Monday, December 7, 2009


2009 is coming to a close. I am sure that many of you are thinking what I am thinking - "2010? Are you kidding?" Not long ago it seemed that there was a lot of talk about Y2K and the beginning of a new millenium. Now we are looking at another decade gone by, and we are inviting a new one. I think that this is adequate cause for some reflections on the past year.

We have experienced losses. Many of us have had to deal with deaths of family and friends. As a church family here we have lost some very faithful members who were great examples. We know things are never going to be the same now that these people have left us. We have also experienced a great loss of those who no longer worship with us for different reasons. This is also a great tragedy and Lord willing these people will understand how much we love them and how much the Lord loves them and that they desire to return again.

We have experienced additions. Some of us have added to our physical families through births or marriages. As a church we have seen several obey the gospel and others who were already Christians have come into the local body as well. We have also gained four new elders, who are doing a great job along with the other men who serve in this capacity. These spiritual gains make us a better and stronger body than we could have been otherwise. I hope all of you who are now at Pulaski St. as a part of this family know how happy we are to have you here. We want to be a continual support and help to every person in this congregation as well as others we may influence for Christ's sake.

There have been other losses and gains: Financial, Occupational, Domestic, Scholastic, et cetera. People have made changes that will affect their lives forever from this point forward. It is my hope and prayer that whatever changes you have experienced this year will work out for the best - that your relationship with God will be stronger, that your current and eternal future is brighter, and that you will enjoy good health and years of happiness to come.

While the times change, and we get older, and we face challenges and opportnities ahead, we need to remember that we serve an unchanging God. He existed before time began and will always be. He is the giver of every good and perfect gift. He is the sustainer and maintainer of our lives. He is the one who loves us no matter what, and the one who will always be there for us. He is our hope, our rock, our shield, our peace, and our joy. We will never fail if we will do His will and love and trust in Him. Our God is still the answer to all of the questions of our lives.

Thank you, Lord, for 2009. Please be with us and help us in 2010!

"The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace." ~ Numbers 6:24-26

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thinking Caps

You may remember your teacher saying something like this to you in school, "Okay, class, it is time for you to put your thinking caps on!" This might have meant you were about to receive a lesson, take a test, or consider something very important. Though it seems almost silly to state something so obvious, thinking is not overrated. It is essential to success in every aspect of life.

In the August, 1981 issue of Reader's Digest one story told of a time when Henry Ford hired an efficiency expert to evaluate his company. After a few weeks, the expert made his report, which was highly favorable except for one thing. "It's that man down the hall," said the expert. "Every time I go by his office he's just sitting there with his feet on his desk. He's wasting your money." "That man," replied Mr. Ford, "once had an idea that saved us millions of dollars. At the time, I believe his feet were planted right where they are now.

Imagine being paid just to think? Maybe if we were paid to do it we would do it more often! The fact is, we are rewarded with so much more than monetary blessings if we will let the mind of the Master be the master of our minds. Consider a few of the things that taking time to think will accomplish:

  • avoiding rash decisions
  • avoiding speaking when better to remain silent
  • better communication
  • real, sound, beneficial solutions to problems
  • avoiding temptations
  • knowledge, wisdom, and understanding
  • better choices
God's advice to Joshua in leading Israel was to THINK - "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success" (Joshua 1:8). It is not only important that we think, but it is just as important to choose the right subject. The only true help for those who are looking for it is going to be found in the Word of God.

The key to good thinking is found in the word "meditate." Meditation is time spent in the action of thinking. It is dedication coupled with a willing mind for understanding. Meditation is not putting on your thinking cap, but rather, realizing that you are never supposed to take it off. We all need to be wearing our thinking caps all of the time! What a shame that anyone would ever have to encourage us to put it on!

"But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night." ~ Psalm 1:2

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Thanksgiving Reminder

Abraham Lincoln's
Thanksgiving Proclamation
of 1863

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choisest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens.

A. Lincoln, October 3, 1863.

"Rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving." ~ Colossians 2:7

Monday, November 16, 2009

Me, Myself, and I

One scene from a mall included a pet shop window and a new litter of puppies. The crowds stood viewing the precious little creatures as they huddled together. One lady remarked, "What a delightful picture of brotherhood! They're keeping each other warm!" The man next to her replied, "No ma'am, they're not keep eaching other warm -- they are keeping themselves warm." ~ Today in the Word, February, 1991, p. 20.

The twenty-first century is the age of "Me." So much so that you have atheletes famous for statements like, "I love me some me!" You have couples divorcing because they are first and their partner is not likely even second. You have churches splitting because it is more popular to have an opinion that it is to be obedient. You have a nation crumbling from the foundation because it is no longer about sacrifice, but rather, individual rights.

Someone has said that the problem with most self-made men is that they worship their creator. How often, then, does it appear to us that we are helping others when we are really just helping ourselves. Like the puppies, it may seem to some less observant that our activity is beneficial to others. But if we are self-centered, warming ourselves, we may only being helping others by accident.

Resources tells the following story:
When Roy DeLamotte was chaplain at Paine College in Georgia, he preached the shortest sermon in the college's history. However, he had a rather long topic: "What does Christ Answer When We Ask, 'Lord, What's in Religion for Me?"' The complete content of his sermon was in one word: "Nothing." He later explained that the one-word sermon was meant for people brought up on the 'gimme-gimme' gospel. When asked how long it took him to prepare the message, he said, "Twenty years."

Julian Huxley, an evolutionary humanist, said this in his own work, Religion without Revelation, pg. 194: "Man's most sacred duty and at the same time his most glorious opportunity, is to promote the maximum fulfillment of the evolutionary process on this earth; and this includes the fullest realization of his own inherent possibilities." He managed to do it, didn't he? He was able to come up with a theory that is perhaps the furthest possible distance from the attitude of Jesus Christ.

When we promote ourselves we need to realize what else we are promoting. Our Savior has already shown us that true happiness and contentment can only be found in self-denial and sacrifice.

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.'" ~ Matthew 16:24

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

If Jesus Came to Town

My son and I enjoyed going to the LCHS playoff game last Friday night. We were glad to see the Wilcats advance to the next round. What a great evening it was for our community! The greatest moment was watching Rob Nelson moving along the track with an Lawrence County High School banner in his hands. The way our city has rallied around that family is so encouraging on many levels.

Scenes like this past weekend at the football game remind me that people need each other. They need a common interest, a relationship, a goal to share. The common people heard the words of Jesus gladly (Mark 12:37). The early church believed together and had all things in common (Acts 2:44). Jude wrote about the common salvation, the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). It is truly God's desire that we share a belief in Him together, that we work towards being agreeable, and that we stand together in the kingdom that Jesus established.

When I see a community rally together; whether it be to encourage a young man who had a terrible accident, or perhaps to support their local high school team that has exceeded expectations, I am reminded that God made us in such a way that we can truly have fellowship and be brethren. Wouldn't it be great, if we would all work as hard toward unity in Christ as we do in other things?

If Jesus came to our town, I wonder if we would show the same interest and share in him joyfully together as we do in other things? I wonder if we would rally around him and be just as excited about what he has to offer? I wonder if we would be willing to drop human ideas and simply follow the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us?

And yet, the truth is that there is no "if." Jesus has already come. Jesus is already here.

"Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common." ~ Acts 4:32

Monday, November 2, 2009


I became acquainted once again with a man this week in Anna, Illinois, by the name of Wardell Barnhart. Wardell has worshiped with his wife at the Anna congregation for many years. When I came to Anna for a gospel meeting in March of 2001, they were here and I remember that they attended every service. At that particular time, Mr. Barnhart was not a member of the Lord's church.

