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

Dinner on the Grounds

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

There’s lunch and then there is dinner on the grounds.  Church and I were a good fit from the get go.  The schools I attended were always pretty large and it was easy to get lost in the crowd.  The bottom line seemed to be you had to be either really good, or really bad to get recognized.  If you were really good at sports, for example, then a lot of people knew your name.  If you were really bad at life, well people knew your name, but it was the wrong people.  You might remember the categories in your yearbook that named people to be the most likely to do something.  Some were just destined not to be remembered. That was probably me.

I was one of those guys who just wandered around in the gray social midst at school, but not so at church.  The churches I attended were like the three bears and their beds. One was too big, one was too small, and one was just right.  They were big enough to have fun, and learn a little about Jesus, and yet not too big.  I managed to be accepted by my peers and even the adults thought I was pretty cool. So church was a good fit but that isn’t the main reason why I liked it.  I was grateful for the social acceptability and I even appreciated the Bible stories and learning about Jesus, but I was in it for…the food.

You see, several times a year we would have meals at church. There were two things that you could count on.  First, they were always potlucks.  Now, in case you don’t know what a potluck dinner is, first, where have you been?  No seriously, a potluck is when everyone brings something for dinner.  It is one of the greatest inventions in the food world.  Imagine the world’s best buffet—meats, casseroles, vegetables, breads, starches, and the motherlode of all motherlodes—dessert. I can still remember there being tables—as in more than one—of nothing but desserts.  It was like food heaven. By the way, we still do this every once in a while at our church so if you ever hear of this happening, even if you don’t like God, you need to come to church that Sunday.  One word says it all—cowabunga! If you need more than one word—here’s three “shoot that thing.”

The second thing that was just cool was in the old days, churches would build permanent tables outside to hold all this food.  Often, they would have a tin roof over them.  You could line up on both sides and let her rip.  We always had those big plates, and you were obligated to fill them up.  Then, you would just go find yourself a place in the grass and sit down and eat…and eat…and eat.  It truly was one of my favorite times at church.  The food and the fellowship (being with all the people) was just amazing.  We have a ministry at our church where if a member of a family dies, we provide lunch for them on the day of the funeral. It is like a mini potluck and our ladies do such a wonderful job.  I’ve already asked them if I can have my dinner before I go, so I can enjoy the meal.  I’m still working on that one.

You see, there are lots of reasons to attend church and like I said in my early years food was a good reason.  I have another reason now too. I’m the pastor.  It’s kinda expected that I attend. But here’s the truth.  I don’t go now for the food…I go because I want to go. Yup…I don’t have to go to church, I get to go to church.  It is so good because some of the people I love the most are there.  And guess what? Some of the people that are a little harder to love are there too, but that doesn’t matter because we have one thing in common—we all are pretty fond of God.

But wait it gets better.  Guess what?  He is really fond us.  He loved and still loves everyone so much that He sent His Son to earth—we call that Christmas.  He also loved and loves everyone so much that He allowed Him to die on a Roman cross—we call that Good Friday.  It was bad for Him that day, but it was good for us because that day He paid the price for all the things all of us have done that offend His Father.  But wait…that isn’t the end.  After three days, He came back to life—we call that Easter, and it is a documented fact that it happened.  Pretty amazing.

Well, I am grateful for all the good food and other things that happen at church.  But I am really grateful for God, my Dearest Daddy, loving me that much and remember, He loves you that much too.  If you want to know more, I hope you will get a copy of His Book the Bible—it’s been a best seller for centuries—really.  If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that it is a great idea to have God on your side.  It’s just good to know that He is there and will be there no matter what.  No, He isn’t Santa Claus just waiting to give you everything on your list.  No, He isn’t a Genie just waiting for you to rub His lamp.  He is God, He is real, and He wants to make a difference in your world.  Why not give Him a try?  You’ll find that no matter what you face, He will face it with you. I’ve learned that every day, no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Grace

“Five Guys” Grace

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:7-8

It was a stroke of accidental brilliance and it all started in 1986. Jerry and Janie Murrell offered some advice to Jerry’s four younger brothers. They simply said, “Go to college or start a business.”  They decided on the business route and started a restaurant in Virginia called “Five Guys Burgers and Fries.”  And like they say, “The rest is history.”  Today there are 1,500 locations and 1,500 more on the drawing board.  Their sales pitch is nothing but fresh beef and nothing but fries cooked in 100% peanut oil.  There are no freezers in the joint, only coolers.

