The Carpenter's Apprentice

Jeff Phillips' Messages

(click on the month to view the messages for that month)

  • July 21, 2024


    There are only a few stories about Jonathan, the oldest son of King Saul, Israel’s first king. From those stories, the Bible draws a picture of a loyal and devoted friend whose faith in God is a faith we should strive to match. The first time we read of Jonathan is in 1 Samuel 13 when he smote a garrison of Philistines. You may be unfamiliar with the term smote but it means when the battle commenced, Jonathan and his men thoroughly and completely defeated the enemy leaving no doubt who was the more powerful. In southern speak it means, “he whooped ‘em a good un!” The response of the Philistines was to assemble 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen and foot soldiers that numbered like the sands of the seashore to fight Israel. This was the climate in which 1 Samuel 14 begins close to the pass of Michmash with the Israelites on one side and the Philistines on the other. There seems to be a sort of stalemate as neither army wanted to advance on the others position. Tactically, each army held strong positions regardless of numbers. An attacking force would no doubt sustain great losses. Jonathan, maybe bored with waiting, decides to take his armor bearer and head on over and see what trouble he can cause for the Philistines. In 1 Samuel 14:6, he says to his companion, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.” I am struck by his faith. The NASB says, “The Lord is not restrained to save …” God doesn’t need all Christians everywhere to stand for righteousness and truth (although that would be impressive) in order to be effective. He just needs one. Paul said it like this, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31). Peer pressure that is ever present and attempts to fit in to societal norms are never ending. Social media bears witness to our need to fit in and be accepted as does our clothing, language and how we prioritize life. God used Jonathan to attack 20 Philistines at the top of a cliff and created a shift in momentum and changed the course of the fight – Israel won decidedly. Israel smote them again because of God. How will your world change if you decide righteousness and God’s word will be your guide and not the world? Don’t forget, “you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).


    -jeff


    July 14, 2024


    Keys in one hand, my Barlow pocket knife in the other, we just waited for certain death or daylight. It was the summer of ’93, Jennifer and I found ourselves somewhere off the Blue Ridge Parkway, newlyweds, lying in a pup tent in the back of an isolated campground. We’d arrived at the campground shortly before dark, hoping to find a spot only to find the campground mostly empty, probably due to the yellow bear warnings posted on nearly every tree and both ends of every picnic table. It was too late to go anywhere else so we picked a spot and made camp. Following the guidelines, we placed all food items inside the single cab truck along with all our luggage before turning in to sleep under the stars – with the bears. It was about midnight when a breeze began to pick up and we could hear distant thunder and see the faint flashes of light from the phenomenon causing the low rumble. Within the hour, breeze became what seemed like hurricane force winds as the trees bowed first one direction, then another. The distant thunder and faint flashes of light were now explosions of blinding light and earsplitting booms as the storm seemed to have chosen the campsite right next to ours to spend the night. I love a good thunderstorm, I always have, but as I lay there staring at the top of our boy scout tent, I couldn’t help but marvel at the way the shadows of bending trees took on every appearance of the  outstretched claws and gaping, sharp toothed mouth of a ram paging bear about to rip our tent to shreds and consume a tasty midnight meal. The quickness and ferocity of the storm, coupled with a total lack of preparedness allowed my mind to run rampant. Uncontrolled fears and negative outcomes from not being able to save my wife from a bear to being crushed by falling trees dominated my thoughts and the interpretations of my senses. While summer storms are somewhat predictable for those paying attention, the storms of life often come upon us with similar speed and ferocity. One minute all is well, the next, the world is coming apart at the seams – and Satan often seizes the opportunity. He uses our perceptions, fears and momentary confusions to sow seeds of doubt, dissension and disparagement; anything to keep us from returning our focus to the cross. He’ll do anything to keep us from going to God who has the power to calm the storm (Mat thew 8:27) and promises a better place to those who per severe to the end (Revelation 2:10). Be focused. Be intentional. Be prepared.

     -jeff

    July 7, 2024


    In a sense, he was minding his own business as he travelled along with his companions. In many ways, it was just a job and he was good at it. It wasn’t an easy job but it had to be done and he was good because he was passionate about it being done completely and thoroughly. Trained at the highest levels by the best teachers, endorsed by all the right  peo ple, he was convinced the job was necessary. He was positive he was in the right; certain he couldn’t be wrong. How could he be? After all, God was on his side because every thing he did, he did for God. His job was to punish those who spoke out against the truth, blasphemers who claimed things were different now. They claimed the old ways were gone because the Messiah had come. Ludicrous. They had to be silenced, punished – if necessary, killed. They were messing everything up, confusing good people and their following was increasing. Dragging people from their homes and jobs was not for the faint of heart, but it had to be done before more of God’s chosen people were drawn away from the truth. He was in the right. How could he not be? After Jesus spoke to him on the road to Damascus, Saul sat in silent darkness for three days waiting on word from God. For three days, he must have examined his life’s worth. Everything he’d trained for, everything he believed, everything he’d done came unwound. While he thought he was ok, he’d been totally wrong. Oh, he could see it now. He’d studied all this! Yet somehow, he’d listened to the wrong people, the priests – even the high priest all agreed what he was doing was ok and had God’s blessing. But he was wrong and God himself had called him out – by name; placing the blame squarely on his shoulders. Now he was blind, waiting, but God was not done with him. That is good news.


    If a man of Saul’s immense training, knowledge, resources and opportunity could be hoodwinked by Satan to damage and persecute the Lord’s church, how easy would it be for Satan to make one of us believe God is pleased with us and our Christian-walk just because we are comfortable in it? I mean hey, none of us are perfect but at least we are not as bad as _______________or like _______________, right? The truth is we will not be compared to other churches or other Christians. We will stand before God on our own merits (John 12:48; Matthew 12:36-37).


    Marshall Keeble once said in a sermon, “The Bible teaches us to confess Christ not to profess religion.” This confession comes not just from our mouths but in the actions of our lives. It is not what goes in the body that defiles it, but what comes out, because what comes out comes from the heart (Matthew 15:16-19). One thing is for sure, the next time we see the light Saul saw, no one is going to have a few days to think about it!

     --jeff

  • June 30, 2024


    IBM.com says, “Artificial intelligence, or AI, is technology that enables computers and machines to simulate human intelligence and problem-solving capabilities.” Basically, artificial intelligence is the process of taking vast amounts of information, analyzing it and looking for patterns and data correlations and then using the correlations and patterns to predict an outcome. Artificial Intelligence is the driving force behind self-driving cars (pardon the pun) and allows computers to play games like chess making decisions based on the moves of an opponent. In truth, AI is found in many aspects of our lives today. Siri and Alexa are both examples of AI as well as predictive texting, auto correct and the facial recognition feature that keeps a stranger from accessing your phone. When it comes to basic functions, often times, the computer does it faster, better and with less mistakes. Walmart has figured out, artificial intelligence complains less, rarely shows up late or calls in sick, requires zero health benefits and never asks for a raise! Baseball and other sports will soon have no need for umpires and referees as the computer can instantly call balls and strikes and review every play in mere milliseconds then broadcast the perfect call on the jumbotron for both athletes and fans! There are a myriad of ways AI has changed and can change our lives but there is a scary side too. If you are a fan of spy novels and movies, you have certainly seen what can happen when AI gets to be so advanced it realizes humanity is the weak link and then attempts to save earth and preserve itself by eliminating humankind. One of the biggest problems with AI is bias. Ultimately, bias is a little word for prejudice. Any computer is only as good as the information put into it and the computer works on the assumption the information is true. If the information or data is biased, the interpretation of the data will be too. There is so much more to be said both for and against AI, but for now just ask this question: Is artificial intelligence capable of loving someone? The answer is no. Sure, you could write a program telling a robot to sacrifice itself for its owner, but that would not be its choice unless programmed to do so. Therefore, Jesus’ words in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends,” could never apply to artificial intelligence. A program could be written to sacrifice self and save the owner, but it would be nothing more than a program. It would never have the driving force of sacrificial love behind it and an owner would never know if the computer was just doing what it was told or if its existence was terminated out of love. So, when someone asks you why wouldn’t an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving God create us in such a fashion where we would not sin, you can ask them, “How much do you know about AI?”

    --jeff


    June 23, 2024


    Twenty-seven miles southeast of Searcy, Arkansas, lies Lake Des Arc. With classes done for the day, Perry, Darren and myself borrowed a boat and trolling motor and left campus to finish the summer day catching fish. I do not recall the fish we caught, although I am sure it was few. At first, we welcomed the cooling shadow of the storm to our south and hoped it would pass us by. But it didn’t. It headed straight for the lake. The closer it got, the more violent it became. At 280 acres, Lake Des Arc is not a huge lake, but after running the trolling motor for a couple hours, the truck was right at - still a long way away. We had about half the lake to go when the first sound waves from thunder vibrated the boat. As if on cue, the winds picked up blowing in our face as we reeled in line and hunkered down to reduce wind drag. Hunkering down was not enough because the battery was totally dead. As Perry spoke the obvious, several things happened simultaneously. A flash of light accompanied an ear splitting, boat rattling crash of thunder and two paddles hit the water with enough force to cause a small rooster tail to erupt behind the 14-foot flat bottom boat and throw Perry backward into the boat. Unfortunately, there were no other witnesses to the superhuman feat of oarsmanship we displayed that afternoon. We hit the bank with such force almost half the boat rode onto the bank allowing for an easy and quick disembarkation as we sprinted the last quarter mile to the truck leaving the boat and our gear behind. The storm only lasted twenty minutes or so, but the wind and lightening had been fierce. As small as it is the middle of Lake Des Arc was no place for boaters in a storm!

    The Sea of Galilee is 150 times larger than Lake Des Arc and while their boat was likely at least twice as long, twice as wide and many times as heavy, Jesus and His disciples found themselves in a far worse predicament. Their boat was also powered by wind and not at all easily paddled. With its sides likely as high as four feet and waves already filling the boat, their peril was greater - and it was night time. None the less, we’d gained a much newer perspective of and respect for the kind of fear Jesus’ disciples experienced. One more thing. Jesus was not in our boat, but truthfully, I am pretty sure we’d have still paddled hard for shore. The thing is, Jesus tells us not to fear those things that destroy the body, but fear those things that destroy the soul (Matthew 10:28). I’m not saying we must throw caution to the wind, and I don’t think Jesus was either. But we must cultivate a healthier respect for sin and the catastrophic effects it has on our lives. Is Jesus really riding in your boat?

    --jeff


    June 16, 2024


    Remember, he is not the enemy; she is not the enemy; you are not the enemy; I am not the enemy.
    Satan is the great deceiver and HE IS THE ENEMY!


    “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

    John 16:33


    “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    Romans 8:37-39


    --jeff


    June 9, 2024


    Costumes and disguises share the same purpose, to hide one’s true identity. Costumes, however tend to be rather flamboyant and extravagant, where as a disguise is cleverly made to draw as little attention as possible. While no one may recognize the person in an inflatable dinosaur suit, certainly attention will be drawn their way. On the other hand, a disguise is intended to blend in, never draw attention and basically make it to where one can hide in relatively plain sight simply by not standing out. But to truly make the disguise work, one must become the disguise. Often it is not the lack of disguise or one poorly put together that reveals our true identity, but our own persona; the way we walk or little habits we have we are often not aware of. Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-20, no matter how good the disguise, it would be easy to see folks for who they were by their fruits. Specifically, Jesus was taking about false prophets. People who came claiming divine authority but in the end were only self-serving. Jesus said beware, but you can know who to trust by the what they produce. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Essentially, the fruits we bear or show, could be described as the product or result of our presence. While the fruit of the Spirit are often taken for granted rather than taken notice of, on the other hand, their absence is always noticed. Hate, depression, dissention, contrariness, meanness, wickedness, disloyalty and emotional outbursts are all sure to draw negative comments. Fruits NOT of the Spirit are easy to spot, gaining almost immediate and constant attention, raising the angst of nearly everyone around and should call into question the claims of righteousness and Christianity of the purveyors of such bitterness, sourness and rottenness. This is likely why Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of the Father in heaven will enter.” So maybe for just a moment we pause to take a look at the “fruit” in our wake. Maybe we stop just a minute and examine the reputation we hold. Certainly, if we can see the fallacy in the lives of others, we can see the short comings in our own lives – if we take an honest look. Answer these questions honestly about your life. By my closest friends, am I considered loving? Am I seen as content, secure and happy? Do I create problems or solve problems? Am I patient? Am I approachable and kind? Most consider themselves to be “good people,” but what do others think of you? Are you a loyal friend? Are you brash and tactless as you tell the truth? Are you prone to outburst? If you answer yes, or even maybe, to any of these, don’t get down and depressed, just fix it. Make your identity what you want it to be.

    --jeff


    June 2, 2024


    I remember someone telling me one time, “The guilty dog barks loudest.” I am not sure who said it first or what the situation was in which it was said, but I have continued to hear it occasionally through the years. I am not sure what the psychology is, but in my observations, I have found the one who talks the most, seems to have the most to hide. Furthermore, the more they talk, the more guilty they appear. Often, if nothing else, they becoming guilty of the accusations they passive aggressively wield. For instance, when one utters the phrase, “Don’t judge me!”; haven’t they already made some assumptions? First of all, they have been judged and secondly, in a negative light. Maybe they are right, and maybe they are totally clueless but one thing is for sure, the more they go on, the more guilty they look as they wade deeper and deeper into assumptions and judgements of their own. At some point they will certainly cry hypocrisy, and yet have become hypocritical themselves. It reminds me of another old phrase I used to hear as I tattled on siblings for getting into the cookies while swallowing one myself, “Well, if that ain’t the pot calling the kettle black.” Let’s face it, it stinks to be accused, especially falsely; been there and received that, but how we handle accusation says a lot about us as Christians. First of all, if you are guilty, well, your busted and you have a couple choices. You can be like David when Nathan outed him for his affair with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband and truly repent (2 Samuel 11-12). You could be like Herod the Tetrarch in John 14, throwing your accusers under the bus and refuse to change or stop embracing your sin. Finally, you could respond like Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5 and simply lie and deny to the bitter end! But what about when you are falsely accused? How does one respond to false accusation? I could give you some personal examples and experiences where my words and actions seemed only to validate my accusers’ claims. The best example of how to respond is that of Jesus. Having tried it my way, I can tell you his approach is better – and proven. When falsely accused, Jesus was silent. Jesus said, “There is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known” (Luke 12:2). In other words, the truth will come out. Accused of blasphemy, he hung on the cross but three days later – the truth came out. Even when they tried to hide it, the truth was obvious. Jesus let his actions speak louder than words. He was not passive aggressive. He was not insulting or disrespectful to his accusers. He just remained faithful and true. Peter encourages with these words, “Keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:16)

                                                                                             . -jeff

  • May 26, 2024


    In 1837, Hans Christian Anderson penned a story fairytale familiar to most of us as “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. In his story, a couple of shady characters enter the hometown of the emperor and convince him they are master weavers of a cloth that is only seen by those worthy of holding their office. To be sure, it is the finest cloth ever made. To say the emperor loved clothes is an understatement and the only thing he loved more than his wardrobe was to be seen by his subjects showing off his fancy threads. As a result of his vanity, he commissioned the shysters to design him a new outfit out of this most luxurious and exquisite fabric. After extorting copious fees they finally presented the emperor with his new coordinated ensemble which of course was absolutely nothing. Keep in mind, this story only makes sense if you remember how the con artists set the stage for their elaborate ruse; this clothe can only be seen by those worthy of holding their office or title. Hence, everyone who was sent to check on the progress of the suit of clothes and even the emperor himself refused to admit they could not see the clothe for fear of being deemed not worthy of their position. Even as he paraded his naked body in front of his subjects and a young, innocent child whispered, “He’s naked!” the king refused to admit his foolishness and continued to show off his new “attire”. Anderson makes us smile as we visualize the foolishness. No one in their right mind would act so foolishly and yet Satan is the great deceiver and constantly makes similar promises. Starting in the garden with Eve and continuing throughout history. He continually plays on our need to be accepted and our inability to be satisfied with His acceptance and approval. Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus about a set of clothes to protect us from Satan in Ephesians 6. This outfit includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, shield of faith and the helmet of salvation. Like the emperor’s new clothes, these articles are invisible to the naked eye and therefore we can claim to be dressed in the armor of God when in reality no attempt was ever made to even try them on. Despite often extensive means to keep reality hidden, Jesus said to his disciples, “They will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another” (John 13:35). Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11) and no innocent bystander will be able to say, “Hey look! He’s naked!”

    -jeff


    May 19, 2024


    Last week I was introduced to the poet Douglas Malloch. He was born on May 5, 1877 in Muskegon, Michigan; timber country. Having a way with words, by the time he was 10 he had published his first poem. While growing up in and around the timber industry, eventually becoming known as the lumberman’s poet, he worked delivering papers and after he left school, he worked as a reporter and writer for the Muskegon Chronicle – the very same newspaper he delivered as a boy. Growing up around logging camps, saw mills and lumber yards, he often wrote for trade papers and magazines such as the American Lumberman. He was very much acquainted with the dangerous and often deadly mishaps that occurred in the industry and acutely aware, the industry was drastically changing. Still, Malloch was an incredibly optimistic man. One newspaper described him as the world’s most optimistic man and another said he had the philosophy of sunshine. The poem I was given is entitled, “You Have to Believe in Happiness” and it goes like this: 


    You have to believe in happiness

    Or happiness never comes.

    I know that the bird chirps none the less,

    When all that he finds is crumbs.


    You have to believe that winds will blow,

    Believe in the grass, the days of snow,

    Ah, that’s the reason the bird can sing:

    On his darkest day he believes in Spring.


    You have to believe in happiness,

    It isn’t an outward thing;

    The Spring never makes the song, I guess,

    As much as the song makes the Spring.


    Aye, man’s heart could find content,

    If it saw the joy on the road it went,

    The joy ahead when it had to grieve,

    For the joy is there - but you have to believe.


    The fact is, happiness is really a choice – especially for the Christian. Paul tells us nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39) and Jesus told us not to be troubled, he was going to prepare a place and would be coming back to take us there (John 14:6). We are encouraged to remain faithful to the end where a crown of righteousness is waiting (Revelation 2:10) and nothing on earth can take these promises from us. We should be abounding in happiness because of the hope within us. Happiness should spill from every word and every action because, as Christians, we are heirs to the promise (Galatians 3:29). Resolve to focus on the eternal and not the temporary. Choose and believe in happiness letting the word of Christ richly dwell within you (Colossians 3:16).

                                                                                                  --jeff


    May 12, 2024


    Most of you know, I enjoy setting a few traps now and then to catch some of our local fur bearers. While there are specific seasons for trapping, there are some species open for trapping year-round. Beavers, coyotes, striped skunks and raccoons all fall into the year-round category. Almost everything else must be turned loose if they happen to fall victim to one of my sets. All traps fall into two categories, restraining traps and killing traps. Restraining traps hold their quarry until the trapper comes to check his traps. This comes in handy when non-targeted species are caught. The trapper can just let them go, no harm – no foul. Kill traps on the other hand, do exactly what they say. They kill. I have had animals escape my leg holds, one beaver even swam off with a poorly anchored leg hold trap, but kill traps are legit and mostly, perform as advertised. No trap is perfect and all can malfunction causing undue stress, pain and even death to the animals caught in them, but let’s be honest, while being humane is a primary concern, harvesting the animal is the reason traps are set. There are methods of trapping using a wide variety of techniques all designed to entice targeted species or capitalize on habitual behaviors. Just like in real estate, the key to success is location, location, location. Maybe that is why Satan is always moving around, scouting and reading the sign (1 Peter 5:8, Job 1:6); to make his traps more successful and to ensure he is not wasting his time trapping in the wrong space. James, while discussing sin and it’s effects, uses language similar to the terms we use in trapping, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14). I become a better trapper when I know my quarry. If I learn his habits, I can then use them against him taking advantage of the complacency of normality or placing my enticements close to most frequent haunts. Satan is no different. His objective is the souls of man. Even after escaping his traps, we are left marked, maimed or mutilated and he is not concerned with being humane. Knowing we are being targeted by a master trapper give us an advantage in avoiding his snare. A trap works best on the unsuspecting, but we know he is out there. We are told repeatedly to be on alert (Acts 20:29-31, 1 Corinthians 16:13, Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6) and we know Satan to be a liar and skilled deceiver. Furthermore, Job was not considered by Satan because of his righteousness, so let us all strive for holiness and purity, seeking first the kingdom of God and donning the whole armor of God so we may stand firm against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:11).

    -jeff


    May 5, 2024


    The CHS archery team recently qualified nationals in Louisville, Ky. In an effort to raise funds for the trip, we conducted an online t-shirt sales event and many of our followers, supporters and “wanna be” shooters will soon be sporting authentic CHS archery apparel! The thing is, buying the shirt doesn’t make me part of the team and wearing the shirt doesn’t make me an archer. Only shooting arrows will make an archer. The more I shoot the better I will get. One thing I am certain of, only shooting one day a week is better than not shooting at all, but it will be difficult, if not impossible, to become a strong shooter. Everyone understands this concept and would not argue with it until we begin to make spiritual application. Then for some reason, the arguments, excuses and exceptions and justifications begin. Galatians 3:27 says, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Baptism is not just a T-shirt we wear on Sundays or pull out for special occasions. Jesus warns in Matthew 6 about practicing righteousness before men to be noticed by them (just wearing the T-shirt). Obedience to the Gospel is not something we do; Christianity is something we are – to the very core of our being. Romans 6:4 describes a death, burial and resurrection. Explicitly Romans 6:1-6 says we die to an old way of life to walk in “newness of life.” “How can we die to something and still live in it?” Paul reminds the church on Corinth after listing sinful actions that will keep people out of heaven, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). The blood of Christ is powerful, cleansing the most heinous lives, but grace, while not earned, is not free either. Anyone can wear the shirt. Anyone. Matthew 7:15 tells us, “Beware of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing.” They come wearing the shirt! They come looking like everyone else, but they are not serious. Jesus also tells us that while they may fool us for a moment, we will be able to tell who’s who by looking at the fruit of their lives – not just what they do and how they look on Sundays. Maybe you are old enough to remember the souvenir T-shirts of the late 70s and early 80s that read, “My grandma went to ________, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!” What a sad testament to our faith when our children, our friends and those visitors truly searching for the truth walk away from the Lord saying, “I went to the church for love, healing, change and acceptance but all I got was this lousy T-shirt.” Let’s resolve to put on Christ and never take him off.

    -jeff



  • April 28, 2024


    I will never forget passing a formerly huge woman on a trail in the woods. Her personal trainer was a slight Australian with .02% body fat and a heavy accent. Formerly huge, but still large, she was struggling a little over halfway through the course and ready to quit. He was bouncing around her like a little squirrel shouting encouragement and begging her to keep going and not give up. As we ran by, we offered our own words of encouragement and plodded on, their commotion fading behind us. We turned out of the woods and started up a gradual incline to get in line to conquer the next obstacle, Berlin Walls. A hundred or so racers waited for their turn to scale the 8’ vertical walls and as we waited, the Australian and his client emerged from the woods. Seeing the walls, assessing her strength - she quit. The Australian, sensed it too and went silent. Then my friend, Ken Bringle, called her name and shouted she’d come too far to quit now. Pretty soon, everyone in the line was chanting her name and with tears streaming down her face, she and that squirrely Australian walked through the chanting, applauding crowd to the base of the first wall. I am not sure how many people actually put their hands on her to get her over the walls, but a new person touched the ground on the other side resolved to continue and finish. I remember thinking what an awesome example of the Lord’s church. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Don’t get me wrong, a quitter is going to quit and like an iceberg, there may be a lot more going on than we can see, but no one should ever quit without receiving a barrage of encouragement from the body of Christ to stay the course and continue the race first. While sin separates us from the presence of God (Isaiah 59:2), it does not separate us from the LOVE of God (Romans 5:8, John 3:16, Romans 8:35-39) nor should it separate us from the love of the church. This does not mean we accept unrepentant sinners, but we must still love them and encourage righteousness. Truth be told, big girl had gone far too long without encouragement, too long without someone saying you’ve got to stop eating. Maybe she got huge gradually and no one noticed until it could no longer be ignored. Then again, we are not really talking about fatness. This is about sin. We know where it leads and what it costs (Romans 6:23). As we run with endurance the race before us (Hebrew 12:1), let us keep an eye for those who wander from the truth (James 5:19-20) because while “all who wander are not lost” all who wander from the truth are.


    -jeff


    April 21, 2024


    Fred Phelps died on March 19, 2014. The name may sound familiar because he was the preacher at the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. While the church was mostly populated by his extended family, they made big waves protesting and demonstrating at various political gatherings and social events in the 1990s and 2000s. While it is true the Bible condemns homosexuality in a number of places in both Testaments, the methods and language used by Phelps and his church to teach this biblical truth were far from Christ-like. In the fall of 2005, the members of Westboro planned a protest at the funeral of Staff Sergeant John Doles of Chelsea, Oklahoma. He was killed in action by an Afghan ambush on September 30, 2005. The “church” group wanted to use this funeral (and others) to spread the message that God was punishing the US for harboring homosexuals and we should not honor the soldiers who died because of their commitment to the country. However, a group of American Legion motorcycle riders caught wind of the “misguided zealot’s” plan and showed up to rev the motors on their motorcycles during the entire protest, shielding the family from the ugly and hateful comments. Thus was the beginning of an organization now known as the Patriot Guard Riders. With the motto, “Standing for those who stood for us,” the PGR has attended thousands of funerals and other events. Last week, six of them showed up at the funeral of Master Sgt Kelly Henson. In the most poignant moment of my month, four older men entered the chapel and stood in formation before the casket saluting. They thanked Uncle Kelly for his service and one of them said, “Rest easy Master Sgt. We have the watch.” Then they quietly left the chapel. Jesus said to Peter upon his confession in Matthew 16:15-16, that He would “build His church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” This means the church will stand – with or without us. For those who love the church though, we must ask, “Who is going to take the watch when we leave?” How are we preparing our youth to “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Are we giving them the tools to “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13), ultimately protecting their children and grandchildren from the lies of the Devil. Are we showing by example how to “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). George Jones asked: “Who’s gonna fill their shoes?” I’m asking, “Who will take the watch and continue in truth?”


