Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

Locks

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

Well, that didn’t do a lot of good.  My wife Judy and I recently attended a pastor’s conference at the Billy Graham Training Center in North Carolina.  It was so refreshing to get away and as always, we were treated like royalty.  The teaching, the facilities and the food were all top notch.  In these crazy days we are living it was like an oasis where we could pause and refill—to drink deeply from His well of living water.

So, too soon, it was time to head back home and because the conference was over in the middle of the day, it just made sense to stop about halfway and spend the night. Cookeville, Tennessee is just about the midway point, so we booked an Airbnb. It was a nice place and we unloaded and then went to get a bite to eat. In the meantime, it decided to rain.  Now let me explain this was one of those rains that could drown a fish.  It rained, rained hard and it rained a long time. I was about to check the price on gopher wood.  Anyway, when we got back to our home for the evening, I jumped out of the car and unlocked the door and Judy followed.

Well, it continued to rain and several times I went outside to see what was happening.  You could hear the rain from inside the apartment and you could just tell it was coming down in buckets.  Of course, there was the occasional lighting followed by a good, ole thunderclap.  Each time I went out I was careful to lock the door back.  You know, the neighborhood looked safe, but you can never tell.  Finally, it was time to head to bed and I checked the door and it was locked.  We were safe and sound.

Well, sometime in the night, I woke up to rollover and I thought I heard something.  Now don’t panic…it was nothing, but I thought it might be something.  And then, something occurred to me, a question really.  I asked myself, “Did you leave the key in the lock on the door?”  Well, that made me wonder…and for good reason.  So, in the middle of the night I got up and turned on the lights.  I looked on the counter and guess what?  The key was nowhere to be seen.  I had a sneaking suspicion I knew just where to find it.

I walked over to the door, unlocked the deadbolt, and opened the door and there for everyone and anyone to see and find…was the key.  Well, I obviously took it out of the lock and gratefully locked the door back, put the key on the counter and went back to bed.  After a short prayer thanking God for keeping us safe, I drifted back off to sleep…no harm and no foul.  But it did make me think.

You see the door had two locks…one on the doorknob and one a deadbolt.  Those together would certainly keep out any bad guys.  But with the key right there…well, those locks weren’t going to keep anyone out.  With the key in the lock, it was like hanging out a “Y’all come on in!” sign. As I mentioned, no one tried to come in, but I had rendered the locks useless by leaving the key there.

It made me wonder how often do we leave the keys in the locks that guard our heart, our mind, our character, our marriage, our anythings?  You see, God watched out for Judy and me that night and gratefully, He also watches out for us in life.  But as sure as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so it is better to remove the key and lock the lock.  Wouldn’t it have been crazy, though,  for me to leave the key in the lock because, after all, no one tried to come in…yet?  And just because nothing has gone amiss in our lives yet doesn’t mean that it can’t and it won’t.

The Bible tells us in the Book of Smart Living, aka Proverbs, to guard our hearts because out of it comes the wellspring of our lives. In other words, we need to lock the door of our hearts and put the key safely away. If you are wondering the best way to guard your heart, to lock the door to your heart, I believe the Bible is the answer.  It is just jam-packed with help from the One who made us.  And remember, the Bible isn’t just a book of rules…it is a book for living well. Like guardrails on a curvy road, it keeps us from big regrets and consequences.  Written on the pages and in between the lines is His calm assurance that we don’t have to worry because He is with us and yes, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Judy’s “S” Word

So, it is sin to know to do good and yet not do it.” James 4:17

I said the “S” word.  Oh, no—not that one.  You see we have some strict standards with language in our house.  My wife Judy taught our children, and me, that there are certain words we just don’t say.  One is “shut-up.”  That is just too rude.  I remember a couple of years back when she was teaching Refit, she was using a pop song called, “Shut-up and Dance with Me.”  Oh my—I had a fit.  I tried to explain to her how that was against our standards. She gently, well, somewhat gently, explained to me that it was a love song, and the words were spoken in that context.  “Oh.” I said. You see, I’ve always been kinda cut and dry.

But that is not the word that came out of my mouth on another day.  It was the other “S” word that is banned from our family.  So, I had just finished my morning walk.  I was zipping along pretty good…enough to work up a good sweat anyway.  I got back to the house, and I was drenched with sweat…hot and tired.  But there was this kinda feeling of satisfaction at the same time. And then I got to thinking.

You see I try to be at least somewhat healthy which means I try to exercise several times a week. I know it is a good thing to do.  I know it is the right thing to do.  It’s the kinda thing that you tell your doctor you are doing, and they pat you on the head and say how well you are doing. I even have a healthy breakfast—lots of protein and very little carbs or fat.  I feel another pat on the head coming on.  And then it happens.  Someone brings donuts to the office and those sweet round things whisper my name.  Sometimes it is cookies, and they whisper a little louder.  Throughout the day the whispers get louder and louder and by the time evening coming I am eating anything and everything with sugar in it.  And that’s when I said it.

Sitting outside, drenched in sweat, proud of exercising, I said it, “Dewayne, you’re stupid (that’s the other “S” word).  You work so hard to exercise and then turn around and make a series of unwise and unhealthy decisions.  And it occurs to me that those bad decisions totally negate the good ones made in the morning.  In other words, I am shooting myself in the foot.  At best I am breaking even for the day. I think I am learning the good doesn’t outweigh (no pun intended) the bad.  I need to cut back, perhaps way back, on the sweet stuff to really gain the benefit of the exercise.

We do the exact same thing with our spiritual disciplines.  Do we understand that even if we get up in the morning and have a time with God—even if we read His Word, read a couple of devotional thoughts, and even pray, the unwise decisions we make during the rest of the day rob us of our victory?  We need to learn to do the good and at the same time stop the bad.  We need to carefully weigh each decision we make.  Often, I visit our pantry and will find myself trying different things just to satisfy that itch I have.  In the process I consume a bunch of empty, non-satisfying calories.  I end the day wondering why and how that happened. I then start the next day with a commitment to do better.

I think the secret must be to constantly remember through the day the cost of making unwise decisions—whether they be calories or sins.  And then in the case of the pantry, turn out the light and walk out—empty handed.  It may be difficult at the moment, but the win is about two minutes later when you realize you made a right decision.  And that’s another secret—make one wise decision and then wait to make the next one.  Before long—you wait—and things will begin to change.

There’s a verse tucked away in the book that James the half-brother of Jesus wrote in the Bible.  It says that when we know to do good and then choose not to do it—well, that becomes a sin.  And if we see it through that lens it starts to make sense.  Now most of my nighttime grazing for sweets occurs when Judy isn’t around.  It’s just easier to make unwise choices when the one who loves me most isn’t there.  My best idea is to stay out of the kitchen when she isn’t around.

It’s the same with our Dearest Father. It’s much easier to do life when we stick close to Him in our heart, thoughts, and actions. If we can get it into our heads that He is always there to help us make wise choices—well, we will make wiser choices.  He wants us to sin less because when we do—we bring glory to His name, and we are happier.  So, the next time you’re tempted to make a bad or unwise decision, look around and He will be there for you.  Just turn out the light and walk out empty-handed.  Just put your hand in His.  Just lay it to rest.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Trials, wisdom

Nice Landing…But

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25

What? Really? You’re kidding? Several years ago, something happened that made the national news and caused quite a stir for a particular airline. It seems that a Southwest Airlines flight was on its way to Branson, Missouri.  It was dark and for a lot of us even driving a car in the dark is a deal but that’s nothing for professional pilots.  Anyway, as they made their approach to the airport, they saw lights and a runway and performed a perfect landing–at the wrong airport.  How in the world did that happen?

Well, when asked, it turns out the pilots were a little confused.  They saw the lights and assumed that it was the Branson airport which of course, it wasn’t.  Now all that might seem somewhat forgivable…I mean everyone makes a mistake.  But one small factor makes forgiveness a little more difficult:  electronics.  Now I am not a pilot, but I do know that modern avionics do an amazing job helping the pilot fly the plane. My nephew and brother-on-law fly professionally, and they sometimes share with me about the amazing aircraft they fly.

There was a story on the news that expressed concern that the aircraft and all its electronics perhaps do too much of the flying of the aircraft. In the case of the mistaken airport, we can only presume that the avionics were doing their job and had the plane headed in the right direction.  At some point, the pilots took over, ignored all that the electronics were telling them and made a big and potentially disastrous mistake.  I can just hear their GPS saying, “Turn around when possible.”  Ok, that’s stretching it but the bottom line remains–the instruments were telling them the truth, but they did what they thought was right.  Oops.

We have such a terrible tendency to do the same.  God gave us His Word not as a bunch of do’s and don’ts but rather as a guidebook, a GPS, if you will, to get us through life.  It gives us good solid advice and points us in the way we should go.  If we choose to ignore it, well, we can metaphorically end up at the “wrong airport” or worse than that in a devastating fiery crash with equally disastrous consequences. Either because of circumstances or our stubborn pride, we sometimes just insist on doing what we think is right—even when we know better.

The Bible speaks of this in Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” In other words, in the vacuum of leadership, the people did whatever they wanted.  Does that somehow sound familiar? Growing up in the sixties I thought we did a pretty good job of doing our own thing, but I do believe that culture today is showing us up. It’s not that we don’t know better.  It’s not that we don’t have something to guide us.  It’s not that we don’t have a king—no, there is a King–we just tend to ignore Him when it gets too uncomfortable or goes against our grain.

In the case of the Southwest pilots, they were very fortunate because the consequences were smaller than they could have been. They had to answer for their actions and I’m sure they either lost their jobs or were sent back to “driver’s education.”  But let’s be honest.  Sometimes what was true for them is also true for us.  We just get sloppy in our living and well, that leads down a path we just need to avoid.

A lot of the “rough air” and “pilot error” we experience in life can be avoided if we will take the time to read the Book, trust the Book, and apply the Book.  But even then, we won’t always get it right.  No one, including pilots, are perfect.  The good news is that when we fail and even when we crash there is grace.  The One who made us all is ready and willing to forgive us of all our errors and sins.  We just need to ask.  And if we will, and when we do, we can rest assured that, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Unexpected Gratitude

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

I made a random turn…into the cemetery.  One evening my wife Judy and I were out on a mission.  One of our ladies had given us some homemade ice cream and we were returning the container.  Oh, in case you are wondering, it was way beyond delicious.  It was peach and it was just peachy.  I’ve already put in a request for strawberry next.  We returned the container and just kinda started driving randomly.  As we went down the street the entrance to the cemetery came up on the right—and I turned right in.

Slowly we started driving down the lanes and just as slowly I started reading some of the headstones there.  First, though, on the left was Harrisburg’s “Little Arlington.”  It was dusk and the lights were on, and I was so impressed with all the work that went into honoring those who had served their country. It represented sacrifice. For some the ultimate sacrifice…the kind of sacrifice that means you don’t get to come home from the war.  I love what is often said, “All gave some, but some gave all.” For that, I was moved, and I was grateful.

Just down the lane was a grave that caught my attention.  It was a young soldier who went to Korea to fight for his country in what has been called “the forgotten war.”  He was 27 years old when he died on some battlefield, some hill in a country for away.  He was fighting and ultimately died for the cause of freedom.  I was moved and I was grateful.

In several places, Judy and I would stop as we saw a headstone that was personal because we knew, we loved, the ones buried there.  Sometimes both of the names were etched there in the stone, and it symbolized two lives joined into one story.  And for both the story had concluded.  Sometimes though only one name had the start and finish dates. The other story was still being written and there was a heart longing for heaven and a long-awaited reunion.  One stone declared and celebrated 72 years of marriage.  So many of those story writers had touched our lives.  I was moved and I was grateful.

There were also stones of tragedy.  There stood the stone marking the grave of two brothers tragically killed one night by a drunk driver.  Several other stones showed lives cut short by a tragic accident.  Over there was the headstone of one of the victims from the 2012 tornado.  Everywhere were stories of people who touched the lives of others. One stone showed an American flag engraved in full color—the grave of a proud veteran.  One grave was that of a pastor and a veteran of World War II.  So many stories, so many lives, so many contributions.  I was moved and I was grateful.

As we continued around the lanes inside the hallowed grounds, we noticed there were places where whole families were buried together.  Generations of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters lay in eternal rest together.  The stones often bore nicknames and tag lines of the one who lay there.  On one grave was a tattered flag that said, “#1 Dad.” Some graves though were barely marked.  The only indication that someone lay there was a rock or a stone.  In another part of the cemetery were the pauper graves.  I have stood at some of those graves as we laid to rest someone that almost no one knew.  Once it was the funeral director and me.  No one else came. I was moved and I was grateful.

“Wait,” you say.  “How can you be grateful?”  Well, the reason is simple.  Whether it was a family plot of many generations or a solitary grave of a person when no one came—Jesus was still there.  He is the unseen attendee of every funeral.  For many He is there as Savior and Lord. For others He is there as the Sovereign Lord who wishes all to believe but knows not all will.  But He is there.  He is always there.  When we need Him, when we want Him and yes, even when we ignore Him.  I am moved and I am grateful.

When you get some time, take a slow drive through the cemetery.  It is anything but morbid…it is in fact one of the most meaningful things we can do.  You will be touched, you will be moved, and yes, somewhere along the way you will be grateful.  Let each headstone with a start and finish date be a reminder that for you there is still time.  Still time to make a difference, still time to mend a relationship, still time to finish well.  But most importantly…there is still time to believe and trust in Him.  The Book says that if anyone will call on His name…they will be saved—forgiven—rescued. No story is so bad that He can’t change the end.  Once again, I am moved and I am grateful.

Many see the cemetery and think death.  For those who truly understand grace and Jesus they know the cemetery isn’t about death it is about life.  You learned it in Sunday School but now hear it again…like the first time.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever (that is you and me) calls on His name will not perish but have everlasting life.”  So, trust in Him and rest in Him.  For He has all of this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Trials

Shock Factor

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 14:12

I call it the “shock factor” and I am not a fan.  One of the things that I love about deep South Florida and the Keys is the water temperature.  I mean it is perfect.  When you wade into the water there is no gasping or shuddering.  There is no “shock factor.” On the other hand, I have been to the Florida panhandle many times, often in the dead of summer, and it always seems the water is cold. It probably isn’t but it sure seems that way.

Several years ago, we were down with the family.  We had a place on the beach and soon there was a clamor of “let’s go to the beach.” Well, I am not a fan of the beach, but I am a fan of my family so off we went. We got there and it was time to take the plunge.  So, I put my little toes in the water and was shocked at how cold the water seemed.  Holy moley…I thought this was the Gulf not the North Sea! Well, I inched a little more trying my best not to act like a girl—sorry ladies.  As I waded out, the water got higher and higher until finally it was time to go all in.  Yep, I finally just bent my legs, and the water came up to my neck.  Holy moley, for the second time!

Well, for about four or five minutes it was just cold—I swore I saw penguins walking on the beach.  Hot temperature or not…sun or not—it was cold. Then gradually I realized, it wasn’t cold anymore.  In fact after a bit, it actually felt pretty warm.  Had my body temperature changed?  Nope.  Had the water warmed up?  Nope.  Fact was I just acclimated to the water.  In other words, I just got used to the water and when I did, the shock factor was gone.  I found out you could even get out of the water for a couple of minutes and return without shouting, “holy moley!”

I find this whole hot/cold water thing kinda interesting.  You have probably heard about how a frog can be put into a pot of water.  As heat is applied to the pot the ole frog just sits there and until the water is boiling and he is cooked.  He doesn’t sense the temperature change because his body temp is controlled by his environment. And then I realized that is exactly how it is with us and sin.  The longer we stay in a certain sin–and the more often we visit there–the lower the shock factor.  In fact, it sounds crazy but it explains what is happening all around us today. It probably explains why so many “Christians” can live in sin and feel quite comfortable there. They have lost the “shock factor.”

When it comes to water temperature, God gives us the shock factor to physically warn our bodies that something is different–perhaps dangerous.  He does the same for us morally and spiritually. When we are walking down a path with big regrets and bigger consequences, He sometimes sends the “shock factor” to wake us up. That “Oh my, what am I doing?” thing is from God, and He is warning us to get out—fast. In the Old Testament part of the Bible, there is a verse in the book of Proverbs that says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”  That is so true…just ask the frog.

So unlike Mister Frog, we can physically “feel the heat” but morally and spiritually we aren’t much different. We need to be wise enough to jump out while we can.  Many a good frog has waited to late…and so has many a person.  That uncomfortable feeling is there for a reason…jump while you can. Like a good lifeguard, God is waiting for us to call for help.  You can trust Him…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, life, love, loving others, Southern born, thankful

Just Say No

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful, and it’s fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” Genesis 3:6

I remember it like it was yesterday…or a couple of weeks ago anyway.  I am the youngest of eight children.  Some call me the baby of the family…I know Momma and Daddy saved the best for last.  My brothers and sisters nicknamed me Precious.  I used to think it was because they were jealous, but I later learned they were just right.  And, because I was so precious, well I often was the target of pranks and other acts of terrorism.

The two sisters and I were called the three little ones.  That was because everybody else was several years older and therefore bigger.  The other two members of “the three little ones” were the main terrorists.  They loved to hold me down and tickle me mercilessly and then pull my ears till they were blood red. It’s because of them one of my ears sticks out further than the other. They were two tough cookies.

One time they pushed me out the door in my underwear and wouldn’t let me back in.  I banged and banged on the door all to no avail.  They, of course, will deny all of this but trust me, at the Judgement Seat all will be revealed, and they will surely be grateful for grace.

I have always had an affection for sweet things, and they even used that against me.  One day one of them came up and said, “Dewayne, do you want some candy?”  Well, my response was, “Well sure.”  It was in a small box and in my excitement, I didn’t take time to read the label.  Honestly, since I was only about eight, I probably wouldn’t have known the difference anyway.  So, I opened the box and found that it was filled with chocolates.  There were only three or four pieces in the box and before long…they were gone.

I did notice that they tasted a little different, but they were sweet,  and they were brown so hey, that was close enough for me.  I should have been suspicious that the terrorists were being so nice, but I always was a trusting soul.  Well, several hours passed and before long time wasn’t the only thing that was passing.  You see, my loving sisters had fed me a whole box of Ex-Lax.  They would deny it, you probably can’t believe it, but trust me I was there.  Oh, boy was I there.

Well, I learned a lot of lessons growing up and this is one of them.  You see, things are often not what they seem to be. I thought I was a getting a box of chocolates and instead I got a box of trouble.  It looked like chocolate, it even tasted somewhat like chocolate, but it wasn’t anything close.  Did you know that the Bible warns us how the Devil can disguise himself?  It says that he can disguise himself as an angel of light when in fact He is the angel of darkness.  Remember that…things are not always as they seem.

I learned too that not everyone who comes bearing gifts can be trusted.  I should have known better when they offered that box but my desire for chocolate overruled my common sense.  That is what got Adam and Eve in trouble in the garden. The story is found in Genesis, and it says, “The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful, and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So, she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” And that is how I found myself eating Ex-Lax.

It’s a tricky world out there…terrorists are lurking everywhere and sometimes they might be related so be careful.  Be sure and use your good common sense if someone offers you a little box filled with chocolates.  You might be getting more than you bargained for.  Like I said, I probably wouldn’t have understood the label even if I had read it. But do you know what?  My Momma would have.  In fact, if I had gone to her this story would have been totally different.  But I didn’t.

As we journey through this upside-down world, don’t forget to go to your Dearest Daddy with your questions and mysteries.  He is always there, and He is always watching out for you.  You can trust Him. His box of chocolate is always the real deal.  So have a seat, open the box, and enjoy.  You can rest in Him.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, Uncategorized

What’s Your Worth?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Well, this week was the week we got to pay the first installment on our property taxes. There is a first installment because there is a second installment and there is a second installment because tax are well, really steep. All this reminds me of something that came in the mail last year and it was from the tax guy—the assessor to be specific.

They told me they had driven by my house and they really liked it—a lot.  And, since they liked it so much, they thought it was worth a lot more than they had previously thought.  A whole lot more.  They blessed me with a reassessment and the grand prize was I got to pay more property taxes. Yay.  Well, not really but it did give me a great opportunity to learn about how much God loves me.  Here’s what happened.

If you have been here before you probably know my day job is being a pastor. It is something that I really enjoy.  My favorite thing is  sharing THE story but also sharing stories.  I love to take big truths and present them in a way that anyone can grasp them.  I think that is what Jesus did and I figure if He did it I should too.

So a while back I was sharing the story from the Bible how four guys take this paralyzed guy to see Jesus.  When they got there, the house was stuffed with people.  There was no way they were going to get in.  So they decided to take this guy up on the roof, dig a hole in the roof and then lower him right in front of Jesus.  It was crazy, it was  radical, and it was different, but they believed two things.  They believe that Jesus could heal their friend and that the friend was worth the effort.  We all could use friends like that.

They began to haul this guy up the ladder to the roof.  Can you even imagine how difficult and challenging that was?  I mean how do you keep a paralyzed guy from falling off his mat while climbing a ladder?  Well, somehow they pulled it off.  When they got to the top they began to remove the thatch first and then break apart the mud and tiles.  After they had made a hole big enough to get this guy through—they lowered him down and He landed right in front of Jesus. I bet there were more than one person who wondered what in the world was going on. I bet too some people were grumbling about tearing up a perfectly good roof to get some poor, paralyzed guy in front of Jesus. I mean if he had been some rich guy maybe but a nobody? And that’s what rung my bell.

You see to those four guys and to Jesus—this guy wasn’t a nobody—he was a somebody.  He was worth way more than a hole in the roof.  In fact, through the eyes of Jesus every soul if incredibly valuable—including yours.  And that’s when the reassessment thing came into focus. Remember, when the tax folks drove by my house they liked what they saw and they increased my assessment.  Their assessment really only means I get to pay more taxes.  It really doesn’t tell me what my house is really worth.

You see, I learned a while back that anything you or I own—our house, our car, is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it. That’s the bottom line.  So here’s the deal.  God drove by your soul, my soul and assigned a value to it—what it was worth to Him and what He was willing to pay to redeem it.  Do you know what that was?  Well, we find it in the Bible.  It says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  Get that—everlasting (as in eternal) life.  God’s assessment of our value to Him was the life of His very own Son.  He allowed His Son to die on a Roman cross because He counted us as somehow worth it.  He just loved us that much.

Well, the end of the story for the paralyzed guy was pretty amazing too.  Jesus first calls him Son—not worthless, not broken, but Son. Then He forgives the guy’s sin—not what he wanted but what he needed—and finally, He tells him to stand up, take his mat, and go home.  Three seemingly impossible things but with Jesus, as you can probably guess, nothing is really impossible when He shows up. The guy jumps up, takes his mat and leaves as the crowd is standing in disbelief.  They said they have never seen anything like that—and they hadn’t. The key thing is that the guy had to not only believe but also act on what he believed and each one of us must do the same.  We have to believe that Jesus is Who He says He is and can do what He says He can do.  When we believe that—we are forgiven and God becomes our Father.

Truth be known, I wasn’t too happy about my reassessment but I was glad it taught me a new way to look at how much God loves me…and you.  When we are down on ourselves, when all I can see are failures and warts, when I want to give up and quit, I remind myself that my Heavenly Father thinks I am worth a lot. You see, I’m also learning that His opinion is the only one that matters. So why not take a rest in Him today.  Because you know—He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, love, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

It’s Time to Remember

Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” Proverbs 13:4

I remember…in fact, I don’t think I can forget.  This past spring, I spend a long day working in the yard.  Generally speaking, I enjoy working in the yard…just not overwhelmed and all day. Let me just say that I am not as young as I used to be…and probably not as healthy as I ought to be. At any rate there was a job to be done so I jumped in. There were two things that needed to be done.

The first thing I did was to “deadhead.”  Now you may already know what that means but just in case, here you go.  In the fall, when all the green stuff dies it leaves this brown stuff.  The green stuff is pretty—the brown stuff is not.  You are supposed to cut the brown stuff in the fall, so it looks better all winter.  The other reason for cutting it in the fall is that you don’t have to do it in the spring.  Well, we were busy, we were lazy, we ignored it—it doesn’t matter—the bottom line was we had a bunch of deadheading to do.  Bummer. 

So that Saturday I deadheaded.  Here’s the lesson—don’t put off today what you need to do till tomorrow.  The problem or task may be even bigger, and it can even be more difficult.  And frankly, tomorrow may never come. Every person gets 1440 minutes a day and if we are wise, we will use them wisely. Proverbs 13:4 says, “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” Ouch.  Thanks Solomon! So, in a week or two or three, there will be deadheading to do.  I need to remember last spring because this fall can make next spring—better.  Remember each day is a gift…work for the kingdom, love someone—but do it now.

Now the other thing I did that Saturday was rake leaves—didn’t do that either last fall—see paragraph two above.  But here’s the weird part.  With the exception of a medium size maple tree and several crepe myrtles, I don’t have any trees.  What?  I’m raking leaves and I don’t have any trees—what kind of deal is that?  Well, you see, my neighbors do.  I get to rake their leaves every year.  Now listen, I don’t mean just a few—I mean a lot.  Not fair?  Doesn’t matter—I still must deal with the leaves.

Lesson two is to remember that your “messy” will always end up in someone else’s life.  Just as those leaves blow my way—so our “messy” finds its way into the lives of those around us.  Remember that your sin is never just your sin.  Also, instead of being bitter about someone’s “messy,” do the Jesus thing and forgive.  After all, none of us are perfect and forgiveness just makes our life better.

So, I was tired—real tired—that spring Saturday but here it is fall again and I am faced with a decision.  Will I make the most of these days so those spring days will be a little easier or will I procrastinate and pay the price next spring?  I am hoping that I will be wise enough not to put off till tomorrow what needs to be done today.  I hope I will remember that if I am wise next spring can l be—better.  Oh, there was something good that came from that long Saturday, there was a good sense of accomplishment as I made up for last fall’s indiscretion.  Well, you know what they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And that is true.  And you know they also say, “He’s got this” and that is definitely true.   Bro. Dewayne

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

Conversations

Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” Colossians 4:6 

It was just a little misunderstanding. The story is told of a pastor who visited a man in the hospital.  As he stood by the bed, the man began to be in deep distress. Unable to speak, he quickly wrote the pastor a note, handed it to him and then just died. In all the confusion of the moment, the pastor slid the note into his pocket and forgot about it. Several days later the pastor was conducting the memorial service for the man. The pastor was describing the man…his life, his good heart, and his service for others. Then it happened. 

The pastor suddenly remembered that he had the note in his suit pocket.  He told the audience, “I have just remembered the day Joe died, I was visiting him in the hospital, and he slipped me a note right before he passed away. I failed to read it and have just now remembered it is in my pocket. How special it would be if we can share his last thoughts together now. So, the pastor reached into his pocket, pulled out the note and read, “You’re standing on my oxygen hose.” Smile. 

As a pastor you can bet, I have some crazy stories and a lot of them revolve around little misunderstandings and lack of communication. Recently I told the story of how I was visiting one of our members in the hospital and she was quite ill. When I make a visit, I naturally slip into my “let me help you feel better mode.” For me there are two great fix-all’s—humor and food. But sometimes, many times, a person just needs compassion and kindness. This was one of those times. 

I walked into the hospital room, and she was lying in the bed softly moaning. I moved over by the bed and whispered her name. She opened her eyes, slightly smiled, and said, “Pastor, thank you for coming by.” We shared for just a few minutes, and it was obvious she was extremely sick. And then she said, “I just want to go home.”  I softly said, “I know.” And she said it again and then another time. Each time I responded with some simple words of understanding. After the third time I upped my game. I said, “I know you want to go home and when God is ready, He will take you.” 

Well, imagine my surprise, and embarrassment, when she said, “NOT that home, pastor, my home.”  Oh…oops. I was ready to ship her off to heaven and she was just wanting to go back to her house. Like I said, sometimes there is just a lack of understanding and communication. When that happens, we need to admit that we missed it and if necessary, ask for a little grace or give a little grace. I quickly apologized for the misunderstanding, she did get better and indeed went to her home. We even had the chance to laugh about it later. 

In the world we find ourselves these days there are multiple opportunities for misunderstandings. When we find ourselves in too close of quarters for too long, when we have differing opinions about everything from the corona virus to what is wrong with our country—misunderstandings are bound to happen. In the regular world the normal response would be to get mad and often get even. In the regular world the normal response would be more anger and more division. But for Jesus followers that is just not an option. 

The Bible tells us over and again that if we follow Jesus we are to act like Jesus. We often get that when it comes to moral responses—and rightfully so. But we too often miss the biggest application—how we respond when we bump into other people…or they bump into us. Paul, one of the major writers in the Bible says, “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”  I like that. Gracious and attractive. Momma used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.  I wonder if Momma knew Paul? 

