Burdened, Not Amused

The longer I strolled through the amusement park, the more burdened and sad I became. Everywhere I turned, people were trying to fit in, wanting to be accepted, living a lifestyle of sin, provoking their children to anger, flaunting their assumed freedom, living for the moment, trying to buy happiness, bowing down to the idols of their heart, motivated as described in Jeremiah 17:9

Then, the next morning while reading Ephesians 4:17-19, my mind was transported back to the day before and those dear soul’s greatest need . . . the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Why? Because they are living in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness (4:17b-19).

If it were not for the grace of God, Ephesians 4:17-19 would describe me. But, how marvelous is the mercy and grace of God that has transferred me from darkness to light! As an old song written by Rusty Goodman says,

Had it not been for a place called Mount Calvary,
Had it not been for the old rugged cross,
Had it not been for a man called Jesus,
Then forever my soul would be lost,

The change this world needs can only be found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ!! But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:4-9).

Protesting on the street corner, shaking your head in disgust, or responding in anger or arguing will not change sinful hearts. These dear souls, just like you did, need someone to love them enough for God’s glory to share the love of God through the cross work and resurrection of Jesus Christ that can radically change their life for eternity. Real life and adventure is only found in following Jesus Christ!

If you are searching today, my friend, read these scripture verses again and again until your eyes are opened to see your condition before God. Watch the video “How can I go to Heaven?” at the top of the sidebar.

I share this because I care for you. No critical judgment toward you. Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) Everyone must go by the way of the cross or forever be lost, . . . and Jesus Christ did all that was necessary for you to have a life worth living here and for all eternity!

21 Days of Prayer (Day #6)

God’s Sovereign Compassion in the Midst of Man’s Decisions. (Pastor Andrew)

The book of Jonah is quite an interesting book because there are so many interesting literary uses by the author. For instance God’s prophet, Jonah, twice is willing to be killed but the pagan sailors and the people of the sinful city are found worshipping God after they are spared from death. The pagan sailors and the people of Nineveh worship Jonah’s God. Jonah prays in the whale and most likely repents. However, his actions do not back up his repentance in the chapters following his prayer. He gets angry about the plant dying that covered him, but he cared less about the sailors, people of Nineveh and animals dying. 

Several times the phrase “go down” is used.  He went down into the ship, down to Joppa, down into the fish. Several uses of personification are used as well. In verse 4 the original reflects that the ship was thinking or considering breaking up. It is a very interesting book that uses several literary devices in order to help the reader have certain characteristics of the story emphasized in certain ways

We need to see this theme in Jonah:  God’s sovereign compassion in the midst of man’s decisions.

Think about all the moves Jonah made and then the moves God makes sovereignly:

  • God’s prophet runs.
  • God brings pagan sailors to himself because of Jonah running.

  • Jonah runs.
  • God creates a storm and prepares a fish to be on call to swallow Jonah.

  • Jonah delivers an 8 word message.
  • God uses that 8 word message to bring an entire pagan city to repentance toward God.

  • Jonah sat outside the city to watch the explosion of the city (popcorn and soda in hand).
  • God builds a plant then destroys it with a worm.

God’s Compassion to the sailors. Those poor sailors they have to throw out all the cargo. How are they shown compassion? It could have been worse they could have died even though they were pagan. Pagan sailors acknowledged Gods sovereignty and they feared him with a great fear and offered him sacrifice and gave vowels. They may have really truly come to God.

God’s Compassion to Nineveh. Nineveh is described as a great city that has great wickedness, but God doesn’t destroy them.

God’s Compassion toward Jonah. He spares his life. He also gives Jonah shade. More than anything He shows great mercy even though Jonah is opposing God’s will for his life.

Here is the application for us. God uses wicked and sinful people to accomplish his purposes, like us. He is God and we are not. Often we seek our own wills rather than the will of God. We believe our decisions surpass God’s, so we sin.  However, even when we seek our own will God is continuously compassionate and merciful to us.  He sovereignly overcomes our bad decisions and works good through us. We can be condemning, critical, selfish, and uncompassionate to people around us. Consider the key verses of the book of Jonah which are 4:10-11, And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Asked another way, Isn’t God a better decision maker than you because His character is better than yours? Who is the god of your life, you or Him?

Prayer Questions

  • Are there any Christians I will not forgive?
  • Are there any unbelievers I refuse to love?
  • Is there anything in my life that I am choosing my sovereignty over God’s?
  • Are there any current events that I am struggling to entrust to God over what I think should happen?
  • Who do I need to pray for asking God to bring them to salvation?
  • Talk to God about how you have seen his sovereignty in your decisions recently or in the past.
  • Praise the Lord for his specific acts of compassion and rulership to you over the past years.
  • Specially praise God for the Gospel where He has shown His Lordship and compassion in your life!

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!

Celebration in a Trailer

In 160 days, Lord willing, my wife and I will celebrate 40 years of marriage! What’n the world? How could it be 40 years for a couple of young newlyweds?!?!?!

Well, reality is, it will soon be 40 years.

In our first year of marriage, we celebrated in a special way on the 2oth of each month. Last week I told Denise we were going to do the same thing in 2021. You see, after these many years together, you continue to celebrate! You continue to work at your marriage every day! You dare not put your marriage on auto-pilot! You still have fun!

Our first month’s special celebration, July 20, 1981, did not fare too well. Denise had set the table with our new fine china, crystal and candlelight. She also prepared a new recipe . . . lasagna broccoli roll-ups. The atmosphere was so romantic with the smell of good food and the sounds of love music wafting through our 14×70 house trailer “castle.”

After seating my sweetheart at the table and leading in prayer for the food, we plated the new dish and took our first bite. Well, that’s where the brakes were applied to this dreamy evening. As I chewed and chewed, I needed to chew some more. Can you say, “dry” and “ricotta cheese” . . . a lot of ricotta cheese?!?! Add to this situation that I could hear my dad in my head saying, “Don’t ever say your mom can cook better.” What was I to do? I wanted to extract this snowball-rollin’-downhill bite, but no way at that moment on your first 20th celebration with fine dining! What was I to do?

I looked across the table and saw the look on my wife’s face. Can you spell relief? She swallowed (her bites are never as big as mine), and said, “This isn’t good is it?” Happy days are here again!!

Well, we have laughed about that night many times. Denise continues to make new recipes, and fortunately when it wasn’t that good, we have both agreed. (She is an absolutely outstanding cook). She still uses her china and crystal. We still create romantic meals. We continue to celebrate!

Marriage is an awesome grace-gift created by God. With both spouses intentionally working at it every day and adding into the mix the ingredients of laughter and forgiveness, you will have something to celebrate, too!

Let’s Cheer ‘Em On!

Pulling into the Tweetsie Trail parking lot for our early morning run, there gathered around the trailhead were 30 or more college students. They were in fine shape bringing back memories of my pre-gotta-watch-what-you-eat, what’s-that-hanging-over-your-belt days! They were all lean, trim and in optimum running shape.

Andrew and I headed down the trail and about two miles in, we heard the sound of runners gaining on us. These college age gazelles in various groupings passed us with great ease.

As we approached the three mile mark, some of these students were gathered waiting for the rest of their gang. Are you ready for this? They saw us coming and formed lines on either side of the trail and began clapping for us and cheering us on!!! Wow!! They did not know us. We were not in their group. The only thing that unified us was what called us to be on the Tweetsie Trail . . . running.

As Andrew and I continued our run, a pertinent application struck a chord in my heart. This is how Christians should treat others, especially those in the family of God.

So, how should we treat others in the family of God? Should we carry long-term grudges against them? Should we withhold forgiveness? Should we just write them off? Should we misapply scripture to fit our reasons for distancing ourselves from our brother and/or sister in Christ? Should we gossip about them? Should we make them feel like a nobody when seen in public? What does the Word of God say?

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. (Romans 12:10, 16)

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

You may not run races here on earth, but if you are a believer, you are running a race that will count in Glory (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 12:1-3). Hence, may I encourage you to cheer on your brother and sister in Christ? Should we treat them different here than we will in Heaven? Who needs to hear you clapping and cheering them on?

Taking the Scenic Route in Marriage #11

pothole

OH, NO!!  I tried to avoid it, but….