As we started another meeting this past Sunday morning, I arrived at the building thirty minutes early to meet and greet whomever might be there. Wardell was the only one present for a good while. It is his custom to be there early and open up the building. We had time to talk for a while. He told me that his wife had suddenly passed away a few years ago. He was going to have knee surgery the morning she left him. He woke up to find that she had simply faded away in her sleep.

You might imagine that Wardell Barnhart would be sad and lonely. But I saw a much different picture. Though he dearly misses his wife, he is a different man today. He put on his Lord in baptism before she died. He told me he had been one of "the long-time stubborn ones." But from the time he became a Christian everything with him changed.

The man I talked to in the foyer of the church building is a happy man. He is very faithful and greets everyone with a kind smile when they come into the church building. He is nice to visitors and good with conversation. He made a remark about one of my sermon topics on the flier - "Remember Thy Creator When You are All Alone." He told me that made no sense. He said, chuckling, "You are never alone, because God is always with you."

What makes a man, now a widower after fifty plus years of marriage live with so much hope? What makes him so kind and gentle and full of life? It is the fact that he lifted a burden that remained on his heart and in his life for decades. He became a Christian, and now he makes his coffee and breakfast every morning in his humble home in the presence of a special guest. There is no doubt in his mind that God is there with Him. And let me tell you, Wardell Barnhart lives in such a way, that you cannot deny God's presence in his life. You can just tell.

"Burdens are liften at Calvary, Jesus is very near." ~ John Moore (1952)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Christian Friends

There are some blessings in life that mean more than others. One of those blessings that bears great significance is the sense of belonging. Many people in this world struggle to ever find their place - in their families, in the communities, in their society. But I am not faced with this particular problem. Why? Because I am a Christian!

One of the best things about being a Christian is that you have family everywhere. When we went to Florida on vacation a few weeks ago, I found some of my family at the South Walton church of Christ. This past Friday and Saturday I spent come time in Kentucky, and got to be with some of my family again - Garrisons, Obrons, Stubblefields, Fortenberys, and Fergusons. I had some great moments just talking with some of my best friends in this world, Greg and Frankie Ferguson, and just catching up on what is going on in their lives.

When Sunday came around, I was in Alamo, TN. Though I missed my wife and children and my family in Lawrenceburg, I was still not alone. I spent the day with my Christian friends. Some who I have never met were there, and some who I have have known and who I have come to respect and love were there as well.

One lady in particular that came to worship reminded me of the importance of the church in my life. Her name is Frances Bruce. She is 97 years old and still drives. She is as sharp as they come. She stopped me before I went up to preach and told me, "You have a friend of mine who worships with you in Lawrenceburg. His name is David Pinckley." She went on to tell me that she has a relative that receives our bulletin. I also found out that her brother and his wife were best friends with David's parents for many years.

I immediately called David and told him about Frances. I know it was a joyous thing for him to hear that she was still living, and to know he had a connection to his parents. I am confident her name being mentioned took him back to precious memories of good times, that could only be available to people who are in the church who have Christian friends.

When you are a Christian, you are never alone. The greatest people on earth become your family. And no matter where you go, even when you are not at home, you can find a place that you can call home for a while.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Reachable Goals

Imagine what it would be like to try and hit something you cannot see. If you have ever been to a birthday party and there was a pinata or a "pin the tail on the donkey" contest, you may remember how difficult some of that was.

How about trying to bowl strikes without being able to see the pins? Actually this is not as hard as you think, because bowling lanes have markers and arrows that make it possible for a person to aim at something other than the actual pins in order to have success. In fact, in 1933, a man by the name of Bill Knox demonstrated this fact. He had a screen placed just above the fowl line so that he could not see any of the pins. He could not see most of the bowling lane, either. But Mr. Knox used this method to bowl a perfect 300 game, 12 strikes in a row!

How did he do it? He used a method called, "spot-bowling." This method simply suggests that a person use a close marker on the lane just past the foul line. You just use the same motion and hit that close mark every time. It makes perfect sense. If your form is good, then easy targets will line you up for success.

The concept that produced "spot bowling" is an idea that really can work for us in our daily Christian lives. We often miss the mark when we place our spiritual targets too far away. We end up feeling like miserable failures and our faith is weakened by how many times we find the gutter. But if we will set reachable goals with nearby targets we will hit them . This involves consistency in form and confidence that God will help us to improve every time we do our best.

Stop looking so far down the lane! Find a reachable spiritual goal and hit it! Hit it again, and again! You will find that in attaining reachable goals, you will have the confidence to be a stronger Christian than you ever thought possible.

Being a Christian is not as difficult as many people make it. It is not about your perfection, it is about faith, obedience, determination, and executing the simple plan of the One who will perfect all things for us.

"I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." ~ Philippians 3:14

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Greatness of Goodness

Bernie May made the following remarks in "Learning to Trust":

For the past forty years Eunice Pike has worked with the Mazatec Indians in south-western Mexico. During this time she has discovered some interesting things about these beautiful people. For instance, the people seldom wish someone well. Not only that, they are hesitant to teach one another or to share the gospel with each other. If asked, "Who taught you to bake bread?" the village baker answers, "I just know," meaning he has acquired the knowledge without anyone's help. Eunice says this odd behavior stems from the Indian's concept of "limited good." They believe there is only so much good, so much knowledge, so much love to go around. To teach another means you might drain yourself of knowledge. To love a second child means you have to love the first child less. To wish someone well--"Have a good day"--means you have just given away some of your own happiness, which cannot be reacquired.

While this concept of living seems to make no sense, there are many of us who in practice also believe in the concept of limited goodness. We feel our energy and time are often too important to be wasted on others. We decide what our limits are with regard to how often we pray, read the Bible, worship, do benevolence, and share the gospel. We tend to think there is a point at which we have done enough.

Jesus once said, "
If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away" (Matt. 5:40-42). The Son of God taught that true religion was goodness beyond measure. It has no limitations. It seeks no completed time. It is simply an attitude that is born out of godliness which grows into a life spent on the consideration of others.

If goodness subtracts anything from our true self, it is only worthless ambition and pride. Goodness actually amounts to greatness when humility is involved. This is what our Savior meant by the last being first and the first being last. Until you come to the conclusion that the best thing for your advancement is to get in the back of the line, your life will be vacant of the power of the cross.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." ~ Galatians 5:22-23

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Omnipresence of God

An elderly woman met a preacher while traveling across the country by train. As they talked she told him how lonely she had become since her crippled daughter had died. She was used to caring for her, and had done so all of her life. In spite of all the heartaches and labor in caring for her sick child, when she could no longer watch her bed, an insurmountable feeling of emptiness came into her life.

The man gave her great advice. He told her to greet Jesus each time she came into her home. After the greeting, she was to tell him about her day. If someone had been kind or unkind, if something interesting or significant had occurred she was to share it with Jesus. She was to tell him about her life and talk about all of the things that she would normally have talked about with her daughter.

The woman took his advice. Within six months she believed that not only had she overcome her loneliness, but she had gained a best friend. She had no time to think about her loss, because she was so busy buidling her relationship with the Lord.

There has never been a human being, except Jesus, who ever had to go without God for even one minute outside of their own choice. David once asked of God, "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?" (Psalm 139:7). Truly God is everywhere, and is with us at all times if we would just recognize him and talk with him and share with him our lives.

We are supposed to be spending our earthly time living in such a way that we will assure ourselves of an eternity with the God who created us. If we are going about it in the right way, this means we are literally fleeing unto him, running into arms that are willing to embrace us with love at the end of the road.

We need to remember that God has never left us. He wants to be in our hearts and in our homes. He wants us to lean on him and live in harmony with him. He wants to be at our very core and live as the most important thing in our lives. God is right here. He is not going anywhere. He is at our door and ready for us to tell him all about it.

"You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." ~ Psalm 16:11

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Praying Together

One recent religious survey noted that the average minister only prays three minutes each day. I found this astounding. I do not know if it is accurate, but if this is true, is it any wonder why the church is not growing?