    -jeff


    April 14, 2024


    “And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die”” (Genesis 6:13-17). I have read the dimensions of the ark a number of times and even when you convert the cubits to feet, 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 high (assuming a cubit was 18 inches, the average length of a man’s forearm), it is hard to imagine the sheer size of the ark and how long it might have taken Noah and his sons to build it until you stand beside it. There is one in the Netherlands, built in 2007, a little shy of the 18-inch cubit and one in Grant County Kentucky completed in 2016 using the 20.4-inch cubit. For the last few days, metaphorically speaking, we have been working “in the shadow of the ark.” I am astounded by what we have found here. Granted I am only looking at a small portion of what is “in the shadow” and some measure of interpretation is required for my conclusions, but even within a few miles of a life size reproduction of Noah’s Ark, there are many, many who have no idea there is a God. There are still thousands upon thousands whose knowledge of God is almost non-existent and their offspring know even less; right here in the “shadow of the ark.” I checked to see how long it took Noah to build the original and while the Bible doesn’t say, many figure somewhere between 50 and 75 years. That’s a long time even for a 500-something year old! Those last few years before the rains came, I am sure there was plenty of talk about the massive structure. In spite of the talk, clearly there was very little belief and no repentance in the shadow of that ark either. Noah couldn’t go out and tell the world, “There is a God! There will be a judgement and it is coming soon! Repent! Change!” Noah was busy building an ark, just as he was commanded. All but eight perished in the flood; the judgement. We live a long time from the first ark and a long way from the replicas, but still we live “in the shadow” of the Bible and its promises. With judgement coming, I ask the question, “What are you building that prevents you from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ?” Nothing? Then who are you telling?


    -jeff


    April 7, 2024


    I heard the term “stay in your lane” the other day. The comment seemed to be passive aggressive and I paused to see what would happen next. I certainly didn’t want to get “out of my lane” and poke my nose in someone else’s business, but from a curiosity standpoint, I wanted to see if my interpretation of the comment was the same as the one the comment was directed to. He was either oblivious, or chose not to respond, but since then, I have done a lot of thinking on a Christian’s responsibility to stay in his or her own lane. Ultimately the term means mind your own business and therefore the metaphoric significance implies a threat. We all know what can happen when a car drifts out of its lane and into another and rarely is the ending positive particularly if the cars happen to be traveling in opposite directions. I found some sermons where preachers used 1 Corinthians 12:8-12, a passage comparing different spiritual gifts to different parts of the body, to encourage members to stay in their own lane. Another used Hebrews 12:1, the passage about setting aside sin and running the “race set before us” saying this meant run in your lane. Frankly, I think they are both wrong. The Bible certainly teaches on a number of occasions against being a busy body and a gossip (1 Thessalonians 5:13, 1 Peter 4:15), but I find much more in the Word encouraging us to travel through life paying attention to everything around us and even venturing out of our lanes for the sake of others and the gospel when necessary. In Luke 10, we see a story of two men too afraid to get out of “their lanes” to help another. In Acts 8 we see Philip running in his lane but getting out of it to get in with the Ethiopian eunuch and teach him from Isaiah resulting in his salvation. Galatians 6:10 admonishes, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” James 5:19-20 and Galatians 6:1-2 both talk of restoring one to the faith – a difficult task if one is reluctant to leave their lane, or at least merge lanes. It is true, we all have different gifts and abilities, but it is also true we are all headed in the same direction. Because of a great cloud of witnesses having gone before us, we can rely on those who have traveled the road we are currently on. We have a responsibility to tell others about the pitfalls encountered during our travels. We have a responsibility to tell others if their lane ends or leads them in the wrong direction. Ezekiel 33 tells us about the watchman’s responsibility and the consequences of his failure. So, when you think about telling someone to stay in their lane, maybe you should take a moment to check your map – they might just be trying to help.

    --jeff

  • March 31, 2024


    We came home the other day to find an older model Ford Explorer parked in the cove and blocking access to our own driveway. No problem, there are two entrances. Later in the afternoon, while cutting grass, I noticed a small gray car, also blocking access to my drive. The one occupant in the car had binoculars and a camera. Enough was enough and I have seen too many abduction movies to let this go on, so I drove over on the mower and asked him if he needed help or a bullet. Just kidding, I only insinuated the bullet. The resulting conversation revealed he was a bird watcher, looking for a Broad-billed Hummingbird previously spotted and photographed in our neighborhood. The range for the Broad-billed Hummingbird is actually in southwest Mexico, so this one was for sure lost. It’s only the second time since birders have been keeping records one has been seen in Tennessee. He stayed until dark and showed up before sunrise the next morning. He skipped work and drove an hour and a half to see this bird. Later, he contacted me to see if it was ok for a friend of his from Nashville to come wait for the little blue hummer with a red bill. Eventually, people from as far away as Chattanooga came, stood in the cold wind and even rain, hoping to see the little lost bird! It sounds crazy for folks to spend so much time and effort on a chance at seeing a rare bird, but it also reminds me of a few scriptures. How far would you go for Jesus? “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Many don’t understand our relentless attendance and adherence to His word. They don’t understand why we “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3). Many will insist we are just rule followers or legalists. To most of the world, the kingdom of heaven is not like the treasure found in a field or the costly pearl discovered in Matthew 13:44 -45. The cross is not a priority and “seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and his righteousness” is figurative not literal. Most live as though they take for  granted they will reside in heaven eternally when they die, regardless of what they seek while they are here. Matthew 7:21 resoundingly defeats this notion, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven.” On the other hand, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If you ever run across a guy standing beside a beat up car with a very expensive set of binoculars, an even more expensive camera and taking notes on waterproof paper – don’t worry. It’s just a birder seeking something precious to him. But also take a moment to recommit to seeking first that which is most precious to you.

                                                                                                 -jeff


    March 24, 2024

    Have you seen Jesus my Lord? He’s here in plain view. Take a look, open your eyes, He’ll show it to you.” Matthew 9:27-30 tells the story of two blind men who came to Jesus to be healed. Jesus asked if they believed He could do this. This question may seem a bit silly to the casual observer. After all, they had cried out to Him for mercy then followed Him inside. And now He asks, “Do you believe I am able to do this?” Comedian Bill Engvall made a lot of money with his response to silly questions, “Here’s your sign.” The blind men simply said “Yes Lord.” As Jesus touched their eyes He said, “According to your faith be it done to you.” Their eyes were opened. The Bible does not tell us how well they could see, but they apparently were pleased, they told everyone. They must have had faith. This brings to mind another question or series of questions. Can you have a little faith? Are there different levels of faith or is having faith like being pregnant, you either have it or you don’t? The blind men could see and one of the first things they saw was Jesus Christ the Son of God. Even when sternly told not to tell they could not keep from it. We claim God is everywhere, in plain view. He’s in the sky, in the trees and plants. He’s in the birth of a child, just open your eyes, you can’t miss Him. While that is our claim do we really see Him? Have we opened our eyes to allow God to reveal to us His will? Have we opened our hearts to accept Jesus? Would the blind men have seen if their faith had been like mine? Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:15 tell us something different than what Jesus told the blind men. Jesus told them to tell no one. He tells us to tell everyone. The blind men received sight. We receive eternal life. They told everyone, “spreading His fame throughout the land.” Who have we told? Having sight changed these men. How has having sight changed me? Can I have sight; can I see Jesus and not tell the world? No amount of work can get us to heaven for we are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-9), but James 2 tells us faith without works is dead. Have you seen Jesus my Lord? Is He really here in plain view? Have you taken a look? Have you opened your eyes? What has He shown you? Silly questions? Who did you tell?

    -Jeff


    March 17, 2024


    Every once in a while, Laverne Baxter sends me a quote or snippet she read or heard and suggests I write on it. The following article is LB inspired. Why do you come to church? A pole on the question could be quite interesting and I can imagine a myriad of answers. One might legitimately answer, “I don’t really know,” having never pondered the question or pressed for an answer. Others may answer, “Because my parents make me.” This forced behavior may be literal or implied. I am certain through the years parents have grabbed that ear and pulled a child to the building while others can only imagine what a parent or grandparent would do in their grave if they even considered an unexcused absence. Even then the only excuses would include death and … well, death. Otherwise, you should go to church! Some may say they want to avoid going to Hell or simply, they attend because church is what you do on Sundays. It’s a habit. Anything else seems – wrong. Surely some would quote, along with other supporting verses, Hebrews 10:24-25, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Attendance is commanded. “I go to church because I love the people,” is a legitimate response. After all, church is family and just like families, imperfections are often overlooked and there is no better family when the storms of life are raging. Of course, if we asked enough people, we’d finally get to the little girl who’d throw up her hands and cock her head at the absurdity of such a silly question declaring, “Well where else would I wear my new Easter dress?” Frankly, the more I think about all the reasons we give for coming to church, the more I think it’s high time we all stopped coming to church. That’s right. It is time we stopped coming to church. We need to start coming to worship. When we look at people’s answers about why they come to church, it’s easy to understand why so many don’t attend. When we ask the question, “Why don’t you come to worship?” the question applies to not only those not in attendance but also those who are. Some will say they can worship God anywhere and in their own way. Not trying to be legalistic or “holier than thou,” Nadab and Abihu tried their own way in Leviticus 10 with disastrous results to their lives. “Well, God knows my heart, who are you to judge?” might well be another answer. Again, you are right. God knows the heart of every man – and woman; like the hearts of Annanias and Saphirra in Acts 5. They lied to man but God knew what was really important to them. I truly hope to see you in worship Sunday morning.                                                     -jeff


    March 10, 2024


    “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Satan admits to God in Job 1 he roams the earth leaving out his primary motive, but God seems to know when he asks him, “Have you considered my servant Job” (Job 1:8). We are told in Genesis 3:1, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.” Until we understand the craftiness of the beasts of the field God made, then we may not understand the depths of Satan’s guile. This week Austin and I set out our first ever beaver traps. The first couple days we caught two turtles but no beaver. Then I made an adjustment only to find the adjusted trap tripped, empty and buried under a couple inches of mud and small sticks. Plan C was better. Austin found a spot that had to be a natural passage and it was. The first night the trap was tripped and had been drug off to the bank where Super Beaver pried whatever was caught out of the trap and escaped. We reset the trap and tied it off this time. Day two – we caught a beaver! The spot was prime and I was sure after busting a hole in their dam and resetting the trap we’d catch another on day three. Austin sent me pictures when he got there. The beavers blocked off the deadly passage. It wasn’t just a few sticks in front of the trap to discourage other beavers to go another way, the way Austin and I placed a few sticks to help guide them to their death. They built a full stick barricade in front of the trap preventing any beaver from accidentally falling victim. To even get to, much less through, the trap now, a beaver would now have to cross over or break through the new obstruction. While isolating the danger, or maybe after the threat was eliminated, they fixed the break in the dam too! All in less than 24 hours. So, when the Bible says, “the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made,” we need to understand he is more than just a little bit clever! We can also learn from the beaver. Romans 15:4 tells us what was written before was written for our instruction, not just so we could see the successes of that “great cloud of witnesses” written about in Hebrews 11, but so we could see the danger in unrighteousness. It took one close call and one death for the beavers to take action to protect the colony. Interestingly, a group of beavers is also called a family. Families protect one another. I am not so worried about physical danger, even though I hate to see anyone suffer pain. I am more concerned with sin and the separation from God it brings (Matthew 10:28; James 1:14-15). Let’s get busy as beavers build a hedge with righteousness around our colony.

                                                                                                              --jeff


    March 3, 2024


    In 1964, Disney released a film based on the 1934 novel written by PL Travers, Mary Poppins. Never intended to be a children’s book, it took almost a decade for Walt Disney to convince the author to give him the rights. Early in the movie, Bert, the chimney sweep, whimsically musical friend of Poppins, forecasts her arrival singing, “Winds in the east, mist coming in, like somethin' is brewin' and bout to begin. Can't put me finger on what lies in store, but I fear what's to happen all happened before.” The story is one of change and much can be learned from it, but it is not really new. The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, pointed out the only constant is change and the prophet in Ecclesiastes said many years before Heraclitus, “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So, there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).


    We have long heard the notion history repeats itself. American playwright, Eugene Oneill once said, “There is no present or future - only the past, happening over and over again - now.” Interestingly, the father of communism, Karl Marx once stated, “History repeats itself, first as a tragedy, second as a farce.” (Maybe some of his followers, the baby communist socialists going for a repeat should take note.) While maybe not able to give credit to the speaker, we are all familiar with George Santayana’s quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” While we may never live long enough to see history repeat itself firsthand, a cursory glance at world history confirms each adage. There is one caveat, Jesus. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).


    Then entire point of these quotes is to stress the importance of not just knowing the past, but teaching what has happened before in order to keep from “reinventing the wheel,” making the same mistakes over and over. Furthermore, let’s not presume that all change is bad. Growth in knowledge and wisdom should result in change, but as change occurs, we must not lose sight of what is most important. In 1934, Travers, in her novel, was pointing out that many were putting first things second. Look at the context around Hebrews 13:8, the writer says in verse 7, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” This is because what worked for them will work for us! He continues with an exhortation, “Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings.” We could also add – or by the moment. Change happens and is inevitable, but praise be to God for his steadfastness and love. Read Psalm 136. Let us hold fast to and teach our children the truth of God’s word and avoid the pain and suffering of those who failed to keep His Word as a lamp to their feet and light to their path (Psalm 119:105).

                                                                                                                     -Jeff


  • February 25, 2024


    There are many natural bridges and arches in the Big South Fork National Park. The Twin Arches found in the southern part of the park, are the Park’s biggest. The south arch is the tallest rising over 130 feet and sits atop a ridge. No doubt left behind by the flood, these two arches are worth the ¾ mile hike to see them. We approached the arches from the bottom trail, and it provides teasing glimpses of the north arch through the trees as you get closer. Incredible, amazing, wondrous and beautiful are all adjectives that are singularly inept at describing the first arch as you come out of the woods. From the bottom of the arches, there are stairs providing easy access to the tops. The south top is the highest and you can see for miles in all directions. Jennifer got to the top first because I was distracted on the way up by something requiring a much closer look. When I finally stepped up to the top, Jennifer was standing on the rocky surface staring out over the park; clear skies above her and a valley full of trees below her. As I approached her from behind and began to take in the magnitude of the view, I thought of Satan taking Jesus to “a very high mountain and showing him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” in Matthew 4:8, telling Him he could have it all if he would just fall down and worship the devil. I have often wondered why that would be a temptation to the creator of the world. Standing on top of the arch with Jennifer, we saw a lot of what God created but not one single human or dwelling place. It was beautiful. I think what Jesus saw was not all of creation, but the souls of his finest creation. The lie Satan offered was not the material wealth of owning vast quantities of land, but an easy way to get what He left heaven and came to earth for. What Satan offered was the souls of mankind, right then, right there. The first problem with his offer was addressed immediately by Jesus as he quoted from Deuteronomy 6:13, “YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY” (Matthew 4:10). The second problem with Satan’s offer is that our souls are not his to give away. We were created with free will and the freedom to “choose this day whom we will serve.” While it sounds like an easy choice to make, Satan rarely presents his choice in terms of God or himself. The choice is always camouflaged, concealed, and deceptively wrapped. It is very often easy to make the wrong choice without even knowing we are choosing. Jesus knows this and warns, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). What will be your choice?                                                                               -jeff


    February 18, 2024


    A long time ago a friend of mine showed me his three disc set on how to become a successful long range shooter. By long range I mean over 500 yards so to become proficient is really quite a remarkable feat. There are several qualities that are similar in every competent long range shooter. Each one has complete faith in his gun and its abilities. Additionally, each shooter is completely comfortable handling the weapon and has spent hours and hours pulling the trigger in practice. There are similarities in spreading the Gospel. The weapon of choice however is the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17) not a gun. The video went to great lengths explaining how to set up a gun not only to increase its accuracy but mostly to assure the shooter the gun was capable, in fact perfect. To be successful the shooter had to understand and believe a miss was his fault not the fault of the gun. The word of God is perfect and true. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16). The Word of God lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23) and is powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). From these verses we can have complete assurance the weapon we hold is sure and trustworthy.


    Having the best gun does not make one a shooter only practice can do that. Daily practice is the only way to become a proficient shooter. Constant practice not only increases our abilities but familiarity and success gives us confidence in the weapon of choice. Furthermore, success is dependent on knowing when to shoot and these decisions are only mastered through practice. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).


    It has been said guns don’t kill people, people kill people. People don’t save people only the Gospel can save – but like a gun it only works if it is used.


     -jeff

    February 11, 2024


    Legal access to the refuge is two hours before sunrise. So, we sat in a boat on the river in front of the spot we would hunt, waiting on the two-hour mark before setting up for what would hopefully be an epic morning of duck hunting. It was bone chilling cold; -6°F when we put in. Despite the cold, after setting out decoys, putting together and camouflaging our blind, a little sweat was trickling down the center of my back as we put the finishing touches on our spot. We still had seven minutes to go before legal shooting hours. Even thirty minutes before sunrise, it is sometimes difficult to see, but there is something about being on the water that seems to amplify sound in the morning stillness.


    If you make the sound of the letter “F” and hold it for a couple seconds, you are mimicking a sound that makes every duck hunter put a hand on his gun. It is the sound of fast flying ducks checking out your spot and if all looked right on the first pass, there will soon be another. There were about thirty ring neck ducks in this bunch and by the time I got my hand on my gun, they were setting up to land in our decoys. The boys were quick to shoot when I called the shot, and birds began to flare and fall. I picked out one on my end, lined up my shot and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. There was no click. There was no kick. There was nothing. I looked down in dismay as I realized, I hadn’t loaded my gun. Everything else was perfect, but I wasn’t ready.


    In Matthew 4:1-2, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil and after forty days of fasting, Satan began his attack. Satan came when he thought Jesus was weakest and most vulnerable, but Jesus, the son of God, had spent forty days preparing for the attack. The Bible says He went “to be tempted.” He knew it was coming and he prepared. Paul tells the church in Ephesus, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). This is not “just in case” he comes, Satan is coming to deceive and tempt us. How and when he comes may be difficult to pinpoint which is why Paul told the Corinthians to “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith.” (1 Corinthians 16:13). We have no problem buying insurance, “just in case.” We have no problem installing fire alarms, burglars alarm and cameras, “just in case.” Many of us carry weapons, “just in case.” We don’t leave home or the car without locking up. We are prepared. But what about our souls and the souls of our children? We bring them to church and send them to class but when it comes time to pull the trigger on temptation, have we loaded their “gun?”


                                                                                                                                                                                                        -Jeff



    February 4, 2024


    He was born on November 18, 1909 to an attorney who owned a very successful real estate business in Savannah, Georgia. He attended the elite all male boarding school, Woodbury Forest in Madison County, Virginia until the housing market crash of 1926 left his father’s business in one million dollars of debt. College no longer an option, he left for New York to pursue acting dreams as his father vowed to repay the million instead of declaring bankruptcy. While acting didn’t work out, singing and song writing became his niche. Getting his first break in 1930, he would go on to write over 1500 songs in four different decades. He would sing with Bing Crosby and the Benny Goodman Band and even host his own radio show. In 1942, with two other men, he founded Capital Records, which in 1946 was responsible for 1/6th of all records sold in America. When Capital Records was sold in 1955, he took $300,000 of his share and paid off the remainder of his father’s debt. His father died fifteen years earlier. He died in 1976 of a brain tumor. It turns out, I have heard and sung along with many of his songs without knowing they were his, but the one having the most impact on my life I actually heard in a freshman orientation class while attending Northwest Mississippi Junior College. Maybe it left a mark because of the ridiculous way our instructor, a fifty- something overly smiley former cheerleader and captain of the pep squad, flitted around and sang along to begin every class. Thinking back, I am reminded now of Proverbs 27:14, “He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be reckoned a curse to him.” However, I have found myself humming the tune to Johnny Mercer’s 1944 tune, Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive since the fall of 1987! In a list of
    his most famous compositions, this one is not likely to appear. Imagine for a moment these lyrics after having your complete lifestyle and all your plans ripped out from under you, “Gather 'round me, everybody. Gather 'round me while I preach some, feel a sermon coming on here. The topic will be sin and that's what I'm agin'. If you wanna hear my story, then settle back and just sit tight while I start reviewing the attitude of doing right! You gotta ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive, e-lim-i-nate the negative and latch on to the affirmative, don't mess with Mr. In-Between. You got to spread joy up to the maximum, bring gloom down to the minimum. Have faith, or pandemonium liable to walk upon the scene.” I do not know Mercer’s faith, but these words anchored by Proverbs 3:5-6 might just be the key to happiness on earth. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” I hope you have a great week!


                                                                                                              -jeff


  • January 28, 2024


    Remission is the state of absence of disease activity in patients with known chronic illness. Many of us have experienced the joy of hearing the word “remission” from doctors and almost all of us have prayed to God these words would come to a loved one. We are all familiar with what remission means to cancer patients. While cancer may only live in one, how greatly it affects the friends and family that surround that one. Joy, relief, newness, thanksgiving and hope come with the pronouncement of remission and truly it should be written in all caps with an exclamation point – REMISSION! I can identify with the relief felt when a cancerous remission is pronounced and understand why remission is so highly sought after and prayed for. Sin is a cancer too. Just like the cancers that attack our bodies, some sin easier to overcome and let go of, but the punishment for all sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1,2) and sin grows in us as our desires move further away from righteousness and, unchecked, sin will kill us (James 1:14:15). Unlike some cancers, all sin is removeable. There is a cure in the blood of Christ. Look at the list of unrighteous, sinful behaviors in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. A pretty comprehensive list for sure, used to point the finger often, but the real message of the  passage occurs in verse eleven when Paul says, “Such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” In other words, you are now in REMISSION! You have been made free from those things that were going to kill your soul and doom you to an eternity away from God. Furthermore, there is a way to remain in remission. 1 John 1:7 says, “If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). So, what shall we do? “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Arise to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). I’d like to say the cure free, but there is a price and sadly, the price of change, repentance, self-denial, dependence on, and obedience to God is too high for some. Read Heb. 10:18-25. Let us be bold, fully assured and encouraging as we provoke each other to good works and exhort one another to live lives worthy of remission and let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

                                                                                                                                                                              -jeff



    January 21, 2024


    Wives are told to submit to their husbands twice in the New Testament, Ephesians 5:22 and Colossians 3:18. True enough the verses could stand alone but to present them singularly represents only a portion of the larger picture. Both of these verses are prefaced with encouragement for the church to take every opportunity to encourage one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Both of these verses are couched in passages dealing with our Christian walk and how we handle relationships in the church. These verses are not the basis of male/female relationships but are a few verses forming the basis for Christian living. The Christians life must be lived in submission. When it is a choice, submission is the highest form of love. One can be forced into submission and then submission becomes a burden or a task and thusly the foundation of resentment and hatred. While we can be physically forced into submission, we can also be mentally put there too. For instance, if my submission is based on the “law”, in other words I am only doing this because it says so in the Bible, I have missed the spirit of submission. On the other hand if I choose to submit, especially when I can’t be forced, then I can more clearly understand how Christ dying for His bride, the church was not just an act of love but of submission. Submission and its synonyms surrender, give in, knuckle under, concede and are not the easiest words for us to accept especially in a world saying don’t let others take advantage of you and get all you can. In the world, submit and its synonyms are not very “manly” words in terms of the world. Consider for a minute are we to be men and women of the world or men and women of God? Paul says we are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21) and he is not talking about just the husband/wife relationship but the relationship we have with our Christian brothers and sisters. Submission, when it is a choice, is the highest form of love because it is releasing what we desire for the wants of another. James says we must submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7). Maybe submitting to Him will make submitting to them a little bit easier.