Nailed it dead center! Yes, that huge pothole in the road.  It was pitch black at night, raining and I didn’t see it in time.  After about needing to see a chiropractor due to the jarring we received and a loan officer to pay the tire bill, I learned again that potholes are definitely to be avoided!!!

Continue reading “Taking the Scenic Route in Marriage #11”

I Could Punch Him in the Mouth!

Ephesians-4-26

Recently while listening to an angry man, those words were uttered and then ended with a bit of a smile as if it made his indignation acceptable.

Folks, we live in an angry world!  And you are asking me, “Did you just climb out from under a rock?!?!”

Well, truth is, in the past few weeks I have heard and seen the fruit that comes from that root.  Anger, wrath, bitterness from an evil heart destroys.

What does the Bible say about anger?  Please take time to read these passages and let them sink into your heart.

  • Psalm 37:8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
  • Proverbs 14:29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
  • Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
  • Proverbs 15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
  • Proverbs 16:32 Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
  • Proverbs 19:11 Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
  • Proverbs 29:11 A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
  • Ecclesiastes 7:9 Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.
  • Ephesians 4:26-27, 31 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
  • Colossians 3:8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
  • James 1:19-20 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Anger rooted in a selfish, sinful, deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9) always produces fruit that damages and often destroys lives, homes, churches, marriages, and the world around you.

If you are person given to anger, please soak your soul in these truths from God’s Word.  Repent, be reconciled, and memorize these passages.  Better to think on truth that sets you free than on the offense that will eat you up inside and cause your heart to be outwardly exposed.

To be angry about trifles is mean and childish; to rage and be furious is brutish; and to maintain perpetual wrath is akin to the practice and temper of devils; but to prevent and suppress rising resentment is wise and glorious, is manly and divine. (Isaac Watts)

Go ahead . . . punch him in the mouth.  Then, who’s the fool?

I Met Jordan

Jordan

Living in the mountains of East Tennessee gives many reasons for rejoicing and thanksgiving! The scenery changes every day and every season through the myriad acts of God’s creative, sustaining, sovereign hands.  How often I find myself singing “How Great Thou Art,” and “How Great Is Our God!”

Yesterday while driving back from Asheville, NC, I had in my mind to stop along the creek near Rocky Fork State Park near Flag Pond, TN.  Major rains had descended upon us through the night so I knew the waterfalls would be awesome, and it would provide a peaceful place to sit and commune with my God in prayer.

The Lord had other plans for which I am oh so grateful.  When I turned onto the Old Asheville Highway, there was a bearded man with a full pack and hiking poles which immediately signified an AT thru-hiker.  Since I love to hike, especially on the Appalachian Trail, this was a great opportunity in many ways!  Upon offering him a ride, he threw his gear in the back of my car, and we headed for Erwin and Uncle Johnny’s.  What a special treat to listen to his recent weather-related stories as well as the back-story of his life.

The very best part was the joy of talking about eternal life, listening to his answers, caring for his needs and ministering to him Christ Who has finished the work of salvation for all sinners including Jordan and myself.  What a special privilege!!

Please pray for my new friend, Jordan, as he hikes the trail.

Meeting Jordan was the highlight of my day!!

 

Here are two links to his story and the reason for his AT journey:

Jordan’s Story

Jordan’s AT Thru-Hike

 

Here is a video link for you to learn how you can have a personal relationship with God and know for certain your sins are forgiven and that you have a home in Heaven forever.

The Gospel Message

This-N-That: Life In Despair

The title of Thursday’s blog posts is so named that I may share various things that are on my heart about life in general.  Hence, today, I ask the following questions:

  • Is there sin in your life that you have not been honest about before the Lord?
  • How do you handle sin in your life?
  • What affect does unconfessed sin have on your life, heart and body? Does it leave you in despair, with a sense of hopelessness?  What is the cause of that despair?
  • When you confess your sin, how does forgiveness affect you?
  • What is your view of God and His forgiveness?
  • What is different about you after you have confessed your sin?

Now, read Psalm 130, very slowly and meditatively.   Once you have read this psalm, take 30 minutes and listen to the following message by Dr. Steve Pettit:  Psalm 130 Sermon

When you are done listening; when you have confessed your sin, is Psalm 130:5-7 the song of your heart?