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.

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?!?!

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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!

Heart Counsel

We need this for our hearts today! Soak your soul in the Truth!

“Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who delights greatly in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches will be in his house, And his righteousness endures forever. Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man deals graciously and lends; He will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he will never be shaken; The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established; He will not be afraid, Until he sees his desire upon his enemies. He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted with honor. The wicked will see it and be grieved; He will gnash his teeth and melt away; The desire of the wicked shall perish.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭112:1-10‬ ‭

COVID Counsel #3

Keep Your Eyes on the One Who Walked on Water

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.


Refrain:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.


So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;

Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

These lyrics written in 1897 by Johnson Oatman, Jr., came to my mind Monday morning as I sang along with the instrumental version playing through Alexa. The bold lines struck a chord in my heart.

Indeed, COVID has been one of “life’s billows” (a great wave or surge of water) that has tossed us in so many directions that we have been or are today tempted to be “discouraged, thinking all is lost.” How interesting our minds and deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) work at moments like these.

The battle is not with COVID but with our thinking.

Is all really lost? Note the phrase, “thinking all is lost.” Is that true? What does God’s Word say about COVID or any circumstance of life?

The songwriter got it right when he said, “So amid the conflict whether great or small, do not be discouraged, God is over all.” That is absolute, eternal truth!

Colossians 1:16–17 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Job 42:2 I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Psalm 97:9 For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods.

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

So, today, do not listen to your thoughts but think His thoughts. Do not listen to yourself; preach the Truth to yourself.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

Count Your Blessings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=FZECFq4BvRQ

A Song of Praise & Thanksgiving!

I will extol You, my God, O King; And I will bless Your name forever and ever. 2 Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever. 3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable. 4 One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts. 5 I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, And on Your wondrous works. 6 Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, And I will declare Your greatness. 7 They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, And shall sing of Your righteousness. 8 The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. 9 The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works. 10 All Your works shall praise You, O Lord, And Your saints shall bless You. 11 They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, And talk of Your power, 12 To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, And the glorious majesty of His kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations. 14 The Lord upholds all who fall, And raises up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look expectantly to You, And You give them their food in due season. 16 You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. 17 The Lord is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works. 18 The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. 19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them. 20 The Lord preserves all who love Him, But all the wicked He will destroy. 21 My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord, And all flesh shall bless His holy name Forever and ever. (Psalm 145)

May today and all your tomorrows be filled with praise and thanksgiving to God through our Lord Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit!! He alone is worthy of our praise and thanksgiving!!

As Bob Landis says so often, “Give Him praise!!!”

Rejoicing or Railing?

The default setting of my sinful, depraved heart is to be critical and persistently complaining (railing). There is so much about the way life has been going in every direction due to this coronavirus that it breeds such contempt, gripping, anger, and fear. Even having a mask over my mouth doesn’t stop the verbal expression of what’s in my heart.

The greatest moment of my life was when as a five year old the Holy Spirit revealed to me my need of Christ. He also gave me the faith and the power to believe on His name (John 1:14; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-13; Titus 3:5; 2 Peter 1:3-4). Since then, I can’t explain it but Scripture verifies it, Christ and the Holy Spirit have been dwelling within me (John 16:15-25; Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 12:12-14; Colossians 1:27).

One of the rich blessings of this arrangement is that I cannot live the Christian life on my own(John 15:5). Jesus Christ is the Christian life (John 14:6) and at the point of salvation, I am brought into union with Christ, identified in Christ, and live life participating with Christ (John 15:1-9; Romans 6:1-14).

So what does all of this have to do with rejoicing in the midst of the coronavirus and its subsequent effects. Well, since the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in my life, I don’t have to follow the dictates of my heart. Moment-by-moment, I have the blessing of participating with Christ in His life empowered by the Spirit (Romans 8; 12:1-2; Philippians 3:10) as I surrender to His good and gracious authority in my life.

What will that look like? But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do (practice) such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:16-26)

Note the second word of the complete fruit of the Spirit—joy. No matter what is happening around me in this world or the circumstances of life, the Holy Spirit produces joy when I am surrendered to Him (Ephesians 5:15-21). The Spirit, not me, magnifies Christ through me (John 16:14-15).

I am speaking to my own heart here, but I must say that this world needs to see more joy-filled believers than cranky, whining, pessimistic, critical, gossiping, complaining, gripping Christians! Soak your soul in Romans 8:28-39. Sink your taproots into 2 Corinthians 2:14-16. Let Christ be seen in and through us and not us!! Folks, the tomb in empty! The back of the Book says “We win!” God will fulfill His plan to the very end (Revelation 19-22)!

Furthermore, Romans 8:21-29 has not be erased from the Word of God! How powerful are Christ’s words just hours before being crucified, I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart (be of good cheer); I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Last night, after our small group meeting, I sat in our porch swing and found the following song, I Rest My Case At the Cross. As I listened, my heart swelled, tears started down my cheek, and as we say in the South, “I just about had a shoutin’ fit!” (Now it won’t hurt you to have one of those. Trust me. Better yet, read the Psalms. Or ask Paul and Silas in the jail, Acts 16.)

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 reminds us, Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit.

Rejoice! Pray (Praise and supplication)! Give thanks! And surrender moment-by-moment to the magnification of Christ in and through you as you participate in His life!! It’s all a supernatural work of the Spirit!!

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be tenderhearted, be courteous (humble): 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile (1 Peter 3:8-10).

Just Give Him Praise!

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Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!  
(Psalm 150)

Steven Cole asks an excellent question, “I wonder how many of us could honestly say, ‘Praising God characterizes my life’?”

Personally, there’s something special about being around people who love to praise the Lord!

Such was the case Tuesday night as a group of us attended the Bristol Revival in Bristol, VA.  This is the first week for these meetings under the gospel tent.  With around 2,500 or more in attendance, the praise did flow!

What a blessed time it was to gather outside the tent with around 200 men to pray before the service. With men crying out to the Lord, hands raised in supplication (1 Timothy 2:8), it was a blessed time in the presence of God asking for the power of God to change hearts and lives through the preaching of God’s Word

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The praise and worship continued as the service began with joyful, full-hearted singing.  Once again, there was shouting, rejoicing, and brighten countenances all around.  These folks were praising God for Who He is and for what He had done!

What stood out to me were the young folks seated around me.  Next to me was a nine-year-old boy in our group who at one point nudged me on the leg and pointed to my hands.  They weren’t clapping with the music, and he did not want me to miss out on the blessing of praise!

In front of me were two young folk, ages 12-15, who seated next to their father, were more than engaged in rejoicing and making connections throughout the whole service.  It was a delight to see them so engaged.

The preaching of Evangelist CT Townsend was powerful and penetrating.  Oh the praise and joy that rolled as we were challenged to consider the blood that has redeemed us, reconciled us back to God, purchased our pardon, and set us free from our bondage to sin (Exodus 12; Ephesians 1:7; 2:13; Colossians 1:14-22; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:22; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

The praise continued as lost souls walked forward at the invitation to receive Christ as their personal Savior!  As their names and ages were called out, the believers rejoiced with those in Glory (Luke 15).

“Psalm 150 gives us the where, why, how, and who of praise. Praise can be expressed through singing and music (including clapping, dancing, lifting our hands, kneeling, lying prostrate, etc.), through testimony and thanksgiving, prayer, sacrificial service, and giving.” (Cole)

Is your life characterized by praise?  Are you obedient to Psalm 150:6?

God is eternally worthy of all our praise!

A dear friend of mine in ministry is often heard to say, “Just give Him praise!”

Taking the Scenic Route in Marriage #4

Boone Tavern

There are indeed so many pleasures along the scenic route:  waterfalls, coffee shops, hiking trails, barbeque & bluegrass, pull-offs, picnic areas, wildlife, quiet, slower speed limits, unique food stops, antique shops, time with your spouse, etc.

Likewise, there are many pleasures in marriage, some of which were very active in the early years of your relationship, but sadly have become dormant as the years rolled by.  Let’s look at some of those pleasures, and I will be looking at them from a husband’s point of view.  After all, he is the loving, servant leader in the home.  So men, here we go!

Boone Tavern 2

Proverbs 18:22 reminds us, men, that our wives are a special treasure to us from God; they are a good thing (KJV). They are God’s grace gift to us.  We do not deserve our wives.  Therefore, by God’s grace we are to treasure this gift and treat her like a lady, like a special treasure.

Ephesians 5:25 says, Husbands love (agape) your wives, even as Christ also loved (agagao) the church and gave [paradidōmi – to give oneself up for, give oneself to death for, to undergo death for] Himself for it.

Men, one of the best ways to treasure our wives and enjoy pleasure in marriage is to die daily to Christ and to ourselves so we can live for Christ and our dear wives. Therefore, one of the first areas of pleasure in marriage is being your wife’s “knight in shining armor” whereby you protect her; she finds security in you.

God designed men and women with particular needs they cannot meet on their own. Part of the goal of marriage is for husbands and wives to meet those needs for each other.  Therefore, one of the greatest needs of a woman is for security. Her most secure environment is one in which she is married to a sacrificial, sensitive, loving, caring, godly man.  She should find her utmost security in Christ, but next of all, in her husband.

A great example of this is found in the budding relationship of Boaz and Ruth.  Read Ruth 2:8-13, and look at how Boaz treated Ruth. No wonder she ended up marrying him!!

Men, your wife will find security in open, honest, consistent communication.

Recently, I heard Evangelist David Young say, “A leader knows the way and uses words!”  Compare 1 Peter 3:1 and Ephesians 5:26.  In the first passage, a wife is encouraged to not nag or preach to her husband when he is unsaved or not living in fellowship with the Lord.  She is to be silent and let God work in her husband’s heart.  Now that is contrary to all the jokes and statements about women.  Supposedly, according to research, you know “the experts” research, that woman speak over 20,000 words-a-day, and men speak around 7,000 words-a-day.  According to Ephesians 5:26, the man is to be the leader in speaking in the home.  Just as Christ is setting apart and cleansing the church through the spoken Word of God, a husband is to set his wife apart and help her live a pure life through speaking Truth to her, praying Truth with her, and leading her by the Truth.

Husbands, Satan loves our secrets and our silence.  We must be men who talk.  Men who speak truth.  Men who speak up.  Men who do not hide in silence because we don’t want to confront sin or take risks.

Men, talking with your wife will breathe new life into your relationship.  Put down your phone.  Turn off the ballgame or fishing show. Share your heart with your wife; engage in meaningful conversation.  Be honest!  Be open!

Husbands, when you speak, also remember that how you say something says so much to your wife.  Your communication, attitude in speech, and tone are either building up trust in your wife or tearing it down. Consider the following:

  1. Think before you speak.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14).

  1. Choose your words carefully.

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18).

  1. Speak words of edification, endearment, encouragement, exhortation, and grace not destruction.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).

  1. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit by your words.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).

  1. Learn to genuinely listen to what your wife is saying as well as to what she is not saying.

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19).

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you[a] of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

  1. Use your words as a grace gift to your wife because God gave you words and the ability to use them. Don’t abuse His gift.  (Genesis 1-2; 1 Corinthians 10:31)

The scenic route gives you time to pull over and talk without interruption.  That “scenic route” can be after the kids go to bed, or after supper without any electronic devices, or on the back porch as well as on a literal journey down on the scenic route.  Some of the best discussions my wife and I have had were sitting on a picnic bench overlooking the valley below, sitting in the rocking chairs on the front porch of a country store, nested beside each other in a cozy coffee shop, walking together through a quaint town, swinging together on our porch swing or sitting on the rocks by a mountain stream . . . just to mention a few.

Men, there are pleasures in marriage, and the first one is the security your wife finds in you as you talk to her, listen to her and always share your heart with her.

Men, take the scenic route.  Lead and use words.

How To Overcome Dull, Lifeless Prayer

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Read carefully Paul’s words in reference to the church at Philippi:  I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now (Philippians 1:3-5).

Look at those words, making my prayer with joy.  Is prayer a joy in your life?  Do you have a joy-filled time praying?  In others words, is praying a happy time for you?  Is it a time of rejoicing, praise, thanksgiving, and sweet communion with your Heavenly Father?

If you pray in the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:26; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20), you will be praying with joy because it is a fruit of the Spirit.

For many, prayer is a burden, a drudgery, and/or a duty.  May I encourage you today to find a place to meet with God and enjoy His presence?

  • Praise Him for Who He is and thank Him for how He has shown His character to you through answered prayer. (Psalm 145:3)
  • Thank Him for what He taught you in His Word. (Psalm 19:7-11)
  • Rejoice in a promise that He has shown you; that you can hang onto today. (Matthew 7:7-11)
  • Sing to Him. (Psalm 96:1)
  • Raise your hands in adoration and submission to Him. (1 Timothy 2:8)
  • Thank God in advance for how He is going to answer prayer, save souls, lead you through the day, give wisdom and grace,

I believe if you will make prayer with joy this morning, it will set your day to be one of joy and blessing.  Try it!  (Philippians 4:4-7)

There Is No Other Answer

But God

For years, every time I read two particular words in Scripture, especially as found in Ephesians 2:7, but God, my heart leaps within me!  It is a resplendent sound of joy, assurance, perspective, and calm no matter what questions or circumstances of life may come my way!  But God!

Try this.  State your condition or question, then add the words, “But God!”  For instance, “I don’t understand why I lost my job, . . . but God!” Go ahead, try it.

Soak your soul in just these few passages alone and then listen to the link to follow.  Indeed, there is no other answer.

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive (Genesis 50:20).

David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands (1 Samuel 23:14).

My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26).

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:4-9).

But God – Larnelle Harris