The Promise: It Begins

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A few years ago at the Summer Celebration at Lipscomb University, I was reminded of a story out of the Old Testament by one of the speakers there.  It was a story from Joshua 1, where Joshua reminds the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh that they had promised Moses a while back that they would fight for the children of Israel.

Some of you might be wondering – “Wait, I thought they WERE children of Israel – of course they would fight.”  Well, yes, but back in Numbers 32, they made a deal with Moses.  They had a lot of livestock, a lot of people, a lot of wealth, and as they got to the east side of the Jordan, they decided they wanted to stay there instead of entering into the Promised Land.

Of course, Moses wasn’t too thrilled with this, and he went on a moment where he ripped into them.  So they came up with a compromise.  They promised that if they could settle there, that when the time came to fight, they would send their fighting men in to fight.

Now, why is this such a big deal?  Well – they’re promising that they’re going to fight for a group of people they will never truly know.  They’re promising to fight for a land they know they won’t possess.  They’re promising to give their lives to ensure the future happens for the others.

And that’s what we need to do as well.

Now, in Numbers 32, we see an old passage that some of us may have known for a while – Moses tells the 3 tribes “Listen, this is great you’re promising this – but know this – if you don’t do it, your sin will find you out.”

What he’s stating is simple: Don’t promise something to God you don’t intend on doing.  Don’t make promises you don’t plan on keeping.

I think this offers us  two things:  First, a  wake up call – because it’s time for us to stand and fight for the next generation. It’s time for us to admit that it’s time to do something to make sure the next generation knows about Jesus.

But second, it is a blessed reminder – God takes his promises seriously. God doesn’t fall through on his promises, and He expects us not to also.  And what has God promised us?  Well in Hebrews 13:5, He promises that he will never leave us, never forsake us, and will always be with us.

I think it’s time for us to make a promise – that we want the church to be around for our children, and their children, and people who will give their lives to Christ that we don’t know and never will know.

And that promise starts with us.

5 Things You Should Take Time to Do (And Not Do) on Christmas Day in 2016

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Christmas.  From the first of October till a week into January, we spend our time looking at Christmas trees, lights, decorations, and listening to the festive (and sometimes depressing) music.  The day arrives, finally, and due to the fact that we’ve spent so much time hyping it up, sometimes it can be a let down.  So let’s talk about some things you can do this year to make sure this year’s Christmas is the best Christmas ever.

1. Remember the REASON for the SEASON.  Yes, it’s cliche.  But the reason why many gather together for Christmas is because of the birth of Christ.  No, I don’t believe Jesus was born on December 25.  But yes, I do believe it is a great time to talk about Jesus, because so many in the world are seeing nativity scenes, listening to hymns, and are in a joyful mood.  Why not jump on this great opportunity to grow closer to Jesus this year?

2. Go to a worship service, or at least participate in worship on Sunday, Christmas Day, December 25.  Full disclosure, i’m a preacher, and I want people to come to the building at our church and worship God with their church family EVERY Sunday.  I love the connections that are made.  There’s no greater way to celebrate Christmas than to celebrate the birth, the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.

If you’re in the Tampa area, our congregation is moving our worship time to accommodate all the extra time you may need on Christmas morning to get out.  We understand that kids will want to play with their toys, you’ll want to try on your new outfits, and if you have family over, you’ll need an extra hour or so to get every one through the shower and feed them.  So we’ll move from 9am to 10:30am.  We also will not have classes, since we want to encourage togetherness with church family, and with with your family at home as well.

I also realize that sometimes, you may have a family member that refuses to go to church.  That’s okay – maybe instead of forcing them to go and making them feel guilty, you stay at home and spend some time in the Word of God, talking about Jesus. I have prepared a “Family Christmas Devotional Guide” for anyone in this situation.  Instead of making or forcing or guilting someone into going, stay at home with them and go over this with them.  While I think it is of the utmost importance to be in church every week for the encouragement and admonishment you give and receive, I think it is just as important to show Christ in any way possible to those who are either non – believers, or have left the church.

I’d love for you to 2016 CHRISTMAS FAMILY DEVOTIONAL GUIDE if you are in a situation like this, or if your family happens to be out of town snowed in at a cabin in the mountains.

3. Bless someone with a Random Act of Kindness.  Our family has a Christmas Elf that comes every year.  Her name is Chrissy (short for Christmas, which is what Josie named her many years ago).  Instead of causing mischief though, Chrissy has the tendency to encourage Josie to do kind things.  One year, she left notes for her to bake Christmas cookies and hand them to a few people, so her and Kristen made cookies and delivered them to the local fire station.  We also took them to a house down the street that had really cool Christmas lights, and we told them “You make our drive through the neighborhood so much more enjoyable.”

4. Do something completely selfless.  Last year, a group from church went to “Build-a-Bear” and each kid custom made a stuffed animal.  We then took all the kids over to a local hospital that one of our members works for, and took all the stuffed animals that the kids had just made, and gave them to the children’s section of the hospital.  Our kids knew what they were doing the whole time, and they took great pride in making things just right for the children they were going to get to bless.

5. Make a resolution not to fight or argue with anyone.  Listen, I get it, on holidays, your family gets together for the first time maybe in months (or years) and there’s a lot of excitement.  But sometimes, a discussion ends up turning toward a Facebook post you made a few weeks ago, or a cause you support, or a religious decision you or your church made that Uncle Ted doesn’t agree with.

Instead of bringing those things up, here’s another idea — DON’T!  I made the mistake of doing that not too long ago at a family gathering.  It led to a discussion, albeit civil, that could have either waited, or never been had at all.

Christmas day is not the day to bring up political, theological, or moral differences.  Instead spend the day encouraging, uplifting, and cheering people on in their life.  If someone in your family has made a poor choice in your mind, practice restraint, and if it’s really important to you to talk about it — give them a call later in the week.

So there you go – 5 great things to do (or not do) on Christmas day.  I pray that all of you will have a safe, happy Christmas and wonderful holiday season.

Crying Out for Help

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A few weeks ago, my family was dining out at the local mall food court.  I was enjoying a buffalo chicken sandwich, my wife was enjoying a salad from Chick Fil A, and my little gal was enjoying her usual chicken nuggets from Chick Fil A.

We were enjoying a conversation, talking about various things, when all of a sudden we heard a blood curdling scream.  We looked over, and we saw a little boy, probably around 3 years old, running around screaming for his mother.

Mommy!!!  Mommy!!!!

He weaved through all the food court tables, frantically searching for his mother.  He passed by us – I tried to get up to say something to him, but was moving so quickly looking for his mother.  Finally a lady was able to calm him down, grabbed his hand, and  they found the nearest mall worker, who radioed for security.

There was a moment of absolute chaos, followed by a buzz of insecurity from all who were witnessing the event.  It seemed as if everyone sat quiet for about 15 seconds, catching their breath.  At our table, we were on edge, shaken, and took a bit longer.

We took the opportunity to explain to Josie, if she ever got separated from us in a mall, how to find someone she could trust so we could find her.

It was a moment I hope I never have to experience again.

In the Psalms, we see another experience similar to this – in Psalm 130, David says:

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; 
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy. 
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand? 
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you. 
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption. 
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

David lived with a tremendous burden of guilt.  He had committed adultery, and he continued in his sin by trying to cover it up.

David, much like the child wandering around screaming for his mother, cried out for his Father.  He felt as if God had left him, as if God was no longer around.  But in this situation, God had not left him, but rather, David had left God.

David’s heart was broken.  His mind was racing.  And from the depths of his soul, he cried out for God.  David was reminded in the moment to calm down, and that God is a God of forgiveness, so long as you seek it with all your heart.

And like the little boy was desperately seeking for his mother, and found a way through kind hearted people, David found the way back to God – through his redemptive grace and mercy.

When you find yourself lost and alone – and feel like no one is there for you, remember that God is there.

Was it a Gun or Terrorism to Blame?

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Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.  In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.  And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering,  but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Genesis 4:2-8

Senseless, isn’t it?  The first recorded act of murder was not in self defense.  It was not in battle.  It was simply out of anger, out of jealousy.  Cain killed his brother, Abel, because Abel’s offering was more pleasing to the Lord.

It’s interesting that God gives Cain a warning.  He looked into the heart of Cain.  He knew there was anger inside of him.  And he tells him “Sin is crouching at your door.”

This is a feeling that Cain probably had not just at this moment.  Not many people go straight from 0 to 60 like that.  The problem was that he let it stew, let it fester, and it became a problem – a major problem.  So much so, that God sees Cain and says “Hey, you need to chill out.  So your offering wasn’t great today.  You didn’t give it your best.  But you’ve got this.  Keep on trying, do the right thing, and it will be accepted.”

Just as God has done for thousands of years, He offered Cain a way out.  He warned, he guided, he gave instruction — but the anger inside Cain was too much.  And in act of nothing but pure hate, he murdered his brother.

And there you have it, the first recorded murder in history.

Just one chapter earlier, this would not have happened.  There was no sin in the world.  There was no anger, no violence, no jealousy, no greed.  It was a perfect world.  But the moment that Satan convinced Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Satan gained a powerful edge, became the ruler of the world, and thrives on convincing man to hate man.  And it all began here, with Cain and Abel.

Sadly, even though God created this universe to be good, to be perfect, Satan was able to convince mankind to sin.  And because of that, Satan is considered to “rule the world.”  Ephesians 2:2 calls him the “prince of the power of the air.”  John 12:31 calls him the “ruler of this world.”

When we become Christians, we are no longer bound to this world.  We can choose to be, but Colossians 1:13 tells us that God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness.

But those who do not know God, are still ruled by the evil one.  I John 5:18, 19 tells us that if you are not born of God, you continue to sin, and that the world is under control of the evil one.

More than likely, a stone was the weapon of choice used by Cain when he murdered his brother.  We’re not sure, as the Scriptures do not tell us.  That’s not the important part.  It wasn’t the weapon that was used, it was the motive that God keyed in on during this passage.

God, instead, focused on the crime that was committed.  God provided justice for Abel by punishing Cain.  But God still wanted Cain to live, to survive, to have an opportunity to repent of what he had done.  And that’s what he did.

One of my best friends, and minister in Huntsville, AL – Jason Bybee – had this to say in his blog earlier this week.  You can read the post he wrote HERE.  But he reminds us that justice is for God to bring.  And that’s what we should pray for – that God would bring justice to those who caused harm like in the tragedy we saw in Orlando this past weekend.

You see, already, guns are being blamed for this violent act.  But guns are no more the problem than a stone in the fields when Cain murdered Abel.  The problem is that Satan rules the world.  And until the Lord returns and defeats Satan once and for all, Satan will continue to cause things like this to occur.

We should pray for the light of the Lord to cover all.  We should pray that God returns to take away evil forever and call us home to be with Him.  We should pray that God will hear the cry of his people, and ruin the acts of the radical terrorists that claim, cause, and thrive on acts of violence.

And we should pray that those who cause this violence will have a change of heart, that peace can be a part of their lives, because we are told by Jesus to pray for our enemies in Matthew 5:43-48.

Why did this act of terrorism occur this past weekend?  Same reason that Cain murdered his brother.  I John 3:12 tells us “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him?  Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.”

May God destroy evil soon.

An Ode to Mothers – Our Source of Strength

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In 2 Timothy 1:1-7, Paul gives us insight into the source of strength that Timothy, a servant of God, has to do what he does.

Paul mentions it was Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice, who inspired Timothy, who helped form his sincere faith, and lives on in him as he has become a servant and minister of the gospel.

We can’t ever underestimate the power of parents.  We can’t ever underestimate the role that parents play in our lives.  Whether it be negative or positive, your parents have made an impact on who you are.

Timothy happened to have two very strong women in his life that influenced him in a very positive way.

The Bible doesn’t say much about Timothy’s father.  This does not mean that Timothy’s father was a loser or a dead beat – but what we do know – Timothy’s faith was a result of the upbringing he had from his mother, and from his grandmother.  His father was a Greek, and it is implied in Acts 16 that he was not a believer.  Because of this, and because his mother was a Jew and a believer in Christ, she took on the responsibility of his Spiritual upbringing.

Mothers often are thrust into spiritual leadership roles, even though the Bible clearly asks the Fathers to do this.  However, there’s not always a father in the spiritual picture, is there?

I know there are mothers and fathers alike reading this today who feel they are doing this all alone, that you are the one that makes sure your children are at church, that you are the one that makes sure that the spiritual side of things is taken care of.  My heart goes out to those of you who fit this example.

But for those of you who are mothers doing this spiritual journey alone with your children – whether the father is no longer in the picture or the father just doesn’t care about church, or about God, or maybe just the father doesn’t see a need to be a part –  for whatever reason that the father is no longer in this spiritual picture, I want to commend you.  Please, know that you’re making a difference.  Know that you’re doing the right thing.  And know, that a faith like yours is the one who Paul calls out as being sincere, as genuine, and commendable.  

I was fortunate to have a father that loved his children, and took a very active, spiritual leadership role in the family.  But that doesn’t mean my mother didn’t do her part.

I was the baby, the last of 3 children, and my mamma means everything to me.  My earliest memories are of being with my mamma.  At night, I remember she would lay down on that old scratchy couch we had, and I’d immediately go over to her and ask if I could lay down with her.  We’d curl up on that scratchy couch together till I fell asleep.  I was, indeed, a mamma’s boy.  And there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

Mamma did everything she could to help the family.  She stayed at home with the kids as a homemaker until I was in 7th grade.  But you see, that was what she wanted to do — she wanted to be a full time mother.  And to prove that, she majored in home economics in college.  For those of you don’t understand what that means – it basically means she majored in wanting to be a full time mother.  Taking classes on cooking, sewing, and other things.

Today, there are great resources a mother can turn to, but social media conglomerates like Pinterest have nothing on the skills my mother possessed.

If you needed something sewn, mamma was the lady to do it.  I had many outfits that she sewed, some specifically for me, most specifically for my older brother, and I’m fairly confident that I may have worn an outfit or two that was sewn specifically for my sister, since my folks tried to make sure they were good stewards of what they had been blessed with.

She didn’t just sew our outfits, though.  I remember her sewing dresses, for weddings, for banquets, and for other various events.  She had a skill unlike any other when it came to sewing.

But that wasn’t her greatest talent – not by a long shot.  Her greatest skill was cooking.  She could take a refrigerator full of leftovers, and make you think she was cooking a brand new feast planned specifically for that day.

A few of her meals that I remember vividly, so much so that I can still taste them to this day, were items like her fried chicken, her made from scratch biscuits, and her homemade lasagna.

My favorite meals she cooked though were her Sunday lunches, and most often it was Roast Beef, with mashed taters and gravy, carrots, and maybe some of her sour dough bread.  This was a real treat, after having been at church for a few hours, coming home, and smelling the roast that had been slow cooking for several hours.

Of course there were a few items she made that I didn’t care for, such as her fried Salmon patties, but for the most part, I enjoyed what she made.

One of the things I admired most about my mamma as I was growing up, was how she truly loved my father.  You could tell she was smitten.  She walked side by side with him, supported him every step of the way, and helped in whatever way possible.

I never once heard her complain about lacking something.  She never complained about having to shop at the discount stores, or having to buy our bread from the day old bread store.  She never complained about him having to put in extra hours at the school, where often he had to attend sporting events, drive the bus, or a ton of other things he had to do.  She supported him through all of that.

This is a picture that is painted in Scripture.  In Ephesians 5:21, we are told to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Specifically Paul goes on to lay some guidelines out for this to work best.

In verse 22, he tells the wives to submit to the husband as they do to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife, the family, as Jesus is the head of the church.  And as the church is to humbly submit to Jesus, so too should wives submit to their husbands in everything.

Men, husbands, sons, — understand something here.  This only works when you do what Paul tells you to do:  love your wives just like Jesus loves the church.  How much did Jesus love the church?  Well, he died for it.  

It goes on to say that we should present our wives, the mother of your children, as Jesus presents us, his sheep, to His Father in Heaven — Radiant.  Without stain or wrinkle.  Without blemish.  Holy.  In the same way Jesus does that for us, we as husbands are to do for our wives.

That’s why it worked with mom and dad.  My daddy loved mamma more than life itself.  He built her up.  He made her spotless.

Husbands, sons, fathers — we have a responsibility to help make the women in our lives great.  We have a responsibility to help them, to walk in hand in hand with them, to support them, and encourage them.

I would be missing a great opportunity here today if I didn’t mention Proverbs 31 – the famous “virtuous woman” chapter in the old testament.

However, I want to look at it a bit differently.  Recently, I read an article in a ministry journal that talked about mistakes made in a church service on Mother’s Day, and one of those was the misuse of scriptures such as Proverbs 31.

The article states that too often, we use Proverbs 31 as detailing what the ideal woman looks like in God’s eyes.  That being a wife, and being a mother, is the “blueprint for true biblical femininity.”

And while Proverbs 31 does talk about a great, virtuous woman – it does not mean a woman must be a wife or a mother to be the exemplary woman for God.  It’s simply not true.

The article then goes on to point you to a woman in Scripture that fits that description – a woman by the name of Ruth.  A woman who was by all practical purposes, not the Proverbs 31 lady.  For a large portion of her account in scripture, she is neither a wife nor a mother.

She is a hard worker, but she did not make clothes for her husband, because he had passed on. Her children did not rise up and call her blessed as it states at the end of the chapter, because she didn’t have any.  She didn’t spend her time shopping for fine linens, or keeping her house tidy, but instead, she spent time working hard, in the sun, in someone else’s field, and ate the remnants.  She was poor.

Yes, Ruth does go on to remarry, and to have a family of her own, but I love what Boaz, her eventual husband, says in Ruth 3:11 — he says “All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.”  This is before she is married and before she is a mother.

The author stated that Ruth is identified as a woman of valor, not because of a check list from Proverbs 31, not by getting married, keeping a clean house, and producing children, but because she lived her life with bravery, wisdom, and strength.  So ladies, don’t feel like the only way to be a virtuous woman in the eyes of God is to look for a husband and have lots of kids.   There are many women in the Bible you can look to in order to find women of fine character.

In fact, I know there are people reading whose mothers have passed on.  I know it hurts.  I know its hard.  I know that physical relationship is gone.  You can no longer call them, text them, drop by and visit with them.  

But you need to know something — there are women you know who want to help fill that void.  There are women you probably know, some who never had children, some whose children have moved away, some whose children don’t ever call or visit, who would love to bring you into their fold.  To walk with you on this journey.  To be that mother figure to you.

I know, it’s not the same – but it’s not supposed to be the same.  No one can ever replace your mother, but you can allow someone to be motherly to you.

I love my mother – and I know that there is a very special woman in your family, whether now or in the past, whether by blood, by adoption, by inclusion, that you consider your mother.

I’m blessed not only with a mother in Nashville, TN, but I’m blessed with a wonderful wife who just happens to be an amazing mother as well.  I adore watching how my wife is so patient and loving with our little girl.  I’m confident my daughter is in great hands with my tremendous and talented wife as her mother.

Jesus had a very special mother as well — Jesus loved her dearly.  He even made sure that someone would take care of her after he had been crucified.  

But as much as Jesus loved his mother, he tells us something that we have to remember — in Matthew 12:46, Jesus is speaking to a crowd.

During this time, his mother, and his brothers, were waiting to talk to Jesus.  A person in the crowd came up to Jesus, and said “Hey, Jesus, your mom and your brother are over there and they’re waiting to talk to you.”

Jesus at this point looked at the person and said “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?”  He then pointed at his disciples and said “Here are my mother and my brothers.  Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus loved his physical family — but Jesus knew that the body of Christ was important as well.  And emphasized that we all need to follow the Father, God.

This isn’t the only time Jesus does something like this.  A few chapters earlier in Matthew 10:32, Jesus says that whoever acknowledges Him before men, he will acknowledge before his Father in Heaven.  Shortly after that, he emphasizes this by demonstrating how much more important it is that we love God, even over our own mothers and fathers.  He says in verse 37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

In reality – as much as we love our mothers — we need to love God more.  And in reality – mothers, as much as you love your children, your family — you must love God more.

I’m convinced that a mother who loves God rejoices when her child loves God more than they love her.  A mother who loves God desires for her children to place God above her.

For those of you who just went to church today to honor your mother, know that what your mother wants more than anything is for you to know God, to love God, and to be HIS child.

Because that’s scripture.  That’s what Jesus wanted.  I am no longer a child of Elaine Widick of Lebanon, TN.  I am a child of God.  And I am now her brother instead.  And together we are co-heirs of what God has promised.

Ralph Arnold

in memory

I first met Ralph when I went to interview for the job of Associate and Worship Minister at the West University Church of Christ in Houston, TX.  I immediately knew he was going to be a guy I would love.

After my wife and I went down to interview, we had one more interview and visit scheduled to a church near Oklahoma City.  We were shocked when the Monday after we returned home, we had gotten an email from Ralph, offering us a job.

I told him about our other interview we had lined up.  He immediately emailed me a contract, laid some things out for me to consider, and then told me this (a direct quote from the email he sent me on February 19, 2009):

“We know your family will be a great addition to our West U Family and we look forward to your coming at the earliest possible date.  We would be grateful for your acceptance of our offer within the next day or two.  There is no need for you to visit the ‘other church’.”

Ralph was a man of few words, but when he spoke, you listened.  He had a wealth of knowledge, life experience, and taught me so very much.

One of the joys of being in ministry is that you get to work with lots of different people.  I can say this without any doubt – Ralph Arnold was the best Elder of the Lord’s Church I ever worked for.  He was patient, he was kind, he was encouraging, he was direct, but above all He love God and He loved the church.

Behind Ralph was one of the most supportive of all ladies.  Beverly, also known as “Miss Daisy,” was always there by Ralph’s side, encouraging, loving, and supporting just like him.  You’re a rock star, Miss Daisy.

Ralph fought a few battles over the past few years with illness, and he was finally granted His eternal reward the other day.  Ralph Arnold, the world needs more people like you.  I could always call you, email you, visit with you.  You steered and guided this young minister in the way he needed to go.  You taught me much.  Since I was so far away from my father while I was in Houston, I considered you my “Adopted dad.”

Not sure they have a Corelli’s Italian Restaurant in Heaven, but I’m sure you’ll be visiting. Thanks for the lunches and dinners, the visits at the office, the constant encouragement and positive thoughts.  Ralph – you will be missed.

(Update – from my wife, Kristen – on her favorite Ralph memory):

My favorite Ralph memory (other than our visits to eat Italian food at Corelli’s, of course) is when Lane was on a mission trip to China and while he was gone, our refrigerator broke. I was 16 hours away from any of our family and home alone with our 18 month old little girl. So, I called my “family” away from family: Ralph & Beverly. You stayed home to watch Josie for me and Ralph went with me to Home Depot to pick out and buy a new refrigerator. I know that neither of you thought much of it, but that act of kindness meant the world to me at a time when I felt alone and helpless.
He leaves behind a legacy of kindness, respect and a true example of what it means to love God and serve Him.
Praying for you and your family. I know you will miss him.

Twas Almost the End of Christmas…13 Years ago…

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13 years ago, on December 25, 2002, these two love birds got engaged.  Look how young we were!!

We were wrapping up spending time with my family.  The day was getting later and later.  I had plans, but they were going to happen at Kristen’s parent’s house in Hartselle, AL.

And we still had to do Christmas there.

We rushed out of my family’s house – Kristen not having a clue as to why we were rushing.  No one did.

We got to her parent’s house late, and I was anxious.  I couldn’t tell you one thing that anyone got that year.  Except for one thing I gave.

After “family” Christmas, Kristen and I went up to her room to exchange gifts alone.  With just a little bit of time before Christmas day was over, I got down on one knee and asked her the most important question I’ve ever asked anyone – “Kristen, will you marry me?”

If you’re wondering, she said yes.

She said yes.

To this day, it gives me chills…in a good way.  To know that this awesome lady, this God-fearing, beautiful, loving woman said yes, makes me feel like the luckiest man in the entire world.

Christmas has always been special, but since that night, it’s been even more special.

 

May God bless you all on this most special of days.

Do You Hear the People Sing?

For victims of the heinous crimes against humanity, not just in Paris, but all over the world – where people are being killed for their beliefs, where innocent people are murdered for an evil cause by very evil men.

Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?

Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free!!

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people

Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Will you give all you can give
So that our banner may advance
Some will fall and some will live
Will you stand up and take your chance?
The blood of the martyrs
Will water the meadows of France!

Another Football Season: Roll Tide, War Eagle, and Other Such Nonsense

go-sports

Well, it’s that time again.

Time to sit and watch hours upon hours of football.  Grab the chips and salsa.  Grab the cooler.  Grab the wings.

And sadly, in these days, time to grab your smartphone, click on your social media app, and give everyone a play by play of how your team is doing.  If things are going your way, you rub it in everyone’s newsfeed.  If your team is doing terrible, you’re mysteriously silent.  If your team catches up, it’s the greatest comeback in the history of anything.

Football + Social media tends to make harmless, normal, loving people into obnoxious jerks.

We all seem to think our team is the best.  And the other team is the worst.

We all become experts on all things football.

And we all become like Weird Al in his “Sports Song” (by the way, I don’t condone the use of the word “sucks” but the rest of the video is hilarious).  Watch the video below, and then continue reading:

Each year, I make a formal proclamation at the beginning of the football season on my Facebook page.

See, I am what’s known as an Alabama fan.  And I’m a recovering fan-a-holic.

The past few years, I’ve made this statement on my page:

“Football season is here. I love watching college and the pros. As I have done for the past few years I am vowing not to make any Crimson Tide comments throughout the year. While many college football comments are harmless – often times people get carried away on social media and end up insulting others with their comments. So until the last snap of the year – Roll Tide! Go SEC!!”

 We need to be careful how we come across in our fanaticism.  I love being an Alabama fan.  I’m a Yankees fan.  I’m a Titans fan.  I love my “sports teams” and think they’re the greatest.  But we just need to remember how we come across as we’re posting our comments.
Love your team, but love others.
Danger!

What We Can Learn from the Duggar Family Today

Danger!

My wife and I used to enjoy sitting down each week to watch the Duggar Family on their TLC show, 19 Kids and Counting.  Being a Christian family, we were thrilled to see that a good, wholesome, decent family with good morals was finally being portrayed on television.  It was so refreshing.  We watched the kids grow up like many of you did on television.

I was heartbroken to find out about the molestation charges on Josh Duggar, the oldest of the children.  The family did, in fact, admit that they had gone through a tough time, and that Josh had indeed molested several children.  There were many opinions, many thoughts, and many disagreements had by many people about the situation.

His wife forgave him.  She knew about it going into the marriage.  The family stood firm on how they handled it.  Would I have done things differently if it were my son?  Honestly – I don’t know how I would handle it.  But I can’t put myself in their shoes.  What a horrible thing to go through.

The Duggar family lost their show over a mistake their son made.  Pressure mounted on TLC to drop the show completely, and they did.

Fast forward to today.

A few days ago, hackers claimed they had hacked the Ashley Madison website.  This is an online site for people looking to have affairs (atrocious as it may sound) in a private, discreet way.  The hackers didn’t get what they wanted from the site, so they released information that is bound to destroy many, many families.

Last night, I saw that Josh Duggar’s name had popped up in the list.  All I could think of was “My goodness, someone logged in under Josh’s name so that he might one day get in trouble and they could smear the Duggar name.”  Then, I saw that the name was attached to Josh’s credit card, and his addresses in a previous and current home.

Even today, as I saw an article about it – I didn’t want to believe it.

But then, he admitted this afternoon that he had indeed been unfaithful to his wife, and was addicted to pornography.  Molestation charges, and now this.

A great family, one that has strong core beliefs, taken down again because of the mistakes of this young man.

So what are my thoughts?  I have several on this tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes.  Here are just a few:

  1. The internet is a wonderful tool, but when used the wrong way can destroy lives.  Sadly, the Duggar family is now a victim of the misuse of the internet.  There are so many sites out there in cyberspace that want nothing more than to prey on you.  They want to lure you in – to hack your computer, to steal your information, to steal your bank account, to get you involved in an inappropriate relationship.  While it’s great to be able to shop online, it’s far too easy to shop for the wrong thing.

  2. The internet is not safe.  You MUST take precautions to keep your family safe from the web.  Many people think an antivirus program is all they need.  However, filters need to be used, as well as communicating with your family about what’s out there in the internet world.   I was showing my wife the other night a music video to a popular song by a popular artist in which there are two versions – a rated and unrated version.  Any child can type in the name of this song, click on the unrated version, and see two popular music artists ogling topless women parading around.  It’s just that easy.  If you trust your children, that’s not enough – because a lot of time innocent searching can lead to terrible things.

  3. Don’t be absorbed.  The internet, your laptops, your smartphones, your tablets – can suck you in and not let go.  Click on this, go here, search here, and before you know it you’ve spent 3-4 hours on Facebook.  You see a link to a place that links to this place or that place – and you wind up seeing an advertisement for love, for intimacy, for something you’re searching for.  Get off your phones, give your thumb a break from scrolling through Facebook, and have a relationship with your family and friends, not a piece of technology.  I know people who spend more time on Facebook than they do anything else during the day.  Perhaps it is time to take a Facebook/Internet sabbatical if it’s absorbing all of your time.

  4. Communicate.  Sites like Ashley Madison, along with many other sites – prey on those who are seeking something they are not getting in their own relationships.  It might be something simple like conversation, or it could involve sexual intimacy.  If you are not getting something you are wanting out of your marriage – COMMUNICATE!  If sex isn’t occurring as frequent as you’d like – COMMUNICATE!  If you’re uncomfortable with something in the bedroom – COMMUNICATE!  You can not over-communicate in your marriage. Many extra-marital affairs occur because a husband or a wife is not providing something in the relationship.  Instead of thinking you can only get that something somewhere else – COMMUNICATE!

  5. It’s easy to judge from afar – but don’t.  I have tried my best in this post to steer clear of judging the Duggar family, but instead tried to look at what caused the most recent problem in the first place.  Sin is real, the struggle of pornography is real, the desire to run around and have fun is real for so many people.  I would dare say that most of us would not want our dirty laundry popping up on what’s trending on Twitter.  Instead of judging them, or anyone else – pray for them.  Pray that your family will avoid these kinds of situations.  Pray that you can be a light in a dark world.  Pray that Satan’s dart won’t pierce us all.

 

Bottom line – there is now a very broken family, a young man who will pay for his mistakes, a wife who is very much so heartbroken and shell-shocked, 4 young children who will always know the mistake their father made, a mother and father who are now wondering where they went wrong – ALL because of this mistake.

Temptation is one of the strongest things in the world.  May God give us all the power to look it eye to eye and say no.