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Archive for May, 2009

26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

I am reminded of David’s writings in the Psalms where he stated that if he goes into the heavens, God is there.  If he travels into the depths of the sea, his Father is with him.  He rehearsed all the places he could go and discovered again for the very first time that God is everywhere.  Since I am a Child of God, the promise of the Scripture is that God lives IN me.  He chooses to “tabernacle” or dwell in me.  I celebrate again that he decided to live in me.  I hear Him say to me again and again, “I love you and care for you today”.

He woke me up again this morning.  We get to journey every where today together.  He likes that and I do as well.  I have no idea what we will do.  I have an idea or two of where I plan to go today but the confidence I have is that HE goes with me or better yet, I go with HIM.

We get to talking about things.   There are days when I can carry on a good conversation with the Father.  There are days (and there have been several of them in the past two or three weeks) where I find myself at a loss of “what” to say and I simply discover that it is not in what “I” say for HE is praying for me.  He understands my heart.  He understands the whole picture of my life and is able to utter the things of my heart to God.  I trust in that!

While I wait before God in prayer, I discover how little I know about the whole of what Iam praying.  I need a prayer partner.  As Stafford Hebert used to say in his Cajun tongue, “Talk about…” a  prayer partner.  I have one!  He journeys through every aspect of my life.  He is the one that walks along side me and guides me through every part of what I am supposed to be doing, thinking, saying – leading me in all of the day ministry of my current assignment.  I am depending on His guidance as I walk into each conversation and opportunity.  Jesus was so kind to send us the Holy Spirit.

Good morning, Prayer Partner!  Let’s get this day started!  I am ready.  Let’s go!

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5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Dad was in the sign business.  Mom was able to be a stay at home mom.  Dad and his partner Don lead a very successful non-union sign shop in the Atlanta area.  He made custom made plastic lighted signs.  I used to work for him.  I enjoyed working for him.  It gave me enormous freedom for my schedule, and I guess he could keep up with me that way.

I was fortunate to be raised and reared in a local church.  I used to sit by “Ma” Brown.  She was the mother of a school principal and a missionary to Liberia and my care giver at church.  She was the one that would call the house and remind all of us that the Billy Graham Crusade was on, and we needed to stop what we were doing and watch Billy preach.  Mrs. Brown was an older lady whose hearing loss was aided by a hearing aid and the receiver for that thing had this long cord to it and two ear pieces.  She would sit on the second row in church while my mom and dad sang in the choir and make me listen to the sermon each week.  I remember sitting by her in church watching and listening to the man (the one that would eventually lead me to faith in Christ, L. Howard Gordon) preach and hearing God say inside me that one of these days I would be preaching one of these days.  That impression happened in my life before I gave my life to Christ when I was 11 years old.   It is amazing what you remember as you look back over your life and how all this stuff got started.  You can trace the hand of God in it all.

I was 17 before I got a grip on a specific direction for all of this.  I had worked on the Youth Committee at church and was involved at church in working with the Youth, but I had still never considered any other life direction other than working in my dad’s sign shop until his friend Buddy Crowder asked me to do a summer intern job with him in West Cobb County.  He was starting a mission church there, and he wanted to know if I would help him knock on doors and invite people in that area to be a part of that church.  Buddy is with the Lord now, but he was the one that God used to kick start this 35+ year ministry.  I went to school at Truett-McConnell College because Karen Aaron invited me to ride with her to look at the college she attended…the rest is history.  It has always amazed me that as part of this process God allowed me to marry a preacher’s daughter.  Nancy has been a vital part in God’s leadership of my life.

I started out knowing absolutely nothing about this formal ministry I have as my current assignment from God.  For 36 years now I have watched God guide me through this whole process.  Our family was connected deeply to the church.  Mom and dad were Christians and highly committed the work of the local church.  Dad worked with the youth.  Mom was involved in children’s ministry for years.  We had great Christian friends like the Bell’s with whom our family traveled around the USA camping.  We have attended different churches all over this country while we were gone.  Jesse’s son Don was instrumental in getting me involved as a Boy Scout and this group helped to develop my character.  Pam Windham and Ray Allen join “Ma” Brown as three of the teachers in my own life that impacted me through Sunday School and Missions in Church.  George and Beverly Broom impacted my life and were a part of God’s guidance in allowing me to be prepared to be involved in this thing we call “ministry”.  I learned all that I knew about church music through the leadership of George and Beverly Broom.  I started out doing youth ministry.  However, it was this training in church music in the local church(not in seminary or in major conference) that opened more doors for me in the early stages of ministry than any other.  Thanks, Georg and Beverly and may God be praised for your faithfulness.   It is amazing how God uses people to lead and guide us toward His goals for our lives. God connected me with mentors like Buddy Crowder, L. Howard Gordon, Stafford Hebert, Bud Holland, David Corkern, Billy Deason, and a host of other people who in the past have been a part of God’s “…directing my path”.  Ken Smith, Ken Sandifer, W. L. Collins, Daniel Inabinet, my staff and a great group of friends are being used in the present as instruments to help guide my life.  He does what he says. For a moment, this morning I am humbled and grateful for being able to be influenced by such a great group of men and women.

I know as I write this that some of you that read this blog have no concept who all these people are.  Buddy, Howard, Billy, Ray. and Ma Brown are in heaven.  I just got back from Jacksonville, FL being involved in the funeral of my “father in the ministry”, Stafford Hebert.  In some way the reward of their life is increased every time I lead someone to the Lord and follow God in this current assignment.  God was honored in it all.  I have seen many lives change.  My journey with the Lord is amazing for He has changed me and equipped me to be a part of  His work in this time in history.  I pause to thank Him again this morning.

It is the testimony of my life that if I trust in the Lord with all of my heart, acknowledge him in all of my ways, and do not lean to my own understanding, I can say with confidence that He DOES direct your paths.  I have never been able to get away from these two verses.  It was an honor to travel down memory lane with the Father this morning and to be reassured of the direction this current assignment is taking.  I am so thankful to God.

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It’s a gift!

23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I merit hell.  I have earned my way there.  I earned it – death.  I read today in the paper about a group of people who ripped a great group of investors off.  Millions and millions of other people’s money and their investments are now history.  A handful of people earned anywhere from 5 years in prison to 25 years in prison for their corruption.  They are to sentence the last of the crooks, the paper said just in case any of us are staying up late watching.  They earned it.  The police turned it.  The judge burned ’em.  Now let the fun begin.

God stepped in and gave me a gift.  Heaven!  Unhindered friendships!  Beauty like none other!  A life filled with adventure!  Worshiping Jesus!  A home!  No Sickness nor infirmities!  No more death!  No more sorrow!  No more rip offs by investor schemers!  Wages of sin vs. Gift of God!  Sinners merit hell!  Saints do not merit heaven!  It is a gift.  Our gift!  Given to us by a gracious God whose love is unmatched in eternity.  I have a gift.

His gift.  He bought it and wrapped it.  His shed blood secured it and it became mine by faith as I became a believer in Christ.  He wrapped it just for me and preserves it for me as I await the day that my faith becomes sight.

It’s a gift.

Sidebar:  Smith sent our group a quote I rehearse again for my own benefit in remembering.  I share it with you this morning

“It is foolish and wrong
to mourn the men who have died.
Rather we should thank God
that such men lived.”
General George S. Patton (1885-1945)

I choose to remember today!  My father served in the Marines during WWII.  I signed up for the draft for the Vietnam war but was not called.  I would have been proud to serve my country.  I remember families who will rehearse a tough time in their lives as we reflect on the freedom that is ours because of their ultimate sacrifice.  May God bless our country and comfort those who grieve today.

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Am I that hardheaded?  Yep!  I am!  And I can hear A. Pruitt saying in church this morning, “Amen!”  That’s right sports fans this old weird preacher is mighty slow in getting hold of some truths. His love for me blows me away!

His love really does endure forever.  That phrase is said so many different ways in the scriptures, but on this cool Sunday morning God wanted to help me see his blessing on my life.  He pulls me up close this morning and while I was traveling with Him through a story about Solomon and the temple he built for God, He interrupts me with something so obvious that I needed to stop and praise him about.  His love does endure. His love endures forever for me.  His love endures forever for my wife and family.  His love endures for ever and that has effected the way we do ministry at Southside Baptist Church.  His love endures forever for the world and that is what drives me to tell folk about the love God has for them.

I got caught up in that phrase being a blessing from God to me this morning.  I will take liberty with the text (imagine that) and let it say His Love Endures Forever For Jim Crooks.  I hear my heavenly Father pass that blessing to me today.

His love does.  There are so many in my experiences that have had conditional love.  I will love you IF you do this or that.  I will love you WHEN you get this or that done.  He says to Jim Crooks this morning, “Crooks, I choose as an act of my will to love you, period.  There are no conditions on my love.”  I guess what catches me off guard with that is that I know me better than you know me.  He knows me so much better and HIS love never fails me.  He loves me forever.

I enjoy the thought of his LOVE endures forever.  I am so glad that he did not say that he LIKED me.  I know he likes me.  I am still here.  I still get to enjoy the anointing of preaching each week and watching God work in mighty ways.  He could have taken me out of here by now.  But it is so much more than LIKE – It is LOVE…His love endures forever.

Endures – It has hung in there through all of what I threw at it in 53 years of inconsistent living for the Lord.  I wish I could have said that I had it all together and ever since the time I was ordained as a minister of the Gospel that I have never blown it nor said a wrong word.  I wish I could say that but I would be lying so bad.  What comforts my heart is that there are so many of my friends that can say the same thing.  There is none righteous no not one!  All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God!  How many more do I need to say in order to put “Enduring Forever” in perspective.

Forever – In the Hebrew “Forever” is an interesting word.  In the Hebrew it means “forever”  Forever is forever.  It never stops.

I worship a God today whose love never stops.  It did not say his wrath endures forever.  He did not say that his anger endures forever.  What he said was- over and over and over again – His love endures forever.

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24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

There will always be a connection between works and grace.  I won’t even begin to start that conversation except to say that my works demonstrate the grace within.  I think this morning the reason this verse struck me is that I want to celebrate that we are justified before God because of the grace provided by Christ.  Nothing in my hand I bring…simply to the cross I cling are the words of Rock of Ages that old song.  The song might be old but the truth is so right.

This morning I wanted to hear God say to me that I was His Child.  I didn’t get the name by being rewarded because I am a good person, a good daddy, a good husband, a good preacher or anything like that.  I got the name as a gift from God who loved me enough to allow his Son to purchase that for me on the cross.  I am humbled again.  I got to hear Him tell me that I am forgiven again.  I hear him say that my guilt is gone.  I am rejoicing that his grace is truly freeing!  I am justified before God by his grace.

I hear him say again as he blesses me that I am justified.  The account is clear.  There are no remaining prices to be paid on my part.  “Paid in Full” is written across my account…written in the Blood of Jesus.  Thank You Father.

Now I can serve afresh today not because I have to but because I want to.  When the Lover of the Universe loves you like that you cannot help but join him as you journey together through this day!  I get excited thinking about what lies ahead.

Let’s go!

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1 Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.

I have a friend.  (I know that surprises some of you who know me, but I do have a friend – several of them.)  In a conversation with Ken Smith I was asking him what he did devotionally to keep his heart fresh and his inner man fed spiritually.  He has a mentor – a friend – who lives in Georgia.  They meet every Wednesday evening over the phone and spend some extended time together during the year.  Ken has asked his friend to be a part of his life in keeping him accountable for his spiritual walk with God.  It has proven to be a very powerful part of his continued discipline as a disciple of Christ.

On one occasion his mentor asked him to get a note book – a non-expensive notebook and on the cover of it I believe he told him to write “What I Saw God Do Today!”  We have talked about how he processed writing in that book and how his journey with God was heightened by it.  He told me, “Crooks, it is amazing what you see, once you start looking!”  It is true.  When you set your heart and mind to looking for the hand of God, you see Him at work all over the place.  It is amazing.

Sing to the Lord a NEW song… the freshness of that song should be as fresh as the last several hours.  I know as I have been reading David’s writings you can see him talk about deliverance and how God was in that.  At one point he rejoices in the hand of God as seen in creation.  He can see it in the wars and delights in the provision of God as he protects and gives rest to his life.  David knew that God has done great things for him.

Yesterday I saw Jim Nutter walking down the hall at Southland Nursing Home.  His rehab processes were working as was his smile.  I rejoiced at God’s healing.  I was sitting by Ed Russell around lunch time and as we sat there I was captivated by the beautiful day we were enjoying.   I watched God control a conversation later that day with a friend.  The content of that discussion was difficult but God’s grace was so evident.  I watched the hand of God guide in several situations yesterday that only God could have orchestrated.  I celebrated with a family at a funeral home regarding deliverance from heart disease and how God was with them as they worked through grief and sorrow yet trusting God, and then drove across town to celebrate a birthday with a man who wanted to surprise his dear wife.

Lord, I sing praises to your name.  You have done great things for us.  You have taken care of my own family.  You meet Nancy and I at every point of our need and take care of our family  and for that I am grateful.  It is NEW every morning.

Give me eyes to see today so that my heart might rejoice…

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Get Your Praise On!

12 Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous,
and praise his holy name.

Yesterday in our Senior Adult Bible Study we were discussing intercessory prayer.  Paul was sharing with the Philippian believers his love for them and the pure delight of praying for them.  What blew me away was the context Paul was in as he was “praising” the Lord Jesus.  Lydia, that wealthy seller of purple, was saved along with her whole family while Paul was in Philippi.  The Church started in her house.  You know Paul was excited about that.  There was a demon possessed slave girl who experienced deliverance in Philippi.  Her money hungry owners were deliriously angry because the loss of revenue.  She was free.  Paul was excited about that.  On the flip side the owners of the delivered slave girl tried to instigate a riot against Paul and Silas.  They were illegally arrested, beaten and imprisoned.

IF I were sitting in Rome between guards writing to some of my friends in Philippi, what memory would dominate my own mind?  Would he have said, “I hope those folk would see just how they treated me.  They arrested me and had me beaten.  I will never go back to that sorry city again.  I hope that they all rot in hell for all I care!”  His response was not negative crictical stuff.  In the Bible God recorded his response, “I thank my God for all my rememberance of you…”  As my friends say, “He got his Praise On!”

Stand with me sometimes in the portico of our church and watch people leave a worship experience.  Stand at the altar and watch the response of folk in the church house to what they see each week.  We have a great crowd of people.  Songs were sung that glorified our Father, folk demonstrated the change that Christ made in their lives, the Word of God was preached, people were saved and lives were changed.  You would think that after seeing all that you could not get the folk to calm down from shouting hallelujah, Glory to God.  Praising God for all that they saw would be standard fare.  I wish I could ignore people who leave the worship service whose main truth garnered while seated there was whether I had combed my hair back or off to the side, whether the air was too cold or the atmosphere in the church was too hot, the music was too loud, and when is the preacher going to learn that we can’t be first in line at the restaurants if we get out ten minutes later than usual, someone didn’t get the Sunday School order right, the usher didn’t give me a bulletin, there are no hand towels in the ladies restroom (as if there was some communist plot to keep that from happening)…and all that kind of thing are just a few of the things I have heard from people who gather at church to “Praise God”  or “Worship God”.

This blog is not a bully pulpit for me to vent out what I heard last Sunday.  I am proud to say to you that I don’t  hear as much of that as I used to hear.  I am saying that what struck me today was the verse “… 12 Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name.”  I want to change my own praise life.  Watching God work and praising Him for what I see privately in prayer before God and publicly as I testify to the glory of God, is a wonderful cure for selfishness.  When the center of my world is JIM then everything that challenges that gives me a chance to gripe and complain.  When the center of my world is JESUS and I start praising HIM, my life changes.  I start thinking about what he is doing in the lives of other people and I can pray for them.

I praise His holy name this morning.  What does come out of my mouth gives credence to the condition of my own heart!

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