we will just trust Him and believe in who He is we may be able to stand back and watch while He does something astounding even in our situation. Even when He seems to be late, He never is, but is always right on time to do the right work for His glory and honor.
January 31, 2021
Everything that I have and everything that I own has been given to me by the gracious hand of an Almighty God. From the biggest things, such as life, family, health, food or financial means all the way down to the more minor things such as the tee shirt I lounge around in at the house or the old worn-out pants that I do my everyday work in. It all comes from God. I am so thankful that He has given to me all that I have.
**With that being said, if it all comes from Him, then He has complete control of how it is handled. That means He has the right to give it and He has the right to remove it if He so would choose for some reason or purpose. Job understood that. After everything that happened to him, his response in Job 1:21 was this, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither; the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. What a tremendous statement! What tremendous faith! What tremendous trust!
**There are things that we honestly do not have answers for. There are things that we all would like to know why they come the way they do or why they have to work out in the manner that they do. I wish I could tell so many in our church family the answers to their why questions about the circumstances of their lives. I don’t have the answers and I don’t know why things are as they are for them today. I don’t know why some are healed while others remain sick. I don’t know why some have no problems while others seem to have nothing but problems. I don’t know why some have lost a loved one while others God has spared that kind of suffering and loss. I just don’t have the answers for those questions.
**But here is what I do know. I know that God never makes mistakes. I know that He loves me more than I could ever imagine. I know that He has a plan for my life that far exceeds anything that I could ever, in my greatest imagination, design for my life. I know that He cares so much about me that He wants to spend eternity with me in heaven. I know that He wants me to trust Him even though at times I don’t understand Him. I know that He wants me to lean on Him during the most difficult times of my life that He might prove His faithfulness to me during those times.
**You might be facing today the worst day that you have ever faced. You may be dealing with things you never imagined you would ever have to face. But I want you to know this. God is too wise to ever make a mistake and He is too loving to ever treat you wrong. He wants us to trust Him as Job of old and to face life with the words, Blessed be the name of the LORD. It may be tough today, but with His help we can.
January 24, 2021
The book of Esther in the Bible has always been a fascinating book to me. Its peculiarities have often caused critics to suggest that it ought not be in our Bibles at all. You see, the name of God is not mentioned in it at all. There’s not so much as a divine title or pronoun in reference to Him whatsoever. The Temple is never mentioned, worship or prayer is never spoken of and the law is never alluded to in the book either. Jerusalem is mentioned only once. Although there is no mention of His name you cannot read the book without being aware of God. What we find in the book of Esther is the providence of God. Standing in the shadows of this book is God guiding and directing the events of the times. The providence of God is that means by which He directs all things, both seen and unseen, both good and evil toward His ultimate purpose, which means that in the end His will prevails.
**I have said all that to say this to remind you that our God is running the universe today. Though some may think He’s lost control, He is well in control of all things. We look at the events of our world, our country or even our lives and sometimes feel like things are just random events or accidents of life. The truth is there are no accidents, but there is a God in heaven who has a plan and a purpose behind all that happens in the world and in our lives. He wasn’t caught off-guard by the worldwide pandemic. He wasn’t surprised by the outcome of our elections. He wasn’t even shocked by your last CT scan results. He is a God that knows the outcome before the onset of every detail of our life.
**But back to the book of Esther. The book reveals how that God worked in the shadows, even through the choices that the various characters of the story made, to accomplish His perfect will. He had Esther in the right place at just the right time to protect the children of Israel from wicked Haman. He had Mordecai at just the right place at the right time to hear of a plot to kill the king and be able to warn him. He had the king unable to sleep that he might find the record of Mordecai’s deed and seek to reward him, which also undid Haman’s wicked plans.
**Why have I said all of this? To try to encourage you that, although things in our world, our nation and even our lives can seem so out of control, that God has everything in complete control. We may not be able see the reasons why things are working as they are. There are even times we may not even like how they are happening, but in the end, they are accomplishing God’s perfect plan and purpose. He knows what He is doing in our world and even my life. I just need to trust Him.
January 17, 2021
It’s almost unbelievable to watch how quickly our world is changing right before our eyes. From the pandemic we have gone to riots in the streets to watching on television as protestors stormed the Capitol building in Washington. And now once again our President has been impeached just before he is to leave office. Every day we are hearing of threats and warnings. I feel like asking the question, “Is this truly America? What in the world is happening to our nation?”
**But the thing that troubles my heart is the fear that it is causing in people’s lives. I think that we have become so attached to CNN and Fox News that we have forgotten to hear the voice of the One who truly knows the truth. It doesn’t matter which news channel you turn to, you are only hearing their side of the story, which for the most part is liberal in their thinking and has nothing spiritual about it. What we need is to hear the voice of the Lord in the middle of all that is happening and keep in mind that He is the only one that sees things clearly and knows the outcome and purpose behind all that is happening.
**So, what is the answer for the fear that these things tend to bring into our hearts? I think it comes from that old, old psalm that we so often read and may even be able to quote by heart. Psalm 23:4 says this, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. David, who penned this tremendous psalm, was a shepherd and had spent many hours tending his father’s sheep. He had protected them from many dangers on numerous occasions. He once told king Saul of killing a lion and bear. David knew that what gave his sheep the sense of safety and security in the face of danger was the presence of the shepherd with them. So, when David thought about the Lord being his shepherd and then of his enemies, David said that he would fear no evil for the Lord was with him.
**When David says he would fear no evil, the word evil means calamity, adversity, harm, hurt or trouble of any kind. Though he may face things that would cause him fear, he could face them with calmness in his heart, because the Lord was with him. Sheep could only rest and be at peace in their surroundings as long as they stayed near the shepherd. I encourage you today to keep yourself close to the Lord our Shepherd. How do you do that? You do that by reading your Bible every day, by spending time in prayer every day and trusting Him and Him alone to keep your heart and mind at peace in these days of uncertainty and stress. Yes, they are stressful for us all, but our Shepherd is with us and as long as He is with us, we need never fear anything.
January 10, 2021
I wonder if there is much that is more frustrating than road construction work on a busy highway. I mean, you are traveling down the highway and suddenly you are rerouted by a “lane-shift” or some other road construction slows your progress down to a crawl. Then there is that wondrous blessing of a flagger stopping you when you’re in a hurry and you have to wait on the “Pilot Car” to lead you through the road work. Maybe you wouldn’t admit it, but I often catch myself griping out loud to no one in the car with me. But what do you do?
**I was waiting the other day for an appointment at my doctor’s office, which is another glorious time, isn’t it? But, while I was waiting, I was thinking about some of the road construction I had encountered in getting there and the frustration it had been. Then it occurred to me. Somewhere there is someone who designed the whole thing. They were planning for months or even years in advance for that particular project to be done. They didn’t tell me they were going to do it. They didn’t ask me if it was okay to do it. They didn’t call me up and say, “Hey, Tony, we just wanted to let you know that on such and such a date, we are going to change your travel route and redo the way you go toward your destination.” Nope, they just did it.
**It was all done in the name of “progress.” That word “progress” is what stuck in my mind, so I looked in up on Dictionary.com while I was waiting (yep, I was still waiting). Here is the definition—it means “a movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage.” I’ll be honest with you. Once the project is finished, I’m usually well pleased with the outcome and look back at the process as being worth the trouble.
**You know, life is like that, too. There is One who is the Master Designer of our lives. There are things that He brings into our lives that He doesn’t tell us are coming, but it is all for a higher goal or purpose that we often never see. The main purpose is to shape us into the image of Jesus. There have been times that the Lord has made “lane changes” in my life and rerouted me in a different direction that I never saw coming. There have been times that He stopped me where I was, and I had to wait for Him who is the great “Pilot” to lead me through the difficulty I was facing. By the way, He is the only one who knows the right way to go. There are times He has broken up some things in my life I thought were pretty good, but He redid them in order to change some things for His greater purpose in my life. So, you may be going through some construction work today. Be patient. It is truly His “Work in Progress”.
January 3, 2021
You know it always feels a little odd or strange trying to get used to the idea of a new year. Making sure you write the proper date and year on your check or when you date something important. But I don’t know, I think we have all been so ready to move past 2020 into 2021 that we may actually breathe a little sigh of relief and adjust more easily. We may feel that closing the book on what seems to have been such a strange and difficult year is an exciting thing for the most part.
**But truly if we look back over the year, there were some blessings mixed in with everything else we dealt with. That is always how life is for us. Somehow, we just always seem to focus on the hard times and how the difficulties were present. We tend to forget of those times where the Lord met a particular need or blessed in a certain way. It’s so easy to let the battles of life and the burdens we face capture our attention to the point that we miss seeing the blessings we’ve experienced. I read an article in the newspaper that shed a little light of perspective about the year 2020 in looking back. It spoke of how that if much of what we had gone through this past year would have taken place just thirty or so years ago, we would not have been as prepared to face it.
**I will be the first to admit life was very frustrating for us. It was frustrating when we had to adjust our worship services, but what a blessing that we had internet to broadcast to people at home so they could hear and see the services. I’m thankful the Lord allowed us the amazing technology to broadcast over the radio so people could sit in their cars and listen in the parking lot to our services. I am so very thankful that, although we had several in the church to deal with the Covid sickness, we did not have a single person in our congregation to pass away from its effects. I am thankful that the Lord, as unusual and difficult and crazy as 2020 has been, I am thankful He kept us safe through it all.
**Yes, I am ready to move past 2020 but I know that I need to stop and thank Him for His goodness to my life in getting me to 2021. You may need to do that as well. Maybe you saw some difficult days this past year. Maybe you faced some hard times in 2020. I’m not minimizing that by any means, but what I am saying is that the Lord got us through it all and I don’t want to forget to pause long enough to thank Him for that. I can look back even beyond 2020 and realize that had it not been for God’s amazing grace I would be in a mess today. He has blessed me beyond measure and more than I deserve. So, before I walk too far into 2021, I must stop to say, “Thank you, Lord, for your blessings on me.”
December 27, 2020
As another year winds down to a close there are many, and probably all, that are ready to say, “Good riddance to 2020!” This has been a hard year to say the least. I think of the stories we have read about and heard about that are heart wrenching of families who have lost loved ones. It is hard enough to lose someone close to you, but so many of them couldn’t even be there when they left this world. I think of the loneliness of those who have laid in the hospital beds and longed for family to visit, but because of restrictions they weren’t able to do so. Then on top of that were the added difficulties of days of sickness, job losses and unemployment sign ups, Covid guidelines and then everything else this year has brought. Yeah, I think we’re all ready to turn the page to a new year.
**Still, a new year brings its own uncertainties. We face it wondering what it will bring to our lives, but that is what I want to consider today in reflection of what we have just celebrated. When the angel told of Jesus’ birth, he referred back to Isaiah 7:14 where it declared that a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. That is what captures my thoughts for a new year. God with us. With all that we have faced this past year, we could not have faced it without the assurance of that same fact that God has been with us. Through all of the daily troubles and trials of life, the dark storms and strains of life or even in the difficult temptations and snares of life, we have passed through them all because of “God with us.”
**It is the same “God with us” that will carry us into and through another year. Surely, we don’t know what this year may hold, but, as the old hymn writer says, “God holds the future in His hands.” He knows all about tomorrow and He has everything in His control. There is not one single event that has taken Him by surprise. There is not one single act that caught Him off-guard. And there is nothing that you or I will face in this coming year that will surprise Him whatsoever either. If it be a deep valley for me to walk through or a tall mountain for me to climb, I will not walk it or climb it alone, for it with be “God with me.”
**I’ve written these lines to encourage your heart and mine. There is so much in this world to discourage us. There is so much to pull us down and it’s so easy to feel lonely and afraid. It’s so easy to feel doubtful and unsure. It’s so easy to become worried and be fearful. But there is One who is still the Emmanuel of the Bible, that carries that name for us today. “God with us.” He is and He always will be with us.
December 20, 2020
This year has been such a strange year. When the pandemic first began to affect us back in the spring, I never imagined that we would still be dealing with it at Christmas. I look back to see how it has touched so many lives and families. Some that I know have gone home to be with the Lord because of the sickness. I know and understand the Lord has been in control of it all and there is His purpose behind it all, but it is still heart breaking for so many families this Christmas season.
**But, as I was saying, it has made this such a strange time of year. Thanksgiving was so odd, but at the same time it was special with our family as we sat down together in our small group to eat a Thanksgiving meal and be thankful for God’s goodness. Christmas will take us all out of our “comfort zones” as well I’m sure. What has been our “normal” for Christmas, will certainly be abnormal this year. My desire is for us to get through it safely, without sickness, and be able to move into a new year and, Lord willing, put this virus behind us.
**With that said, there is one thing that has remained constant. I still love to hear those old favorite Christmas carols and to read again the story of our Lord’s birth. I woke up this morning with a particular carol on my mind and heart. You know it by heart I’m sure. Its words go like this. “O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant! O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem! Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels; O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord!” (“O Come All Ye Faithful”, written by James Francis Wade) The phrase that has remained in my heart today is the phrase, “O come, let us adore Him.”
**Through everything that has happened this year to so many in our church family involving sickness and difficulties and sorrows, there is one thing we need this Christmas. More than presents. More than the Christmas ham with all the side dishes. More than all the extras that maybe this year we will have to do without. The one thing we truly need is to come and adore Him who loved us with such an amazing love to leave heaven’s beauty to be born in Bethlehem’s barn that He would be the Savior of the world. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. Though you may feel shortchanged this year because of this pandemic, if you are saved by His grace, you are never shortchanged and blessed beyond measure. Be thankful and come, let us adore Him! Merry Christmas!
December 12, 2020
There are various aspects of the Christmas story that come to mind at this time of year. It seems that one of our favorites, and especially mine too, is the story found in the Luke 2 passage of when Mary and Joseph make the trip to Bethlehem. There are so many things we could consider about that text, but my thoughts are drawn today to what the angels said to the shepherds on that night. Not the whole message that they gave to them, but the final words of praise found in verse 14 when they said, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
**To be honest there isn’t much peace or good will to be found in the world these days. We look around us at a world of hurt, a world of turmoil, a world of gloom, a world of conflict and violence, and so often, in people’s lives, a world of hopelessness. The virus that has touched so many lives and homes seems to not be letting up. There are words of encouragement of a vaccine in days to come, but it all takes time. So, where is the peace on earth, good will toward men to be found?
**For one thing we must realize that real peace and good will was personified in Jesus Christ. He was peace or as Paul wrote in the book of Ephesians 2:14-For he is our peace. He is the one that reached down to fallen man and reached up to the Father in heaven and brought reconciliation between us. The peace with God that sin had robbed from man’s heart is restored through the salvation found in Jesus Christ alone. There is no other true or lasting peace to be found except in Him. When Jesus came to this earth it was in reality peace on earth in His person.
**Then the good will toward men speaks of a good or gracious purpose toward men. Isn’t that also what the coming of the Lord Jesus was? His coming to this earth was nothing other than God’s grace in action. When God sent His only begotten Son into this world to be our Redeemer, it was nothing short of amazing grace. And what amazing grace it truly is, that God would love someone like you and me, that He would love us and care enough for us to send Jesus, His Son, to this world to die for our sins. What wondrous love and what amazing grace!
**Charles Wesley wrote in that wonderful Christmas carol we love to sing, “Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, born that we no more may die, born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!” In a world that doesn’t show much peace or good will, I’m so thankful God shared His with us.
December 6, 2020
It’s that time of year again. Christmas movies. Christmas music. Christmas decorations. Christmas shopping. Although everything is different this year, there are some things that are always the same. I love this time of year, to be honest. The old Christmas song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” In so many ways, it is. But I’m afraid as the song continues the reason has more to do with all of the external things that go along with Christmas than the real reason that we celebrate Christmas. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love seeing the lights and decorations as much as anyone else, but that isn’t why we have this season to celebrate. It is all about a holy and righteous God who loved us enough to send His Son to this earth to be our Savior.
**I read a statement by Max Lucado once about the birth of Christ that touched my heart. He said, “Christmas begins what Easter celebrates. The child in the cradle became the King on the cross.” (From the book “Because of Bethlehem.”) That is so true. You see, my problem with how the world celebrates this time of year is that they only see the birth as a stand-alone event. That’s all they want to see and that’s all they want to accept about Jesus Christ. They are happy to sing, “Little baby in the manger, I love you.” But that is as far as they care to go.
**I know it had to start there and I am so thankful that it did. We must recognize the virgin birth of Jesus, but we cannot leave Him in the manger. There must be the connection between the manger and the cross. There must be the recognition that the child born of Mary didn’t come just to be born in the manger, but that He came to die on the cross for our sins. Were it not for Bethlehem, we would have no hope of salvation. I do not underestimate the importance of Bethlehem whatsoever. Because of Bethlehem we have a Savior who came. Because of Bethlehem we have a sufficient Friend who can identify with the feeling of our infirmities and I am so thankful today for Bethlehem.
**As we set out this month to decorate and celebrate this Christmas season, although different than maybe as it has been in the past years, don’t forget to make the “Calvary Connection” between Bethlehem and the cross. I am so thankful that the Father saw that our greatest need was a Savior, and the Son was willing to come to earth to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. I am so thankful that the words of the angels to the shepherds were, For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:11. It wasn’t unto you is born a baby, but unto you is born a Savior and that is just what we needed.
November 29, 2020
One of my morning rituals, after spending some time alone with the Lord, is to scan through the pages on the newspaper online and see if there is any news worth reading. I can’t tell you how many days that I finish rather quickly with the thought of how depressing the news seems to be. Another spike in Covid cases. Another robbery or murder took place. Here is what the political forecast looks like for the coming administration. And it just seems to go on and on from one day to the next. Oh, occasionally there is something that makes you smile, but it’s usually in the “Comics” section.
**It brings to mind the fact that I often tend to forget. This world for you and I is only our temporary home. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20-For our conversation is in heaven. The word conversation is a word that is political in nature and speaks of one’s citizenship. So, Paul was saying to those Philippian Christians that their citizenship was in heaven, not on this earth. I’m afraid we sometimes forget that fact. We get so wrapped up in what is happening here that we forget we are just passing through this world and that we are only here for a short while. Does that mean we bury our heads in the sand and ignore what is going on around us? Not by any stretch of the imagination, but it does mean that we don’t let what is happening around us master our emotions and control our thinking.
**I remember hearing my dad say years ago in his preaching and I’ve said it often myself, that some have said we Christians can be too heavenly minded that we are no earthly good, but I’m afraid the real danger is that we get so earthly minded that we are no heavenly good. There must be the balance in realizing that, although we live in this world and carry on our affairs in this world, we are citizens of heaven and there will come a day when we’ll leave all of this behind us. That’s why we need to not drive our tent stakes too deep in this world. Our hope doesn’t rest in what happens in a new administration or in what they will or won’t do. Our hope rests in the promise that there is something far better than this world has to offer.
**To read from the pages of the daily news is okay to catch up on what is happening locally or nationally. It’s not a terrible thing to be aware of things going on in our community, state, nation and world. But far greater is the need to read from the pages of God’s eternal word. It is there we gain clear focus on what is real. You’ll never find “Fake News” in God’s word. You’ll never be misled in what He says about this life or what is yet to come. When you put into your mind the right kind of information from His word, it sure helps give you the right understanding about the kind of things the world seeks to put into our minds from their perspective. So, press onward knowing this, that the coming of the Lord is near. Keep walking, keep working and keep watching for He will soon be here.
November 22, 2020
I guess it would be redundant to say that this has been a most unusual year to date. I suppose that has been said more times than we care to think about, but it’s so true. The thing that has crossed my mind this morning is that as we approach Thanksgiving this year things are going to be so different for so many families and, to be honest, for us all. Each year at Thanksgiving the day normally involves our family all gathering at my mom’s house, eating till we’re stuffed like the proverbial “turkey on Thanksgiving Day”. (Well, you get the picture.) Then we’ll end up sitting around laughing and catching up on all that’s been going on in each other’s lives. This year it isn’t going to be that way. This pandemic has changed how we plan to do Thanksgiving this year and because of it we all agreed not to do the big gathering and we plan to do our small family meals.
**My heart goes out to those families who will gather but there will be an empty place at their table. There are families we all know well that the Covid touched their home and because of this sickness their loved one didn’t survive it. Thanksgiving this year will surely be a difficult one for them this year and I hope we keep them in our prayers. Then there are those who, like our family, that must stop and be thankful because this virus could have taken some in our own family, but by the grace and mercy of the Lord, they are with us today. It isn’t easy to understand why the Lord’s plan is for some to be taken home by some sickness or disease, while He so graciously spares others. Maybe on life’s other side He will help us understand those things much better than we do now.
**With that particular thought on my mind, I remember something my mom said to me when she told me she didn’t want us to try to get together this year at Thanksgiving because of the Covid situation. She said there will be another time that we will all be able to get together again. You know, there will be. It may not be on this side of the river, but there is a place on life’s other side where the Lord has gone to prepare that we will one day all get together again. Our redeemed loved ones who have gone on before us are waiting for us over there. They left this world of sin and sorrow and are now in the presence of the Savior worshiping and waiting for the day when we all can get together again. What a time of thanksgiving that will be.
**The apostle John in the book of Revelation saw that wondrous group in Revelation 4:11 and they were saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. You see, that’s why we were created. That one day, in His presence, we could worship, glorify and give thanks to Him. So, I ask you, why not start right now? Let’s worship, glorify and give thanks to Him now, for He is truly worthy of all our praise.
November 15, 2020
You probably saw some of the news reports of the local rainfall damage from this past week. I remember watching as they played the videos of washed out roads and flooded homes and cars. It’s easy to become detached to that kind of damage until it happens to you. It’s easy to sit and watch those images and think of how terrible it is, and truly it is, but then we hit the channel button and move on to something else. But, you know, there are people who have had their lives terribly changed by those situations. They can’t just hit a button and go on to something else. They are now left to pick up the pieces and clean up the damage of what the rains and the floods have done to their homes and lives.
**There are people all around us that are dealing with the devastation of some storm that has ravaged their life. I’m not talking about a natural storm that has come, but the kind that hurts much deeper and takes much longer to heal from. You can repair a washed-out road, or you can repair a damaged house and fix many of those things to the point that you’d never know anything had happened. But there are times that wounds of the heart and emotional distress take their toll and no amount of money in the world can repair that kind of damage.
**These things can often leave your heart and emotions washed out like those highways I saw on the news after the waters had receded. They often wash hope from your heart, causing you to wonder if you’ll ever truly enjoy the things of life again as you once did in the past. It’s easy to feel that way when all you can see is the damage that’s been done. It’s then that you have to look away from your situation to the One who can heal your hurts, restore your joy and bring fresh hope to your heart. I read a statement the other day I want to share with you. “Some of your greatest answers to some of your greatest problems come during times of your greatest discouragement. You must never forget that it is during times of your greatest hopelessness that Jesus is nearer than He has ever been before.” What a tremendous truth to remember.
**You may be facing right now the most difficult time you’ve ever faced in your life. You may feel washed out and empty inside. You may wonder how you’re going to go on not knowing what lies ahead. That’s where you have to do as Solomon said in Proverbs 3:5-6-Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Take Him at His word. Trust Him with all your heart. He has never failed, and He will not fail you now. He will see you through this storm.
November 8, 2020
There are many things about the workings of the Lord that are far beyond our comprehension. I often think of what the prophet Isaiah declares that the Lord says about His ways in Isaiah 55:8-9-For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. I’m not sure whether you’ve gazed into the heavens on a clear starry night lately, but the vastness of space is greater than you and I can take in. That is what the Lord is trying to get us to understand. His ways are far too vast for us to take in or to fully grasp with our finite minds.
**For me, the thing that troubles my mind I guess far more than anything else is when it comes to those times of divine silence. I’m talking about those occasions when the Lord seems to be silent on the things that I want Him to talk to me about. I’m longing for information, but, for whatever reason, the Lord has chosen for that moment in time to be silent. I keep looking for Him, but He seems to delay. You know what I’m talking about because we’ve all experienced those occasions.
**There are those times when it seems His presence is so real and so near to us that we could almost reach out and touch Him. There are those times that it’s as though we can pick up His word, turn to any portion and it drips as with the sweetness of honey from the honeycomb. There are those times that we bow our hearts to pray and we sense the connection as if standing in the Lord’s very presence. But then, there are those strange occasions when it seems the Lord is nowhere to be found. We pray, but heaven seems as though it’s brass. We read our Bibles, but His word seems without warmth to our hearts. We wonder where He is.
**It’s during such occasions that we must walk by faith. Vance Havner tells that he once read a little motto on a preacher’s desk that said, “I believe in the sun when it does not shine. I believe in God when He is silent. I know the sun is up there even on the darkest day. And when darkness veils Jesus’ lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace.” Genuine faith continues to believe, even though God is silent because He will speak again. We may sit with Job longing for answers and looking for the Lord to show up. It may take some time, but He will. It may not be today, and it may not even be tomorrow, but in His time He will. Someone once said that God may seem slow, but He is never late. You may be waiting on Him today but keep trusting and keep watching for in His time He will step into your situation and do His great work.
November 1, 2020
If you’re like me it’s hard to believe that November is here. At the same time if you’re like me you’re probably about ready to close the book on a year that has been the most unusual year anyone could imagine. I never thought that we would still be dealing with the pandemic and its fallout. Yet here we are and who knows where it will ultimately end. But November brings with it the time of changing leaves, cooler temperatures and, of course, Thanksgiving. That will be a tough time for many this year. It will be celebrated differently than it has been for many families and there will many empty places in hearts and homes.
**There are so many who are dealing, right now, with days filled with uncertainty and sickness. There are those in our church family who are hurting and worried about things that they are facing within their own world, much less what is happening in the world at large. My heart goes out to them as they face these trying times. The truth of the matter is that none of us know what we will encounter in this life. Trouble comes to us all. Job said in Job 5:7-Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward. There is no escaping the troubles that life can bring, but there is one who cares about our troubles.
**The psalmist David prayed in Psalm 31:9-Have mercy upon me, O LORD, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly. He also said in verse 12-I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel. Have you ever felt that way? Like a broken vessel. There have been times that the weight of life is so great that we feel broken on the inside. Forgotten, David said. But I am so thankful that in reality we are never forgotten and that there is one who knows our burdens and cares because of our sorrows.
**I am so thankful too that He has mercy on our lives. That is what David sought from the Lord. The word mercy is the idea of a superior bending down in kindness to an inferior. I am undeserving of His kindness. I am unworthy of His mercy, but I am so thankful that He (the Superior) bends down in kindness to me (the inferior) with His love and with His grace. David knew where to turn. He always did. So, should we always turn to Him in our times of trouble and need.
**David closed the psalm with these words in verse 24-Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD. I don’t know all that you’re facing or will be facing, but I do know this. David was right. He was saying “Fasten yourself to the Lord and He will strengthen your heart.” If you’ll do that, you will get through this.
October 25, 2020
Elijah was living the whirlwind kind of life when the wheels fell off for him. With a backbone like a sawlog he said to the wicked king Ahab that there would be no dew or rain but according to his word. The Lord then hid him by the brook Cherith and fed him there. When the brook dried up, the Lord sent him to Jezebel’s hometown and took care of him at a widow’s house and miraculously fed the widow, her son and Elijah. When her son died the Lord used Elijah to raise him from the dead. Finally, he presented himself again to Ahab, challenged the prophets of Baal and when he prayed God sent fire down from heaven and consumed his sacrifice. He then went on the mountain and prayed until God sent an abundance of rain. Whew! What a man of faith and power.
**But then that’s when things changed. Jezebel, that wicked queen, says she will take his life within a day. At her words, this bold man of power flees to the wilderness, sits under a Juniper tree and feels that he has had it with it all. He is discouraged and he is worn out. That’s the part I wanted us to get to. There are times that we are all discouraged with how things have gone and feel as though we would love to just run to some wilderness, away from all of our troubles and sit down under some Juniper tree of our own. You know as well as I do that, we all deal with discouragement at times, just like Elijah. We can feel so bold one day and so beaten down the next. We can feel ready to fight the battle head on one day and so frightened and defeated the next day.
**Elijah ultimately ended up in a cave where the Lord spoke to him. At first there was a strong wind, but God wasn’t in the wind. Then an earthquake and a fire, but God wasn’t in those either. Finally, in a still small voice God spoke to Elijah. Elijah had been living through days of wind, earthquake and fire, but what he really needed was to hear the still small voice of God once more. You see, so much of what had brought Elijah to this place was fatigue. He had done so much that somehow he had lost the sound of the still small voice in his heart.
**It’s amazing how we let the winds, earthquakes and fires of life’s events silence His voice. We get so wrapped up in all we’re doing and dealing with that we miss out on hearing that still small voice and then when we hear the voice of the enemy’s challenge, we become fearful and afraid. What we need all along is to find the place of the still small voice again. Are you missing that today in your life? There are voices that want you to hear them that will cause you fear but find the place of the still small voice to settle your heart once again.
October 18, 2020
The New Testament record of Jesus’ life and ministry shares many occasions that people came to Him and He healed them or did a work for someone in their family. I guess to me one of the most unusual experiences took place when the Canaanite mother came to Jesus desiring Him to heal her daughter of a demonic spirit. You find the story in the gospel of Matthew chapter 15:21-28. At first it seems that Jesus wasn’t paying her any attention, but she continued to plead with Him to hear. Even the disciples said to the Lord, Send her away, for she crieth after us. But she would not be discouraged, and continued to seek the Lord’s help saying, Lord, help me. Again, Jesus seemed to discourage her cries, but she humbly sought for if only just a crumb and the Lord said, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.
**I wonder today how many there are that may be stuck in what I once read Max Lucado call the place of “not yet answered prayers.” You have been praying. You have been pleading. You have been crying, but it seems the Lord isn’t listening. There is the voice of discouragement that seems to say, “Why not give up. He isn’t listening to you. He isn’t going to hear you.” But maybe today you are just in the place of a “not yet answered prayer.” It isn’t that the Lord is not hearing, because Jesus truly is. It isn’t that He cannot do the work, because He surely can. It may be that the answer just hasn’t come for you yet.
**When the Lord did respond to her and when the Lord did answer her, He spoke of her great faith. Her faith was great because it was placed in the greatness of who He was. She knew that if there was to be any help in her situation, that it was going to be found in Jesus. When you and I put our faith in Him, there is no greater place to trust. He alone has all power to meet the needs of our lives.
**Her faith was also great because it wasn’t discouraged by delay. Just because the Lord didn’t answer immediately and just because the Lord didn’t respond as she thought He would, she never lost faith in Him. It may be today that the Lord hasn’t moved as quickly as you thought He should. It could be that He hasn’t worked in the manner that you thought He would. But don’t be discouraged by His delays. He knows exactly what you need, and He will do His work in His time.
**So, you may be in the “not yet answered prayer” position today. You could even be in the “not answered as you thought it would be” place. Either way, keep your eyes on Jesus. He has the situation in control, and, in His time, He will do His work. We just have to trust Him.
October 11, 2020
I was scanning through today’s paper when the news article caught my eye. I had heard about the famous rock music guitarist that had died this week, and the article was about his death. It was the headline for the article the grabbed my attention. It called his name and read “‘Rock god’ gone at 65”. The article went on to say how that through his great talent on the guitar he “became elevated to the status of rock god.” As I read that I thought how messed up this world is to exalt an individual to that kind of position and make them their idol.
**It all reminded me of what the apostle Paul described in the first chapter of Romans when he said in vs 21-Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Then also in vs 25-Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. What a picture of this generation. This world has no concept of the wonder and of the greatness of the God we serve. They have exalted in their own foolish hearts and imaginations little gods worshipping the creature more than the Creator.
**But none of that changes the fact of who He is. Our God is holy and righteous. Our God is eternal and immortal. Our God is truly worthy of our worship and our adoration. Men may exalt other men to some lofty position as their “god”, but they are all fallible. Just like the rock musician they will pass away, but our God is forever and ever. Job declared in Job 19:25-For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. Job was saying that when all others have faded away, when all others are passed off the scene of time, there is going to be one that will stand alone, and He is my Redeemer.
**So, I say to this worldly crowd today. They can have their “rock gods” and they can adore them, but just like this one I read and heard about they will pass away. As a matter of fact, there will come a day when every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. In that day there will be no question about it. There will be no debating the issue. There will be no sidestepping His authority. There will be no denying who He is. There will be no arrogance to His name. There will be no mocking His holiness. There will be no ignoring His greatness. Every knee will bow and give Him the glory He rightfully deserves. We can bow before Him now as our Savior or we will bow before Him in that day as our Judge.
October 4, 2020
We have flipped another page on our calendars for 2020. This has been a most unusual year and now we’re down to the last quarter of this year. It’s like nothing has seemed normal since back in early springtime. It’s as though our whole world has been off kilter for about six months now. So much has changed for us all hasn’t it? But I was thinking this morning about Noah back in the book of Genesis. Can you imagine how it must have been for Noah when the flood waters had abated, and the Lord finally let him step off the ark? Everything in his world had changed even to the point that he and his family were the only people left on the earth. The Bible says that Noah built an altar and worshiped the Lord.
**Life has changed and continues to change for all of us. It isn’t just a pandemic that causes change in our lives, but we grow older and age changes us. Our physical bodies change. We aren’t able to do the things we once did. We can’t see as clearly or move as quickly or remember as sharply as we once did. Sickness causes change, when these old bodies of ours deal with the diseases that come. Death invades our family with change, and it comes to us all. But through all that had changed for Noah, he still took the time to worship the Lord and we need to do the same thing. He is truly worthy of our worship for He never changes. He remains the same through all of life’s changes.
**Do you remember what the Lord told Noah at that time? He said in Genesis 8:22-While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. And you know what? They haven’t. Those things continue to this day and will continue. Summer’s heat gives way to falls chill, which gives way to winter’s cold and so on. Life progresses on and changes, but the Lord says in Malachi 3:6-For I am the LORD, I change not. He does not change and will not ever change. Never! Never ever!
**Why have I said all of this? To let you know that the One who never changes loves you the same at all times just as He always has. Nothing will ever cause Him to love you less and nothing you could ever do will cause Him to love you more for He loves you with an everlasting love. No matter what changes in my life, His love for me never will. Whether life brings good days or bad, joy or sadness, gain or loss, health or sickness, nothing will ever change the fact of who He is or of His amazing love that He has for me. In a world that is continuously changing, I know that there is One who never changes and never will. He is the same Lord He has always been, and He is still worthy of our worship.
September 27, 2020
Being afraid is something we all can identify with from time to time in life. Sometimes it’s the fear of dealing with an uncertain future, an underlying illness or an unsettling situation that we are facing. We often look at people in the Bible and think they just never went through the kinds of things that we go through. I think of a man like David as a mighty warrior. A man of great skill and courage, but he was also a man who dealt with fear. In 1 Samuel 21:12 some words we may overlook say, And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. David dealt with fear just like you and I do.
**It was during those days that David penned Psalm 56, but what stands out so boldly in that psalm is found in verses 2-3 when he says, Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High. What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. There it is. That’s what catches my attention. David said that every day he dealt with enemies that sought to swallow him up. For him it was people; individuals, flesh and blood that were out to harm him. For you it could be any number of things that you are dealing with, but the program is the same. Daily its desire is to envelop your mind and consume your life, bringing doubt, fear and hopelessness to your heart. The idea of what David is saying according to one commentator is that a new day brings no relief, but every day he deals with that which is causing fear.
**But David makes a choice. He has chosen to trust in the Lord. In spite of what his enemies are saying. In spite of what his heart is feeling. In spite of how his emotions are fearing. He is making a choice that, in the middle of a fearful situation, he is just going to trust in the Lord. I’ll admit that trusting God in a time of adversity isn’t always an easy thing to do. Sometimes it will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do in your life. Sometimes it will mean trusting Him when all evidence seems to be stacked against you. Sometimes it will mean trusting Him when everything on the surface appears hopeless.
**Trusting God in such a situation is a matter of faith. It is based entirely on the fact that God is completely trustworthy and that He will never fail to take care of His own. In that same Psalm 56, David says in verse 9-When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me. He believed God would hear His cries and turn his enemies back. That could take some time. It may not come immediately, but he trusted God to do it and he believed that He would based on this fact, that God is for me. And knowing that means everything.
September 20, 2020
I’ll be perfectly honest with you today. There are so many times that life just seems so confusing. When the unexpected happens. When the plans that we have unravel. When we thought we had everything figured out and then, all of a sudden, it all comes crashing down around us. Those are some of the mysterious ways of life that we just don’t always understand from our point of view. It’s easy to say we believe that God is in control of all things, but then we look at those “all things” in our lives and we wonder what He is up to. We can quote with ease Romans 8:28 where the Bible says, And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. That’s so easy to tell everyone else about their situation, but it’s tough to understand in our situation at times, is it not?
**It comes down to this one thing. Do we truly believe that God is in control of all things at all times in our lives? There are those who have the idea that He is in control some of the time. That He created this world is no problem to them. That He watches over this world they can accept, but they believe He allows things to just run their course and “Que sera-sera”, whatever will be will be. I believe that there are no “accidents” in my life. I don’t believe that things just randomly happen to which God had stepped outside for some fresh air only to return and say, “Oh my, what happened here?” I believe that in the things that happen in my life, He is working a divine plan and purpose.
**I do believe that Satan works to try to hinder the plans of God. I do believe, as in the life of Job, he is allowed at times by God to do certain things to God’s children in an attempt to attack our faith and discourage our hearts. He will do that to any of us, but God only allows him a short leash. He can do but so much to us and only then with the Lord’s permission. What Satan may use to discourage and defeat us, God will use to strengthen us and mold us into the Christian He desires us to be.
**It has been said that we don’t always get to see how God weaves things and works things together to bring about the intended results and to bring us to the destination that He desires. It may be that right now you are dealing with some of life’s difficult and dark hours. You may be facing some of the most troublesome days that you have ever faced, but you can rest assured of this, that God is at work in your life. What is happening isn’t just “bad luck”. God is working a purpose through the events of your life and He will work all things out for your good and ultimately for His glory. Just you wait and see.
September 13, 2020
It’s hard to believe that it has been 19 years since that awful morning of September 11, 2001. It is one of those days that is etched in your memory that you remember where you were and what you were doing when the news broke. We remember watching the news broadcasts as the events unfolded as the planes hit and the towers fell knowing the lives that were lost that day. We remember the images from the Pentagon and the smoking field in Pennsylvania. It was a day that changed us as a nation. We talked about a “new normal” and life just wasn’t the same after that. We said as a nation, during those days, that we would never forget, but it’s amazing how soon some seemed to forget.
**There are things that happen in each of our lives that change us, and for the present time, everything no longer seems normal. I wonder how Joseph felt the first morning he woke up in Egypt. I wonder how Job felt the day after all of the disasters took place in his life. I wonder how David felt the morning after his son Absalom had betrayed him and he woke up in the wilderness instead of his bedroom in Jerusalem. I wonder if it’s probably how you felt the day after your situation. The day after your diagnosis. The day after your car wreck. The day after your loved one died. The day after your child left home. The day after your devastating news. The day after…
**Suddenly you found yourself living in a “new normal” world. There is a phrase you find several times in the Scriptures dealing with the story of Joseph in Egypt that has always blessed me. It shows up the first time in Genesis 39:2 just after telling us about how Joseph was brought down into Egypt and then how Potiphar bought him. It says in vs 2-And the LORD was with Joseph. That phrase made what Joseph faced bearable. The Lord was with him. The situation wasn’t what Joseph wanted or expected. It wasn’t pleasant at all. But the Lord was with him.
**I have no idea what your “new normal” may look like today, but when you are His child, He is with you no matter where you are and no matter what you are going through. It doesn’t matter whether you feel like Joseph, Job or David today. In every situation, the Lord is with you. You will never find yourself facing a situation that you’ll have to face alone. The Lord made a promise centuries ago that I believe stands true today. In Isaiah 41:10 He said, Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. You’ll always find Him with you right in the middle of your trial.
September 6, 2020
There are many people in my life that have made a tremendous impact on me. People whose names that I’ll never forget as long as I have my mind to remember. I thank the Lord for them, for without them, I wonder where I would be today. I think of a multitude of preachers, who many of them have left this earthly battlefield, stacked arms, crossed the river and have reached home. I think today of a Sunday School teacher named Earl Robinette that influenced my young life, who taught us young boys about giving our lives to the Lord. I am reminded today of a great prayer warrior named Ossie Barnes, who could touch Heaven as no other man I have ever known in my life. If I tried to make a list of them all I would surely overlook many of them. There are just too many to try to name. Then there are those countless individuals that I don’t know their names, but they went to the Lord on my behalf through the years.
**It reminds me of many of the wondrous works in the ministry of our Lord and of how that there were certain individuals who only briefly graced the pages of the Word of God but played a part in those works. We may overlook them, but what they did lives on today. One of those that comes to mind is in John 11 in the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. We all know the story. Lazarus is at the point of death, so Mary and Martha send for Jesus with the desire that He would do something. We so often focus on the main characters of the story that we overlook one individual—the person who was sent to tell Jesus about the situation.
**Here was someone, we know not who, that was sent after Jesus on behalf of the sisters and Lazarus’ situation. This individual’s name isn’t found in the Bible. We don’t know their position otherwise, but, on that particular day, they had the very important job of going after Jesus on their behalf. There are those who have passed through my life that, maybe I’ll never know their name, maybe they never introduced themselves to me, maybe they never came up to me and told me anything about themselves, but they went their way, got in their closet or in their secret place and went after Jesus on my behalf and about my situations.
**Sometimes we think we need to have recognition. Sometimes we feel people need to know where we’ve been or what we’ve done. None of that really matters. What truly matters is that we give ourselves to honor Him and try to help someone else with their load. Here is someone unnamed and unknown to us, but I guarantee you that their name was known to the Lord and their deed will be rewarded because they did something as simple as going after Jesus on behalf of one of His friends.
August 30, 2020
This has been a tough week for me. I really hesitate to say that because there are so many others dealing with things far worse than I could ever deal with. But then sometimes something happens that helps put a better perspective on things for you. I’ll not go into the events of why my week was tough other than it has been, but as I started my day today the Lord gave me something that I needed so greatly that I felt I had to add it to this week’s pondering. Maybe there is someone reading this that is having a tough week or a tough month or a tough year. I hope what the Lord touched my heart with may be something that you need also.
**Without going on and on, here is what I read that I wanted to share. “Think of it: God not only knows what is going on in your life right now, but He knew all about you even before you were born. In fact, He gave you life and put you on this earth. You are not here by accident; you are here by His design!” Now, that may not do a single thing for you today, but it was exactly what I needed this morning when I read it. You see, there are times that we can feel so overwhelmed by what we are dealing with and what we are facing in this life. We love being in control. We love being able to fix what breaks. We desire to be able to understand those things in our lives that don’t make any sense. When our bodies don’t behave the way we want them to, we want to figure out why, make the adjustment and go on with our lives.
**But sometimes we just can’t control things. There are times we just don’t have the ability to fix what’s broken or to understand what doesn’t make sense. But God knows all about it. He is the one that has given us life. Let that sink in a moment. Ponder that great thought. We have been given the precious gift of life and although there are things we don’t understand about our lives, He does. In His perfect plan for our lives there are peaks and valleys, there are storms, there is sunshine and there are blessings and there are battles. He never said that the journey of my life or your life would always be an easy one, but He always makes the trip with us. He has promised to never forsake us on the journey.
**The Lord knew you would face this day before you were born. The Lord knew about your burdens and battles before they came. The Lord knew about your broken heart and your tears before you ever shed them. Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not evil, to give you an expected end. He knows His plans for your life are perfect and His power is sufficient to get you through whatever you are facing in your life today.
August 23, 2020
Life has its way of taking its toll on each of us. There are the pressures that come from the ordinary things from life, such as making ends meet or raising our family in today’s society and the like. Those are the normal things that we all encounter, and we all expect to face. Then there are the extraordinary things that so many are dealing with, such as serious sicknesses and heavy burdens that aren’t the normal things that come along our way. Things that so often come unexpectedly and deal with our hearts so harshly. Life itself is draining enough, but when you add these extra things onto it, they can really take a toll on you.
**Then you add onto that the fact of living in a world of sin, where we watch daily as our world goes from bad to worse. So many of you work with people whose foul mouths and filthy minds make dealing with them a load in itself to bear. The entertainment of our day is far removed from the times of simplicity of Beaver and Opie. We deal with the constant bombardment of rudeness and sinful innuendoes of vile affections and we are expected to accept it all as “normal behavior”. I’m honest with you, it all takes its toll on me as a Christian and as a preacher today.
**I do the same thing that so many of you do, as I seek to find my refuge in God’s Word to help me through days like the kind we live in. I so often turn to the psalms and read how David dealt with all the pressures of life he dealt with. I know he didn’t pen all of the psalms but in so many of them that he did write he spoke of the Lord as his refuge and place of safety in time of need. The Lord is the same for you and me today.
**But there is one particular verse on my mind this morning found in Psalm 71 that I want to give you. This psalm doesn’t mention David as the author, but it sure sounds like his writings. In vs 16 it says this, I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD. What a statement! What a truth to anchor to in the day in which we live. When the psalmist says, I will go, the idea means I will come and go. In other words, through all that I go through, coming and going, it will be done through the strength of the Lord God. It wasn’t in his own strength or power that he would be able to do it, but in the strength and power of the Lord.
**That is the only way we can face these days. That’s the only way you and I are going to deal with the unusual days we’re living in. That’s how we deal with sickness and setbacks and struggles and sorrows and shortfalls and sadness and the sinfulness of men. We are going to do it, not in our own strength, but in the strength of the Lord God. The winds are blowing hard against us, but just lean on the Lord for His strength.
August 16, 2020
Alice and I have been married 38 years now and after that many years you reach the point when your minds almost seem to be synchronized. I wish I could tell you how often she has finished my sentences when I only get a word or two out. She, so often, knows what I was going to say before I ever say it. And then sometimes I’ll start to say something, and she will say, “That’s scary. I was going to say the very same thing.” It’s as though we’ve been together so long that our minds work together as one. That’s called intimacy. In other words, we know each other so well and have spent so much time together, that we can sense and know what the other is going to say or what the other is thinking and so we can often finish each other’s sentences. She knows me better than anyone else and it’s the same with me for her. That’s intimacy.
**I believe that’s the same idea that is found in the thought of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 6 on worry. He was saying that we should take no thought about the things we so often worry ourselves over and the reason He gave for that statement was this in vs 32-for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. I believe what Jesus was saying is the very same thing I was talking about that exists between my wife and me, which also exists on a much higher level between my heavenly Father and me. Intimacy. He knows me so well that He knows exactly what I need before I ever say it. He understands me and the needs and desires of my heart better than anyone else ever could.
**When Jesus says that our heavenly Father knoweth He is saying that He knows with a full and complete perception. He sees completely all things. There is nothing hidden from His sight. Jesus has been talking about worrying over food, clothing and all the necessities of life. He says that our heavenly Father knows with full and complete perception that we have need of all these things and the idea is that if He knows it, He will take care of it and surely, He will. David once said in Psalm 37:25-I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. God will take care of His own. He is a debtor to no man, especially to His children.
**Our heavenly Father loves us so passionately and He knows us so intimately that He has promised to meet our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. We may be tempted to wonder, why then ask Him if He knows? Because He loves it when His children come to Him with a humble and thankful heart, asking of Him for those things that they need for their lives and it teaches us our dependence upon Him.
August 9, 2020
No one ever said that life would be easy. As a matter of fact, Jesus told His disciples to be prepared for days of trouble. He said in John 16:33-In the world ye shall have tribulation, a word that means pressure. For the disciples it would involve the pressures that they were going to face after His crucifixion and in the early church age. But it wasn’t just a word spoken for them and for an early church. It was a word spoken for believers of all ages, for we live in a world filled with pressure. Ours today may not always be religious persecution such as they suffered, but ours can come in so many different areas of life.
**I’m not sure that I know of anyone today that isn’t feeling the pressures of this world. There is the pressure that comes from living in such an ungodly and violent society. There is the pressure that we feel living in a world of uncertainty from the present pandemic and the economic fallout that it is bringing. I’ll be honest with you, as a pastor, there is the pressure of how it affects us as a church as we slowly are trying to recover from these things. Then there is the pressure on us as families today like never before. There is the attack that Satan has brought on the family through various means through the trials we face in life and because of sickness and the problems we encounter.
**But, again, Jesus never said it would be easy. If life would be easy for us, then I’m afraid we would be content to stay in this world. If there were no heartaches, no sorrows, no sickness or problems to confront us, we wouldn’t long for anything beyond what we have now. But because we have these things that we deal with, we seek a better country. We long for something more than this world can offer us. That’s why I believe it was said about Abraham and those saints of old in Hebrews 11:13-14-These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
**It is by faith that we press onward. No, this world isn’t easy to live in and it isn’t going to get any easier, but it isn’t our home. We too are pilgrims and strangers in this world. We too are seeking for a country. It’s a country where sin and sickness and sorrow and Satan will be forever banished, and the Savior will be the center attraction. Yes, we grow tired of all that we deal with in this life, but we can’t grow weary in the good fight of faith. He who saved us, says, Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life, Revelation 2:10.
August 2, 2020
My kids gave me a daily devotional back at Christmas knowing that each year I try to read through one along with my daily studies. This year the one they gave me is by Billy Graham and it has been a great blessing to me. In this morning’s devotional he made a statement that has stuck with me that I want to share in this pondering. He said this, “thank Him that because of Jesus we know God loves us, and that someday we will be with Him and see Him in all His glory.” Maybe that didn’t strike you like it did me. Let me give you the part that really touched me today. “That someday we will be with Him and see Him in all His glory.”
**My mind immediately went to John 17 to what we call the High Priestly prayer of Jesus. It has always felt like Holy Ground to me when I read this portion of Scripture. Jesus is about to be betrayed in the garden of Gethsemane and will be crucified the next day. He prays this prayer for His disciples, but also for all who will believe on His name, which includes you and me. My mind went to vs 24 where Jesus is praying and says, Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world.
**It is Jesus’ desire and His will that we might be with Him and behold Him in all His glory, the glory that the Father has given to Him. Now, that may not do much for you, but that cranks this old boy’s Jeep. I’m just a nobody, from a nothing much of a town, from a little old no-place of county in a not-too-much of a state. I never grew up in a fancy home, but in a little house down a dirt road sharing a bedroom with my sisters, because there were five of us kids and only two bedrooms (you can do the math). We didn’t have a lot of money, but we had a mom and dad that loved us and taught us about a man named Jesus. They taught us that He left Heaven’s glory, came to a sin cursed earth, died on a hill called Calvary for our sins and rose again the third day.
**To those who will trust Him as their Savior, He will one day come back and take them to live with Him, and they will “be with Him and see Him in all His glory” as Billy Graham said. That includes this old boy from nowhere, but who is going somewhere, because of a man named Jesus. I love Him today and long for the day when I can behold Him in all that glory. In that day I’ll be able to worship Him in a manner that He truly deserves and I’ll be able tell Him in way that I could never do so down here, just how much I thank Him for saving a sinner like me and making me a part of His great forever family.
July 26, 2020
We’ve all heard it and we may have even said it at times. “Life sure is the pits.” The idea is that, at the moment, we feel as though we’re on the bottom and I’m sure we’ve all been there. We can all identify with that kind of feeling at times, can’t we? Pits are all different, but in one sense they’re all the same. They stink. When the Bible spoke of pits, the kind that Joseph was placed into or that David spoke of being delivered out of in Psalm 40, they were deep, dark and dismal. David described his as being filled with miry clay. They were wells or caverns and water would be in the bottom and often they were muddy, and you would go down into them and sink into the muck and the mire. Not a nice picture is it?
**I think we’ve all had those experiences where we’ve been in the pits of life that stank, and we were stuck in the muck and mire of them. It seemed as though we just couldn’t get out. Then some well-meaning folks come by and say things like, “Well, it could be worse.” Really? Although they are right, it really doesn’t make you feel any better. And then there are those that say, “Well, if you think that’s bad, let me tell you about the bad situation I went through.” A stirring game of “let’s see if I can top that” doesn’t make you feel any better either.
**There’s a small book found in the Old Testament called The Lamentations of Jeremiah. We hardly ever look at the book, much less think about it. But Jeremiah had some very profound things to say in this little book of only five chapters. In Lamentations 3:55-57 Jeremiah says, I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon. Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry. Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not. That’s a beautiful passage in such a neglected book.
**Jeremiah had been weeping over the destruction of Jerusalem and feels himself in the low dungeon. The words mean the lowest pit. Life has its way of making you feel there sometimes. Its pressures, its problems and its people can often put you in the pit. So, what do you do? You do what Jeremiah did. You call on the name of the Lord because He will hear. Did you get that? He WILL hear you. Jeremiah also said that the Lord drew near to him in that day and said, Fear not. There are times we feel so low as though the pit has put distance between the Lord and us, but when we cry out to Him, He’s listening and is ready to draw near to us. When He says the words, Fear not, what peace that gives. If you feel yourself in a pit of some type today, call on His name. If you know someone who’s in a pit today, don’t compare pits, pray for them.
July 19, 2020
On July 16, 1969 three astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, blasted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a journey that would make two of them the first men to set foot on the moon. Nothing was left to chance. Their success required tremendous planning and came at great sacrifice. It wasn’t the type of project that could allow for any slight deviation from the course to be successful. There was one path and one path only for them to reach the proper destination. Their Apollo 11 spacecraft powered by a Saturn V rocket was the only way for them to reach their destination—the moon.
**Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13-14-Enter ye at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. We live at a time in our world when plurality and toleration seem to be favorite words. By that I mean that, spiritually speaking, people want to accept the idea that there are many ways to heaven and that we ought to tolerate all views about how to get there.
**But Jesus’ teaching makes it plain. There is no plurality given and no toleration accepted. Jesus says that there are two roads or two ways. One road leads to life and the other road leads to destruction. That is narrow teaching that still stands today. He didn’t leave the door open that anyone may look to the left or to the right and still find a way to arrive at the destination of heaven. There is only one way and that is the way of the cross. Salvation isn’t found in any other way. It isn’t found in creeds or beads. It isn’t found in various ideas or opinions. It is only made possible by the blood of the Lamb of God slain on the cross.
**Just as there was only one way for the Apollo 11 to arrive at the destination of the moon when they blasted off fifty-one years ago, there is only way set before us to arrive at the destination of heaven. That isn’t just this preacher’s narrow-minded theology. That is the very teaching of Jesus Christ. When the time of His crucifixion was so near, He told the disciples in John 14:6-I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. There is no other way—period.
**What I’ve shared today isn’t popular, but it calls us to make sure on which road we are travelling today. We are all on one of the roads. We’re either travelling the broad road that will lead to destruction (hell) or the narrow road that will lead to life (heaven). Which road are you on? Life is too short, and eternity is too long to ignore the question.
July 12, 2020
Saying “good-bye” is such a difficult thing, but yet, it seems it has become such a common thing anymore. Every day we hear of someone else. Another family. Another relative. Another friend. Another name. Another face. Another picture. Another obituary. It seems it never ends. For another family life has changed and things will never be quite the same again. In time the hurt will soften, and they will search for some normalcy again in a world that seems to have lost all normalcy. But for now emotions are raw and the hurt is so real. For now, I’m sure as we all have felt during times of loss, that they wonder how to press on.
**But I turned over to read those familiar verses one more time this morning, just to remind myself and to let them sink deep into my heart that is broken for a hurting family. They were words written to encourage saints who were dealing with heartaches and trials of their own. The words are found in the book of Revelation 21:4 where it says, And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
**Those are words that give peace when the sorrows of life want to overwhelm you. Those words are the kind of words that give you strength when you feel that you are at the end of yours. They are words that remind us of a love and a Lord who cares so greatly for His children. They remind us that there is a land, a place that our Lord has prepared for us, where death and sickness and sorrow will never be allowed to enter. There will be no broken hearts in that day. There will be no more “good-byes” spoken over there. No loved ones will ever part from us again in that city, for all of those things will be no more.
**Just the other day, after hearing of another person getting a diagnosis of cancer, Alice texted me to tell me about it and then sent me the message, “I hate cancer.” You know, I do too. I hate what sin has caused. I hate the sickness, the sadness, the sorrow, the suffering and the pain that it has caused. John said in that verse, for the former things are passed away. All of these things we deal with now, will forever be gone then.
**We live right now in a world filled with sorrow. This world holds no hope for you and I who know the Lord. It continually gets worse and worse. Sin and sickness and sorrow abound on every hand. But our hope lies in the promise that Jesus made to come back and take us home to be with Him. And it will be home. It is the place of no more “good-byes.” I don’t know about you, but I have a longing for home.
July 5, 2020
Change. The word can mean so much. It can have to do with what we get back out of a few dollars when we buy something. It can mean what we think of when we look in the mirror at ourselves and remember how we used to look. It can have to do with what the doctor tells us when he looks over our lab reports and sees how high our cholesterol is this time compared to last time. Yes, change can mean so much. I also think of change today when I look at our nation. So much has changed for us in just the last few months. Many things that we took for granted has changed and nothing seems normal anymore from coming to church, to going to the grocery store, to getting a haircut and about everything else.
**But change hasn’t just happened to our nation over the last few months. Change has taken place in our nation for decades. We just celebrated 244 years as a nation yesterday on July the fourth. Truly God has blessed our nation with a tremendous heritage founded on godly principles. Our nation is not and has never been a perfect nation, but she has been a nation blessed tremendously of God. Yet, it is so sad to me that as we celebrated the anniversary of the founding of our nation that there have been so many things that we have watched over the years eat away at the very foundation our forefathers based this country on.
**Isn’t it a sad day when those Christian principles laid down as the foundation of our great country have been eroded like the storm’s surge on the Carolina coastline? We have watched while our court system has declared it unconstitutional to read the Bible to kids in school or have prayer with them. It’s unconstitutional to display the Ten Commandments in many public places today. If groups such as the ACLU have their say God’s name would be removed from our currency and from any landmark in our country. I see it as ironic that I read in today’s newspaper that Russia’s Kremlin just passed some proposed amendments to their constitution which outlawed same-sex marriages and added a mention of belief in God as a core value. In Russia!! Can you believe it?? Yet, in America we want to take God out of everything we do it seems.
**I know sometimes change can be a good thing and, the Lord knows, there are things in our nation that needs to change for the better. But, honestly, the longer I look around at this world, the more I realize it’s time to stop looking around and to start looking up. I look at the changing times and our changing world and I make it my prayer as John ended the book of the Revelation in chapter 22:20-He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
June 28, 2020
I don’t know how things are with you, but there are times that I wake up and there is a verse or passage of Scripture that just grips my mind. It’s like from the moment my mind starts to focus on the day, it’s there and the Lord just wants me to think on it for that day. It doesn’t happen like that every morning, but it does on occasion, and it did today. The verse that I woke up with is Galatians 6:2 where Paul wrote, Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
**It seems that the world in which we’re living has gotten so cold, so hard and so heartless over many things. I’m not sure what has caused it. I’m not sure the reason behind it all, but I see it everywhere in our society. I hear it in the words that people say and it’s in their actions. And I’m not talking about politicians in Washington or those in mainstream USA. I’m talking about people who live among us in our communities and in our towns. People that we work with and see from day to day in our activities of life. There is an attitude that so often seems to say that if it doesn’t affect me personally, then I don’t really care.
**Paul said in this verse that we are to bear one another’s burdens. The word bear has the idea of helping share the load, helping lift someone’s load or to help shoulder another’s load. The word burdens speaks of something’s weight and it carries the idea of something so heavy that it could take someone under. There are so many today that right now are carrying such heavy loads that they just need someone to care; someone to step in and help carry the load. It may just be a kind word. It may just be an encouraging word. It may be just letting them know that you have them in your prayers and are asking the Lord to help them. You never know what that may mean to someone who is hurting.
**Paul said that when we do this, we are fulfilling the law of Christ. What is the law of Christ he is talking about? It is the law of love. I think of the amazing love that our Lord had for those who were hurting in life. He had a compassionate heart for those who were sick, who were put down, who were lost, who were in need of His touch and His help. I know that we can’t love in exactly the same way that our Lord loved but He has left us an example of what this kind of love looks like.
**We all have our burdens today. There isn’t a single one of us that isn’t carrying some load. It may involve something physical or something involving our family. It may be a spiritual need or an emotional wound that we feel deep within. I can’t heal your hurts or mend your broken heart, but I can help carry you in prayer to the One who can.
June 21, 2020 - Father's Day 2020
With each passing year Father’s Day brings back a flood of memories to my mind. I always seem to scan through those pages with a variety of emotions. There are a lot of happy times. More than I can count. I think of days growing up, when life was so simple and we didn’t have a lot of things as we do now, but we sure had a lot of love. Of course, there were some difficult days throughout them as well. My dad had many days spent in the hospital dealing with sickness and surgeries, but I saw the handiwork of God in his life through all of those things.
**There is one little story that comes to my mind this morning that I hope I never forget. I guess I was around fourteen and dad had taught me to drive on the old dirt road between our house and pawpaw Dyson’s house that was just down that dirt road below us. Boy, I remember that Volkswagen Bug that he taught me to drive in. Anyway, on this particular day, it wasn’t the Bug I was going to drive down to pawpaw’s house, but I was going to take dad’s Buick down there, all by myself. Man, I’ll never forget it! I started to back out of the carport and hit the metal post of the carport and messed up the front left fender of dad’s car. I was so sick and so scared of what he’d say when he saw it.
**Well, I apologized, of course. I was guilty of the damage and said I’d sell the old motorcycle I had to help pay for it. It wasn’t going to cover the cost, but it was all I had to offer. But dad said no, he would sell a calf and pay for the damage and that’s exactly what he did. He paid the debt I had no way to pay and the Buick was fixed. I was set free of the debt and it is something that I’ve never forgotten to this day.
**I wonder today…are you seeing a picture in this story? I had a life that was wrecked by sin. All the good I could muster up in my life couldn’t come close to paying the debt I owed. Oh, I could offer it to God, but it would never be enough. I stood guilty before God, but do you know what He did? He didn’t sell a calf, but He gave His only begotten Son to die on the cross. His death paid the debt I could never pay so that I could be set free from my sins. That is something He did in my life a long time ago that I have never forgotten to this day.
**There are a lot of memories that come to my mind around this day, but this year, this was the one that I thought of. I hope the Lord will let me hold that memory of a loving father, who could have gotten angry and punished me, but instead he forgave me and paid my debt for the damage I caused to that old Buick. I thank God today for a Heavenly Father, who in wrath remembered mercy, and forgave me of all my sins.
June 14, 2020
So much of our world and our lives seems out of control right now. Things have changed so drastically for us all. Everything we do is different and even the complexion of our country seems to be changing every day. One of my daily routines is to scan the morning newspaper and catch up on the latest news but it seems that the world is changing so fast that I get farther and farther behind on what’s going on. I’m not opposed to change for the good and the Lord knows we sure need some of that in our nation. I guess what is so troubling is that, if you’re not careful, you’ll look at all of these things and wonder who is at the wheel of it all.
**Well, I’m glad I really don’t have to worry about that either. I’m glad that I know the One who is in control of all things and that, even though, on our end it may seem out of control, on His end everything is under control. That means things in this world, things in this nation and, yes, even things in my life and your life. It amazes me that the God of heaven who controls all things in this universe and this world is in control of all things in my life. As a matter of fact, Jesus said that even the very hairs of our head are numbered. That’s how well our heavenly Father knows you and me.
**I trust Him today that He will keep the planets in their orbit. I trust Him that He will keep the sun shining. I trust Him that He will continue to provide oxygen for me to breathe. I trust Him that He redeemed me from my sins by the blood of His Son. I trust Him that He will one day take me to heaven when I leave this world. So, if I can trust Him with all of those things, and more, then surely, I can trust Him with every detail of my life. I can trust Him when sickness comes. I can trust Him disappointments come. I can trust Him in days of difficulty. I can trust Him when sorrows envelop my life. I can trust Him, because He is the One who is in control of all things.
**Our world and our lives will, no doubt, continue to whirl and change. With each passing day, there are countless things that can take our lives in a hundred different directions. Yet, the Lord never changes. He is always the same and His control will never slip. No matter where you find yourself today or where you will find yourself tomorrow, you can trust Him. It doesn’t matter what the Republicans or Democrats might do. It doesn’t matter what anyone says from any place of authority. There is One that controls it all. From the highest office to your office. From the White House to your house. From the highest peak to the lowest valley. He is God and He is worthy of our trust.
June 7, 2020
One of my morning rituals after spending some time alone with the Lord is to drink a cup of coffee and scan the pages of the morning news online to catch up on what is happening in our community and our world. It sure is a good thing that I talk to the Lord first and prepare myself with some good news from His Word, because there isn’t much good news found in the newspapers these days. The stories today went from arrests for murder, to riots and looting, to the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths, to political unrest and on and on and on. If one didn’t have a headache to start the day, it’s enough to give you one after all of that.
**It makes me so thankful that I don’t have to read the news or hear the news at face value. You may ask what I mean by that. I realize that, as a child of God, this world is only a temporary home for me. If all of my hopes and aspirations were wrapped up in this world and what it held for me, I would be one most depressed. When we look at the political landscape of our nation, we’re in a mess. When we look at the social situation of our society, we’re in trouble. When we look at the moral temperature of our land, we’re in a decadent situation.
**Yet, there is within our hearts the anticipation of a better day. A day when our Lord will return, take us out of this sin cursed world and carry us home to be with Him. It has been said that psychologists say that anticipation is an emotion with tremendous healing power. It’s the idea that when you have hope you can endure hardships and difficult situations that normally would pull you down. The reason why Christians have faced sickness, suffering, sorrow, difficulties and more in their lives have done so with such joy in their hearts is because of a hope that lives within them.
**Can you imagine what it would be like to live in this world without hope? Can you imagine what it would be like to read those depressing newspapers or watch the discouraging newscasts each evening without hope living in your heart? Paul wrote of those who don’t have any kind of relationship to Christ in Ephesians 2:12 and described them as having no hope, and without God in the world. You can’t find any sadder words than that!
**But we who know Him have hope! Every day of my life is filled with the reality of hope. I see the sun rise in the morning and it rises with the hope that He may come today. I lay my head down at night to sleep and realize He may wake me with His trumpet to call me home. We ought to thank God today that we don’t have to watch life happen without hope.
May 31, 2020
I am so thankful for the words the Lord gave the apostle Paul to write that says in Romans 15:4-For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. In other words, those things penned down and preserved in the Old Testament were not given just to entertain us, but that we might learn from their examples, be comforted and encouraged by the things that happened in their lives to help us. So often we read and reread the stories of those saints and find help again and again although those events happened centuries ago.
**With all of that said, my mind today is on a particular event and passage that took place in the life of David and that is recorded in 1 Samuel 30. To set the scene, David has been on the run from King Saul and although he is a man who loves the Lord, he has made some bad decisions in the chapters just prior to the one I’ve mentioned. He has gone into enemy territory and lived among them, plus he has lied about his actions. In essence, he has lost his song, for you see, there were no psalms recorded that were written during this particular time in his life.
**David returns to his home in Ziklag to find it burned and everyone, including his family, taken captive. His own men are so angry that they are talking about stoning him. The Bible says, And David was greatly distressed. It seems for him that his world has fallen apart. But then comes the part that so captures my heart today. In ch 30:6 it says, but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God. That word encouraged means to bind to, to fasten oneself to or to strengthen oneself in. There are times in our lives when the help we need won’t be found in any outside source. Our family and friends are wonderful and will do all they can, but sometimes you just have to fasten yourself to the Lord. We have to cling to who He is—the LORD—Jehovah, the everlasting, all-sufficient, unchanging and ever-present help in a time of need.
**David could have recognized Him as only the Lord at a distance, but it went on to say, his God. Now, that’s personal. David turns his heart to the Lord, which is always the right thing to do. There is never a time so desperate in our lives but what the Lord will not hear us when we honestly and sincerely look to Him. 2 Timothy 2:13 says, If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. In his place of brokenness David found the Lord to be faithful—He always is. You may have made some bad choices and are dealing with the consequences. Turn back to the Lord. You will find Him faithful to forgive and meet your need.
May 24, 2020
This weekend is Memorial Day weekend. Tomorrow we celebrate Memorial Day marking a time that we remember the sacrifice of those who died keeping our country safe and securing our freedoms. We are living in unusual times and this Memorial Day is going to seem so much different than the ones we’ve had in the past. With our nation dealing with what our President has called the “invisible enemy” or the “hidden menace” we are facing new challenges and a new normal for the time being while dealing with the Covid-19.
**Our nation, throughout its history, has faced many difficult challenges. We faced the labor pains of freedom in 1776 and the years following. There were those difficult days of division from the War Between the States. There were the World Wars that were fought to deal with the rise of adversaries in Europe and Asia. We have dealt with battles with communism in Korea and Vietnam and with terrorism worldwide. The sacrifices made in each reminds us that freedom comes at great cost. As we mark this Memorial Day may we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to give us the right to live in the freedom we enjoy today.
**Still, there is the “hidden menace” our President speaks of. He has so often referred to it as such, and the “invisible enemy” that must be defeated. It all reminds me of the hidden menace and invisible enemy that lies deep within the heart of man—sin. If not dealt with it will lead to death. Romans 6:23-For the wages of sin is death. Our nations brightest minds in the scientific and medical fields are searching for a cure or vaccine to deal with the coronavirus. Yet, the invisible enemy in man’s heart cannot be cured by the brilliance of man. It cannot be resolved by the work of men’s hands. The result of sin is, and always will be, death.
**But I didn’t finish the verse. Romans 6:23 also goes on to say, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The wages of sin is death, yes, but that isn’t the final statement. There is hope; there is help; there is salvation found in Jesus Christ. Just as we, as a nation, can look back and be thankful for those who paid the sacrifice for our freedoms as a nation, we can look back to the cross of Calvary and give thanks to our Savior who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. He is the only cure for the invisible enemy that is in the heart of man. He is the only one who can save us from our sins.
**So, as you remember those this Memorial Day from our nations past and honor their sacrifice, we must also be thankful, as we look back and honor our Lord’s sacrifice to give us the freedom we truly needed.
May 17, 2020
I remember hearing a great man of God named Kenneth Ridings, who is now in the presence of the Lord, ask a question years ago that I’ve never forgotten. He asked, “Did it ever occur to you, that nothing ever occurs to God?” The thought was that do we truly realize that nothing ever catches our God by surprise. Things catch us off-guard quite often. We so many times have things to happen that we would term “accidents” or such things, but in reality, there are no accidents or chance happenings when it comes to life. There is never a time that something happens in life that surprises the Lord, though at the time, it may surprise us.
**I’ve seen it happen in my own life and I’ve heard testimony often in the lives of others, of how certain things have happened in certain ways that caused amazement at how God worked things out for them as He did. If some event would have taken place differently or some action would have happened at a different time it could have been tragic. Now that doesn’t mean that God always keeps us from sickness or difficult situations. I’m not saying that I understand all of those things that can happen to us in our lives, but what I do know is this, that not a single event in my life happens to me by chance.
**In Psalm 139 David magnifies this wondrous truth even though he says in vs 6-Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. What knowledge is he speaking about? That God sees and knows everything about his life. In the earlier verses of the psalm David declares that God knows all about his life, even down to his action, his thoughts and his words. He is saying, “God, you know everything there is to know about me, at all times and in every way.” In later verses he talks about how God formed him in his mother’s womb and saw everything about him even then. I agree with David that all of those things are beyond my understanding, but I believe it all is true.
**Some may say, “But what does that matter?” It matters greatly! For David also said in vs 7-Wither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? The thought is that no matter where I go or where I am, God, you are there. That is such a comforting thought to me that no matter where I am in this life or whatever I face in this life God knew all about ahead of time and He is there with me through it all. I don’t know what you may be going through right now, but listen to this preacher, God knows where you are. He knew you’d be there before you ever got there. He has a plan for you in you being there and He will be with you till you get out of there. Let that give you comfort today.
May 10, 2020 - Mother's Day 2020
I’ve said it more than I can remember, and I guess I’ve heard it said all my life. “Give roses to someone while they’re living, because once they’re gone, they can’t enjoy them.” That is such a true statement and we do that quite often. We usually give someone flowers on special occasion like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day. We’ll often send someone flowers when they are sick with the hopes of brightening their day as they recover. Yet, far too often we fail to send flowers until someone is gone and then we send them in their memory or honor for their family to enjoy. And that is the sad part of this whole thing.
**But when I stop and think about the old saying of “giving someone roses while they’re living”, I’m afraid we really miss what it’s all about. The idea isn’t so much about “literal” flowers, but about letting people know what they mean to us and that we love them, and we appreciate them while we have the opportunity to do so. It is to take the time to make a phone call or to drop by and see them (and I know right now that may not be the best thing to do with the “social distancing”). But I think when it comes to “giving someone their roses while they’re living” is to not wait until it’s too late to tell them what they truly mean to us.
**I’m afraid that we do that as families and I’m afraid that we do that in the Christian family as well. I think far too often we fail to let others know what they mean to us as children of God. We will spend week after week sitting in the same church house with people and will casually speak before we rush out to face another hectic week of all life puts on us and we often never really tell one another how much we appreciate or love each other. It is usually afterwards that we think of how we meant to let them know, but we just never got around to it. You never know what it may mean to someone when you just stop long enough to speak to them and let them know they are a blessing to you in this life.
**I think often of a phrase found in 2 Timothy 4 when Paul wanted Timothy to come and bring some things to him and see him in prison and he said, come before winter. The reason was that when winter came the time for sailing would be past and the opportunity would be gone. Could I say to you today, give those you love their roses now, whether literal or not, while you can, before the opportunity is gone. Maybe it’s a family member that you need to share with them what they truly mean to you today. It could be someone in your church family that you need to just stop and tell them that they are a blessing to you. It’s easy to say, “Well, they know how I feel.” I think I’d say it anyway…before winter comes.
May 3, 2020
There was a Scottish preacher back in the late 1800s and early 1900s named John McNeill. He told this story of an experience that took place in his younger days while travelling home from work late at night. “One night it was nearly midnight when I started to tramp six or seven miles down through the lonely glen to get home. The road had a bad name. This particular night was very black, and two miles outside our little village the road gets blacker than ever. I was just entering the dark defile when, about one hundred yards ahead, in the densest of the darkness, there suddenly rang out a great, strong, cheery voice, “Is that you Johnny?” It was my father—the bravest, strongest man I ever knew.”
**David spoke of the comfort of His rod and staff, which speaks of His power and His authority over all that we will encounter in life. His power to handle our enemies is seen in His rod and His ability to keep us close to Him is seen the staff. There are no enemies we will ever face but what He can handle. What a comfort there is to know that there is no danger that we will ever deal with but what He will be present to see us through.
**He went on to say, “Many a time since, when things have been getting black and gloomy about me, I have heard a Voice greater than that of my earthly parent cry: “Fear not; for I am with thee.” And, lo! God’s foot is rising and falling on the road before us as we tread the journey of life.” (“God’s Care”; The Friend, 1910; pg 197)
**Those words bring to mind some of my favorite verses and one in particular that is found in Psalm 23:4-Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Oh, the comfort found in those simple words! You see, there is no guarantee in this life that there will be no valleys and they can be, at times, some of the darkest we will ever face, even as David calls the valley of the shadow of death. Yet, there is the guarantee that, even then, there is One who walks the darkest valleys with us. In those times when life seems the darkest, He is there.
**The world in which we live seems to be so much like the night that John McNeill was describing. The days can seem so dark and gloomy with wickedness all about us. The trials of life seek to overwhelm us. The news we hear so often seems to discourage us. But I’m so glad there is a Voice that speaks loudly and clearly through the darkness to you and I that says, “Fear not, for I am with thee.” There is nothing that we will ever face in this life that we will ever face alone. There is one who will walk the dark valleys with us all the way home.
April 26, 2020
I read a story once that in the dark days of World War II, after a heavy night of bombing in England, a preacher began searching the rubble for survivors and the dead. He heard a child crying and found him sitting on what was left of the front steps where a home had been destroyed. Putting his arms around him, he hugged him tightly and asked him, “Son, whose boy are you?” The little boy started crying again and said, “Mister, I ain’t nobody’s nothing.” With his family all gone, this little boy was left all alone.
**There are people in church who feel as though they “ain’t nobody’s nothing”. Thinking that they have no special ability to sing, no gift of teaching, they’re afraid to pray publicly and so they consider themselves nothing. You may not have the talents you see others have; you may be intimidated that some can do things you can’t do; you may even say that you’ve made mistakes that limit what you can do, but never say you don’t matter and that you’re unimportant to God and His work. There is something that God has equipped you to do. He has gifted you in such a way that you can do something that no one else can do and no one can do it exactly the way God wants you to do it. That gives life real meaning and significance.
**We all know how God had given Moses the ability to lead the children of Israel. God gave him instructions about how to build the tabernacle and of the need for all its utensils. He told him what length to make it, the width and the height of it. There were to be certain things of brass and some of gold. He told him what colors to use, how He wanted things designed and laid out. God told him what materials were needed and people began to give those things for the work. Then there was Aaron and his sons that would be the priests and their clothing was designed for their work.
**But in Exodus 35:30 through ch 36:4 and also ch 38:21-23 we are introduced to two men named Bezaleel, the son of Uri and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach. Ever heard of them? Probably not. The Bible says about them that God had filled them with wisdom, understanding and knowledge in all manner of workmanship. God used them greatly to do the work of the tabernacle. You see, God doesn’t just use preachers, Sunday School teachers, missionaries or the like, but He gives some talents in sewing, plumbing, painting, building, calculating, nursing and the list goes on and on. There are those who have the gift of encouraging or helping others. You may say, “How does my job bring glory to God?” By giving your best in doing it; by thanking Him for the ability to do it; by giving back to Him as He prospers you in doing it; by being a good Christian while doing it and by making that ability or gift available for Him to use however He sees fit. Whatever God has gifted you to do, use it for His glory. You will be blessed and so will others.
April 19, 2020
When this current coronavirus pandemic started several weeks ago, we started hearing stories about U.S. citizens who were in foreign countries and were trying to get back home. Many were exhausting every possible means to find a way to get a flight back to the states. We have had a missionary husband and wife in Ecuador, that our church supports, who for a week now have been working to get a flight out of that country. The virus situation has gotten very bad there and because of that, along with their age and health, it has played a major role in the decision to come home early from the field. Thankfully, they were able to get a flight out and they left the country on Friday.
**Many of our other citizens have found it so difficult to secure a flight because of where they are. They have been arranging charter flights and trying other means possible to try to find a way out of the countries they are in. I remember hearing the president talk about using the military if necessary, to make sure our citizens get home and back in the month of March they did fly several home from the Honduras. No doubt there are others I am unaware of. Yet, I thought about our missionaries who needed a flight and out of their own pockets and support needed to find the finances to work out a flight home.
**You might ask, “Why say all of this?” Well, it started me thinking. We live in a dangerous, dark world as God’s children and there is a longing that we have to leave this world for home. Our Heavenly Father has promised us that He will make sure that He will get us out of this world and get us home safe and sound. Our government can’t guarantee to get every citizen a flight out of the countries from where they are, I understand that and I’m not saying that would even be possible. They probably couldn’t locate every citizen if they had to. But our Father knows exactly where each of His children are. From the inner cities to the rural counties. From the jungles of New York City to the jungles of the Amazon. From the east to the west and the north to the south, He know exactly where each of His children are and one day, He will get us all out of this sin infested, wicked world and take us home with Him.
**I don’t know about you but more and more, day after day, I feel a greater longing within my heart for home. This world is growing more wicked with each passing day. I’m looking forward to the day when the Lord will come back to gather His own and carry them back with Him home to a land where all of these things we deal with in this life will be no more. What a day when we all get home.
April 12, 2020
God has a plan. He always has had a plan and He will perform it completely and perfectly. I can’t say that I have always understood it. I can’t say that I still always understand it, but the fact remains that He has a plan and He will perform it completely and perfectly. There have been many attempts by Satan to hinder the workings of the Lord, but God’s plan has never been stopped and is right on schedule.
**When Jesus came the first time, He came at just the right moment in history. There were so many people that thought He came for the purpose of putting down Roman rule and establishing an earthly kingdom. They misunderstood His purpose and His plan. Jesus had not come to wear a crown of jewels but a crown of thorns. He had not come to sit on the throne of Israel, but to be the Savior of the world. He taught His disciples on several occasions that He would be crucified, buried and would rise again the third day, but they never fully grasped the truth of what He said to them. But He had a plan.
**You see, that was God’s plan from the very beginning. The Bible tells us that Jesus was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Revelation 13:8. Jesus’ death was not some haphazard idea thrown together by the Trinity at the last moment. It was a divine plan carried out at the right moment in time for the redemption of all who will come to Christ for salvation. God had a plan. His plan was for His only begotten Son to come into this world, to bear the sins of the world in His own body on the cross, paying our sin debt, that we might have life through Him. God had a plan and that plan included you and me.
**Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He was buried in the tomb and He rose again the third day. He then ascended back to Heaven and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. He is there making intercession for you and for me right now. We have someone talking to the Father on our behalf, about our needs, about our situations, about our concerns and about our longings. How wonderful is that?
**God still has a plan that is being fulfilled. Just as Jesus came the first time, right on time, so will He come the second time, right on time. I believe we are living just before His coming. Not just the last days, but the last moments of the last days. I can’t say that I look at our world today and understand how it all fits into His plans, but I know this, it is all falling into place for His plan to be fulfilled. God has a plan. He always has had a plan and He will perform it completely and perfectly. The question I ask is this—are you ready to meet Him when He comes?
April 5, 2020
There is so much about our lives that has changed over the last several weeks. I’m trying to keep things as “normal” as much as is possible, which isn’t easy these days. Alice is still working and I get up with her like I’ve always done and see her off for the day. As she was getting ready to leave the other morning I was standing on the carport and looking toward the east as it was just starting to lighten up before sunrise. There were birds singing their songs and you could see some of the early signs of springtime all around. The thought crossed my mind that with all that was going on in our world right now with Covid-19 and how it has changed and rearranged our lives, God’s created work is right on schedule. The sun still rises just as He has ordained it. The birds are singing their glory to His name just as He has designed it. The trees are starting to show life just as He maintains it. The dandelions are popping up in our yard with their bright yellow color just as He painted them.
**What crossed my mind the other morning was this—He still has everything in His control, just like it has always been. Our world may seem to be so out of control right now, but it isn’t out of control for Him. Chuck Swindoll once said it this way, “God is not ‘sometimes’ Sovereign. He is ‘always’ Sovereign.” And he is exactly right. We may not always understand what God is doing in our world, but it doesn’t change the fact that He is in control and is working everything according to His plan and His will. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as they heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
**I can honestly say that I don’t understand all that is happening in our world right now, but I am so thankful that I know who is in control of all things. I’m glad that the One who has the sun rising at the right time and the birds singing their sweet melodies in the early morning and the trees budding at the right season, is the One who knows who I am and cares about all my needs. Then on top of all of that, He has prepared a place for us, where there will be no more sickness, no more sorrows, no more dying, no more disappointments and no more “social distancing” from friends and loved ones. There with all the family of God we’ll be at home with Him and them forevermore.
**We are so spending much time waiting right now. Waiting to go back to work for so many people. Waiting for the “Stay at Home” orders to be lifted. Waiting for this disease to finally make its departure. Waiting till we can gather once again in the House of the Lord. Oh, how I miss that! But on top of all that, we are waiting for His glorious return for His children, when we shall see Him, whom having not seen, we love. We shall see again our loved ones gone on before us and we’ll enjoy the wonders of that place called Heaven. Until then, like you, I press on. I’ll keep looking toward the eastern sky and listening to the birds as they sing His glorious praises.
March 29, 2020
In times like these there arises an unsettling in our hearts. I have heard it from different people as they have been around town going to and from work that “things just seem so eerie.” Truly these days seem so strange and so different to us all. I can remember the days just after 9/11 when it seemed so odd to look into the sky and see no jet trails or hear no airplanes because they were all grounded. I remember watching the news each day and hearing the reports of the missing and the dead. I remember wondering what would happen next and where it all was heading. Time seemed to drag and days seemed out of place in the week.
**I woke up this morning and, honestly, it took me a few minutes to think about what day it was. It has my routine all out of sorts and I know it does for everyone else and I don’t think it’s going to change for a good while to come. But one of the things that gives me assurance through these days is in the words given concerning the birth of Jesus found in Matthew 1:23 where the Bible says, they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is God with us. The wonder of that thought is that He who spoke the worlds into existence would come and dwell among His creation. He was God with us through the coming of His Son but then there is the wonder that He is God with us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
**To think on that wondrous reality that we have God with us at all is an amazing thing. But to realize that we have His presence at all times and in all situations of life is truly wonderful to consider. Let that be our anchor in these uncertain times. Let that be our source of refuge in times of worry. Let that be our source of comfort when doubt wants to grip our hearts. Let that be what gives us courage when the enemy attacks our faith. We have God with us! In tribulation; God with us. In sadness; God with us. In sorrow; God with us. In disappointment; God with us. In valleys low; God with us. On mountains high; God with us. In the storms of life; God with us. When trouble surrounds us; God with us. When life confounds us; God with us. When joy abounds; God with us. Stop today & think about that again—God with us! Let that be your standard. Your refuge of strength.
**How could we make it? How could we live? How could we deal with life? How could we face these days if that should be taken away from us? It is eternity’s sonnet; it is heaven’s hallelujah; it is the saint’s song forevermore because of Christ—God with us. Isaiah 41:10 says, Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Let that truth hold your heart today in these days—God is with you, no matter what you’re facing today.
March 22, 2020
As a nation and a world we continue to face the challenges of Covid-19. Who would have thought a matter of a few weeks ago that we would be dealing with all that we are dealing with today? It has changed all of our lives and affected how we do everyday tasks. Nothing is as it was just a short time ago in our world and in our lives. It has changed how we work, how we shop and now, amazingly, how we go to church. These are some of the most challenging times I've ever lived through.
**Yet, the one thing we can be confident in is that the Lord has not changed or moved from where He has been all along. Psalm 11 describes a time for David that he said, If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? When I think of that verse, I think of the foundations being those things which have remained constant and secure. Things that you could always rely on as being stable in your life. We could think of many things that have changed morally over the years, bur right now we think of so many things that have changed for us physically ad naturally as well. For so many of you, your work life has changed, and you are working from home. Some have your kids at home from school now for an extended period of time. For the time being church life has changed for us as we have seen the need to cancel services. In a sense those things that seemed so constant for us have suddenly changed.
**David asked in a time of change what can the righteous do. Then he focused on the fact in the following verse that the LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD's throne is in the heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try the children of men. David relied on the fact that the Lord's position had not changed. Though so many things all about him seemed to be changing, the Lord's position had not and would not ever change. Nothing about what we are facing in our world has caught Him by surprise. Nothing about what is happening today has Him upset or disturbed. His position has not changed whatsoever.
**Is that important? You better believe it is. For if His position hasn't changed, then His connection to you and I hasn't changed either. He knows where we are and what we are going through--his eyes behold. He sees perfectly and completely. One thing I've noticed in all the press conferences over the last few weeks is the uncertainty of it all. Everyone has stressed the fact that they don't know how long these things will last. There is One who sees everything perfectly and clearly and who knows the end from the beginning. It may be unsettling for us, but not for Him.