So mad I could spit

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I got fighting mad last week.

Actually, I didn’t have good reason to be angry.  No one had wronged me.  Someone had, however, mistreated one of my friends.  Malicious, false statements were directed toward my buddy (let’s call him Stan)- and when the guilty party was approached about it- he lied about being involved.

The truth eventually came out, however, and the offender confessed to their slander and the lie to cover it up.

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.  Proverbs 12:19

I was mad.  Angry.  I couldn’t believe this guy could have such a lack of respect toward Stan.

A couple of days after the incident, I had a long conversation with Stan.  I asked him how this would impact his relationship with this fellow.  His response caught me off guard.

“I’m going to forgive him.”

And he had.  As we talked, I could tell that Stan had a sense of peace about the situation.  Stan said that this fellow had experienced enough embarrassment from being caught in the lie- and that was punishment enough.

Stan had released any anger and animosity that he felt from the situation.

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Mark 11:25

Stan had chosen to forgive.  And if he could do that, I certainly should let go of my resentment too.

Be kind to one another, tenderharted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

My prayer is to have a more forgiving heart- and to ask forgiveness from those I’ve hurt.

Please pray for me and let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Where are you from?

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“Where are you from?”  It’s a question often asked when people meet for the first time.  “Home” is one of the hallmarks of our identity.  It helps define us.

Hollianne and I have several places to call home.  We were both born in rural West Tennessee. We still have family there, so it’ll always be a special place for us.  On the other hand- all three of our children were born in Knoxville, so East Tennessee sure feels like home too.  And southeastern Ohio holds a special place in our hearts as well….as that’s the area we first lived as a married couple right out of graduate school.

Hollianne and I have lived many places over the past 20 years, but one thing is for certain:  if I’m with her- anywhere feels like home.

Isn’t that what “home” really is?  It’s where we feel safe and comfortable.  Where we feel refreshed and alive.  Home isn’t a building or structure, it’s more about the emotion.

As Christians, we have the promise of the ultimate place to call home.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  2 Corinthians 5:1

God has granted us a pathway to reach an eternal home.

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—  1 Corinthians 2:9

Heaven has been described as “paradise” (Luke 23) and a place of no pain, sorrow or sadness (Revelation 21).  Can you imagine that?  No tears in Heaven.  A place of eternal happiness.  The ultimate home place.

Let’s commit to preparing for a journey to our eternal home.  I’ll pray for you-  and I hope that you will pray for me too.

God bless.

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I’ve lost my son

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My son, JT, was gone.

Hollianne, the kids and I were living in a residence hall on the UT campus back in the winter of 2011.  We had just returned to Knoxville for my job, and we were living in Laurel Apartments until we could find a house.

It was a Sunday morning and Hollianne had gotten up early.  She peeked into the living room where JT had been sleeping on a couch.  He wasn’t there.  She looked in the spare bedroom in the apartment- thinking he had crawled into a bed with his siblings.  He wasn’t there either.

She then noticed that the door to the apartment was unlocked.  Panicked, Hollianne woke up the rest of the family and we began the search for our missing son.  We ran up and down the hallways of Laurel apartments- calling his name.  We asked the student worker at the front desk if she had seen JT…even called the campus police.  He was nowhere to be found.  We feared the worse…that he had wondered outside the building and into the Fort Sanders neighborhood during the darkness of the night.

Fortunately, a woman who was cleaning the study lounge emerged into the lobby and announced that there was a little boy asleep on the couch.  It was JT.  A review of the security cameras showed him leaving our apartment in the middle of the night and sleep-walking into the student lounge.  There he was- safe, unharmed, well-rested and lacking any recall of what had happened during the night.  It was the scariest 15 minutes of our lives.

Remember when Mary lost her son?  Luke chapter 2 tells about the scary situation when she and Joseph realized that they couldn’t find Jesus.  They had been visiting Jerusalem and Jesus decided to stay behind- without telling his parents.  They traveled back to Jerusalem and found Jesus teaching in the Temple…after a three-day frantic journey and search.

Mary also knew that she would eventually lose Jesus again to death.  John chapter 19 tells us that Jesus spoke to his mother, Mary, as he was dying on Calvary’s cruel Cross .  Can you imagine the suffering she felt watching Jesus endure such horrible physical and mental anguish?

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.  John 19:30

But the story doesn’t end there for Jesus, for Mary…and for you and me.

John chapter 20 tells us about the stone that was rolled away from the entrance of the tomb.  And about the empty tomb…and about Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene and the Disciples.  And of the incredible power that came to those that believed in Jesus…those that were committed to continuing His work to seek and save the lost.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.  Romans 8:11

The story only starts with Mary losing Jesus.  His awful death was the beginning of a great new story of hope and love and faith.  He lost His physical life, defeated sin and death…and on the third day He arose.  He arose and granted the ultimate sacrifice…the forgiveness of my sins.  I could have been His lost son, but He has fulfilled a great promise to continue loving and caring for me.  And for every one of you, too.

He arose.  Thank God.

God bless you all.

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Sand

Spring Break family photo

Our family has spent time on the Gulf Coast of Florida this week.  It’s been a wonderful experience- filled with sunshine, warm temperatures and relaxing activities on the beach.

One of the most amazing sights has been the creativity of our fellow beach visitors.  We’ve seen amazing sand sculptures.  Castles, sharks, mermaids, elaborate starfish…even complete cities made out of beach sand.  The time and effort placed into this beach art was phenomenal.

It was equally disappointing for our boys, however, to see the sand artwork gone each morning.  Impressive and beautiful projects were simply washed away by the tide overnight.

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  Matthew 7:26

As beautiful and ascetically pleasing as the beach can be, sand structures are no match against wind and water.  They are fragile and delicate against the forces of nature.

Aren’t many of our own earthly pursuits similar to the sand structure?  If I could just drive that new truck….if I could achieve that promotion at work…if I could just live in that neighborhood…if I could just get my kids into that school.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  Colossians 3:2

These pursuits are made of sand.  They quickly wither and evaporate.  They are temporary.  I need to focus instead on the pursuit of character.  In the book of Galatians, Paul wrote of another set of traits that we should consider:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23

I have to concentrate on those traits that develop Christian character.  Traits that will help me prevail against difficult times.

Let’s commit to two tasks this week.  First, let’s read and meditate on Galatians 5.  Second, please pray for for us to recognize and commit to developing traits with eternal value.  We should do this for one another.

God bless you.  Let me know if I can pray for you.

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Imposter

Naples

I spent three days in Naples, FL this week.  My conference was set near the beach, and it was a struggle to sit in the sessions while looking out at the gulf, the sunshine and the palm trees.

The reality, however, was that it was still January in South Florida.  The temperature was unseasonably cold.  There was a 35 mph wind gusting off the gulf.  It was miserable.  Appearances can be deceiving.

There are times in my life when I’ve felt the same way. This usually happens when I feel insignificant, tired and defeated.  Times when I wonder why I’ve been so blessed with family and friends.  Times that I feel like I’m barely holding it together. When I’ve felt like this, it’s typically because I’ve been comparing myself to others.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

Isn’t that what we do?  We compare our insides to what we see on the outside of others.  This will always lead us to unhappiness.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

We need to focus on our heart health.

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  1 Timothy 1:5

God cares about the condition of our hearts- not outer appearances.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10

Pray for me to be diligent in a continual search for a pure, clean heart.  And let me know if I can pray for you.

God bless.

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Leftovers…

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If your house is like mine, you’ve got a refrigerator full of leftovers.  Thanksgiving day has come and gone.  We’ve acknowledged our blessings over three big meals with a fun mixture of family and friends.  With each celebration, however, we seem to have picked up more food to bring home.  Turkey, dressing, cheese-filled casseroles and a sweet array of pies and cakes line our refrigerator shelves.

Leftovers are good, but after a day or two of reheating turkey and dressing- our house is ready for something new.  Something different.

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 1 Peter 1:23

Ever felt like a leftover?  We sprint hard toward a new opportunity, only to find ourselves disappointed by others…disillusioned about our experience.  Instead of renewal, we often feel tired and defeated.  Left behind.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  Romans 6:4

Our faith can give us hope, however.  We have an opportunity through Jesus to be born again…to experience a continual newness in our lives.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

Take comfort in the renewal that offered through our relationship with Jesus.  We don’t ever need to feel left behind.  We have a Father that beckons us to walk with Him daily.

God bless.

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