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Archive for November, 2009

Thankgiving Journey

God is to be praised through all things.  The last several days have been more than rich for me.  This past week our church celebrated the Lord’s Supper together.  It was a service that allowed us all to focus on the Father in Heaven and His precious Son.  How grateful can I be for the sacrifice that he payed on Calvary for my sins.  His only instructions in the scripture for us to remember is the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.  The simplicity of how God lets us remember what his Son did through a small piece of unleavened bread and a small cup of grape juice blows me away.  Remembering is a vital part of the journey of life.  I am thankful for what He did for me and how that was applied to my heart June 6, 1960.  May God be praised.

God is always in control of all things.  I am looking forward to the day where we will be whole and every touch of sin disappear from our presence.  Last night my wife comes in to where I study and tells me that she received a phone call from her brother, Dr. Rev. Billy Joy, telling us that his wife’s father had died.  86 years and now in the presence of the Father.  They are not the only ones who have faced death in our fellowship.  I am remembering Clarissa Bradford and Bishop Bell as they faced the death of their preaching brother, Lawrence Bell, who due to cancer found his way into the glories of heaven.  Death touched my own family this past year as we celebrated the home going of Nancy’s mother, Betty Treadway earlier in the year.  Life journey seems to be anchored to major events that define where we are on that journey.  What we go through is not the focus.  Who we journey with is vital.  Comfort in all three of those areas are found in our relationship with Christ.

I have the joy of having my mother with me.   Rosalind Crooks lives in Marietta, Georgia.  To start with Monday was a pleasure for me in that I had the  chance to start early and arrive late in Marietta.  I had the goal of seeing Pinecrest Baptist Church (where I served in my college days working with music and youth under the leadership of a man named Bud Holland – as a side note:  I would love to find out where he and his wife are serving).  Highway 11 leads from Interstate 85 all the way to Cleveland, GA.  I was not able to find the old Waffle House that was in Gainesville, GA.  I don’t know how many times I had to drive from Cleveland to Gainesville but was thrilled to note that the road was still there but the journey was filled with so much change.  I guess for some reason we always hope that when you go back to places you have been after being gone for 30 years that they would be just like were when you were there.  Wrong.  I have been in Florence for 21 years.  21 years ago if you got to a red light here in Florence and four cars were waiting on the light – you had a traffic jam.  It is that way now at 4 in the morning.  Things change.  Traveling through the foot hills seeing my old college and the places we all used to visit was a great reminder of the journey of life.  I was reminded not to gripe about our traffic issues after being in a city that is one big traffic issue.

Mom spent Monday in Ellijay, GA finding some of those good apple fried pies that she brought home for me to taste.  She enjoyed being with her neighbor from across the street.  We met that night and enjoyed supper together at one of Nancy and my favorite restaurants.  It was good to be at the home place.  I remembered where my journey started.

Doug, Nancy’s step father, joined our family on Wednesday evening.  We were delighted to have him with us that day.  He is such a find gentleman.  We love having him around.  We joined our friends, Randy, Debbie, and Ashley Cribb at their home for a Thanksgiving feast.  And, YES!, I took advantage of every calorie on the table I could possibly grasp.  There was way too many items to select from but the sweet desserts, the good cup of coffee, combined with delightful rewards of good friends and a roaring fire outside was indescribable.   Rocking chairs around that fire pit provided us opportunity to think and thank ourselves happy all day long.  We missed Nancy’s mom’s presence with us.  Last years picture has one person missing – but she “…ain’t missing when you know where she is…”   Her journey is now complete.  There is a feast that we will share with her one of these days.   We are a blessed family.  I love it.  Jason and Jenn found themselves in Maryland this year as they celebrated Thanksgiving with her family.  I am so thankful that Jenn’s family have fallen in love with my son and have made him a part of their family.  They are a wonderful group of people and a pure delight to be around.

It has been a busy week for all of us.  Mom doesn’t know it yet but Sunday will be an interesting day for her thanks to Carlton Pridgen.  Part of the process of being a Marine affords him the opportunity to stay connected to his Marine roots.  As a surprise, Carlton will present her with a medallion representing and remembering her late husband’s service in the military.  He will also present her with a small vial of black sand that came from the beach of Iwo Jima where my father served as a Marine.  Her journey in Florence will end with a journey through the past in remembering and celebrating the service that my father rendered to this country. I plan on taking my mother home Sunday evening.

Today I will join my wife in celebrating her birthday again as we go to the Clemson/South Carolina game.  Notice the order.  Mr. Bell will pick us up in a few hours and we will spend the better part of today getting in and out of traffic.  Wow!  Vehicle traffic and people traffic.  Noise upon Noise…and yes it is cold and windy here today.  Noon should find us in better shape weather wise.  I am certain that Nancy will bundle up.  She is looking forward to the game.

I am blessed with a God that loves me…a wife that has the courage to share my life with me and love me…three beautiful children we both love and adore…family that we are privileged to have both near and far…friends that add such color to my journey through this life…employment that still provides for our life’s journey…and a church family that allows me to hang around them.  I am blessed.  It is a “Thanksgiving Journey!”

 

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3Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured[b] of his leprosy.

You don’t touch lepers.  It just ain’t done.

The rules say not to touch him.  Jesus didn’t “have” to touch him…he wanted to touch him.

You stay away from Tuberculosis patients as well.   My grandfather was a dairy farmer and as a byproduct of his constant contact with cows he contracted tuberculosis from the cows.  He died when my father was four years old.  Mom was nineteen and dad was twenty-nine when they married.  They met each other at a tuberculosis sanitorium called Battey Hospital.  Construction of Battey General Hospital started in March of 1943 to serve  as a hospital for sick, wounded and disabled World War II servicemen.  It was fully activated on September 1, 1943 with Col. D.B.Faust as its first executive officer.  The hospital was named for Dr. Robert Battey of Rome Georgia, who was a nationally famed pioneer in the surgical treatment for ovarian cancer and who built a medical complex in downtown Rome.  In June 1946,  the complex was transferred to the State of Georgia for a tuberculosis sanitorium.  The photo was taken during it’s peak when Battey General Hospital housed 2,000 tuberculosis patients.  My mom and dad were two of the patients.  Both of them contracted the illness as a result of being physically run down.  Enough of the family medical history.

I am reminded of their dilemma.  Instead of letting them run rampant and infect the general population with tuberculosis, they were allowed to go to Battey Hospital and recover completely.   It was and is highly contagious.  Dad and mom had tuberculosis.  This man in our scripture lesson today had leprosy.  They were set aside.  They were not allowed to come near to the rest of the family.  They had each other.

I can hear the cries of the lepers as they gather outside of the city where they are untouchable and made to cry out, “Unclean!” as the people pass by.  It must have been a terrible thing to have to be rejected and neglected by those who could have made your life so rich.  I was reminded again this evening that my sin made me unclean.  Religion tried to fix it but couldn’t.  I was enjoying religion until I met Grace.  Slowly I allowed grace to so infuse my heart that religion finally died.  I was let out of my sanatorium of religion.  I was released from being a stranger and He took me in.  He touched my life, and grace flooded my soul.

The leper was healed!  He danced with glee at his new life!

Mom and dad never did have a single problem with the TB.  Healed?  You bet, ya!  Ain’t it just like God to do that kind of work.

The sinner was healed!  The blood of Jesus still makes the sinners clean!  I get a chance when I gather with the rest of the folk at the church house to worship The God that loves me like that!

The word “immediately” blows my mind.  I was forgiven “immediately”.  Amazing!

Big Daddy Weave.  Now there’s a name I can live with.  Fields of Grace came to my mind as I thought about how God touched my life!  I sing it as I go to bed tonight.