Well, the bottom line is there will always be plenty of opportunities to bump into people.  There will always be plenty of opportunities to respond in a “not so Jesus way.”  But what if we hit the pause button before we speak and ask ourselves, “Is this gracious or attractive? Is this nice?” I wonder how things would change. In these days, the world needs “Jesus lights.” It needs us to shine for Him even when we get a little tired and a little weary. We need to recognize when we are set up for regretful words. Let’s choose option “B.”  Let’s rest in Him and choose to think before we speak. After all, He’s got this.    Bro. Dewayne

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

He’s Got This

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I like love notes.  My wife Judy and I have been married for a long, long time.  Sometimes people ask how it is that we have stayed married to each other for forty-five years.  It could be that I am an incredible husband, but the truth is Judy is an incredible wife.  She is pretty patient with me when I mess up and well, that’s quite frequently. She also has a great servant’s heart.  She is constantly doing the small things that just say, “I love you.”  In that way she is a lot like God.

It always impresses me when God does something really big in my world.  It causes me to just stop and be amazed.  Our lives are filled with stories that show the handiwork of God.  Each one is a love note and each one bears His signature.  Whether it is getting though a particularly hard time or fulfilling a dream, He is always there.  The trick is learning to see it.

Back in 1981, Judy and I were living in Warrensburg, Missouri.  We were attending the First Baptist Church there and having the time of our lives.  God had blessed us with a wonderful group of friends, and we were serving in several ministries there. Two of those involved music.  We were teaching preschool choir (those songs still roll around in my head) and both of us were in the adult choir.  Our worship leader, Dan Tracy, was a great guy and great leader.  Every choir practice and performance were spiritually magical.

One of the things that Dan did was lead a choir tour every spring.  The church would rent a bus for the weekend and our choir would sing at several churches.  In the spring of 1981, Judy and I were brand new parents.  Our first daughter Rebecca had been born that January.  She was obviously too young to leave with a sitter so Judy and I agreed she would stay home, and I would go with the choir.  So, on a Thursday afternoon, she took me to church to leave with the choir.  We were all excited, but I kinda felt bad leaving Judy behind.

Finally, just about everyone was on the bus and it was time to go.  Someone, it may have been Dan, was locking the church door when he happened to hear the phone ringing. For some reason, he stopped and went back inside to answer it.  It really didn’t make a lot of since because it was after hours, and it was a larger church, so people called all the time.   Regardless, he answered the call.  It was for me.

Now before the story goes any further you need to understand that most of our family had no clue what state we lived in.  Most of them probably didn’t know where Missouri was on the map.  Certainly, no one knew we were attending First Baptist and certainly no one knew I was there late on a Thursday afternoon leaving on a choir tour.  Yet the call was for me.  It was Judy’s brother…her father had died suddenly of a heart attack, and we needed to go home immediately to Georgia.

Now pause just a moment and be amazed.  No one knew what church we were attending; it was after hours, and I was moments away from leaving for the tour and someone just happened to hear the phone and answer it. Amazing. It was obviously very hard news but to this day Judy and I both marvel at how our Father orchestrated this.  It was as if He said, “Judy, you have a difficult journey ahead of you but I am putting this together so you will know that I love you and I will walk with you.”  And yes, it was as if He signed it, “Love, Dearest Daddy.”

It was a difficult journey that left us both shocked and surprised. Judy’s daddy had just been with us for Rebecca’s birth and suddenly, he moved to heaven. But even in those sad, heartbroken moments, we knew God was not leaving us to walk through this hard time alone. We trusted that He would show us the way as we walked this new, unplanned path. And He never left us to walk alone.

How about you?  First, I hope you have made the decision to ask God to forgive your sins and be your Father.  It is the greatest and best decision ever. Again, it has nothing to do with religion or church.  It has everything to do with a relationship with the Creator of everything.  Second, if you have done that, I hope you will make it a habit to look and see the handiwork of your Father in everyday life.  He is constantly at work—in the good times and hard times.  He is at work when it is obvious and when it is not.

It is one of those verses that a lot of people throw around, but it is just packed with truth. It says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”  Now, it doesn’t say that everything is good, but that God can bring good from all circumstances.  God in fact did get us safely through a twenty-three-hour drive to South Georgia with a six-week-old baby girl in the back seat.  God did show us His love through an amazing phone call. And the best part—He does it for each of His kids.  So, snuggle up and rest in Him.  He loves you and He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne