Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Amazing Grace

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-30

It’s worth telling again.  We all have told a good joke that we relish telling again and again.  Or perhaps there a story that is just too good to tell only once.  Well, this is one of those stories.  Last year, in the early days of Grits, before the Grits Facebook page and before the website, I wrote a story about something that happened on a Friday. And trust me…it was pretty amazing.  You see, I’m one of those people who believe that God is always working.  And on that particular day, I think He looked down from heaven and decided I was going to need a little extra help.  It goes like this.

So, it was Friday and Judy tricked me into some really laborious yard work.  I kinda volunteered to rebuild a flower bed and ended up being drafted to build a sidewalk next to the flower bed.  It involved moving and setting 28 of those 16 by 16 concrete paving things and 15 of those blocks that you use to build a wall.  Well, several hours later we had a sidewalk and a small wall with a new flower bed.  It looks awesome.  She was tired…I was exhausted.

I showered up, sat on the couch for a while and then decided I needed to pick up the garage.  Our nightly vacation rental property is over our garage and due to a lack of storage space there were several containers of winter decorations from there that had taken up residence.  Either the car or the containers had to go.  I voted for the containers.

So, I pulled both cars out of the garages (yes garages…we have two…go figure.) In the smaller garage where my car is parked there is a storage shelf–an obvious new home for the stuff that Judy had put in the other garage.  Well, to make a long story shorter I started rearranging the shelf to make room for the stuff.  Finally, I began to move the heavy containers and I began to mutter.  It went like this, “I’m too tired to be messing with this stuff. I didn’t create the mess so why am I having to fix it.”  Honestly, I got just a little mad.

So, I finally got everything where it would now live but there were three winter doormats still on the floor.  I picked them up and carried them to the basement in our house.  I came out to finish and close up shop.  As I looked in my garage–there it was.  I had a tool rack mounted on the wall.  It held rakes, shovels, brooms, clippers…you name it. It was seven feet long and heavy. I hadn’t touched it but there it was on the garage floor–all of it. It didn’t fall down–it fell out–right where my car would have been if it had been in the garage.  Trust me it would have left more than a few small scratches.  We are talking “lions and tigers and bears–oh my.”

So, my first thought was what in the world happened? Well obviously, the wall anchors holding the rack had failed.  But my second thought–literally–was my car wasn’t in the garage for one reason–I had cleaned up Judy’s mess.  If I hadn’t done that–it would have been, well, never mind.  Now I drive a five-year-old vehicle by choice, but I have always tried to take care of our vehicles.  I figured if I am going to drive an older car it might as well look good.

So, I am amazed–not that I got the garage picked up; not that the thing with the tools fell off the wall, but that my Father carefully orchestrated a series of events to make sure my car wasn’t in the way.  “Dewayne, do you really think that God cares about such things?”  No…I don’t think…I know.  And that’s not all. I am certain that when I finally get to heaven, I am going to be amazed at the things He did that I didn’t even know about.

Now I know we continue to be frustrated and maybe even discouraged about the events that surround us. Just remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10:29-30 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Fear not.  Hey, crazy world…fear not. Hey, uncertain future…fear not. Watch out new normalcy…fear not. High gas prices…fear not.  Remember, if you know Jesus then God knows you.  You call Him Dearest Father and He calls you His child. Trust me, you are of more value to Him than many sparrows. So, rest in Him.  He can move cars and mountains. He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Easter, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Hard Day–Good Friday

Jesus knew that His mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture He said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to His lips. When Jesus had tasted it, He said, “It is finished!” Then He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” John 19:28-30

Good Friday.  What an unusual name for such a hard, hard day.  Imagine with me as slowly the light increased over Jerusalem.  It was another early morning in spring and men were going to die.  The Romans regularly crucified criminals–it was business as usual for them.  But this day, well this day, would be different.  Three men would die on crosses–two criminals and one perfect human being.  His name was Jesus.

As the light increased so did the sounds.  If you had been there you would have heard the sounds of a crowd–a mob really.  Some were crying, some shouting, some angry, some broken.  You would have heard the sounds of struggle–anguish as a man carried a cross too big for even the healthiest of men.  At the top of a stark hill the sounds intensified.

You could hear without trying the sound of metal on metal as hammer meets nail.  Cries of humanity suffering as three crosses are lifted skyward.  The message was clear.  You don’t mess with Rome.  Scattered around are the sounds of women crying and men in anguish.  Stares of disbelief filled the eyes of many.  Listen now–there are words.

The Man in the middle–the perfect One–is speaking and what He says is almost beyond belief. “Father, forgive them.  They don’t know what they are doing.”  Forgive them? —Forgive the very ones who passed the judgement–who drove the nails–who lifted the cross? Wait, for there is more.  One of the criminals is mocking Him but the other is begging Him.  “Remember me,” he says.  And Jesus responds “Today, you will be with Me in paradise.”

There are more words.  Lean in–strain to hear. The Man in the middle–the perfect One–is asking His friend John to take care of His mother.  And then there is the cry of brokenness as He cries, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  He knows why.  The Man in the middle–the perfect One–has become sin and His Father can’t look on sin.  There’s a price being paid, and it involves wrath and death.  And He is willingly paying it.

As His end draws near a silence begins to fall over the hill.  The women are cried out, the soldiers are bored, and the crowd confused.  And then they all hear it.  “Tetelestai.” It’s a common word really.  It means finished.  An artist would say it when the last stroke is applied to a masterpiece.  A carpenter would say it when the last peg is driven in a newly built table. A farmer would say it when the last sheave of wheat is harvested.  But when the Man in the middle–the perfect One–says those words, everything changes.

“It is finished.”  The mission is accomplished. The price for sin has been paid and atoned for.  The wrath of God for sin is satisfied.  What justice demanded He has paid. And what He promised the criminal becomes a reality for any person. My sins, your sins, our sins, can be forgiven and you can be with me in heaven.

So, then He dies.  Actually, He wills himself to die for no one could take the life of the Man in the middle–the perfect One.  He could give it, but they could not take it.  Rocks crack, thunder rolls and then in the distance a tearing, ripping sound is heard as the massive curtain separating man from Holy God is torn from top to bottom and God–God hangs out the welcome sign for the first time ever.  And it’s all because of the Man in the middle–the perfect One.

In any other story that would be the end, but you see it’s only Friday.  The final act is coming on Sunday. Friday ended with His followers discouraged, defeated, and afraid. Maybe like some of us. But if you lean in again…if you listen closely…you can hear the Father saying, “Rest in Me. Wait till Sunday.  I’ve got this.”  And…He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Easter, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Thursday To-Do List

“As you go into the city,” He told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with My disciples at your house.’ ” Matthew 26:18

Well, it is Thursday.  Several years ago, something happened that changed the way I do business—do life.  I’ve done the pastor thing now for almost four decades.  Even as I write that, it seems hard to believe.  Anyway, there were a couple of things that pastors do that I never quite got the hang of.  First, they always carried a little calendar.  You would ask them a question and they would say, “Let me check my calendar.”  You would tell them you were having open heart surgery a week from next Friday and they would say, “Let me put that on my calendar.”  There was a problem.  Try as I may I never could get into the calendar thing.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to remember important dates—I just couldn’t remember to grab the thing when I left the house in the morning.  And honestly, I didn’t like having it stuffed into my pocket.

I hate to admit this, but it was the same deal with a pocket Bible.  Every pastor seemed to always have a little Bible stuck in their pocket. Not me.  It just didn’t work.  I mean I loved the Bible, but it just didn’t work.  Well, the solution for both of these lapses occurred kinda together.  First, along came the smart phone.  The smart phone is a little computer that you can easily carry.  Nice and flat, it can be stuffed to the gills with information, but it never feels bulky.  It wasn’t long after the advent of the smart phone that you could read the Bible on the thing.  Boom!  Just like that I had a Bible when I needed it.  It got better.

A couple of years later a friend introduced me to my new best friend—gmail and their calendar.  All of a sudden, I could pull out my trusty phone and not only check my calendar but quickly add things to my calendar.  It was a big deal.  It was a game changer deal.  Now I am not one of those folks who are “married” to their phone—in other words there are times when I forget it.  If I do, I kindly ask the person to shoot me a text and when I get to my phone there is a reminder to add what I needed to add.

So, being somewhat of an organized person, these tools were a great help.  I like knowing where I am going and when I am supposed to be there.  Somethings I don’t need to put on the calendar…I just know to do them.  They become part of my “to-do” list.  Thursdays are study days for the next week’s message, finalizing the worship event in the YouVersion Bible app, making some visits and a host of other small administrative details.  It is a catchup day.  As days of the week go…Thursday is usually a lighter day but of course as a pastor that can change quickly—very quickly.

I wonder if Jesus kept a “to-do” list.  I know—probably not.  But if He did, I wonder what it would look like.  In one sense it would be short—love God—love people.  But in another sense, it would be long as He was always doing something, and it was always what His Father wanted. Thursdays might have been one of His lighter days too.  But not this Thursday—not the Thursday before He died on a Roman cross on Friday.  That Thursday, the Thursday we celebrate today, was jam packed with incredible things.

His list would include celebrating Passover, His last Passover, with His closest friends in an upper room.  That was a must.  He also designed and planned an event that we call “The Last Supper,” “The Lord’s Supper,” or “Communion.”  He needed to give His followers something to help them understand what was about to happen and then remember it—forever.  Oh, and then He did something kinda unusual—He washed everyone’s feet.  Boy, that was a big one.  He did it to teach them, and us, about humility and service. He wasn’t done yet. In fact, there wasn’t an end to Thursday—it just bled over into Friday.

There was an important prayer meeting in a garden where only a few were invited.  He needed to talk to His Father about Friday.  He invited His friends along to help, but they were tired so He had to go it alone.  That would happen a lot as Thursday became Friday.  His “to-do” list also included healing someone’s whacked off ear and being arrested.  It also included that awful feeling of desertion when all of His friends left Him. And then, somewhere in the darkness, Thursday became Friday.

I know it isn’t possible for us to fully understand what those days were like for Jesus.  We do need to remember, though, that He experienced them as God but also as a man—a man who knew spiritually, emotionally, and physically where it was going.  And, amazingly, He did it willingly and He did it knowing the cost.  So today, as we walk our Thursday, let’s remember His Thursday and be grateful. He was a Man of details—of destiny.  He told them, “As you go into the city, you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with My disciples at your house.’ ” Yes, a Man of destiny—a Man of details.  A God-Man who had that—and who’s got this—no matter what that may be.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Easter, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

It’s Wednesday

For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

It’s Wednesday…not just Wednesday but Wednesday as in two days before you die.  Not just die, but die what the Romans called the death of deaths.  Not just die, but die a death so horrible it was outlawed for Roman citizens.  So, if you knew Friday was coming, what would your Wednesday be like?  What would your attitude be like?

The scriptures don’t actually say, “On Wednesday before Jesus died on Friday Jesus got up and did this or that.”  We do know this.  His actions were not dominated or determined by dread or fear.  His actions were governed by His desire to please His Father and driven by His love for us.  He wanted to please the Father and He wanted to save us.  Let that soak in.  He wanted to save us.

Jesus knew the full awfulness of the cross.  He understood the awfulness of experiencing the wrath of His Father for our sins.  In John 12:27-28, He says, “Now My soul is troubled. What should I say—Father, save Me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” He understood that if He was rescued there could not be a rescue or redemption for us and without redemption, you and I are burnt toast.

So, what did He do?  The author of Hebrews gives us a glimpse.  He says, “For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Do you see it? “For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross…”  Jesus handled the awfulness of the cross by looking beyond the awfulness to a time when He would be returned to His rightful place in heaven right beside His Father. He handled the present by looking to eternity.

That is really good advice for these days—actually, for any day.  We can be shortsighted and only see the craziness around us or we can look toward better days.  Now I want you to track with me. Many of those better days we dreamed about last year are already here.  Last year we mourned that we couldn’t worship together on Palm Sunday and Easter.  Last Sunday we did and this Sunday, Lord willing, we will.   Yay.  Last year we were longing to minister and serve others as a church family. This year we are or at least we can. And just like these things came to pass, so will the others.  We will have jobs again. We will have family parties again. The Cubs will win the series again.  Well, let’s not stretch it.  But you get the idea.

And by the way, one day, if we place our faith in Christ, we will have a reserved seat in the longest, greatest celebration of all–heaven.  None of the earth junk will be there. In fact, according to Revelation 21:4 “He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.” Wow–no grief, crying, pain, or death.  No funeral homes, nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, fear or any number of things that give us gray hair or no hair.

So, some of the better days are here and many more are coming–some sooner–some later.  And the same thing that got Jesus through can help us get through–the joy set before us.  We learned in a message recently that Biblical joy can be defined as “a deep sense of well-being based on our faith in God and trust in His sovereign will.”

As we trust Him the fear fades, the sun rises, and we can face today, and tomorrow. In fact, we not only can face it–we can embrace it with the confident assurance He is in control. Knowing that–rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Easter, Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Rubicon

Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine.” Luke 22:42

It was a Saturday morning, and it was my rubicon. I was reading an email this morning and it used this word—rubicon.  I had seen the word many times plastered on the side of a special edition Jeep and that is why the email and this word grabbed my attention.  I wondered, “What does it mean?”  Well, as it turns out there are two definitions but the one that mattered to me was this:  a point of no return.”  I guess for the Jeep owners it means that their Jeep is designed to go to and past that point.  In the email it meant more.  It meant that Jesus was willing to go past His rubicon—His point of no return—even though He knew what that meant.

Back in 2018, I had a rubicon of another sort.  Back in those days, I was walking 5.25 miles a day at a pretty brisk clip.  It really was quite an accomplishment as I had been doing it for many months.  But something was happening.  In October of that year, it was just getting harder.  I had put on a few pounds and I was sure that was the reason.  Each day I would arrive back to the house exhausted, my heart rate a bit higher than it had been running and worse—it wasn’t coming down.  I would walk five days a week and each day was the same—hard.  Then came Saturday.

Saturday, October 6th, I reached my rubicon…my point of no return.  After my walk I literally collapsed in a chair in my backyard.  A guest staying in our Airbnb, who happened to be a resident medical student, asked what I was doing.  I told him I was trying to breath and then humorously added that he might want to stick around as I might need him.  Turned out I was a prophet.  That day, I ended up in the hospital and it turned out the following Tuesday, I had a heart cath where they discovered a 90% blockage in one of the arteries of my heart.  All of a sudden, things began to make sense.

You see, the high heart rate and the shortness of breath were symptoms that something was wrong.  Each morning, my body was sending me a message—something is wrong—something is coming—-do something.  I am sure the Tuesday before my rubicon was like this Tuesday morning, a normal day.  I am sure that day I got the warning message and that day I excused it away.  But what if I had known?  What if I had known that Saturday, I would reach a point where going was not an option.  Would it have changed things?  Honesty, it probably would have…but I ignored the warnings.

This week, as we look forward to Easter, the resurrection of Jesus, think about the fact that all the signs were there.  Jesus, as the Son of God, knew His rubicon had come.  It was time to fulfill the mission for which He was sent.  It was time for Him to suffer and to die.  Unlike me, He knew what was coming and pressed on.  The reason was simple.  It wasn’t that He loved the thought of enduring the abuse and suffering of the cross and the events leading up to it—no not at all.  But He was in love with something else—us.

Jesus knew full well all of the details of His rubicon and went on because He loved us.  It was love that led Him to cross—it was love that caused Him to place one foot in front of the other—each one leading to a Roman execution. It was love that caused Him to go all the way.  Growing up,  when I did something that had difficult consequences, my mama would tell me that I should have known better.  Jesus knew better—and went anyway.

This week, ponder and think about the days leading to the day when Jesus died—His rubicon.  Remember that He did it for me and He did it for you.  When He prayed in the garden Thursday night that if there was any way this thing might pass—He knew full well it couldn’t.  That is the reason He kept on praying, “nevertheless, not My will Your will be done.”  In other words, He would say, “bring on the rubicon because that is why I came.”

If your week, this week has any unpleasantness or difficulties, just remember the week when He marched forward knowing full well what lay ahead—and remember He did it just so you and I could call God, Abba Father or Dearest Daddy.  How amazing is that? He was able to do it because He trusted and loved His Father.  And we can do it for the same reason.  No matter what, we have the confident assurance that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, loving others, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

The Last Part-The Best Part

“Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” John 31:1

Some of you might remember Paul Harvey.  He was a radio commentator for many years and was particularly famous for his “rest of the story” stories.  He would tell a somewhat familiar tale and then add a surprise ending to it and conclude with, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

Well, you might remember a story I wrote several days ago. Elisha and his servant were surrounded by the bad guys and from the servant’s perspective, it wasn’t going to end well.  Elisha asked God to open the servant’s eyes so he could see what was going on.  God did and the servant saw that the hills were surrounded with heavenly warriors and chariots of fire.  Things got better…quick.

So, the bad guys came down upon the city and Elisha prayed that God would smite them with blindness and boom–He did.  It sounds almost comical, but Elisha basically tells them, “You guys are lost…let me lead you to where you need to be.”  He leads them smack dab into the middle of Samaria…the Israelites’ stronghold.  And that’s where the rest of the story gets amazing.

Elisha then prays for the bad guys’ eyes to be opened and just like that—they were.  They took one look around and realized they were in very deep weeds. The Israelite king saw an opportunity and said to Elisha, “Can I kill them, can I kill them?”  I love this.  Elisha said, “No, you can’t kill them…that’s not what you do to people who surrender.  What you can do is give them something to eat and drink and let them go.”  I’m sure the king’s jaw hit the ground.  The “let’s kill them” plan sure sounded better.

Well, he fed them and let them go. Guess what?  We’ll let the Bible tell the end of the story.  In 2 Kings 6:23 we read, “So the king prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. Then the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.” Did you get that?  The bad guys weren’t the bad guys anymore. A little kindness changed the whole story. How about that?

If the king had killed them, there would have been revenge. They would have attacked and then the king would have attacked and on and on it would have gone.  But instead, a simple act of kindness broke the domino effect.  Instead of war there was relief–and peace.  In days when sides are still being chosen and tempers still flare—when hate and division are the new headlines and bylines—when no one trusts anyone—we Christ followers can and should be different.  We should be givers more than takers.  We should be lovers and not haters.  We should be like Jesus.

The Bible says in John 13:1 “Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” Those “ones” He loved–included the guy who would betray Him to the crucifiers.  It included the one who would deny that he even knew Him.  How amazing is that? We can’t really do much about how people act, but we can do a lot about how we respond to them.  If the dominos are going to be interrupted, it will have to be us. The chain reaction is broken when we act like the One who chose not to retaliate but rather to redeem—to restore.

Some days it seems that a too short fuse has been lit and there is not time or hope to stop the future devastation. Let me challenge us today—during these crazy days that are getting crazier by the minute—to do the crazy thing and love, serve and care for others. Let me challenge us to be like Jesus.

How can we do that?  Well, first, as Jesus followers we are God’s kids and that is what He expects us to do. Jesus said we should be peacemakers—whether it is on the street, in the church, or at home.  Second—we can trust Him.  We can rest in Him because we know the end of the story—and it ends well—and no circumstance, no ploy of Hell can change that.  Third—remember, He’s got this—He really does.  Whether it is a resurgence of the virus or another revolting piece of news.  God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.  Sounds like a no brainer to me.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

Sharing

Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.” Hebrews 13:16

My Mama taught me to share.  When there are a bunch of kids and other family members in a family you learn two contradicting lessons.  First, you need to share.  Often, especially when it comes to the good things on a dinner table, the demand usually exceeds supply.  You know, nine people and eight pieces of pie.  So, you cut the pieces smaller.  That is sharing.  The other lesson is you need to act fast.  We all know the adage that the early bird gets the worm or the one who eats his or her pie the fastest gets a shot at the last piece.  That is not sharing.

Sharing and putting others first are Jesus things.  He was the only guy who could go to any event and be the star of the show.  Be it a wedding, a funeral, or a banquet and bam…He was the most important person in the room.  But the funny thing is you never see that.  You always see Him at the back of the line.  The only time He was first in line was the line for the cross.  That was a very short line—in fact, it was only one deep and He was ready and willing to go because He loved us so much.

He was willing to share His righteousness too.  We didn’t have any of our own, so He gave us His.  The Bible says that our righteousness was like filthy rags, so He shared, in fact, He gave.  Its pretty amazing.  There are somethings we shouldn’t share like something told in private and maybe a cold.  But, as a general rule we should be people who love to share.  And that is where I need your help.

Over the last year lots of folks have been reading Grits.  Through our church email list, the Grits Facebook page, and through the gritswithgrace.com blog, people have been reading.  I want you know just how incredible I think that is.  My goal is to be an encourager and maybe even make you smile.  But most importantly, I want to share a big truth that helps us as we do life…together. 

So, that is where you come in. I am wondering if you would be willing to share Grits with those in your world? The guy who wrote Hebrews (great name for a coffee shop by the way) said that we should do good things and share because God is pleased with that.  That might even apply to Grits.  Sign up for the blog, share on Facebook, or share in an email, it’s all sharing a word of encouragement.

Something happened last week that I thought was so cool.  I was notified by email that someone had read one of the Grits’ stories and decided to start following the blog. That means every day they will get an email with that day’s story.  Sometimes, people just stumble onto the Grits blog, who knows how that happens? But what made this so special was this someone was a cabdriver in Southampton, England.  What? Yup. And I thought that was pretty cool. So, a special thanks to our friend there.

My wife Judy checked (the blog tracks locations) and we have had Grits’ readers from several countries and from a chunk of the states here in America.  And it usually happens because someone searches and finds a story, or someone shares it.  So, would you be willing to make it a daily habit to share your Grits?  It isn’t about just getting more readers but rather, it is about maybe encouraging someone who needs a lift on any given day.  Together we can be encouragers and hey, the more the merrier.

This last year has been a big challenge but I love the fact that God is bigger than any challenge we face.  I try and make that a regular theme as I write.  Life is pretty tough to go it alone and I believe that He is more than ready to walk with us.  So, thanks again for reading and thanks for sharing.  Oh, and by the way, for those of you who comment…thanks for that too.  I try and respond, and it is always an encouragement.  Well, outside night is turning to day, so it must be time to see what today holds.  One thing is sure…we can face it together with Him because as always, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Trials, wisdom

Mr. Bowlen

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8

It was a long, hard day.  When my wife and I lived in Warrensburg, Missouri we were renting a home in a still developing subdivision called Valley View.  We were just back from a three-year USAF stay in Germany, still newlyweds with only four years under our belt, and with a newly hatched dream.  While we loved the house we were renting, we, like so many, dreamed of owning our own home.  It was a crazy time economically as interest rates were running about 18 percent and inflation was at a record rate. And then a window opened.

The developer of our subdivision was a rough around the edges man named Mr. Bowlen.  We bumped into him around the neighborhood as he was still building houses. He planted a thought in our minds and hearts.  He said the government had a program that might allow us to build a house.  They would pay half the interest.  Well compared to eighteen percent, nine sounded pretty enticing. And before we knew, we were approved and a piece of land on Hilltop Drive had our name on it.  He let us add a few things like a bay window and a fireplace in the basement.  It added a bit to the bottom line, but they were worth it.

I’m still not sure if this was a wise financial decision for us.  It ended ok, and that’s another story, but it did cause some financial tension.  To help, he suggested I do some work equity and let me tell you…it was hard work.  I ended up doing all the painting and staining inside and out.  And for a guy who had never done anything like that—it was a challenge.  That’s another story, too.  There was also another opportunity to help with the financial tension.

Mr. Bowlen told me that he would be willing to let me work for him on Saturdays doing some basic labor.  He then said he would pay me $15.00 per hour.  Now that was good money back in 1983 so I agreed although I was way out of my comfort zone.  To set the stage, I was in the Air Force, that was my day job, I was pastoring a small church for a whopping $50 a week, that was my Sunday job, and now I was going to work for Mr. Bowlen on Saturdays.  Like I said…it was way out of my comfort zone.  So, Saturday came.

The work site was just down from our rental house, so I just walked over.  It was early in the morning and we were going to be putting up metal (as in heavy metal) forms to pour a basement for another house.  We had to lift the forms in place and hammer pins in place to hold it all together.  Well, besides dropping my hammer one time inside the forms, things went pretty well.  We called it a day about 4:00 pm…just in time for me to get home and start trying to write a sermon for the next day.  I was exhausted.  I bet that was at least one short sermon!

So, the next week I bumped into Mr. Bowlen and he had a check for me.  Finally, the fruit of my labor that Saturday was in my hands.  Based on his comment about $15.00 per hour and eight hours of labor, I was expecting a check for around a hundred dollars. Instead, I found a check for forty dollars and some change.  I was, uh, shocked.  I said, “Mr. Bowlen is this right?” He assured me that it was, and I said, “I thought you were paying $15.00 an hour.”  He chuckled and said, “Oh, I was only kidding about that.  We pay laborers $5.00 an hour.”  I wasn’t laughing.  In fact, as much as I liked him, I felt betrayed—ripped off.  From my view, one thing was promised, and another given. And that was my first and only Saturday working for Mr. Bowlen.

Betrayed and ripped off.  Have you ever felt that way?  Have you ever felt that way about another person?  Have you ever felt that way…about God?  Because people are broken and imperfect, just like us, there is a measure of understanding. It doesn’t make it any less painful but at least it sometimes softens the blow.  But what about God?  What about when it seems God doesn’t keep His Word?  That’s a tough one.

What I have learned over my years as a Jesus follower, and as a pastor, that when it seems we feel betrayed or ripped off by God it is because we have misread or misapplied His Word.  You see, His Word is full of promises, but we need to make sure that the promises were made to us and for us.  We can’t claim promises that were made to another person or group of people.  God made promises to Abraham that just aren’t ours to claim.

Too often, unfortunately, preachers, teachers, and ordinary people make promises on God’s behalf that God never intended or said.  And, when they don’t come true, well, we blame God and that is not right or fair.  I’ve been a Jesus follower for 45 years now, and I can tell you one thing—He has never failed me or failed to keep His Word.  He is a promise keeping God—when the promise is mine.  No, I’ve not always liked how things turned out or His way of working something out, but I can say I’ve never felt betrayed or ripped off.  He is a good God who is good at being God.  You can trust Him.

Well, Mr. Bowlen’s little joke was a hard lesson for me to learn but it was a valuable one.  His heart was good, but his sense of humor was not.  I’m glad my Dearest Daddy, the God I can call Father, has a perfect heart and His will and plan for me is perfect.  I know no matter what I will face, His plan is for my good and His glory—and that is good enough.  I can face today knowing, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, Trials, wisdom

Together

I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

I’m not much of a sports fan.  Oh, I watch the Super Bowl and the World Series and occasionally I tune into the Master’s.  I am amazed by March Madness and pull for the Blues if they are in the Stanley Cup playoffs.  But when it comes to getting into the nitty-gritty of the sports world, well, not so much.  Even so, I do know one or two things that can make a team strong. While each team will have a wide variety of talents and skill levels, while every team will have players from different races and social stations, while every team will have all kinds of personalities, there is one thing they must have in common.  They must have a love, a passion, for the game.

I mean it just works.  Take my family, your family, for example.  In a world where fewer and fewer marriages stay intact, where relationships are fractured, where time is easy to schedule but difficult to find…someone, or several someone’s must have a passion for the family, not just for it to survive, but for it to thrive.  Passion and love will somehow carve time out of a busy day for one another.  Passion and love will find a way to put others at the front of the line.  Passion and love will share the burden of life and make it easier to bear.

Take your place at work, for example.  For many, work is just work. However, the bottom line is work gives you the opportunity to spend several, or more than several, hours with a group of people, day after day.  While it is great to be passionate about the job you do, doesn’t it also make sense to be passionate about the people you do it with?  I spoke at the funeral service of a person recently and one of the things that was said of her was that her co-workers were like a second family to her.  What about you?  How would that impact your desire to get up and go to work each day?

Take your church, for example.  If there is a place where we should be up to our eyeballs in relationships, it is where we worship.  One of the most powerful forces in culture is when a group of Jesus followers gather to worship and do life together.  One thing is certain—Jesus was and is a game changer. In fact, the way we do time is centered on His birth.  And, when, His followers get it right, they become an impactful force for good in our communities, towns, and even the world.

Whether in the church or not—we have to find common ground.  We somehow have to determine that in our small part of the world, what draws us together will be stronger than what would pull us apart.  That is what got this great experiment called America going in the first place.  It wasn’t that everyone agreed, but that they found common ground and they let that common ground be the glue that pulled the country together.

Each one of us needs to find that one thing that will help us pull it all together—whether that be family, business, church, or community.  I know for me that cohesion is all about being a Jesus follower. His ability to change lives and His teachings lived out in the lives of people are just game changers.  One of the things I love about people is the great diversity.  God made each one of us different and unique. We are all over the map—no pun intended.  But that diversity may well be a strength and not a weakness.  It only becomes a weakness if we allow it to pull us apart and not together.

We need each other and there is power and beauty in God’s creation. When we work together, we become a force to be reckoned with—and the enemy knows it.  So, as we emerge from the crazy time of COVID and division, let’s remember what is good about our communities, our towns, our country—and even this sometimes, upside-down world. Let’s remember the power of love and kindness. If you are a Jesus follower, let’s remember He said they will know us by our love…not our judgement.  And even if you aren’t a Jesus follower—well, that’s just good stuff.  We are stronger and better together and with a little help from the One who created all this—we can do it.  After all, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Easter, Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, thankful, wisdom

Resurrection

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection.” Philippians 3:10

Like it or not…it was time.  Every spring and summer, my wife and I are blessed to have one of the most beautiful yards on our street.  Some people say it is one of the most beautiful yards in town.  When we moved to 217 West Poplar Street, it was a blank canvas.  There were literally no flowers and no flowering trees.  Judy, who has a green thumb, over the years has made our yard into several beautiful gardens.  She plants it and it grows.

Well, every fall, as the temperatures fall, some things go to sleep and some things just die.  The perennials go to sleep to be awakened the next spring and the annuals die and will have to be replanted or reseeded. Fall and winter leave a carnage of dead stems, leaves, and blooms and before the perennials can be awakened, last year’s carnage needs to go.  There’s where I come in.  She is the “make it happen” person and I am the “cleanup the carnage” person.  So, every later winter or very early spring, I have my work cut out for me.

Last week, I would come home from work and select a section of the yard to cleanup.  Using my string trimmer (hey, don’t laugh…it works), my rake, my loppers, and a couple of other tools for good measure, I would wack, cut, trim and rake my way through each flower bed.  When I was done, I would have a pretty clean slate for the coming spring.  If you saw all this when I was done, it would look pretty empty.  You would think, “Nothing is gonna happen there.”  But you would be perfectly wrong.

You see, beneath the soil, all those perennials (plants that come back year after year) that have slept all winter, that for all practical purposes seemed dead, are about to spring (no pun intended) back to life.  Green sprouts will be pushing up everywhere.  Before long what was bare is filled with new life and what is filled with new life will soon be filled with the beautiful blooms of spring and summer.  It really is quite amazing.

Well, let me just tell you.  For five days, I went out, two or three hours a day and did my carnage removal thing.  And, at least for this guy whose job has him sitting at a desk studying, it was hard work.  My arms were tired, my shoulders ached, and I was thoroughly and completely—pooped.  Somewhere along the journey, I lost my vision. All I knew was I was tired and that there seemed to be no end to the carnage of last fall and winter.  But then it hit me, and my focus returned.

It wasn’t just work. It wasn’t just something that had to be done.  I was on a mission.  I was preparing for…resurrection.  My work for those five days, was a work with purpose.  As I cleared away the old, I was making way for the new.  And because of my faithfulness in late winter or early, early spring—the resurrection could happen.  Already, tiny green sprouts are breaking through the dirt and reminding me that my work was not in vain.  It has a purpose.

In a few weeks, we will be celebrating another resurrection and this one is the biggie.  We are going to celebrate the fact that two thousand years ago, a man—the God-man—willingly died on a Roman cross to pay the price for the sins of the entire world.  That day the sin for every man, woman, and child was atoned for, making it possible for those same people to have forgiveness, power to live this life, and live forever in heaven.  Anyone who is willing to believe and choose to follow Him can have the privilege of calling God—Father. But He didn’t just die.

See, anyone can die on a cross and claim anything.  Jesus didn’t stay dead—He physically, really and completely came back to life.  He resurrected and one of the reasons He did?  He did it to prove that He was Who He said He was and did what He said He would do. His death shouted, “I love you” and His resurrection shouted, “I am victorious over death.”  Wow.  So, here’s the deal. 

Remember I mentioned in a few weeks we were going to celebrate the “biggie?”  Well, this is what I was talking about.  And these weeks are like my time preparing the gardens for their resurrection.  These weeks are a time for us to prepare our hearts and minds for the big event—Resurrection Sunday.  The more I prepare the gardens for their resurrection, the bigger the celebration of life as they sprout and bloom.  And guess what?  It’s true with Easter.  The more we prepare, the bigger the celebration. Like Paul, said, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know [to celebrate] the power of His resurrection.”

Each evening after work I had to make a conscious decision to prepare the gardens for resurrection.  Wanting to, longing to, intending to, just wouldn’t cut the mustard.  It is time for us to prepare to celebrate His resurrection.  Wanting to, longing to, intending to, just won’t get the job done.  We have to decide to prepare—for the resurrection.  It’s a reason to celebrate you see because He lives—we too can live.  So, start today, get ready for the biggie—the resurrection of Jesus.  Need help in preparing? Not sure how? No problem.  The One who made it all possible is a great party planner.  Just ask Him.  He’s got that, too.  Bro. Dewayne