There’s a place that I love to run and play
There’s a place that I sing new songs of praise
Ooh it’s
Dancin with my Father God in fields of Grace
Dancin with my Father God in fields of Grace

There’s a place that I lose myself within
There’s a place I find myself again

Ooh it’s
Dancin with my Father God in fields of Grace
Dancin with my Father God in fields of Grace

There’s a place where religion finally dies
There’s a place that I lose my selfish pride

Ooh it’s
Dancin with my Father God in fields of Grace
Dancin with my Father God in fields of Grace
Dancin with my Father God in fields of Grace
Dancin with my Father God in fields of Grace

I love my Father, my Father loves me
I dance for my Father, my Father sings over me
I love my Father, my Father loves me
I dance for my Father, my Father sings over me
and nothin, nothin, nothin can take that away from me
and nothin, nothin, nothin can take that away from me

There’s a place where religion finally dies
There’s a place that I lose my selfish pride

Ooh it’s
Dancin with my Father God in fields of Grace
Dancin with my Father God in fields of Grace
Ooh come dance with our Father God in fields of Grace
Dancin with my Father God in fields of Grace

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What if?

1 What if the Lord had not been on our side?   Psalm 124

For those who know me, they understand my love for Southern Gospel music.  I remember Johnny Cook singing this song.  I am certain that the Israelite folk did not sing this psalm like The Statesmen.  For those of you who have a need to pass this way just be patient with this preacher and he will get worse!

I could not help thinking where I would be if it hadn’t been for the Lord on my side.  I am thinking of where that song has been sung.  The people of God travel through life preparing themselves for each day reminded that “if it had not been for the Lord on our side…”  I am thinking of people like Fred who watched his wife slowly slip into eternity a day at a time saying, ‘if it had not been for the Lord on our side…”   I repeat it each day as I think of where our country is going under its present leadership and find comfort in the idea “if it had not been for the Lord on our side…”

I wonder if it was sung on the shores of Iwo Jima as the men who were alive sang that phrase “if it had not been for the Lord on our side…”  I wonder if the young lady at South Florence High School who flipped her car the other day three or four times into a field if she is not singing that same tune.  I know I will be singing it this December as I watch two more graduate from school – one from college and another from high school.  Where would I be?  I know where I would be!  I give HIM praise!

In the text it is repeated twice… no intention for you to miss it.  I am wondering that this coming Sunday as I drive on the church property, could it be that I remind myself prior to the Lord’s Supper Service that I walk around the property and remember that “…if the Lord had not been on our side…”  Where would I be?  Where would I be?

Jeremy just completed a family history that is swimming in heart troubles, cancer, severe obesity that traces down my side of the family and Nancy’s as well.  Add to that a great number of our family who has been swamped with those issues and then add chain smoking to that.  I was looking at my three children, daughter in law, wife and am reminded how fortunate I have been to be under the care of God.  We are blessed.  “…if it had not been for the Lord who is on our side…” Physical blessings!

Spiritually!  Just to think how God has blessed.  God invites me to journey with him each day.  He would have more than enough reasons to stop lovin’ me but he never stops.  His love for me is fixed.

It is true – Our help is in the name of the Lord!

I think I hear Tammy singing this song.  I know Wayne is singing it – cancer nor heart troubles win!  I hear Elizabeth singing it from Texas.  I hear Georgie singing that song!  Even old Smith sings it – loudly – “…if it had not been for the Lord on our side…”

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Brace yourself, son!

FIRE_GLORY_WHIRLWIND_OVER_LYFORD3_edited

1 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind: 2 “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? 3 Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.

Job has had the blessing of a whinny wife and several “friends” if that is what you want to call them.  Someone told me the other day (and I know before I write it that someone will think that this is inappropriate for a preacher to write in his blog – so get over it) that a friend is someone who will visit you in jail but a REAL friend is someone who is sitting inside the jail with you talking about how much fun you had together.  Job had friends that would visit him while he was in jail.  They sat across from him looking through the thick glass while holding the phone in their hands and analyzed Job’s experience in light of their own ignorance sharing that vast amount of stupidity with Job.  Job was patient and was able to experience something that very few people have ever experienced and that is God coming along and saying something like, “I have had enough.  Now it’s my turn.  Brace yourself, buddy, you are fixin’ to experience a “ride from heaven” and I’m drivin’!”  I bet it’s like discovering that the principal was standing there and heard you say something dirty or caught you smoking in the boys bathroom – except on a Divine level.

There are so few people who will sit on the ash heaps of your life  and share it without judging.  There are a special few (and I use that word special very sarcastically) that make great sideline quarterbacks and run their mouths about your life and seem to find it so difficult to make the same wisdom apply in relationship to their own life.  The are professional people who can point out with such clarity the pitiful points in your life and analyze them to death.  But turn it around and try to share with them about their lives and they get offended.  I figured that Job had heard all he could stand.  One thing for sure – God certainly had!  And HE SPEAKS!  And when he speaks – all of us listen!

I guess there are days where we forget that God is still the author and finisher of life and he is aware of all things.  He heard every word spoken by Elihu and thought “thunk” by Job.  God loved Job.  Job was honorable in the way he handled this testing.

Brace yourself son.  It’s like he said, “Hush!  It’s my turn to talk.  All your pitiful rattlings are over.  Let Me share with you My thoughts.  Take notes, son.  You’re gonna’ need ’em before it is all over!”

Today, I am reminded to remember that there is ONE who is listening and watching.  His grace reminds me that I can have that conversation with Him.  I am not distant!  I am close!  I like that thought!

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With me!

13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

God is near.  He is not hiding from us hoping that we will “make it” through life.  His love is so deep for us that he never  leaves nor forsakes us.  He is present with us.

Yesterday I officiated at Bob Bramblet’s memorial service.  In the middle of the service I shared a legend told about the Cherokee Indian practice of allowing a young boy to be initiated into manhood.  It goes something like this.

A Cherokee Indian father takes his son deep into the forest, blindfolds him, and leaves him alone. He is required to sit on a stump all night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sunlight shine through it.

He cannot cry out for help from anyone. Making it through the night, he will pass the initiation, and become MAN. He cannot tell other boys of this night because each youth must come into manhood on his own.

The boy is naturally full of fear. He can hear all the noises of the wild beasts, and wonders even if some human might do him harm. The wind howls about him during the night, but he must remain stoic if he is to become MAN. Finally, after a horrific night the sun appears and he removes his blindfold. It is then that he discovers his father sitting on the stump next to him. He had been watching him the entire night, protecting his son from harm.

I memorized this verse in the King James Version when I was much younger.  It has been a statement of encouragement to me.  I am reminded quite often that temptation is a traveling partner for me.  I am much older now and able to listen to the Spirit of God speak to me and warn me.  I am no longer a child.  I have grown up in some areas of my life.  He is with me at all points of my life.  The guarantee of the verse that held my attention today is my relationship with the Father.  He never leaves me nor forsakes me.

All I can say today is “Thank you, Jesus!”

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Want and Ought

9Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.

Wiersbe, Warren W.: Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament reminded me, “…whatever a Christian does, even if it does not hurt him, must never hurt anyone else. While we may think that this principle limits us, it really does not, for it allows us to be a greater blessing to others and to win the lost to Christ…”

When you are free, you want to run!  Flying becomes an option when you have spent a lifetime under bondage.  I am reminded of soldiers who continued to fight after World War II because they never knew that the war was over and that they no longer had to fight.  They were free.  I remember several of my friends who were in special operations in the military who had the dubious task of being dropped behind enemy lines telling me of the joys of releasing American prisoners of war.  To them being “free” took some getting  used to.

Grace has set us free!  However, this grace and freedom does not blind us to our influence on those around us.  I watch Jesus “live” in front of the disciples and especially in front of those who are his inner circle.  He was careful for their sakes.  He was not lax in his approach to grace.  He journeyed with these special friends for a little over three years.  They saw him laugh and I am certain they saw him cry.  The watched the way he related to those who were broken with love and compassion (and even tears) and he demonstrated complete control when being harassed by religious law keeping leaders who knew nothing of freedom.

People are special to Christ.  If they are special to the Son of God, then it would follow that we, too, should care deeply about those He cared so deeply.  Oh, yes we are free to live.  Our hearts are releaseded from guilt and forgiveness is complete.  It is interesting that we no longer find ourselves in the middle of the picture.  We genuinely care about other people.

She lived next door to her sister.  Her sister’s husband was smitten with cancer.  He had already been to the doctor and now it was time for cancer treatments.  Several times a week his wife would have to taker her husband to endure treatments that made him unbelievably sick and the recovery was seemingly worse than the illness.   Watching her sister and wife of this dear man deal with this whole process moved her heart.  Knowing that as a teacher she had her summers free and knowing that her sister had to work every day, she asked that she be allowed to care for her sister by letting her go back to work and care for her sister’s husband during the summer while she was free.  She put her life on hold.  She put herself aside.  She cared about someone else.  In a world where it is really “all about me” we can see the difference that Christ makes in our lives when it becomes about some one else.  She limited her liberty and freedom for the benefit of folk she loved.

The connection for me is not hard.  If that is true in giving your life for others and caring about where other people are – then it would follow that we care about where other people are in their walk with Christ.  Exercising great care in our judgments and journey is important.  We do not live in a vacuum.  Our lives affect others.

Help me exercise great care today.  Help me care as I journey with ohter people today.  There is a big difference between doing what I want to do and doing what I ought to do.  I am free to do both.

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18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Dr. Jerry Vines tells of the devastating, dissipating, dominating effects of sin.  He preached a sermon called “Truman Snow’s White Christmas”.  It is the true story of a man named Truman Snow who had a drinking problme.  Because of his drinking problem he was estranged from his family.  He was in a motel instead of with his family at Christmas time.  Dr. Vines was able to go to that motel and lead Truman to faith in the Lord Jesus.

When he went to witness to him that day he had a little minature Christmas tree in the motel.  Under the Christmas tree was a beer bottle.  Dr. Vines was able to lead him to faith in the Lord, and some days later he went back to check on Truman.  The first thing he did was to look at that little Christmas tree and under that tree was a Bible.

The country group “Alabama” sings a song I”m not That Way Any More!  I know that some of you think that all I listen to is classical religious music and quote hymns.  I enjoy listening to all kinds of music. I realize that you don’t get your doctrine from country songs.   I know that they are not some sanctified male chorus from a monastery somewhere…However, the song they sing states a certain truth…If you change the word “time” to “Christ”

We used to get crazy every Saturday night
We drive into town and get feeling right
A child of the 60s in ’74
But I’m not that way anymore

Well I burned the tires of my Chevrolet
Trying to impress the girls that I date
And I’ve been a gambler when I couldn’t score
But I’m not that way anymore

I’m not that way anymore
Time’s closing yesterdays door
I’m just as happy as I was before
‘Cause I’m not that way anymore

American Bandstand, The Sullivan Show
I listened to the Opry on my radio
Well Dick Clark’s still looking as young as before
But I’m not that way anymore

Well I swapped my loafers for cowboy boots
And bought me some jeans, gave away all my suits
My razor is rusted my barber is bored
Cause I’m not that way anymore

I’m not that way anymore
Time’s closing yesterdays door
I’m just as happy as I was before
‘Cause I’m not that way anymore

I’m not that way anymore
Time’s closing yesterdays door
I’m just as happy as I was before
‘Cause I’m not that way
And you’re not that way
We’re not that way anymore

Christ changes our lifestyle.  We don’t have to live the old way any more.  We are free.

“…but to us who are BEING SAVED it is the power of God…”  I am so glad that He is at work in my life this morning.  Today affords me another chance to humbly and thankfully stand in His presence and say, “Thank You, Father!”  I am reminded from time to time to remember where I could have been if I had not run head long into the POWER OF GOD to consistently change my life.  I am grateful that I have that option now.  I don’t have to live that way any more.

Thank you, Father!

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