Hey wait a minute...maybe we should ask ourselves how much we are praying? It's not that there is a required amount, but rather it has to do with where we are in our spiritual lives. Prayer is key. Prayer can change everything.

I am finding that one of the most important things I can do to change and improve my own prayer life is to pray with others. When we pray with our spouses it changes our marriage. When we pray with our family it brings God into our home in a greater way. When we pray with our friends we share our lives together and our friendship grows. When we pray with the church we have more confidence in our spiritual journey.

Here are a few suggestions that I believe will enhance your prayer life:

1. Have a prayer list.
  • Sit down and think of all the people who have special needs and all the problems people are facing. A prayer list helps you focus on issues others are struggling with and humbles you. You will realize how many people need prayers, and you will be reminded about how many blessings you have.
2. Pray more in your Bible classes.
  • It would be a good idea for each of our Bible classes, if we started and ended with a prayer. It will change the way you study. It will allow God to be present with those who are looking into His word.
3. Make a regular time each evening to pray with your spouse.
  • When couples communicate with God they also communicate with each other. If you have never heard your spouse pray, you are missing out on knowing them as well as you could.
4. Teach your children how to pray, and help them to pray regularly.
  • There is nothing more rewarding then listening to your child as the learn to pray. As they improve, you are developing in them a relationship with God that they will never regret.
Prayer is not a job, it is a privilege. We desperately need to pray.

"Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." ~ James 5:16

Monday, September 14, 2009


The Cartoon Strip, "ZIGGY" has been around since 1969. Created by Tom Wilson, Ziggy is a little man who is bald, barefoot, with little distinguishing features except his nose. He has no job, hobbies, or romantic partner, just several pets. One memorable cartoon has Ziggy sitting alone in a boat, drifting towards a sign that reads, "Tunnel of Meaningful Relationships."

One website I visited this week stated that, "Loneliness is a growing problem in our society. A study by the American Council of Life Insurance reported that the most lonely group in America are college students. That's surprising! Next on the list are divorced people, welfare recipients, single mothers, rural students, housewives, and the elderly."

Not too long ago there was an actual ad in a Kansas newspaper in which someone offered -
"I will listen to you talk for 30 minutes without comment for $5.00." Believe it or not, it was not long until this ad was receiving a response of 20 calls per day.

Loneliness in our society is a result of the breakdown of family life as God would have it. Whether we realize it or not, we are causing both loneliness in others and in ourselves. There is nothing worse than the fact that many young children experience a deep sense of being alone - not receiving the love and attention they need to grow in a world that is often cold and cruel.
Even people who are strong Christians will often feel isolated by life's circumstances. When there is a lack of affection or communication from other Christians, these individuals will often be shaken in their faith.

Loneliness is not an immediate occurrence. It is a gradual slipping away from healthy relationships and purposeful living. I am strongly convinced that the loneliness we often experience is due to poor choices in our interests and investments. When we spend the majority of our time on things that are going to pass away, as these things begin to slip through our fingers we begin to wonder about the meaning of our own existence.

I have never met a human being that has not admitted to experiencing the feeling of loneliness. This reminds me that people are lonely on a regular basis, and that they desire to be otherwise. This is why fellowship is important. This is why visitation is important. This is why is is a such a great blessing, knowing that we have a God and Savior who will never leave us or forsake us is always at our side to be an ever present help in time of trouble.

- Psa 94:14 -
"For the Lord will not cast off His people, Nor will He forsake His inheritance." ~ Psalm 94:14

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fellowship Meals

Some call them "potlucks." Some call them "covered dish dinners." Others call them "church, then eat." Fellowship meals have been commonplace in my life since I came into the world. Outside of being sick or out of town, I do not recall ever missing a Sunday fellowship meal that was organized by the local congregation in which I was a member. I have many, many stories about fellowship meals.

Fellowship meals are just another way of expressing that you are a member of God's kingdom. When you are in a family, you just do what the family does. You are supposed to. That is just the way it is. You come because this is where you belong. You come because there is nowhere else to be but where the church has gathered. You come because these people are the ones you prefer over all others. Those of you who regularly attend fellowship meals know what I am talking about.

Has anybody solved the fellowship meal mystery? You know, the fact that the attendance from morning worship to a noon fellowship meal generally goes down by fifty percent? I don't think it is the fear of germs. I am sure it is not that people are fasting on Sundays (no way). It can't be that people don't like crowds when they are eating, I have seen these people at restaurants.

I think the main reason why people don't come to fellowship meals, is that they are not as interested in building relationships as they need to be. Go back fifty years. People did not isolate, but looked for social opportunities. Ball games were not played on the Lord's day. Entertainment was more of a social experience because you went where the people were, rather than to the computer, television, or someplace else to find recreation.

This isolation from others has led us to become more interested in ourselves and less interested in others. Fellowship meals are really geared for people who care about their brethren. They are made for those who love to be with Christians. They are available for people who want to be influenced by people who know the Lord.

You can eat anywhere you want to on a Sunday afternoon. You can go to a restaurant, or home, or to some other engagement. But God's people will be meeting together this Sunday after services to make a difference in each others lives and in the lives of those who need the Lord. Will you join us?

"...imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints." ~ 2 Corinthians 8:4

Monday, August 31, 2009

Assuming the Worst

Daily Bread once posted a story that should set each one of us to thinking...

One dark rainy night a salesman had a flat tire on a lonely road. But to his dismay he had no lug wrench. Seeing a nearby farmhouse, he set out on foot. Surely the farmer would have a lug wrench, he thought. But would he even come to the door? And if he did, he'd probably be furious at being bothered. He'd say, "What's the big idea getting me out of bed in the middle of the night?" This thought made the salesman angry. Why, that farmer is a selfish old clod to refuse to help me. Finally the man reached the house. Frustrated and drenched, he banged on the door. "Who's there?" a voice called out from a window overhead.

"You know good and well who it is," yelled the salesman, his face red with anger. "It's me! And you can keep your old lug wrench! I wouldn't borrow it if it was the last one in the county."

Why do we get our preconceived notions about people and situations? It seems that we get so concerned about how we may be perceived or treated by others, that we never give them a chance to decide for themselves. Why don't people build relationships with some of their fellow Christians? Why don't people share the gospel? Why don't we know our neighbors better? One of the reasons is because we often think the worst thing is going to happen, or we decide that it is not worth the risk.

Could you ever imagine Jesus making any of these statements:

  • "I would go to your house, but I don't want my motives to be misunderstood."
  • "I would help you, but I am not sure if you will change."
  • "I would teach and lead, but there will be some who will not follow."
  • "I would die, but most of them will not believe."
Doing the right thing is never about what someone else may or may not do. Extending ourselves to others will never become a common practice for us unless we assume that people are worth while. It is not in the result that we trust, but rather in the method. Believe in people. Look for the good in them. You may be pleasantly surprised.

"And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man." ~ Proverbs 3:4

Monday, August 24, 2009

Older Trees

When you think of trees, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think about planting them, or you recall the growth you have seen over the years in the ones already planted. Maybe it is their blossoms, their leaves, or the fruit that they bear. Trees may make you think of the type of wood they are comprised of, maybe picnics or playhouses or something else.

Jesus thought about trees. He often used them in illustrating the kind of people God wants us to be. He expressed the necessity of being a good tree bearing good fruit (Matt. 7:17-19). He used a tree and its branches to describe the kingdom of God (Matt. 13:32). With one particular fig tree he articulated true faith (Matt. 21:19-21).

The Psalmist declared that the person whose delight is in the law of the Lord, who meditates on it, "...shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper" (Psalm 1:3).

Some trees are stronger than others. Older trees have experienced the storms and lived through them. Older trees have deeper root systems, wider trunks, and heavier branches. Trees that are older often produce the most mature and most pleasant tasting fruit.

I have always believed that older trees are more beautiful then saplings. You can just see their stability, the character of the bark, the shape of their trunks and branches, the shade and splendor of their leaves.

I am thankful for these trees. Because I can depend on them. I can learn from them. I can admire them. I can try to be like them.

As I saw Authel Atkins partake of the Lord's Supper this past Sunday, I was reminded of the faithfulness of older trees. As I watched Thomas Monroe sing praises to God at the 1 p.m. service, I was reminded of the beauty of older trees. As I noticed Henry and Marie Windham leaving the building, along with Joe and Ruby Bass, Alvin Brown and Naoma Jacobs, I was reminded of the determination and dependability of older trees.

And I thanked God, and asked him to let me rest my faith upon their branches.

Shall we sit idly down and say,

The night hath come; it is no longer day?

The night hath not yet come; we are not quite

Cut off from labor by the failing light;

Something remains for us to do or dare;

Even the oldest tree some fruit may bear.

Henry W. Longfellow

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Catfish Dinner

Bert Collins was one of the hardest working men I have ever met. He was raised up a farmer in Calloway County, Kentucky. He was not a big man and he did not talk very much, but you could be assured that when he did talk he always meant what he said. He and his wife, Geneva were some of the most benevolent people their community has ever known. They gave to the Lord first, to others second, and whatever was left over they were satisfied with for themselves.

One Sunday Bert approached me and told me he wanted to take Amber and me out to eat catfish at Tri-City. He and Geneva also invited an older, single man from church who they felt needed encouragement. Tri-City was several miles west of Murray, a little stop on highway 94, hardly worth mentioning. But there was a country store that converted into a catfish restaurant in the evenings, or maybe it was just weekends. As you can imagine, they had good catfish - it is almost always these kind of places that do it the best.

So we rode over together to the country store. We talked about normal things, and honestly I do not remember one conversation in particular. But I think that is how it was supposed to be. We were part of a christian family, and sometimes all that means is just being together. I do remember what a good time we had, and that we laughed and learned about each other. And the distinct feeling that comes back to me about that moment is simply this - we felt loved.

Sometimes we forget that people need us and that we need people. I told J. Fred Johnston Sunday night that the little children that call him the "candy man" will never forget him. They all go to him after services for candy or chewing gum, and he always has some. I remember when I was a kid there was a man I went to after worship for the same reason. I also remember going to my next door neighbor's house and always knowing they would give me a treat from their cupboard. You never forget when people are a blessing. I am confident that I needed Bert and Geneva Collins in my life, and that they needed me, and that is the very reason why God brought us together.

Bert passed away this past Friday. He lived 85 good years on this earth. He was a Christian man. He was a faithful husband, father, and friend. He always gave you a kind "howdy doody" and a smile when he saw you, in a way that was uniquely his. I wonder if he knows how much of a difference he made in the lives of others...I wonder if he knows what a difference he made with just a catfish dinner...

"And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." ~ Matthew 22:39

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Get in the Game

I grew up a Los Angeles Dodgers fan. When I was a child we lived in L.A. and I had the opportunity to attend many games. The Dodgers had some good teams in the 70's and 80's, and I remember World Series victories and some of players and personalities of those teams.

One player in particular that comes to mind is Pedro Guerrero. He was a latin player who was a talented hitter, but who lacked a little bit in the field. Sometimes he played third base, and other times he played outfield. One thing that the managers noticed was that his batting average went down significantly when he was playing third. They found out later that he was hoping that the ball would not be hit to him when he was in the infield. He had no confidence at third base. He later admitted that he could never concentrate on hitting unless he was in the outfield.

It occurs to me that many Christians try to live their life this way in the church. They would rather be away from the line of fire, somewhere in the outfield. They do not want the ball hit to them. They want to be able to concentrate on other things. They do not want to be challeneged. They do not want to get in the game.

We need to get in the game because Christianity is not a spectator sport. If we believe that God truly has the power to take away our sins, we should also believe, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." We can do great work in the kingdom if we will just trust in God to help us.

We need to get in the game because Christianity is about effort, not perfection. People avoid church work because they are afraid they will not do it right. We need to remember God used fisherman to preach the gospel, and He usually used the lowest, most untrained people to change the world. Every person who comes to Christ is a sinner. Every person who works in the church is a sinner. It is guaranteed that elders, deacons, preachers, teachers, are going to commit some errors in their work. I am so thankful for those who will do the Lord's work, knowing that they are imperfect.

We need to get in the game because we are in a win or lose situation. People are depending on us. We should want the ball to come to us, because we can change the outcome. Too many people are playing another game on the wrong field. In the meantime, the majority of the world is going to spend eternity in hell. If we get in the game we will make a difference. If we do not get on the game, we will not get to share in the final victory.

- Luk 16:2 -
"So he called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship..." ~ Luke 16:2

Monday, August 3, 2009


The late comedian Victor Borge once said that "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." People need to enjoy life. I have often said that one of the greatest lessons having cancer teaches a person is that it is important to rejoice more. Life is a wonderful gift. Too many people are wasting it being negative or unhappy.

Researchers have noted that the average child laughs 150 times a day. The average adult only laughs 15 times a day. We are loosing our smiles, and a laugh is really nothing more than a smile that finally bursts.

The presence of laughter improves virtually every situation. I recently read a suggestion from a marriage and family therapist who said that we should tell jokes at the dinner table to our family members. First, of course, we need to sit down long enough to actually enjoy being with our family. Once we do that, some night let each family member bring 5 jokes with them to the table on a piece of paper. Then take turns telling them. See if you enjoy your supper time more.

Laughter also blesses mankind with inner peace. Actor Alan Alda once said that "
When people are laughing, they're generally not killing each other." It takes a willing heart to open up enough with another person so as to laugh with them. Laughter builds relationships. It rewards with memories. It is positive reinforcement. It reminds us that life is great!

The Bible pictures the Son of God as one who was full of joy. Children do not flock to grumpy people. As Jesus took the young people into his arms, I believe there were wonderful smiles and amazing laughter. It was the most natural thing for our Savior to rejoice. He loved people. He enjoyed being with them. He experienced every emotion a man could experience. The people who are the closest to God are those who are the happiest. How close was Jesus to the Father? His closeness must have made him a man who usually wore a smile.

The promise Jesus gives the faithful servant at the end of time is "...enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matt. 25:21, 23). Heaven is going to be a place where laughter abounds. There will be nothing to prohibit eternal rejocing there. Laughter, then, is a momentary taste of divine blessings. It is a prelude to a greater time when we will all be in the presence of God.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" ~ Philippians 4:4

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Creationist" or Just a "Christian"?

Recently we hosted a Creation Vs. Evolution seminar here in Lawrenceburg. I believe it was a huge success and I know we as a church look forward to doing more events like this in the future. Dr. Brad Harrub was our speaker. He was well qualified, did an excellent job, and he opened up the hearts and minds of many people with regard to many matters that face us as Christians in the post-modern era.

I was thinking about Brad recently, being so thankful for him and his work. I know others appreciate him and probably came to some of the same understadnings as I did concerning several issues because of his influence. For example, I am confident that we realize we need more men like him who will study science and Christian evidences, get their credentials, and fight for the truth in these arenas all over the country. But there was one thought I had in particular that made me wonder if anyone else was thinking something similar.

Brad is often labeled a "Creationist." Now, I am sure he would not mind this label. Neither would I. After all, Creationism is simply the religious belief that the universe and all the living things contained therein are the product of deity. Specifically, the proper view of creation is found in the only heavenly account, the Bible. So to be labeled a Creationist is not a bad thing, it is a compliment.

However, I think a better label for Brad and hopefully the rest of us is "Christian." One of the reasons this is a better name is because it is a biblical name (Acts 11:26; 1 Pet. 4:16). But the main point is that it is hard to see how anybody who would call themselves a Christian would not be a Creationist automatically.

If we are going to be Christians, then there are many fundamental truths and believes that should also be a part of our makeup. Some of these include:

1. Belief in the Godhead: the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:7).
2. Belief in Jesus as the Son of God (John 3:16).
3. Belief in the Bible as the perfect and inerrant word of God (2 tim. 3:16-17).
4. Belief in the gospel as the power to save the souls of men (Rom. 1:16).
5. Belief that God created the world and everything in it in six days (Ex. 20:11).

Now this is a very short list. The longer list would include the truth about the salvation process, the one church, true worship, et cetera. But the main expression of this article is hopefully very clear. Christians must define themselves according to the same matter that God would define His people in His holy word.

If we are truly Christians, then we are also Creationists - along with other labels and tags the world may supply.

"Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. ~ 1 Peter 4:16

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Track star Wilma Rudolph won three gold medals in the 1960 Olympics, but to get there she had to overcome enormous hurdles. Stricken with scarlet fever at the age of 4, she lost the use of her left leg and had to learn to walk again when she was 7.

Tim Hansel wrote about overcoming obstacles in his 1987 publication, Holy Sweat:

In 1962, Victor and Mildred Goertzel published a revealing study of 413 "famous and exceptionally gifted people" called Cradles of Eminence. They spent years attempting to understand what produced such greatness, what common thread might run through all of these outstanding people's lives.

Surprisingly, the most outstanding fact was that virtually all of them, 392, had to overcome very difficult obstacles in order to become who they were.

While most people would like to live a life without the inconveniences of struggles, obstacles are necessary on any road to success. "Easy living" makes us lazy. It keeps us from appreciating blessings. Hard times are benchmarks in our progress. They are, as the poem goes, the footprints in the sand that remind us of the loving care of God who never gives up on us.

If you were to honestly look back on your life and ask yourself when you felt the closest to God, I think that you will find it was when you overcame something with His help. It was an illness that God helped you get through, or perhaps poverty, stress, or marriage/family trouble. It may have simply been a time of isolation when you realized that God was the only sure and constant thing at all.

I have witnessed that on many occasions, people deny the Lord in "good times." I have experienced that some people are completely unreachable with the gospel when they have no visible obstacles to overcome. But a death, a divorce, a difficult personal problem, these often present the obstacle that is needed for people to finally realize that they cannot get through life without God.

The next time you see an obstacle, don't worry. It may be your greatest opportunity for success. Christ proved this truth when He died on the cross. The greatest victories are found in what we overcome.

"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." ~ 2 Corinthians 12:10

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fishers of Men

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He called four fishermen to be the first of twelve apostles. In Matthew 4, Mark 1, and Luke 5 the accounts of the calling of these fishermen can be found.

In Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17, Jesus said, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."

Luke wrote the words of Christ this way in Luke 5:10, "Do not be afraid, from now on you will catch men."

An examination of the Biblical narrative gives the true disciple of Christ some important reminders:

1. Jesus can use anybody. When the gospel was first preached, people from all nations heard the wonderful works of God from uneducated men from Galilee. Christ can literally come right into your workplace and give you a better and more important task. Your past, your training, your origin - these things do not matter to the one who can do anything (Matt. 19:26).

2. Circumstances change priorities. The preaching of Jesus which accompanied the calling of the apostles was, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17). Fishing in a boat suddenly became somewhat of a minor thing to be doing when these men found out the kingdom of God was about to come to men. People today are involved in many things that really should be less important than they are making them. Jesus may come again at anytime.

3. True discipleship is complete allegiance. The most staggering verse of the account of this calling is Mark 1:18 (KJV) - "And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him." The word forsook in this passage literally means," send away, leave behind, divorce, or desert." These men dropped the fishing business immediately, and spent over 3 years with Jesus before His death. The reason why many people have never grown in Christ, is because they have never completely joined with Him. You cannot hold the world with one hand and hold the hand of Jesus with the other.

4. God wants people who will fish for men. People ask all of the time, "What does God really expect from me?" They say, "I love God and I know He has a plan for me, but I am not sure what that is!" The Bible teaches that God wants people to catch other people. This is what He expects, and this is His plan for you! Embrace the fact that God is waiting for you to get into the fishing business. You cannot be a follower of Jesus until you begin fishing for men.

"When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, 'Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.'" ~ Luke 5:4

Monday, June 29, 2009

My Gospel

" the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel." ~ Romans 2:16

"Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began..." ~ Romans 16:25

"Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel." ~ 2 Timothy 2:8

On these three occasions, Paul, by the power of the Holy Spirit, wrote concerning his special relationship to the gospel of Jesus Christ. These are are not the only occasions in which Paul mentions the importance of the gospel, or his relationship to it - but these are the times when he said it specifically this way - "my gospel."

Although the gospel is not something we initiated, it should still be to us a great possession. Paul lived a life that was pleasing to God because he wanted to live - "according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust" (1 Tim. 1:11).

He also presented his work in life in this manner - "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

What is missing in the life of most Christians is a possessive attitude about the gospel. It is not the preacher's gospel! It is not the church's gospel! It is not the elders' or the deacons' or the teachers' gospel! Until we all have a personal relationship with the gospel like Paul had, we can in no way be a growing church.

God has chosen to spread the good news of Jesus Christ by word of mouth (1 Corinthians 1:21). Personal evangelism will never be out-dated, overdone, or unnecessary. What greater gift has man received than the gospel? What greater gift can man give than the gospel?

In order for us to give it, we have to already possess it. I am so excited about the gospel of Jesus Christ - my gospel! Are you?

"Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word."~ Acts 8:4

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Giving Methods

Gary and Marylyn Underwood co-authored a book entitled, "First Principles, Topical Studies for New Converts." In this book there is a section on stewardship. In discussing this topic the Underwoods mention five different methods people use as an approach to their giving to the Lord. I would simply like to mention the methods they have listed, and then add a few words:

1. The Tip Method. This method has no rule or purpose. Of course it is understood that it should be a certain percentage, and it is also assumed because it is expected. When you think about a tip at a restaurant, you recognize that tipping is a part of it. Tipping is often done out of compulsion. This is not the proper attitude for giving.

2. The Entertainment Method. The person who uses this method is only going to give to the Lord if they happen to be present, and that giving may vary based on what a person has left in their wallet or the atmosphere of the particular day they have been to worship. This method does not lay by in store. This person may give more when the singing seems better or the preacher is more enthusiastic and charismatic. It's like going to the movies, but only paying afterward if you happened to enjoy the picture.

3. The Sponge Method. This person only gives under pressure. Perhaps a sermon on stewardship may increase the sponge giver's contribution for a while - until they forget or get distracted again by the world and its financial demands. The sponge giver is the guilty giver, the giver who has forgotten too many Sundays past. The sponge giver has to be begged and bullied, and frustrates the kinder efforts of the leadership.

4. The Tithe Method. "How much do I owe? Ten percent? Ok. Here, Lord, here is your ten percent." When are we going to realize that the earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness (1 Cor. 10:26)? There is nothing that we have, nothing, that is not already God's. The tither means to do well, but needs to be careful about giving ten percent. God expects one hundred percent in everything. Perhaps we limit what people would be willing to give, by accepting the idea of the tithe! Giving is not about percentages, it is about the heart.

5. The Christian Method. The Christian Method goes beyond percentages. It goes beyond Biblical examples of accepted righteousness (Matt. 5:20). The Christian who desires to give acceptably does so willingly and totally. They are excited about giving. They are moved with love for God and thanksgiving for understood blessings. The Christian gives more and more with time. They give in faith, and they do not cut back in periods of financial struggle.True Christian giving starts with the complete and total giving of self to the will of God (2 Cor. 8:5).

There is a method to everything we do. What type of giver are you?

"But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver." ~ 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The New American Idol

A woman was overheard at a dinner party, "My husband and I have managed to be happy together for over 20 years. I guess it is because we are both in love with the same man."

When God spoke from Sinai to the children of Israel, giving them the Ten Commandments, He began by saying, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me" (Exodus 20:2-5). God made it clear that He was to be first place.

But today, people are in love with themselves. They seem to love themselves more than their spouses, more than their children, more than anything else on the earth. The image they worship, fashioned after a work of creation, is the one they see in the mirror.

In defining the "American Dream," 68% of adults say that it can only be fulfilled if they have the freedom to do and say whatever they want, regardless of the way their activity affects others. This is not freedom - this is plain selfishness! Freedom has with it the necessary elements of sacrifice, and the understanding that my desire to act is not going to take away the rights or freedoms of another.

People are confused about the difference between being responsible to oneself and worshiping self. Margaret Paul, Ph.D., makes the following observations about the difference between selfishness and self-responsibility:

We are being selfish when:

• We expect others to give themselves up for us.

• We make others responsible for our feelings of pain and joy.

• We get angry at others for doing what they want to do rather than doing what we want them to do.

• We consistently make our own feelings, wants, needs and desires important without also considering others feelings, wants, needs and desires.

• We believe we are entitled to special treatment, such as not having to wait in line.

We are being self-responsible when:

• We take care of our own feelings, wants, desires and needs rather than expecting others to take care of us.

• We support others in doing what brings them joy, even when they are not doing what we want them to do.

• We show caring toward others for the joy it give us rather than out of fear, obligation, or guilt.

• We have the courage to take loving action in our own behalf, even if someone gets angry with us.

• We have the courage to speak our truth about what we will or will not do, and what we do or do not feel, rather than give ourselves up to avoid criticism, anger or rejection.

Each one on us needs to work on our tendencies to be selfish. Such is a requirement of being a disciple of Christ. The only way to make God first is to get out of the cockpit. The only way to worship God is to destroy every idol in our lives.

"and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." ~ 2 Corinthians 5:15

Monday, June 8, 2009

For the Lord

"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ" (Col. 3:23-24).

Service to the church is not only a good idea, it is a command. Christians have left the slavery of sin in order to be slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). When a person truly obeys the gospel, they have done more than receive the remission of the theirs sins - they have given their life over to God, to do His will from the heart. This being the case, it comes upon each Christian to have not only the willingness to serve, but the correct attitude.

Paul sets forth a very good statement in to the church at Colossae, when He reminds them how service ought to be rendered. If we can learn from these simple principles, we will change the way Christians relate with one another and we will improve the overall atmosphere within the kingdom.

1. "Do it heartily." The original language of this statement suggests that we work for God with the very breath that sustains our life - that we put our soul into it. God wants us to do our best. One version suggests that this phrase means to work for God with all of your heart. This should not be a difficult request when we reflect upon Jesus. Considering all that God has done for us, and how He has saved us, to give Him everything we have is nothing more than a natural response to unfailing love.

2. "As to the Lord." Herein lies perhaps the most important thing to remember about religious labor. We are doing what we do for God! When people work in the church to be revered, respected, or recognized, they do it for themselves. When people work in the church to make sure that every person is always happy, although they show some unselfishness, they have still missed the higher mark of spiritual service. These approaches lead to pride, personality conflicts, bad attitudes, and continual disappointments. The greatest workers in the church are the people with a smile on their face, who work without complaining, and who are so happy that God has saved them that all they want to do is anything that will please God. People who do their service to the Lord will be rewarded by the Lord.

3. "Knowing." Yes, just this one word says it all. Christians know why they are supposed to serve. Christians know about the love of God that motivates them to serve. Christians also know what lies ahead when they are willing to serve. Glorifying God, helping people, and one's individual spiritual growth are all immediate benefits of working in the kingdom. The greatest feeling the Christian can ever know is that they are going to heaven. This is what "knowing" is all about. When you know where you are headed, any labor along the way is well worth your time. Knowing that God loves us, knowing that He has saved us, and knowing that heaven is closer to us everyday is what living a life of happiness and service is all about.

It is just as important to consider how we serve God, as it is to consider that we we serve God. Some of us need to get to work, and some of us need to remember why we are working in the first place.

"...not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord..." ~ Ephesians 6:6-8

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

4 Things You Will Never Regret

Someone once said that it is better to sleep on what you plan to do than to be kept awake by what you've done. People often look into their past and have many regrets about what has been done or undone. The best way to get over past mistakes is to make some improvements today. There are some things that we can do that we will never regret.

1. Show kindness to an aged or person or a person in need. Many people agonize over a phone call or visit that they wished they had made. Opportunities pass and people leave us suddenly. When we think of others first we will always feel better about ourselves and better about our relationship with God. Doing things for others is doing something even greater for yourself.

2. Do your best. Ecclesiastes 9:10 - "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going." These are wise words from the wisest of men. The time is coming when you will not be able to give it your best shot. The number one regret statistically involves people wishing they had tried harder in school. My high school trigonometry teacher once told me that I could choose to work hard early and rest later in life, or I could rest now and work hard until I die. He was right. When you do your best you will never have to look back and think about what you might have been able to accomplish.

3. Spend time with your children. "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord..." (Psalm 127:3). The word "heritage" means "inheritance." People neglect their kids trying to leave an inheritance for them. What they fail to recognize is that their inheritance IS their children! Take a day off work sometime just to spend a day with one or more of your children. Go to their games, support their school projects, be involved in their lives. I wish I had a quarter for every time an older person has said to me about my children - "Enjoy them now at this age, they will grow up fast." If you have children in your home right now, you are one of the most blessed people on the earth.

4. Become a Christian. Agrippa was almost a Christian (Acts 26:28). So many people end up in this same state. To stand before God in the judgment having never obeyed the gospel is to have accomplished the greatest failure in human history. Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 7:10 - "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death." When we change our minds and hearts and make the decision to be right with God, we have made the single, most important decision of our lives. Christianity gives us hope, consolation, forgiveness, peace, direction, and all of the other things in life that no other endeavor will afford us. Of all the titles one can hold, there is none greater, than "Christian" (1 Pet. 4:16).

"If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." ~ John 13:17

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Bill Morgan writes - "On a wall near the main entrance to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, is a portrait with the following inscription: 'James Butler Bonham--no picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by the family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom.' No literal portrait of Jesus exists either. But the likeness of the Son who makes us free can be seen in the lives of His true followers."

How is the world going to know who Christ? The Bible paints the true portrait. It tells us who He is and what He has done and where He now resides. The apostle John wrote near the end of his gospel - "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:30-31).

Beyond the Bible, Christians have the responsibility of bearing His image as well. To be like Christ, to look like Christ in everything we do, is the highest and most noble goal of Christianity. Eph. 5:1-2 says, "Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." Paul also wrote, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1).

The greatest of challenges lies before God's people. The very idea that we could be anything like the Son of God is humbling. Sometimes it seems like such an unachievable goal. But nothing is impossible with God's help. Throughout the New Testament, verse after verse commands that those who are children of God must be disciples of Christ. Peter wrote, "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21).

Jesus is our example. He is our Lord. He is the one who we should walk like, talk like, and act like in everything we do. How is the world ever going to know Jesus? He is not here in the flesh anymore. There are no pictures of Him. But He has relatives that are supposed to look just like Him. He has given us the key to bearing His image.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." ~ John 13:34-35

Friday, May 8, 2009

$100 for a Home Run

Shortly after moving to Lawrenceburg, TN, I met Odus Campbell. Odus introduced himself to me in the foyer of the church building. He told me that I could easily remember his name because it was the same as the guy from the Andy Griffith Show. Odus was a kind man with a good singing voice. He loved to worship God and he loved his family. Odus passed away a few years ago but his legacy and life continues.

When his grandsons, Frank and Bobby, were playing baseball, I remember Odus made them a proposition. He told them if they hit a home run over the fence that he would give them each $100. Well, Bobby hit a home run - $100. Then Frank hit a home run - $100. Not long after Bobby's first home run, he hit another home run. So he wanted to know if he was going to get another $100! I believe Odus replied that the limit was $100 per person. But no one could blame Bobby for trying!

It is important for us to support our children and grandchildren. The legacy that Odus and Willodean, and Terry and Beth have left for their children and grandchildren is love and support. To love and support our kids should be the easiest thing for us to do. To offer them rewards for a job well done adds incentive to their work and helps them to progress and do their very best. As I consider Frank's graduation, and the others who will graduate this year, I think of the support these kids have received from important and influential people. I also believe that their continual success will depend much upon constant support and love from the people in their lives who matter the most.

God has portrayed Himself to us as a loving Father. He is a God who wants to reward us for a job well done. He is a God who believes in us, is patient with us, and who is rooting for us. He is a God that will never leave or forsake us. He is a God who will always offer us a home and shelter from the difficulties and challenges of life.

What I wish today, is that Odus could see how well his grandsons are doing. His influence reached far beyond the field of play. His deepest desire was to spend eternity with his family. His greatest legacy to his family has been his Christian life. Since his passing, Frank and Bobby have become Christians. They are good boys, who I am proud to say are members of the Pulaski St. congregation.

We have a great group of young people. They are still learning and growing. They are not going to be perfect. But they need our support and love. As they are being rewarded this time of year for what they have accomplished, let's remember that there is a heavenly reward that we want to see them realize. Let's do everything we can to help make it happen. God did.

"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" ~ Matthew 7:11

Monday, May 4, 2009

"Hard Preaching"

Recently while doing personal work, I have been reminded of a familiar phrase. Many people I come into contact with have either left the church, are struggling in their faith, or are perhaps are just not very dedicated - maybe not ever fully converted. They often tell me that they have in their past, been subject to a steady diet of "hard preaching." For some time now I have been trying to get to the true meaning of this phrase. Those who tell me about it usually give details. At this point I think I am ready to share what I have learned.

1. Hard Preaching is giving people an impossible standard.
Many feel like the pulpit has delivered to them a system of rules and regulations they can never keep. One of the reasons why folks never commit themselves to the Lord is because they are assured of their future failure. Paul said that Jesus came and delivered us from a law of this nature - "having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Col. 2:14). Hard preaching offers little grace. It relies heavily on commandments and does not speak much of forgiveness. If the preacher does not offer the sinner any hope, then why would the sinner ever desire to make a change?

2. Hard preaching is harsh in tone.
Have you ever felt hated by the preacher? Have you ever been afraid of him? Have you ever wondered if his only desire was to make you squirm? Have you ever had to debate with yourself about whether or not the preacher loved you? Some preachers, in their desire to preach the gospel boldly, end up damaging their relationships with the hearers. I have heard some things from the pulpit over the years that were hard to swallow. When they were difficult to receive because of my sin, it was my fault. But when they were difficult to receive because of the demeanor and manner of delivery, it was not my fault. Jesus got angry for the right reasons. He was firm in what he taught. But mostly, He was gentle. His invitation was issued kindly - "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30).

3. Hard preaching in not balanced in its scope.
People will perceive that they are receiving negative lessons if the preacher does not preach the whole counsel of God. People need to know about the reality of hell, the consequences of sin, and the work of the devil. They also need to know about the mercy and grace of God, the forgiveness of sins, faith, hope, and love. What I have found to be interpreted as hard preaching usually has nothing to do with these subjects. It is mostly the result of a preacher who hammers away at a particular problem that he would like to see resolved - worship attendance, dedication, weak members, et cetera. I will be honest, the preacher is usually more discouraged by the church than he is by the world. But I am learning that if we are going to motivate the brethren, honey is a better tool than a baseball bat.

4. Hard preaching is in the eye of the beholder.
Some people think that any preaching that challenges their way of thinking is unkind. Other people beg for sermons that will scare them enough to get their hearts right with God. There are definitely going to be times where the preaching is imperfect. Maybe the preacher is not on his game. Maybe the lesson is poorly constructed. Maybe the preacher is abusing the pulpit to let out frustration. In spite of the preacher's weaknesses, people who know the Lord and who are familiar with His word can glean the best parts of the sermon. It is all in our attitude. The preacher's responsibility is great, but the hearer's responsibility is just as great. We are all worshiping together. We need to make the most of every minute and give the glory to God.

Hard preaching is not the goal of any preacher who has the love of God in His heart. Our goal is to preach the gospel, plain and simple. The power is in the Word. It will change men. It will break hearts. It will comfort. It will save.

"but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ" ~ Ephesians 4:15

Monday, April 27, 2009

Coming Home Again

Most of the time my blog articles end up being the articles on the front page of our church bulletin. But this is not the case this week. We have an advertisement for our "Coming Home Sunday" on the front page instead. Still, I thought it would be good to reflect a little on why we have this event each year.

My grandfather, Bill Watts, has been preaching the gospel for over 60 years. He is the kindest, gentlest, most Christlike man I have ever known. He is a worker in the kingdom. He is a true evangelist. He is a self-made Bible scholar. He is a missionary. He is a personal worker. He is a man with compassion for souls.

In every place Papa has gone to work over the years, when he first arrived he found that many members had lost their way and had stopped attending the worship. He had a goal to reclaim those he could for Christ. He knew that only some would come back. He understood that people made choices daily and that many factors are involved in the exodus of some individuals and families from the worship assembly.

He gave me the idea for a "Coming Home" rather than just a "Homecoming." Homecomings are often generic welcome backs for social clubs, schools, and organizations. But a coming home is a personal invitation to people to truly have a family in Christ all over again.

Why do people leave home in the first place? Some just move away for school or occupational reasons and never come back. Some get caught up in the world and simply stop putting God first. Some have marital troubles, or family problems and they fade into oblivion. Still, some get offended by something the preacher says, the teachers teach, or they just feel unloved, unwanted, and unappreciated.

If we are going to have a Coming Home Sunday, then it is our obligation to make the local congregation in which we reside a welcoming, loving residence. We must not be judgmental, hateful, jealous, impersonal, haughty, ignorant, careless, or trite. Instead we must be humble, sympathetic, thankful, happy, kind, affectionate, loving, and concerned. We must be friendly at ALL times. We must be happy to be home in the first place. We must remember that we did not get here on our own, but only through the power and love and grace of a merciful God, do we find ourselves in a place we can call "home."

Coming Home again is always a possibility with God. May we not be the older brother who resents the prodigal. May we instead, be the loving father, waiting, looking from a far off, ready to run and greet and rejoice with the one who was dead, but is now alive, who was lost, and now is found!

"And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him." ~ Luke 15:20

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bearing Fruit

One of the great passages of Scripture that often gets overlooked is found in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel of John. Jesus gives to His disciples a well-known "I am" statement - "I am the vine" (John 15:5). Within these verses there are several instructions for the Christian: 1. Abide in the vine (v. 4). 2. Continue in My love (v.9). 3. Keep My commandments (v. 10). The reader could point out several more.

Perhaps the most important statement, at the heart of the passage, is found on verse eight - "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." A major problem with Christians is idleness. Bearing fruit is an essential part of living the Christian life. It makes absolutely zero sense when Christians do not want to work in the church. Our work is an extension of our love for Christ, and our thankfulness for God's grace that leads to our salvation. Fruit bearing is just the result of loving God back (1 John 4:19).

An oft used excuse for not bearing fruit to God is discouragement. The way we often measure success is very different than the standard God uses. People disappoint us. They question our motives. They criticize our activity. They call us judgmental when we stand for the Bible. They do not consider the work and effort and guts and hope and everything else that goes in to sowing seed. When we see a lack of results we give up prematurely. We stop abiding in the vine. We stop producing. We try to "cruise-control" to heaven. Jesus said this approach leads to withering branches that are good for nothing except being cut off and cast into the fire (John 15:6).

If you have ever done any sowing at all in the kingdom, let me remind you to think about the difference you have made. One soul. One teaching. One person growing closer to God. One life changed. One problem resolved. If all of your work has resulted in any of these things, every effort you have made has been worth it. If nothing has been accomplished in people, know that your efforts have been pleasing in the sight of God!

Bearing fruit is demanding. I have come to learn that we are going to be rejected more than accepted. I have come to learn that we will be criticized more than complimented. I have come to learn that we will be unpopular with the majority, accused, ridiculed, and challenged until we find out whether or not we really believe in God and His church.

But I have also come to learn, that when we bear fruit to God, it is the greatest human experience we can ever know. When you see the child raised outside of Christ who becomes a preacher...when you see a marriage saved...when you see a troubled young single girl with children raise leaders in the church...when you help an elderly person keep their faith on their death bed...when you see that kind of fruit the rest does not matter at all.

May 3rd is our "Coming Home Sunday." Our goal is 500! This day will be a good opportunity to bear some fruit to God. Encourage, invite, exhort, challenge, and love others like Christ loved us. Abide in vine brethren. Abide in the vine!

"Lead me to some soul today, O teach me, Lord, just what to say; Friends of mine are lost in sin, And cannot find their way. Few there are who seem to care, And few there are who pray; Melt my heart, and fill my life, Give me one soul today." ~ Will Houghton (1936)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Your Way of Life

There is an expression sometimes used by people to explain behavior that goes something like this - "That is just the way I am" or "That is just the way he/she is." People do have a a way. Billy Joel even wrote these lyrics, " She's got a way about her, don't know what it is, but I just know I can't live without her." Everybody is unique and every person has a certain way they go about living their life.

But one thing each individual should keep in mind is that they are not locked into a certain lifestyle. The liar doesn't have to lie just because he has always been a liar. The same could be said for any other sin - homosexuality, hatred, drunkenness, stealing, et cetera. The fact is that we choose our way of living. We make a decision about who we are and what we believe every single day.

Since such is the case, then we can also change the way we practice our Christianity. We don't have to be Sunday morning only Christians, even if that is all we have ever been. We don't have to keep from being more involved in the work of the church, just because we have never been involved in the past. We don't have to lack zeal for evangelism, just because in our former days we have lacked the nerve necessary to save a lost soul.

What we need to do is really very simple. We need to pray earnestly that God will change our hearts and make us aware of our spiritual shortcomings. Then we need to follow up by changing our behavior and making a habit of doing the things we have always wanted to do for Christ. You can change your way of life! You can do things differently than you have done them in the past!

Peter wrote about the importance of no longer living the rest of our time in the flesh for the sake of sin, but instead, living for the will of God (1 Pet. 4:2). The point is that God has the power to not only save us from death, He has the power to change our life for today. That is a very exciting proposition! We don't have to wait until Jesus comes again to be blessed. We can be blessed immediately by simply making the choices to live for God today.

Stop making excuses for your lack of involvement in the kingdom. Stop saying to yourself that who you are and what you practice is good enough. Stop telling yourself that the way you live your Christian life is as good as you can do, because that is just the way you are.

Faithfulness is a way of life. Commitment is a way of life. Evangelism is a way of life. Humility is a way of life. Kindness is a way of life...

You can do anything you want to do. You can be anything you want to be. Nothing is impossible with God!

"For to me to live is Christ..." ~ Philippians 1:21

Monday, April 6, 2009

Running Your Race

This past week I participated in a 5k race in Columbia, TN. If you have never been to a race of this sort you are going to have to try attend one some time. Even if you do not choose to run, there are many things you can learn just by observing those who do. Here are some things I learned this week:

1. You need to run your own race.
Everybody has a different stride. The end goal is the same but how and when we cross the finish line is going to vary. It was neat to see 7 and 8 year-old children run. Their legs are shorter but they don't wear out as quickly. It was great to see people in their 70's running. They, along with the disabled who ran inspired me the most. Because we are all different, there is something about our individual performance that enhances the race itself. We can teach each other. We don't have to worry about measuring up to each other. We simply need to do our personal best.
Galatians 6:4,5 - "But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load."

2. You need to stay on the track.
After training for a while to run a race it would be a real bummer to be disqualified. How many times have you seen Olympic competitors ruin four years in four seconds by not obeying the rules? Every runner at sometime has imagined that they may miss a sign or go the wrong way or get out of bounds. A well organized race is replete with well marked boundaries. You must stay on course. As Christians our path is clearly marked by the pages of God's holy word. Jesus said that the way to life is narrow and difficult, and only a few enter thereby. All of the effort we exert to get to heaven will be negated by our unwillingness to stay on course.
1 Corinthians 9:26-27 - "Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."

3. You must push your hardest to finish.
If you want to be inspired go to the finish line and watch people finish their race. You will see determination, effort, courage, endurance, and heart. Every distance race has moments of question. Can I even finish? Am I going to collapse? Should I just give up and forget it? Then, just around the last turn and over the rise you can see it. It is the finish line. When you see the finish line, you can will yourself to do more than you ever imagined. With great joy I have been blessed to see some of the greatest people I have ever known finish their race. When they come to the point when their goal is in sight, the person they become is the person God created them to be.
Philippians 3:13-14 - "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

If we can do these three things then we can say what Paul once said...
1. Run your own race - "I have fought the good fight."
2. Stay on the track - "I have finished my course."
3. Push to finish - "I have kept the faith."

" ...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..." ~ Hebrews 12:1-2

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Mocker

It is a typical Monday morning. The sun is shining and the weather will be warming up to about 70 degrees. It is springtime and the grass is growing. It is going to be a beautiful day.

It is about 7:45 a.m. Having dropped off my child to school I am heading to the office. But I need to get some gas. So I pull into a local gas station and food mart. I enter to pay. Inside there are other people who are also getting their day started.

There is an expectant young mother in front of me, getting some breakfast. Another man is sitting at one of the tables by the window drinking some coffee. Still another man comes in to get a diet drink and a sausage biscuit. It seems like a typical morning, a regular day.

Suddenly, a very specific smell comes over the store . Then I carefully glance behind me and there he is. He has already been drinking. It is obvious. But he has to come in and get another bottle. He doesn't come in to buy anything else. This is all he wants, and he looks like a man who is desperately trying to get where he is going. The anticipation of his next drink is too powerful for him to hide.

This man is about 50 years old. He looks like any man you would meet and be friends with. When he leaves he does not depart by automobile. But he leaves on a old, worn out, pink bicycle. Why? I imagine he has been charged with a DUI. Or perhaps his habit has ruined him financially. He is obviously not on his way to work, or at least I hope not. But the picture is pitiful. It is a very sad sight to see.

I have heard many a debate about alcohol and the Bible over the years. Was the wine fermented? What about Jesus' first miracle? What if you only drink one glass at home before bedtime? Many more questions have been proposed to attempt to justify drinking. But let me tell you what alcohol really does...

It makes a wise man a fool. It destroys families and marriages. It leads to killing with a motorized vehicle. It manifests itself in college kids waking up in a park or a place they do not know rather than their own beds. It is a sure road to regret. It causes a middle-aged man to go to a quick mart at 7:45 am because he cannot stand it any longer before he has another drink!

Stay away from alcohol. Evil companionships corrupt good morals.

"Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise." ~
Proverbs 20:1