Month: October 2017

Meditating on the Goodness of God

Over the past few years, I have been greatly influenced and impacted by corporate worship through song. Whether it be with my church body, other believers at a conference, in the car by myself, or in the living room with my wife, I have come to love singing songs to the Lord. Psalm 96:1-2 says, “Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Sing to the Lord; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.” This Sunday, November 5, we’re singing a new song! We’ll also be singing a song that has become one of my favorites— King of My Heart. Through this song, we meditate on the goodness of our God. We meditate on the fact that God is our provider and sustainer— we are utterly dependent upon Him. I particularly like the bridge of this song, which repeats, “You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down.” These are such sweet words to meditate on if we truly understand them. These words are like honey to our …

Valuable Life Lessons from Mom: Yes Be Yes

Did your mom say short repeatable statements that have stuck with you through the years? Maybe they were just silly little phrases like, “Someday your face will freeze like that,” or  “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Growing up my mom quoted either the Bible or Benjamin Franklin. She would quote Franklin saying, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” “A place for everything, everything in its place,” “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” And she would quote the Bible saying, “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’” These were simple phrases, but over time they shaped my character. James 5:12 says, “But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned.” This verse teaches the value of our …

First Give To God What is His

The Bible is filled with practical wisdom for life; nuggets of wisdom that can be mined from the Scripture to help us be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16, ESV). The book of Proverbs is a treasure house of “get smart” lessons about life. Jesus packed the Sermon on the Mount with such lessons: be careful about the foundation on which you build your life house—it makes the difference between prosperity and disaster (Matthew 7:24-27); you better be careful about your criticism of others—it’ll come back to bite you (7:1-2); settle your differences quickly—if it gets to court you’ll pay through the nose (5:25-26). Now that’s about as practical as you can get! And probably any kid in our 456 program can understand it. There’s another area of life about which God knows we need practical, elementary teaching: the way we deal with our treasures on this earth. So He gives us the principle of “first fruits.” In the Old Testament, God’s people offered the first fruits of the harvest as an acknowledgment that …

Win the War, Die to Yourself

Over the past two years, our Student Pastor, Keith Trollinger, has been training and leading me to be the Campus Pastor and Chaplain at the Central School cluster. During the months of August through November, if you were to ask me what I’m doing the answer would most likely be related to football. Part of being the Chaplain for the Central High and Middle School football teams includes being a spiritual leader to the students as well as the coaches and their staff. I’m there on the practice field leading devotionals, in the weight room praying for students before games, and in the multi-purpose room every Tuesday night eating cheap pizza and leading a Bible study with the football team. I have invested a lot of time into these guys and have built strong relationships with a lot of the athletes and coaches. During the first football game of the season for Central High, I caught a glimpse of Keith and immediately thought, “Why is he here? Shouldn’t he be at Carrollton? Who does he think he …

Revisiting What the Time of Remembrance Represents

The night before Jesus was to endure suffering and humiliation for all of mankind, He sat down with His disciples to share in the Passover (Pesach). This is one of three major holidays in Jewish customs. The Passover is to remember what God did for the children of Israel when He brought them out of Egypt. Its purpose is to remind the Israelites of the final plague when the angel of death passed over their firstborn and cemented their release from captivity from the Pharaoh (see Exodus 12). During Passover, Jesus took a loaf of bread and gave thanks to God. When He broke the bread, Jesus said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Then He took a cup of wine and said “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people — an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you” (Luke 22:19-20). After they finished eating, they sang a hymn and then went out into the …

What Do Your Words Reveal About Your Heart?

When I was a kid, I remember seeing an illustration regarding my words. Maybe you’ve seen this illustration as well: two individuals are put head to head, squeezing toothpaste out of a tube as fast as they can. Once completed, the participants are then instructed to put the toothpaste back inside the tube. As you can imagine, this is an impossible feat and you’re left with a mess. I’m not sure exactly when in my childhood I participated in this experiment, but it has stuck with me for at least 15 years. Usually, if you do this activity with a group of kids, the atmosphere is fun and playful (unless you are the one in charge of cleaning everything afterward) and I think this helped the lesson stick with me. I remember the teacher explaining to us that our words are like the toothpaste, “Once you say something, you can’t take it back. It’s out there.”  Unfortunately, the illustration falls short when it comes to the clean-up. A mess made by toothpaste is much easier …

The Fence of Grace In Life

Wes Seeliger writes in One Inch from the Fence about an old alligator at the Houston Zoo. He nicknamed it “Scarface” because a fellow reptile had chewed a hunk out of his snout. The wound was covered with a grotesque mass of scar tissue that made this 18-foot long gator one of the ugliest most vicious-looking creatures he had ever seen. He tells about the day he and his son fed marshmallows to Scarface. Wire mesh was the only thing that separated them from jaws that could snap a horse’s leg like a twig. And the whole time his hand was just one inch from becoming Seeliger-burger! But there was a fence! And that made all the difference in the world. I love the title of our series on the book of James: the Gospel on the ground. And that’s where life is lived—on the ground; terra firma. But the terra is not always firma! Several times a week, if not every day, we feel the tremors of this adventure called life. Frustration with the kids’ schedules. …

Are You a Believer or a Follower?

Recently through Scripture reading, I’ve come to this conclusion: there is a difference between a believer and a follower, especially when we are talking about Jesus. Christ Believer – Someone who thinks Jesus is God in human flesh. I think that is a pretty good description of a Christ Believer.  This person believes in Christ’ power, authority, and ability to save. But… (Couldn’t you just feel a “but” coming.) But according to scripture, we can not stop at, “I believe.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. – James 2:19 When Jesus walked around with His disciples, He healed many people and cast out many demons.  A common thing we see about these demons is they all believed Jesus was the Son of God.  They believed He was who He said He was, but what good did it do them?  They definitely didn’t become His disciples.  In fact, they often asked Him to go away and leave …

Taming the Destructive Fire of Your Tongue

-written by J.J. Cole A single wooden match weighs .15 grams. It is so light, that its weight cannot even be felt. It produces a small spark and flame, that can easily be pinched out with our fingers.  Nevertheless, when not respected, it can produce a monster that will destroy and even take human life. In 2016 a single spark resulted in 14 lives lost and 10,000 acres of the Great Smoky Mountains to be engulfed in flames, including significant portions of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.  A place with several decades of investment and effort that so many of us have visited laid in waste.  But, thanks to resilience placed in the human heart by God, rebuilding is happening. James 3:6 tells us that “the tongue is a flame of fire.” It goes on to explain in descriptive detail that it can “set your whole life on fire.” Basically, James 3:3-10 sternly warns us to respect the tongue, for at its core it is a match. Today, James may have included our fingertips as we …