How You Doing?

(Slate.com)

As a pastor, as well as for our church congregation, yesterday was a very different day. But then again, it has been a very different two plus weeks!

We were travelling along, for the most part, doing just fine. Our economy was on an upswing. Students were preparing for their final semester and graduation. Many of us were already in the countdown mode for our beach vacation.

Restaurants were booming. Retail stores seemed to be profiting. And, we were going to church . . . just like we always do.

Have you heard the screeching of the brakes? Basically, life has been put on hold. So much of what we would consider the ingredients of life has been removed from us, closed down, quarantined, or reduced.

May I ask, “How are you doing?” We are going into week two of the various levels of virus response in our area. Yesterday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee enacted an executive order for statewide closures due to COVID-19. Again, may I ask, “How you doing?”

Are you missing your “normal” life? No sports, no Friday night restaurant trips, no TJMaxx, and no Sunday gatherings. (It seemed so strange to walk into the waiting area of my eye doctor last week to find only three chairs located a 100 miles from each other!!!)

Bottom line is, we have been really good at cramming our 24 hours-a-day with the stuff of life. I am not minimizing the severe threat of the coronavirus, but I must say that it has also caused many of our idols to come crashing down in front of us. So very much of our life has been characterized by being “crazy busy” with a truck-load of temporal things.

Friends, life is not found in the abundance of things or activities or recreation or even people. Everything and everyone around us, as far as this time on earth is concerned, is temporal. We can do all within our power to keep things propped up, running smooth, and filling our lives with what we think really satisfies. All it takes is for a virus or a tornado or some other tragedy to wipe it all out; to remove it from our grasp.

Here’s the true bottom line: Who is Jesus to you? Life is not things. Life is a Person (John 14:6). The Lord Jesus Christ came to save you from your greatest crisis which is your total inability to save yourself from an eternity in hell (John 3:16-18; Ephesians 2:1-10). But He did more than that. He came to give you Himself, the only way back into a right relationship with God and the assurance of an eternity in Heaven. For more information, click on this link and watch the four YouTube videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsP-etMyUZk

Indeed, God has abundantly, mercifully and graciously given us so much to enjoy here on earth, but if they were all taken away from us, would Jesus be enough? When things get back to “normal,” remember the only true normal is Jesus Christ, first in all things (Matthew 6:24-33; Colossians 1:15-18; 1 Corinthians 10:31). Christ is the issue in all of life!

How you doing? Would you pray for me, too, that I’ll keep my eyes and heart fixed on Christ?

Quarantined

A few weeks ago, the word “quarantine” was not a frequently used term in our every day vocabulary. Now it is a repeated visitor in our minds and speech along with the terms social distancing, pandemic, fear, worry, panic, cancelled, closed and isolation in light of the spreading coronavirus.

Merriam-Webster defines quarantine as “a restraint upon the activities or communication of persons . . . designed to prevent the spread of disease; a place of isolation; to isolate from normal relations or communication.”

Someone might say, “What’s the difference between isolation and quarantine?” While isolation serves the same purpose as quarantine, it’s reserved for those who are already sick. It keeps infected people away from healthy people to prevent the sickness from spreading. (clevelandclinic.org/covid-19)

President Trump has outlined a 15-day plan to slow the spread of the virus. The CDC is keeping us informed in real time. This virus has and is changing our world.

There is another “quarantine” of which every believer should be most familiar. This quarantine is the number one way to effectively deal with the virus. fear, panic, worry, as well as the moment-by-moment effects and news of this pandemic.

That quarantine is your “secret place,” the place where you get alone with God to pray. The place where you “restrain upon the activities or communication of persons,” and you share your heart with God and you listen to God. (Prayer is not a one-way communication.)

That “secret place” is where you “prevent the spread of disease” of worry, fear, doubt, anxiety, dread, panic, and stress.

Listen to these words from Psalm 91:1-6

1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the [a]fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and [b]buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

Where is your quarantined, secret place? Perhaps it is kneeling beside your bed in the middle of the night or when you arise each morning. Maybe it’s a special place in your den, living room, back porch, office, or outdoors.

For the Lord Jesus Christ, that secret place was a mountain (Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46) or a secluded place (Mark 1:35) or a garden (Matthew 26:36) to name a few.

My friend, to have the eternal perspective on this virus, to have a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6-8), to have wisdom from above (James 1:5), to have a genuine place of refuge (Psalm 91:4), to experience God’s mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:14-16), you must spend time quarantined in the secret place.

We don’t relish being quarantined or isolated in our American way of life. But there is a “quarantine” that you will never regret, and you will long for as the days go by.

I’ll see you at the Throne of Grace!

Teammates

Whiteface Mt. New York

A dear friend recently said to me, “Every time I pray for you, I pray for your wife. You two are a team!”

He’s right! We are!

We became a team on June 20, 1981. We have worked through marriage, parenting, ministry, and the stuff of life as a team. That teamwork has had a strong presence in our lives in the past week or so.

Last Monday, while on our way for a supper date, I ran my car through the car wash. As I pulled up to clean out the inside of my auto, I noticed a dear pregnant lady struggling to vacuum her built-low-to-the-ground four-door. Denise and I looked at each having the same thought. Gently I approached the lady and asked if I could vacuum her car. I quickly pointed to Denise to help ease the situation. She was a bit reluctant but then gratefully received my invitation. While I worked through the debris in this lady’s automobile, Denise introduced herself and began a gospel conversation. Every once-in-awhile, I would look from my task and say to myself, “I’m so glad we are teammates!”

Thursday through Saturday, Denise had the rich privilege of ministering God’s Word at Wolf Mountain Camp, Grass Valley, CA. The three days were peppered with texts, photos, and phone calls between us. We prayed, wept, laughed and rejoiced together as we saw God’s grace in action from a front row seat! During her speaking sessions, I prayed. While sharing Christ on the plane with a 39 year-old, I prayed. While Denise listened and counseled with these ladies of many nationalities, I prayed. While leading a dear lady through the plan of salvation and witnessing her transformation by the power of God from darkness to light, I prayed. I’m so glad we are teammates!

The past two and a half years have been a steady trial, and it continues. Some things occurred on Sunday that I permitted to create a spirit of despondency in my heart on Monday. Denise is my cheer-leading teammate. Throughout Monday and Tuesday, she prayed, cared, encouraged, and ministered to my heart. Her cry to the Lord Tuesday morning was, “Lord, would you fulfill Jeremiah 33:3 for Dale today?” By noontime, that prayer had been answered in an Ephesians 3:20 way. Furthermore, when I came home for supper, she had prepared an appetizer to enjoy while she completed her final meal prep. That was her way of saying, “I love you. I’m for you.” I’m so very glad we are teammates!

May I strongly encourage you husbands and wives by the grace of God—be teammates. Work through your conflicts together. Pray together. Serve together. Worship together. Parent together. Play together. Walk through this life hand-in-hand. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5:33). This is teamwork as God planned it. I’m glad Denise and I are teammates!!

Grace to Go!

Stretching out his hand and with tears in his eyes, he said, “Soon this hand will touch the hand of my Jesus.”

These words were spoken last Saturday by a dear man of God who has given his life to faithfully proclaim and live out the excellencies of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Bud Parker has been diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor that is affecting his mobility and vision. As I sat by his side in his humble mountain home, the affects of cancer were readily seen, but the grace of God was much more manifest. It didn’t take long to realize I was seated in the presence of a man who is ready to go Home to Glory!

There were many more times of rejoicing than notes of sorrow as we conversed. During his lengthy stay in the hospital, the Lord enabled him to share the gospel with many, and three precious souls came to salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). We talked of the ministry joys of past years, the privilege of preaching the Word of God, the joy of mentoring so many men in the ministry, as well as rejoicing in all the folks who had come by to visit.

With his precious wife, Mildred, seated across the room, he looked at me and then her and said, “I am ready to go to heaven, but I don’t want to leave my bride of 58 years. The other night, the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid. She was My bride before she became your bride. She is the apple of my eye’.”

Especially at a time like this, the Word of God is the very best comfort, assurance, and hope. While reading 1 Peter 1:1-8, Pastor Parker’s eyes would glisten and then fill with tears. Some of the passages he quoted along with me as best he could. At one point, he raised his hand to rejoice!

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

Near the end of our visit, I noticed that his wife, two of his daughters and other family members were on the front porch. I invited them to gather in the living room, and we sang a medley of songs about heaven. My, what a glorious time we had as we lifted our voices and hands in praise to our great God! Indeed, what a day it will be when our Jesus we will see!!

Watching the grace of God in its total sufficiency from my front row seat was an honor and a blessed encouragement! This dear man of God is living out the words of Tom Hayes’ song, New Grace.

All of grace is my story
All the way from earth to glory,
Since by grace He lifted me from sin and woe;
Living grace He has extended
As on Him my heart depended,
And He’ll give new grace when it’s my time to go.

CHORUS:
Grace not yet discovered,
Grace not yet uncovered,
Grace from His bountiful store;
Grace to cross the river,
And grace to face forever,
There’ll be new grace I’ve not needed before.

VERSE 2:
There’s been grace for every trial,
There’s been grace for every mile,
There’s been grace sufficient from His vast supply;
Grace to make my heart more tender,
Grace to love and pray for sinners,
But there’ll be new grace when it’s my time to die.

CHORUS:
Grace not yet discovered,
Grace not yet uncovered,
Grace from His bountiful store;
Grace to cross the river,
And grace to face forever,
There’ll be new grace I’ve not needed before.

Grace to go!!

All the Questions of Life

Questions

Where do you go when you don’t know what to do?

Who do you call first when you receive devastating news?

When you need wisdom for a major decision, what is your first response?

When your world comes crashing down around your feet, where do you run to hide?

For all of the questions of life, who do you ask or whom do you seek?

Every day of our lives, we are faced with decisions and/or unanswered questions and/or needing a sign post to point us the way and/or a place of shelter from the storm.  For all situations of life, for all the questions of life, and for all the unknowns of life, will you meditate on the following?  I believe you will see the answer in these passages to the questions of life.

Therefore submit to God. . . . Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:7-8, 10)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28)

97Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the ancients,
Because I keep Your precepts.
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
102 I have not departed from Your judgments,
For You Yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.
  (Psalm 119:97-104)

And he (Christ) is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

After meditating on these passages, listen to I Run to Christ

Three Anchor Truths In the Middle of the Storm

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Lately I have found myself repeatedly singing,

In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm.  (Ryan Stevenson)

The trials and hardships of life, others and mine, at times seem to be so burdensome, numerous, and troubling.

How do we press on in the eye of the storm?  How do we stay afloat?  As I pondered these things, three anchor truths came to mind that can be your stay in the middle of the storm.

#1 Christ suffered, bled and died for me and my sins.

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

When I consider the pain of my trial, I must look to Christ Who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself (Hebrews 12:3) to save me from my greatest crisis.  What is my greatest crisis?  The answer: How do I save myself from going to hell because I am a sinner?  Since Jesus Christ took care of my greatest crisis and the tomb is empty, He will enable me to make it through any other crisis.

#2 Christ’s resurrection gives me blazing hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Hope in the New Testament is a…

  • blessed hope (Titus 2:13)
  • joyful hope (1 Thess. 2:19; Rom. 12:12)
  • comforting hope (1Thess. 4:13-18)
  • hope of glory (Col. 1:27)
  • anchoring hope (Heb. 6:19)

“When a Christian truly understands the hope he has in Christ, it results in a steadfast sense of security and stability.” (Gene Getz) 

#3 Being in Christ promises me an awesome future!

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18)

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 20:1-4)

Jesus, being God and having been in a boat in the eye of a storm (Mark 4:35-41), is the only true Anchor for life, trouble, sorrow, persecution, misunderstanding, questions, death, pain, sin, etc.

Running Uphill . . . to the Finish Line

My son-in-law and I have basically owned the Tweetsie Trail this summer for our morning run.  The beautiful scenery, friendly bikers, walkers and runners, beautiful wildlife, the nostalgia, pristine quiet, and the desire to stay healthy and prepare for periodic races calls us out three to four times a week.  Our routine is to run from Johnson City to Elizabethton at different distances as my training is currently maxed out for 10Ks while Andrew is preparing for a half-marathon.  Recently, I said, “Let’s change our routine and run from Elizabethton to Johnson City.  Well, I was greeted with a startling fact . . . the trail is predominately an uphill grade.

Our last run really took it out of me, and I was a bit defeated because running is such a challenge to me.  Upon sharing my thoughts via texting with Andrew, he said, “The second you feel defeated, you fail.  Sounds like the Christian life.”  He is right.

Running is such a mind game.  Correct thinking is so crucial.  In most instances, you can run farther than your mind tells you.  There you are, your legs are burning a bit, your lungs grasping for air, and your mind saying, “Just go ahead and quit.  You know it’s too hard to finish. You just don’t have it.”  That’s when you have to think the truth, remind yourself about things you have learned from running, and take another drink as well as another step.  You really don’t want to listen to yourself.

The Christian life is often uphill as well.  Every day presents you with battles that begin with putting your feet on the floor first thing in the morning.   Once that happens, you are “off to the races.”  How needful it is to think biblically from the first thought of the morning.  So often when we start the Tweetsie Trail, one of us will say, “What a beautiful day to run.  Praise the Lord!”  Starting your day thinking the Word and then throughout the day reminding yourself of the Word will help you climb the next hill.  It is so important that we do not listen to ourselves but rather preach the Word to ourselves.

I for one will tell you that one of the best parts of running is the finish.  There is such an exhilarated rush when you are done.  So here’s some truths to begin your day that will get you to the finish line… even if its uphill.

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.  (Lamentations 3:21-26)

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).

Map My Run

 

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Tweetsie Trail (Great place to run)

Map My Run is a handy app on my phone that logs all my workouts.  It records my distance, duration time, average pace, split-pace times, calories burned and elevation gain.  These details are very important as I reach out for my goals in preparation for the next race or just to keep in shape.

Map My Run reminds me of a very functional tool for your daily spiritual growth—a journal.  Just as the Map My Run app helps me track my physical fitness, I believe a hand written journal or one online is a good means to help you in your daily relationship with Christ; to run the race of the Christian life as we set our affection on things above and not on things of the earth (Colossians 3:2) to stay spiritually fit.  So consider the following questions:

  • How do you track your growth in Christ?
  • As you read the Word each day, where do you record what God said to you?
  • When you attend church, how do you document what God is up to in your life during the service whether in singing, prayer, small group Sunday School or the preaching?
  • What has the Lord been teaching you in the school of trials and temptation?
  • How have you seen God answer prayer today?
  • What spiritual goals have you attained by the grace of God?
  • What sins have your overcome?
  • What victories have been won by faith and God’s grace?

We are prone to soon forget the blessings of God, the impact of His Word, and the lessons He brings, but not so if we record them in a journal and then scan over them each week.  Our Shepherd is leading us today (Psalm 23).  Let’s track His steps and His lessons in our lives.  The Christian life is not a sprint but a marathon.  Let’s run well in His Word, burning off the calories of sin, the flesh and the world, and keep a good pace through all the elevations of life as we run for the prize.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

This-N-That

“Throwback Thursdays” come with an array of pictures and memories.  Yesterday while preparing for our study in Matthew 6 for Prayer Meeting and for this Sunday’s message, I played a Youtube mix of one of my favorite singing groups from the early 80’s, the Cathedral’s and Legacy Five.  To say that “I had  church” here at my desk would be an understatement!  As the truths of God’s Word worked in my heart coupled with the lyrics and memories from the songs, various emotions came out.  I was reminded of how God’s Word and these songs were precious to me in various trials and times of rejoicing.  Also, what some of these men have meant to me and my family in years gone by and continue to do so today.

Two songs that are linked below reminds us of the cry of our heart and the blessing of God’s nearness when we are faced with cancer, death, hardships, questions, heartache and tears. They were written by Roger Bennett who sings them. He battled leukemia from 1995 until the Lord took him Home to Glory on March 17, 2007.  You will notice in the second video the toll that cancer had taken on Roger’s body.

I trust that today’s simple blog post will be a blessing to you as you realize that in the midst of life’s storms, God will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5-6), and He does speak to us in the night seasons (Job 35:10; Psalm 42:80).

What God Whispers in the Night

Stay Close to Me

New Year’s Response

Happy New Year!!  And even more than that, a special thank you to all of you who have faithfully read this blog.  I am honored and quite frankly overwhelmed that you spend some time on this site.  Nevertheless, thank you, thank you, thank you.

2015, as in previous years, and for the rest of our lives, will present us with many decisions, disappointments, delights, dangers, discouragements, and dreams.  For them all, may I encourage you to respond with Hebrews 4:14-16?

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 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.

For all the situations of life, respond with, “Well, let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of the grace.”  Why?  Read verses 14-15.  Jesus Christ is our high priest who has passed into the heavens and understands all of life, all about life, because He is life (John 14:6)!!

So, Happy New Year, and let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace!