New Year’s Resolutions for You and Your Church (2017)

Next Month I will be speaking to the Senior Luncheon for our Church. In preparing for this talk I happened upon this article. After reading please give sincere thought and make a commitment rather than a resolution this year.

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It’s that time of year again.

We’re going to lose weight, exercise more, get out of debt, stick to a budget, stop smoking, save for the future and spend more time with family.

We make resolutions because we want to bring change to bear on our circumstances. We want to improve ourselves and our quality of life. And the top resolutions, for most people, tend to revolve around the same three poles: money, health and family.

But what would a set of New Year’s resolutions look like for you and your church, your role as a leader, or simply as someone who wants to live a life of strategic Kingdom investment?

And specifically, what if they came from the Bible?

Though many more could be added, here are fifteen to consider:

1.      Pray more.

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord… ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’” says the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6, NIV)

2.      Invest in your spiritual gift(s).

Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. (I Timothy 4:14-15, NIV)

3.      Get more intentional about evangelism.

I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. (I Corinthians 9:22, NIV)

4.      Care for yourself spiritually.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12, NIV)

5.      Make the tough decisions you know are best.

And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (Acts 20:22-24, NIV)

6.      Confront debilitating patterns of sin.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1, NIV)

7.      Do the hard work needed to build community.

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. (Matthew 18:15, NIV)

8.      Keep in touch with contemporary culture.

From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders… All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take. (I Chronicles 12:32, NLT)

9.      Quit comparing yourself to other Christians, other leaders, and other churches.

Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, “Master, what’s going to happen to him?” Jesus said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You – follow me.” That is how the rumor got out among the brothers that this disciple wouldn’t die. But that is not what Jesus said. He simply said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you?” (John 21:20-23, Msg)

10.    Read more.

Timothy, please come as soon as you can…When you come, be sure to… bring my books,… (II Timothy 4:9, 13, NLT)

11.    Prioritize your family.

A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife,…attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? (I Timothy 3:2-5, Msg)

12.    Refuse to use ministry to satisfy your personal ambition.

Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. (Jeremiah 45:5, NIV)

13.    Love people, not just crowds.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (I Corinthians 13:1-3, Msg)

14.    Be more open to change.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:19, NIV)

15.    Stay focused on the vision.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47, NIV)

Dr. James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president.

http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/dr-james-emery-white/new-years-resolutions-for-you-and-your-church-2016.html

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A New Goliath – Part 1

goliath 3I have thought and prayed over this for several months. There is something we all share in common. There is something weighing on all of our minds and hearts. With the exception of a few Christian bloggers, few are discussing it.

I like to take just a moment to remind you of two familiar stories about David. In 1 Samuel 17 we see the Philistine and the Israeli Armies on opposite hills in a face off. The Philistine champion was named Goliath. He stood nine feet and ten inches tall (For most of us we brush over that as if he is only the size of one of our professional basketball players and don’t take the time to comprehend just how tall the was. Next time you are in a home improvement store, go to the molding aisle and pick up a piece of 10 foot molding and stand next to it. See just how big Goliath was). When you are fitted for your armor you are given that which you can handle with the greatest of ease. In Goliath’s case his sword was longer and heavier than most, his spear was longer that he was tall, and the head of the spear was cone-shaped weighing about eighteen pounds. His armor weighed in at over 250 pounds, more than the average soldier can pick up on a good day.

“Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelite’s were dismayed and terrified.” 1 Samuel 17:8-11

 Please read that scripture again. This time read it out loud, with emphasis and sarcasm in your voice. This is what the Israelite army heard, not once, but for forty days both morning and night. They went to bed hearing it, and woke up hearing it.

Notice how Saul’s army was feeling—dismayed and terrified. If you look these two words up in the Hebrew, they simply mean, shattered, broken, greatly afraid, and trembling excessively.

Now I ask, if you were taunted twice every day how would you feel? You are waiting and hoping someone, anyone but you will answer the call. No one does. You hear murmurs among the others saying, “We can’t fight him; he’s way too big for any of us.” Pushing each other saying, “You go–No you go!–I’m not going!–I want to go homeWe are all going to die! The Philistine’s knew they would beat you with Goliath’s strength and you knew it too. The foundations of your world are being destroyed. Fear has you hypnotized.

Well, we know how the story turned out don’t we. God sent a lad named David with a slingshot to defeat this huge tormentor and end his relentless persecution. David trusted God and did not fear the enemy.

So Jonathan told David saying,“Saul my father is seeking to put you to death.

Now therefore, please be on guard in the morning,

and stay in a secret place and hide yourself.

1 Samuel 19:2

Goliath was David’s first victory in battle. Many others followed. Now he faced a new enemy that frightened him. King Saul was God’s anointed king. He knew that he was beginning to lose his anointing and that someone would take his place. He believed it would be David’s older brother, Eliab. When Saul became jealous of David and assumed he wanted his throne he sought to kill David.

Saul sent messengers to David’s house to watch until morning so he could kill him. Michal, David’s wife, also Saul’s daughter, let David down a rope so he could escape. In the morning Michal told the messengers he was in bed sick. When they checked, they found what they thought was David covered up because they could see his hair; actually it was goats hair made to look like David’s hair. When Saul heard this he sent the messengers back to the house to bring him in the bed so that he could kill him. He was furious for his daughter’s deception. (1 Samuel 19:11-12)

He tried to pin David to a wall by throwing a spear at him. David escaped. (1 Samuel 20:33)

Saul continued to pursue him, to kill him. There is controversy over how long this pursuit lasted. Some say eighteen months while others say fifteen years. The time doesn’t matter as much as David’s panic. David lived in constant fear. He continued to run like, as we say in the South, a scalded dog.

You know the rest of the story. Saul is confronted by David, who now was holding a piece his garment. David sliced off a piece while Saul was relieving himself to show that David meant him no harm. In fact, David bowed before Saul in honor of the anointing of God on this king. David saved Saul’s life more than once.

These are two different stories of David. One is as victor, and one the foundations of David’s world are crumbling. He lived in fear. Have you ever been in either, or both, of these circumstances? Have you ever felt like the foundations of your world were crumbling? Did you know what to do and how to handle it?

In the Lord I take refuge.
How then can you say to me:
“Flee like a bird to your mountain.
 For look, the wicked bend their bows;
they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
at the upright in heart.
 When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”  Psalm 11:1-3

goliath 4We have a New Goliath on the loose¾He stands and taunts us every 83 days with another killing somewhere in our world. He is huge and stands in the same defiance of the True God that the Philistines did. You’ve heard of all these evil killings and the hatred that has developed over the last several years; especially the killing of those who will not follow Islam. In particular Christian believers.

I don’t have to go into a lot of detail to make my point. You know what is happening and if you are like the Israelite’s—like David—like me—you are scared. You just don’t know what to do.

If you read the news, ISIS is NOW going to kill Christian’s in their places of worship. In fact a Catholic priest was murdered this past week in France while holding mass. Nuns were used as human shields to protect these cowards while they fought off the police.

The foundations of our world are being destroyed before our very eyes.

David asked a very important question in this Psalm 11. “ When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

The authorities say ISIS is already in all fifty states of our union. They will begin to attack us on a regular basis. So what can I do as a Christian? What can the body of Christ do when the foundations of our world are crumbling?

This is Part 1 of this discussion and what has been on my heart and mind for months. In Part 2, I will discuss some of the answers. I would like you to ponder the following questions and have your comments ready for my next post.

I leave these questions with you?

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand

  1. Based on these two verses of Scripture, Do we have right to be afraid?

2. As did David, should we stand against those who want to kill us? Why, or Why not? How can we stand against them?

3. What can the righteous do?

It’s Friday……..But Sunday Is Coming!!!

I am sure that many of you have heard this message before. It is always worth hearing again. When I was in college back in the 1970’s I was privileged to hear Dr. Anthony Compollo preach this sermon. It is one I have never forgotten, especially when Easter comes each year. He preached it for many years on Good Friday. Read and enjoy.

Andy

Taken from the following website: http://apologetica.us/2009/04/10/its-friday-but-sundays-coming-2/

The whole tape is great but the best part is at the end when Tony Campolo recalls one Sunday when he had a little preaching competition with the head pastor at the church where he attends.

Dr. Campolo tells how he preached the perfect sermon in every way and had taken the congregation to ‘the heights of glory’. As he sat down beside his pastor, Dr. Tony patted him on the knee and simply said, “Top that.” The older black pastor looked at him and said, “Boy, watch the master.” Then Dr. Campolo recalls for us the very brilliant message which followed.

The following is a short printed version of the 45 minute sermon–the printed version doesn’t really do justice to the original, but you can at least get an idea what the last part is like:

Cross_3904_edited-2

It’s Friday. But Sunday’s coming—

It was a simple sermon, starting softly, building in volume and intensity until the entire congregation was completely involved, repeating the phrases in unison. The sermon went something like this.

It’s Friday. Jesus is arrested in the garden where He was praying. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The disciples are hiding and Peter’s denying that he knows the Lord. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is standing before the high priest of Israel, silent as a lamb before the slaughter. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is beaten, mocked, and spit upon. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Those Roman soldiers are flogging our Lord with a leather scourge that has bits of bones and glass and metal, tearing at his flesh. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The Son of man stands firm as they press the crown of thorns down into his brow. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. See Him walking to Calvary, the blood dripping from His body. See the cross crashing down on His back as He stumbles beneath the load. It’s Friday; but Sunday’s a coming.

It’s Friday. See those Roman soldiers driving the nails into the feet and hands of my Lord. Hear my Jesus cry, “Father, forgive them.” It’s Friday; but Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, bloody and dying. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The sky grows dark, the earth begins to tremble, and He who knew no sin became sin for us. Holy God who will not abide with sin pours out His wrath on that perfect sacrificial lamb who cries out, “My God, My God. Why hast thou forsaken me?” What a horrible cry. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. And at the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil of the Temple that separates sinful man from Holy God was torn from the top to the bottom because Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, heaven is weeping and hell is partying. But that’s because it’s Friday, and they don’t know it, but Sunday’s a coming.

And on that horrible day 2000 years ago, Jesus the Christ, the Lord of glory, the only begotten Son of God, the only perfect man died on the cross of Calvary. Satan thought that he had won the victory. Surely he had destroyed the Son of God. Finally he had disproved the prophecy God had uttered in the Garden and the one who was to crush his head had been destroyed. But that was Friday.

Now, it’s Sunday. And just about dawn on that first day of the week, there was a great earthquake. But that wasn’t the only thing that was shaking because now it’s Sunday.

He Has Risen_3856_edited-1

And the angel of the Lord is coming down out of heaven and rolling the stone away from the door of the tomb. Yes, it’s Sunday, and the angel of the Lord is sitting on that stone and the guards posted at the tomb to keep the body from disappearing were shaking in their boots because it’s Sunday, and the lamb that was silent before the slaughter is now the resurrected lion from the tribe of Judah, for He is not here, the angel says. He is risen indeed.

It’s Sunday, and the crucified and resurrected Christ has defeated death, hell, sin and the grave. It’s Sunday. And now everything has changed. It’s the age of grace, God’s grace poured out on all who would look to that crucified lamb of Calvary. Grace freely given to all who would believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross of Calvary was buried and rose again. All because it’s Sunday.

At the end of the message the pastor shouts out:

It’s Friiidaaaay!

And the whole congregation responds:

But Sunday’s Coming!

Cross_3825_edited-1

If you would like to listen to the entire sermon you can find it here at this link (the last 5 minutes will have this part in it).

http://tonycampolo.org/its-friday-but-sundays-coming/#.VRRQBGaYI7A

 

 

The Determined Race

Google Photo

Google Photo

“An athlete is not crowned unless

he competes according to the rules.”

2 Timothy 2:5

 John was excited about field day at his school. The race was all he and his two best friends could talk about. He was determined to win. A thunder of happy kids stood around the field. Every child’s ambition was the proverbial Blue Ribbon.

Josh was a taller and towered over John. He was favored to win. Jake was shorter than both boys. The pistol fired. As his Dad I wanted John to win. I stood at the finish tape screaming, “Come on John!”

He was running as fast as his eight-year-old legs would go. He crossed the finish line in second place and I hugged his neck. He was so happy! “Did you see that Dad? Me and Josh and Jake were the top three winners!” He didn’t care about being first–only that he had finished the race. He stood in line to receive his red ribbon with a smile of grandeur and the three of them poked each other in fun. I was so proud.

On the way home he talked about the race. “I have figured it out, Dad.”

“What?” I asked.

“Josh is taller with longer legs. I am in the middle with middle legs. Jake has short legs. So, that means that who ever has the shortest legs will always win because they don’t have to step as far while they are running.”

What a great theory from a child. He finished with the prize he believed he deserved for his effort.

Paul said,

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness,

Which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day,

And not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

2 Timothy 4:7-8

So now I ask you, as a child of God, are you even in the race anymore? Peter was. He drew closer to Him as he walked three years with Jesus. He left his boat when he was called. Jesus asked Peter who He was. Peter replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter was with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration; he heard the voice of God. Jesus called him the Rock upon which He would build His church. Peter knew Jesus. He desired to know Him more and draw close to Him.

Why then do we later see Peter following Jesus at a distance (MT. 26:58)? There had been a gradual, subtle increase in his pride and self-confidence (26:33). He became reckless (vs. 40). He began to act without thinking (Luke 22:51). Peter was ready to go to prison and to die for Christ, or so he said (Luke 22:33).

Google Photo

Google Photo

Jesus was arrested. Peter followed at a distance. He denied Christ, three times. The cock crowed. Peter wept bitterly (Mt 26:54-62).

Does this sound familiar, maybe in your own life? Were you once so close to Jesus you were inseparable? Did you become over-confident? Did you deny Christ? Did someone say something about you and your left? Do you feel horrible at what you have done with Jesus? Do you feel like you cannot be forgiven? Are you now following Him at a distance? Have you done like Peter and just gone fishing?

Though Peter denied Christ he sought forgiveness and drew nigh to the Lord. He got right back in the race. He took his stand with the eleven and began to preach the Gospel. Three thousand souls were added to the Church. He healed the sick and lame. He was determined to put the past behind him and run the race.

He had made a mistake. He did not give up on what he knew and loved. Just as he had told Jesus he would do, he went to prison and eventually died for Him. The point is this. You cannot follow from a distance while waiting to see the outcome, and expect to win the race God has given you.

You need to get back in the race today. Be determined. He is waiting to forgive you and to bless you in your life and ministry. He knows the plans He has for you.

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” ‘declares the Lord,’ “plans to prosper

And not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

Google Photo

Google Photo

 

 

Labor Day Memoir

So Labor Day 2014 is here and I am trying to remember a time long ago that was significant about this day. Oh, I know the first Monday in September “constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being” of our great county. I’m looking for something a little bit more charming than that boring sentence. You know, like a parade or a band performance in the town square. Maybe there is a huge family reunion where unforgettable tales, are told and the new generation is fortunate to hear them for the first time. I don’t know. There are so many different ways to celebrate this day you’d feel like you were caught between a dog and a fire hydrant if I were to tell you all of them. So, let me just shorten this list by telling you one that is dear to my heart.

I have searched the web. I have asked everyone I know and cannot get the answers I am looking for. No one else can remember this day. I try with diligence to summon up these recollections so that I can convey them to you as unforgettable…for me anyway.

My family was one of musical inclinations. Somewhere along the line I got left out except for thoroughly enjoying the melodious sounds made by others. I guess that is why this memoir is so important to me. So here I am conjuring up this tale, not a big tale now mind you, but since I cannot remember all of the details of my story I reckon it does account for what I remember.

Overlooking a small lake and surrounded by majestic live oaks stands one of Baton Rouge’s most prized possessions. A stately mansion stands to prove the glory of the great state of Louisiana. She is beaut, for sure. She struts her Doric white columns with a great southern pride and like many of the plantations of the South she is built with magnificence and attitude. It is from here I appeal to my memory and petition this one recollection of the past to come forward.

“A standing joke in many of Louisiana’s small, country churches goes,

“Well, there are two things we know how to do around here, worship and eat!”

Put the two together and you’ve got the country church tradition of all-day singing and dinner on the ground.”
louisianafolklife.org

Dinner-on-the-Grounds-plate

Dinner on the grounds is a long-standing tradition in the South and is usually done after church on Sundays. This was a special occasion for a special holiday. Our arrival at the governor’s mansion was early. We knew it was going to be a long day. The heat was relentless but we knew it would be worth all the sweat, the bees and the flies to get one little morsel of that so delicious southern cooking. There were people from all over the state and I think a few strangers from the North snuck in too. But that’s ok, it was time for them discover they have never really eaten right anyway.

Every family brought a dish of some kind. Tables were set with various meats including wild game and fried chicken just bustin’ with goodness. A variety of vegetables grown in large and small family gardens soaking in potluck laid out end to end. Another table severed up corn bread butter-shined so bright you could almost see yourself smile when you bent over to take a long whiff. My favorite was of course the dessert table. Cakes were OK but pie, now that is a boy’s aspiration, especially when it came to the chocolate one. Oh, and there was always more than one. Yes indeedy.

One of the things about a gathering of this sort was that it was not just the food. No sir. It was about so much more. Boys and girls spent the day playing games on the six-acre mansions land. Some went fishin’ in the lake. Most folks enjoyed the fellowship of friends and family and even new acquaintances.

“All-day singing and dinner on the ground, sometimes simply called fellowship, is a chance for a church to come together as a family, to fellowship, to visit, to swap recipes, to sing, to pray, and to eat.” louisianafolklife.org

dinner on the grounds-M

However, second only to the food was something really special. Groups from all over Louisiana came to sing. There were even some from other states who joined in this special day. I loved to watch my family most of all. You know, the ones, unlike me, that could actually sing and play instruments. My Uncle Edgar was always one to watch. His bald-headed little self was quite the show. He played his box guitar and sang with his brothers and sisters, one of which was the states Commissioner of Agriculture. He wore a harmonica holder around his neck and played that along with his guitar on some songs. He could surely lay out a whiny conglomeration of notes that folks just loved to hear.

Other groups displayed fancy guitars, mandolins and fiddles. There were so many different instruments that as a child I was mesmerized. I loved the banjo pickin’; I promised myself I would learn to play that someday. Well, someday never has shown up. Combined with great piano playing, accordions and even a diddly-bow, there was music so wonderful I believe old Gabriel was blowing his horn along side the Father and Son while they were dancin’ with the saints. Now, put all of these instruments together with some great country gospel nasal, some good food and fellowship and all I can say is good gracious alive, heaven was on the grounds.

Like all memorable days this one had to come to and end. I have to admit it was an enjoyable day. I lay in the back window of the old Chevy, allowing the hot wind to blow through open windows, staring toward the mansion. When I enjoyed something I would watch it until it was out of site. I wish I could remember more about this day, but this will have to do.

As I look back on it now. Singing in those days was more like what God put in His Word ~ Make a joyful noise unto the Lord. I guess I was the only one struck by the profound significance it would have on my life. I am thankful for this memoir however, and will pass it on to those who follow.

LABOR-DAY-BANNER- 3X4-2___

A Letter To My Best Friend ~

In March I was privileged to see my old friend Mo and his wife Nancy. We had a great time telling old stories and laughing our heads off at the crazy and ridiculous things we had done in our men made of steel years. While driving back to Mississippi I thought of another. I wrote a letter to Mo imploring one more laugh. I want to take a moment to share that with you now.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Andy & Mo

Andy & Mo

Hey My Friend!

I am sorry I have tarried in sending you this story Mo, please forgive? It’s a short story; nonetheless it is one of those we have forgotten until something in the present triggers this old pea brain into action. Let me see if I can jar your memory a little.

The war in Viet Nam had ended and I had just returned home from the Air Force base in Minot, ND. You invited me to go hunting on the land of a farmer you knew there around Anderson. We trucked through the woods and really enjoyed seeing ABSOLUTELY nothing to hunt. It was the friendship and fellowship that was most important. With the exception of a few black birds, or sparrows or something of the like, there was really no wildlife around anywhere. I do remember we found a playground of sorts that someone had built for kids and teenagers to play on. That was pretty cool too. As I recall you said the farmer built it for his grandchildren.

As we continued to walk through the woods, running our mouths and having a good time, we came upon a tree with the prettiest nuts growing on it. They were all over the tree and the ground. Neither of us had ever seen a nut like this so we began to pick them up and study them. You decided that because it was so dad-gummed pretty it had to be edible. First you tried to break one open by crushing two nuts against each other in your hands. That didn’t work so you put one in your mouth and began trying to crack it open with your teeth. About the same time you successfully heard a crack our good lord sent you and me an angel of protection from our own ignorant stupidity.
Out of nowhere came a voice.

“What are you boys doing on my land?”

“Hunting,” I said.

“Who gave you permission to hunt on my land?

Then, rolling the nut to one side of your mouth, you gave a reply explaining that you received permission from your farmer friend.
This farmer now assured us that we had crossed on to his land. Because the fence was down we hadn’t see the property line and he asked us politely to leave. We agreed.

Before we did however you asked, with a mouth full of nut particles, “Do you know what kind of nuts these are?”

Buckeye Tree Nut Seed

Buckeye Tree Nut Seed

The farmers horizontal grin widened almost vertically. I will never forget the look on your face when he said, “That’s a Buckeye, and it’s poisonous enough to kill a bull.”

With a look of terror you began to spit Buckeye all over me and the farmer, the ground, and anything else that got in the way of you casting out Buckeye like an unwanted demon. The farmer and I laughed our heads off.

It is a fond memory and one I was reminded of a Dick’s house (my lil’ brother) when I saw a buckeye tree with prettiest little nuts on it and lying all over the ground!
You can preach this Mo! The moral is simple. We must be careful to take care of our bodies, by knowing that what we put in our mouth is not poisonous. Too, we must be careful of what we place in our hearts and our minds. Just because it is pretty does not mean it is good for us. We must be watchful that it provides life and not a slow poisonous eternal death.

Love ya Bro, Thanks for a great day of eating and wonderful fellowship with you and Nancy. I hope we don’t wait another 34 years before we meet again. If we do, be sure to bring your hearing aids and jet propelled wheel chair–we’ll race through those woods of yours!

You friend and brother,
Andy

Mo & Nancy

Mo & Nancy

Farms Don’t Have Dinosaurs

I don't like what I am hearing!

I don’t like what I am hearing!

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching,

 but having itching ears they will accumulate

 for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”

(2 Timothy 4:3; ESV)

I heard a prodigious scream. It meant one of the children had been hurt, or was about to be. After dodging a yellow Tyrannosaurus rex flying into the hallway, I arrived in their room to discover that a death threat had, for the moment, not yet been executed; no blood was splattered on the wall. Whew! As with most siblings’ perpetual disagreements, this squabble had circumvented toddler-aged common sense and stuck its nose in the middle of a normally quiet Saturday morning.

Traditional Farm Animals

Traditional Farm Animals

~VS~

Non-Traditional Farm Animals

Non-Traditional Farm Animals

My youngest and more traditional son was playing farm. He had his cows, horses, and chickens lined up inside the plastic-fenced corral next to the barn.  His older brother is a bit more creative and decided he would bring a colorful array of plastic dinosaurs to the farm. So, without asking or even discussing the idea, he proceeded to place the prehistoric icons right in the middle of the corral. After all, the more animals the more fun they would have, right? It would only benefit the farm.

In revisiting this nostalgic flashback, I realized that by the time I had reached their room a great battle over right and wrong had already emerged. Delaying intervention meant an even wider division between the two. Neither was willing to compromise on their definition of playfully correct. Each child blamed the other for his ignorance of how a real farm should look. It seemed that both were really angry and bitter, ready to leave and find a new farm where they are welcome, a farm where their lil’ ol’ hearts and ears could be tickled pink with affirmation of their correctness. A teaching moment had arrived, and I’d used the opportunity to teach the boys to understand that, though new ideas do break tradition, they are not necessarily wrong, and that even though it may be a better idea, you shouldn’t force it on someone without explanation or discussion. His brother wasn’t getting rid of the farm; he just wanted to add some animals.

There are times when getting two young children to understand each others point of view requires vigorous effort. Over the years I have discovered that it’s just as hard to get adults to understand each others points of view if they are unwilling to listen.

God’s people, the Jews, had become traditionalist, handing down from each generation different ideas of how to worship. They propagated oral laws to help define God’s written Law so men could better understand how to live more righteously.

The Word said to “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.”  Well, just what does keeping it holy mean? The high Priest and other leaders took it upon themselves to define ways to keep it holy. One example was that if you took over 400 steps on the Sabbath you were working, and therefore, not keeping the Sabbath holy (I don’t know who took the time to count the steps but that sounds a bit like work itself).

Though they meant well, through the centuries, they created a self-righteous pattern that led them away from God.  Now these Oral Laws became the way of salvation through ones ability to not only keep God’s revealed and written Law, but the Oral and traditional law as well.

Jesus brought a new paradigm. He came bearing good news.

 “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”                                                                                                     (Matt.22:37-40)

 Now, to some extent these Oral Laws sound silly, but are they really? Do we not do the same with our views on the ways things should be done today? Jesus did not propose getting rid of the farm, or the Law. He simply reemphasized what the Law always said: Love your God with your total being. In other words wrap your arms, legs, heart, soul and mind around a loving God just as tight as you can and never let go. And the new law was to love your neighbor just as much as you do yourself. Notice He placed self, last.

Jesus wasn’t telling us that when disagreements arise we need to accept others’ ideas simply as a way of saying we love each other. Neither was he saying we need to see those who disagree as unloving. In society’s new world view, I believe they call it, tolerance? But then that is polemic for another post so I’ll save it.

Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness,

strife, selfishness, or unworthy ends] prompted by conceit ‘and’ empty arrogance.

Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others

as better than ‘and’ superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another that you do of yourselves].                                                                                                                                                                                                                         (Philippians 2:3; Amplified Bible)

If we look at the great and foremost commandment again, we can see that Jesus brought the paradigm back to the beginning of God’s Word. Here he simply reminds us that our very heart, soul and mind should be devoted to God first. We should have a relationship so intimate in prayer and Word that we recognize His guidance over our own. We must desire to know God better. Our soul should be so thirsty for Him we become like a ball of cotton absorbing every ounce. Our mind should hunger for His Word as if we were on the verge of death by starvation.

So, what about division between church members, family and friends?  We don’t need to go back to the time before that childish farm. As Christians, it is time to evaluate ourselves and our congregations with this new example, given by Jesus. It is not a new standard, it is the very one He taught His disciples while in their presence. Are we following that standard and not compromise it away? Maybe it’s time to ask God to point out a few good and faithful saints that will pray with us on a regular basis for an old fashion revival in our congregations. Maybe it’s time to pray until it comes!

“… Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked                                          nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”                                              (John 16:23 NIV)

As a member of your congregation revival begins with you. Be encouraged. Stand up, and hold your head high so that those in your congregation are also encouraged.

 

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement

give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.”

(Romans 15:5)

Building In the Dark

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When Satan leave the light on for you, remember that God is our light!

When Satan leave the light on for you, remember that God is our Hope!

“For You are my hope; O Lord God,

You are my trust from my youth

and the source of my confidence.”

Psalm 71:5

I was sitting in the shade one afternoon enjoying summer’s intermittent breeze flowing across my face. The cooling relief felt good for those brief seconds, but never lasted long enough to abate the sweat droplets(perspiration rivulets?) zigzagging through my facial stubble. I love to sit in a large oak tree’s shade on late afternoons, praying and praising, and just talking with myself and God about my life—where I’ve been and where I’m going. This particular day, God took advantage of my time with him to remind me of a very special moment that didn’t seem so special at the time; I don’t look forward to a wasp sting.

I love woodworking, but my workbench was outside because it couldn’t fit inside. While routing a piece of wood one day, my hand felt as if someone had driven an icepick through it. I was under attack by an army of wasps so I ran for cover. Administering first aid, I prepared for war.

Outside again, I stealthily embarked on a search-and-destroy mission, and halted when I spotted a large, inverted mushroom covered with wasps. Only extreme vigilance would keep me from being stung again.

Even with my hand starting to swell, I began spraying a pesticide mist that knocked several wasps to the ground, but I noticed other rusty-red bodies who had me in their sights. I danced like seven demons possessed me while trying to avoid more of their toxic venom. As I had become a sudden threat to their family home, they shifted altitude and direction in their profound vengeance, their fury thrusting them forward. When at last the final wasp fell to the ground I claimed victory and headed back to work.

A while later, a lone wasp buzzed around my head, probably out gathering food and whatever was needed to enlarge the nest. When he landed on the bench I placed an empty paint can over him. Then rain began falling and I retreated indoors.

Three days later I returned to my project and noticed the can. I thought, surely the wasp is dead. I raised the can and out he flew; I couldn’t believe it. He’d survived the heat and darkness, and now he disappeared into the backyard haze. I was dumbfounded, not because the wasp was alive, but because of the small, three-celled inverted mushroom I found inside. God’s creature not only survived his darkest hour, but continued the life’s work God had given him. Though he may have been afraid and unsure of the future, he never gave up. Now he claimed victory over his enemy.

This little red-tailed insect didn’t allow circumstance to keep him from accomplishing his purpose. Our enemy wants us to believe we have no purpose, and through fear, tries to intimidate us til we give up. He sprays his toxic fog of lies and trepidation over us, doing his best to stop another of God’s creatures. Like that tiny wasp, God gave us certain individual characteristics and gifts to become like Him in our Christian walk and build His kingdom, bringing honor to His name.

Jesus said, "I am the door."

Jesus said, “I am the door.”

God exhorts us in His Word to make ready for Satan’s certain attacks, providing His Word upon which to draw our strength. Yes. He provides our armor to defend against the enemy and thwart his attacks.

“…be strong in the Lord[be empowered

through your union with Him];

draw your strength from Him

[that strength which

His boundless might provides.]

Ephesians 6:10-18 (AMP)

We must not delay our preparation until the enemy attacks, but don our armor and take up our sword daily if we hope to claim the victory. God’s provision of prayer is a communication system unequaled by any of today’s sophisticated technology. We must be ready to receive His blessings when we pray for them. Whatever the circumstance, ask God to bring truth to light, healing to your broken heart, and His love to your soul.

Once God reveals His truth, He begins directing you to press through and beyond your circumstances, but He will provide that prayer-answering truth only when you are willing to open your heart to it and lay every hurt at his feet. Peace comes only if you allow it, and give up your fear of your circumstances, for like the wasp, it is only for a season. Continue to build in the dark and stand astonished when the cover is lifted.

“Yet amid all these things we are more
than conquerors and gain our surpassing victory
through Him Who loved us.”

Romans 8:37 (AMP)

When circumstance covers us with defeat it is time to hold our heads high and remember we are conquerors. Nothing comes against us that will prosper (Isaiah 54:17). The beauty of it all is that, as we face this circumstance, God stands behind us as our rear Guard (Isaiah 52:12).

Have you ever wanted to give up? Be encouraged, for …

Now you can get on your knees and give thanks and praise to the One who has brought you through the darkness and into the Light.

 

“After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you
into His eternal glory in Christ Jesus will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be,
establish and ground you securely,
and strengthen and settle you.”

1 Peter 5:10 (AMP)

Peace has arrived!

Peace has arrived!

AMEN!

Thank You Father!

 

To All My Friends

My First Christmas, 1950

My First Christmas, 1950

Well, our celebration is here. If you are not ready you only have a few hours left. I wonder in my mind if we are ever truly ready to worship and celebrate the birth of our Savior. That decision is up to you and God. It is a personal walk with him. I pray that if you do not know Jesus personally you will allow him to speak to you, like HE did to the farmer through the birds in a previous post.

I want to take just a quick moment, as I know you have so many better things to do today, just to thank you for following my blog. I am the blessed one here that so many new friends are around to celebrate this great commemoration tomorrow. So I say Merry Christmas from Dixie, the best part of the world :-).   God bless you and your families. May you make joyful memories that will be cherished for generations to follow.

Your Friend,

Andy