Numbers

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Numbers are important.  Just ask my kids.  Each season they lobby their caches to wear a specific number on their uniform. This means something to them.  It’s “their” number.

What’s so special about a particular number?  According to my kids- it makes them feel unique…distinctive.  Out of a crowd of kids on a basketball court, baseball diamond or soccer field- they take comfort in having their favorite number.  It’s the same number every game, every season.  It helps them stand out in a crowd.

Don’t we all worry about that?  We often times feel like we are lost in the masses.  Forgotten.  Just one of a multitude of people on this earth.  We long for personal attention, yet can feel alone even in crowded workplaces and busy streets.

Jesus longs to know us and wishes to have a personal relationship with each one of us.

Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.  Luke 12:7

Our lives are of essential interest to God.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

We are not just a number.  We are so unique…so special to God that even the hairs of our head are numbered.  He knows everything about us and- despite our flaws- loves us anyway.

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

You are loved…no matter what number you wear.

God bless you and keep you.

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Black ice

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I’m tired.

The ice, snow and freezing temperatures have worn me completely out.  The kids have been out of school for two complete weeks, and we are all feeling the effects of cabin fever.

Britton, our nine year old son, has been fascinated with the talk about “black ice”.  How can such a thin, transparent layer of water cause such havoc across the state?  He’s noticed abandoned cars and trucks stuck along the roadways, seen semi trucks jackknifed on the interstate and heard the warnings to cancel travel.  Black ice is bad news.

There’s an analogy to be made.  Sin can create an equally dangerous situation in our lives.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.  James 4:17

If we are honest, we’ve all got patches of black ice in our lives.  Those bad habits and the dangerous thoughts that can cause us to stumble and fall.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  1 John 1:8-10

We are imperfect people…born sinners.  I am worse than most.  But we can realize our brokenness, ask for forgiveness and the strength to do better, and rest assured that we have a loving Savior who will protect and keep us in His arms.

Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  James 4:7

Read His word.  Obey His commands.  Invite Jesus into every facet of your life.

The presence of Jesus…it’s the best de-icer around.

God bless you.  Please pray for me, and let me know if I may pray for you.

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Frozen moments

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I had a sneak preview of the future recently.

Carson, our daughter, was honored to be selected as a member of Knoxville’s Junior Assembly Class of 2015.  It’s an award based on grades, activities and leadership.  The culminating event involved a formal dance.  The women wore white formal dresses. The men wore tuxedos.  It was a bit fancier than most Saturday evenings spent by the Carvers, I can assure you.

Carson looked stunning.  She and Hollianne had picked out the perfect dress.  On the day before my baby girl had played a hard game of basketball in her West High uniform and athletic shoes, and by the next evening she was transformed into an elegant, beautiful young woman in a white winter formal and heels.

The highlight of the evening for me was the Father/Daughter dance.  The dance only lasted five minutes, but it gave Carson and me the opportunity to talk about her day, her year at West High and share a funny moment or two about growing up in the Carver household.

I wanted to freeze this moment in time.  Frozen.  Yes…I wanted time to stop.  I suddenly realized how fast time was passing.  Today she was a high school sophomore, but in her beautiful dress and in this elegant location I couldn’t help but think about a possible wedding day in the future.

Today’s events are too quickly becoming yesterday’s distant memories.  Where had the time gone?  I wished that the days could slow down.

It reminded me about the importance of the moment.  Every moment of every day.  My sudden feelings of melancholy regarding my daughter did not develop all at once, but over a lifetime of moments.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

We are called by Jesus to be relationship people.  We are called to love others…to invest in their lives.  We need to take time out of our busy days to create moments with the others around us.  Neighbors, teachers, brothers, parents, co-workers…all of these people deserve patience, love and support.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:11

Let’s pledge this week to invest in those around us.  Let’s create moments with others that can turn into lasting memories.  As Jesus followers, we owe this to one another.

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

God bless.

Keith

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Weeds

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Weeds.

Hollianne and I spent several days doing some landscaping last spring. We added some annuals and perennials to our existing plants around our house. It was fun to be out digging in the earth with the kids- beautifying our yard in the process.

Last weekend the boys and I decided to do some touch up yard work. Jack T. mowed while Britton and I cleaned up some of the areas that needed additional mulch.

There is one landscaped area in the far back corner of our yard that we rarely visit. Oh- you can see it from the patio and the pool, but we rarely get up close to that area. It’s a beautiful spot, with sunflowers, begonias and some knock-out rose bushes.

Once inspecting this area up close, however, we discovered that it was overrun with weeds. They weren’t detected from far away, but a closer look showed that these weeds had overtaken the once beautiful flower bed. It took us 20 minutes to eliminate all the weeds from this very small patch of ground.

Isn’t my life the same way? I have an appearance that I want my friends and family to see, but closer examination of my own life reveals my own set of weeds- a human tendency for sin.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. I John 1: 8-10

We often keep these sinful areas of our life hidden…not wanting others to see. We maintain strong exteriors while our inner thoughts and behaviors are flawed.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. James 1: 14

Just like that area in the very back of my yard, sin left unaddressed can cover our hearts like the weeds that cover beautiful flowers and plants.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5: 19-21

But there is hope for all, including me. While we are sinners, Jesus paid a sacrifice for us- so that we do not have to remain slaves to sin.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3: 16-17

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. II Corinthians 5: 21

Don’t let the weeds of sin cover your heart.

But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” II Timothy 2: 19

Accept the saving promise of our Lord and Savior.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6: 23

Let’s all commit to an examination of our hearts for unwanted weeds. I need your prayers- and let me know if I can pray for you.

God bless.

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Prodigal Son? Not LeBron…

IMG_2680My boys have been fascinated with the LeBron James saga this week.  We’ve been on vacation- but at every opportunity they tuned in to ESPN to get the latest.  It was an interesting story…as four years ago LeBron spurned his home state of Ohio to go to “greener pastures” (and more talent) in Miami.  You remember what happened next.  LeBron jerseys were burned all over Cleveland and northeast Ohio.  People called him traitor.  His image was removed from buildings and local endorsement deals.  Even his family was not immune- as his mother had to endure all sorts of hostility and threats.

Four Finals appearances and two NBA championship rings later- he decides he’s ready to return home.  The 2010 decision was a thing of the past.  All is forgiven in an instant.  An internet article described it as the “Prodigal Son Returns.”

This is a reach.  I don’t think that LeBron’s situation can be described a prodigal.  You all remember the story from the book of Luke, which truly describes the story of the prodigal son.

Luke 15:11-32 (ESV) And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.

We know what happens next.  The son returns home and is forgiven by his father.  Riches, followed by unrighteous living, a downfall, and then a return to the comfort of his family.

While LeBron’s decision can’t truly be compared to the account in Luke, I can certainly relate from my own life.  There have been times when I have behaved, acted or just thought in ways that provided a departure- or at least a temporary distraction- from the way that God wants me to live.  Career, self-interest and pride have often blinded me from God’s will for my life.

1 John 2:1-29 (ESV) My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:

Thank the Lord that we have an advocate for us when we go astray. Our heavenly Father provides us with unconditional love, and through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross we have grace and forgiveness from our actions.  We just need to repent and change course- not an easy thing to do for prideful people, like myself.

Philippians 2:12-16 (ESV)  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

I am thankful for the forgiveness that is offered when I wander astray as the prodigal son.

God bless.

 

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Lost sheep

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It’s been a wonderful July 4th holiday, as all of Hollianne’s family gathered in Atlanta for our annual family reunion.  Four siblings, their spouses, 10 nieces and nephews and Hollianne’s mother were in attendance for the celebration.  We always gather in Atlanta so we can run the annual Peachtree 10k (with 60,000 of our closest friends).  The run is a wonderful activity for Hollianne’s family.  All the siblings, their spouses and seven of the kids were scheduled to participate in the race this year.  The house is always filled with great stories about races from previous years and estimates on who will win the family “trophy” each year (it’s normally no surprise…as my sister-in-law, Susan, crushed us with her stamina, endurance and deft feet!).

While the race is the culminating event, the weekend truly focuses on family.  We cook, eat, laugh and hug all weekend. I’m so grateful to be a part of this loving family.

This year’s event was a little different- and stressful. Our daughter, Carson, had been away on a mission trip to inner-city New York and was set to fly in and join us late Thursday night.  Hurricane Arthur changed that plan- as it cancelled her flight and postponed her travel by 48 hours.  We couldn’t get her out of New York City for two whole days because of cancelled flights and booked planes.  While we were able to make adjustments for her and knew she would be safe, it was unsettling to Hollianne and me to have her so far away in a strange city.  What a beautiful reunion it was yesterday to finally get her in the same city.  We just felt better being able to have her in our presence….to be able to hug and talk to her in person.  We had a great reunion weekend, but there was an underlying uneasiness for us until we could get our child home.

Last night I reflected on the experience surrounding our daughter’s delayed plans.  While we were worried and anxious until Carson could join us, I just cannot fathom the depth and breadth of how much our heavenly Father is concerned for us.  He loves us beyond our own comprehension- and wants all of us to be with Him eternally.  Our earthly families are important, but as Christians we should realize that our broader, eternal family is the focus of our loving God- even with our flaws and imperfections.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders  and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  Luke 15: 3-7

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  Matthew 18:12

We are loved, thank God.  Even with a world population of over 7 billion people, our Father cares for us INDIVIDUALLY…and loves us despite our actions and behaviors.  How comforting is it that God is concerned for us in a way that is unparalleled by any earthly relationship.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

While Hollianne and I could not rest and relax until Carson returned to us, the Lord is infinitely more concerned with our souls and our eternal destination.  God is a loving God, even giving up His son to bear the pain of our sin so that we can live with Him forever.

Thank. God.

I hope that your July 4th holiday was filled with family, fun, food and laughter.  I also hope that you were able to reflect on the love that our heavenly Father has for us.

God bless you.

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