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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Don't Give Up!

Consider these facts:
  • During its first year, Coca-Cola only sold 400 bottles of coke.
  • NBA basketball player, Michael Jordan, was cut from his high school basketball team.
  • Dr Seuss was rejected by 23 publishers before the 24th took on his books.
  • Babe Ruth held the record for the most strike outs. He went on to also hold the record for the most home runs.
What would have happened if each of these individuals (or companies) had simply given up? What if they had said, "Well, I tried, and it just didn't work out, so I quit. I'm done?" Think of what the world would have missed out on. Worse yet, what if Jesus had quit? What if He had said, "I came to this world and offered myself, but they didn't want it. They mocked me. They argued with me. I tried, and it just didn't work. So, I went back to Heaven. It wasn't worth all of that?" What a terrible thought!

So, why do we quit? We know life isn't going to be easy. We know things don't usually work right the first time. We know that sometimes we have to learn from experience. We know all of these things, so why do we quit when the going gets tough?

I think we do it because we feel it would be easier to quit than to keep trying something that is obviously not working. Sometimes, it may be easier, but I think a lot of times, we put ourselves in more difficult positions because we don't see things through.

Don't quit today. I know sometimes things look impossible, and many of us are "weary in well-doing," but please don't give up. We're almost there. We're almost to the finish line. We're almost to the point where we can smile and say, "I did it. I kept the faith, and I finished my course." Success is right around the corner, but we have to go to it, or it will never come to us. Keep going. Don't give up!

For nothing will be impossible with God! - Luke 1:37

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Let Me Out of Here!

But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive. And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat: Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven. And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship. And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away. - Acts 27:14-20

Paul and his shipmates were in a boatload of trouble (sorry for the pun).  In the midst of the sea, they were overtaken by a horrific storm, and no matter what they did, their situation seemed to only get worse.  They found themselves in a helpless and hopeless situation.  Their efforts were in vain.  Nothing was working.  Nothing seemed to help.  The situation was out of their hands.  All they could do was cry for help.

Poor little Tippy knows exactly how they felt.  Wednesday evening, Jason and I were scrambling to get out the door in order to make it to church on time.  We were doing well, but then there was a phone call.  While I was taking care of the call, there was a knock at the door.  I was on the phone.  Jason was at the door.  And both of us were trying to extricate ourselves from the conversations so that we could continue gathering our stuff and get going.  The result was a hurried escape from the house, hoping that we had remembered to grab everything we needed.

During the church service, I was assaulted by a great sense of unease.  I realized that I hadn't seen Tippy when we left for church.  She's always waiting at the door to see us off, but I didn't remember her being there.  In my panic, I wondered if she had slipped out the door (as she is prone to do) while Jason was talking with our visitor.  I worried that she may be outside, unable to get back in.  I leaned over to Jason and voiced my concern.  He assured me that he didn't think she was outside, but my fears didn't subside.

When we arrived home that evening, Mitch met us at the door.  Tippy was nowhere to be seen.  Panic gripped my heart anew but was immediately silenced by a mournful cry coming from the back of the house.  In our hustle and bustle, Tippy had gotten closed in my office.  Evidently, she followed me in there when I was on the phone.  I never noticed her.  She had probably settled down on her pillow underneath my desk--her preferred spot in my office.  Unaware of her presence, I closed the door when I exited the room.  She had been locked in there alone all night.  No food (although she had already had dinner).  No water.  No bathroom access.  No people.  No brother.  Nothing!  She was helpless and hopeless, and in her despair, all she could do was cry out for help.  "Let me out of here!"

I, too, can relate to Paul's situation, for I often find myself in helpless and hopeless situations.  No matter what I do, no matter how hard I work at solving the problem, my efforts seem in vain.  The situation seems to only worsen.  The wind knocks me to my knees, and the crashing waves reverberate in my chest.  Panic takes over, and I finally realize that the situation is out of my hands.  I have no control, and all I can do is cry out for help.  "Lord, let me out of here!"  And the Lord, in His tender mercy and compassion says, "Not yet, child.  I finally have you where I want you."  

You see, before we can be mended, we must be broken.  Before we can be rescued, we have to admit that we need rescuing.  Before we can be filled with peace and joy, we must be emptied of fear and our own desires.  I've said it many times, but evidently, I need to say it many more:  Sometimes the Lord has to put us in a place where all we can do is look to Him, for it's in those helpless, hopeless circumstances that God performs some of His greatest miracles.  Just ask Paul.

Monday, February 24, 2014

It's Up to You, Lord

One night in 1902, Adelaide Pollard found herself in a state of deep discouragement. Despite her many prayers and efforts, she had not been able to raise the necessary funds for her mission trip to Africa. In the midst of her depression, she decided to attend a prayer meeting and was deeply moved by the prayer of an elderly woman who stated, "It really doesn't matter what You do with us, Lord, just have Your way with our lives."

When Adelaide arrived home, she took her Bible and opened it to the book of Jeremiah. There, she meditated on the Potter.

Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. - Jeremiah 18:3-4

Before retiring for the evening, Adelaide penned one of the greatest hymns of all time, Have Thine Own Way. In her time of weakness and fear, God had spoken and given her a message that she has passed on to countless souls throughout history.

He speaks to us today. Are we heeding His voice?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Name That Tune

Okay, I have a confession to make.  I haven't done my morning walks at all this winter.  I did well through the fall, but when the weather turned cold, I lost all desire to be outside.  We did a few hikes when time and weather permitted, but outside of that, my exercise routine has been pitiful.  Sure, I could have exercised indoors, and I did. . .some.  But there's nothing like a morning walk to get the blood pumping, the joints loosened and the mind calmed, and this morning, I was reminded of just how true that is.

With the sun shining and the mild temperatures, I put on my walking shoes and hit the pavement.  Instantly, I was overjoyed with the birdsong.  All around me a myriad of birds chirped their happy tunes.  Notice I didn't just say "tunes;" I said "happy tunes," for they were indeed cheerful.  The chirps and tweets filled the air with music and simultaneously filled my heart with joy.  Why?  Well, two reasons, actually.

First of all, the happy tune reminded me of God's faithfulness.  In Matthew 6, God reminds us that we needn't worry about anything because just as God cares for the birds, even more so will He care for us.  Matthew 10 tells us that not a single sparrow falls to the ground without the Father's knowledge.  The happy song of the birds this morning radiated a melody of creatures that were happy, provided for and not weighed down by the cares of this world.

Secondly, their soothing melody reminded me that I have a choice to make.  It's up to me to decide which song I'm going to sing today.  Will it be a cheerful tune that brings a smile to the face of others, or will it be a song of sorrow and defeat?  Will my song bring me down or lift me up?  Will it please the Father or anger Him?  You see, He has placed a song in my heart, and it's a good song, but He will not force me to sing it.  The tune I choose is completely up to me, and that's where things get tricky.

When things are going well, and the sun is shining bright, it's easy to sing, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" and "God's Been Good."  Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the times when the day is dark and the shadows are long.  During those times, my mind recalls the line from the song that was frequently sung on Hee Haw:  "If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all."  The melody is somber and disheartening, which actually seems to fit the mood in the valley.  But is it the appropriate song?

Music has power.  It can lift you up or tear you down.  It can encourage or discourage.  It can soothe or aggravate.  It all depends on your choice of music.  So I ask you, what kind of song are you singing today?  Your decision can deeply impact your mood and attitude, so please, choose wisely.

O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. - Psalm 95:1-3

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sometimes We Need the Rain

With the recent weather conditions in my area, the Lord brought an old post to my memory, and I felt led to share it with you again today.  I don't know about you, but I know I needed the reminder.  As you read, keep in mind that this post is over three years old, but oddly enough (or not), it still fits.

We had a pretty decent winter storm come through last weekend. It started off as a wintry mix then turned to snow and then back to a wintry mix. Needless to say, it was quite treacherous outside.

By Sunday afternoon, most of the snow and ice had melted off the roads, but our side yard was still a big sheet of white ice. It was fun slip-sliding my way to the truck so we could go to church Sunday evening. (I looked like Bambi on ice, only in a skirt and boots.) On Monday, the sun came out, and it was a beautiful day with highs in the mid 50's. Still, the snow and ice on the grass in the side yard didn't melt. By Monday night, we could still skate across the yard.

With Tuesday came the rain, and guess what happened. The snow and ice finally melted. Even though the day was cooler than Sunday and Monday had been, the rain was able to do what the sun had not. It got rid of the snow and ice.

Funny, isn't it? If we could plan the weather, how many rainy days would we put in place? Probably not many. After all, rainy days are only good for curling up by the fire and reading a good book. I find it difficult to get anything else done on rainy days. Plus, they make me tired. I spend the days yawning and wondering if it will ever be bedtime. No, I wouldn't plan for many rainy days. I guess it's a good thing that I'm not in charge, for as I was reminded on Tuesday, sometimes we need the rain.

The same can be said for our spiritual walk. If I were in control, my journey would be smooth. No obstacles. No trials. No problems. Just smooth sailing. Sunshine and flowers. Chocolate cake and ice cream. I tend to forget that sometimes my spiritual life needs a good rain shower. Why? Because sometimes the rain can accomplish what the sun cannot. If life were always a bed of roses, I wouldn't grow. I wouldn't strive to be more like Christ. I would be content with my situation and never reach for anything greater. But most of all, I would never learn to trust. Yes, as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes we need to rain.

Umbrella, anyone?

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. - Isaiah 55:8-9

Monday, February 17, 2014

Beware the Woods!

I just love it when I "stumble upon" something in my morning devotions that I've never noticed before.  It's like the words take on a life of their own and jump off the page, smacking me smartly across the face, screaming, "Look at me!"  Well, this morning, I looked.  I read.  Then I read again.  But to tell you the truth, I'm completely stumped. Next, I read it to Jason, and he couldn't really figure it out either.  So, do you love a good mystery?  If so, check out the verses below?

So the people went out into the field against Israel: and the battle was in the wood of Ephraim; Where the people of Israel were slain before the servants of David, and there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand men. For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured. - II Samuel 18:6-8

The fact that there was a battle is not unusual.  The fact that David was in the midst of it isn't saying much either (although he wasn't actually on the battlefield at this time).  No, the part that struck me as odd was the last phrase of verse 8:  and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.  The woods devoured the people?  The soldiers were killed by the forest?  That doesn't even make sense. . . unless. . .

Perhaps the trees came alive like those in The Wizard of Oz, Prince Caspian or The Lord of the Rings.

Perhaps the woods were full of poisonous plants or animals.

Perhaps the woods housed a large number of predatory creatures.

Perhaps the woods contained hazardous pits or quicksand.

What do you think?  According to the Bible, more than 10,000 soldiers were killed by the woods.  Do you have any theories?  If so, I'd love to hear them. 

I realize today's post is a little unusual, but I simply felt led to give you a little meat to chew on for the day.  Meditate.  Ponder.  Question.  Study.  And if you have something to add, please leave a comment below for others to read. 

God's Word is perfect and complete, but don't you love how He's inserted these juicy little mysteries for us to try to wrap our brains around?  No matter what genre of reading you prefer, the Bible contains them all--mystery, romance, adventure, suspense and yes, even horror.  It's the perfect Book with the perfect message, and if that weren't enough, God made certain it was enjoyable to read too.  What an awesome God we serve!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love, True Love!

I John 4:7-21

 7Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
 8He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
 9In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
 10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
 12No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
 13Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
 14And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
 15Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
 16And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
 17Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
 18There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
 19We love him, because he first loved us.
 20If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
 21And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Blown in the Wind

Well, it's day two of the snowy downpour.  Big flakes, little flakes -- you name it, I've seen it in the past two days.  Oddly enough, despite the constant precipitation, very little accumulation is taking place on my neighbor's roof.  At first, I thought it was because of their exceptional heating, but after watching the snow for a little while this morning, I realized what was happening. 

As the snow fell, it would land on the roof and steadily accumulate.  But before long, a huge gust of wind would sweep the snow off the roof and send the flakes scurrying about in a whirlwind of confusion until they eventually blended in with the rest of the precipitation. Then the process would begin again.  Snow fall.  Accumulation. Wind.  Powdery whirlwind.  I guess the main reason for this is that this particular snow is unlike what we usually get here in upstate South Carolina.  We usually get a wintry mix (which is expected later this afternoon), but the current snow is plain snow.  It's light and fluffy, not hard and icy.  Unfortunately, its consistency places it at the mercy of every shifting breeze. . . much like some people I've met.

How do we react when the winds of life blow?  Whether they be soft winds of confusion and doubt or gale force winds of bitterness and regret, are we able to withstand them, or are we, like the snow, blown about to points unknown?  What does it take to make us waver?  What causes us to lose track?  Which winds make us lose our way?

On a television show the other day, the man referred to his wife as an anchor.  She took it as an insult, explaining that an anchor is something that holds one down and prevents that person from going where he wants to go.  He, however, had meant it as a compliment, explaining that the purpose of the anchor is to steady and protect.  Anchors keep us from drifting into dangerous waters or hazardous situations.  As Christians, Christ is our Anchor, and He is both willing and able to keep us from danger.  With Christ as our Anchor, we need not be blown about by every breeze, for we can find refuge in the shelter of His arms.  He will shield us from the icy blasts and protect us from losing our way.

As I look out the window now, the snow is still swirling about, driven this way and that by the wind.  How about you?  Are you drifting?  Are the winds of life blowing you off track?  Cling to your Anchor.  He'll keep you steady.

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; - Ephesians 4:14

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How Big Is Your God?

During my weekly grocery trips, I've been trying to witness to a young cashier.  He seems to always be working the register when I shop, so regardless of the line, I get in his lane and hope to continue my witness where I left off.  He is a kind and pleasant young man (probably early college age).  He is polite and well-mannered.  He speaks to each customer and always has a smile.  And unlike most cashiers, he doesn't become close-mouthed when I work Jesus into the conversation.  In some ways, he seems to be knowledgeable of God and the Bible, but in other ways, he leads me to believe that either he serves another "god" or he simply doesn't know and understand the one, true God.

For example, on two separate occasions, he has made a comment about things being up to us and how we have to help God out.  His words were, "After all, He's busy and has a lot to do."  Both times, I was quick to speak up, "Ah, but you see, that's one of the wonderful things about God.  He's never too busy for me.  No matter what else is going on in the world, my God is big enough to take care of that and help me with my problems too.  He doesn't need my help, but He often allows me to take part in His work."  From there, the cashier simply smiles and wishes me a good day.  I smile back, thank him for his kindness and remind him that the true God is never too busy.

Still, each time I walk away, my heart is broken for this young cashier and others like him who have such a low opinion of such a mighty God.  Where does such a concept come from?  When did the all-powerful God get placed in such a small box?  And with that being the case, is it any wonder there are so many who do not know God?  After all, if He's so limited that He can only help one person at a time, what could He possibly do that they couldn't do themselves?  How very sad!

I want to let you know today that I serve a great and wonderful God who is not limited by time or space.  He is almighty, and nothing is beyond Him.  No matter is too great (example:  the walls of Jericho), and no matter is too small (example:  allowing me to find a close parking space this morning so I didn't get drenched in the rain).  My God is never too busy to answer me, although I sometimes have to wait for His perfect timing.  He is always present and knows exactly what is going on in my life.  He can hold my hand while maintaining the orbit of each planet and coordinating each breath and heartbeat and lunar cycle.  He is never stumped by my problems nor surprised by my actions.  He sees all, hears all, knows all.

If this God that I have described is not the same god you are serving, I beg of you, come to know the one, true God.  He is the only One who will never leave you nor forsake you.  He is the only One who can be with you every step of the way.  He is the only One who knows all and controls all.  And unlike the many false gods and/or god concepts, He cannot be placed in a box, but He can reside in your heart.  Make Him your Savior today.  You'll never regret it!

For those of you who do know the true God, are you spreading the word?  Are you telling others how great He is and what He has done for you?  If not, why not?  Isn't that the least we can do?  We have the opportunity to show others the real God, the One who cannot be placed in a shoebox or treated like the genie in Aladdin's lamp.  It is up to us to clear up this misconception that God is too busy holding the world together to have time for each individual.  We need to shout the message loud and clear, and if the world doesn't like it, so be it.  I'm tired of being ashamed.  I'm tired of being afraid to speak up.  I want the world to know I serve the true and living God!  Are you with me?

But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. - Matthew 19:26

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wait or Act?

Yesterday, my dad lovingly called to inquire whether or not Jason's workload had picked up any.  You see, the first couple of months of the year are typically slow for the carpet cleaning business for which Jason works.  This year seems to be a bit slower than normal.  And since Jason is paid by the hour, little to no hours means a little to naught paycheck.  As for me, I'm not teaching this semester, so my entire source of income right now is my writing.  Sell books=make money.  You can see where the problem lies for us right now.  So, when I confessed that Jason's hours were pitiful, he asked the same question I've been asking for weeks now--What are you going to do?

"Pray" was the only answer I could give him because it's all I know to do or say.  This morning, as I stared out the window at Jason's work van sitting in the driveway (instead of out doing cleanings), I mulled over that question.  What are we going to do?  Several ideas floated through my mind.  Jason could look for better, more reliable work.  I could look for a part-time job.  Or maybe Jason could look for part-time work to fill in when there wasn't work at his full-time job.  Before I could get through many more options, a thought completely overwhelmed me--Don't fall into Abraham's trap!  Say what?  What trap?  And what does Abraham have to do with anything?  I didn't need to ask.  The entire message became very clear.

 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:
Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee. - Genesis 12:10-13

I'm sure you know the rest of the story.  Sarai did as Abraham asked, and their lies led to trouble, as lies always do.  But here's the part that struck me this morning:  Abraham wouldn't have needed to lie if he had stayed where God put him.  Earlier in the chapter, God told Abraham to go to a place that He would show him.  In verse 7, it says, And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land.  "This is the land, Abraham.  This is what I had waiting for you."  So what happened?  Why did Abraham leave?  I think the first phrase of verse 10 tells us exactly what happened--there was a famine in the land.

Even though Abraham was where God told him to be, he left and went down to Egypt.  Was it because he was afraid?  Quite possibly.  Was it because he reasoned that the famine was a sign from God to keep moving?  Likely.  Did it boil down to the fact that Abraham reasoned that God wouldn't ask him and his family to stay in a place of famine?  Who's to say?  But whatever his reasons, the message this morning really stirred my heart.

Jason and I, like Abraham, are essentially in a land of famine.  Are we afraid?  Well, I can't speak for Jason, but fear has certainly crept in on me a few times.  Are we reasoning that the famine is a sign from God to keep moving?  We've certainly discussed the matter and pleaded with God to make His will clear.  As for whether or not God would ask us to stay in a place of famine, well, that's really up to Him, isn't it?  All I can say is that I believe Abraham and his family would have been just fine if they hadn't stepped out of God's will.  No lying.  No problems with Egypt.  I'm not saying things would have been easy, but I know God would have taken care of them.

Jason and I feel that we are in God's will.  We have prayed and asked for direction, but nothing has been revealed.  And until something is revealed, we will assume that God's plan for us right now is to stay where He has placed us, to follow His last instructions to us.  Will it be easy?  Probably not.  Will it make sense?  Definitely not.  But is it the right thing to do?  I believe so.  I've heard it said that God helps those who help themselves, but sometimes I think we get so busy helping ourselves that we leave God completely out of the process.  We neglect His will and direction because we're so set on creating our own futures and successes.  I agree there is a time to act, but the Bible makes it clear that there is also a time to wait.  And so, we will wait and continue to pray that God will either open a new door of opportunity for us or help us praise Him through the lean times.  Either way, our greatest desire is for His will to be done! 

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. - Proverbs 3:5-6

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Single Act of Kindness

I debated about whether or not to write this post for reasons that will soon become obvious, but the Lord simply wouldn't allow me to let it go.  So, as you read, remember that this is a message from Him and not me.

On Sunday morning, I had the opportunity to witness an act of kindness so great that it literally brought tears to my eyes (not that it takes much to make me cry, but that's beside the point).  Jason and I were visiting a nearby church in order to attend a concert by Brian Free and Assurance.  It was my first time seeing the group live, and I was very excited.  Over the past couple of years, I've grown to really appreciate the group's music and the deep message behind each song.  Little did I know that one simple action would bring that message to life in a meaningful way.  To help you understand the impact of this single act of kindness, allow me to set the scene.

Before service:  Organist plays a variety of hymns.  The congregation applauds.

Early in the service:  The music minister slips to the piano and plays a beautiful, flowy arrangement of "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" for the first offertory.  The congregation applauds.

Middle of the service:  Brian Free and Assurance sing a number of faith-filled, Bible-based songs.  The congregation applauds.

Latter part of the service:  A woman (whom I can only assume is the regular pianist for the church) slips to the piano and plays a lovely, yet simple piece of music while accompanied by the organist who played earlier.  The congregation sits in total silence.  No applause.  No holy grunts.  Just complete and total disinterest.

Here's where that single act of kindness comes in.  Brian Free jumps from the front pew and bounds onto the platform, leading the entire congregation in a hardy applause while commenting, "Great music.  You have great musicians in this church."  And he continued to applaud until both musicians had returned to their seats.

I don't know about that pianist, but I can tell you this pianist had tears streaming down her cheeks.  Why?  Because I've been in that same position.  I've poured my heart into a piece of music while the congregation talked and laughed in the background.  I've followed a musician who received undivided attention and applause, only to be met with blank stares and somber faces. (This is the part I didn't want to write about.  I promise I'm not playing the "poor pitiful me" card.  I truly feel the Lord wants this to be said, so I'm going to say it.)

May I ask you a bold question?  When was the last time you thanked the musicians in your church?  When was the last time you prayed for them?  When was the last time you gave them your undivided attention?  I think I can speak for the majority of church musicians when I say that we are not doing what we do for the thanks or applause.  And we're certainly not doing it for the money (in my case, there is none).  We're doing it for the glory of the Lord and out of obedience to His call for us to use our gifts for His glory.  But we are still human, and we still have feelings.  Don't you know that poor pianist noticed that everyone had gotten an applause except for her?  How do you think that made her feel?  I'll tell you how--inadequate, second-rate, not good enough.  And I guarantee you that one of the thoughts running through her mind was, "Why bother?  Maybe I should just pass this job along to someone who could do it better."  Been there, done that!

Please understand, I am not implying that we should worship our musicians, song leaders, choir directors or even pastors.  What I'm saying is that we're all human, and we could all use a good dose of encouragement now and then.  It doesn't have to be in the form of applause.  A kind word or simply a moment of undivided attention would do the trick.  Just please, let them know they're not forgotten.  Help them to see how much they're appreciated.  Not for the sake of their pride, but for the sake of their feelings. 

Again, I want to stress, especially to my church folks, that I'm not saying any of this for me.  I promise.  My church family is very good to me, and there are some who go out of their way to make me feel appreciated.  But I know that is not always the case, and I urge you to do your part.  Your single act of kindness may impact that person far more than you know. 

Hug a musician today!

Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. - I Thessalonians 5:11

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

David Pendleton with Gerald Wolfe, Scott Fowler and Michael Booth

David Pendleton is a talented Christian ventriloquist.  The speed at which he can change from one voice to another is astounding.  In this video, he uses three of gospel music's most well-known singers as his dummies.  I assure you, even though the video quality is not the best, this will be five minutes well spent.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Is Something Missing?

I went to make some bread in my bread machine this morning and realized that I had a problem.  The box of bread mix was supposed to contain everything needed to make the bread, including a small packet of yeast.  Well, the box contained a bag of bread mix (flour, salt, etc.) but nothing else.  No yeast!  And since yeast is not one of the ingredients I keep on hand, I had no choice but to stuff the bag of ingredients back into the box and place the box back in the pantry.  So, I guess there won't be any fresh-baked bread here today, and all because something was missing.

Strangely enough, though, that very concept has been the theme for the weekend.  On Friday night, Jason and I had the opportunity to hear the Booth Brothers in concert in Toccoa, Georgia.  In addition, on Sunday morning we went to hear Brian Free and Assurance at a church here in Greenville.  Both concerts were wonderful, and I left feeling refreshed and full of the Lord.  But at each meeting, and in the message at our church Sunday night, the theme was the same.  At some point, each spoke of "playing Christian" when all along salvation had never occurred.

And it made me wonder how many people have fallen into that trap?  I know of preachers, musicians and others in the ministry that have gotten saved after years of service in the church.  They were doing the right things and being good people, but for whatever reason, they had never actually accepted Christ as their Savior.  It sounds strange, but I know it to be true.  The evidence is astounding.  How many people are "playing church" without actually knowing the One they claim to serve?

Not wanting to cause people to doubt their salvation, Michael Booth, at Friday's concert, gave three evidences to look for to assure yourself that you have, in fact, met the Master.  They are straight from the Bible and serve as proof of your salvation.  So, if you're ever in doubt, ask yourself the following questions:

1) Are you drawn to God's Word?  - The Bible is our means of knowing and understanding God better.  It is the key to the Christian life, and those who are truly saved should feel drawn to it.  They should desire to know what it says, to read it, to meditate on it.  It is God's love letter to us, so how do we treat it?

2) Do you feel a love and compassion for others? - When the Holy Spirit moves in, He fills us with His love and compassion.  He helps us to see others as He sees them.  He causes us to feel a burden for those who do not know Him, as well as for those who have gone astray.

3) Do you feel convicted when you do wrong?  - Again, when the Holy Spirit moves in, He fills us with His wishes and desires.  He helps us to understand right from wrong, and when we do the things we shouldn't do, He lets us know it.  Deep down, we feel the guilt and His disapproval.  We see our sin as the very thing that put Christ on the cross, and recognize that even though our sins are paid for, that does not give us the right to sin.

Those who have accepted Christ as their Savior should experience all three of these attributes to some degree.  Christians are not sinless, perfect or holier than others.  Christians are just what the name implies--Christ-like.  So, I urge you to take a look at your life.  Is there evidence that you're saved, or is your life like my box of bread mix where something is missing?

Please understand, my goal is not to make you doubt your salvation.  In fact, it's the exact opposite.  I want to help you confirm it so that you need never doubt again.  But the fact of the matter is that they're are too many people out there who are living right and going to church, yet something is missing.  And that something is salvation.

Do you know Him?  I mean, really know Him.  Not with your head, but with your heart.  I hope so, but if not, it's not too late.  There's no need to be embarrassed or ashamed.  God wants to save you today.  Just ask.  I guarantee you, the only response will be that of rejoicing!

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. - I John 2:3-6

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Broken Vessel

Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly. For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed.  I was a reproach among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbours, and a fear to mine acquaintance: they that did see me without fled from me.  I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel. - Psalm 31:9-12

Poor David!  You really have to feel bad for him.  Here he was minding his own business, trying to serve the Lord, and suffering all the while.  Many scholars have determined that this psalm was probably written during the time of David's flight from Saul.  Considering the verses above, it makes sense.  After all, David speaks of how everyone feared to be his friend.  That would have been the case since Saul was out to kill him.  David would have been considered an enemy of the king and the kingdom.  He was "off-limits" to the people.  And so, poor David was left alone to ponder his stressful existence.

But out of the entire chapter, no other phrase catches my attention like the last part of verse 12:  I am like a broken vessel.  I guess it catches my eye because I know how David feels.  At the very least, once a week I feel like that broken vessel -- useless, worthless, forsaken, forgotten.  When poor health slows me down, I feel useless.  When I see my efforts amount to naught, I feel worthless.  When I find myself in difficult situations, I feel forsaken.  And when no one seems to know or care who I am or what I do, I feel forgotten.  Broken.  Discarded.  Junk.

Thankfully, David's story didn't end with his flight from Saul.  No, David went on to become a great king and a mighty warrior.  His life is a testament that God can still use broken vessels, for God used David over and over again.  Even when David considered himself useless, worthless, forsaken and forgotten, God saw a man after His own heart and said, "I can use you."  And I believe God says the same about me.  When I feel broken and discarded, I believe God is looking down and saying, "It's okay, Dana.  I can still use you."

So how do we go from feeling like a broken vessel to feeling like a vessel that can be used of God? David answers that question in verse 14 of the same chapter:   But I trusted in thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my God.  It all boils down to being willing to surrender our all to God and allowing Him to have His way in our lives.  The chorus to one of my favorite songs sums it up nicely:

Giver of life; supreme sacrifice
Mold me into Your likeness
Make me more like You
I want to be what You want me to be
A vessel, strong and true
Giver of life, I give my life to you.