                                                                                            -jeff



    January 14, 2024


    Surely you have heard the idea or comment about being in the world, but not of the world. This comment has its roots in John 15:19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” It is supported by 1 John 2:15-16, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” Being in the world we see sin normalized and accepted. We also see and sometimes experience the incredibly bad choices of those who are of the world and not in Christ; choices so bad they can only be explained and understood by knowing the chooser just needs more Jesus – a lot more Jesus. Justify is way too strong a word, but we can accept their mistakes and misjudgments because they didn’t know any better and we cut them a little slack for their ignorance. It’s much more difficult to  understand bad choices when the chooser should know better; when the chooser “grew up in the church” or “in the word.” For these, we have much higher expectations and the rationalization of poor choices is far more difficult. Maybe defining “in the church” and “in the word” might help our understanding. To begin with, the Bible says the church is the body of  Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23) and there is only one body (Ephesians 4:4) so a person growing up in something other than the church defined by God’s word, technically didn’t grow up “in the church,” rather, they grew up around religion and religious people. Since the church is not a building, instead constructed from people (1 Peter 2:5) who are imperfect except for the blood of Christ, it is reasonable someone growing up “in church” might perceive religion to be full of  hypocrisy, lies and unjust justifications. Furthermore, we give far too much weight to growing up “in the church” or “in the word” when those phrases mean only that they attended church on Sundays and Wednesdays. When Moses instructed Israel in Deuteronomy 6:1-9 on how and when to teach their children about God and His words, Moses talked about far more than 3 hours a week! It is easy to point out the flaws in other denominations and their teachings, but if our lives do not match up with the teaching of the Bible, in truth, we are no different. It’s ridiculous to talk on Sunday about the  importance of God, His church and His word only to wait seven days to stress that importance again and expect anyone to believe we are serious. As we begin 2024, let’s get more serious about our claim to be “in the church” and “in His word.”


                                                                                                           -jeff





    January 7, 2024


    I heard a story once about an orator’s competition. As I recall, at some point in the competition, maybe the final round, an up and coming young speaker, known to be an amazing orator with style and flare, was pitted head to head against an  elderly gentleman with years of speaking experience. The passage selected for them to read was the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want …” the young man went first and  began his reading with all the pomp and circumstance he and the crowd felt this great and very familiar passage deserved. As he finished, he closed the Bible to great applause, he smiled smugly at his older  opponent as the crowd continued to clap and marvel amongst themselves at the powerful speaking abilities of such a young man. The older gentleman took to the stage and the crowd became silent when he began to recite from memory the passage assigned to them. “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no  evil, for You are with me; your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalms 23:1-6). He finished with tears rolling down his cheeks, to near complete silence in the crowd. They too, found themselves on the verge of tears having just heard not a fancy oration designed to motivate and impress listeners, but the brief summation of a faithful man’s life delivered with gratitude out of the depths of his heart. There is a passage at the end of Genesis, beginning in chapter 48 verse 8, when Jacob, now called Israel, gets to see Joseph again and reading it reminded me of this story of the orator’s competition. Being introduced to his grandsons when he never expected to even see his son again must have been an emotional moment for Israel. As he called them forward to be blessed, he began the blessing saying, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day” (Genesis 48:15, emphasis mine). Jacob was not a perfect man or father, clearly distracted at times by life’s circumstances, but he knew who to turn to; he knew who to follow when the distractions were removed. God placed man in the Garden of Eden, not the Valley of the Shadow of Death, but He is God in both places and he restores our souls.
    Start 2024 with a clean slate, following the Good Shepherd.


                                                                                                                -jeff


  • December 31, 2023


    It was a big responsibility. This was the family business, and it was all his for the next two days and nights. Next week the herd would be moved to pens further down the mountain for shearing and that would be a family affair involving all hands and a few neighbors, but for the next forty-eight hours, it was one shepherd and all these sheep. Sleep would be sporadic and light. Meals would be eaten while on the move and whenever he had a “slow” moment. It was a big job, and it was his job. His father didn’t have to tell him every sheep was important, he already knew. They were his sheep too. The first attack came in the cool darkness just before daybreak. He’d known it was coming. The sheep had grown restless and were “talking” amongst themselves. At first, he waited and watched, focusing his gaze just to the side of where he thought the attacker was stalking his prey, knowing his peripheral vision would pick up the movement quicker in the predawn darkness. When he’d narrowed down the predator’s ambush spot, he quickly and quietly began his own stalk. Calming the

    sheep with a low voice and by his presence as he moved through them – toward the danger. The attack was sudden and not exactly what or where he’d expected it, but close. It was loud and terrifying. Stampeding sheep running away, bleating in terror slowed his progress to the scene and the would-be killer noticed his hampered approach. Pausing his attack, the bear raised up to his full height in an attempt to intimidate the young shepherd moving his way. The boy was undaunted. The sheep bleeding at the feet of the bear was his father’s sheep; a sheep he’d been left to care for and protect. David told Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him” (1 Samuel 17:34-35). Clearly, shepherding is not for the fearful and cowardly. When we understand what is entailed in the shepherd’s responsibilities, Paul’s words to the elders at Ephesus in Acts 20:28-31 are much more ominous and we need to pray daily for those whose responsibility it is to watch over the Father’s flock. “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, be on the alert …” 


    -jeff     



    December 24, 2023


    Norway is known as the Land of the Midnight Sun. Because most of Norway lies above the Arctic Circle at 66°33’ N, the sun never completely sets below the horizon during the summer. This is due to the tilt of the Earth on its axis. The Earth is tilted at 23.5° as it spins on its journey around the sun. It is this tilt that gives us our seasons. In the northern hemisphere, our summers are when the earth is tilted toward the sun keeping the North Pole completely in the sun for 187 days, from March 18th until September 24th. Interestingly, during the winter, the opposite is true.  There is no sun for the other 178 days in the year. Still, the focus is on the light. Nobody says in their add campaign, “Come to the land where the sun never shines!” Yet for half of the year, there is darkness. The darkness is only tolerable because of the confident knowledge light will one day return. It is no wonder John described Jesus as the light of the world. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:1-4). Jesus himself would say, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). As the  church, the body of Christ, Christians, disciples; we are also supposed to light up the world. Jesus said of his disciples in Matthew 5, “You are the light of the world.  A  city  set  on  a  hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). The very thought of light when in the utter darkness brings hope. When burdened we refer to the light at the end of the tunnel because it means the end of stumbling and bumbling. We have hope in the true Light. We have knowledge of His return. We have a responsibility to shine. Edith Wharton said, “There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Take your pick, but turn it on. “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4) unless we let it shine.


    -jeff     



    December 17, 2023


    It’s official, the holiday season is upon us! You may not have noticed, but it is Christmas time! Lights are on houses and decorations are in the yard. Best of all, families are getting together to catch up on the past year, enjoy remembering years gone by, and talk about the exciting opportunities of the new year so quickly approaching. I realize this time of year is difficult for some, but I want to write from a glass half full perspective. While I understand this Christmas may not be what each one of us wanted because the last year has not been what we’d hoped it would be, some memories may never bring joy and the light at the end of the tunnel is dim. I also understand Jesus came so that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10), so I choose to focus on the positives of this life and the promise of the next (John 14:2-3). That being said, maybe you haven’t heard, I am a grandpa! You read that right, and Lord willing, in June of next year, I will get to meet and hold BOTH of my grandbabies! Yep! You read that right too! TWINS! I am beyond excited and, speaking honestly, a little scared. The “what ifs” are trying to creep in, but I saw something Sunday at the Tipton County Museum that really helped me refocus. It was a letter home from PVT James Robert Hindman. He was born in Atoka, TN in 1897. On  September 6, 1918, James Robert left home for basic training in South Carolina. Three weeks later, he was on a ship to Brest, France. The ship arrived on October 7, 1918 – the day PVT Hindman died of pneumonia contracted on the trip  cross the Atlantic. On September 28th or 29th, he wrote these words, “They all say we will never be on the firing lines, but if we do, there is only a very few killed. Now, dear ones, if you don’t hear from me in months, don’t be uneasy, as if  anything happens, you will be notified, but I am going in the arms of God, and will be home someday. All I ask is to be in good spirits and not worry, as that will be worse than anything you can do.” At the age of twenty-one, James Robert Hindman, sailing into the unknowns of war in a foreign land, understood worry to be the worst thing to befall his family; worse than his own death. “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? … Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field …, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then …” (Matthew 6:27-31). Let us take joy in the moment with the hopeful anticipation of the promise of tomorrow.


                                                                                                     -jeff



    December 10, 2023


    When talking to my archers about sight picture, it becomes very clear, many have no clue as to what I mean. Very simply put, the sight picture is what you see and how you see in relation to your drawn bow or weapon of choice. Surely everyone has heard the phrase, “in the crosshairs.” It is a shooting term dealing with sight picture and the object being focused upon. If you find yourself in the crosshairs, you understand you are a target for someone. On the other hand, understanding sight picture and what you are aiming at, is key in consistent performance. Very quickly, every shooter understands, it is impossible to keep your target and what you aim with in focus at the same time without special optics. If I focus on my sights, my target becomes blurry and if I focus on my target, my sights become blurry. If I am going to hit what I am aiming at, which one do I focus on? I hunt with a scope on my gun, and it is second nature to focus on the target and allow the crosshairs to move in my peripheral vision to the spot I want to hit, but things are different when the rifle has no scope, or

    while shooting a pistol or using the sight pins on my bow sight. It is very easy to focus on the sights and not the target and a conscious effort must be made to stay focused on target and let our peripheral vision line up the shot.


    Spiritually speaking, the same concept of focus applies. Ask yourself, “What is my spiritual target or goal?” I want to be more Christ-like. Christ then, must be my focus. Necessity demands a study of his life and the scriptures, but at some juncture being like Christ means I must do more than study and apply my knowledge of Him to the life I live. Even then, it is easy to focus more on the service I might provide than the Man I am trying to emulate. Do this test quickly. As you focus on the words of this page, allow your mind, just for a moment to take in what your peripheral vision is seeing. Do you notice how out of focus everything beyond these words is? You can also do this in

    your car, but I suggest not while you are driving. Focusing on what is on the windshield causes us to lose sight of what’s most important – where we are going! So, what does the sight picture of your life look like? Is God even your target and what are you lining up on Him to ensure you are correct.


    -jeff     



    December 3, 2023


    Nobody wants to be nothing. At some point we all want to be something. Maybe it was an astronaut or test pilot like Chuck Yeager. Maybe it was a professional athlete or famous musician. For most of us, what we wanted to be changed as we got older. Sometimes the change came because bull rider on the PBR circuit is way cooler than astronaut (and requires a lot less school), but sometimes choices are limited by circumstances. For instance, for me, being a jockey and winning the Triple Crown became impossible six inches and a hundred pounds ago. No matter why we changed what we wanted to be, we still want to be something. More importantly, we are something. Sometimes what we are came by choice and other times, as a consequence of our choices and/or mistakes. So far though, we’ve only talked about what we are in this life, where we are limited by intelligence, physical ability, opportunity and often, the decisions of others. As Christians, though, we have no limits. What we want to be is Christlike and no one or nothing can take that from us. While different, we are all parts of the same body whose head is Christ and we are all expected to grow. This is why Peter says, “in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love” (2 Peter 1:5-7). Peter goes on to say if you have these qualities and they are increasing, you will be neither useless or unfruitful. The implication being that if we don’t have these qualities, we are useless and unfruitful. However, instead of just coming out and saying it, “You’re worthless,” Peter points out those who lack these qualities have simply forgotten how they have been forgiven of their former sins (2 Peter 1:9). In other words, sometimes we spend far too much time thinking about what we are not, what could have been and what the world thinks of us than who we actually are. Furthermore, sometimes we don’t even act proud to be a disciple of the Son of God. The early church must have struggled with this too, because Peter goes on to encourage them, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Peter 1:10-11). Like Peter, I encourage you to remember who you are and make an effort to grow in Christ. “I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder” (2 Peter 1:13).


                                                                                                                                                                                                           -jeff

  • November 26, 2023


    Every parent wants their child to be successful. It’s what keeps private schools and colleges in business. It’s the reason we hire tutors in schools, or individual coaches for every aspect of every sport. Some parents are just taking advantage of things unavailable to them as children, to help their children be all they can be, but there are others who might be living vicariously through their more talented children, fulfilling dreams and gaining accolades as “the parents of” someone they could never be. Certainly, there are more than just those two reasons parents push their children. Some kids absolutely love what they are involved in and thrive on the extra tutelage. Not to mention, the argument for having young folks get extra coaching rather than hanging out in the Walmart parking lot or some undisclosed location participating in questionable teenage behaviors, is an argument worth listening to. Whatever tags along with their reasoning, parents really just want their kids to be good at what they do. As Christians, we all know there are lines that should never be crossed to attain success no matter how tempting and we talk about the importance of putting God first, right? We pray before we begin competitions, don’t we? Wait before we head down the rabbit hole of tokenism, duplicity and hypocrisy, let’s finish the point - good parents just want their children to be successful! Since we all agree, consider this: If money were no object, and the best coach ever, in your child’s competition, had available time slots for one-on-one instruction, would you want one of those slots for your child? It’s not a trap. Answer truthfully. We’d all love to see our child getting the best possible instruction in whatever their endeavor may be, because we all want the best for our children. We also understand, there are no guarantees to continued success. The best coach ever can’t make lemonade out of apples. Still, we will sacrifice and push because we want them to be the best they can be – in life. What about in eternity? Surely, as Christians, we understand the certainty of the second coming. Furthermore, as Christians who read the Bible, we know not everyone who declares to know God is going to heaven and we also know the alternative to heaven. Do we want our children to go to heaven? As Christian parents, don’t we have just as much responsibility to ensure our children’s best chance before God as we do in the blind auditions of The Voice? Think about this: we were their first coach. We sang with them in the car, giving them a love of music. We played catch in the yard, giving them a love for the game. We read to them while they sat in our laps, giving them a love for knowledge and learning. So, if we truly want them to be the best they can ever be, what have we told them, what have we shown them, about God?


    -jeff     



    November 19, 2023


    A couple of people in a recent TV show I was watching found common ground and conversation in mountain climbing. One was struggling, the other was patiently listening. The listener made an observation and asked a question, “Have you ever heard of the term, ‘climbing heavy?’ We say that when a climber is struggling with a route that should be really easy for them. You look like you might be climbing heavy.” I looked it up. The TV climber was referring to the emotional baggage often carried around that distracts us from tasks at hand and I found immediate application in Hebrews 12, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). When I looked it up, I also learned a climber is said to be climbing heavy when carrying more than 10% of his body weight, and anyone weighing over 250 lbs. is also climbing heavy. I am reminded of my first mission trip to Costa Rica. On our last day, we took a trip into the rain forest enroute to looking at a volcano. John Evans 4 was carrying a backpack he’d failed to zip completely closed and it became a game with the rest of us to see how many rocks we could slip into the pack before he noticed. Soon he was climbing heavy! Because his burden was increasing gradually, he never noticed until he got back, and a rock fell out when he removed his weighty pack. “I wondered why my pack was feeling so heavy, I just thought I was really out of shape,” he exclaimed! Life has a way of burdening us emotionally, physically and spiritually, causing us to climb heavy. Most of the time, those burdens increase so slowly we fail to notice until the weight is almost unbearable. Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). It is not a new message, the Psalmist writes, “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Psalms 55:22) and “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). While we wait, it is not his intention we should be burdened by the cares of this world. He died on the cross so we would be free from the burden of sin. He left His church so we could “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). So, let it go. Climb light as you move towards eternal light.


    -jeff     



    November 12, 2023


    I know today is your day even if you don’t. It is the end and yet it is the beginning. It is freedom. Freedom to move forward no longer encumbered by burdens, for you have cast your cares on Him because you know He cares. Today is the day of realization, the day of decision, the day of transformation. Through His infinite wisdom and understanding, He has provided this moment of awakening. Through His son He provided the means and assurance - His plan will work. Through His insight He laid the groundwork for today. Patiently waiting, He is smiling in anticipation. This great day comes without fanfare. The world is unaware. Such a great day should have streamers, party hats and balloons – yet here this day will pass and only you will realize its significance for only you can make today what it was meant to be. Despite careful orchestration, only one thing is lacking to make this the most poignant day of your life. Only one thing stands between you and complete liberation and total happiness. In a stroke of genius, the Master who knows all and sees all left the final ingredient for this glorious and momentous day in the hands of one he deemed capable. The most important part is in the hands of the one who would benefit the most from this day – you. Today is your day and the only thing left is that you realize it, internalize it and believe it. Everything else is ready and waiting on you. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Today is the day to break out of the cocoon of conformity that has restricted life, freedom and flight. Today is the day to transform, breaking the bonds of worldly worry, strife and expectation. Today is Dependence Day. “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son … in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:2-6). Today is your day. Believe it.


                                                                                                                                                                                                 -jeff



    November 5, 2023


    Upon ushering us all into the “paddock,” he told us all to take a knee while he explained the legal stuff and the “rules” of the day. Then he said, “I want you to remember one thing. Today, you get to run.” Apparently, it didn’t sink in upon us the way he wanted, so he repeated himself, emphasizing what he wanted us to remember, “Today, you GET to run!” Then it sank in for me, probably right where he’d hoped it would. Maybe nine miles in in the mud and water isn’t your idea of privilege, but for the couple hundred of us in the starting area, being there on the precipice of a challenging day, mentally and physically, this was something we chose to do in spite of the toll it would take on our bodies and the risks we would encounter. This was something we paid for. It was the reason we’d come together. His motivational words reminded us of our privilege and exhorted to do our very best because of what had been done to make Jeff, you got all that from 5 words? Nope! I got way more than that! You see there are nine little army men on top of my computer that represent nine real military men who train, drill and stand ready every day to answer the call to put their lives on the line so we have the privilege to drive three hours and pay $100 bucks to do in our fancy running shoes, shorts and shirts with eight hours of sleep behind us, what they have done in full kit (80+ lbs.) with no sleep day after day. Like those in the paddock with me, many of those men who have volunteered to lay down their lives, are not Christians, but I cannot help but think of John 15:13, “Greater love has no man than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 10:11 tells us too, the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep and that He is the good shepherd. Certainly, He laid down his life for us and in fact, paid the price for the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28), not so we would be obligated to Him and HAVE to be His, but so we COULD be His – forever. As the countdown finished and the horn blew to start the race, I wondered what a peptalk in the lobby might do for our worship. What happens to my heart when I let myself realize this is an honor and a privilege afforded to me by, not only the blood of Christ, but the lives of so many who lived and loved in such a way that I might sit in an airconditioned building with inside plumbing and soft chairs to bring my “sacrifice of praise” to the one and only Living God? “Today you GET to worship!”


                                                                                                                                                                                                           -jeff




  • October 29, 2023


    Hitting the yellow circle with my bow at 20 yards is really no big deal. The yellow circle is actually two circles, the ten ring and the nine ring and they are approximately 6.3 inches in diameter. Whether intentional or not, this is also the approximate size of the “kill zone”, a heart lung shot, on most North American big game. Whether using a bow and arrow or a gun, the ethical kill zone is the same and responsible hunters practice the shots they are most likely to take and get very good at it before going afield in search of game. Technically, once distance is determined and recognition of where the shot needs to be, the shooter is successful if he just “hits the yellow;” a 6.3-inch circle that ensures a quick, humane kill. In high school target archery, “hitting the yellow” every time guarantees a minimum score of 270; very respectable and scholarship worthy. A hunting bow is set up with a rather simple method of aiming and is sighted in specifically the hunter. Using the same form and shot sequence, a shooter can repeatedly stack arrows in the and around the 10-ring. The shot is the same whether it is taken in the gym or outside in the yard. It is the same whether taken at an indoor range with an instructor guiding or out in the woods by yourself with your quarry standing broadside. The shot is the same. Does the shot change if you are shooting in a tournament with $56,000 riding on a hit or miss? Does the shot change if you are staring at a world record buck? The answer is no. The shot is the same, only the circumstances are different. William Tell shot successfully apples with his crossbow all the time. Placing the apple on his son’s head doesn’t change the shot or his ability to make it. Focusing on what has been successfully done thousands of times, results another successful shot. Focusing on the circumstances instead of the shot or the consequences of missing, dramatically increases the likelihood of a miss. The Truth is the same. The truth is the truth no matter what the circumstance. Too often we consider a change in the truth or we doubt the truth, because we focus on circumstance and emotion rather than truth. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them with truth; thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Countless times in the Bible Jesus addresses truth boldly and with-out compromise, yet with love and compassion. In John 8, when the woman caught in adultery was brought before him, He did not compromise truth, nor did he accept her sin – or anyone else’s, telling her accusers, “He who has not sinned, throw the first stone” and giving her the charge to “go and sin no more.” There are NOT many variations of the truth. There is only one and it is found in God’s word. We must look for it to find it, study it to know how to handle it and pray about using it rightly.


                                                                                                  -jeff



    October 22, 2023


    When the storm rages most fiercely, someone invariably points to Jeremiah 29:11 for hope and comfort, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah brought this message during the time Nebuchadnezzar had exiled many Jews to Babylon, ultimately for their refusal to submit to God’s word. In fact, in verse 4, God takes full responsibility for the exile saying, “to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile.” In the whole passage, God is reassuring them, they are not forgotten. He has a purpose and a plan. They are to keep on living (Jeremiah 29:5-6). They are to keep on praying (Jeremiah 29:7). They are to stay focused on His words, not the words of false prophets (Jeremiah 29:8-9). They are to cultivate a heart that truly and completely seeks God (Jeremiah 29:12-13) and He will keep His promises (Jeremiah 29:14). As it was for the exiles in Jeremiah, so it is often for us; hard times are the result of our own choices. Yet God, in his seemingly endless patience and hope, never gives up on His people. He continually provides a solution and direction for redemption, salvation and peace. There are of course times when the wind blows, and the waters rise through no fault of our own too. If nothing else, Matthew 7:24-27 demonstrates the principle introduced in Matthew 5:45, “for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” and yet it also illustrates what it takes to survive; a life built on the rock. “And upon this rock I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). Speaking of Peter, while he stumbled, he was “sifted like wheat” simply because he was a staunch disciple and friend of Jesus (Luke 22:31). Likewise, Job did nothing to “deserve” the storms that darkened his life. God took care of Job. Jesus warned Peter and prayed for him. We know Jesus died for us (John 3:16) and is coming back for us (John 14:3) and because of His word, the Bible, we have seen countless acts of mercy towards His people, both deserved and undeserved, we know we must stay the course and trust in Him to keep his promise because He always has (Hebrews 13:8). The Carr Family sings a song, “He Sees What We Don’t.” The song is about life and trusting God. The chorus goes like this, “And though you may see your Valley. He sees the mountain you'll be standing on. When all you can see are the tears flowing down. I'm so glad he sees what we don't.” “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). 


    -jeff     



    October 15, 2023


    It would be cool, and pretty manly, if there was a guy who could accomplish any and every task ever set before him, totally by himself. Admittedly, there are some who appear to come close, but the reality is, shortly after putting Adam in the Garden of Eden to “cultivate and keep it,” God saw it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:15, 18). The task of growing, maintaining and protecting Eden was surely no small task and a suitable helper would have been great, but there was a command to be fruitful and multiply too; very difficult to accomplish alone, so God created the counterpart to man, Eve. 


    The Bible says, “Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:9). Also, “out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky” (Genesis 2:19). We know too, “the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). However, when it came to the creation of woman, the suitable help meet for the only living thing created in His own image, she came not from the dust of the earth, but from Adam himself. “So, the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man” (Genesis 2:21-22). When God brought her before Adam, Adam clearly recognized her as special. She was not simply his counterpart; the female version of himself as he’d recognized in the birds of the air and beasts of the field. He recognized immediately she was for him but more than that seemed instinctively to know, “she was bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). She did not fall under the command to subdue and rule over everything that flies, swims or lives on the earth (Genesis 1:28) but was a partner in the endeavor and partner to him. She was part of him. He came first and she was brought to him, now she is his responsibility; not to subdue and control, but to nurture, protect and serve. She will bring out of him a softer, gentler side and she will see him and hold him at his weakest, but she will kindle within him a fire, strength and hardness, even a rage, as he stands to protect the greatest of all things created for him and they will stand together as one flesh to fulfill all righteousness: he as a man and she as a woman.


     -jeff     



    October 8, 2023


    He was not the attending physician, but as he looked down at the newborn in her father’s arms, he whispered gently to her, “The world is different today. The world is a better place today – because you are in it. Happy Birthday.” Both men smiled and so did I. Honestly, I was watching TV, but every now and then, writers, actors and producers combine for something special. I thought of Ephesians 2, specifically verse 10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Have you ever considered the world to be a better place because you are in it? I don’t mean in a boastful or arrogant way. Sometimes I think we are so concerned about being considered a braggart or being looked at as less than humble, we forget our value and some of the things we do, things we were created to do, that make the world a better place. Sometimes we overlook the power we have to make the world a better place. (By the way, if the world is not a better place because of you, I encourage you to live more intentionally and fulfill your destiny! Live the way you were created – in the image of God, to do good!) When we forget who created us and the purpose for which we were created, we lose sight of our value and worth. Colossians 1:17 says all things were created by Him, through Him and for Him. If we spend too much time looking at the apparent success of others on social media, our self-worth takes a hit because, while we don’t know the hearts and struggles of those who post on social media, we do know ours. Because we would never post anything but the whole truth, we assume others wouldn’t post untruths either. We begin comparing what someone allows us to know about them to what we cannot help but know about ourselves and we always come up short. Paul told the Corinthians, “But when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.” (2 Corinthians 10:12). Not only should we not be comparing ourselves to others, we should not even compare our life to that of Christ. How could you ever measure up to the Son of God? We are called to do our best, whatever that may be. The parable of the talents teaches us about expectations. Those men were not to compare gifts, they were to use them. Whatever your gifts are, use them to make the world a better place. Use them to show others the love of Christ. Use them to open doors for sharing the Gospel. If you resolve to live more fully in Christ, for whom you were created, then right now, the world just became a better place - because you are in it. I believe in you and Jesus went to the cross because he believed in you! Be what He wants you to be.

    -jeff     



    October 1, 2023


    You’ve probably heard of the story about a little girl on the way home from church turned to her mother and said, “Mommy, the preacher’s sermon this morning confused me.” When the mother asked why, the little girl replied, “Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?” Her mother said, “Yes, that’s true.” The little girl added, “He also said that God lives within us. Is that true, too?” When the mother again told her it was true, the girl reasoned, “Well, if God is bigger than us and he lives in us, wouldn’t He show through?” I’m not sure who started the story or if it is even true, but it does highlight a very good point. We are supposed to be lights in the world. We are supposed to be spreading the word. We are supposed to be lovers of God’s word, at least that is our claim and as such, we need to remember, the world is watching us. They see our lives and our actions. Paul told the Ephesians, “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:3-4). The world is listening to us and therefore we should let no unwholesome word proceed from our mouths, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29). Our claim is to be Bible believing and trusting but often the Bible lays in one spot all week instead of being diligent to present ourselves approved to God as a workman who do not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). The world watches our attitudes towards one another. Paul told the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:4-5). The world sees how we treat one another and those we love. If our actions and words do not match up what we profess and claim to live by, they will never care or even notice us. They will never want to be a part of the Lord’s church, and who could blame them. Let’s be intentional in our lives and in spreading the gospel. Let’s be intentional about how others will see us.


    “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me. All the wonderful passion and purity, may His spirit divine, all my being refine. Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me” (#722, Songs of Faith and Praise). 


                                                                                                                   -jeff     




  • September 24, 2023


    I learned John 8:32 a long time ago but it was not one of those verses like John 3:16 that is readily quoted by Christians. In fact, I know I’ve heard it quoted by some who claim no allegiance at all to Christ or the Bible. Maybe I hear it more now because it is the first scripture to be looked up when we begin a study using the Back to the Bible study guide. In a world where the truth is elusive, often shrouded in irrelevant narratives and the common man is treated as though he cannot handle the truth, it is not only a bold and fresh way to begin a study, but inviting and exciting as we are about to receive only the facts. “And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Jesus will later pray for his disciples asking God, “Sanctify them with truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). “Your word is truth.” Going back to John 8:32, you may have noticed the verse begins with the connecting word, “and.” Mostly when we quote the verse, we leave off the “and” and just start with “You shall know the truth.” If we do this enough, we could forget the previous verse, verse 31, qualifies and sets the stage for the truth we are to know and the freedom we can experience. Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth …” (John 8:31-32). In context, the stand-alone statement guaranteeing knowledge and freedom is the more accurately understood as the back part of an If-Then statement. Sure, John 8:32 works great by itself and gives hope. We already know knowledge is power; it opens doors and creates opportunities. As refreshing as it is to hear, the statement is not a new revelation. As Christians though, at some point we must understand the “If.” Jesus says, “If you abide in my word.” Abide is an action verb meaning much more than “to occasionally read” or “to carry to church on Sundays” or “to own and keep in my house or car.” Jesus is talking about living in His word; studying and applying it to our lives. Paul encouraged Timothy to do this very thing in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 


    The “If” statement qualifies two things. If you stay in the word, then you are (1) truly his disciple and (2) you will know the truth. But what about if we are not in his word? What if we sometimes, occasionally or maybe even never read his word? Can we really claim discipleship? Do we only know some truth or occasionally get the gist of His words? Maybe another popular quote is more applicable, “Ignorance is bliss.” Maybe it is easier not knowing the truth because knowledge of the truth requires action from those who believe in it. 


     -jeff     



    September 17, 2023


    Maybe you haven’t heard, there is a problem within the church. In the United States we are shrinking. One might even say the church is dying in the US. Before we go too far down this road, let’s remember when Jesus said I will build my church, he also said and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). Remember, in Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus says not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven but only those who do the will of the Father. It is not good enough to just be religious, we must do the will of the Father. The words of Jesus are the words of God (John 14:23- 24) and since Jesus’ last recorded instructions were, “go make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and “you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8), it must be a very important part of God’s will. We also know according to 2 Peter 3:9, it is God’s will that all come to repentance. We should be able to understand that Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17) and therefore, to do God’s will, we must tell others about Jesus. There are those who don’t know about God and Sin and Jesus and Salvation and until we start talking, the church will continue to dwindle. While I am not worried about the survival of the church, the body of Christ, because Jesus has overcome the grave and, in the end, will win. I am concerned that my children, my children’s children, my closest friends and the children of my closest friends will not enjoy the benefits of the church family that I have grown to know and love. I could spend the rest of this article telling you of what I have seen the church do for our community and our members that no one ever knew, but it would get us no closer to encouraging us to talk more about the Gospel. 


    In a recent discussion someone said, “Mr. Jeff, you might be surprised at how many times God comes into conversation.” But I’m not. People talk about God all the time and they will give you their opinions and interpretations of a scripture, passage or story they haven’t read in years – if ever, and we engage these conversations on their terms giving our opinions and interpretations without ever cracking the Good Book to show why we believe what we believe. Furthermore, we need to start being more intentional about living what we believe so those we love will see a difference in the way we live and the way the rest of the world lives. Our actions need to follow the Word. Our words need to follow our actions, because no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. 


     -jeff     



    September 10, 2023


    In Luke 2 we find Luke’s brief and straight forward account of the birth of Jesus. We read of the angels appearing to the shepherds in the fields and their rush to see him in the manger. We read of Simeon and Anna who were anxiously awaiting the arrival of Jesus and knew exactly who he was when he was brought to the temple.  We see that Joseph and Mary did all that was required according to the law of Moses and brought him up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord,” as we often say. They were faithful in returning every year to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41) and it was on one of these trips, Mary and Joseph lost their son. Losing him may be a bit strong, for clearly, they had close enough relationships (fellowship) with the group they travelled with to assume Jesus was simply with another family on the way home. It was not his first Feast of the Passover and at 12, he would know the routine. After a day’s travel though, Jesus had still not reported in so they began to look for him. Failing to find him in the caravan, Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem to find their son. After three days, they found him, safe and sound in the temple. Luke does not tell us if Mary and Joseph went straight to the temple when they got back, they’d travelled one day out, likely spent the night and travelled one day back. But it was the third day they found him. I’d like to think my folks would have gotten an early start they day they travelled back to find me so they’d have some time to look before dark on that second day. While we don’t know if Mary and Joseph searched into the night or looked elsewhere before checking the temple, we do know they were astonished where they found him and maybe more so by who he was with and they had been worried (Luke 2:48). Maybe Jesus was spared further comments from his parents because of who he was with and where they found him. He might have gotten that ear pulled if they’d found him shooting marbles in a back alley with a group of ne’er-do-wells and we’d have likely gotten an earlier version of “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Instead, Jesus asked them, “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” The KJV says, “about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). They did not understand nor did they know of the affairs to which he must attend. How much of the world today is also unaware of the Father’s business and that we too are seeing to it? If the world is not aware we are about the Father’s business of seeking and saving the lost, then what does that say about what we are doing?


    jeff     



    September 3, 2023


    It’s quite easy to start thinking about the problems with the world today. The news and social media keep them ever in our presence. While social media is relatively new and access to information is easier than ever, the problems aren’t new, and neither is the talk about them. Charlie Daniels wrote in 1982, “The interest is up and the stock market’s down, your gonna get mugged if you go downtown.” Even earlier than that the prophet wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). There is nothing the great Deceiver, Satan would like us to focus on more than the problems of this world. The more we focus on what’s wrong and the negative, the less we focus on what’s right and the promise and hope within us. However, it’s not just the problems of the world taking our attention away from God and his church. The blessings of life we are so thankful for in many of our prayers often draw our attention away from the one who gave us the blessings as we get caught up in them. We talk about work, school, our hobbies and our teams. We talk about our kids, our grandkids, first words, first steps, homeruns, touchdowns, honor roles and scholarships – and we should. We sing, “Thank you Lord for loving me and thank you Lord for blessing me,” and all these things are blessings. However, part of the problem today is that our conversations are consumed with self. Think about it. My team, my child, my job, my problems, my success. So much of our lives is “all about me.” Yet when we examine the Savior we claim to follow and emulate, His life was all about others. From the earliest years he was “about His father’s business” (Luke 2:49). It was for our salvation the Lamb of God offered himself up for sacrifice to cover with his blood, once for all time, our transgressions and close the gap between ourselves and God created by our sin. Yes, God so loved the world He sent His only begotten son, but that son, Jesus, came willingly and obediently, even to the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2:8) so that we might be saved. His life was never about himself and always about others. The problems in the world today will not be solved by governments, because the real problem in the world is sin and only the blood of Christ takes away sin. Since the church knows about the blood of Christ, it stands to reason, we are the solution to the world’s problem. It’s time to stop wishing for “world peace” and start talking about AND living for Jesus Christ. Talking about Jesus while we live contrary to his Word will do no good, only exacerbate the problem. One home at a time we can change the world: starting with ours. “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:7).

     
                                                                                                                                                                                       jeff


  • August 27, 2023


    Do you remember sitting on your dad’s lap and steering the truck down a gravel road. I am not sure how old I was, but I might have been standing in his lap instead of sitting because I was too short to see over the steering wheel. The first time, I am sure it was his idea, but every time after that I am sure it was mine! Looking back, it had to have been my first taste of freedom and control; my first real experience in being a grown up. The speed was never great because Dad still retained control of the gas and brake pedals. He could still grab the wheel in the event of an emergency, bad decision or if the turn was just too much. I didn’t know it then and maybe he didn’t either, but it was the perfect way to show me how to live. I remember the encouragement to keep it in the middle and the feigned urgency and excitement in his voice if my then tiny arms were turning too slow. Constantly in my ear, he guided me down the road explaining how to navigate gravel, sharp turns and big bumps. The truth was, Daddy was carefully monitoring and controlling, as best he could, the world around me. He controlled the speed, but let me steer on my own, ready to jump in in an instant if conditions or my decisions took a dangerous turn. By the time I got old enough to reach the gas and brake pedals, I won’t say I had mastered steering, but I didn’t have to concentrate on it as much and could focus my attention to speed control. Little by little, Dad gave me what I could handle when I could handle it. The Bible tells us we will not be tempted beyond what we can handle but with  temptation God will provide a way of escape so we can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13), but it also teaches us God expectations of us are not greater than what we can accomplish. The “Parable of the Talents” demonstrates this concept when a man going on a journey distributed three different amounts to three different men, each according to their abilities (Matthew 25:14-15). Like a father teaching his son to drive, when he could steer, he let him steer. When he could reach the pedals, he let him sit in the driver’s seat by himself. When he demonstrated competence and trustworthiness, he let him drive the truck by himself. The son was never given more responsibility than he could handle, but in each situation, there was an expectation of results, an expectation of participation and performance. Maybe the hand on my shoulder was so Dad could steady himself after a harrowing ride down a country road, but I took it as, “Well done, son.” The next  opportunity to drive and please my father couldn’t come soon enough.


                                        -jeff



    August 20, 2023


    I was asked to attend Open House at Charger Academy where I am privileged to be allowed to help out with a number of things around the school. Truth is, I am president of the PTO and needed to be at the meeting. Granted, someone has to be
    president and mine was an easy name to stick in the blank, and I am happy to serve. Charger Academy is a Title 1 School. This means federal funds are used to “supplement educational opportunities for student who attend schools with high numbers or percentages of children from low-income families and are most at risk of failing to meet the state’s challenging academic achievement standards” (tn.gov). Part of the legislation controlling these funds requires a yearly meeting with parents and supporters to keep them informed and up to date on what a Title 1 School is, how it works and how they can be involved. During the presentation a slide went up titled, “How Can I Be Involved?” Appropriately, the very first point said this: “Research has proven that family engagement in education has more impact on student achievement than any other factor.” Read that again. No matter how much money is pumped into education, no matter how many hours of overtime a teacher works, no matter what new ingenious program for learning is implemented, no matter if you created a safe and  secure environment – family engagement is still the number one factor and holds the greatest impact on a child’s success as a student. If family engagement is so vitally important for success in something that is required to meet by law for 180 days each year for six- and one-half hours each day, how much more important is it for a class that only meets twice a week for forty-five minutes? Let’s put it into a perspective that is easy to see. A school year is composed of 1,170 hours of instruction family involvement is needed to make it complete. Church classroom instruction totals 78 hours per year.  Moses wrote to the Israelites, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6- 9). It’s not just the extra hours of instruction at home that help our kids learn and understand the Bible, God’s promise, His love for us and patience with us, it’s that they can see we are what we say we are. Parental involvement in Christianity has more impact on the lives of  our youth than any other factor.


                                              -jeff



    August 13, 2023


    I need a haircut. Not only is my abundance of hair unruly and hard to keep in the right, it’s hot and the heat affects the rest of my body’s function. I keep planning to get it cut and something always seems to come up, getting in the way of what I know needs to happen. I never look in the mirror, but now I have to take at least a quick look to make sure my hair is not too out of line. Maybe if I keep it combed no one will notice how much of it there is. Better yet, I can just put on a hat! I can cover it up and then no one will see it’s out of control – but what about when I am inside? Nothing says you need a trim like hat head. I’ll just avoid folks that might take note and make a comment until I have time to stop and take care of it. Tonight, before I go to bed, I’ll trim a little off. A trim will let me put off the whole pruning! That’s it! A trim will be satisfactory. A trim will keep people off my back about it. Maybe if I spend a little more time in front of the mirror, and get my best friend to trim the back for me, people won’t realize how desperately I am in need of a big change. I know, I know! I just need a haircut. While it is true, I need a haircut. I’m not just talking about hair. Satan figured out a long time ago, a direct frontal assault is not likely to succeed. No Christian likes sin because we understand sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1,2); not His love (Romans 8:38-39), but His presence. So, sin in its rawest and ugliest form is easy to see. James tells us sin comes from our own desire and when this desire is made manifest in our lives, sin is born (James 1:14-15). After it is born, sin grows and leads to death. Possibly, it is during this growth phase, we tried to hide and ignore the slow changes that are occurring within us and affecting our outward appearance. We think by primping and fluffing the outside we can mask what is really happening on the inside. To a point, we are correct but if sin is allowed to grow and mature, it leads to death; not necessarily physical death but a far worse fate, spiritual death (Matthew 10:28). In Matthew 15:1, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” He goes on to talk about abiding in Him and bearing fruit. He points out that sometimes the vine dresser needs cut away some of the excess in order for the branches to really thrive and produce fruit. Sometimes without meaning to, we grow in directions and ways that make us unfruitful. It’s then you might say we need a spiritual haircut. 


                           -jeff



    August 5, 2023


    Troy Bassham is the son of one of America’s greatest shooters, Olympic gold medalist, Lanny Bassham. Growing up around elite shooters, Troy became a pretty decent shot himself but also noticed a difference in the thought processes of the elite and now is a mental management coach for high school and collegiate athletes. He wrote a book, Attainment, 12 Elements of Elite Performers, describing the difference in the elite and the average. Among the twelve elements, there are five overriding concepts. Bassham says 5% of performers claim 95% of the victories. They make up the elite. He says the best of the best don’t get to the top without passion, constant improvement, thinking, persistence and something he calls  reloading. You may be wondering what elite performance has to do with the Bible and being a disciple of Christ, but just think about it. We are supposed to be the best we can be in everything we do – except in our Christian walk? I don’t think so. The same things that make us the best at school, the best at work, the best on our team or in our field of study will make us the best for God too. Trying to be the best Christian sounds weird especially considering Matthew 6:1 where we are cautioned by Christ himself to be careful about practicing our righteousness before men. We forget however, just a few verses earlier in Matthew 5:16, Jesus tells us, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” The difference lies in motivation and who is getting the glory. Paul tells us to run as to win (1 Corinthians 9:24). The truth is, winning is a byproduct of being the best. When we focus on the end  result instead of the process involved in getting better, we set ourselves up for failure, which leads to a poor or weakened self-image and perpetuates more failure. My high school baseball coach used to say, “A blind hog will find and acorn every once in a while” when he felt someone made a lucky catch and it’s true, sometimes we just so happen to be in the right place at the right time. The elite, however, develop a process or routine that continually puts them in the best positions for succeeding. The process is no accident. It is repeatable and bases nothing on luck or chance. The process is a thoughtful, intentional approach. It can apply to a business model as well as a training/practice schedule and - our Christian walk. The Bible is our “process.” It is a guidebook on the dos and don’ts of how to live a life pleasing to the God we love. When Paul  told Timothy about the crown of righteousness laid up for him (1 Timothy 4:8), receiving the crown wasn’t the goal. Pleasing God the Father was the goal. “The mansion, robe and crown” are all byproducts of our love and life for the one true and living God. 


                                                                                                                                                                                     -jeff




  • July 30, 2023


    After a long hard day Jesus sent His disciples across the sea. He’d catch up but now he needed time to pray. After feeding the multitudes the disciples no doubt had questions but the questions could wait. The plan was to meet across the sea, apparently no one wondered how Jesus was to get there. The winds picked up and made life difficult, discouraging and uncertain for the men in the boat. They had been rowing all night. It was in the fourth watch when things changed. This is the last watch of the night so the dawn was approaching but when your waiting on the light of dawn, it seems to never come. Through the strong wind and building waves then He came. The Gospel of Mark tells us He was intending to pass them by (6:48). Imagine the looks, rowing all night, against the wind, making no headway and then He comes and not in a boat! They thought He was a ghost and were afraid (imagine that). He then spoke to them calmly, assuring them that He was real. Peter then spoke up verbalizing the doubts of many, “IF it be though, bid me come to thee upon the waters”  (Matthew14:28). Of course it was  Jesus, who else could accomplish such a feat with apparent nonchalance so He simply said, “Come.” To Peter’s credit he got out of the boat and amazingly it worked – for a moment. It was not the power of Christ that failed and cause him to sink but an inability to remain focused on the master.
    Our life is also filled with challenges, difficulties and times when we are discouraged because it appears we are making no headway. One step forward two steps back. In these times we can identify with the struggles of the disciples in the boat. Maybe there was grumbling and even a few prayers, sound familiar? Even when He came, they couldn’t believe what they saw - a Savior on so many levels. As witnesses to His awesome power and glory, they still could not believe. Believe. Look for Him. He is coming. In the midst of troublesome and frustrating times He is near, calming the sea and making possible what seems impossible. When the wind blows and the waves rise, more than ever we need to focus on God. He is our rock, our anchor, our strength. May your week be filled with much joy and happiness because of Him, even if the seas of life are stormy around you. 


                                                                          -jeff



    July 23, 2023


    In college, my roommate had a knack for memorizing and quoting at random times some of the greatest speeches ever given by coaches and other famous people. The one I recall most is the one given by the legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, on what it takes to be number one. In his locker room speech before the first super bowl ever, Coach Lombardi inspired his team to play not only with all their heart, but with every fiber of their being. “Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all the time thing. You don't win once in a while; you don't do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time.” There are those who hear this and shake their heads claiming winning is not everything and too much emphasis is put on winning. I think I would rather argue there is not enough emphasis put on sportsmanship but that is another article. Doing your best, winning and trying to win are Biblical. Examine Colossians 3:23, 2 Timothy 2:15 and 1 Corinthians 9:24 where Paul says, work heartily, do your best and run to win, reminding us we are here to serve God not men. Our reward is in Christ not something given by men and it’s eternal (1 Corinthians 9:25). “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10), says the wisest man to ever walk the face of the earth. Lombardi’s speech is not about winning at all costs, from the aspect of cheating, hurting others and total selfishness, but is about winning at all cost through total preparation, sacrifice and teamwork. “Winning is a habit.” Similarly, being a disciple of Christ is not about pointing out the errors in the lives of others or being better than others, it’s about loving God above all else (Matthew 22:37) and being the very best I can be as an individual for God. It’s about more than showing up for church and church events; it’s about how we live. Discipleship and following Christ must happen every day, all day no matter what the day. My birthday is not a license to sin even if it is the eighteenth, twenty-first, fiftieth or hundredth. I don’t get to drop my identity on my wedding day, graduation day, retirement day, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day or any other day. Just like winning is not a sometimes thing, neither is being a disciple of Christ, a believer in God, a Christian and a part of the body of Christ. I am a winner; I am a Christian - all the time. “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17). Lombardi was wrong about man’s finest hour. It is not “he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.” It will be when he stands before God and hears, “Enter in my good and faithful servant.” 


     - jeff     



    July 16, 2023


    After a long hard day Jesus sent His disciples across the sea. He’d catch up but now he needed time to pray. After feeding the multitudes the disciples no doubt had questions, but the questions could wait. The plan was to meet across the sea, apparently no one wondered how Jesus was to get there. The winds picked up and made life difficult, discouraging and uncertain for the men in the boat. They had been rowing all night. It was in the fourth watch when things changed. This is the last watch of the night so the dawn was approaching but when you're waiting on the light of dawn, it seems to never come. Through the strong wind and building waves He came. The Gospel of Mark tells us He was intending to pass them by (6:48). Imagine the looks, rowing all night, against the wind, making no headway and then He comes and not in a boat! They thought He was a ghost and were afraid (imagine that). He then spoke to them calmly, assuring them that He was real. Peter then spoke up verbalizing the doubts of many, “IF it be though, bid me come to thee upon the waters” (Matthew14:28). Of course, it was Jesus, who else could accomplish such a feat with apparent nonchalance so He simply said, “Come.” To Peter’s credit he got out of the boat and amazingly it worked – for a moment. It was not the power of Christ that failed and cause him to sink but an inability to remain focused on the master. Our life is also filled with challenges, difficulties and times when we are discouraged because it appears we are making no headway. One step forward two steps back. In these times we can identify with the struggles of the disciples in the boat. Maybe there was grumbling and even a few prayers, sound familiar? Even when He came, they couldn’t believe what they saw - a Savior on so many levels. As witnesses to His awesome power and glory, they still could not believe. Believe. Look for Him. He is coming. In the midst of troublesome and frustrating times He is near, calming the sea and making possible what seems impossible. When the wind blows and the waves rise, more than ever we need to focus on God. He is our rock, our anchor, our strength. May your week be filled with much joy and happiness because of Him, even if the seas of life are stormy around you. 


    -jeff     



    July 9, 2023


    In college, my roommate had a knack for memorizing and quoting at random times some of the greatest speeches ever given by coaches and other famous people. The one I recall most is the one given by the legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, on what it takes to be number one. In his locker room speech before the first super bowl ever, Coach Lombardi inspired his team to play not only with all their heart, but with every fiber of their being. “Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all the time thing. You don't win once in a while; you don't do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time.” There are those who hear this and shake their heads claiming winning is not everything and too much emphasis is put on winning. I think I would rather argue there is not enough emphasis put on sportsmanship but that is another article. Doing your best, winning and trying to win are Biblical. Examine Colossians 3:23, 2 Timothy 2:15 and 1 Corinthians 9:24 where Paul says, work heartily, do your best and run to win, reminding us we are here to serve God not men. Our reward is in Christ not something given by men and it’s eternal (1 Corinthians 9:25). “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10), says the wisest man to ever walk the face of the earth. Lombardi’s speech is not about winning at all costs, from the aspect of cheating, hurting others and total selfishness, but is about winning at all cost through total preparation, sacrifice and teamwork. “Winning is a habit.” Similarly, being a disciple of Christ is not about pointing out the errors in the lives of others or being better than others, it’s about loving God above all else (Matthew 22:37) and being the very best I can be as an individual for God. It’s about more than showing up for church and church events; it’s about how we live. Discipleship and following Christ must happen every day, all day no matter what the day. My birthday is not a license to sin even if it is the eighteenth, twenty-first, fiftieth or hundredth. I don’t get to drop my identity on my wedding day, graduation day, retirement day, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day or any other day. Just like winning is not a sometimes thing, neither is being a disciple of Christ, a believer in God, a Christian and a part of the body of Christ. I am a winner; I am a Christian - all the time. “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17). Lombardi was wrong about man’s finest hour. It is not “he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.” It will be when he stands before God and hears, “Enter in my good and faithful servant.”


     -jeff     



    July 2, 2023


    How many times have you been asked what is your favorite Bible verse? I know I have asked and answered this question many times. I have changed my favorite verse so many times the question should probably be changed to, "what is your favorite Bible verse today" or even "this moment?" I have also noticed my favorite verse often has to do with whatever is going on in my life right now. While you have your favorite verse on your mind, try thinking and maybe even writing down why it is your favorite verse or passage. Let's change gears now, it seems reasonable, if you have a favorite verse, there would also be a least favorite verse. If there are reasons why you liked your favorite verse then similarly there would be reasons why you would have an unfavorite verse. For instance, Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, used to be one of my favorite verses. When struggling, it is a powerful, comforting and encouraging verse. On the flip side, it leaves very little room for saying no or making excuses not to serve. After all, the verse says 'all things' not 'some things' or 'the things I want to do.'


    Think now for a few moments on your least favorite verse. Which verse or passage would you just as soon not had in the Bible and why? (I'm pretty sure this is a rare request) This is not a heretical request for I know All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (1 Timothy 3:16). The real issue is how we memorize, quote, post, love, even relish the verses that make us feel strong and secure but ignore, put on the back burner or refuse to acknowledge the passages that require - even demand action or tasks we are not inclined to be engaged in. Is it really right to hide behind the "we're all different parts of the body" argument then quote 23rd Psalm? How can we limit the comfort of 'His rod and staff?' I guess we will always have our favorite verses; we just don't need to forget there is more to truly loving Him than just the things we like.


    --jeff