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

The “I Want You to Die” Tick

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” Romans 13:14

You know there are one or two things that are good about a really cold winter.  Number one is the fact that it kills all the bugs. As you remember, last winter wasn’t very cold. I’m not sure what you thought about last winter’s weather, but apparently the local tick population thought it was just fine.  Even around my house—and I live on the main drag in the small town of Harrisburg, Illinois—we have had to check every once in a while, to make sure we didn’t pick up any unwanted hitchhikers.

Last summer Judy and I went hiking in a wooded area.  The trail we were on was plenty wide, but I guess ticks are good jumpers. Later in the week, I was working at my desk at home, and I felt just a little itch on my leg.  You know, nothing major—just a “hi—I might need you to scratch me later” itch.  I ignored it.

After a bit, it developed into more.  It went from a “you might need to scratch me” to more of a “hey, now would be a good time to scratch me” itch.  So, I did—and when I did, I felt a small bump.  At first, I thought it was a small bite and whoever had done it had moved on to greener pastures.  I was wrong.  It was a dirty, rotten, no good, “I want you to die”… tick.  Oh, he wasn’t big—in fact he looked quite innocent. He was only the size of a writing pen head.  Well, I try to be a friendly guy—just not with ticks and especially not with one having dinner—and I’m the meal.  So, in my best interest, we departed company and I made sure he went to the tick afterlife. So long friend…adios. No prayer, no service…just “you’re out of here.”

So, I thought it was not big deal—but I guess big is relative.  You see, by the next day that little bite site had turned red and was about twice as big as before—and it was still itching—only more.  Now fortunately it was NOT the kind of dirty rotten, no good, “I want you to die” tick that gives you weird diseases. But even so, the spot where he bit me itched for several weeks.  Even a couple of months later while the itch is gone the scar remained.  It’s hard to imagine that one little tick can cause so much trouble.  Write that one down:  little things can have bigger consequences.

Yep, that’s right.  Some small habit, some little action or inaction, a few seconds of a wandering mind, a few misspoken, unkind words—can have large and lasting consequences. And the worst part is that it doesn’t just affect us—it can and does affect those around us. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because it starts small it stays small. It rarely does.  It really isn’t practical to totally avoid the outdoors so there must be another way.  A good insect repellent is a good start.

A guy in the Bible named Paul wrote gives us some good advice on how to avoid pesky sins.  He said, “but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”  Paul said the best way to avoid the aggravation and consequences of sin is to give yourself a good smattering of Jesus and then avoid sin wherever and whenever it is likely to jump on.  The truth is the more we read the Bible and apply it and the more we act like Jesus the less likely we will find ourselves infested with pesky, troublesome sin.  Trust me…life is just better.

Well, the site where the friendly little tick decided to visit is finally about gone but it was a journey to get here.  The bottom line is it would just be better to avoid it in the first place. The old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is so true.  That is true in avoiding ticks and it is also true in avoiding sin. One thing is for sure.  It is good to know that God is more than willing to help us know when there’s a pesky sin close by.  All we need to do is ask, and He will help.  Mark it down…we can rest assured with Him close by.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

A Bad Idea–But God

I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned or his children begging for bread.” Psalm 37:25

It seemed like a really, bad idea.  Right after high school graduation I jumped into the Air Force, and it turned out to be a really good idea.  Back in those days, or so it seemed, college wasn’t pushed for everyone, and I was pretty uncertain about what I wanted to do.  So, through a strange set of circumstances, I found myself in the military.  I loved it.  Raised as a good southern boy, the discipline required for a life in the service came naturally.  I was taught to respect others and especially those appointed over me.  “Yes sir” and “Yes ma’am” were part of my vocabulary long before the Air Force taught me to say it.

By 1980, I had been stationed in Minot, North Dakota, Valdosta, Georgia (where I met and married the best wife a guy could ask for), spent three years in Germany and finally landed in Knob Noster, Missouri.  Like I said, I liked the Air Force, and it seemed the Air Force liked me.  I was picked for several key assignments and was on track promotion wise.  With a young family, the security the Air Force provided was an added benefit and while I wasn’t going to get rich in the Air Force, the pay provided a good life.  Yup…life was good.

Then God spoke.  No, it wasn’t an audible voice, but it was one clear enough that I knew He had a change of plans in mind.  I felt, I knew that He was calling me to become a pastor but that wasn’t all.  I also knew for me that meant leaving the Air Force.  I think that was probably for a couple of reasons.  First, I knew that as long as I was in the Air Force, I would be tempted to lean on that for security and not God.  Second, I also knew that the Air Force would be calling the shots about my future.  Well, that led up to me making one of the biggest changes in my life…after 12 years…leaving the lifestyle and security of the Air Force and jumping into the secure arms of faith and the life of a pastor.

When I went public with this it seemed that everyone had an opinion and a lot of those opinions followed one school thought—you are nuts.  Certainly, the military thought it was a bad idea. After all, they liked me, and I liked them.  I was on track for a good career and great retirement.  You see, with the military, you can retire with 20 years and draw a pension equal to half of your base pay.  You also get other benefits for the rest of your life.  All that led to the “you are nuts” thing and this is really not good idea. But then…there was God.

You see, I was, oh, somewhere beyond probably and just shy of absolutely certain that God was asking me, telling me to do this.  And somehow, some way, Judy and I with two toddlers under three were able to believe and jump.  And now, forty years later, I am able to say that God took that “really not a good idea” and turned it into a really good idea.  He has faithfully and completely cared for us over these four decades. I’m sure if I had stayed in the Air Force, I would have had a nice, secure life. I’m sure things would have turned out just fine.  But God’s idea went somewhere beyond nice and secure and somewhere beyond just fine.

If I’ve learned anything from all of this, it is that God’s ideas are always, and I do mean always, better than mine.  I have learned and I am learning that faith beats fine every time.  The adventure, the challenges, the “mysterious ways of God” that we have experienced together trumps a nice retirement and manmade security.  There’s a verse, and I’m really not sure all that it means, but it sure seems to ring true with me.  The author says that he had never seen the righteous forsaken or his family begging for bread.  Like I said, I’m not sure what that means entirely but looking back from where I sit, it says, “God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.”

God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted. Period.  Your story is probably a lot different than mine but if you are a God follower let’s all agree on that part.  He really is good, He really is faithful, and yes, He can be trusted.  So, in these days of uncertainty and in these days when up is down and down is up—listen carefully for the still small voice of your Dearest Daddy.  Let Him whisper His better idea…and then trust. Don’t worry, you are not nuts—you’re a man, a woman and child of faith.  And that is always best because, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, gratitude, life, prayer, thankful, Trials

Diver “Whatever-it-is-itis”

And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

Diver what? It was a long time ago but for some reason it is still fresh in my mind.  Journey back with me to 2002…twenty years ago.  One day I started feeling pretty bad. I ended up going to the doctor and first he did the normal doctor stuff and then he began to poke and to prod and that is when the fun began.  He pressed down on my side, and I just about came off the table.

Well, he said, “Preacher, I think you have diverticulitis.” I didn’t have a clue what diver ”whatever-it-is-itis” was but I knew I didn’t feel good. It turns out that diverticulitis is an infection of the colon, and it can be potentially dangerous. Anyway, he sent me over to the hospital for some more tests, some pain meds and a really strong dose of antibiotics.

For the first few days I was pretty out of it but finally I turned a corner and began to feel a little better. Because of how diverticulitis works, I couldn’t have anything to eat—and very little to drink–for several days.  Now those of you who regularly read Grits know that food and I are best friends so for me to go several hours…much less days…without eating is something strange indeed.  Finally, one morning, the nurse came in and asked if I would like some WATER.  Oh, was I grateful.  “Yes, yes,” said the thirsty preacher.

At lunch they brought me a Popsicle and some chicken broth. Oh, was I grateful.  “Thank you so very much,” said the hungry preacher.  At supper they brought me some more chicken broth and another Popsicle.  “Thanks,” said the now feeling better and still hungry preacher.  At breakfast they brought me more broth and another Popsicle.  “Looks just like supper to me,” said the very hungry and less grateful preacher.  Well on and on it went for a few more meal times until finally they brought me REAL FOOD.  Broiled chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans have never tasted so good.

The moral of the story is obvious and simple.  You see, the better I felt and the more I drank the broth and ate the popsicles, the more dissatisfied and ungrateful I became.  It was surprising how quickly I forgot the days when I had nothing.  And that is when I learned an important lesson. You see, when you become dissatisfied with what you’ve got just remember a day when you had less. It’s sure to mash your “I’m grateful” button.

