Going to the Mountain

Living in the mountains is in my limited estimation a little glimpse of Heaven! One of my greatest joys in life is hiking, especially the AT, and immersing myself step-by-step in the sustaining handiwork of God as I journey to waterfalls, vista points, cliffs, or just singing along the trail.

Two weeks ago, I had the immense privilege of hiking with a dear friend on the AT in Spivey Gap, near Erwin, TN. What made this hike so special was the week of snowfall prior to our hike. Trudging upward to High Rocks was difficult in the measurable snow of six inches to two feet. Arriving early in the morning, the cloud cover gave way to a beautiful sunny sky which caused the snow to sparkle like a jewelry store. Animal tracks were in abundance as was the partially covered footprints of a hiker from the previous day.

Of all the glorious things I experienced on this hike, what touched me the most was the serene stillness all around us. My friend and I were the only ones on the trail. Several times I would stop to just listen to the quiet and commune with my Lord in silent prayer.

Speaking of prayer, do you do all the talking? Is your prayer life consumed with petitions only. When’s the last time you just knelt or sat in the presence of your Heavenly Father listening to Him commune with your heart in the stillness?

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. While reading this passage this morning from Luke 9:28-29, I came across a rich commentary by Alexander MacLaren that speaks of prayer in a way that I am afraid is foreign to so many, of which I long for as well.

Prayer is more than petitions. It is not necessarily cast into words at all. In its widest, which is its truest sense, it is the attitude and exercise of devout contemplation of God and intercourse in heart, mind, and will with Him, a communion which unites aspiration and attainment, longing and fruition, asking and receiving, seeking and finding, a communion which often finds itself beggared for words, and sometimes even seems to transcend thought. How different is such an hour of rapt communion with the living God from the miserable notions which so many professing Christians have of prayer, as if it were but spoken requests, more or less fervent and sincere, for things that they want! The noblest communion of a soul with God can never be free from the consciousness of need and dependence. Petition must ever be an element in it, but supplication is only a corner of prayer. Such conscious converse with God is the very atmosphere in which the Christian soul should always live, and if it be an experience altogether strange to us we had better ask ourselves whether we yet know the realities of the Christian life, or have any claim to the name. ‘Truly, our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ,’ and if we have no share in that fellowship we do not belong to the class of whom it is the mark and possession. (MacLaren’s Expositions)

Just as the freshly fallen snow had blanketed the mountains with a calming stillness, may you be transfigured by simply moving from the “corner of prayer” petitions to the quiet contemplations of the vast vistas of our omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, holy, loving, merciful, gracious Heavenly Father!

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

We Are Where We Are

For a year or more, our world has been and continues to be consumed with COVID-19. It has rearranged our lives in so many ways in bringing fear, death, sorrow, loss, anger, masks, division, criticism, long lines, solitary living, confinement, quarantine, etc.

COVID as a word has probably been used more than any other word in our vocabulary. Somehow, some way it always finds a place of mention or domination in our conversations.

When you consider the baggage of COVID as mentioned in the previous paragraphs, look around you. We are where we are today because our minds and lives have been consumed with a topic of death, despair, division, and dread in every area of life.

Where are you today? Are you dwelling on the aforementioned “D‘s” of COVID or the life, hope, unity and joyful expectation found only a personal relationship with God the Father through the cross work and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 10:10; 14:1-6; 15:1-11; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Peter 1:3-6; 1 John 5:11-13) ?

No matter what you have endured through this pandemic, may I encourage you to look to Psalms 42-43? Read these words over to yourself quietly and out loud; meditate on what you are reading; then pray through the passage. If you have such darkness pervading you that you want to run away to fleshly, worldly, sinful temptations, let Peter’s response to Christ be your response. After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (John 6:66-68).

You are where you are based upon where or to whom you have turned. Will you turn to Him Who has the words of eternal life? Cast all your care on Him (1 Peter 5:6-7, 10).

No matter what COVID brings, Christ is always the answer. Be found in Him.

He’s where you are . . . waiting on you to turn to Him.

For Cryin’ Out Loud!

Well, I did it again!! Third time!

First time, I totally destroyed it.

Second time, I broke off a piece but was able to glue it back on.

Third time, well, look at the picture above!

When it happened last week, my wife was standing in the garage watching me. She threw her hands into her face and wildly gestured that I was about to hit the side of the garage door frame, but . . . it was too late! Me, well, I was absolutely frustrated and seeing dollar signs! And in Cunningham fashion repeating to myself, “Dear, oh, dear!!”

Bless her heart, when she got in the passenger side of her Jeep, she simply said, “It’s just stuff.”

There are so many applications to this story.

  1. In eternity, it will not matter. Yes, I need to be a good steward of what the Lord has entrusted to me such as a vehicle because it belongs to Him . . and it is my wife’s Jeep! But it is just stuff that I will leave behind someday. So why get so uptight about it (Revelation 21:1-7).
  2. Once again, the frail condition of man was on display. As for man, his days are like grass, as a flower of the field, so he flourishes (Psalm 103:15).
  3. Plastic does not compare to metal. So much of this world’s things or desires are plastic and hold no value or longevity. 1 John 2:17 reminds us that the world is passing away along with its desires.
  4. Just as the mirror shattered, so does some of the things in this life. As I read this morning, Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever (Psalm 125:1).
  5. Getting old along with failing eye sight are reminders of a better day when Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).
  6. Everyday is a reminder of our total dependence upon God for wisdom, strength, endurance, and supply. I am weak. The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him (Psalm 28:7).
  7. Here’s another time to preach the Truth to myself and not listen to myself.
  8. I am not in control of anything! Even my driving. Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor (Proverbs 18:12).

Although I do not drive my wife’s Jeep very often, and now you know why (hahaha), every time I look in that mirror, I’ll want to say, “For cryin’ out loud,” but I will be reminded of one or more of the lessons of life as listened above.

Might as well go ahead and enjoy the journey. We are not Home yet!

Huh?

Communication!  Wow!  For 5 1/2 years this has been more of a challenge than it has ever been in our marriage.  Why?  Because of my hearing.  Now, I am guilty at times of the “selective hearing syndrome” that we men seem to contract in older years.  In all seriousness, my hearing is declining hampered in my left ear especially, and with my wife’s soft voice, . . . oh, brother!

One of most needed areas of constant attention in a marriage is communication.  How interesting that I make a living talking, yet the lack of communication has been such a struggle for me in our marriage.  I can talk the “hind legs off of a mule” but struggle to interact consistently with my precious wife.  So, in a transparent fashion, I hope to help us in a crucial area of marriage.

Why do we as men need to take time, to make the effort to listen, to talk, and to thoroughly communicate with our wife?

 1.  Our wives need the security of our listening ear.

They want to know that what matters to them matters to us.  They want to know that they are more important than Joe at work, Josh Heupel in his orange and white, and Michaels and Collingsworth on Sunday night!   For many wives, if they are moms at home with little ones, all they have had all day is communication on a three and/or five year olds level.  They need adult interaction when the hubs gets home without his iPhone, iPad and other distractions.

  • Ephesians 5:23 – God intends for the man to be the head, the leader in the home. Wives find security in our loving, servant leadership.  One of the greatest ways you can serve your wife in a Christlike fashion is to talk and listen to her.  Doesn’t Christ always listen to us?

 2.  Our wives want to know what we are thinking because they love us and intimacy is very dear to them.

  • 1 Peter 3:7 – We will begin to understand our wives when we open up to them because they will feel free to share their heart since you have been open, honest and transparent with them.

 

3.  Our wives need to hear communication that glorifies God.

  • 1 Corinthians 10:31 – or whatsoever you do includes our communication with our spouse.
  • Ephesians 4:25 – Our wife is our neighbor and we are members one of another if we are born again believers.
  • Ephesians 4:29 – Good, grace-filled communication that edifies the hearer glorifies God.

Please do me a favor.  Don’t make excuses or think my comments are one-sided.  I realize it takes two to make a marriage, but the point of it all is, God expects us to lead and live with our wives as loving, serving leaders.  Begin by simply taking 10-15 minutes-a-day to look at each other, no distractions, and listen to each other; talk to each other.  By the way, remember when you were dating?  Both of you would hang onto every word . . . even when you didn’t have anything to say on the phone, you just loved to hear each other breathe!!!  🙂

Get honest on your knees before God.  Ask Him to give you strength, ears to hear, words to say, a humble spirit and a passion to glorify God.

I reckon I’d better turn up my hearing aids!! 🙂

Men and Women Text Differently – Tim Hawkins brings some humor to it all.  Enjoy this short video. K?

Lighten Up!

When’s the last time you and your spouse just had a good ol’ belly laugh? Perhaps you even cried you laughed so hard!

With all the stuff that we have come through in 2020 and continue to do so, laughter is hard to find.

I remember as a boy sitting around the supper table after church on Sunday night hearing preachers, missionaries, church members, etc., telling jokes and stories which were accompanied with many moments of boisterous laughter! Nowadays you tell a joke and somebody’s gonna get offended.

I’m not discounting the seriousness of COVID, but with the masks and the accompanying fear, few people are having a good time, laughing, smiling, and enjoying life.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. (Proverbs 15:13)

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

So, with that said, have you and your spouse been laughing lately? You know, it might be that your marriage is drying up (Prov. 17:22) because you have forgotten how to have fun; you’ve been too serious; you’ve just let 2020 get you in the heart!

Well, let’s fix that!

  • What did you do when you were dating that you might consider to be silly now? How ’bout rolling back the clock and do it again! Only you can decide what that is.
  • Watch a funny, wholesome movie or an episode of the Andy Griffith Show or the Tim Conway dentist routine on YouTube.
  • Pour water on your spouse while they are in the shower. Just be ready for the payback.
  • Go on a light-hearted date and stop by a card rack at a card shop or grocery store and read funny cards to each other!
  • Head on over to the ice cream store, local bakery, or restaurant. Each of you inconspicuously, of course, point out a couple nearby and make up a story about them by what you see. Have fun with it . . . just between the two of you. By the way, folks over the years have probably said some things about you! 🙂

One of the reasons I have loved the preaching of Chuck Swindoll over the years is his infectious laughter. In his book, Laugh Again, Hope Again, he says, Isn’t God the one who urges us to “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord”? Why do we always think that means singing? Seems to me the most obvious joyful sound on earth is laughter… I’ve seen folks quote verses like “Rejoice in the Lord always” while their faces look like they just buried a rich uncle who willed everything to his pregnant guinea pig. Something is missing. Can’t you just hear him laughing?!?!

Image result for love is laughter

So, this week as we head into Valentine’s Day, how about taking a cue from Ken Davis’ radio program and “Lighten’ Up!” Have at it! It’s time! I’m sure your marriage could use a good dose of laughter meds!

Simply from a pastor’s heart!

Keepin’ It Fresh!

My wife and I love to take scenic drives through the country.  While often pointing to beautiful farms, well-kept houses and lawns, and the continual mountainous scenes around us, we are also greeted with run down houses covered over with vines and bushes as well as dilapidated stores that once held a consistent, thriving business.  How does a house that was once new become an unpainted relic of the past?  One of the reasons is simple neglect.  Take several days of neglect, add them together, and the house is in disrepair.  In some cases, it is no longer inhabited.

Image result for rundown house mountains free images

This reminds me of marriage.  Marriage cannot run on auto-pilot.  Every day, you must work at keeping your marriage fresh and up-to-date.  Neglect is like a vine that grows up around a house that eventually takes over.  Here are some simple daily maintenance tips to help your marriage stay fresh:

  • Say “I love you” often throughout each day and look at each other in the eye when you do.
  • Hold hands. Touch is invaluable.
  • Kiss often and linger every once in awhile.
  • Have prayer together before you leave for work in the morning and at night before drifting off to sleep.
  • Send a love note text during the day.
  • Be ready to meet each other at the end of the day; come home ready to make a connection mentally, emotionally, and physically.
  • Spend time together for 10-15 minutes sitting on the back porch after the kids go to bed.
  • Talk to each other; have much more than an adult/child conversation.

Don’t let your marriage look like a run down, uninhabited house!  Remember, that house did not get that way overnight!  Do your maintenance work today! Celebrating Valentine’s Day will be much sweeter, too! Enjoy!!

Antichrists in the Church

Image result for church

What? No way!

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but antichrists exist in every Bible preaching church.

Last night in our small group, we studied 1 John 2:18-27, and I will be preaching from this passage on Sunday. John writes the following, Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour (2:18).

The word antichrist means “against Christ” and is seen by opposing Christ and replacing Christ. Satan, who will be the engine behind the future Antichrist (Revelation 13:1-8), hates Christ, constantly opposes Christ and the body of Christ both individually and corporately. Furthermore, Satan tempts us as believers to replace the preeminence of Christ in all areas of our life with anything of a temporal nature or philosophy, even things that may be good.

So how do antichrists show up in local churches?

  • When repentance and confession of sin has been exchanged for making the congregation comfortable, then the holiness of Christ has been replaced and opposed by fleshly, carnal, proud living. (1 Peter 1:13-16)
  • When programs of the church mean more to the congregation than exalting Christ and personal discipleship, then He is opposed and replaced. (Colossians 1:18) Programs do not change people; Christ does.
  • When church members think that ministry is to done by the “hired staff” because “that’s what we pay them to do,” then genuine gospel ministry has been opposed rather than expanded. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
  • When sports takes the high seat of choice by church members, then Christ has been replaced by temporal goals that amount to nothing in eternity. (Matthew 6:33)
  • When church members criticize the leadership and gossip behind their backs, they are opposing Christ and doing the work of antichrist by their corrupt speech as they seek to gain a following. (Ephesians 4:29, 31)
  • When prayer gatherings are poorly attended, the gospel ministry is being opposed and replaced because prayer is the power behind all ministry. (Matthew 21:13; Acts 4-6)
  • When a consumeristic attitude of felt needs is the determiner of what church to attend, then Christ is being opposed and replaced by human standards and “following your heart.” (Philippians 2:1-11)
  • When the family is more important than Christ, He is opposed and replaced with the attitude that “family is the most important thing.” (Luke 14:26)
  • When staying home and watching the morning service online, because it’s more comfortable, becomes the norm, then Christ is opposed and replaced because He commands us (His Body) to gather and all the more as we see the day of His return drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25).
  • When music and entertainment takes the place of the preeminence of preaching, Christ, the Word (John 1:1) is opposed and replaced.

Friends, the Church is Christ. We are His body (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12; 5:23) joined to Him in salvation (Ephesians 4:15-16). Christ is the Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:22-23) and is to be the preeminent One in the Church (Colossians 1:15-18). Therefore, if Christ is not the issue, the goal, the motive, the heart, the reason, the life and the head of the Church, then the spirit of antichrist is at work opposing and replacing Christ.

May we exalt Christ by being Word-filled (2 Timothy 3:16-17), Holy Spirit empowered (Ephesians 5:18), God glorifying (1 Corinthians 10:31), discipleship minded (Matthew 28:19-20) believers who long to make much of Christ (Philippians 1:21) and nothing of ourselves (John 3:30).

Be careful, antichrist may be in the pew or chair behind you next Sunday, or he may even walk in with you. Let’s reject the spirit of antichrists and be all out for Christ!!

Prayer Warriors!!

This was one of the best moments of Men’s Prayer Advance 2021.

After our first session on Saturday morning, I went out to my car and upon returning to the church building and entering the foyer, this is what I saw.

What’s so awesome about this picture?

  1. Men praying!!! Jesus said, Men ought always to pray and not to faint (Luke 18:1). How grateful I am for women who pray like portrayed by Clara in the movie War Room, but the leaders of prayer in every church should be the men. Charles Stanley puts it this way, Always remember that God is bigger than any problem you face, and the distance between your success and failure or your victory and defeat is the distance between your knees and the floor as you kneel before your wondrous Lord and Savior in surrendered prayer. You are never taller or stronger than while on your knees!
  2. This is the will of God for men. We read in 1 Timothy 2:8, I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling. We are commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you
  3. This is what real men of God do. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another . . . . The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16).
  4. This is a demonstration of humility; of dependence upon God. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:5-7).
  5. This is spontaneous, “let’s take it to the Lord in prayer.” There was a burden, a need, and one of these men took the initiative to lead these men to prayer. It didn’t matter what was going on around them, they went to the Throne of Grace. Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18). Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
  6. This is an awesome display of the unity of the brethren (Psalm 133:1). Paul encouraged the men in the church at Rome, I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf (Romans 15:30).

Men, may I encourage you to be the prayer leaders in your family, your church, and wherever you go? When your wife has a need, stop and pray with her. When your children come to you asking for wisdom, teach them by your example to seek the Lord’s wisdom through prayer. When you hear of a need at church, gather some men together like this picture and pray. Instead of talking about the politics, perils and problems of the world in conversations at church, pray! Before you pray for your meal at the restaurant, ask your server how you can pray for them.

Men, today, let’s be a warrior on our knees; a real man of faith and prayer!! Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3)

When a man is at his wits’ end, it is not a cowardly thing to pray; it is the only way he can get in touch with Reality. (Oswald Chambers)

Men, Advance!!

Three days of . . .

  • powerful, practical preaching,
    • effectual, fervent prayer,
      • joy-filled, uplifted singing from the heart,
        • penetrating conviction of the Holy Spirit,
          • intentional exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
            • heaven-like reunion fellowship

. . . that’s Men’s Prayer Advance 2021!!

And it’s been that way every year as far back as I can remember. My first Advance was way up in the mountains of northern Virginia. You basically went to the end of world and made a right turn. Tucked back in those hills was a place for men to gather and meet with God. In more recent days, we have met at different locations around the Roanoke, VA, area, but God still meets with us in glorious power as we meet with Him!

I have always loved the title of this event . . . Prayer Advance. As a man, we need times of retreating for rest and regathering, but when it comes to prayer, we must be advancing and advancing and advancing! When you consider the absolute, transcendent, magnificence of our God of Whom it was said, For with God nothing will be impossible (Luke 1:37) and Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him (1 John 5:14-15), the call to prayer is one of advancement!!

Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” Satan and your flesh will do anything to keep you from praying, especially prayer that is as Harold Vaughan challenged us, “confident, faith-filled praying that reaches up and cries out to God” (1 John 5:14-15; Psalms 3:4; 5:1; 18:6; 30:2,8; 34:6; 72:1; 88:11,13; 102:1; 107:6,13; 120:1;138:3;142:1).

Men, every time you pray, you are calling God in on your situation; you are moving into kingdom work; you are dwelling in the arms of all-sufficient grace and omnipotence; you are trusting in the One Who is omniscient and omnipresent; you are crying out to the One Who is holy, righteous, and perfect in all His ways, Who loves you with an everlasting love because of your position in Christ. (If you need illumination along these lines, spend time reading and praying Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:15-23 and 3:14-21 after meditating on Ephesians 1:1-14 and the Psalms passage listed above.)

Begin your time with the Lord, unrushed, by praising Him for Who He is and thanking Him for what He has done (Psalm 100:4). As we were reminded this week, let’s move away from problem-based praying to Christ-exalted prayer that believes what God can do over what man attempts to do.

I’ll be sharing more this week about Prayer Advance. In the meantime, men, let’s make advancements today on our knees before the Throne of Grace!!

Travailing, Prevailing Prayer

“It may seem ‘unnecessary’ to get on your knees for multiple hours each and every day, but, may I remind you that unless someone rises up and says, ‘Lord, I’m willing to travail,’ there are lives, promises, and spiritual realities that will not be born into our day and age. Effectual, fervent prayer is how God changes this world and bestows upon it the beauty, grace and power that He purchased at the cross.” (Leslie Ludy, Wrestling Prayer: A Passionate Communion with God)

Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!
Many are they who rise up against me.
2 Many are they who say of me,
“There is no help for him in God.” Selah

3 But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
4 I cried to the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah

5 I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around.

7 Arise, O Lord;
Save me, O my God!
For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone;
You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.
8 Salvation belongs to the Lord.
Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah

Do your best to put yourself in King David’s shoes as he is fleeing from his rebellious son, Absalom (2 Samuel 15:13-17). Listen to him pray these words found in this psalm. What do you hear? What would you see if you were near by? What would be his attitude? Would you say he travailed and prevailed in prayer? Perhaps read through the prayer again looking for the answers to these questions as well as those below.

  • Do you think he was praying silently?
  • Do you think he was praying nonchalantly?
  • Was his prayer full of “Christianese prayer language”?
  • Was he crying out to God?
  • Did he pray out of desperation?
  • Was his prayer fervent; full of faith and praise?
  • How was his prayer akin to the praying of Jesus?

Friends, may I invite you into the secret place before our holy God through the blood of Jesus Christ to travail and prevail in prayer?

George Mueller said, “It is not enough to begin to pray, nor to pray aright; nor is it enough to continue for a time to pray; but we must patiently, believingly, continue in prayer until we obtain an answer.