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Archive for March, 2009

I need a drink!

60662352_6bf1b412e8_o1 As the deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God.

There is something about a hot cup of coffee in the morning that makes my day start off right.  It is Monday.  In preacher talk that means you are usually tired from the preaching the day before and all of the interaction you have had as you minister to the needs of people.  I like my coffee. I also like a cool drink of water when I am real thirsty.

I remember how cool the water was at Jesse Bell’s farm in Roopville, Georgia.  The old house stood on the hill right at the road.  The old barn, hay still hanging from the bails that all but packed the loft above.  Just at the back edge of the old house out near the fence stood the old well.  You let the bucket drop, hit the water and as you crank the handle that pulled the bucket back up the rope would tighten, and soon you would be able to get a cool drink of water.  I remember how good it tasted when you were thirsty.

I got the same kind of feeling at Elkmont Campground in the Smoky Mountain’s National Park.  I believe it has been two years, since I visited the campground.  How I enjoyed remembering our camping trips, skipping rocks on the stream that flowed through the middle of the park, stepping through the slimy rock that covered the floor of the stream, and kneeling down on one of the rocks and getting a mouthful of that cool clear water.

I guess every Sunday reminds me that thirsty people come to the church house.  It could be because of  “dry” experiences in their marriages, a tough time struggling with depression, a rough time of helping children that walk away from God’s best in their lives, or many other issues that follow us to church.  I woke up this morning thinking about one woman who described with such passion her longing to hear from God because she feels He is not listening to her.  That longing in her heart resonated in my own heart as I read of the longing in this psalmist’s heart as he faced his exile.

The person writing the psalm is fully engaged in the drought.  Their thirst is painfully obvious.  However, it is not a thirst for water but for God himself.  There is God as well, and I am thankful that this person was no stranger to Him.  He longed after him.  His relationship with God must have been deep, and he must have enjoyed close fellowship with God at the sanctuary.  He obviously watched the animals who are thirsty find the stream and drink answering that deep need in their lives.

I am reminded of a Samaritan woman who was at a well at noon. (John 4)1143621425_8cd8ac458a_b

7-8A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)

9The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

10Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

11-12The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”

13-14Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”

I am so thankful that the stream that flows from God never dries up.  Sometimes not having something causes you to want it even more.  There is a longing in my heart today for fellowship with God that will continually satisfy.  Only He can.

If you live long enough all of us will end up being thirsty.  I have good news this morning.  God has provided an answer to that thirst in the person of his son the Lord Jesus Christ.

I need a drink!


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2849560293_81aaa9ff95_b8 But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God.
I will always trust in God’s unfailing love.
9 I will praise you forever, O God,
for what you have done.
I will trust in your good name
in the presence of your faithful people.

Sweet Communion!  I am challenged again this morning to remember that my strength and vitality flows out of my communion with God. I also celebrate the fact that when facing challenges of life there is nothing in the world like being around God’s people in the house of God.  Where would I be had it not been for the Lord who is on my side?  God and God’s people.  I am reminded that God’s provision includes those friends around us who care about us and pray for us on a regular basis.

Ken Smith and Ken Sandifer are two men who pray for this man.  I am grateful.  Sunday mornings are special because each Sunday I know when I awaken that Ken Smith will have sent me an email that includes comments of his love for a group of men, encouragement to keep on kickin’ in this calling, and a prayer from his heart that has to do with us.  I cannot begin to tell you how much that means to me.  Those in my “house of God” pray for me.  Ken Sandifer calls my name out to God each day and prays for my family as well.  The other day while visiting Ethel Petit she turned to me and asked me how my family was doing.  She called out Nancy’s name and then began to ask me about each of my family.  You don’t do that kind of thing unless you are praying for them on a regular basis. Cecil Gray drove up in my driveway Friday morning to let me know that he and Sharon were thinking of Nancy and her family as they deal with the steady declining of her mother’s life.  They are part of that provision the Lord brings our way.

David’s heart was full of grief.  He was hurting because of the deaths of some in his father’s house.  However, his confidence was not in his great ability to be king or in his ability to be a warrior for God but in God.  He called himself an olive tree – a plant that is fat with fruit and useful to God and his people.  He said that he would thrive in the house of God.  He delcared that even though things are tough around him, he will still thrive.

I will always trust in God’s unfailing love.  Smith reminded me again of what Steve Brown told him…when you go to the cross of Christ, you should stay there until two things happen – one, you should give your life to Christ and become a believer in One who would take your place, and two, you should stay until you see just how much you are really loved by God.  David reminded me again this morning that I can confidently trust in God’s unfailing love.

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Will it last?

2665239982_3a1bd7da0d_b1 Corinthians 13 – “Love never FAILS…”

I can hear Wesley McElveen tell me that 1 Corinthians 13 comes after 12 and before 14.  Sometimes I have to overlook what he said, but he said a mouthful when he said that.  You cannot take that passage out of context.  I remember reading yesterday 1 Corinthians 12 and commenting to myself that 13 is connected in context to what comes before it.  It is all set in the context, of how we exercise spiritual gifts in the church.  The context sets forth that we are to conduct ourselves as brothers and sisters not in the context of competition but in the spirit of Love.  In the body of Christ love is a powerful expression of the presence of Christ in our midst.  It should permeate all that we do.

The verse that gripped me was the short phrase that reminds me that love NEVER FAILS.

I like to wander around flea markets and antique shops.  I am blown away at what people will save and sell.  My attention was stunned the other day when I saw the price on a lunch box in the store.  They wanted an unbelievable amount of money for a “rare” lunchbox in good condition.  I remember kids having those when I was going to school, and they would throw them around at each other.  Christmas Day was another encounter with this same thing.  We would get toys that we thought we just had to have.  Our lives could not go on without them.   We would take a Christmas Catalogue from some store and mark what we thought we wanted for Christmas and somehow magically Santa would slip down the chimney we did not have and make all of our wishes come true.  We would awaken to find that the living room was transformed into a toy store.  Three months later they would be scattered among the rest of the toys under the bed or in the toy box. What I thought would last forever and be the very thing I could not do without, fit right in with the rest of the temporary things.

I guess that what rattled my cage is – what is temporary and what is permanent?  What never fails?  What will be around at the end of it all?  Somethings do not last.

You don’t have to hunt long as a pastor to spend time with people who are facing major crises in their marriages.  I have discovered that the kind of love that Paul talks about here would do a lot to help keep a permanent touch on marriages.  I wish everything in life was fair.  I wish everyone had a great marriage. I wish I could make a mirror that a couple could look into, and they would instantly see how self-centered they are and how they expect everyone else to meet their need.  I wish I could watch couples give their lives to Christ and allow His presence in them to transform their temporary self-seeking ways into a permanent “dying to self” kind of life that gives to another because of their worth to God and to themselves.  The only mirror that is seen is the one that I looked into this morning – The mirror of God’s precious Word – The Bible.

There has been no cure for selfish self-centeredness except for the provision made by Christ on the cross.  The kind of love that Paul talks about here is the kind of love that is permanent.  It is the kind of love that motivates one to care for and love another for their good and not some selfish means.  It is obvious that when you approach marriage with the idea that you are going to get something out of it then you realize how temporal that becomes.   However, when a couple is committed to Christ and His life, God gives you a shot at spending your life ministering to the other person.  That kind of love is permanent, and it never fails.

I am reminding myself that Christ is my life.  His kind of love never fails.  It has delivered me from the prison of self-satisfaction, and given me the chance to help others.  It gives me a chance to give Christ’s life in me away.

Love does last!  Love is not a thing.  Love is a person – Christ.  When you become a believer in Christ he lives in you.  Wonders of wonders that would thrill my soul would be that the body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, would love each other and exercise their gifts for the common good of all.  I know I will experience that in the life to come.  However, it would be a delight to my soul to see more than a glimmer of it every now and then.  Oh, that we would let the Love of Christ flow out of us.

You can only give away what is in you!  It is either “you” or “Christ”.  I am not certain there are many other options.

Christ never fails!

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Giver or Taker

2218155248_1ca42172bb_b7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

School is in!  God just called the roll, and I told him I was present.  He asked me to open up my text book this morning to 1 Corinthians 12.  He catches my attention as he winked when he told me that the reason I have been blessed with my giftedness is for the common good.  I wanted him to say for “my” common good.  No matter how one twists this verse one can never find a way to make it say what I wanted it to say.  I was reminded again that I exist for others.

I am a part of a family – The Family of God.  There is no room in the family for those who just want to sit around and soak it up all the time.  This “sit and soak” bunch want someone to meet their needs and satisfy their tastes for being entertained like they want to be entertained.  We are members of the same family.  The Holy Spirit equips us to be a vital part in the family of God.
2133818070_34ace252d1_o
I am thankful this morning for Clarice Hall and Mary Anne Litton who are faithful each week to visit folk who are shut in or in a nursing home in our city.  They spend a great bit of time doing that.  Deborah Barnes comes to mind as she selflessly arranges for our weekly visit to the Carolinian where I teach a Bible Study.  I could not do that without her.  James Hill comes to mind who for years has been standing at the front door of our church worship center greeting people and handing them an announcement guide.  His legs now hurt and he has had to change assignments.  I never heard one gripe or complaint out of him.  I was greeted each week with a smile.  Joe Montrose, you are to be congratulated.  Joe and Cathy Rhoden, Bill and Clarice Hall, and Mark and Emily Jordan has been such a big help to me as I prepare to baptize folk in our church.  I could not do that without their giftedness and willingness to serve.  Joe Poston trims and cares for a rose garden on campus.  Mark Barnes and his Sunday School class build ramps for hospice patients.

I want to be a person that wears out giving to others.  There may be a certain grace needed to be a thankful “taker”.  However, we get what we get to give it away.  God gives it to us, so He can give it through us.  Our ‘family’ is our assignement.  We have what we have for the common good.

God is always at work.  Christ did not die for a religious system.  He died for people.  He took my sins and my sorrows and made them his very own.  He bore my burden to Calvary and suffered and died alone.  How marvelous, How Wonderful and my song shall ever be…how marvelous and wonderful is my Savior’s love for me.  We never look more like our Savior when we are giving.

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img00063-20090324-191531So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

It is amazing what you do when you are being watched by someone else.  I laughed at Kimberly last night.  South Florence Girls Soccer Team played Conway High School last night.   Barry and Melanie Lord, Renee Orr and I traveled together to the revival meetings in Lake City, SC last night.  Our travels carried us past the high school soccer field.  I made the comment that I could see my girl out on the field as we passed.  Barry and Melanie asked me when the next game was to be played and I told them on Friday night at 6 p.m.  They said that if it wasn’t raining that they might come to the game.

Kimberly loves Melanie Lord.  They struck up a great relationship while walking at the YMCA. (They tell me it is a great place to exercise – especially since we make a large monthly donation to the joint – I blame my lack of participation on “time change”…makes me feel good about being fat, tired, and lazy…and the piece of Pecan Pie goes a long way to helping that attitude)  Anyway, I told Kimberly when I got home last night that Mrs. Lord might be coming to the game Friday night.  You should have seen the look on her face.  Smile from ear to ear.  She knew someone she cared about would be watching.  She always sees Nancy and me in the stands.  But Friday night may be special to her.   She will do her best because Melanie will be watching.

Do all you do to the glory of God!  If that means helping my child with homework, cleaning up the dishes, washing the car, ministering in the hospital, or whatever…I am to do all of that in the light of Who is watching and for HIS glory.

Thank you God for the reminder.  Gentle words from God that help to keep a stubborn preacher on the right track.  How sweet it is!

Sidebar:  We had a great meeting last evening.  I was so impressed at this loving church.   I remember when I came to Southside 20+ years ago.  Calvary has the same kind of church.  I cannot wait to see them blossom.  I am convinced it will take someone who loves the Word of God enough to preach it, patience as you begin to turn a big ship a little bit at a time, and a lot of love for people – all kinds of people.  What a privilege it was to be with them last evening.  I preached a sermon out of John 21

What they had
They had Togetherness
They had Experience
They had all the tools necessary

What they needed
Jesus – Am I living in such a way in my relationship with Jesus that I would notice if he were not present?

What he asked of them
Asked a question – Got any fish?  Have your present efforts brought any results?
Instructions – Fish on the other side of the boat – Change directions
Results follow – Net was full when you do things Jesus’ way
Satisfaction

I am reminded of God’s goodness.

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Grace

Woke up to this song this morning…wow!  Thank you Jimmy Wilson!

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2787363926_299c1519bd_o25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Budget cuts!  “I am sorry, Hannah, the funds in the Mission Budget are in the budget but not in the bank.” Hannah McKenzie, one of our college students, wants to go to Peru.  Normally supporting her is an easy thing to do for our Acts 1:8 Mission Team has funds to disburse.  The economy is challenging every aspect of our church.  I have also been painfully aware of how this economic situation is causing all of us to tighten our belts.  The work still needs to get done, and we are having to find other creative ways to meet the challenges.  I have listened over the past several weeks where budget cuts are clipping management positions filled by men who are qualified and needed but due to budget needs their positions are being filled by younger and lesser paid folk.  The systems are getting overstressed and employees are getting more stressed out than ever.  It would be easy to simply give in to the economic situation and do something less than excellent.  To use the circumstances around us as an excuse to sit back and complain and not allow God’s creative juices to flow in our lives is a sin.  We can do our work with excellence.  It may not have all the bells and whistles that we could have if the money was there, but we can still do excellent work for God and we can still be persons of excellence as we face tough economic times.

For those who don’t know, I am in a revival meeting this week.  We go through Wednesday night.  I am discovering that people are no different in Lake City than in Florence, SC.  The tough thing about preaching the life changing gospel is that it takes fighting, discipline, and real stretching.  It is competitive which requires strict training.  It is tough to swim upstream.  Why swim upstream when we can get a raft and float with the rest of the crowd downstream?  Why in the world would you fight when so few are fighting with you?  Why?  Why not just join the rest of the crowd and be average at best –  mediocre madness.  Any individual can be average.  It seems that to be different would cause you to stick out like a sore thumb.

Eight principles:
Principle of Ownership – This life I am committed to is God’s.  He owns it.  He is Lord.  I died to myself and let Christ run the whole thing.
Principle of God’s Man – I am committed to allow God’s pattern to be the rule of life.  I am thankful that he has an organized way of doing his business.  He equips us this way.  Thank God for the special gifting he gave our leadership in our church.
Principle of God’s Gifts – God uses all the people in our church to serve him.  There is no room for these giftings to be wasted in selfishness.  We are called to serve.
Principle of God’s Word – Still the only guide for faith and practice – I still read the Word of God and seek to discipline myself to seek God’s face daily through the Word of God.
Principle of Communication – “Have you prayed about it?”  “Are you listening to God?”  Not talk about prayer but practice praying
Principle of Cooperation – This is not a democracy but a theocracy,…so we don’t vote – we obey – together – We are one as Christ is one!
Principle of  Celebration – Worship – we worship privately corporately and regularly – it is a discipline that helps me keep “Who is in command?” clear in my life each week!
Principle of Commitment – burn bridges – serve Christ only – Dead to self and moving forward following Christ as my only leader.

The first time I heard that was when a friend shared them with me years ago in a revival service at Southside Baptist Church.  We were much smaller and yet these principles still ring2199291110_0dc0cc3467_b true in my own heart. Mediocre Christians don’t worry about detail.  They could not care less about those eight principles.  I am confident that most Christians have gotten to the place where they want a show on Sunday morning and not a war to fight every day.  Discipline and excellence are not a key part of their lives.  It is so easy to flow downstream with the rest of the folk.

I know.  I am one of you!

Alright God!  Let’s go upstream again.  I am ready for the fight.

Sidebar:  Last night in Lake City it was a blast to hear from the Pentecostal Holiness Church Choir.  They rock!  We had a building full.  There were more last night than on Sunday.  God honored our time together last night.  It was good to see Alan, Tammy and Alexander Clabo from the Florence area.  I was glad to see “Nurse Potter” last night.  Chris, you would have been proud of your mom.  She is a singing saint.  I will be there tonight and tomorrow night.  Pray for us.  God is at work.

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