One of things that God is working on in my life is this grateful thing.  It seems He keeps bringing to my attention all that I have that I should be thankful for.  I’m realizing it is a very long list.  Through the years God has sent special blessings and special people to me over and over again.  The special blessings were love notes sent by my Dearest Daddy in heaven.  The special people were encouragers to walk with me along the journey. Together they remind me, they prod me to be thankful.

As you journey, as I journey, and we find ourselves tending to be a little on the ungrateful side…when we are no longer satisfied with chicken broth and Popsicles…maybe we can and should remember when we had less. Paul, who spent more time in jail for doing Jesus stuff than anyone else, wrote, “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He would later write how he learned to be content no matter what and most of that he wrote while sitting in a Roman prison. How about that?

So, let’s be honest.  Chicken broth and Popsicles still don’t make my top five list—or top fifty for that matter.  But I can remember the time when I thought they were better than fried chicken and a banana split.  It is all about perspective.  This being grateful thing is something most of us will wrestle with as long as we are here on this earth.  We probably should just hang a sign out that says, “Construction Zone Ahead.” Just remember, be grateful because something is always better than nothing.  And if you listen carefully, you will hear the Whisperer whispering, “Popsicles anyone?” And he will smile and whisper, don’t worry…“I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, thankful

Special on Donuts

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

The sign said it all. “Day old donuts…half price.”  In those five words there are two things I really like.  First, donuts.  Donuts and I go way back.  In fact, food and I go way back.  I’m a southern boy and there’s just something about food that puts a smile on my face.  Donuts, well, they make me smile big. The other thing that I really like is “half price.”  I love a good deal.  I remember one time I was at a store, and it was after Christmas.  They had a gift set that had a razor, some shaving cream, and a few extra blades.  They were marked down from $6.99 to .79 cents. I bought all they had—about twenty of them.  Too bad I use an electric razor.  But it was such a good deal.

So, we have half-price donuts…but there is a problem. “Day old.”  Because donuts don’t have preservatives, they go stale real quickly.  By the afternoon of day one a donut becomes not as fluffy—a little chewy.  By day two it becomes like a dried-out kitchen sponge.  By day three you have yourself an oversized hockey puck.  What is a donut lover who loves good deals to do?  One word.  Microwave.

The microwave is an amazing invention…especially when it comes to donuts.  You see the microwave cooks from the inside out.  When you put a day old donut in there it begins warming from the inside and any moisture turns to steam and the steam moisturizes the bread. Let me tell you that dude will fluff right up.

I mean this is amazing.  You can even throw a three-day old donut in there and depending how hungry you are, pretty much make it edible.  I know because sometimes I wander through the church on Thursday and discover some leftovers from Sunday.  Yup.  Just chuck those things in the microwave and you’ve got yourself a semi-fresh donut. By the way, do not tell my wife Judy I’ve done this.

I wonder if David the shepherd had day old donuts and microwaves in mind when he wrote Psalm 23:3. There we find, “He restores my soul.”  That’s just what the microwave does for the donut.  It warms it from the inside, moistening the dry, stale, bread making it soft and pliable again. In David’s way of thinking it wasn’t a microwave, it was green pastures and still waters.  If you could see it from a sheep’s perspective, it makes perfect sense.

Imagine a sheep, hot, tired, and hungry and the shepherd brings them to a lush green pasture, and he eats his fill.  Then he waddles over to a crystal-clear brook, barely moving, and drinks till he can’t hold anymore.  That’s what David meant when he said God restored his soul.  A lot of folks wouldn’t take a chance on a day-old donut.  A lot of folks would count it only worth giving to the dog or tossing in the trash.  They don’t understand the wonder of the microwave.  Do you know what? Sadly, people do people that way too.

Someone gets beat up by the world, worked over by doubt, fear and frustration and they get a little stale.  Some folks wouldn’t bother with them.  Some folks would avoid them.  But not God. He sees the broken, weary people around us and the garbage can is the farthest thing from His mind.  Just like the microwave can work magic on a donut so God can work miracles in the lives of the most broken of people. And like the microwave—He does it from the inside out. It was Jesus who said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Jesus does what nothing else, no one else, can do.  He can rescue, redeem, and make the broken whole and life fresh again.

So, let me suggest before you walk by the day-old donuts at the market give them a try.  You might discover a tasty treat and a good deal.  And, before you walk by your neighbor or a stranger and you can tell they’ve been worked over by the world and circumstances, just remember what Jesus did for you.  Remember how He didn’t just see you how you were, He saw how you could be. Just a moment in time and He plumped you up with His amazing grace and kindness.

Maybe you are the one who feels stale about now. Maybe your heart is as hard as a week-old donut.  Well, don’t crawl in a microwave but do crawl up in the lap of Jesus.  Let Him restore your soul.  Stay awhile.  Rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Uncategorized

Open Hands, Open Hearts

If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you!” Proverbs 19:17

It was part generosity and part tradition.  When I was growing up, Sunday meant going to church. My Momma would always make sure I had taken a bath, combed my hair, brushed my teeth (I think), had clean clothes, and had an offering.  There was something about going to church and taking an offering.  It almost seemed like either God would be mad if I didn’t or the people at church would think we were poor or something…which we might have been.

Now the offering wasn’t a whole lot, but it was more than the widow lady in the Bible gave.  Her offering was less than a penny, but it was really everything she had.  Momma gave me a quarter most times but sometimes it was a dime and on rare occasions it was a dollar.  Trust me, that was a rarity.  Anyway, I finally figured out that it wasn’t the amount that mattered anyway.  What mattered was that Momma thought it was important and it mattered that I didn’t pocket the quarter.  Jesus said something about it was more blessed to give than to receive and I’m sure Momma knew that.  So anyway, I gave the quarter.

I read a story the other day about a little girl who went to church just like me.  Her Momma gave her a dime and a nickel. The little girl asked, “Which one am I supposed to give?” and her Momma told her she could decide.  Well, when she came home from church, her Momma asked her which one she gave, and she said she had given the nickel.  When asked why she gave the nickel instead of the dime she said, “Well, the preacher said that God loves people who give cheerfully, and I was a lot happier when I gave the nickel and kept the dime.”  Smile.

I know that I am still a work in progress.  God started the project way back in 1975 and He’s still working today.  I’ve heard it said that His work isn’t done until He takes us home to live with Him.  I believe that is true.  One of the areas that He is working on with me is generosity.  They say that if you want to carve a duck from a block of wood you just cut off everything that doesn’t look like a duck. Well, that is what God does with us except He’s not making ducks. He is making Jesus followers. And one thing I know for sure is that Jesus was always generous.  He was so generous He gave His life away on a wooden cross to pay for everyone’s sin.  Now that is generosity.  Now that is love.

My point isn’t that you ought to give to the church.  The point is we should all learn to be generous to others.  A generous life is a happy life, and a generous heart is a happy heart.  In the Old Testament part of the Bible in the Book of Proverbs it says, “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you!”  You know, I believe that is true.  I’m also sure that the repayment may not be dollars and cents but rather a deep sense of peace and joy in our lives—and that is better—that is priceless.  Remember this—God is more than willing to help you be like Jesus, but it all starts when we believe what He did and what He said. He died and came back to life and promised to forgive anyone who asked.  Need a little help with that?  Well, don’t worry, He’s got that too.

Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials

Zwei or Saar?

A person’s steps are established by the Lord, and He takes pleasure in his way.” Psalm 37:23

We were so close and yet so far away. It was 1977 and we were brand new at our new assignment in Germany. We had purchased a 1967 Volkswagen station wagon which turned out to have virtually no floorboards just floor mats.  We found that out the first time it rained.  It rains a lot in Germany.  Anyway, we named him Herman.  He wasn’t fast, he wasn’t pretty.  But he would go…most of the time.

Our friends that lived a couple of hours away invited us to come over and spend the weekend with them.  We lived in Sambach which wasn’t too far from Sembach where I worked.  You can probably already tell that things can get confusing in Germany in a hurry.  So, we had been in country for about 10 days, we had our international driver’s license which meant I paid someone $15 dollars, and we had Herman.  Not to sound like Gilligan’s Island but we started out on a three hour trip…a three hour trip.

We were heading to a small city called  Zweibrucken.  That is where our friends lived.  The Air Force had a small airbase there where he worked and since Zweibrucken means “two bridges” I assume they had those also.  It was simple.  Get on this highway with your car named Herman with no floorboards, drive about an hour or so, take a left and head toward Zweibrucken.  Not a deal. Right? Well, not so fast.

Soon Judy and I were traveling along, excited for a new adventure.  We had no traveling experience in Germany, it was raining, remember it does that a lot in Germany, so we have miniature swimming pools for floorboards and the antique wipers are just keeping up with the rain.  The directions were simple: drive for about an hour, take a left and head for Zweibruken. We probably should have written that down.

After about an hour we came to a large directional sign.  It said Saarbrucken straight ahead.  Well, Mr. “I’m a man who doesn’t get lost” looked at his sweet, dear “Don’t look at me, I’ve never been out the country before either” wife and said, “Uh was that Saarbrucken we were looking for?”  You know, if you’ve seen one “brucken” you’ve seen them all.

Well, I couldn’t remember, she couldn’t remember so we kept driving and it kept raining.  We drove for quite a while and suddenly found ourselves in Saarbrucken which happens to be on the French border. We also found ourselves on the verge of having to speak French. Since we didn’t speak French or German either we decided we had better turn around before we started an international incident.

I did a quick turn around and head back the way we came.  We are disoriented, discouraged, and disappointed.  We drove back about 30 miles or so and there we saw a sign:  Zweibruken.  Hallelujah.  I remembered, she remembered—sweet Zweibruken. We exit off of the autobahn (which is German for you can drive fast if you don’t drive a Herman) and as we exited we see our friend just pulling away.  He had come to look for us and was just about to give up.  We saw him, he saw us.  We laughed, we embraced. We had made it.  “Guten Tag.” Guten Tag, indeed!

We still laugh about that crazy story.  Two young people who didn’t know a thing about driving in a foreign country, taking off in a too old Volkswagen station wagon with swimming pools for floor boards and getting lost. Yup, life was good. Now if I remember right I was probably frustrated, a bit mad, discouraged, and discombobulated. I’m not exactly sure what that means but I am sure I felt it that day.  But the bottom line is we had fun. Even then we laughed at the hot mess we were in.  It was a story we would tell our kids one day.  Well, we have and it still brings a smile to our lips.

I know there is so much craziness today.  So many missteps, so many “I don’t knows,” so many “Saars” when it should have been a “Zwei.” But remember this.  There is a God that is writing this story called your life and He is a God who loves a good adventure.  And the things that we count as disruptions just might be one of His great adventures purposely put in our path for our ultimate good and pleasure.  David in Psalm 37:23 writes, “The steps of a good person are ordered [directed, planned] by the Lord.  And He delights in that path.”  In other words, God has a plan and it is a plan that He has written just for you.

I know I sometimes question my GPS when it takes me down some crazy roads to save a minute or two but I am learning to just enjoy the journey.  I wrote a few days back that Judy and I love to drive around and try to get lost.  One of my friends said, “Come on down to Pope County.  I can get you lost.”  I think I’m gonna take him up on it.  I’ll have my trusty GPS and my friend so it should be a great adventure.  I’ll just go along for the ride and rest in Him.  After all, He’s got this.  Guten Tag. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Easter, Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

The Easter Suit

But God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

It’s just another one of those special memories.  It was spring in Jacksonville, Florida—number fifteen or so in my life journey.  Back in those days, Easter was a big deal, and so was what you wore.  We were raised in the tradition that Easter meant a new outfit…it is just what we did.  But just like Christmas beliefs and traditions sometimes change…so did this Easter tradition.  As we got older…the new outfits got fewer and fewer—but then—for some reason, it happened.  One year, when I was in my mid-teens, Momma and Daddy loaded me up in the car, drove across town to a men’s store for the sole purpose of buying me an Easter suit.

I’m not sure what prompted this or a hundred other sacrifices they made for us, but it happened.  The name of the store is lost to time, but it may have been Tatum’s—a store known for quality men’s clothing at a good price.  So, we arrived and went in and soon I was trying on suits.  They say some things never change and that is true.  Today when I shop for just about anything it isn’t the label that matters or even the style—price takes the day.  It is a matter of practicality and budget.  It is true today and it was true even then.  Remember, somethings don’t change.

Soon, with the help of our salesperson, we had settled on a subtle green tweed suit.  It was a very nice suit and it was on sale. I would later realize that might have been because it was a rather heavy wool material and there wasn’t a lot of demand for that in Florida.  Regardless, it was soon mine.  But Momma and Daddy weren’t done yet.  The salesman led us over to the shirt department and together we picked out a creamy yellow shirt that matched the suit perfectly.  But wait…there was more.  Next came a tie.  To this day I can remember this—my first tie—bought just for me.  It was a loosely woven linen striped tie of pastel colors.  Again, a perfect match for the new suit and shirt.

There was some tailoring to the done but by Easter I was set and dressed to the nines.  That morning, I assembled my new outfit and headed off to church.  I was so proud but for a special reason…one you have read in Grits before.  I was proud because of all my parents had done to make sure I had a new Easter suit. Why that year? I don’t know.  Maybe it was because I was stepping into manhood.  All I know is that year, and for several years that followed, the subtle green wool suit, which was too warm for Florida weather, owned a place in my closet. It was special and that was all that mattered. It was a suit of love…a suit of sacrifice.

Looking back their Easter sacrifice became even more special. You see that gift and sacrifice reminded me of the gift and sacrifice that God made for us that first Easter.  He gave His best, His only Son to a Roman cross so we could be forgiven and dressed in His righteousness.  And unlike my suit that was a little too warm for Florida…His gift was perfect…in more ways than one. A perfect sacrifice for an imperfect world filled with imperfect people. And why? Because of love.

Easter, Resurrection Sunday, is in the rearview mirror now but it would serve us well to remember that every time the sun rises, it reminds us of what happened that Sunday morning so long ago. It is no accident that Christians worship on Sunday…by design it is a celebration of the resurrection. I’m not sure how long I held onto that subtle green, too warm, suit but I have never forgotten the love that bought it for me.  And I’m sure I will never forget the love of a God who cared enough to give His very best so that we could call Him “Dearest Daddy.”

Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament wrote a letter to the Christians in Rome.  In it, he gave them an Easter suit of sorts, a reminder of God’s great love.  He wrote, “But God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Imagine that—broken and unworthy—and yet He loved, and He gave.  As we journey this week, don’t leave the message of Easter behind.  He loves us, He cares for us, and He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Easter, Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Good Friday but Resurrection Sunday

He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

One of my favorite holiday songs speaks of Christmas being “the most wonderful time of the year.”  I suppose in the eyes of most folks Christmas has become the ultimate “feel good” holiday.  It is jam packed with great music, great food, fun parties, and beautiful decorations.  Throw the birth of a cute little newborn in the mix and it seems like a slam dunk. All of that leads to idealistic dreams of what Christmas should be but, frankly, too often those dreams don’t measure up to reality.

If we could step back a couple of thousand years, we would see that same baby grown to be a man and it seems that the whole known world isn’t celebrating His birth but shouting for His death. While the song speaks of Christmas being that “wonderful time,” for a significant part of the world, this week—and especially this Sunday—is truly more than wonderful.  It is amazing. For this is the week that we celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.

I’ve always thought it ironic that we call the day that Jesus died “Good Friday.”  I mean it is obvious that it wasn’t good day for Him.  A Roman crucifixion was so horrible that it was against the law to crucify a Roman citizen and it was called, “the death of deaths.” So why call it Good Friday? Well, for those of us who believe He is who He said He was, and He did what He said He could do, defeat death, well it’s a very big deal.

For starters, we believe His death that day was the sacrifice for our sins.  The Bible tells us that “without the shedding of blood is no remission {of sins}”—Hebrews 9:22.    We celebrate Good Friday because for each believer in Jesus it means the sin slate is wiped clean. Imagine having every wrong thing you ever did forgiven, blotted out, and you might begin to understand this important day.

Imagine this—it’s the greatest trade ever.  Jesus says I will take the rap for your sin and in exchange you can have my perfection. 2 Corinthians 5:21, one of the letters that make up the New Testament, puts it this way: “He made the One who did not know sin [that’s Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” He took our wrongs so we could be made right.  Amazing.

Wait…it gets better. For those who walked with Him on this earth, that Friday appeared anything but good—to them it appeared to be the end.  Every hope of Him being their overcoming King ended with every blow of the hammer.  He died, they buried Him, but then came Resurrection Sunday.  If Friday was good than Sunday must be super.  For on that day Christ physically resurrected from the dead. The most authenticated, sacred writing in the world, the Bible, along with historical evidence, all comes to the same conclusion: He came back to life. He lives.

The physical resurrection of Christ proves His deity.  In other words, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and He proved He was and is the Son of God.  And it only gets better!  He defeated death and because He did, we have that same knowing hope.  His victory over death becomes ours.  It is an incredible story…one worth your own personal investigation.

Let me encourage you to check Him out.  There is plenty of bunk on the internet but there is also plenty of truth.  See why such a large chunk of the world population connects Jesus with God.  See what all the excitement is about.  And hey, maybe find a place you trust and experience the resurrection celebration somewhere in person this Easter Sunday. You will discover a God who loves you a ton and just waits to welcome you into His family. And when you’re in His family you can know two things.  First, you are His and He will never change His mind.  Second, well, no matter what you face, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

The Awakening

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 early spring, I have my work cut out for me.

On the weekends or during the 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 whack, cut, trim and rake my way through each flower bed.  When I was done, I would have a 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 several days, I went out 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 days was 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 spring—the resurrection could happen.  Already, the yard is being transformed as green sprouts are breaking through the dirt and reminding me that my work was not in vain.  It has a purpose.

In a few days, 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 every person who asks to have forgiveness, hope for this life and the life to come.  Anyone who is willing to believe and choose to follow Him can have the privilege of calling God—Father. But Jesus didn’t just die.

See, anyone can die on a cross and claim anything.  Jesus didn’t stay dead—He physically and completely came back to life.  He resurrected and one of the reasons He did was 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 days we were going to celebrate the “biggie?”  Well, this is what I was talking about.  And these days are like my time preparing the gardens for their resurrection.  These days 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 time I went to work in the yard 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.  There is a reason to celebrate—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

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Trials

It Came from Behind

I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in My love.” John 15:9

It came from the backseat.  My entry into the world of pastoring was…abrupt.  I told God I was willing to be a pastor and the next thing I knew…I was one.  I spoke at a small church about 25 miles from where we lived. They were kind enough to invite me to come back and that is when it happened.  They asked me and my wife Judy to leave the room and when we went back in, they said, “We just voted to ask you to be our pastor.”  Well, I was honored but told them I didn’t know how to do that.  They smiled and said, “Don’t worry…we will teach you.”  And they did.

Soon we were in love with them, and they loved us back.  So, our lives changed dramatically and very quickly. When I became their pastor, we had one daughter, Rebecca and Judy was pregnant with our second child.  Jennifer came into our family in August and our Sunday mornings went from crazy to crazier.  New to this pastor thing, I wanted to get to our church before anyone else and since we lived some distance away, we had to leave pretty early.

These were the early days of car seats but the bottom line was the same.  Every child had to be strapped into a car seat.  That included cute little three-year-old blonds who were not fond of car seats…cute little three-year-old blonds who would later declare, “Give me my way and it will be ok.”  Well, one Sunday morning, Rebecca decided she was not going in the car seat.  So, it fell to me to convince her that one way or another she was.  There was a battle and I’m sure of two things.  First, she did end up in the car seat.  Second, I’m sure I wasn’t feeling very spiritual as I drove to church that morning.

So, after wrangling her into the car seat and with sweet little, innocent baby Jennifer on the other side, we left for church.  The crying was over and there was a deafening silence from the back seat.  And then, it happened. From the silence came this sweet, child’s voice that said five words that to this day are part of our tribe’s history.  Those five words were, wait for it, “I’m standing on the inside.” I know, I just know, Judy and I had to look at each other and refrain from laughing. I.Am.Standing.On.The.Inside.

Well, the rest of the trip is lost to time but who cares…we had our memory.  As I said earlier that little blond was just a little strong willed from the beginning and yes, she later said, “Just give me my way and it will be ok.” Well, I’m sure only a few of you know our oldest daughter but after a few, ok, more than a few times of knocking our heads together (figuratively speaking) she has grown into one of my favorite people.  And more than a few times I have referred to that Sunday morning.

It is no secret that a lot of us have a bent toward rebellion.  Sometimes it is with parents, sometimes spouses, and too often with God.  Rebellion is what got us in trouble with God in the first place.  God said no and our original parents in the Garden of Eden said, “Yes” and the rest is history.  Why is that?  Well, there are many reasons but a primary one is a lack of trust and understanding.  You see, little Rebecca thought I was being mean.  I knew I was being loving and responsible.  I was trying to protect her.  And guess what?  So is God. In fact, John 15:9 says, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.” Wow!

You see, He knows all about the pain, suffering and consequences of sin and wants to protect us from that.  His book, the Bible, really isn’t a law book…it is a love book and in one way or another that is declared verse after verse, page after page, and chapter after chapter. If we listen carefully, we will hear the Whisperer whispering and often it will be words of love and encouragement.  And, sometimes, we will just have to sit in the car seat…period.  There are two things we can take to the bank.  First, He has our best interest in mind. Period.  And secondly, that no matter what, car seat or not, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne