Give Thanks

Last night, my kids finally convinced my wife and I to drag out the Christmas tree and begin decorating.  As the night wore on, one by one, they faded, leaving my wife to finish the job (I’m not much help placing ornaments, I fear).

Before I turned in for the night, for a few moments,  I sat in our living room, illuminated only by the lights from the tree, and gave thanks.  And not because tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  No, what spurred this thanksgiving session on was my son.  He would grab ornaments and show them to me, asking me who they were (or in his words “who’s this fella dad?”).  My girls did the same, although to a lesser extent.

The end result was a trip down memory lane, over the past 17 years of my marriage to my wonderful wife, and back into the foggy days before we met, all the way to my childhood.  You see, the amazing thing is for me to look back over my life and see just how God blessed me, even when I didn’t know Him.

Sitting there in the almost-dark, with my kids asleep upstairs and my wife tidying things up before bed, it hit me just how good He has been to me, and in that moment of quiet, a wave of gratitude for all God has done swept over, and all I could say was “thank You.”

We don’t need a special day to say thanks.  We don’t need a turkey, or a football game, or cranberry sauce (that no one eats).  No, we just need to take the time to stop, reflect, and say thanks. Cause seriously, if you have the ability to be reading this post, you have MUCH to be thankful for.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!  For His mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1)


Heart Cleaning

My pastor has been in 1 Cornithinans 5 the last few weeks, speaking about the carnal Christian.  The Lord has had me doing some soul-searching in my own life of areas in which I am carnal.  Last night, He took me, yet again, to Psalm 51 last night, and specifically to verse 10:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
I think one of the dangers of the Christian life is complacency, of feeling as though we have arrived.  We can very easily go from being the tax collector, beating our breasts in sorrow for sin, and unable to even lift our heads, to a sin-sniffing, self righteous, law wielding Pharisee.  All the while, in our self-righteousness, we can completely miss our own glaring sin as we look for the specks in our brothers eyes.  Why?  Well, because we so focus on outward sins, or on the things we once struggled with, we fail to see that our heart is still deceitful and wicked, that we have this massive thing called “pride” that has grown down inside our hearts and has spreads out it’s tentacles into so many different areas of our lives.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
That’s my prayer.  That the Lord would show every one of us all the areas of my heart that are still carnal, that still cling to the flesh.  And I’m not just talking about sex.  I’m not just talking about pornography.  I’m not just talking about drugs, or alcohol, or whatever sin held you in the past.  YES!  Deal with those!  Get rid of those!  But don’t grow prideful in the process.  Don’t allow the work God has done in you to make you think “you’re all that and a bag of chips”, as my pastor says.
Remember DAILY your need for a Savior, your desperate need for forgiveness, and that that forgiveness was only made available to you due to the mercy and grace of God the Father, shown so clearly in the death of Jesus on the cross for your sins.  Remember that Jeremiah 17:9 is still true “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” 
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
The longer I walk with the Lord, the more I realize how Holy He is…and how NOT I am.  But the amazing thing?  He still loves me!  He still loves YOU!  He wants to work out HIS will in us, and praise God, He will continue to plow the ground of our hearts by His Word and His Spirit.  Or, as Paul said:
“He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

Breaking Bruised Reeds


Isaiah, prophesying of Jesus, wrote these words:

“He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. 

A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoking flax He will not quench…”

Think of Jesus’ interactions with the hurting and the broken, with those people viewed as “sinners” by the “righteous religious” folk of His day (even though we are ALL sinners, and our righteousness is just a filthy rag in the eyes of God…but that’s another blog entirely).  Was he harsh?  Did He shout?  Did he condemn?

The answer is no.  He IS love.  He is the epitome of kind.  He is full of compassion for them.

Psalm 145:8-9 says “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy.  The LORD is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.”

Now, on the flip side, Jesus had some harsh words, but they were reserved for the self-righteous religious, the Pharisees, for those who looked down their noses at anyone and everyone they viewed as less holy than themselves, at anyone who was “a sinner.”

Jesus didn’t take kindly to their reactions with the weak and hurting, the sick and broken, of their expectations of perfection which they (falsely) thought they had attained.  He didn’t care for it at all, and He bluntly told them so:  “Woe to you also, lawyers!  For you load men with burdens too hard to bear and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers!” (Luke 11:46)

I ask this because the Lord recently brought them to my attention through my interactions with others.  When I’ve encountered a “bruised reed”, a person who is hurting and broken, have I handled them gently, kindly, honestly, yet lovingly?  The truth is that I can find myself acting more like a Pharisee in these situations, rather than acting like Jesus.  And that’s a problem.

Think over today and how you spoke to your spouse, your kids, your co-workers, anyone you had contact with.  Would you say your words were gracious, full of compassion?  Were you slow to anger and great in mercy, or did you fly off the handle at the slightest infraction of your “law”?  Did you expect more of someone else than you expect of yourself?  Do you ask for grace, yet react in a very un-gracious way?

I don’t write these things to condemn.  I write them because God has been dealing with me on this very point. It’s not that we shouldn’t speak the truth, but the truth must be spoken in love.

Proverbs 15:1 says “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

I’ve found that we like to apply that wisdom to the words of others, but not abide by it ourselves.   When I look at that picture above, of the piece of wheat that is barely hanging on, it hits me that it requires extreme gentleness not to break it off.  A strong breeze would do the trick.

In the same way, it wouldn’t take much for a harsh word or a quick temper to break the “bruised reeds” I’ve encounter in my life.  I shudder to thank of the ones I’ve knocked over in my foolishness.

But praise God, the same mercy that was poured out on the cross for my sins is more than enough to cover these things as well! God is bringing them to mind not to condemn, not to shame, for that’s not loving at all.  No, He’s bringing them to mind to correct and to re-shape me in His image.  His grace is sufficient for our every weakness, and I’m pretty sure that includes this area as well as any other.

Lord, thank you for your grace and your compassion on me, a sinner who has done nothing to deserve it.  Forgive me for when I have not responded to others as You would.  As I have received grace from You, please allow me to give it to those who cross my path each day.  Help me see them with Your eyes, not mine.  May my Words be filled of the kindess of my Savior.  

It’s All His

Yesterday at church, we sang one of my favorite songs, “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons and Daughters.  It’s a very simple song to play, and as such, it’s one that I can get beyond worrying what chords I’m playing and focus on what I’m singing a little more.  The chorus is so simple, yet so incredibly profound:

“It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise, we pour out our praise to You only”

As we sang that together, as we lifted our voices, several hundred of us all singing the same thing, it hit me that this, this simple act of worship, just taking in a breath, filling our lungs, and then pushing it out as praise, is completely, totally, and utterly dependent on God’s grace and goodness.  We sing it, “It’s YOUR breath in our lungs” but do we really get it?

The fact that I can take a breath is His goodness to me.  The fact is, I woke up this morning and drew a breath, and His mercies were new again, regardless of my deserving them.  Or that my heart and lungs and brain all worked together through the night to keep me alive, with no effort on my part…grace.

Or that my ears could hear the notes of the music we were playing, and could then help me to sing along on key (mostly)…all Him.

Or that my vocal chords could work together to utter the right words as my breath pushed through them…all His grace!

Or that my legs worked, and I could tap my foot along to the groove of the song…His grace again!  My hands and fingers worked to play the chords, no matter how simple they might be…IT’S HIS!

You see, it’s not just that His breath is in my lungs.  Genesis 2:7 says “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.  My whole LIFE is His.  Everything I am, it’s His! Psalm 139 says “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb” (vs. 13) and then “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.  And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” 

Everything I am, everything I have, every breath I breathe and every song I play…they are His.  He gave them to me in the first place.

What else could I do but return them to Him in praise?

(If you’re interested in the song, you can find it on itunes here)


See that guitar pick?  My bride got it for me on Father’s Day,  found a frame for it and put it on my nightstand.  Every morning when I wake up, I see that pick.  Every night when I lay down, it’s there, reminding me that this lovely lady believes what it says:  “I’d pick you every time.”

There’s no way you could know how much that means to me.  When I see that, I’m reminded of all the times when she has, in fact, chosen me, over and over again.

She had her pick of beaus back in the day…and she picked me.

Early in our marriage, when the only kid she had to worry about was me, when I put her through a LOT…she picked me.  When the world would have told her to drop me like a sack of potatoes…she picked me again.

On the days when I’ve not been the lovable, wonderful chap you all know..she still picks me.

When I’m depressed, discourage, down and out, she picks me.  When I’m not much help around here, or stuck in a cocoon of self..she pics me.

When I’m at my worst…she still picks me.

And I can’t tell you how glad I am that she does!

Proverbs 18:22 says “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.”

Then in Proverbs 31:10: “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.” 

Me!!! This guy!  I DID!

And I am so grateful and thankful for her.  She picked me!

Letting the Light Shine


Last night our Men’s Ministry kicked off the Fall session with a cookout at a local park.  Very cool to see over a hundred men, from teenagers on up, gather together to fellowship, chow down, worship and hear the Word of God.  Even cooler to do it out at a public place!  God gave us a beautiful (if a touch humid) night, and we had a great time together.

As I was getting ready to start worship, I had a song in mind that I thought I had with me.  It’s a song that has really come to be a favorite of the men of our church, and I thought it would be cool to kick off with it.  Well, I searched and searched, but couldn’t find it.  I know the song by heart, but the words of the verses can get a little tricky, so I didn’t want to chance it without being sure myself!

Seemingly unrelated occurrence: As we waited to start worship, I checked on a post I made online  in response to a question someone had about music in the church (not ours, just in general).  It was on a forum where talk of “religion and politics” is not allowed.  Well, I responded, and sure enough, within a few minutes, my post was pulled down by the moderators.  Unbelievable. Amazing how many things are allowed to be spoken of in this country EXCEPT for the Christian.

As I chewed on that, I looked out at the men of our church, and looked around at the people out walking their dogs, playing with their kids, enjoying the night at the park and I thought “we need to sing a song that lifts up the Name of Jesus, the Name above every names!”  So I pulled out one of our favorite songs, by Chris Tomlin, Jesus Messiah.  Our church has been singing this long before my time, and I knew the guys would know it.

So out at the park, in the twilight of a beautiful late summer North Carolina day, 100 plus voices sang out, at the top of their lungs:

Jesus Messiah, Name above all names…Blessed Redeemer, Emmanuel

The rescue for sinners, and the ransom from Heaven

Jesus Messiah….Lord of all

What a privilege to sing it with my brothers last night, and what a good reminder!  That’s the Gospel!  That’s the hope that we have!  That’s the message we need to be proclaiming, as often as we can, to all who will hear!

Those two seemingly unrelated events, an internet post censored and a time of worship, really played in my head all night long. Jesus said, in John 9:4 “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.” The days are coming when will not be able to publicly, and freely, worship the Lord Jesus.  We need to hold up the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as long as it is day, as long as we can, and as loudly as we can!  Amen?

Not That Guy Anymore


Recently, though the marvel of social media, I was taken on a trip down memory lane to a time that I haven’t thought about in years.  It was during my B.C. days (that’s “before Christ” for those of you who’ve been “educated” in the modern era).  I gotta admit, I wasn’t thrilled about the trip.  And, no, it wasn’t because of the hair.  Well, not just because of the hair, although, that’s bad enough.

I wasn’t thrilled about it because…quite honestly, I didn’t want to remember “that guy.”  “That guy” was a schmuck.  I don’t want to think about the things I did, the messes I made…the people I hurt, the things that could never be undone.  “That guy” weighed on me quite a bit.

Fast forward from memory lane to this Sunday, our pastor was teaching on 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.  Four little words stuck with me like white on rice:  “But God has chosen…” Who?  Who has God chosen?  Well, “that guy,” for one!  ME!  God chose a foolish, selfish, messed up, sinful and downright goofy-looking kid…God chose ME?!  Yes, unbelievably so…He chose me.

Paul says it this way:

“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” (I Cor. 1:27-29)

I sat there in church, tears in my eyes, humbled anew by the grace and goodness of God.  I was a fool, weak, base, despised, a NOT…and yet God chose me.  He saved me from my sin.  He set me free from the chains of sin.  He took what was dead and brought it to LIFE.  He called me.  ME!!!  

And why did He call me?  To make something of me?  To puff me up?  No, he called me to bring glory to Himself.  He called me that His glory should shine though and in me.  He called me so that, as John the Baptist said of Jesus, He would increase and I would decrease.  

And as if to hammer home that point, on my way home from church yesterday, my niece starts texting me old pictures she’s found, of which the pic above is one.  Wowza….

But now, when I see those pics and think of “that guy”, I’m not embarrassed, or depressed.  (Well, maybe a little embarrassed…good Lord what was I thinking with the hair???) Instead I’m reminded that God loves “that guy” so much that He gave His only Son, so that “that guy” should not perish, but have everlasting life.

And it’s not just “that guy”, not just me…but you, too!  That’s the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  God so loved “the world” that He gave His Son, for us all…that “whosoever will” could come and experience life eternal with Him!  That whoever desires to be loosed of the chains of sin would be free!  Listen, if “that guy” can be saved, trust me, God wants to save you, too!

So, come!


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