Well, all that is nice but that is not what I like about Five Guys.  I mean they serve one mean burger and their fries are the best of any national chain but that’s not what grabbed me.  So, here’s the deal. I walk in and order a small cheeseburger.  “What” you say?  Yup you heard right. The reason I order a small cheeseburger is because it is big…really big.  But it gets better.  The guy at the counter says, “what do you want on that cheeseburger?”  And here is when it gets really good.  I look up at the sign and there are probably 20 or 25 toppings for the burger.  And get ready.  They are all free.

Did I just say “free?”  Yes sir, I did.  You can have everything from a tomato to a grilled mushroom and the hits just keep on coming.  No extra charge.  Amazing.  The best part is that it is genuinely good food.  Granted burgers and fries for most men are its own food group but you gotta love one loaded beyond words.  But, wait, it is gonna get better.

The guy at the counter says, “You want fries with that burger?”  Hello? Do hens lay eggs? Do preachers eat fried chicken? Do southerners eat grits? “Yes, sir, I want fries” I answer.  So I order a small fry. “What” you say? Yup, you heard right.  The reason I order a small fries is man-food heaven.  So, as you watch, they fill a small cup full of fries.  Are you listening? They put the cup in the bag and then they get this scoop the size of a small shovel and dump a full load in the bag.  Wait. Then he gets another half scoop and dumps that in.  Can someone say, “Hallelujah!” Order a small and get a “boat load” for no extra charge.  Holy moley!

But wait…the guy is saying something else.  “Hey dude, do you want a shake with that?” Ok, by now I am drooling all over my shirt.  “Well sure” I respond.  He says, “What kind?”  I look at the sign and there it is.  Heaven.  It says, “milk shakes…all mix-ins are free.” “What?” I said.  “You mean I can have a chocolate, banana, strawberry, tutti-frutti, peanut, marshmallow milkshake with sprinkles on top.” “Yup” he said “all at no extra charge.”  Oh.my.goodness!  Excuse me while I wipe my mouth.

So what amazes me about Five Guys is, are you ready, their lavishness.  Their burgers, their fries, their milkshakes are all lavishly done.  They don’t give you a little of anything.  They pour it on, dump it on and then do it again.  Just like God and His grace.  Paul talks about it in Ephesians 1:7-8.  He says we have redemption though His death, the forgiveness of all our sins (someone say hallelujah) and all because of His grace that He lavished on us.  That means He pours it on, pours it on again and then just keeps pouring.  It is amazing grace because of the quality and the quantity.

I can just imagine stepping up to God’s counter and He says, “What do you need, son?” I like it when He calls me “son.” And I explain how this world is a hot mess, how I have made a mess of everything in my life and how I am sure I can’t fix it. Then I would tell Him I could sure use a little grace.  He would smile and say, “Son, I don’t do anything little, especially grace.”  And then He would begin to pour it on. To borrow from Luke 6:38 where Jesus speaks about giving, the Book says, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” It’s true about giving but it is also true when we need grace.  It is what lavish looks like. So as soon as you can, go to “Five Guys.” Be sure and order small because you are going to get big.  Order all the toppings you want on your burger, all the mix-ins you want in your shake and let them take care of the fries.  You will leave amazed at their lavishness.  But all that just pales to God’s amazing grace.  Just walk up to the counter and tell Him what you need and get ready.  He is going to pour—no, He is gonna dump— grace all over you.  And, like grace, you are gonna be amazed.  That’s why we can just sit back and rest in Him.  With that kind of grace, you know He’s got this.